Elijah and Elisha 14
Elijah and Elisha 14.
We come now to the end of the story of Elijah! His departure; the transition from Elijah to Elisha. Let’s turn to 2 Kings chapter 2. [P] In the introduction to this series, if you can remember that far back!, I said that “Elijah” means “יהוה is God” – and that has been the issue right throughout Elijah’s ministry. Jesus Himself said that John the Baptist was Elijah: [Matthew 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.] After John came ….? Jesus! Jesus means “יהוה saves” – the Hebrew equivalent is “Joshua”. After Elijah came …..? Not Joshua, but Elisha, not “יהוה saves” but “My God saves”. All this took place in the northern nation of Israel; [P] its capital was Samaria. Judah and Jerusalem were to the South. Elisha came from Abel Meholah, right on the Jordan river. So, after Elijah, the one who turns a wayward people back to the living and true God, יהוה; there comes one with the message of God’s salvation: Elisha. You can’t push the parallels too far; but prophetically, these prophets picture the coming of John and Jesus; of first a message of repentance, and then the coming of salvation. So, with that in mind, let us read of the transition from the ministry of Elijah to that of Elisha: [2 Kings 2:1–18 And it came about when יהוה was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, [P] “Stay here please, for יהוה has sent me as far as Bethel.” (there, as always, Elijah was directed by יהוה, moving at His direction, doing what He said) But Elisha said, [P] “As יהוה lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So, they went down to Bethel. Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel [P] came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that יהוה will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; be still.” (the word means be quiet, he was telling them to shut up) Elijah said to him, [P] “Elisha, please stay here, for יהוה has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As יהוה lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So, they came to Jericho. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha [P] and said to him, “Do you know that יהוה will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” (hush) Then Elijah said to him, [P] “Please stay here, for יהוה has sent me to the Jordan.” (Why did Elijah go to the Jordan? יהוה sent him) And he said, “As יהוה lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So, the two of them went on. Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. [P] Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, [P] and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. (shades of the Joshua crossing the Jordan, and Moses the Sea of Reeds) When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, [P] “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” (Told him three times to stay and he refused to leave; now his loyalty is rewarded: Elisha is granted a request. Elijah knew he was going, the prophets of Bethel knew, the prophets of Jericho knew, the prophets at the Jordan knew, Elisha knew – everyone with a smidgen of spiritual discernment knew!) And Elisha said, [P] “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” (remember the fairy stories of genies granting wishes? You can have anything you want. Given a blank cheque! What would you ask for? Elisha wanted something spiritual! More of the Holy Spirit) He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, [P] there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. [P] (Elijah didn’t go up in a chariot of fire, but a whirlwind; a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (the spiritual army of Israel, the heavenly host, the fiery horses, led Elijah home – a triumphal entry into the heavenly realm!) And he saw Elijah no more. (Gone! He didn’t die! He was just taken directly up to heaven! Elisha saw him as he was taken directly into heaven, he looked into heaven, that is where the double portion of the Spirit came from. Elisha received a double portion of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit) Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. (cutting ties with his old life, taking on the new role) [P] He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned [P] and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters (nothing happened!) and said, “Where is יהוה, the God of Elijah?” (what was the message of Elijah? “יהוה is God!” – well, if this be so, where is He?! If God is real, He should be evident!) [P] And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. (the same Spirit, the same power) Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” (and those with spiritual discernment knew that it was the same Spirit) And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. [P] They said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men, please let them go and search for your master; perhaps the Spirit of יהוה has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.” (they saw the tornado pick him up; when that happens, it eventually deposits somewhere else, what it has taken up. The prophets thought that Elijah would be put down again. But Elisha knew better) And he said, “You shall not send.” But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” [P] They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days but did not find him. They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”] He knew that Elijah had gone directly up to heaven itself to be with God. Being fairly thick of skull, I often only take notice when things get repeated. And there are a few things that get repeated in this passage before us; so, I take notice of them. God must think them important, He repeats them so that even I get it. He wants us to take notice! It says repeatedly that: 1/ Elijah was leaving – all the various prophets knew, Elijah knew, Elisha knew. Everyone knew that Elijah’s time was up; 2/ “Stay here”; repeatedly Elijah tells Elisha to stay. To sit, remain where he is. He entreats him. Did Elijah not want Elisha, was he sick of him, hanging around like a bad smell? No, I don’t think so. He had appointed him as his successor. He was testing him, proving his loyalty. He did not want him under obligation. He was seeing what was in Elisha. And what was in Elisha was revealed. Because: 3/ But repeatedly Elisha refuses: “I won’t leave you” – he says it over and over again. Is he disobedient, rebellious? No, his is utterly committed to Elijah and to following in his footsteps. He was completely loyal. [P] Remember a few months back when I spoke about Elisha being appointed? There he was ploughing with 12 yoke of oxen and Elijah placed his mantle upon him. He was appointed Elijah successor; יהוה had told him: [1 Kings 19:16 Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.] Elijah did not want him to leave, he was his successor. But did Elisha have what it takes? Elijah had experienced continual opposition; those who gave up at the first bit of flak would not last the distance. Elisha, from that day he was appointed, had taken the humble place and faithfully served Elijah. He broke ties with his past left all, sacrificed the oxen, burnt his bridges and [1 Kings 19:21 Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered (served) to him.] In the following years, he had stayed with Elijah. We don’t hear anything of him, he played second fiddle to Elijah – we hardly know that he is there. But he was – we get an indication in 2 Kings 3:11; this is after Elijah is gone and Elisha is established in office and King Jehoshaphat sought a prophet; he was told: [2 Kings 3:11 And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”] No mention, all we see is Elijah and what he was doing but there was Elisha, all that time, serving in the most menial way. Not some great spiritual ministry; he was pouring water on the hands of Elijah. They had no running water, so someone poured water from a jug into a basin, while you washed your hands – Elisha acted as Elijah’s tap! He needed water to wash his hands, Elisha would pour it! He used to do this – not just once but habitually. Not a difficult job, not an honoured position; it was about the most menial task there was! That is what he was known for! Humble, menial, loyal service. Do you know that we have 20 years of Jesus’ life in half a verse?!: [Luke 2:51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them.] What a menial comedown for the Creator of all!: [Philippians 2:6–8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.] Elisha was not going to leave his master. He was going to serve to the end! That loyalty is what יהוה is looking for! “Lord Jesus I have promised to serve Thee to the end….” In the little things. [Luke 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.] And יהוה rewards faithful service in the small things: [Luke 19:17 “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’] Loyalty is a beautiful thing, and God finds it so also. There is a beautiful picture of it in the story of Ruth, who refused to go back to her own people but clung to Naomi. It is a verse often used at weddings; and Steve Apirana does a nice version of it: [Ruth 1:14–17 but Ruth clung to her. …. [P] Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may יהוה do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”] Back along, if you stayed with a firm for life, your loyalty was respected and rewarded; today, if you have been with the same employer too long they regard you as lacking ambition, stuck in a rut, no desire to progress – we esteem ambition above loyalty. Faithful loyalty in the menial leads to greater things. As is repeated over and over again: Elijah is going! Elisha had been appointed his successor; that was years ago; but he had not forgotten and he had not abandoned that vision and call. He was going to be there to the very end. Because Elijah’s time was over, did not mean that the work was over. He was to take over from Elijah! If I may address an aging oversight; we don’t live forever, but the work must go on: [2 Timothy 2:2 The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.] Paul passed on to Timothy, who passed on to faithful men, who would teach others – there are 4 generations of church leadership in that verse. The mantle had been placed on him, he was going to stay to receive that mantle from Elijah when he went; and his loyalty was rewarded. So, Elisha remained with Elijah, all the way to the Jordan – and through it. [P] Interestingly, that is where the transfer from the ministry of John to Jesus took place; and that is where the transfer from the ministry of Elijah to Elisha took place. There were all the prophets by the Jordan, but only Elijah and Elisha went through – passing through the divided water pictures baptism [1 Corinthians 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;] This is a picture of the baptism of Jesus by John; the transfer of the ministry from John to Jesus; as John said: [John 3:26–30 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” (Jesus was taking over; John was fading from view. What was John’s response?) John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ (John knew his place, and that Jesus was coming after, he was only preparing the way. Like Elijah, he was moving from the scene) He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. (no jealousy, no sour-grapes, no sense of uselessness) So, this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”] As Daryl pointed out; Jesus’ baptism was not a baptism of repentance – He had no sin to repent of. He was identifying with us as humans; but it was also a time when the Holy Spirit came upon Him. In many countries opposed to the Gospel, they do not much mind if some becomes a Christian; but the trouble starts when they get baptized; because they know that baptism means commitment. Jesus also referred to His upcoming death as a “baptism” – baptism is a trial, a proving, also a public declaration of who you are and where you stand. Jesus was always God, but up until this point He had no public ministry – like Elisha, He was hidden in the background. There at the Jordan, Jesus received the mantle of ministry and from that time onward had a public ministry of teaching and healing, proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The mantle was passed on from Elijah to Elisha; the baton was passed. [P] Just as it was with John to Jesus. John continued for a while but rapidly the focus changed; he himself directed his disciples to follow Jesus, not himself. There at the Jordan the mantle passed on – it was a passing on of the office of prophet, that is the prophetic mantle; but above all, it was a spiritual impartation: [2 Kings 2:9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”] Elisha could have whatever he asked for! What an opportunity! What was it that he desired above all else in the world? More of the Spirit! O.K. Jesus did not receive John’s spirit. But the spirit that was in Elijah was the Spirit of God. There, at His baptism, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus: [Luke 3:21–22 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”] A public declaration, as also for Elisha; the prophets knew that he had taken over, that the Spirit was upon him. There was a transfer of office from John, to Jesus – a continuation of the same ministry; they preached exactly the same message. Jesus lived here on earth as a man, He was a human like us! He depended upon the Spirit of God in order to have power, revelation, spiritual impact. Despite the apocryphal stories, Jesus did no miracle on earth until the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Nor can we do anything, there is no life apart from the Holy Spirit. [Zechariah 4:6 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says יהוה of armies.] What we do of ourselves, counts for nothing. It is wood had and stubble that is burnt up. It is only that which is of God, from His Spirit that will endure, that gives life! [John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.] At His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, He went from there “full of the Holy Spirit”. [Luke 4:1–2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.] From now on Jesus is noticed. When someone is filled with the Holy Spirit you can tell the difference! You look through the book of Acts: when people were filled with the Holy Spirit it was evident and obvious to all. People knew! You could tell! The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil himself. Having successfully come through that trial, it says: [Luke 4:14–15 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.] Jesus public ministry had begun! He was filled with the Spirit, but now He returned in the power of the Spirit! He had power. It was by this Divine power imparted from above that Jesus healed, cast our demons, worked miracles. Jesus, was like us; as a man on earth He depended on power from on high. How much more do we need power from on high! Without Him we can do nothing! [P] [John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.] We are totally dependent upon Jesus life, His indwelling Spirit, power from on high. Anything done apart from Him, profits nothing! The very same person, the very same person of the Holy Spirit that came upon Jesus, dwells in us. We operate by exactly the same power. That is why Jesus could say: [John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Because when He went to the Father He said: [John 14:16–17 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.] And the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, is not a spirit of timidity. We are not to cower in fear, be reticent about our faith: [P] [2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.] And that was the issue with Elisha. The issue of power. [P] Dare I say, that it is the issue with us as well? Elisha had seen Elijah go up into heaven, he had received the mantle, he had received a double portion of his spirit. Now he was where the rubber meets the road. He came to the Jordan. The prophets were on the other side; he and Elijah had crossed together on dry land. There was no bridge! How was he going to get back?! Find a ford? Swim? Did he have the spirit of God in Him or not? It was all very well to accept it as true, to have a bit of clothing but where is the reality?!!! Was God really there or not?! Elisha put his faith on the line; proved the reality of his God. Was יהוה there or not?! He challenged יהוה Himself: [2 Kings 2:14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is יהוה, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.] The issue with Elijah was “יהוה is God!” It still was! Elisha challenged יהוה to prove Himself. If You are God, prove it, Elijah proved You, You came through for Elijah! Everyone knew that יהוה He is God! Where are You?! Where is Your power?! It is bold, audacious, it is putting God on the line. יהוה has to come through, otherwise you have serious egg on your face. You could meekly avoid the confrontation, tuck up your robe and wade across. But not for Elisha! God had to be real, there, powerful or not at all! It is an issue of power. We say that God is real, but where is His power?! Is He really here or not? The psalmist cried out: [ Psalm 68:28 Summon Your power, God; show us Your strength, our God, as you have done before.] Elisha had seen and heard all that יהוה, the God of Elijah, had done. We have read the stories of the Bible when the mighty deeds of God were evident. Well, if God is real, the same, where is He?! Is that an impertinent question? Remember Gideon, he’d been fed with the might stories of the Exodus, of a God who did wonders; but, here he was threshing in wine press, hiding from an enemy, leaving in fear, oppressed. We profess faith in God, I believe in Him; but, my life is a mess! I am in it up to here! [Judges 6:13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if יהוה is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not יהוה bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now יהוה has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”] יהוה is God, He is real and He is imminent. With us! He is at work. If God is with us it should be evident! If it is not an impertinent question: “Where is יהוה?! The God of Elijah! The God of power! [P] Where is His power? We say we have the Holy Spirit; [Acts 1:8 you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.] If we have the Holy Spirit where is the power?! Jesus was filled with the Spirit then: [Luke 4:14–15 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.] It is one thing to say that you have the Holy Spirit; it is another thing to demonstrate it: [1 Corinthians 2:4–5 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.] I have seen the supernatural power of God at work, experienced it myself; but I have also witnessed supernatural power that is not of God. Some long for power because they want to see the spectacle, have some excitement. Jesus said: [Matthew 12:39 An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign.] People so hungry to experience power have accepted power from another source. It is not power for a show, but for the vindication of יהוה’s Name: [Isaiah 64:1–4 Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence— as fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil— to make Your Name known to Your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence. For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.] It is a longing to see God’s power at work, so that He would be known as God. Not a seeking of power for the sake of the excitement of seeing the spectacular. Rather it is a longing for a making known of God; a jealously for Him to vindicate His Name. That was the spirit of Elijah, the man of God, who did not die! [P] Verse 1 says He was “taken up to heaven”, verse 11 says he was “taken up to heaven”, verse 12 says “Elisha saw it”; yet still the prophets wanted to look for him. Elisha knew it was futile but they prevailed upon him. 50 strong men searched for 3 days – an extensive search and rescue operation – but they found nothing, just as Elisha knew they wouldn’t. He had seen with his own eyes him go straight to heaven. Quite a rare honour! I only know of one other that did the same: [Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.] He habitually walked in fellowship with God; then, as one preacher put it, God said to him, “It’s nearer to My place than yours, why don’t you come home with Me.” God took him, just as He did Elijah; I guess that is why I am wary of those who are down on Elijah as a spiritual failure, spiritually depressed and the like. Have they had the honour guard of the armies of heaven in their fiery chariots coming out to welcome them in triumphal procession?! Entrance into heaven with honour and glory! There was army in the heavenly realm protecting Israel: the chariots and horseman of Israel. That is where the protection was, in the spiritual realm; not the king and his forces. It was Elijah, the man of God, the man of the Spirit; who was preserving the nation. The battle is in the heavenlies. This is the same army, there but invisible, that was revealed to Elisha’s servant: [2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O יהוה, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And יהוה opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.] We look around and see disarray, weakness, defeat; but if our eyes were opened to the spiritual realm we would see the heavenly host, the heavenly army of fire. That is where the power is. It is spiritual power that we need; not human might. [P] [Zechariah 4:6 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says יהוה of armies.] If God is going to make any impact through us as a fellowship, then we need power from on high. Only Divine power can change a life, bring righteousness and peace [1 Corinthians 2:4–5 and my message and my preaching were in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.]