Saturday, June 4
Reader: “Elijah’s spirit”
Response: “rests upon Elisha!”
Scripture: II Kings 2:5-15a
Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”
Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.” But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.
Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!
When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.” “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”
As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.
Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.
When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
This is an interesting pericope on the day before Pentecost for it is the account of the Holy Spirit on one prophet being transferred to another prophet. Remember, in the First Testament the Holy Spirit came upon certain people for specific times often for specific tasks. It came and went on various occasions. It was in Psalm 51 that King David begged the Lord not to take his Holy Spirit from him. (Psalm 51:11) And in I Samuel 16:14 we read that the Holy Spirit departed from King Saul.
Elisha was a protégé of Elijah. Elijah had received word from the Lord that he was about to leave this earth. It is interesting that the Lord also told Moses and Aaron when they were about to die. Other than them and Jesus, I don’t recall anyone else in Scripture being told in advance of their impending departure from this world. At any rate, Elisha was determined to be with Elijah to the last moment. The mention of the group of prophets refers to the talmidim, the group of men that attached themselves to a spiritual leader. Normally a rabbi would select twelve students. In those days, prophets had schools, hence the fifty students of Elijah or Elisha.
It is interesting that Moses struck the Red Sea with his staff and the waters parted and the Israelites went through the sea on dry land. The Israelites came to the Promised Land forty years later. When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant set foot in the Jordan River, the river parted and the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land on dry ground. While the Israelites’ crossing was in a westerly direction, here we have Elijah and Elisha crossing the Jordan River the other way heading east out of the Promised Land and Elijah continuing on to heaven in a whirlwind of fire. Facing east was always a sign of the resurrection. Crossing the Jordan River into Canaan was a kind of symbol of entering heaven. There are several songs that make that illusion (Deep River, et al). Here we have a prophet, Elijah, no less the shadow forerunner of the Messiah, leaving the earthly symbolic heaven, crossing the Jordan River toward the east . . . think “resurrection” . . . apparently not dying and being carried to heaven in a whirlwind. While Elijah went in a whirlwind, Jesus ascended enveloped in a cloud.
Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and also to be his successor. As it turned out, he was his successor and he did exactly twice as many miracles. So what do we glean from this story? God picked Elisha as Elijah’s successor. 1) A call to specific ministry comes from God. 2) By the way, everyone has a general ministry either for good or ill. Elisha attached himself to God’s anointed prophet. 3) He found a godly person and learned all he could from following that person. 4) The Holy Spirit was the source of the power to do God’s bidding. 5) Elisha supplied the body; God produced the fruit.
Music: “Then did Elijah” from Elijah Mendelssohn New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus (Musical setting of Elijah’s ascension in the whirlwind.)
O God, quicken to life every power within me, that I may lay hold on eternal things. Open my eyes that I may see; give me acute spiritual perception; enable me to taste Thee and know that Thou art good. Make heaven more real to me than any earthly thing has ever been. Amen. ―A. W. Tozer from The Pursuit of God, p.58