Have you ever been asked if you wanted “seconds” at dinner? Now, I have been privileged to live in families with good cooks, but there are times when my desire for more food is not a function of how full I am, but rather the quality of what I had for “firsts”!
In this series from the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, let’s turn over to 2 Kings 2. God has selected a successor for Elijah, named Elisha. Elijah’s time on earth is nearing an end, and verses 1-6 confirms that this is a known fact.
In verses 7-8, Elijah strikes the Jordan River with his cloak (some translations say “coat” or “mantle”) and the river parts for the two of them, while other prophets watch. This brings us to the following passage:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
2 Kings 2:9-10 NIV
In this passage, Elijah offers Elisha a question that is kind of like what God asked Solomon (1 Kings 3:4-15). It’s an open-ended chance for Elisha to ask for what he wants from Elijah, and Elisha asks to “inherit a double portion of your spirit”.
In verses 11-12, a “chariot of fire” appears, and Elijah goes up to heaven. There aren’t many people in the Bible who were taken without dying in the normal way of mortals, but Elijah has this honor. (Enoch and Jesus are the only other two that I know of, and Jesus got to bypass the grave only after He experienced it the first time and was resurrected.)
The fact that Elisha got to see this event was significant, since Elijah had said that Elisha’s request (for a double portion of his spirit) would be given if he witnessed Elijah being taken.
Next, in verses 13-14, Elisha seems to be confirming Elijah’s prophecy: that Elisha would inherit a double portion of his spirit if he saw Elijah’s departure.
Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
2 Kings 2:13-14 NIV
Sure enough, Elisha strikes the Jordan River with the same cloak (or mantle) as Elijah had, and it parts in the same way. Observe, though, that Elisha doesn’t treat this as some sort of “magic cape”. Instead, he calls upon God, and he shows that he knows Who is really doing the parting of the waters.
Now, if you ask a Christian who they want to be like, most would probably say Jesus, and that is a good answer. We see the life of Jesus, and want to be like Him. After all, that’s what the term “Christian” means, right…”little Christs”?
Yet we find verses like John 14:12, where Jesus says that those who believe in Him “will do even greater things than these”. If we want the spirit of Jesus (like Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit), we have the Holy Spirit. In addition, although we weren’t there when Jesus was taken up into Heaven, we have the record of that happening. It would appear that we have all that we need to, in order to live like Jesus did.
In fact, one might say that the church (the entirety of all followers of Jesus) has taken up Christ’s mantle, and it’s probably time that we all – not just some – embrace the Holy Spirit and follow His leading. Whether God has in mind for us to be His agent of parting waters, or turning hearts back to Him, we are like Elisha, here. Let’s not just wear that mantle for show, but actually make use of what it represents.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to take up the ministry of Jesus. Being a Christian isn’t just a label that we carry, or some rituals that we practice. It is a reminder that we are called to be like Christ. And, to do so, we are given all the power that we need, not by earning it or having learned just the right things to say, but by God the Father (who also worked in Jesus’s – God the Son’s – ministry).
So, let’s be like Elisha. Let’s get the word of God out to those who need it, and let’s call upon the mighty power of God to show people that He is the only one who is worthy of their worship.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for July 18, 2021
- The Lookout, July 18, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.