Read 2 Kings 2
Elijah Taken Up to Heaven
2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”
4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 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.
10 “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.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 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.
15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”
“No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.”
17 But they persisted until he was too embarrassed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”
Healing of the Water
19 The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”
20 “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.
21 Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” 22 And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
There is a lot going on in this chapter. We see Elijah’s final moments before his ascension into heaven through a whirlwind. We witness Elisha’s succession of Elijah’s ministry and prompt inheritance of ridicule, his miraculous act of cleansing the water of Jericho, as well as his cursing of young men who ultimately suffer a horrific mauling by two bears. There is a lot to digest and learn. For now, let’s look more closely at the important choices made by Elisha throughout the passage.
It seems that the pending miraculous departure of Elijah was well-known, perhaps because of a prophecy that had been foretold. We aren’t sure, but multiple people are aware Elijah is about to leave. Three different times (at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho) Elijah offered Elisha the opportunity to stop following him, but Elisha persisted. Similar to Ruth’s devotion to Naomi, Elisha repeatedly chose to follow Elijah until the very end. Not only did he love Elijah, he also desired to see his own faith confirmed by observing the miraculous acts of God to call his brother home.
In the moment Elijah was taken in the whirlwind, Elisha was faced with another difficult choice. It’s important to recognize that Elijah’s ministry did not fall upon Elisha from heaven; he chose to pick it up when he retrieved Elijah’s cloak.
Commentaries explain that the cloak was a special mark of a prophet, so Elisha’s choice to pick it up and put it on was a demonstration of his difficult and intentional decision to inherit the ministry of Elijah. True, Elisha was taking on a ministry of great power, but it came with a lot of pressure and responsibility. He willingly took up the cloak and continued the difficult ministry that would almost immediately result in persecution.
Elisha already demonstrated wisdom when he chose to ask Elijah for a “double portion of the same spirit that worked through him.” Rather than ask for worldly riches or honor, Elisha desired to be filled with the Spirit that would qualify him for the service of God. He understood that he was going to serve the same misguided generation of people that Elijah had served and would therefore need the same spirit and strength that Elijah possessed.
Like Elisha, we also have choices to make: Do we continue to follow God and His covenants or, like Israel, do we give into what is easy? When we are offered chance after chance to turn around, do we continue to follow Jesus until the very end so that our faith will be our eyes? When we can choose between worldly honor and riches or spiritual blessing, what do we choose? Each day, we are given dozens of opportunities to make a choice to stay firm in our faith. We also must decide to pick up the cloak and continue the ministry of those who led us to our faith. Acts 1:8 tells us that just as Elisha saw Elijah ascend and was then filled with his same Spirit, we now have the same Spirit available to us. We must be diligent each day, mindful each month, and yielding each year to the ministry we have chosen to pick up. Choose wisely today.
- What choice are you faced with right now and how can you honor the Lord with that choice?
- How can you stay strong and diligent in your convictions? Do you need to seek wise counsel, spend time in prayer, and/or search the scripture?
- Spend a few minutes in prayer asking the Lord to show you where you need to fight back against what is easy and instead follow Jesus.
Just as Elisha would not leave Elijah until the very end, we must follow Christ to our last breath. Matthew Henry, the 17th century theologian and writer, said this: “Let not those that follow Christ come short by tiring at last.”
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