The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 4
The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 4
Elisha was given an amazing opportunity by Elijah, "Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you," and Elisha responded by asking for a double portion of Elijah's spirit to be upon him. It was an unexpected request and Elijah understood it to be something that God would only grant to Elisha. If God saw within Elisha's heart his own clarity of faith and spirituality then he would witness the miracle of Elijah's ascension. So Elijah responds:
2KI 2:10 And 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."
We have to assume that if it was possible that Elisha would not see this miraculous occurrence then it was necessary to have more than physical eyes having a good working order. Witnessing Elijah ascension demanded spiritual vision. It is the eyes of the heart that can see the will and work of God in a world where most are blind. In order to see it, his own soul would have to be filled with pure faith as well as desire for God's will alone, such is the qualification of the lead prophet of Israel, and for such a heart the request of a double portion of Elijah's spirit would be granted. Elisha witnessed the fiery horses and their chariot which carried Elijah away and he cried out in amazement. Accordingly, as we preach the gospel and exhibit Christ, the Holy Spirit alone can open the eyes of understanding in others to behold the glory of Jesus. And for the children of God, the promise is that if we seek Him, we will find Him because the Spirit reveals to us the deep things of God. More and more, we will see His glory.
The mantle is passed on.
As Elijah ascended, a hand not earthly flung his mantle from his shoulders and it descended to the feet of Elisha. Elijah was gone, but God continued His work in Israel and accordingly so did the work of the prophets continue. The mantle had been passed on to Elisha by God and not by any man. God makes the minister and gives him his work. The personal ministry of any believer does not come from any man, no matter how much authority he has or how greatly he is esteemed. Neither is the ministry of the believer appointed by himself. It is a terrible thing to attempt to force yourself into some perceived ministry for God. It will never fit and your reward will only be whatever meager perks you can muster. God alone graciously gives us our calling and election. Let us make it certain.
2PE 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.
Elisha puts the mantle to the test immediately, and like Elijah before him, his faith is large enough to attempt it in view of the fifty prophets. What would a failure mean to his reputation? But this thought doesn't seem to enter into his heart of faith and he struck the waters of the Jordan with the mantle as his predecessor also had in faith and the waters parted and across he walked.
One must confidently walk in the plan of God by faith. By sight we will see everything that might go wrong and fear will arise within us, and soon, like Peter taking his first steps on the tempestuous water of the Sea of Galilee, we will begin to sink. We all sink a number of times before we learn to walk by faith. Not long after sinking did Peter do far greater things than defy physics. A joyous Christian is one who has experienced the help of the Lord many times. His trust in the Father makes him an undaunted laborer and a fearless soldier of the Lord Jesus. Trembling hands cannot handle the sword or the plow.
Ministers change, but the work remains. Elisha picks up where Elijah left off.
Trials of faith and trials of patience.
On the west side of the Jordan, Elisha had passed his trial of faith and now came his trial of patience. Like the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, Elisha experienced the blinding glory of God and reveled in the faith that it brought him. Yet eventually, the disciples had to come down from the Mount of Transfiguration. They could not remain there basking in the Lord's glory. There was work to do and faithless people who needed instruction and guidance. In the same way, Elisha cannot remain alone with God's brilliant glory. He must minister to others on behalf of God, to those who did not have faith as he had, and they would try his patience. The fifty prophets, the same who not long ago, acted like children by open gossip, do not have the spiritual eyes that Elisha has. If they were standing right next to Elisha when Elijah was taken, they would not have seen a thing. However, they are in need of God's word and instruction and Elisha is sent to give it to them, and they will resist it. The prophet will need patience that only the divine occupies.
We may wish to be alone with God in prayer or in study, basking in His unfathomable glory, when God is calling us to head out to minister to those who choose not such things. We must joyously get to it, no matter how much they resist it or fail to understand it, for they are in need and we are God's servants and messengers.
The fifty prophets had seen the waters parted by Elisha and were sure that he had the same spirit as Elijah, but they had not seen Elijah's ascent and they requested that they go and look for his body.
2KI 2:15-18 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 they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. And 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 the Lord has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley." And he said, "You shall not send." But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, "Send." They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days, but did not find him. And they returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not go'?"
The fifty certainly respect Elisha because of his power, but they don't seem to respect the source of his power. Like almost all men in this world, they respect power, regardless of its source, only for power's sake. But when another power comes along that they imagine to be greater they will forsake the one for the other. The source doesn't matter, only the perceived magnitude of power. Many in the Exodus followed Moses out of Egypt with idols in their pockets. They longed for the idols of Egypt, but Moses possessed more power. But not long after, camped at Kadesh-barnea, upon hearing the report of ten of the twelve spies, these same people sought to overthrow Moses, for the Canaanites now seemed to be more powerful than him and Jehovah.
ISA 42:8 "I am the Lord, that is My name;
The fifty think it is prudent and right to go and search for Elijah's body, but they are clearly commanded by Elisha not to do so. Yet they persist purely because they see it as a good cause. What may look like a good cause may not be God's will, and from the prophet's command this is definitely not. They respect Elisha's power but they do not respect his word in this case because they see the "good cause" as being of greater power. They are deceived, and after refusing to believe their own deception, as Elisha commands them several times not to go, and they continue to ask until he is ashamed, there is only one way in which they will discover their own ignorance and deception - they must be allowed to go. It's not they they're not sincere or that they are desiring this for any other reason than their love for Elijah. The error is that the word of God said not to go and they declined that order in favor of the "good cause." Ignorance and zeal are a dangerous combination.
Sometimes Christians and Christian organizations believe that sufficient provisions of finances and manpower are needed to do God's will. This is the same error of the fifty who have their fifty strong men. All that is needed to do God's will is that God wills it!
ROM 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
No pearls before swine.
It may seem odd that Elisha doesn't tell the fifty that their search is in vain and then describe to them what he saw when Elijah was taken away. He only says, "You shall not send." He understood that such men as these would not have understood such spiritual things when they lacked the faith to see. Such a precious thing should not be handed to children who will blemish it and damage it by not knowing its true value. Yet, though they lack spiritual vision, they have zeal for the "good cause" in abundance. The zealousness of the not spiritual sometimes exceeds that of the spiritual. The religion of zeal is only zeal. Zeal always says "Go!" when God sometimes says "Stay." Action for its own sake is not Christianity. Christianity seeks God's will.
We must all carefully and lovingly hold fast to the word of God and the will of God. We must not handle them roughly. We must always consider that we likely have to be put right or corrected about a great many things. While we must act upon the will of God we never lose our cautious humility in seeking His will continually, knowing that the word of God is profitable for training in righteousness, and also in instruction, correction, and reproof.
Learning the hard way.
We so often have to learn the hard way and the fifty, after searching for three long days, do so in this case.
2KI 2:17-18 They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days, but did not find him. And they returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not go'?"
Thank God for the grace of God! God always leads us back to Him when we are off on our own searching for our own good. He never condemns us when we return and we rejoice in laying aside the wrong plow and watching the Lord heal the blisters that ultimately came from a plow not made for our grip. The joy of the Father overwhelms any shame gushing from the prodigal. Shame comes upon us all when we discover that our past has been labor for that "which does not satisfy" but our return to Him who is waiting to welcome us finds Him ready and able to lift that burden from us. It would seem that much of the painful discipline by which we are ultimately drawn closer to Him seems to consist in this, that God allows His people to go on till at length they find that in their own ways there is only shame and disappointment.
In His love,