Readings this week – looking ahead to Sunday, Feb 11
Transfiguration Sunday. Sunday before Lent.
Monday – 2 Kings 2: 1-12
Tuesday – Psalm 50: 1-6
Wednesday – Mark 9: 2-9
Thursday – 2 Cor. 4: 3-6
Friday – The emerging message
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5
2 Kings 2: 1-12
Elisha succeeds Elijah, in a demonstration of utter reliance on the Lord and His anointing
1 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.”
- This is not phrased as a command; probably more of a test for Elisha, who responded with a three-times assertion that he wouldn’t leave his master, here, v.4 and v.6.
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
- Elisha was aware, with the other prophets, that Elijah’s ministry was drawing to an honourable close and the Lord was about to take him. But he was determined to stay with Elijah until that moment – no sense of ambition or entitlement here. Elisha’s commitment to his master is salutary for any of us who have struggled with ambition!
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?”
- At this time, Bethel, the location of this event, Jericho (v.5) and Gilgal (v. 1 and 2 Kings 4:38) all hosted companies of prophets and it seems that Elijah’s instruction from the Lord was to visit all three, one last time.
“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.
- A large group of witnesses to the miracle that enabled Elijah and Elisha to cross the river.
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.
- Brings to mind Moses crossing the ‘Red Sea’, Exodus 14;16, 21, 26. Elijah uses his rolled up cloak as Moses had used his staff.
Elijah has crossed over to the region where Moses died, Deut 34:1-6.
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.
- Elisha was saying, “Let me be like your firstborn son, spiritually.” He wasn’t asking for a ministry twice as great as his master’s. He was asking in line with inheritance law whereby the eldest son received a double portion of the father’s possessions, Deut. 21:17.
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.”
- In 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 we learn that Elijah had heard from the Lord that he was to anoint Elisha to succeed him. However, he is being careful here to leave that assignment entirely in the Lord’s hands.
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.
- The heavenly host, or army, has always been with Elijah, backing him up. Now he is permitted to see this reality. As we are prayerfully led and prayerfully engaged, things are happening in the heavenly dimension which are unseen by us but not unconnected with what we see unfolding on earth. Having some understanding of this helps us know how to pray – and listen – in testing situations.
- Moses saw something like this in the overturning of Pharoah’s chariot-led army in the sea, Exodus 15:1-10.
12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more.
- Elisha saw the manifestation of chariots and horsemen around Elijah, as showing that Elijah had the real authority under God for the nation, rather than a king who had turned away from God.
Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah…
- Elisha tore his own clothes – often a sign of mourning but here more likely a symbolic leaving behind of his former life. Taking up Elijah’s cloak symbolised his taking up the ministry that Elijah had exercised.
Elijah is an iconic figure representing the school of prophets generally and he appeared at the transfiguration of Jesus, representing the wisdom of the prophets, together with Moses, representing the wisdom of the Law (Mark 9:4-5 in this week’s Wednesday reading). Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. In the final writing of the Old Testament, Malachi promised that Elijah would be seen again at the coming of the Messiah, the “day of the Lord” to bring a turning of hearts, a preparation of repentance.
Elijah prepared the way for Elisha.
John the Baptist, clearly identifying with Elijah in his lifestyle and message, prepared the way for the Lord.
Elijah may be one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 to come.
The story of the succession of Elisha from Elijah is about the way the Lord calls and anoints people for service – outstanding, memorable, dangerous service in the case of these two. Although associated with eye-watering miracles, they did not exalt themselves, and were unusually reliant on the anointing and leading that they received from the Spirit of the Lord.
For reflection and discussion
How do you work out the partnership between what God has made you uniquely capable of doing, and what He is uniquely able to do?
What might Elisha’s example be teaching us in this?
Read ahead – all the readings for Sunday, Feb 11