December 18th, 2013

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Elisha’s desire

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Scripture: 1 Kings 19, 2 Kings 2

I am not convinced that anyone in the Bible aspired to be a prophet, given the often harsh and persecuted conditions in which they worked.  The call was laid on them, a holy call for sure, but not an easy one. Elisha’s call came rather unexpectedly as he was tilling with teams of oxen.  Elijah, instructed by God, threw his cloak on Elisha’s shoulders right there in the field.  No words accompanied this gesture; none were needed.  It said, I have chosen you, leave this and come with me.

We don’t hear about Elisha again for many chapters, but in the final days of Elijah’s life, Elisha grew watchful and refused to leave Elijah.

 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.’ But (Elisha) said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’

They traveled to the Jordan river and there, Elijah rolled up his mantle and struck the water with the cloak; the waters parted and they crossed on dry ground. Finally, perhaps feeling the strength of Elisha’s intention, Elijah allowed him a last request. And Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to rest on him. And Elijah said:

 You have asked a hard thing; yet if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you…

We know his request was granted because Scripture records that:

…as they went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven, And Elisha saw it and he cried “My father, my father!”

(Nicholas Roerich, 1931)

The ministry of Elisha begins with his crossing back over the Jordan River. With the information we have it would be difficult to measure whether ‘double’ defines Elisha’s ministry but it did begin in the same way that Elijah’s ended.  Elisha strikes the river with his mantle and returns to the far side of the Jordan river.  That seems to imply that Elijah’s anointing has indeed extended to Elisha.

We could make the story complicated and analyze the particulars, but I am drawn to the straightforward exchange between Elisha and God.  Elisha, sought not to become a prophet, he sought God; God, finding the heart of a seeker, made him a prophet.  This passage in Proverbs sums it up simply and informs us how to let loose our ambitions.

My son (and daughter), if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the God and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

Lord Jesus, as we turn toward Christmas, turn our hearts toward you. Amen