Elijah and Elisha

Edward Robinson, Exmouth

Category: Exposition

Too often in the assemblies of God's people there are the separate activities of the younger and of the older mem­bers. Sometimes the young people have their own prayer meeting, where­as perhaps few are found at the weekly prayer and Bible study gatherings, to the detriment of both. There can be little doubt that such mutual gatherings together would be of great benefit to both younger and older, fostering that family spirit which is the hallmark of true fellowship. When a beloved and greatly used servant of the Lord is called home, we often hear the remark made to the effect that it will prove very difficult if indeed possible, to replace him. This is usually true and becomes a great exercise, especially when the company in which was his sphere of service is small and needy. God takes great account of a concern on the part of the younger to follow on so that the testimony should continue on no lower level. This would focus initially on the line of desire (see 1 Cor. 12. 31) which finds expression in the tenor of private prayer which God delights to answer. It is true that divine sovereignty comes into the matter, but He takes up those who lay themselves out to equip themselves by diligent application and study of the Scriptures to show themselves ap­proved unto God, 2 Tim. 2. 15. The delightful relationship between Paul and his (spiritual) son Timothy, and the whole tenor of the apostle's Epistles to him, stress strongly these considerations.

This principle of divine sovereignty and the corresponding preparedness of the one called and chosen is striking­ly seen in the relationship between Elijah and Elisha. The former had been told by God to anoint Elisha, who was to succeed him as the divinely chosen prophet in Israel, 1 Kings 19. 16. But was Elisha ready? It is one thing to have right desires, another to be pre­pared to face all that their fulfilment might entail. The pathway of one com­mitted to the service of the Lord is not easy, and Elisha has to be tested. Initially he fails to rise to the call of Elijah, on the line of natural relation­ships, but quickly recovers himself to follow the prophet after Elijah wisely advises him to go back; see 1 Kings 19. 19-21. As with the relationship between Paul the teacher and the younger Timothy, so with the two Old Testament prophets, each of whom is several times designated "the man of God".

The education and proving of Elisha has now started, and several times it is stated that they went to­gether, the word of the young servant being to the one who to him was the representative of the Lord, "I will not leave thee", 2 Kings 2. 6. Elijah takes him (and Elisha readily accompanies him) from Gilgal (the place of circum­cision, having for us great spiritual implication) to Bethel (the house of God, in which are to be learned church principles), to Jericho (the place of a curse which suggests to us the cross of Christ and His rejection by the world, in which His servants share). In each situation, Elisha is tested by the word of Elijah, "tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me . . .", and further by the sons of the prophets (representing features of profession in Christendom today) taunting him, "knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master ... to day?". Elisha proves equal to the test and they move on to Jordan, the final and supreme test. The aspect of the death of Christ seen in the crossing of the Red Sea is that of His death on our behalf, and is readily appreciated by the believer. The Jordan, in its application of the teaching representing our death with Him, presents a great challenge. Both aspects of the death of our Lord Jesus find their answer in the identification of the believer with Him in baptism, and a walk in correspondence with that act.

The testing of Elisha completed, he is asked what shall be done for him. Similarly, though in different circum­stances, Solomon is asked by God, "Ask what I shall give thee", 2 Chron. 1. 7, and to the pleasure of God he requests wisdom and knowledge with which to rule Israel. In the Tightness of his desires, Elisha asks for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. He sees Elijah taken up in a whirlwind into heaven, takes hold of his own gar­ments and rends them in two pieces. This gesture is significant in its impli­cations: in principle it is the rejection of any power that is of the flesh. In demonstration of the truth that any and all power lies in the Spirit of God, he takes up the mantle of Elijah, strikes the waters and says, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?". The waters of the Jordan are parted and Elisha went over. Even the sons of the prophets are constrained to bear testi­mony and say, "The Spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha". Here surely is the great lesson that any power that we may have lies in making full room for the Spirit of God to operate in and through us. On this depends the con­tinuance of all that is for the pleasure of God, and for the blessing both of our fellow-believers and of all men, before the dispensation of grace closes with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.