TRANSLATION AND SUCCESSION
2 Kings 2
Chariots Of Fire
Elisha and Elijah became close friends while serving alongside one another but the time had come for Elijah to leave his earthly life behind. After serving in Gilgal, Elijah asks his attendant to stay behind while he travels as far as Bethel. It may be that Elijah knew that his days were numbered or perhaps he wanted to spend whatever time he had left in solitude. Normally, Elisha would do his master's bidding, but he must have known that Elijah would soon depart and he had no intentions of letting these finals hours slip away. Three times Elisha made an oath declaring that he would not leave his friend and teacher. They went to Bethel, and the prophets there warned Elisha that his master was leaving that very day. Elisha was well aware of what would soon take place, and he answers them abruptly telling them to keep quiet. Elijah asks Elisha to remain in Bethel while he continues to Jericho. Elisha asserts again with an oath that he will not leave his master's side. The two traveled to Jericho, and again the prophets there came to Elisha announcing the same news. Elisha issues a rebuke and tells them to remain quiet. At Jericho, Elijah makes his third and final attempt to leave Elisha because he was to go to the Jordan. Elisha offers the same retort and this time fifty prophets accompanied them at a distance. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up, and struck the water. When he hit the water, it parted, and Elijah and Elisha walked across on dry ground. On the other side of the Jordan, Elijah asked his faithful servant what he wanted him to do before he departed. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, the amount given to the eldest son who was given authority by the father. This demonstration of authority would officially make Elisha Elijah's successor. This request was not in Elijah's power, but if Elisha saw Elijah's departure, it would be the sign that God had answered his request. The two friends continued their journey and their conversation until suddenly chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. Elijah was caught up in a whirlwind into heaven, and he realized that his request had been granted. Elisha cries out to Elijah as a father, acknowledges that he was the protector of the nation, and then he vanished from Elisha's sight. Elisha tore his clothes to express grief over losing his spiritual father.
A New Era Begins
Elisha picked up Elijah's cloak and returned to the edge of the Jordan River. He repeated the actions of his mentor and cried out to God as he struck the water with the cloak. The waters parted once again, and he traversed to the other side. God assured this new leader that he had not abandon his people and that his divine power would be with Elisha. The prophets who observed all this from a distance could see that the spirit of Elijah was on Elisha. They came to meet Elisha and bowed in humble acknowledgment of Elisha's new station. These prophets were concerned about the well-being of Elijah and the request to go and search for him in case he was left in another location. Elisha knew that his master was gone and he initially rejected their offer. The men persisted, and Elisha relented, and they went in search of Elijah for three days. Elisha waited in Jericho while they conducted the search and when they returned he gently rebuked them for not following his advice.
The leaders of Jericho came to Elisha asking for help on behalf of their city. The water was bad, and the land was unfruitful. Elisha asked for a new bowl with salt in it. When they brought it to him, he poured it into the spring and delivered a pronouncement from the Lord that the spring was healed. The water would no longer bring death or miscarriage. Elisha's word proved true, and the water was healed. Elisha traveled back to Bethel, and on the way, he encountered some boys from the city who came to mock him. They shouted at Elisha and told him to go up which may be a reference to what had been said concerning Elijah. Perhaps these unbelievers wanted Elisha to disappear as well. The mob continued until Elisha turned and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Elisha's curse may seem harsh, but Deuteronomy instructed God's people to curse the disobedient. Two she-bears came charging out of the woods and attacked the group of bad boys. They tore forty-two of the boys as a reminder that contempt for the Lord was costly. Elisha continued to Mount Carmel and then finally he returned to Samaria.
Things To Consider:
- Why do you think Elijah urged Elisha to stay behind?
- Why do we sometimes try to avoid people when we are suffering?
- Why is change hard to talk discuss?
- Why do we sometimes avoid painful discussions?
- What symbolism is behind crossing the Jordan? Why do you think that?
- How was Elisha's request filled with respect?
- What can be learned about their friendship?
- How should we process grief in light of God's promises?
- Why does God give leaders to his people?
- Why did the signs accompany Elisha's commission?
- How was Elisha's ministry different than Elijah's?