Knowing an event is going to happen does not lessen its emotional impact when it does happen. If we know we are going to lose a loved one, the grief of losing them is no less heart-rending than losing them suddenly. Elijah, Elisha, and all the prophets of Israel and Judah knew Elijah was going to be taken up to Heaven. While I am sure that Elijah and Elisha were happy that Elijah was going to be in Heaven, they were still sad that his earthly life would be ended and that they would no longer be able to enjoy their friendship. Yes, Elijah would be in “a better place,” but that meant he wouldn’t be with Elisha or prophesying for The Lord. Elisha felt the sorrow of Elijah’s impending departure very sharply. He was determined to spend as much time with the Prophet as possible and the journey of Elijah’s last day can teach us very much.
Verses 1-3 read,
“Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
While Elijah knew that he would be taken up to heaven by a whirlwind, neither he nor anyone else knew where or what it would be like. He had been told go far and only one part of the journey at a time. Elisha’s love and honor of his adopted father is the epitome of commitment to who God has placed us with. Ruth’s words to Naomi when Naomi begged her to go make a life for herself are reminiscent of Elisha’s words to Elijah.
“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you” (Ruth 1:16-17)
That is the kind of commitment we are supposed to have for one another, for the family given to us by God. Our mission and purpose though expressed differently and holding various focuses is ultimately the same, to glorify Jesus Christ and to build up the Kingdom of Heaven. Elisha was determined to be with Elijah for as long as he lived, even if being with him when God’s whirlwind took him meant danger or pain. Once at Bethel, Elijah was told to go further, Verses 4-5 read,
“Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
The prophets of Jericho, just like the prophets of Bethel told Elisha that his mentor and father was being taken away. They said, “Do you know?” He told them he did and he had no desire to discuss it. He wanted to spend what time he could with Elijah. He wanted to soak up everything he could on this last day. He didn’t want to have superfluous conversations about what he already knew. Every moment of this last day with his friend, dad, and teacher was precious. Once at Jericho, God told Elijah to go further. He sent him to the Jordan. Verses 6-8 read,
“Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.”
Notice the journey God had Elijah make, they began at Gilgal where the Israelites camped after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. There they built a monument of twelve stones. Those twelve stones are a reminder that God is our Almighty Deliverer. Joshua said it this way in Joshua 4:21-24,
“And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Next, they went to Bethel, the place where Jacob dreamed of the Stairway to Heaven, the place where God reinstated His promise to make Abraham’s descendants like the dust and to give them the place where Jacob was sleeping. Jacob named the place Bethel (House of God) and used the stone he rested his head on to make a monument to God. (Genesis 28:10-19). To be in the House of God, at the gateway to Heaven (Genesis 28:17) is to be in the presence of God. Bethel reminded Elisha that God would always be with Him in a very real and intimate way.
Then they traveled to Jericho. Jericho was the first city that Israel had to take in order to begin claiming the land that The Lord had promised them. But the battle was extraordinary. The Lord Jesus spoke to Joshua face to face and told him, “I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come… Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Joshua 5:14-15). The men didn’t fight, they walked in faith and obedience to God. They walked around the walls of the city and it was The Lord who brought down the walls. (Joshua 6). Jericho is a reminder that the battle belongs to The Lord, He is Lord of Hosts and He is here with us. We can have faith and obey. Exodus 14:14 reads,
“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Elijah’s last stop was The Jordan, the river Joshua parted so that Israel could cross over into the Promised Land (Joshua 3). It was the border from Israel’s life in the wilderness to their new life in The Land of Milk and Honey. Elijah would be taken up into eternity there. The Jordan reminds us of living our eternal lives now. It reminds us that Heaven is ultimately our home. I found it very interesting too that when Elijah and Elisha got to the river, Elijah part the waters as if it were as ordinary as opening a door. Elijah and Elisha understood God’s great power and they were never surprised at His miracles. Elijah parted the Jordan, called fire from Heaven, and made flour and oil last without adding his drama for his own glory or making it look difficult. He just did it. He knew God could and would.
Elijah’s time on earth was coming to a close. Verses 9-10 record Elijah and Elisha’s last conversation.
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he 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, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
God had made Elijah perhaps the greatest prophet of all time. His impact on the history of Israel, the kings, and the Kingdom of Heaven cannot be denied. That had not made his time on earth pleasant. Elisha asked for a double portion of his spirit not because he wanted power and honor on earth, but because he wanted to serve the Lord just as well as Elijah. Verses 11 and the first half of verse 12 tell us if God granted Elisha’s request.
“And as they still 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. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.”
I cannot begin to fathom the glory Elisha got a peek at. While he received confirmation of his request, he also got to see something that had to buttress and buoy his faith. God gave Elisha what he asked. But knowing, even seeing the glory Elijah entered didn’t take away the pain of losing him. He was comforted and the sting of death was absent but his anguish was there. He still mourned. The rest of verse 12 through 14 reads,
“Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.”
Elisha tore his own clothes off, picked up Elijah’s cloak, put it on and crossed back over the Jordan. He took up Elijah’s mantle and was now the prophet in his place. He put on a new identity, his new self. Elijah’s cloak represented his office and his spirit which was the Holy Spirit on him. Now it was Elisha’s. He asked, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” He didn’t ask because he didn’t know. He asked to proclaim that the Lord was with him and on him now. He answered by parting the Jordan as simply as Elijah had done it. When Joshua did it, he required the ark (the symbol of God’s presence with Israel.) When Elijah and Elisha did it, they needed no such symbol, they were confident that God was on them.
Believer, Elijah’s mantle is now ours. We have been called to his office. We are the prophets. We have the Holy Spirit not merely on us but actually indwelled in us. In Acts 2:16-21 Peter declared that the prophecy of Joel 2:28-29 was fulfilled and that Believers would prophesy because we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. That passage reads,
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”
What is it a prophet does? He discerns the truth and declares the word of God. We are called to do those things, Believer. 1 John 2:20-27 reads,
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
You have all knowledge, you know the truth! You must proclaim it. Colossians 3:16 reads,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Believer, take up Elijah’s mantle, you have not only been given a portion of God’s Spirit, you have been given His Spirit fully and completely. You are part of a united family. Remember God is Almighty Deliverer, Emanuel, Lord of hosts, and Alpha and Omega.