2 Kings 2:1-15
This passage marks the transition from Elijah to Elisha, as we see Elijah taken up to heaven and Elisha asking for and being given a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, to take the mantle as his successor.
The passage starts by declaring what is about to happen, and then on a number of occasions Elijah asks Elisha to leave him, but Elisha will not do so and sticks with him to the end. Each time, the sons of the prophets then ask Elisha if he knows what is about to happen, and he says that he does.
Next we see a symbolic act of crossing the Jordan on dry ground, evoking memory of God bringing the people out of Egypt and into the promised land. The same living God who worked through Moses and his successor Joshua is the one working here through Elijah and Elijah and still works today through us.
Once they had crossed, Elisha made his request and then Elijah ‘went up by a whirlwind into heaven’, led by chariots and horses of fire. The particularly unusual thing here is that we are not told that Elijah died, just that he was taken up to heaven, and this is deliberate. He is one of only two Old Testament characters (the other being Enoch) who were taken up from the Earth without tasting death. This led to the prophecy of an Elijah figure coming before the Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6), which Jesus saw as fulfilled through John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14-15).
Elisha saw Elijah as he was taken up, and this was a sign that his request was granted and that he would indeed receive a double portion. In inheritance laws, the estate of the deceased would be split between their sons, but the firstborn would receive twice as much as the others and be seen as the heir. So here, Elisha is recognised as the heir to Elijah to continue his ministry and to operate in the same spirit. This is further shown in him taking on Elijah’s cloak, performing the same miracle of parting the same water that Elijah had just parted, and being recognised by the sons of the prophets who discerned that Elijah’s spirit rested upon him.
Some Key Points:
- After serving under Elijah as an apprentice, now Elisha is shown to be his successor and anointed for the task.
- Elijah was taken up to heaven, but did not die.
- Plan for Succession – Elijah had spent time investing in Elisha to ready him for what was to come when Elijah was gone. Now was the time that this preparation paid off. Whilst Elijah couldn’t grant the anointing to Elisha himself (only God could do that and Elijah himself acknowledged that it was a hard thing), the anointing was given. We should always be thinking in our roles of who we are raising up after us to continue the work.
- Ask for Anointing – Elisha did not hide the fact that he wanted to succeed Elijah and wanted the double portion of his spirit. We should not be passive in what we are called to, and should deliberately draw alongside those who God is using in ways we want to be equipped for, and should pray for God to anoint us for the work.
- Commissioning Prayer – There could be a moment in the service where you ask God to pour out his spirit to anoint particular people for certain tasks, and maybe if appropriate commission them to the work.