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When I read Old Testament narratives, I have to wrestle with what I read. When told of what someone did, if there is no comment by the  biblical author on the rightness of the actions pictured, there might be a question left as to whether the action described is being affirmed, simply being tolerated, or being presented as a negative example.

I was thinking about Elisha, the companion to Elijah the prophet, and what happened when Elijah was taken from Elisha by the Lord. They have been traveling together for some time when the Elijah departs.

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.  The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be still.” Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?”And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:4-14)

Was what Elisha did rooted in presumption and his wanting to have a great reputation like Elijah had? Was he being haughty and self-seeking? Was what he Elisha did merely his leaning into what he had been learning from his teacher, Elijah? Was he simply humbly following the example? Was what he did anchored in his longing for God to be glorified and Israel to receive ministry as had been seen in Elijah’s ministry? Was he hungry for what only God could do?

The text does not explicitly answer this for me. But as I read about the life and ministry of Elisha, I am led to think that Elisha did what he did, asked what asked, acted like he acted, because he was hungry for God’s glory and a ministry that required God’s presence.

All this causes me to wonder about my  life, our lives.

Jesus has been taken up to heaven; he has ascended. The “mantle” that was upon him was the Spirit; the Spirit empowered him in the days of his incarnation (Luke 4:1, 16-21: Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38). Jesus explained that Spirit was going to remain on and in his followers; his followers were to take up that mantle (John 14:12-17; 16:7; Acts 1:1-8; 4:31-33; 6:8-10).

So I wrestle with the example of Elisha. What keeps me from crying out,”Where is the God of Jesus?” Why do I not more fully take up the mantle of the Spirit, hungry to see what was evident in Jesus’ life become evident in our lives?

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One Comment

  1. Makes me want to sing/ask, “Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me!”


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