Today’s reading: 2 Kings 1-3.
Besides originating the phrase, “take up the mantle of,” today’s reading is all about discipleship and our responsibility to carry on God’s work as our spiritual fathers and mothers pass from this earth. Elijah knows his time is almost at an end, and his disciple, Elisha, knows it as well. The final day is a whirlwind of travel before Elijah ever meets the whirlwind that takes him from the earth. He and Elisha walk from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho and then across the Jordan, about 30 to 45 miles. It’s a day to say goodbye to the schools for prophets that Elijah has nurtured, but it’s also a test for Elisha. Will he stick with Elijah to the end?
Elisha does hang in there, and before he goes Elijah asks if there is anything he can do for his disciple. It’s another test of sorts. What would you ask for from a man who can raise the dead, call down fire from heaven, and who just split the Jordan River like Joshua? Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, a legal term for the inheritance the first-born son receives from his father. Elisha was probably asking to be Elijah’s successor, but the Bible does record twice as many miracles and fulfilled prophecies for Elisha.
In a flash of fire and wind Elijah is gone. Elisha mourns for his mentor but then moves on.
He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” 2 Kings 2: 13-15
Elisha made a successful transition from servant to prophet, and we can follow his example.
- Stick with it even though the going gets hard, just as Elisha was rewarded for following his mentor all the way to the end of the journey. There are plenty of stops along the way where we will be tempted to stay, but keep going until the process is complete.
- Remember the reason for your service, which is not personal gain but God’s glory. Elisha may have been tempted to ask for many lesser things from Elijah, but instead he asked for the best thing: to be God’s man as Elijah had been.
- Live in expectation that God will work through you to accomplish his will. Elisha didn’t strike the Jordan to see what would happen; he struck it and counted on God to split the waters. Missionary pioneer William Carey said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
Image by Lawrence OP on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0