Today Elijah is faced with the task of leaving a legacy … it is a question we are asking as a country – what is the legacy we are leaving our children … it is a question we are asking ourselves as a church … what is our legacy? … It is a question nearly every parent asks themselves – what is the legacy I am leaving my children … my grandchildren?
What do you go when you have people willing to follow you, but you are not sure what to do? That is the problem with trying to leave a legacy – what will you do? That is the plight of our main characters in this final installment in the life of Elijah.
1When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
Elijah knows the time is come for someone else to take up the mantle as God’s chosen prophet. His work is done.
Like a parent driving away from the college campus for the first time, moving your child into their first apartment or home, or simply letting go of the training wheels for the first time, teaching our children to stand on their own is not easy.
Elijah has been entrusted with the role of being prophet and teacher for Elisha and the time has come for Elisha to be on his own.
Elijah has one final opportunity to teach. Elijah leads Elisha on a journey of remembrance and testing. First they travel to Gilgal. The place where Joshua led the nation of Israel into the promised land.
Throughout the journey these two will take, nothing is said about the places. I believe they spoke for themselves. No words were needed to describe the importance of the places. Everyone knew about their significance. As a side, parents have you taken the time to share the lessons of your life to your children. Are the stories so familiar to them that words are not needed.
2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”
Then they travel to Bethel. This is the place where Jacob encountered God.
4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
They go to Jericho where Joshua led the nation in a great victory. It is here that 50 additional prophets begin to follow the activity.
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
Elijah then leads Elisha to the west bank of the Jordan River. This is one of the nation’s borders and is rich in biblical tradition. This is the river that Moses could not cross and where Joshua led the people to finish what Moses started.
7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.
Can you imagine the sight of them trying to remain out of the way?
8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
Elisha is the one selected to assume Elijah’s position of leadership. Elijah has been training him, but when will he be ready? They are both in a tough spot. Elisha knows this will be a tough position to fill and asks Elijah for the “GIFT.” Elisha recognizes that a leadership position without God’s spirit will be an empty position of leadership. Elijah’s success had not been based on his ability but rather his obedience to God. This journey, I believe, was to remind Elisha that.
Parents we do are children a disfavor if we teach them they can do it on their own. Nothing is impossible – with GOD!
The task before Elisha will be impossible without God’s power and leadership. Elijah is reminding Elisha that nothing is impossible – with GOD! Elijah has one more important lesson to impart to Elisha with God’s help because the “GIFT” Elisha seeks is not Elijah’s to give. Elisha needs to focus on the God of Elijah and not Elijah, the Man of God.
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”
Wise leaders test the commitment of their followers. John Wesley believed that church membership should include a commitment to Prayer, to be Present, to Give, to Serve, and to Witness. The church should call all members to accountability. We should be accountable to one another, accountable to the church, and most important accountable to God. By all accounts Elijah held Elisha accountable. For Elisha, it certainly was not an easy task following Elijah for this day or for the past years. This time of testing and service was hard for Elisha. There are times ahead for Elisha that will not be easy.
Like Elisha, our journey was not meant to be easy. The most important things in life never are easy. They seem to require everything of us – just ask any parent.
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 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.
15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.” “No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.”
17 But they persisted until he was too ashamed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”
I don’t know what this means. The Bible says Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind. At the same time there was a chariot of fire that appeared. I don’t get it. Faith is hard to explain and sometimes we are simply called to believe and not necessarily understand. Sometimes we need to explore faith on our own just like the fifty that went searching for answers.
This past week our children have had that opportunity to search for answers during Vacation Bible School. Hopefully what they learned this week will be part of the legacy that we will leave behind.
A word of caution (and encouragement) — the lessons of faith are not learned in a week. They are learned in a lifetime.
As parents we all want to leave a legacy to our children. I would go as far as to say each generation hopes to add to the legacy left to each subsequent generation. What legacy will you leave?
May your faith be a part of that legacy as you seek to live your faith each and every week.