This is the last day Elijah and Elisha will spend together, this side of Heaven. Elisha is determined to enjoy every moment and receive a double portion of the anointing of Elijah.
I do not know if Elisha has been glued to Elijah’s side since the day they met but this last day they are. Both men know this is the end of Elijah’s life on earth. I don’t think that either expect the ‘exit strategy’ God came up with. And apparently it WASN’T a last minute decision on His part.
I remember hearing about this story as a child and thinking that God took Elijah in a fiery chariot because he couldn’t get him alone. I thought He had to move Elisha out of the way to get to Elijah. Sometimes I wondered why Elisha didn’t hitch a ride too. But our text tells us that God had planned to “take Elijah up to Heaven by a whirlwind” (verse 1b). I wish I could have heard Heaven when He put forth this plan!
“How exciting!” “Everyone will want this kind of transport and reception.” I know he did some amazing acts but what set him apart to receive this kind of welcome? I could ask the same question of Enoch. What was it about these two men that had God bring them straight into Heaven, without first tasting death?
I have been looking over maps of the Old Testament to see the route and distance Elijah and Elisha traveled that day. I couldn’t find exact distances. The hardest distance to pin down was from Bethel to Jericho, only because Google wants to use two different continents for this measurement. Even when I put in “Israel” after each city they still wanted to do the two continents. While looking I found someone else’s estimate of 41 miles. I think his numbers are VERY short. Bethel is about the same distance from Gilgal as it is from Jericho so double that then add in Jericho to the Jordan. Bethel to Gilgal is 95 KM/59 miles (by Google’s report). Another site tells me that Jericho is about 16 KM/10 miles from where the Jordan enters the mouth of the Dead Sea. I don’t think this was Elijah and Elisha’s crossing point but I will use that distance anyway. This calculation gives us WAY more miles than I want to travel in a day! Who knows how accurate my figures are too because Things have shifted about over the centuries. Suffice it to say, they had a LONG walk that day.
When looking for the distances I also came across a website speaking about the ‘meaning’ of the places they traveled. I thought it was interesting. Even though I haven’t read it completely I’m posting a link to it here for your perusal.
I thought about stepping into the story but ran up against the question of what they talked about that day while they journeyed. Did the remains about their past experiences together? Was Elijah giving Elisha last minute training in the word? Were they talking about the work that lay ahead for Elisha? Did they discuss the political and spiritual situation in Israel? Was Elijah able to offer insights or prophecy about the future? Were they simply enjoying one another’s company? Or were they feeling compelled by the Spirit to walk so fast that they couldn’t keep up a conversation? What was it like that last day?
One thing that seems clear to me was Elisha’s heart was torn. He KNEW this was his last day with Elijah. It was even confirmed to him on two separate occasions. He wanted every last minute with him that he could grab hold of. But he also wanted to let Elijah go. He didn’t rail against the fact that Elijah was soon to depart. He accepted it, even though he didn’t know HOW it would come about.
Elijah wasn’t the least bit ill. He was strong enough to make this amazing journey God placed him on. But yet he was going to be leaving this world behind. I wonder if Elijah or Elisha thought about how that would happen. God had moved Elijah from one place to another in the blink of an eye. God had also endowed Elijah with supernatural abilities at times. But did it even cross their minds that Elijah wouldn’t taste death before seeing the Lord?
When Elijah told Elisha to “wait here” did he really expect him to comply? Was he secretly hoping that Elisha would do exactly as he did? And was his “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you” (verse 9b) a reward for Elisha’s insistence to remain at Elijah’s side? That one we can say it probably was because of the conditions Elijah put on it. “If you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you so not see me, it shall not be so” (verse 10b).
Did Elijah know that his journey was ending in just a few moments or did he think God was going to extend their walk? Was he saying ‘stay the course’ or was he saying ‘well done, we are approaching the finish line’?
God physically separated the two men in order to bring Elijah home. He sent “chariots of fire and horses of fire” (verse 11b) to put the first distance between the two of them on that day. Elisha kept refusing to allow the distance because of his great love for Elijah. He clung to his side. Not as a child clings to its mother but as a new husband clings to his bride. They can’t be out of sight of one another without experiencing feelings of loss and separation.
Elisha would experience true physical loss and separation from Elijah but not from the Spirit that rested on him. He received the double portion he asked for and in it he found comfort even in his physical aloneness.
Once Elijah was gone, Elisha tore his clothes IN TWO. It wasn’t a small tear for appearances sake. It was a rending of the role he used to have and putting on his new role. He left the old clothes behind and took instead the cloak Elijah passed to him.
I wonder if striking the water with Elijah’s cloak was the first miracle Elisha had ever performed. He didn’t stand on the double portion he was given yet. He tested it first by calling on the God of Elijah, not even putting his name in there. His relationship with God was unproven but the relationship of Elijah and God was a certainty. He put his faith there first. The rest would grow, and grow quickly.
Father God, I can’t imagine the breadth of emotions Elisha experienced that day. To lose the man who was closer to him than a father, who taught him with authority about You, and who nurtured him into the man of God he would now become. But his loss wasn’t to death and his ‘passing’ left Elisha with a double portion of the gifts that rested on Elijah. WOW! Now Elijah’s God was Elisha’s God. NO doubt in his mind of where his master went. And now, no doubt in the fact that the God his master walked with now walked with him.
Thank You for that same surety in my life. NOT that I have the anointing of Elijah but that the God of Elijah and the same God of Elisha walks with me. I will never do the works that they did but I still share the same relationship status with them. YOU are my God every bit as much as You are theirs.