Passing the mantle, killing kings, and miraculous whirlwinds!
Today we are wrapping up the story of Elijah!
It has been a wild ride so far, with some of the strangest and most dramatic events of the Old Testament. And the end of Elijah’s story is just as crazy as the rest of it, so buckle in!We’ve been in the book of 1 Kings, and we’ve covered a chapter a week. We’ve gone through chapters 17, 18, and 19 so far.
This week, we’re going to cover several chapters, the last 3 chapters of 1 Kings, and then into 2 Kings. We’re not going to read through all of it together, but it is going to be a lot of ground to cover.
So, I’m going to do just a super quick review. Again, we started in chapter 17, where Elijah is first introduced, and proclaims to Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, that there is going to be a drought. The he runs away and hides, and God provides for him by sending Ravens to feed him.
Then he goes and lives with a Widow, and God miraculously provides flour and oil, and raises her son from the dead.
In chapter 18, three years have gone by, and God says it’s time for the drought and famine to end. So Elijah goes and meets Obadiah, a prophet who fears God and is in charge of the King’s palace, and has secretly saved 100 prophets of Yahweh from Ahab’s genocidal queen Jezebel.
Obadiah brings King Ahab to Elijah, who tells the king to summon all the people of Israel and all the prophets of Baal to Mount Carmel, where he proposes a contest to demonstrate which god is the true God and worth worshipping: Yahweh, or Baal. The people agreed to the contest, and the prophets of Baal failed miserably while Yahweh came through spectacularly, sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s water-soaked offering, altar and moat and all.
Then Elijah had all the prophets of Baal rounded up and he killed them all.
And then, finally Elijah went back up to the top of Mount Carmel and prayed, and God sent rain again for the first time in years, and it was a torrential downpour. Ahab took his chariot home, while Elijah ran with super-holy-spirit-speed ahead of the king.
Then, in chapter 19, which we read last week, Ahab gets home and tells his wife Jezebel about everything that just happened. But rather than repent and decide to follow Yahweh, Jezebel just gets furious, and vows vengeance on Elijah. She swears (by her pathetic gods) that she’ll kill Elijah within the next 24 hours.
So, Elijah goes on the run again. He leaves his servant in Judah, out of Ahab’s jurisdiction, then continues on his own into the wilderness, and eventually to Mount Sinai.
It’s in this chapter that we saw Elijah at his lowest. He had lost all hope and felt like he was all alone. So he went to Sinai, the mountain of God, to look for God where he appeared to Moses and the Israelites in smoke and fire and thunder and earthquakes. And Elijah did see powerful wind and fire and earthquakes, but Yahweh was not in those things. Instead, he spoke to Elijah in a soft, gentle whisper.
Again, God didn’t argue with him or reprimand him, he just gave him a new mission. And gently corrected Elijah’s loneliness complex by revealing there were seven thousand faithful people still in Israel.
All of this was a reminder of how God is willing to meet us at our lowest, and how sometimes it’s when we’re at our most broken and vulnerable that we are able to hear God’s soft whispering, because we’re otherwise too busy and caught up in the noise of our own agendas, and we’re expecting God to blast through it all with thunderous glory, when he really just wants us to quiet down, and slow down, to be still and know him.
We finished reading chapter 19 with Elijah leaving Mount Sinai, and finding Elisha, who he appoints as his successor. He literally passes the mantel to Elisha. He takes his mantle, his cloak, off and throws it on Elisha.
That’s not something we do literally anymore, but we do use that phrase “pass the mantle” it’s like “passing the torch” but it’s something they actually did literally then, and Elisha knew exactly what it meant, and he celebrated his new calling with sacrifices and a feast for his whole community.
Then Elisha left his family, followed Elijah, and served him. That’s how chapter 19 ends.
So, Elijah has chosen Elisha as his successor, however his own ministry was not yet over. Elisha is going to be with Elijah from here on, but he doesn’t just immediately take over, he’s going to learn and serve under Elijah for a while first.
Now, in chapter 20 the focus shifts for a while, away from Elijah and Elisha, and onto Ahab, and the other kings around him, Ben-Hadad of Aram (Syria), and Jehoshaphat of Judah. And there are some other prophets who come into the story. There are some battles, and God actually uses Ahab, a wicked king, to defeat the Syrian army against all odds, just to prove a point. Check this out:
Remember, depending on your translation you may have “Aram” and “Arameans” or “Syria” and “Syrians.”
1 Kings 20:26–30 CSB
26 In the spring, Ben-hadad mobilized the Arameans and went up to Aphek to battle Israel. 27 The Israelites mobilized, gathered supplies, and went to fight them. The Israelites camped in front of them like two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the landscape. 28 Then the man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,” I will hand over all this whole huge army to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” 29 They camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day, the battle took place, and the Israelites struck down the Arameans—one hundred thousand foot soldiers in one day. 30 The ones who remained fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell on those twenty-seven thousand remaining men. Ben-hadad also fled and went into an inner room in the city.
Pretty cool! But even though God gave Ahab victory in that battle, Ahab ended up making a deal with Ben-hadad, and let him go! Which God then rebuked him for, through another prophet. That story in itself is really interesting.
In fact, a LOT of really fascinating stuff happens in these last three chapters that we’re not going to get into today, because I want to focus on Elijah. So, in a minute, we’re going to jump forward to Ahab’s death, and his son taking over, and what happens after that.
But because Ahab has been such a big part of the story so far, I do want to just briefly cover his demise; I think we owe it to his character and his role in this story.
But first, to really appreciate the end of Ahab, you do have to know about one more little story that happens in Chapter 21, and Elijah does play a part in it, so we’re going to read chapter 21 together.
1 Kings 21:1–16 NLT
1 Now there was a man named Naboth, from Jezreel, who owned a vineyard in Jezreel beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to my palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.” 3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” 4 So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat! 5 “What’s the matter?” his wife Jezebel asked him. “What’s made you so upset that you’re not eating?” 6 “I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or trade it, but he refused!” Ahab told her. 7 “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!” 8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the town where Naboth lived. 9 In her letters she commanded: “Call the citizens together for a time of fasting, and give Naboth a place of honor. 10 And then seat two scoundrels across from him who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 So the elders and other town leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. 12 They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. 13 Then the two scoundrels came and sat down across from him. And they accused Naboth before all the people, saying, “He cursed God and the king.” So he was dragged outside the town and stoned to death. 14 The town leaders then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.” 15 When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” 16 So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard of Naboth to claim it.
What a horrible, tragic story!
This is very much a David & Bathsheba type of situation isn’t it? The king sees something and wants it, but it’s not his to take. Ahab just pouts about it though, it’s Jezebel his wife who actually orchestrates Naboth’s murder, by spreading a blatant lie about him. But Ahab doesn’t care, as long as he gets his vineyard! It’s awful! And he’s going to be held accountable for it.
God is going to have something to say about this, and he’s going to use Elijah to say it.
1 Kings 21:17–26 NLT
17 But the Lord said to Elijah, 18 “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. 19 Give him this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!’ ” 20 “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah. “Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the Lord’s sight. 21 So now the Lord says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! 22 I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’ 23 “And regarding Jezebel, the Lord says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel.’ 24 “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.” 25 (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. 26 His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)
So, God rebukes and curses Ahab, through Elijah, saying that he’ll wipe out his dynasty, all his male descendants.
And not just that, but he pronounces this very specific curse that Ahab and Jezebel and their family’s bodies will be eaten by dogs and vultures. What’s up with that? It adds a level of humiliation to their death, to be eaten by despised animals rather than receive a royal, glamorous ceremony and burial. And it also adds a sense of ironic justice, to say that Ahab’s blood would be licked up by dogs in the same place that Naboth was killed, and his blood was licked up by dogs. Basically, giving Ahab the same treatment he gave to Naboth.
What’s interesting though, is that this judgment seems to actually convict Ahab, at least for a short time:
1 Kings 21:27–29 CSB
27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth and walked around subdued. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? I will not bring the disaster during his lifetime, because he has humbled himself before me. I will bring the disaster on his house during his son’s lifetime.”
So, obviously, Ahab didn’t like the sound of what God was promising to do, he was terrified, and it moved him to repentance and humility.
Honestly, if I were in God’s position, I don’t know if I would have cared how much Ahab groveled at that point, he dug his own grave! Plus, as we find out in the next chapter, Ahab continued to do rebellious and evil things, so this repentance, however sincere, was ultimately shallow and temporary.
And YET, God still responded to Ahab’s humility with mercy. He’s still going to put an end to Ahab’s dynasty, but he’s going to wait until after his son takes over.
I think this is significant, because it shows God’s willingness and desire to show mercy, even at the smallest glimmer of repentance in the midst of this man’s life which was otherwise consumed by evil.
I think it’s really cool to see how God responds to Ahab in this chapter, personally. There may be times when God seems too harsh from our perspective, and there may be other times when he think He’s actually too merciful! But in either case we need to accept God’s sovereignty, and certainly be grateful that he is compassionate and merciful, because we would ALL face judgment if it weren’t for Christ taking it upon himself so that we can be declared innocent in God’s eyes.
So, that all happened in chapter 21. We’re going to skip forward now, though a bunch of really fascinating stuff happens in chapter 22, and, like I said, Ahab goes back to doing stupid things.
Eventually, he ends up dying in battle, from an arrow shot at random, and his blood fills the bottom of his chariot. Which is an odd detail, you might think, but then you find out why that’s important in verse 38:
1 Kings 22:38–40 NLT
38 Then his chariot was washed beside the pool of Samaria, and dogs came and licked his blood at the place where the prostitutes bathed, just as the Lord had promised. 39 The rest of the events in Ahab’s reign and everything he did, including the story of the ivory palace and the towns he built, are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel. 40 So Ahab died, and his son Ahaziah became the next king.
So, that’s the end of King Ahab, and the dogs licked his blood just as God had promised.
By the way, Jezebel doesn’t die until quite a bit later, and she stays just as wicked, arrogant, and defiant, to the very end. But eventually, in 2 Kings 9, she gets thrown out a window, trampled by a horse, and eaten by dogs. It’s a very inglorious end for her as well.
Again, that happens quite a bit later. In the meantime, Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, becomes king after Ahab’s death.
And Ahaziah was no better than his father. We get a nice little summary of how bad he was at the end of chapter 22:
1 Kings 22:51–53 NLT
51 Ahaziah son of Ahab began to rule over Israel in the seventeenth year of King Jehoshaphat’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria two years. 52 But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, following the example of his father and mother and the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had led Israel to sin. 53 He served Baal and worshiped him, provoking the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.
So, God is going to use Elijah to confront Ahaziah, much like he did with Ahab.
2 Kings picks up the story right where 1 Kings leaves off, so flip on over to 2 Kings, chapter 1, starting in verse 2:
2 Kings 1:2 NLT
2 One day Israel’s new king, Ahaziah, fell through the latticework of an upper room at his palace in Samaria and was seriously injured. So he sent messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether he would recover.
So, we already know that Ahaziah was a bad king, from the summary at the end of 1 Kings, and now we get an example of how messed up he was.
He falls, in his own palace, and gets injured. And he wants to know if he’ll survive his injuries, which is only natural, nothing wrong with that I guess.
But instead of asking Yahweh, or sending for a prophet of Yahweh, he sends messengers to inquire at the temple for the god of Ekron. It just shows his contempt for and abandonment of the God of Israel.
Let’s keep reading:
2 Kings 1:3–4 NLT
3 But the angel of the Lord told Elijah, who was from Tishbe, “Go and confront the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is there no God in Israel? Why are you going to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether the king will recover? 4 Now, therefore, this is what the Lord says: You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.’ ” So Elijah went to deliver the message.
So, God intervenes and gives Elijah a message for these messengers, before they can reach the temple they were headed to, and it’s a message of condemnation for Ahaziah.
I just love the tone of sarcasm though, “Is there no God in Israel? Why are you going to the god of Ekron?” He’s totally calling out how faithless Ahaziah is being.
2 Kings 1:5–6 NLT
5 When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you returned so soon?” 6 They replied, “A man came up to us and told us to go back to the king and give him this message. ‘This is what the Lord says: Is there no God in Israel? Why are you sending men to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.’ ”
2 Kings 1:7–8 NLT
7 “What sort of man was he?” the king demanded. “What did he look like?” 8 They replied, “He was a hairy man, and he wore a leather belt around his waist.” “Elijah from Tishbe!” the king exclaimed.
So, the messengers deliver Elijah’s message, and, naturally, Ahaziah wants to know who would dare intercept the king’s messengers with this pronouncement of doom!
And when they describe him, he knows immediately who it was!
The way verse 8 is worded might vary in your translations, because the original wording is a little ambiguous. Literally, it says “he's an owner of hair,” which can be taken to mean that he himself is a hairy man, or that he wears clothes made from hair. Either way, it’s apparent that Elijah had a very distinctive appearance, and his “garment” or his “cloak” or “mantle” is mentioned several times throughout the story.
Just realize that a “hairy cloak” would have been very different from a nice, soft, fur coat. This would have been coarse and in-glamorous, and overall is part of an image that Elijah’s lifestyle was rather ascetic, far removed from the refined comforts of society.
If that sounds familiar, it should! A certain baptizer named John shows up in the New Testament, wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts, and preaching with authority, sounding a lot like Elijah! But that’s for another day, we’ll get there.
In the meantime, Ahaziah is getting this message from Elijah, and he’s NOT very happy about it! Here’s how he responds:
2 Kings 1:9 NLT
9 Then he sent an army captain with fifty soldiers to arrest him. They found him sitting on top of a hill. The captain said to him, “Man of God, the king has commanded you to come down with us.”
So here we go, Elijah is being confronted by a captain and fifty soldiers, and here’s how he responds:
2 Kings 1:10 NLT
10 But Elijah replied to the captain, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and killed them all.
Whoaaa! Elijah’s calling down fire from heaven again! And I love how he turns the captain’s words around on him. Did you catch that? The captain calls him a “man of God,” but then asserts the king’s authority, implying that the king’s command carried more weight than Elijah being a man of God! It’s a contradiction, and Elijah turns it around on him, saying “If I’m a man of God, let fire come down...” So, realize that this isn’t just about Elijah getting himself out of trouble, this is another case of asserting Yahweh’s authority over the king’s, just like he did with the prophets of Baal.
But, the king didn’t take the hint. He foolishly just tries again:
2 Kings 1:11–12 NLT
11 So the king sent another captain with fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, the king demands that you come down at once.” 12 Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” And again the fire of God fell from heaven and killed them all.
So, the second guy gets there, takes in the situation, and makes the same mistake as the first guy, meeting the same fate.
STILL, King Ahaziah doesn’t get it, and tries yet a third time! This guy is dense. It’s a replay of the stubborn, prideful self-assurance that we’ve seen before, whether it’s Pharaoh in Egypt, or the prophets of Baal on mount Carmel.
But, at least this time the captain is a little bit smarter than the first two:
2 Kings 1:13–15 NLT
13 Once more the king sent a third captain with fifty men. But this time the captain went up the hill and fell to his knees before Elijah. He pleaded with him, “O man of God, please spare my life and the lives of these, your fifty servants. 14 See how the fire from heaven came down and destroyed the first two groups. But now please spare my life!” 15 Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him, and don’t be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went with him to the king.
So, he sees what happened the first two times and begs for his life. Smart move, I think! He manages to avoid getting zapped, and Elijah goes with him back to the king to talk to him and give him the same message, in person:
2 Kings 1:16–18 NLT
16 And Elijah said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: Why did you send messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Is there no God in Israel to answer your question? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.” 17 So Ahaziah died, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. Since Ahaziah did not have a son to succeed him, his brother Joram became the next king. This took place in the second year of the reign of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. 18 The rest of the events in Ahaziah’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.
So that’s the end of Ahaziah!
And that’s the last real confrontation that we have recorded for Elijah. Of course, it was a dramatic, fiery encounter, in true Elijah fashion!
But there is still one more major event in Elijah’s life that we have to cover, because it’s VERY unique. Like I said earlier, the end of Elijah’s story is just as wild and crazy as any other part of it.
Within 1 Kings chapter 2 we find the final chapter of Elijah’s ministry. Let’s read it together:
2 Kings 2:1–2 CSB
1 The time had come for the Lord to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal, 2 and Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord is sending me on to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
Waaaait a minute, hold up! I love how casually this chapter starts off mentioning “the time had come for Yahweh to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind.” As if the reader simply expects that to come next and knows exactly what that means. And if you’re familiar with the story of Elijah, then it’s like “oh, yeah, that happens.” But this is a crazy statement to make! What does it even mean?
Well, as we read on, we’ll find out.
2 Kings 2:2–6 CSB
2 and Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord is sending me on to Bethel.” But Elisha replied, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said, “Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from you today?” He said, “Yes, I know. Be quiet.” 4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; the Lord is sending me to Jericho.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 5 Then the sons of the prophets who were in Jericho came up to Elisha and said, “Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from you today?” He said, “Yes, I know. Be quiet.” 6 Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord is sending me to the Jordan.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.
So…this is a very repetitive little section. Elijah repeatedly urges Elisha to stay behind, and yet Elisha insists on continuing with Elijah. It could be that Elijah was testing Elisha here to make sure he had the resolve to truly take up the mantel, knowing he was leaving soon.
And repeatedly, we get this message from this group called the “sons of the prophets” that Elijah was soon to depart. “Do you know Yahweh will take your master, your mentor from you today?”
And Elisha says “Of course I know! But…stop talking about it!”
Why he replies this way I don’t know. It could be he doesn’t want to talk about it or think about it, because it makes him sad to think about. He’s losing his mentor! I can understand being upset by the thought of it, and wanting to just focus on the task at hand. Or maybe he just doesn’t want word spreading too much because he doesn’t want to draw attention? I don’t know. But it’s kind of a funny response. “Of course I know, be quiet!”
Alright, so now they get to the Jordan:
2 Kings 2:7–8 CSB
7 Fifty men from the sons of the prophets came and stood observing them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
Whoaaa! Elijah’s doing miracles right up to the end! And this isn’t just any miracle, this links directly back to Moses parting the red sea, but also Joshua parting the Jordan when he led the Israelites finally into the promised land.
The link to Moses AND Joshua is significant, because just like Joshua took up the mantle of leadership after Moses died, Elisha is about to take up Elijah’s mantle and continue his leadership and ministry.
2 Kings 2:9–10 CSB
9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you.” So Elisha answered, “Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit.” 10 Elijah replied, “You have asked for something difficult. If you see me being taken from you, you will have it. If not, you won’t.”
Alright, this is like Elijah giving Elisha one last chance to ask for anything…a favor, or a piece of advice…he’s saying “this is it Elisha, what can I do for you?”
And Elisha asks for something rather bizarre: a double share of Elijah’s spirit.
Now, a “double share” or “double portion” or “two portions” was a common phrase used in relation to the family inheritance that first-born sons would traditionally receive.
But he’s not asking for physical positions, he wants to inherit Elijah’s spirit. That is, his spiritual abilities and privileges. He’s asking to be considered the first-born heir to Elijah’s ministry, which is a bold request! But, he already knows that’s what he’s been called to, so he’s really just asking to be spiritually equipped for the task he knows God has called him to, which is not arrogant! It’s wise!
But, Elijah recognizes this request as something he doesn’t have the authority to grant himself, rather it’s up to God, so he doesn’t promise anything, but gives him a sign: If you see me being taken away, your request has been granted.
2 Kings 2:11–14 CSB
11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire with horses of fire suddenly appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went up into heaven in the whirlwind. 12 As Elisha watched, he kept crying out, “My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel!” When he could see him no longer, he took hold of his own clothes, tore them in two, 13 picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle Elijah had dropped, and he struck the water. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the water himself, and it parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over.
WOW! What a sight! Elisha actually gets to SEE the fiery chariots and horses appear and take Elijah away in the whirlwind.
First of all, I can’t even imagine what that would have been like to witness, and clearly it freaked out Elisha!
But secondly, this was confirmation, through the sign that Elijah had just given him, that Elisha would in fact receive Elijah’s spirit as inheritance, to continue his ministry.
So he, again, literally picks up Elijah’s mantle, and puts it on himself.
Elisha essentially becomes Elijah 2.0, and goes on to do a whole bunch of crazy things himself! And it starts right away, almost like he’s putting God to the test. Not in a sinful way, but more like he’s saying “Alright God, where are you? Let’s get to work!” And proceeds to do the same exact miracle Elijah had just done, striking the water and parting the Jordan, so he crossed back over.
He knew Elijah was gone for good at this point, and that it was his turn. But everyone else watching wasn’t as convinced, they had to really make sure he was gone! In the next few verses, they insist on forming a search party to go look for Elijah just in case God dropped him on some mountain somewhere, which I think is pretty funny. Of course, they don’t find him anywhere, and Elisha says “I told you so!”
So, that’s the end of Elijah’s story!
Until he shows up in the New Testament, of course. But that’s the end of him for now.
What a wild ride, from start to finish!
It’s such a fun story, because it’s exciting and dramatic, and fuels the imagination, just trying to picture what it would have been like to witness the miraculous and spectacular events that took place.
And there is value simply in knowing the story of Elijah, of being familiar with Elijah’s role in the story, to understand his importance historically and to understand later references back to him.
But in Elijah’s story we are also given a rich glimpse into the character and nature of Yahweh, the God of Israel, who ultimately is the real protagonist and hero of the narrative.
We see the pain and rejection of God’s unrequited love for Israel, and his willingness to continuously prove himself to them over and over and over and over again, and to go to great lengths to bring them back to him.
We see his tenderness and compassion, in how he provides for Elijah and cares for the Widow and her son. It’s a foreshadowing of what is ultimately revealed through Jesus about God’s heart, and true worship.
James 1:27 CSB
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
We also see how God wants to be known, not just by Israel, but by all people, everywhere! Again, a foreshadowing of the great mystery revealed through Christ that God’s mission has always been to the whole world, both Jews and Gentiles.
We see how God reveals himself not just in the mighty and miraculous signs and wonders, but in quiet moments and in the lowest, most broken, honest, and desperate hearts.
We see, I think, and this is just my opinion, I can’t prove it, but I think we see a little bit of God’s sense of humor in Elijah’s story.
And we see how God’s vision and mission and sovereignty is so much larger than any one person’s life or perspective or ministry. And yet he chooses to use people who trust him, in profoundly impactful ways.
I could go on, because it really is so rich, but I’ll stop there for now.
I know I’ve been blessed by our time studying Elijah; ultimately the highest goal and greatest treasure that comes from exploring scripture is to know God more deeply, more fully, more intimately, so that’s my prayer for you as we bring this series to a close.