Monday, December 12, 2011

The faithfulness of the prophet

And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
2 Kings 2:13

Elisha's ministry begins right in the very footsteps of his master, Elijah. He is persistent in following his mentor even to his end. It has been revealed to him and confirmed that his master would be taken from him on that day. I think Elisha believes that to mean that Elijah would die. That is why he persisted in staying near to the old prophet. And God does reward that faithfulness.

In order to cross the Jordan river, Elijah strikes the water with his cloak. God parts the river for the two prophets to cross. It is on the other side of that event that the chariots and horses of fire then separate the two prophets. Elijah is taken away into heaven in a whirlwind as Elisha watches in amazement. The old prophet's cloak comes fluttering down. Elisha scoops up the symbol of his master's ministry and then uses it to part the river again to cross back over and assume a prophetic ministry of twice the impact of Elijah.

This was a moment of sheer terror, trust, and confirmation. We want a flannelgraph version of Elijah boarding a golden chariot with hot rod flames painted on the sides. But that is not the picture of the text. The fiery horses and chariots split up Elijah and Elisha. I think they were driven by angelic messengers representing the military might of God's army. A chariot was the pinnacle of military technology in Elisha's day. It evoked fear. Modern terms might make us think of a Raptor fighter jet. And after this fearful confusion, a tornado sucks Elijah right off the ground. Elisha watches as the old prophet is torn from the ground and swirled up into the heavens. It was an amazing way to be taken body and soul from this world.

Elisha would for the rest of his days be reminded of this moment. Every morning when he put on the cloak of Elijah, he would have this encounter with God at hand. He had torn up his own clothes after this event in grief over Elijah's departure. All that he had after this was the continuing prophetic ministry in the clothes of the prophet who came before him.

The focus is on obedience and on the power of God at work in obedient servants. Elijah was promised the gift and protection of God in his prophetic ministry. And he promised Elisha twice that sort of experience if he stayed with him to the end. God rewarded and used His servants, the prophets, to bring great glory to Himself through their faithfulness to Him... even when the nation of Israel was living in unfaithful days.

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