Thursday, February 21, 2008

2 Kings 2

What is this passage all about?
Elijah was taken up to heaven in the presence of Elisha, who inherited a double portion of Elijah's spirit, yet received a mixed reception when he began his ministry as a prophet in Israel.

What can I learn from it?
This passage begins (vv2,4,6) with Elijah telling Elisha three times "The LORD has sent me to..." and each time Elisha responds with "As surely as the LORD lives and you live, I will not leave you." This reminds me of Ruth's response to Naomi when she suggests her daughters-in-law return to their families (Ruth 1:16-17): "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me." Of course, Naomi stopped urging her to return to her family when she realised that Ruth was determined, but Elijah kept on offering Elisha the option of leaving his master. These would have been especially poignant moments as each time they arrived at the new destination prophets from that place met them with prophecies of Elijah's imminent departure to be with the LORD.
Elisha persisted with Elijah, and in the end he was offered a special gift. At the Jordan river, Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was taken away. Elisha had the presence of mind to ask for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, something Elijah was in no position to give. Even so, God honoured this request of Elisha's as evidenced by him being able to see Elijah as he was being taken up into heaven in the whirlwind. The subsequent chapters of 2 Kings record instances where Elisha displayed Elijah's spirit, noteably when he parted the waters of the Jordan with Elijah's cloak (cf vv8&13-15), God provided water for the armies in the desert at Elisha's word (cf 1Ki18&2Ki3) and he provided for a prophet's widow miraculously with a large flow of oil and brought the hospitable Shunamite woman's dead son back to life (cf 1Ki17&2Ki4).
Yet it was not all roses. Men of one city came to Elisha with their problem (unproductive land caused by a tainted spring) and Elisha made the spring's water clean, but at Bethel Elisha was jeered by some youths (whom he cursed in response). Despite the mixed reception Elisha received, his actions have immediate results: the water became fresh and 42 of the youths were mauled by bears (I love it when the Bible gets specific). In each case, the prophetic spirit in Elisha was made known to all nearby.

How does this help me to worship God?
Elisha asked Elijah for something that pretty much jsut made him more important in the eyes of the other prophets, who noticed immediately that (v15) "[t]he spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." And it's not like Elisha went on using his gift only for good, either. Surely cursing the youths to death for teasing him about his baldness was a bit over the top! It seems that while God often grants our requests, it's not just the "holy" or "sanctified" or "pious" prayers. Yet I'm pretty sure that as I read on through 2 Kings I will find that God used this gift that He gave to Elisha to bring the king and people of Israel to acknowledge Him as LORD, or to at least give them yet more opportunities to do so.
When I wonder if I should pray for something, I should always remember that God loves me and wants what is best for me in His eyes. As Romans 8:28-30 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." God grants which of my prayers He choses because he I have been called according to His purpose, that I might be made more like His Son Jesus Christ, be born again and be made glorious in reflection of Him. LORD, may I become more like Jesus so that through my life I may bring You glory. Amen.

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