Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 19. 2 Kings (1)
2 Kings 2:9 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.
We chose yesterday’s meditation because we said we could not leave 1 Kings without mention of Elijah. Coming into 2 Kings we cannot move through it without first mentioning Elisha who appears, first as Elijah’s young protégé, and then as a prophet in his own right. We have chosen this verse above for its shear audacity. So often in Christian circles there is a humility – at least I hope that is what it is – that is loath to claim anything great for oneself. To actually say of any great leader, “I want double of what they’ve got,” appears pretentious in such a modern climate. Indeed, in many, there is a reticence to ask for anything of any greatness.
I am always bemused by those who tear 1 Cor 14 out of their Bibles, so to speak, because, if they could be honest, they struggle with Paul’s instruction (no less an apostolic instruction than any other in the New Testament) to, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy,” (1 Cor 14:1) and then even more down to earth, a bit later, “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (v.12) We are perhaps more comfortable with, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” (Mt 5:6) perhaps because we think righteousness is worthy of being higher up the scale of things we yearn for. Suppose the Lord appeared to us in a dream like He did to Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you,” (1 Kings 3:5) I wonder what we would have the temerity to ask for? The wisdom that Solomon already had recognized that asking for more wisdom to be able to govern his people well, would be appropriate and the Lord’s response, if we could put it in modern terms, might be, “because you didn’t ask for fame and fortune, a big house and a flashy car, I’ll give them to you as well as what you’ve asked for.”
In the New Testament again, there is also Paul’s declaration: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim 3:1) Wow! I wonder how many Christians, sitting in the pews Sunday by Sunday “set their heart” on becoming a church leader? It is false humility that denies God could ever make us one. But then I would suggest that leadership is a gift from God (Rom 12:8) so if you do have such yearning it is possibly the Spirit of God preparing you – but remember leading is also all about serving. Remember it’s also an up-side-down kingdom so, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mk 10:43,44) but, says Paul, you ascribe to a noble task!
I like how the JBP version puts Col 3:14 – “I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.” Yeah, there is glory ahead and surely that is worth reaching out for! If I may be little light-hearted for a moment, I like the film Jungle Book and I like the ape singing, “I’ve reached the top and had to stop and that’s what’s botherin’ me. I wanna be a mancub…. I wanna be like you, I wanna walk like you, talk like you too.” Lord, I want to be like you, walk like you, talk like you too. I remember the days of the Toronto Blessing, now often brought into the prayer ministry times in those churches that move in the Spirit, the prayer, “More Lord, more Lord.” Isn’t that a good thing to yearn for – more of His presence, more of His power? It is false humility and perhaps low self-esteem that shies away from such talk. Paul instructed Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Tim 2:15) Doing your best means reaching out to God for more grace, more power and more wisdom. In fact the apostle James instructed us to ask for wisdom (Jas 1:5) When we acknowledge that our calling is to be like Jesus in both character and in service, we cannot help but cry out, Lord resource me, help me be up to this!
The fact was that Elisha felt so secure in his calling to follow the Lord and follow Elijah, that when it came to Elijah talking about leaving, he felt like he needed more than he saw Elijah had and was not afraid to ask for it. Was he already aware that actually the Lord had given Elijah various tasks and he hadn’t managed all of them? Or did he perhaps feel he himself was a pygmy in comparison to Elijah and therefore he needed twice as much to even get up to Elijah’s level and carry on his ministry?
We see that same temerity in Elisha, after Elijah has been taken up to heaven and Elisha only has his cloak that was left behind, and we read, “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.” (v.14a) Wow! Be careful if you follow that. I know of a leader who cried that out to God, and the Lord replied, “Where are the Elijahs?” Challenge! But the Lord was obviously blessed with Elisha because, “When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.” (v.14b) Power and authority. OK, Elisha, you have what you asked for!
Do we not see that the Lord wants to give us more of His presence, His power and His authority that we may continue to do the works of Jesus (Jn 14:12), and He is, in fact, looking for people who will call out to Him for more than they have at the present. Throw off mediocrity and ask for big things, and then do them as He enables! Hallelujah! If this isn’t a highlight verse, I don’t know what is!