Today’s reading tells the stories of the beginning of the ministry of Elisha, the successor of Elijah. But before we look at the application, let’s look at a few helps…
- Sons of the prophets — From as early as the times of Saul prophets often gathered together (1 Sam. 10:5) for mutual uplift, the collection of prophecies, perhaps doing some teaching, and possibly even the gathering and writing of sacred history. In the reading today, Elijah seemed to have been their leader and Elisha succeeds him.
- Double portion — This is a reference to inheritance law, in which the firstborn son received a double portion of an inheritance (and the leadership of the family). When Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, he is asking for the firstborn son’s portion and the leadership of the sons of the prophets that it implied.
- Tearing one’s clothing — This was and still is a common way for middle eastern peoples to demonstrate grief. When Elisha torn his garment into two pieces he was demonstrating extreme grief.
Success with a successor — Elijah’s work had been so heavy that it had worn him down completely. God was gracious in carrying him on to glory by the fiery chariot, per Elijah’s own request. But Elijah’s work was not finished and he needed a successor. Elisha requested this honor and responsibility and God granted it to him. God’s work goes on and it continues on so much better, when we’ve trained and equipped others to serve as we have. The apostle Paul had a protege, Timothy, who traveled with him, suffered with him, and evangelized with him. It is then to Timothy that Paul writes at the close of Paul’s life, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2, NAS95. Who have you trained to do what you do in Christ?
Don’t mock the servant of the Lord — Sometimes the story of 2 Kings 2:23ff is thought rather cruel punishment for a little disrespect, but disrespect for God’s servant (especially in the very pro-pagan atmosphere of this era) was disrespect for God Himself. It’s difficult to respect the message, if you disrespect the messenger. This is not to say that kidding around with the preacher or the elders is forbidden, nor is it to say that one may not disagree with a leader, but it is to say that serious disrespect is taken seriously by God.
No fellowship with evil — It’s just a one-liner, but it says a lot: “Elisha said, ‘As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you.’” 2 Kings 3:14, NAS95. Paul teaches us to be careful of our associations:
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NAS95.
This is not to say — I’m saying that a lot today — that we can’t have any association at all with sinful people, because might need to flee to the desert. It is to say, however, that we need to be careful who our close associates are, the people we are close friends with, the people who will influence us in our lives. And especially if our association with someone sinful lends the sinful person an air of goodness, refuse it — this was the case in the story of Elisha and King Jehoram. Elisha didn’t want to lend any spiritual credibility to an idolator.
Purpose of miracles — Elisha performed a number of miracles in the next several verses: provision of oil to sell for a widow, promises and predicts a son for the Shunammite, woman, raising the dead son, fixing the poisonous stew, and feeding a multitude. It was not for the purpose of showing everyone how “cool” Elisha was, but rather to give credibility to what he said — the major point of every miraculous sign. It’s never just about compassion (even though that is there) or power (although that’s obvious) or about defeating an enemy — it’s more about the true source of the revelation that comes with them. People won’t obey unless they understand that it is really God who has said it. That’s why the miracles of the Bible are important and why those who want to “debunk” the miracles are so destructive. If the biblical miracles are just so much legend and myth, the authority of the Bible itself is seriously undermined, it ceases to be a word from God and becomes just another well-written ancient text. But if the miracles are witnessed and verifiable and authentic, then the Bible is the very word of God and must be taken very seriously.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.