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“Where is the God of Elijah?”

July 10/16 - 2Kings 2:1-14


Can you think of one person who has made a major impact on your life? Who influenced you greatly, who ‘rubbed off’ on you in a way that helped shape who you are? Was it a parent or relative, some family member? Was it a school teacher, or perhaps a Sunday School teacher or pastor? Was it someone you never actually met but who touched your life through books or the media – someone like CS Lewis, Edith Schaeffer, or Billy Graham? Lives touching other lives leave quite an impact. We rub off on each other, for good or ill. Paul wrote to the early believers with whom he’d spent considerable time, 1Thess 2:9 “Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote (Heb 13:7) “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

      We pick up Elijah’s story as it enters its last chapter. He’s making a sort of ‘goodbye tour’ of the various schools of the prophets. These were gatherings who came together at various places to learn from their mentors and to prophesy, probably including praise songs and ecstatic utterance, in various locations: v1 Gilgal; v3 “the company of the prophets at Bethel”; v5 “the company of the prophets at Jericho”. Each group seems to be aware as Elijah and Elisha arrive that this will be the last visit they receive from Elijah. They asked Elisha vv3&5, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” These must have been sizable schools, as in v7, “Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.”

      Looking back, it’s been quite a journey for the prophet Elijah. He was active about 875-848 BC, loosely coinciding with the wicked King Ahab 874-853 BC. It was a dark time spiritually in the northern kingdom. 1Kings 16:30-33 “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

      Baal worship was particularly enticing because it offered a religious excuse to act immorally and indulge sexually and in alcohol. Old Testament Survey (Lasor, Hubbard, Bush) explains: “Israel found the worship of Baal attractive. The idols of the Canaanite fertility god offered them something tangible to worship, and Baal’s festive occasions fed Israelite passions for wine and immorality. Baal was lord of the vine and god of fertility, so Baalism taught heavy drinking and sexual license as religious duty. Baal worshipers believed that sexual intercourse in worship with cultic prostitutes (both male and female) promoted fertility. The practice was thought to encourage Baal to enjoy intercourse with his consort, thus ensuring fertility in the land.”

      A friend posted a photo of our prime minister obviously enjoying himself in the Toronto Pride parade. She commented, “What a great photo.I’m so proud of our Prime Minister! This is what we need, world: love, acceptance, joy, and fun.” I wanted to comment (but didn’t) - “What the world needs is God – on God’s terms.”

      So the start of Elijah’s ministry was an environment very hostile to worship of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In 1Kings 17 Elijah announces God’s discipline, a drought that lasted some 3 years, evidence that Yahweh was stronger than the Baal fertility-god. In 18:4 we learn that Queen Jezebel has been killing off the prophets of the Lord (though Ahab’s palacekeeper hid a hundred in caves to save them). Atop Mount Carmel Elijah wins a contest against the prophets of Baal, demonstrating Yahweh’s ability to send fire to consume a sacrifice, and end the drought. But the sense of victory is short lived: Jezebel takes a solemn oath to kill Elijah, and he flees to Mount Horeb, complaining in 19:10: “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword.I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

      This is probably the lowest point in Elijah’s entire ministry – when all seems lost and the situation appears hopeless. But God is not stumped; He has a plan. He appoints Elijah to anoint two kings to deal with the entrenched wickedness politically, and to take on Elisha as his successor spiritually in the office of prophet.

      So just a few chapters later at the start of 2 Kings, we sense things are starting to turn around. Ahab is dead. His short-lived son’s reign ends in accord with an abrupt word of judgment issued by Elijah. As mentioned, there seem to be established schools of the prophets in at least 3 places - Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. Elijah’s life and ministry have had an impact.

      Jesus has not called you to take on all the problems of government and the world’s social ills and immorality single-handed. He HAS called His church – each one of us – to MAKE DISCIPLES. Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...” That strategy is LIFE-ON-LIFE, just as Elisha shadowed Elijah. Mark 3:14 “He appointed twelve— designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” A disciple is someone who has spent buckets of time WITH the Master; “He appointed twelve...that they might be WITH HIM...” WITH-NESS precedes WITNESS, being sent out to preach.

      Remember how after the Resurrection Peter and John amazed the religious leaders when they were investigated for healing a lame man? Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

      Do you find the deterioration of society daunting? Do you want YOUR life to make a difference – one that will be impactful? Spend time WITH Jesus; get into the Word, and make prayer your regular habit. Find a mentor, someone more mature in the Christian faith from whom you can learn. And then also witness to others, find someone to whom you can pass on God’s truth as you live it out.


We see from Elisha’s perspective the closeness that has developed between master and student over the course of the discipling process. Elijah draws this out by suggesting Elisha stay behind while he goes on alone, but in verses 2, 4, and 6 three times Elisha declares, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” Elisha is determined to stick by Elijah’s side to the very end. Such faithful constancy echoes that of David’s ancestor Ruth who, though a foreigner, a Moabitess, an “immigrant” if you will, declared to Naomi in Ruth 1:16f: “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.”

      Such personal bonds of pledged faithfulness OTHER than marriage bonds between husband and wife are also significant, honourable, and add great meaning to life. How are you “there for” other people in their time of need? Who knows that they can call you for help ANY TIME of day or night?

      We can guess what Elisha’s feeling when the other prophets ask him if he knows the Lord is going to take his master from him today; Elisha replies, vv3&5, “Yes, I know; so be quiet.” Perhaps meaning, “It’s kind of painful; let’s not talk about it, OK? I’d rather not discuss it.” There’s real feeling and attachment here.

      Eventually they come to the Jordan River. Elijah strikes the water with his rolled-up cloak and they cross on dry ground. There are several parallels between Elijah’s life and Moses’: Moses parted the Red Sea; they both finished their earthly life east of the Jordan; they both had assistants named “God saves” - Joshua / Elisha.

      V9 “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.” This was perhaps the highest compliment someone could pay Elijah: Elisha is saying, “I want to be your successor, carry on your ministry with the same power and authority God gave you – or even more!”

      Some commentators point out that Elisha did in fact carry out more miracles than his predecessor; John MacArthur lists 7 for Elijah, 11 for Elisha. But the reference here is to inheritance law: a firstborn son was to inherit a ‘double portion’ compared to the other sons. Deut 21:17 “He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has.That son is the first sign of his father’s strength.The right of the firstborn belongs to him.”

      Elisha here is validating Elijah’s life and ministry. He’s implying, “You’ve done a good thing.The most I could wish for would be to carry on what you’ve started, to serve in a way that reminds people of how YOU have served the Lord, to show the same integrity and authority you’ve demonstrated all through your life.” Who do you know that’s worthy of emulating like that? Who’s your ‘hero’, your ‘star’, your ‘idol’? Is it someone that’s reflecting God in their life, or is it all about THEM? Who are you consciously or unconsciously taking for your model, your pattern, in life? Choose carefully. You want a double portion of the RIGHT KIND of spirit.

      It was very clear who was the “star” in the life of the Apostle Paul. On his last journey to Jerusalem, at Caesarea a prophet vividly warns Paul will be bound and handed over by the Jews to the Gentiles. The other believers plead with Paul not to continue on to Jerusalem. His response? Acts 21:13 “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He was prepared to surrender his whole life for his Master; following Jesus meant more to Paul than even preserving his own life. As he expressed his focus in Php 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death...”


Elijah responds to Elisha’s yearning for a ‘double portion’ of his spirit by acknowledging that was beyond his control; that was God’s to give and confer – whether Elisha saw him be taken would be the sign as to whether God was granting the request and making Elisha his successor. Then suddenly it happened. Vv11-12a “As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!"”

      The space separating our physical space-time dimension and the spiritual realm suddenly got very thin. The curtain is pulled back for a flash, for a mere instant, and Elisha sees these fiery charging messengers and their drivers. Elijah is swept up in a whirlwind, subsumed into Godspace – bypassing physical death as one of only two humans ever recorded to have done so (the other was Enoch, Genesis 5:24). Elisha is privileged to get a glimpse of God’s spiritual messengers that are around us, invisible, but waiting to do His will – and often that means answering YOUR prayer! In the New Testament, Hebrews 1:14 says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

      Elisha cries out, “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” acknowledging that these – not the king’s physical army – are the true protectors of God’s people. There’s another time in Elisha’s life when these invisible forces, the Host of Heaven, make an appearance. In 2Kings 6 the king of Aram is plotting against Israel but keeps getting frustrated by the prophet Elisha’s knowing his strategy and forewarning the Israelite king. So the king of Aram plots to attack Elisha directly. 2Kings 6:14-17 “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there.They went by night and surrounded the city.When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city."Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked."Don’t be afraid," the prophet answered."Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

      Do you think this sounds like fairy tale talk? What was Jesus’ attitude on such things? The night He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, He was dead serious. He wasn’t kidding around or spouting spiritual platitudes. What did He say? Mt 26:53 “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

      Think about the heavenly resources available to you next time you’re in a bind. 12 legions of angels! The chariots and charioteers of Israel! Pray – for the heavenly host to be unveiled and do your Father’s will.


When your world is falling apart – when you’re overwhelmed – perhaps someone very close to you is being taken away: one may want to call out, “God, where are You?!” The stress and grief may be overwhelming. God knows what we’re going through and is waiting for us to turn to Him for all we need.

      That day must have been a little overwhelming for Elisha. In most cases, we don’t know the exact time a loved one is going to die; often it comes as a complete shock – though other times it’s a matter of waiting in the palliative care section. Still, it would heighten our sensitivity if we knew TODAY was going to be the exact day.

      That’s the message Elisha was getting from each stop, first at Bethel, then at Jericho – today his master would be taken from him. This was going to be no surprise, it was to be a God-appointed separation. Vv3&5 “Do you know that THE LORD is going to take your master from you today?”

      Even when tragedy occurs – can we accept God’s sovereignty in determining our life’s timings and leavings?

      V11 “...suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and SEPARATED the two of them...” Can we still love our Almighty Heavenly Father when He causes a permanent separation from a loved one in this earthly life? Can we trust Him to know what He’s doing, in working out His eternal inscrutable but loving purposes?

      It was a lot for Elisha to process. The most intimate and impactful person who he’d shadowed much of his life was suddenly gone. He probably felt very alone, as if he’d lost a soul-mate, someone who understood his deepest passions and yearnings for God’s Kingdom to come on earth. As Elijah ascended in the whirlwind Elisha cried out, “My father! My father!” Vv12b-14a “And Elisha saw him no more.Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 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.”

      Where now are You, Lord? Are You going to be with me through this loss, this separation? Do you see and care what’s going on?

      Though Elijah had made great impact, the job was by no means done. The fight against Baal worship was far from over. Elisha could not foresee that by the end of his own life, the very king of Israel would be crying out and mourning him as he had Elijah! 2Kings 13:14 “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. "My father! My father!" he cried. "The chariots and horsemen of Israel!"”

      God knew exactly what He was allowing to happen. And His divine power would be available to empower Elisha just as it had Elijah. When Elisha struck the water with the cloak, v14, “It divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”

      God proved He would be with Elisha exactly as He was with Elijah. Likewise, for His people today, He pledges not to leave us or forsake us if we keep trusting Him. Deut 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Jesus promised at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jn 14:23 “Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” When we love and obey Jesus, God makes Himself “at home” with us.


When we cry out, “Where are you, God?” He may be closer than we realize. It’s a bit like what happened to Dr.Tony Campolo as a child: when he was a boy growing up in a congested and bustling city, his mother arranged for a teenage girl who lived nearby to walk home with him at the end of the day. For this, she was paid a nickel a day. But Tony rebelled in the second grade and told his mother, "I'll walk myself to school, and, if you give me a nickel a week, I will be extra careful. You can keep the other twenty cents and we'll all be better off."

      After a period of pleading and begging, little Tony finally got his way. For the next two years he walked himself back and forth to school. It was an eight-block walk with many streets to cross, but he was careful and didn't talk to strangers or get distracted along the way.

      Years later at a family party, he bragged about his independence and reminded his family of how he had taken care of himself as a boy. His mother laughed and added the rest of the story. "Did you really think you were alone?" she said. "Every morning when you left for school, I left with you. I walked behind you all the way. When you got out of school at 3:30 in the afternoon, I was there. I always kept myself hidden, but I was there and I followed you all the way home. I just wanted to be there for you in case you needed me.” Let’s pray.