Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who is this man Elisha? Part 2

2 Kings 2 (NIV)

I was going to include the scripture with the comments but I'll just list the comments and you can go back to the story when you need to.

Elisha responds to Elijah's call and anointing by leaving plow, land, and his community to "apprentice" with an amazing prophet. And, apparently as the story progresses Elisha doesn't leave Elijah's side.

When Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind while he goes off to Bethel, Elisha goes anyway. He's not a yes man.

Elisha is part of a whole company of prophets. They know God is going to take Elijah and Elisha knows, too. They keep reminding him and Elisha says,"Yes, I know . . . but do not speak of it." It would have been enough for Elisha to say, "Yes, I know" but he says "but do not speak of it."

Elijah is off to Jericho. Again, he tells Elisha to stay behind. Again, Elisha goes anyway saying, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." Elijah gives in. We could go back and study Elijah to see if it's out of character for Elijah to do this.

Again, in Jericho, the company of the prophets at Jericho go up to Elisha and ask him, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?"

Again, Elisha says,"Yes, I know . . . but do not speak of it." Though some of us would be, apparently Elisha is not annoyed.

Again, Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind saying, ". . . the LORD has sent me to the Jordan."
Again, Elisha replies, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." Elijah could be getting annoyed now too but apparently not. Elisha sticks to Elijah like glue and the two of them walked on.

The company of prophets continues to follow them, 50 people, knowing God is going to take Elijah but Elisha sticks to Elijah's side. I think it's interesting that nobody seems to be doing what Elijah tells them to do. They all watch as Elijah takes his cloak, rolls it up and strikes the water with it. The water divides right and left, Elijah and Elisha (or everyone?) cross over on dry ground with Elijah.

At that point, Elijah says to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"

Elisha doesn't miss a beat here."Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit." Elisha didn't say, "Ah, nothing."Elisha knew exactly what he wanted from Elijah, and what he wanted God to do. He asks big!

Elijah says, "You have asked a difficult thing . . . yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not." Difficult even for Elijah. Something he apparently has no control over.

It seems that Elijah and Elisha's camaraderie was more friendship than master/servant.

Elisha is separated from Elijah and sees Elijah taken and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" Elisha lost someone he called "father'. He'd already given up his oxen, his work, his family, his living and then the one he left all those things for... Elisha tears his clothes.

But again, Elisha doesn't miss a beat. He picks up Elijah's cloak, goes back, stands on the bank of the Jordan, takes the cloak and strikes the water with it asking, "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" You could probably make even more observations about this and about God's response.

He didn't mourn for long. He takes his place with God and God gives him that very difficult thing he asked for. He didn't put it off. He doesn't wait days or weeks or years. When he struck the water, it divided and he crossed over just the way Elijah did not long before. Elisha doesn't lack confidence. He doesn't hesitate. There's no uncertainty here.

The company of the prophets from Jericho, who are watching say, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." No question about it. No arguing or bickering or challenges. They go to meet Elisha and bow to the ground before him. 50 men, 50 prophets. Elijah's mantel has fallen on Elisha. What an honor! He was already anointed to follow in Elijah's footsteps. I'm wondering if their respect runs deeper than just Elisha being next in line.

The school of prophets offer to make a thorough search - to go and look for Elijah. They say, "Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley." Is he really gone?

Elisha says, "No. Don't bother." But they go anyway.

I have to say that if obedience is a requirement for the school of the prophets seems like they all failed, lol! Elisha, apparently didn't need them to confirm that Elijah was really gone but they persisted "until he was too ashamed to refuse." What does that mean? Elisha was too ashamed to refuse? What does that tell you about this man?

So Elisha said, "Send them." Fifty men go searching for three days but they don't find Elijah because he's been taken. Elisha has no doubt about this but if everyone else needs to be convinced he says, "Fine. Go find out for yourselves..."

When they came back Elisha said to them, "Didn't I tell you not to go?" That's sort of funny.

Then Elisha heals the water. Elisha had stayed in Jericho. The men of the city tell Elisha, "Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive." Again, he does something to care for people. And perhaps, he's caring for the land, too. When Elijah first called him, he didn't sell his oxen or give them to someone as work animals. He used them for food. Now he's healing the city's water supply so the water doesn't kill people.

But this time, he speaks for God saying, "This is what the LORD says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.' God did that! The whole concept of water that's healed is interesting. And scripture says, 22 "And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken."

Food and water are essential to life. Seems an interesting role for a prophet. I'm trying to think if there were other prophets who took care of people's basic needs when they asked the way Elisha did, as opposed to God telling a prophet to say this or to do that as a sign.

So now Elisha goes to Bethel and a bunch of boys make fun of him. I always thought of it as a couple of young boys but not so. The scriptures call them youths. More than 40 teens. More than an average classroom of teens. A mob?

They say, "Go on up, you baldhead!" And they say it again. Remember how patient Elisha had been? He turns around, looks at the boys and curses them in the name of the Lord and it happens. Just like that. He didn't address them, warn them, tell them to go away. He just cursed them and it happened.

This is a prophet's curse. Two bears come out of the woods and maul 42 teen-aged boys and apparently no one protests. Why weren't they somewhere working? Where were their parents? Didn't Elisha just heal their water? Were they mocking his office? Were they keeping him from the work he had to do? We don't know. After giving to people, he curses a bunch of foolish, belligerent young men. Didn't Elisha travel with the respect after cleaning up their water? The little girl at Namaan's house knew of him and respected him.

He continued his travels to Mt. Carmel and Samaria.

These are just quick observations. You may come away with different observations. A group discussion gives you the advantage of many eyes and observations and training - not just the thoughts of one blogger.

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