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The Communion of Elisha (2 Kings 2)

J Griffiths, Treorchy

Elisha’s Preparation

About ten years elapsed between Elisha’s call and his commission. He did not engage in public ministry the instant he received God’s call. A period of preparation was necessary before he was ready for public service. Remember Moses’ forty years in the backside of the desert; the priests’ ten years of training between ages twenty and thirty; our Lord’s thirty years of obscurity readying Himself for three and half years of public ministry; Paul’s three years in Arabia.

Young believers, do not only heed God’s call but consider God’s calendar as well. Experience gained in fellowship in God’s assembly is invaluable preparation for public (as well as for less public) witness. Waiting time is not wasted time.

In Elisha’s case, the Lord’s servant, Elijah, confirmed his call. Others have received confirmation from the Scriptures and some have been guided by circumstances that they have passed through. A combination of factors has confirmed the call of God to yet others.

Elisha’s Partnership

Note the words of Elijah and Elisha, "Tarry here"; "I will not leave thee" (vv.2,4,6). It was a blessing that Elisha had a spiritual mentor in Elijah. Moses was a great help to young Joshua; Jehoiada the priest was invaluable to Joash, one of Judah’s child-kings; Paul was a real spiritual father to Timothy and Titus. The writer to the Hebrews states, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God" (13.7). Many can look back with gratitude to elders, workers, missionaries, and godly sisters whose influence by example, prayer, and conversation has had a marked impact on their service for the Master. One example, not so prevalent today, was the custom of older men to take a younger man with them to open the meeting for them and maybe give their testimony or share in the preaching.

Elisha’s Progress

Note the seven references in vv.1-11. "Elijah went with Elisha" (v.1); "So they went down" (v.2); "So they came to" (v.4); "And they two went on" (v.6); "and they two stood by Jordan" (v.7); "they two went over on dry ground" (v.8); "they still went on" (v.11). It might have been a period of obscurity and preparation, but it was marked by fellowship and furtherance. These ideas are also linked by Paul in Philippians 1.5,12 and 25.

Their fellowship together was of mutual benefit and blessing. Some find it difficult to work in harmony with their brethren. Such end up as loners ploughing their own furrow! The fellowship is emphasised by the use of "with". The furtherance is underscored by the use of "down", "on", "over", and "on" once again. God expected both partnership and progress. Is there evidence of spiritual development in us? It is well nigh impossible to stand still in divine things. We either move forwards or move backwards.

Notice how Elisha began as Elijah’s servant, only to be later described as the servant of the Lord. The same principle is true of Moses and Joshua. In Joshua 1.1 it is "Joshua…Moses’ minister", but in Joshua 24.29 he is, "Joshua…the servant of the Lord". The lesson is to start low and then grow.

Elisha’s Perception

It was perverse of the sons of the prophets to remind Elisha of Elijah’s imminent departure, with the repetition of their words, "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?" (vv.3,5). However, the closeness of the two servants meant there were no secrets kept from each other. Elisha, aware of Elijah’s soon rapture, handled their comments robustly: "Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace" (vv.3,5). I wonder what emotions Elisha felt. Did he feel as did the disciples when their blessed Lord and Master was taken up into heaven? Certainly, there are similarities in the two sets of circumstances.

Elisha may have been brusque in rebuffing the sons of the prophets, but his perception called for a different approach with Elijah. At the parting of their ways, Elisha stuck to Elijah like glue and, far from a rebuff, he made a request, a request that was almost a prayer as we are about to discover.

Elisha’s Portion

"I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me" (v.9), was the request from Elisha. The double portion in the Old Testament was the right of the firstborn son according to the law (Deut 21.17). Elkanah gave Hannah "a worthy portion" because of his love for her (1 Sam 1.5). Job received his double portion from the Lord, "twice as much as he had before" (Job 42.10).

Israel receives double on at least three occasions prophetically.

She will receive "double for all her sins" (Is 40.2), an exceptional judgment referring to the Tribulation.

She will receive double "For your shame" (Is 61.7), an everlasting joy referring to the Millennium.

She will receive double for her share, "I will render double unto thee" (Zech 9.12), referring to an extended jurisdiction, i.e. the land.

The firstborn held privileges of status, strength, and spirituality. In the New Testament Christ has the dignity of being the firstborn: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (Col 1.15); "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Col 1.18). The Church also has this dignity as is stated in Hebrews: "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Heb 12.23).

Elisha wished to assume the prophetic office vacated by Elijah. His desire was to be seen as the clear leader among the sons of the prophets, with the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to fulfil his ministry. It was a spiritual ambition. May God grant us to have spiritual ambition and desire so that we may serve empowered by the Spirit of God. May we be marked out as chosen vessels for the Master’s use, and, like Elisha, be ready to step into the breach as older servants are taken to glory.

Elisha’s Promise

The promise to bestow on Elisha a double portion of Elijah’s spirit has conditions attached. Elijah states, "If thou see me…it shall be so unto thee" (v.10). It was "a hard thing" for Elijah to promise Elisha, as it was God’s prerogative to grant such a double portion of the Spirit. The promise was to be realised if the conditions were fulfilled, namely, a sight of Elijah ascending to glory. The promise of the Father regarding the descent of the Spirit springs to mind. The disciples witnessed the ascension of Christ and were empowered for service thereafter by the Holy Spirit whose descent is recorded in Acts 2.

Elisha’s Performance

As to his works (2.15)

"The Spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha." The sons of the prophets recognised the transfer of office and power to Elisha. He was the Lord’s chosen and equipped servant. Now he was being recognised as such.

As to his words (3.12)

"The word of the Lord is with him." These were the sentiments of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in testimony concerning Elisha when he joined forces with Israel’s king against Moab.

As to his walk (4.9)

"An holy man of God passeth us by", was the conclusion of the Shunammite woman as she watched the disposition of Elisha passing by her home with some regularity.

What an eloquent testimony! Does ours match up!

Concluded.

Footnote – the "double portion" (2.9)

Some writers suggest that the double portion of the Spirit was manifested in the ratio of miracles performed by the two prophets, as follows:-

Elijah’s eight miracles (1 & 2 Kings)

Shutting heaven (1 Kings 17.1) Oil multiplied (1 Kings 17.10-16)

Widow’s son raised (1 Kings 17.17-23) Fire from heaven (1 Kings 18.38)

Rain (1 Kings 18.45) Fire on fifty (2 Kings 1.10)

Fire on fifty (2 Kings 1.12) Jordan (2 Kings 2.7-8)

Elisha’s sixteen miracles (2 Kings)

Jordan divided (2 Kings 2.13-14) Waters healed (2 Kings 2.19-22)

Bears from the wood (2 Kings 2.23-24) Water for the kings (2 Kings 3.19-20)

Oil for the widow (2 Kings 4.1-6) Gift of a son (2 Kings 4.16-17)

Raising the dead (2 Kings 4.32-35) Healing of the pottage (2 Kings 4.41)

Bread multiplied (2 Kings 4.42-44) Naaman healed (2 Kings 5.1-14)

Gehazi smitten (2 Kings 5.27) Iron to swim (2 Kings 6.1-7)

Sight to the blind (2 Kings 6.15-17) Smiting with blindness (2 Kings 6.18)

Restoring sight (2 Kings 6.20) A miracle after his death (2 Kings 13.21)

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