In my last post, we continued in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. In this post, we examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.
“7 Fifty of the guild prophets went and stood watching them from a distance, while they stood by the Yarden. 8 Then Eliyahu took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it; and the water divided itself to the left and to the right; so that they crossed on dry ground. 9 After they had crossed, Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away from you.” Elisha said, “Please! Let a double share of your spirit be on me!” 10 He replied, “You have requested a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, you will get what you asked for; but if not, you won’t.”
11 Suddenly, as they were walking on and talking, there appeared a fiery chariot with horses of fire; and as it separated the two of them from each other, Eliyahu went up into heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!” Then he lost sight of him. Seizing his clothes, he tore them in half.” ~ 2 Kings 2:7-12 (CJB)
God’s Reward for Service
As Eliyahu and Elisha stood by the Yarden River, they were watched by fifty of the guild prophets, men who stood afar off. They knew that Eliyahu was going to leave that day, but they didn’t know how he would depart or when God would call him. It’s likely that only Elisha saw Eliyahu go up into heaven, and after the prophet disappeared, the fifty students thought he hadn’t left them. They saw Eliyahu open the waters of the Yarden and close them again, and they saw Elisha repeat the miracle, but they didn’t see what Elisha saw when the whirlwind took Eliyahu to heaven. The fifty men were spectators that saw only part of what happened, but Elisha was a participant in the miracle and the heir to Eliyahu’s ministry.
Eliyahu didn’t give his successor three wishes; he merely asked him to name the one gift he wanted more than anything else. Every leader needs to be right in his priorities, and Elisha had a ready answer: he wanted a double portion of the spirit of his master. This was not a request for twice as much of the Holy Spirit, or for a ministry twice as great as that of Eliyahu, but for a greater degree of the inner spirit that motivated the great prophet. The request was based on Deuteronomy 21:17, the law of inheritance for the firstborn. Though there were many guild prophets, Elisha saw himself as Eliyahu’s firstborn son who deserved the double inheritance that Moshe commanded. Like a firstborn son serving a father, Elisha had walked with Eliyahu and attended to his needs, but the only inheritance he desired was a double measure of his master’s inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God’s will. In saying this, Elisha was accepting the prophetic ministry that Eliyahu had begun and declared that he would carry it on to completion, with God’s help.
Up, Up and Away
Eliyahu was honest with his friend and told him that such a gift was not his to grant, for only the Lord could do it. However, if the Lord allowed Elisha to see his ascendance from earth to heaven, that would be proof that his request had been granted. Then it happened! As the two friends walked along talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came between them, and a whirlwind lifted Eliyahu out of sight—and Elisha saw it happen! This meant his request had been granted and the Lord had equipped him to continue the ministry of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was undoubtedly the prophet of fire, for Scripture records at least three instances of his bringing fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 and 12), so it was right that God sends fiery horses and a chariot of fire to accompany His servant to glory.
Elisha’s response was one of grief, like a son mourning over the loss of a beloved father. But he paid high tribute to Eliyahu when he called him the chariots and horsemen of Isra’el. This one man was the equivalent of a whole army! In His covenant with Israel, the Lord promised that, if the nation obeyed Him, He would enable a hundred Israelites to chase ten thousand enemy soldiers (see Leviticus 26:6-8), and Moshe promised that God would cause one man to pursue a thousand and two men to chase ten thousand (see Deuteronomy 32:30). One plus God is a majority.
To me, this is one of the most fascinating passages in scripture. While it is reminiscent of Moshe parting the Red Sea at the Lord’s direction and the Yarden parting when the priest carried the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river so that the Israelites could cross on a dry river bed into the promised land, the fiery chariot with horses of fire transporting Eliyahu into heaven ~ WOW!
Now, you may be thinking that we have completed our character study of Eliyahu since he has ascended into heaven, but scripture has more to say about him. In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will be looking at both the remainder of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah for references to this fascinating prophet of God.