2 Kings 2:1-18 (Part 3) – Getting to the Point Where You Can Ask for A Double Portion

Posted: April 6, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 2:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)

Elijah Taken into Heaven

As the coach of one of the two most successful college football programs over the last decade, Clemson’s coach, Dabo Swinney, is often asked the question that if the other most successful college football program, Alabama, came calling would he go? Since Swinney is an Alabama native, got his degree from University of Alabama and played football there, the speculative question is a valid one. He is about 20 or more years younger than current coaching icon, Nick Saban, who is the head coach at Alabama now. So, it is certain that Saban will retire within the next few years as he is fast approaching 70 years old. The question is real. Alabama will not go after just any coach when Saban retires. It is a rich and storied program with 17 national championships to its name. They will go after a highly successful coach to take over after Saban retires. Dabo Swinney is going to be on that short list.

However, when asked about it (and it seems that he is asked every year at least once), Coach Swinney says that he can never say never about anything but he is “blooming where he is planted.” He says he is happy at Clemson and he and his family have sunk deep roots in the community surrounding the university. He has two kids that are student athletes at Clemson and another that will be soon. He has a staff of coaches that have been together in tact now for a long period of time. The least longevity on his staff is 7 years and the remainder have been with coach Swinney since he took over as head coach 11 years ago. Thus, the entire staff has deep roots and deep friendships with each other. And, Coach Swinney will always look within the staff first to hire a new assistant before he looks outside. There is an intentionality on developing his staff. Because of his intentions of developing his staff, we have seen his role as the head coach evolve over the past 11 years. At first, he was heavily involved in every position coach’s responsibilities. At they have developed, he has taken on less direct involvement and now more of a CEO type than a “in-the-trenches” coach. It is all because he desire longevity on his staff and works hard to develop and push his staff to grow. So, who knows? One day, Swinney may return home to Alabama but with each passing year at Clemson, it’s going to be harder and harder for him to walk away from what he has built at Clemson.

The biggest thing that you see among Swinney’s staff at Clemson is their willingness to learn the art of being a coach from Coach Swinney. Each one all the way up to his offensive and defensive coordinators (who each could be head coaches in their own right, right now) seems to adore Coach Swinney and the way that he invests in the development of his staff. If Coach Swinney retires from Clemson or gets lured away by his alma mater before then, one of these guys will be ready to take over. They have learned from the master and he invested in them. The opposite is true at Alabama where Saban has had so many different coaches on his staff over the past dozen years that you have to look at the media guide to remember who is on his staff. It is all about Saban and success. He does not seem intent on developing his staff. So, for that very reason, when Saban retires, the school will HAVE to hire a coach from outside the program…and thus the speculation about Clemson’s coach.

That’s the thing that came to mind this morning is how the staff coaches at Clemson eagerly learn from their head coach and he is intentional about developing them. That is the thing that I see in Elijah and Elisha this morning. There was a mentor-mentee relationship between them. There was a deep relationship (see Elijah where he comments, “you have asked a hard thing”… he didn’t blow Elisha off, he wanted to give him what he wanted but knew that it was a tall order…that’s relationship). Because of their relationship (the willingness of Elisha to learn and Elijah’s investment in developing his protégé), Elisha continued the ministry of Elijah without missing a beat.

From my own perspective, I look at Elisha’s willingness to learn from the master more closely than Elijah’s investment in Elisha. Although I have been a leader in my secular world jobs in the past, I am a newbie in my second career now – being a full-time pastor. Part of Elisha’s success in carrying on the ministry was the humbling of himself to Elijah and soaking in everything that Elijah did. That’s the hard part sometimes! Humbling ourselves to learn a new craft. Elisha was a second career guy too. Elisha was a wealthy farmer before he became a prophet-in-training. He went from in-charge to be an associate prophet. He had much to learn. Being a prophet and being a farmer were two different things. Being a corporate finance manager is different, too, than being a finance pastor. That’s the thing that I have learned over the past 15 months is that I have much to learn. That’s the thing, in order to take advantage of the wealth of experience that I find in Pastor Tim and Pastor Jeff, I must be willing to learn from them even when the lessons are hard to learn or when it reveals things about myself that I must work to improve on. The willingness to learn is as much as important to the process and the willingness of mentors to invest.

Let’s read the passage now with that idea of the willingness to humble ourselves and learn is a key to our becoming what God has in store for us:

2 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Bethel.”

But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you!” So they went down together to Bethel.

3 The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”

“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”

4 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to Jericho.”

But Elisha replied again, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together to Jericho.

5 Then the group of prophets from Jericho came to Elisha and asked him, “Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”

“Of course I know,” Elisha answered. “But be quiet about it.”

6 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Lord has told me to go to the Jordan River.”

But again Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will never leave you.” So they went on together.

7 Fifty men from the group of prophets also went and watched from a distance as Elijah and Elisha stopped beside the Jordan River. 8 Then Elijah folded his cloak together and struck the water with it. The river divided, and the two of them went across on dry ground!

9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.”

And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”

11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.

13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

15 When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Sir,” they said, “just say the word and fifty of our strongest men will search the wilderness for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has left him on some mountain or in some valley.”

“No,” Elisha said, “don’t send them.” 17 But they kept urging him until they shamed him into agreeing, and he finally said, “All right, send them.” So fifty men searched for three days but did not find Elijah. 18 Elisha was still at Jericho when they returned. “Didn’t I tell you not to go?” he asked.

For today, in this passage, we see that Elisha asked to be Elijah’s successor or heir, the one who would continue Elijah’s work as the leading prophet in the land, the leader of all the prophets. That is why he asked for a double share of Elijah’s spirit.

Before we get into the immediate theological implications of Elisha’s request, we first must back up and take a look at the laws of inheritance that were part of the Sinai Covenant God made with his people. If the law of Deuteronomy 21:15-17 is uniquely tied to the Sinaitic covenant, what is its rationale? The rationale is that the oldest son was to take over the family business and all its responsibilities. He was also charged with caring for his unmarried sisters. Thus, the responsibilities of the eldest son were much greater than those of any of his younger brothers. Naturally, as the new leader of the family, he should be provided a greater amount of assets so that he could carry out his family and business responsibilities.

The request by Elisha for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit in 2 Kings 2 referred likewise to being doubly blessed in his life and ministry. Interestingly, Scripture records exactly twice as many miracles through Elisha (28 miracles) as took place through Elijah (14 miracles).

When Elisha first made his request, Elijah answered, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10). After Elisha watched Elijah taken up to heaven, he picked up Elijah’s cloak. Returning to the Jordan River, he called out to the Lord and struck the water with the cloak. The water opened up, and Elisha walked across on dry ground. This act affirmed the transition of the prophetic office from Elijah to Elisha as well as the fulfillment of Elisha’s request. The miraculous crossing of the Jordan was witnessed by men from the school of prophets. “Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him” (2 Kings 2:15). From that point forward, these men appear to have followed Elisha as their spiritual leader (2 Kings 4:38–41). Two other miracles soon follow the parting of the Jordan River to conclude this section of Scripture. First, Elisha turned bad water into clean water (2 Kings 2:19–22). Second, he cursed a group of young men who mocked him, and two bears came from the woods and attacked them (verses 23–24). The taking of Elijah to heaven, the parting of the water, the response of the company of prophets, and the two additional miracles recorded immediately afterwards all affirm that Elisha’s request for a double portion was both honorable and granted by the Lord. Elisha’s ministry was one of the most influential in the Bible and continues to be remembered today.

So what’s the takeaway for Christ followers in the 21st century? The thing that I see when we read this passage with special attention to the request for a double portion is that we must be willing to learn from the spiritual giants in our lives. We must be willing to submit ourselves to those who are spiritually more mature than us. And realize that God has placed us in their charge for a reason. It can be an humbling experience for us in the me-first world in which we live. The only way that we can ever learn to be more mature in Christ is to watch and learn from those who are ahead of us in spiritual experience and maturity. Then, when the time is right for us to lead, we can boldly proclaim that we want a double portion of the effectiveness of those spiritual giants that we have learned from. God has placed me under the care and authority of Pastor Tim and Pastor Jeff and I am learning, learning, learning, and am at the point now that I just want to soak in everything that they do. I am thankful that they have been so patient with me so far as God is doing his work in me. Then, one day, when the time is right, I can proclaim that I want a double portion of the wisdom and leadership skills that Pastor Tim and Pastor Jeff possess.

Amen and Amen.

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