“Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.” (II Kings 2:1-2)
Partings are hard. I am not sure how long Elisha had been with Elijah, but it seems clear that Elisha was not ready to let Elijah go.
“Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.” (Verse 6 – 7)
Perhaps Elisha wanted to learn and gain all that he could from Elijah before it was time for Elijah to leave this earth. The verses that RCL does not use disclose that Elisha knew that today Elijah would be taken from him; but Elisha did not want to face that reality. Twice he declines to talk about it. If you remember, the disciples of Jesus had a hard time with Jesus’ departure and hoped that Jesus would return in their lifetime.
“Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.” (Verses 8-12)
There was time, at the end, for Elisha to have a few private words with Elijah. But it is not comfort and wisdom that Elisha wanted, but the assurance that the work of Elijah would go on, and that he, Elisha, would be found worthy of taking on that work. Assurances given, Elijah was taken up into heaven. What now? What would Elisha do? Would he grow into the man of God Elijah was? Would Elisha start out slowly or dive into being the man of God that Elijah was? Remember that Elijah had some doubts and needed his faith confirmed? Would Elisha need the same things?
“He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.” (Verses 13-14)
The verses that follow (but are not part of our reading today) confirm both that Elisha was the man of God that Elijah was, and he stumbled occasionally also. He was, then, human – but called by God. He was no different from you or I. Now, we don’t go around hitting and parting water. But we do call on God and are answered. I need to remind myself of that occasionally. That even though I may think I am alone in my struggles and challenges, that the Lord is with me, and working in me and through me. It may be good to remind yourself of that too, beloved reader.
We may study the live of Elijah, and Elisha. But our work is not what their work was. Each of us are called by God to the path and way of living that the Divine has for us. We can learn from each other, partner with each other, and be assured that we are not alone in our Christian walk and faith. But God calls each of us, individually, and we are specially blessed and gifted by the Spirit who watches over all of us. May you remember these things, beloved reader; hold them dear and cherish them in your heart. Selah!