“When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not. As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.
Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over., II Kings 2:1-13, NIV
This is the story of Elijah and Elisha. As you know, Elijah was an incredible prophet and one of the greatest heroes of the entire Bible. He is one of only two men that never tasted death—-the other was Enoch. He is the one saint, along with Moses, that was with Jesus at the Transfiguration. He’s a rather important man—one of the truly great ones.
And Elisha was his assistant—-his protege. Elisha loved Elijah and served him right to the moment God took Elijah to heaven. Elisha revered him and looked up to him. He was, if you will, Elisha’s super hero——a mature, stable, righteous man of impeccable integrity. Elisha was in awe of him and wise to look up to him—-and he did, till the very end.
If you’re blessed, and lived long enough, you’ve also had an Elijah or two in your life. Someone you knew we could trust. A living saint that could no more tell a lie than he could fly. We’ve had men and women in our lives, I hope, that directed us to God, that were selfless, worthy of respect and undeniably inspiring to us. Do you know someone in your life like that, or have you had someone in your life like that? An Elisha? Who was it or who is it?____________________
For me it was Colonel Logan Weston. A hero of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. Three time nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Fearless, resolute, devout, humble, professional, and yet kinder, gentler and more encouraging to me than anyone I have ever known. I wanted to become the man that Colonel Weston thought, and told others, that I was. I preached at his funeral when he died several years ago—-a true spiritual giant in my life. When he passed a light went out in my life.
But as you know, each one of us have to let go of our Elijahs one day. Oswald Chambers discussed this in a devotion I read a few days ago. What do we do after our Elijahs are gone? Who do we follow? How do we hang on? There was Elisha, with Elijah, at Jericho, and later there’s Elisha at Bethel…but alone. One day God will take our Elijahs, the men of courage and compassion, away. We will not longer be able to follow our heroes of flesh and blood and will either fall into depression and doubt, or we will follow the only One that is truly worthy—-Jesus Christ Himself. So if, like me, you’ve lost the one that helped you find your path and steady your footing in matters of God, are you following the Son now? Has He taken Elijah’s place? I hope so.
But I am not here today to talk about Elijah; either you have an Elijah. Either you do or you don’t, and I hope you do, or you do not. But my question is more urgent: Do you have an Elisha in your life? Do you have a young man or young woman that you are apprenticing——perhaps someone you don’t even know that you are apprenticing, who has become your Elisha? Is someone looking to you as his/her example of a great man or woman of God? Is someone in your home, or at work, or at this church, carefully watching, copying, studying you? And as that little “Elisha” is learning and growing up by watching you, are they being drawn closer to a holy God and holy living? When you’re gone, as all Elijahs must go one day, will your apprentice do the good things you did, but like Elisha, will their works be even more profound for God because of your dedication, determination and delight for God? Are you ready to be followed in all your habits—-even those habits you think you’re hiding?
Jesus once said, to His disciples, “you shall be my witnesses.” Not you “might be” , or you “could be”, but you shall be. All of us in this room that bear the name “Christian” are witnesses for Jesus. Many of us are “Elijahs” for younger Christians or youth or children. Did you know that? Did you ever think that your outlook, your temperament, your response to difficulties and challenges might be doing more to draw that young person to Jesus than any profound or wise thing you’ve ever said——or, worse, that how you wilt, give up, or shake your fist at God when things go wrong, might give someone reconsideration of the Christian life or considerate Christianity a charade.
God placed you here, in this very place, on this very place on earth, Christian man or woman, to be an Elijah—-either now or later—-for someone—perhaps for many. You will launch a young person’s spiritual journey or contribute to the crash and burn of that launch. Precious eyes and attentive ears are all around us. We are not our own; we’ve been bought with the blood of Jesus to give glory to God and proof of our redemption in how how we lead our lives and lie down our lives for Elishas.
But I would be remiss if I did not also mention Gehazi. You see, Elijah’s special helper was Elisha, and Elisha was peerless as a servant and apprentice for Elijah, and he followed Elijah’s footprints. But Elisha’s servant was Gehazi——and he was nothing like Elisha. He was shrewd, dishonest, deceitful and did not respect his mentor.
Once, Elisha healed a very rich and powerful man named Naaman, of leprosy. And although Naaman could have given a fortune to Elisha, Elisha refused to take the gift and sent Naaman on his way. But ‘after Naaman had traveled some distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
So Gehazi hurried after Naaman. When Naaman saw him running toward him, he got down from the chariot to meet him. “Is everything all right?” he asked. “Everything is all right,” Gehazi answered. “My master sent me to say, ‘Two young men from the company of the prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent[d] of silver and two sets of clothing.’” “By all means, take two talents,” said Naaman. He urged Gehazi to accept them, and then tied up the two talents of silver in two bags, with two sets of clothing. He gave them to two of his servants, and they carried them ahead of Gehazi. When Gehazi came to the hill, he took the things from the servants and put them away in the house. He sent the men away and they left.
When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered. But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.”
You see, you can choose to be holy and righteous before the Lord. You can also remember and bear in mind that “Elishas” are watching you…. but so are “Gehazi’s”. You can’t make your apprentice holy—-Elisha chose to follow Elijah and respect him. But Gehazi was never a true servant of Elisha or God—-he hid behind a pretension of serving both Elisha and God, but Gehazi was looking after himself only. But note that Elisha did not feel himself a failure or give up upon God’s assignments because his assigned servant dishonored him. It is the right and freedom of each man to serve or steal, to live in honor or hide in deceit. We’re powerless to make our children, our staff or our apprentices follow our footsteps—-that’s a choice they make and we must not beat ourselves up, or turn away from our work when those we love and train choose to use us for their own purposes. God will deal with that and send leprosy in His own time.
But let me close with these challenges:
1. Do you want those that look up to you, your Elishas, to one day ask from you not an inheritance, or some material gain, but rather would you have them ask you “let me inherit a double portion of your spirit”? Is your spirit so dedicated to Jesus Christ, so pure and transparent that others want what you have—-and more?
2. Are you encouraging those Elisha’s in your life to succeed and run the race? I wanted to become the man that Colonel Weston thought, and told others, that I was. He believed in me and it made the difference. Do you believe in those you are trying to help? Do you encourage them, bless them, compliment them and believe the best about them? It makes an everlasting difference.