and Elijah said to Elisha, "Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel." But Elisha replied, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
he walked with God." It is a solemn time, surely, in a man's life when he knows that his earthly journey is drawing to a close, that the shadows of death are closing in upon him, and that eternity is opening up before him. It is well for those who, like Elijah, are ready to depart. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." It is a solemn time, too, for those who are left behind. What anxious questioning! What possible doubts about the future! What eagerness to look behind the veil and penetrate the darkness which hides the loved one from our view! How happy those who by the eye of faith can see their departed ones entering through the gates into the city, to be forever with the Lord! It is quite evident that God had conveyed to Elijah some intimation of the fact that he was so soon to be taken away from earth. The sons of the prophets were aware of it, and Elisha knew it also. But Elijah seems to have felt no personal anxiety at the thought. Many hundred years after this, when John Knox - the Elijah of Scotland - was on his death-bed, he said to those who stood around him, "Oh, serve the Lord in fear, and death shall not be terrible unto you!" Something like this was Elijah's experience. He had been faithful to God's cause and commands during his life, and now he was not afraid that God would forsake him at its close. How, then, did Elijah spend the few hours that remained to him before he entered into the presence of his Maker? Some there are who would like to spend those hours in peaceful contemplation alone with God. Elijah was himself a man of contemplative disposition. He loved to he alone with God. His "soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." And yet, with all this, the active was stronger in him than the contemplative; or rather, the two were so well balanced that the one was a help to the other. From his hours of solitude and communion with God he drew inspiration and strength for his stern conflicts with men and sin. If he was a man of contemplation, he was also a man of action. And so we find him spending the greater part of his closing hours in busy activity and usefulness - visiting the schools of the prophets. Is there not a lesson here? Ought we not to imitate Elijah in redeeming the time, in working while it is day? Do you want to spend your last hours well! If so, you should spend everyday, as you would like to spend your last. One day a lady asked John Wesley how he would spend that day if he knew it was to be his last. She doubtless expected some rules for pious meditation and seclusion. His answer was, "Just, madam, as I intend to spend it;" and then he proceeded to tell her what his busy program of work was for the day. Oh, that we could all say that every day, that if it was to be our last we would spend it just as we intend to spend it! We ought to be able to say it, for any day may be our last. No doubt there are many whom God lays aside by age, or infirmity, or suffering for weeks, or months, or years before he calls them home. They cannot spend their closing hours in what is usually called work for Christ, though they may be really working for him by their patience in suffering, by their faith and hope, by their words of counsel to others. But so long as God gives us health and strength to work for him, then it is best to do as Elijah did - to live in harness to the last. Notice the scene of Elijah's dosing labors. He visited the schools of the prophets, the colleges or institutions where young men were trained for their future work of teaching others the truths of religion. It was amongst the young his last hours were spent. Elijah felt the importance of these colleges, he realized that the young were the hope of the Church. Hence he would devote to them his last, and probably his best, hours. He would give them words of counsel and exhortation - words that, under such circumstances, few of them would ever forget. There is a lesson here for us all. Parents need to realize more the importance of personally instructing their children. They need to take more interest in the kind of education they receive. They need to be more careful about the companions with whom they permit their children to associate. Not merely parents, but all members of the Christian Church, should take a deeper interest in the education of the young. How little our people know, as a rule, about our theological colleges! and how little encouragement do those laboring in them receive from the Church as a whole! Elijah's closing hours were spent in active work, and that active work consisted in visiting among the young. Such were his parting visits. - C.H.I.
And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee.
1. He had learned to stoop and serve. Not one of the chosen twelve volunteered to take the place of a servant at the passover feast on the night of the betrayal.
2. He had learned to obey God rather than men. Mrs. Walton, in her book, tells us that the beautiful orange groves near the town of Jaffa are so sheltered that for some part of the year the perfectly ripe fruit of last year is seen hanging side by side with the blossom of this. Blossom and fruit were side by side on this journey. Elijah, so fully matured that he was ready for translation, side by side with Elisha, who was just blossoming out in the beauty of early faith and devotion. And yet Elijah himself was to apply the second great test to Elisha, to see whether
he would obey God rather than men. God had commissioned Elisha to minister to Elijah. Would he persevere to the end, or would he allow the persuasions of others to draw him off? So three times he was tested by his own master. "Tarry ye here, for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel." "Tarry ye here, for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho." "Tarry ye here, for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan." It was that he might test Elisha's devotion, and see if he would follow right on to the end. So Elijah does not express a desire to be alone. He simply tested Elisha, as Naomi tested Orpah and Ruth. It is eight miles from Jezreel to Bethel. The road descends a steep hill into a narrow gorge which runs for some four miles to an ancient spring now called "the Robbers' Well." So far the road is easy, but for the next four miles the rocky bed of a dry watercourse is the only path. So Elijah suggests that he might be left to tread the last stage of his earthly pilgrimage alone. Very different was the attitude of the sons of the prophets. There were theological colleges, so to speak, at Bethel and Jericho, and Elijah s last journey took him past these. It would be an encouragement to him to see that God was not left without witnesses — that his championship of God's truth had not been in vain. But there was no special blessing for these sons of the prophets at this time. They fell far short of Elisha's portion. Their attitude and spirit were very different from Elisha's. Perhaps they wanted to discuss who was to succeed Elijah, and what effect his departure would have upon God's work in Israel. But there was no holy awe as they stood in the presence of one so soon to be summoned to the glorious presence of the King of kings. They felt no sense of need; they had no thirst for personal blessing. There are many to-day like these sons of the prophets. When God is working mightily in the quickening and deepening energy of the Holy Ghost, it is those only who follow closely, and right through to the end, who receive the blessing. Those who look on from a distance will never see the heaven opened, or share in the outpoured blessing.
3. Elisha had learned to put first things first. Once more he was to be tested. The two had crossed Jordan. That river which is the symbol of death had parted when smitten by Elijah's mantle. It was not fitting that he who was to be honoured by a deathless translation should wrestle with the swiftly flowing waters of Jordan. You say, "If I can get safely to heaven at the end, that is all I want"; but is that all God wants? How would you answer if the challenge, "Ask what I shall do for thee," were put to you? Would your soul leap forth with ardent longing for fulness of spiritual blessing, or would some craving for ease and honour and advancement be uppermost in your heart?
(M. G. Pearse.)
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