2 Kings 2:1-8
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.…
Here, through the telescope of Scripture story, we are permitted to witness the closing scene of a great life. Let us draw near and look carefully at what happens there, for the like of it only happened once before - and of that we have little record - and it has never happened since. Only two men, Enoch and Elijah, went straight from earth to heaven without passing through the valley of death. It was true of Elijah as well as of Enoch, that "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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.