2 Kings 2:1-15
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.…
There is always something beautiful in the declining years of one who in earlier life has dared nobly and wrought successfully. Younger men gather round the veteran to whom they owe the inspiration and model of their lives; and call him "father," enwreathing his grey locks with crowns in which love is entwined with reverence. Seeds sown years before and almost forgotten, or reckoned lost, yield their golden returns. Memory rescues from the oblivion of the past many priceless records; whilst hope, standing before the thinning veil, tells of things not perfectly seen as yet, but growing on the gaze of the ripened spirit. The old force still gleams in the eye; but its rays are tempered by that tenderness for human frailty, and that deep self-knowledge, which years alone can yield.
I. THE WORK OF THE CLOSING YEARS OF ELIJAH'S LIFE. The Christian traveller among the Western Isles of Scotland will hardly fail to visit one small, bare, lone spot out amid the roll of the Atlantic waves. It is thy shore, Ions, of which I write! No natural beauties arrest the eye or enchain the interest. There is but one poor village, with its two boats, and a squalid population. Yet who can visit that low shore, and stand amid those crumbling ruins, without intense emotion? — since it was there that Columba built the first Christian church, to shed its gentle rays over those benighted regions; and to shelter the young apostles who carried the Gospel throughout the pagan kingdoms of Northern Britain. With similar emotions should we stand amid the ruins of Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho; where, in his declining years, Elijah gathered around him the flower of the seven thousand, and educated them to receive and transmit something of his own Spiritual force and fire.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF HIS SPIRIT IN ANTICIPATING HIS TRANSLATION. The old man clung to those young hearts, and felt that his last days could not be better spent than in seeing them once more; though he resolved to say nothing of his approaching departure, or of the conspicuous honour that was shortly to be conferred on him. Here is the humility of true greatness! Alas! what a rebuke is here for ourselves! The prophet's trident desire to die alone shames us, when we remember how eager we are to tell men, by every available medium, of what we are doing for the Lord. There is not a talent with which He entrusts us, which we do not parade as a matter of self-laudation. There is not a breath of success that does not mightily puff us up. What wonder that our Father dare not give us much marked success, or many conspicuous spiritual endowments — lest we be tempted further to our ruin!
III. THE AFFECTIONATE LOVE WITH WHICH ELIJAH WAS REGARDED. It strongly showed itself in Elisha. The younger man stood with his revered leader, as for the last time he surveyed from the heights of Western Gilgal the scene of his former ministry. And, in spite of many persuasives to the contrary, he went with him down the steep descent to Bethel and Jericho. What is the Lord to thee? Is He a dear and familiar friend, of whom thou canst speak with unwavering confidence? Then thou needest not fear to tread the verge of Jordan. Otherwise, it becomes thee to get to His precious blood, and to wash thy garments white; that thou mayest have right to the tree of life, and mayest enter in through the gates into the city.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
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.