2 Kings 2:1-6
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.…
The time had come when the Lord would take Elijah up in a whirlwind into heaven. It was a singular honor to be put upon a singularly great and good man. No case had happened like it since the days of Enoch - that other great prophet, who maintained a witness for God amidst the all but universal wickedness of antediluvian times (Jude 1:14). No other would happen till the ascension of Christ. We observe -
I. THE PROPHET'S MOVEMENTS. It is to be remarked concerning these that they were:
1. Directed by the Spirit of the Lord. "The Lord hath sent me to Bethel;" "The Lord hath sent me to Jericho;" "The Lord hath sent me to Jordan." But this was true of Elijah's life throughout. "He was as if constantly in the hand of God. 'As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand,' was his habitual expression - a slave constantly waiting to do his master's bidding (Stanley). He had grown so entirely into the habit of taking his direction from God, that his life was already half unearthly. The invisible world was more real to him than the visible. Thus he was inwardly prepared for translation. To merge one's will in God's is already to be living a heavenly life on earth. Elijah was in this a forerunner of Christ (John 5:19).
2. Directed to the schools of the prophets. From Gilgal Elijah was sent first to Bethel, then to Jericho, then to Jordan, at two of which places were seminaries or communities of "the sons of the prophets." His last movements thus took the form of a farewell visit to these seats of prophetic instruction. It was these schools of the prophets, with Elisha at the head of them, that were to retain and perpetuate his influence after he was gone. He had doubtless had much to do with the organization and fostering of them, and he appears amongst his disciples once more, in their various centers, ere he departs. If he did no more, he would leave with each, at least, a parting blessing. The blessing of a dying believer is ever to be valued (Genesis 48., 49.; Deuteronomy 33.). It was in the act of blessing his disciples that Jesus "was parted from them, and carried up to heaven" (Luke 24:51).
3. A sign of approaching removal. The prophetic atmosphere is electric. Elijah knows that he is to be removed; Elisha knows it (vers. 3, 5); the sons of the prophets have some intimations of it. These rapid, yet purposeful, movements from place to place portend the coming change. Like the restlessness of birds on the eve of migration, they tell that Elijah is not long to be on earth.
II. ELIJAH AND ELISHA. Elisha stands nearer to Elijah than any other (2 Kings 3:11). He is found here in his company at Gilgal. A study of the relations between the prophet and his destined successor, in view of the approaching departure of the former, is full of interest.
1. Elijah's desire for solitude. Once, twice, and a third time Elijah requested Elisha to tarry behind, and leave him to go whither he was sent alone.
(1) In the expression of this desire we can trace a very natural craving of a man in his position. The sense of awe in connection with what was about to rake place, which made Elisha himself desire not to talk of it (vers. 3, 5), would, in a far intenser measure, indispose Elijah to have his private thoughts disturbed.
(2) But the request was of the nature of a test to Elisha. It gave him the opportunity of saying whether he would go or stay. It drew out the qualities of his nature, which showed that he was fit for such a privilege as that of seeing Elijah taken up. It is not every one who has the spiritual meekness for being a witness of sacred scenes. Jesus took only Peter, James, and John with him to the Mount of Transfiguration, into the house of Jairus, and into the recesses of Gethsemane.
2. Elisha's determination to follow Elijah. Elisha was not to be baulked of his determination to see the last of what should befall his beloved master. "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth," was his reply on each occasion, "I will not leave thee." In this speaks:
(1) Affection for Elijah. The nearer came the hour for parting with him, the more precious was his society. He could not bear the thought of losing one moment of the time that yet remained for converse. It is only when dear friends are either actually taken away or on the point of being taken from us, that we realize how invaluable is the boon of their presence.
(2) A desire to see the wonders of God's working. It was no vain curiosity which prompted Elisha to go with Elijah, but a rational wish to see the crown of glory put on a career that had already received so much honor. He wished to see the completion of one of God's great works. He felt that it could not but teach him more of God, thrill and inspire him with more zeal for service, fix past impressions of Elijah on his soul, and altogether leave lasting results in his nature, to witness this "great sight." Therefore he would not miss it.
(3) A hope of blessing. Could he but see Elijah as he was taken from him, something whispered that he could not fail to bring away a blessing from the sight. And so it happened (vers. 10, 15).
3. Perseverance rewarded. Elisha's importunity prevailed. He and Elijah went on together. Mostly perhaps in silence, but latterly, at least, in converse (ver. 11). There is a holy boldness in seeking a blessing - the spirit of Jacob, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26), which never fails of its reward.
III. ELISHA AND THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS. At each new center, as the travelers went on, bands of "the sons of the prophets" came forth to Elisha, and said, "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?" His answer, as befitted one who felt the unspeakable sacredness of the event in prospect, was, "Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace" There is a time to speak, and a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7), and this was the hour for silence. Speech would jar on the solemnity of the occasion. The deeper experiences of life are to be meditated upon, rather than much spoken about. The tongue has great power over the heart. The effects of many a solemn hour have been dissipated by unseasonable talk about them. - J.O.
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.