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.
"When the Lord would take up Elijah," — when. There is a great doctrine of Providence there. The life of man is absolutely at the disposal of the Lord — that is the doctrine. One might suppose that man would have some choice as to when he would go. Not the least in the world. We might think that man would be permitted to stay a year or two longer — he might be engaged in finishing a work which would require that time to complete it. No. Well, says one, I have built the column, and the capital is nearly ready to put on: I shall have it done the day after to-morrow — cannot I stay until then? No. "When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven"; not when Elijah would go, but when the Lord would take him. Is there not an appointed time unto man upon the earth? God knows when our work is done; sometimes we think it is done when it is not; we wonder what more there is to do to it, it seems so trifling, as if it were not worth while doing, reminding us of what the great sculptor said to some one who wondered that he was so long over his marble: "I know I am doing but a few things that look like trifles, but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." So with us: many a poor life we have seen seems to be doing nothing, and we wonder why it does not go forward into the eternal state. "When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven." — What is heaven? Critics cannot tell us: they have met in council and can make nothing of it. We must die to know, It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive God's house. And so Elijah goes to Gilgal: it is set down here as if it meant nothing — on to Bethel and to Jericho, as if he were a restless kind of spirit, here and there, going on like some fussy old man who does not know where to rest. But there is plan here, purpose, scheme, Providence; and so there is in our travel and in our movements, "By a whirlwind." — There is a lesson here for us: and it is this. That the way of our going, as well as the time, is of the Lord's determination, and not of ours. He appoints the time, He makes the way, and thou hast nothing to do with it, poor dying man. One says, "I want to die on my birthday"; and God says, "No, perhaps the day after." Another says "I want to die suddenly"; and God replies, "No, that is not the way: it is in the book, it is all written down in the book: you are to have a lingering death." "I should like to die lingeringly, but quietly," says another man; and God says, "That is not the way in the book: suddenly a bolt shall strike thee: thou shalt go to bed well, and in the morning be in heaven, without pang or spasm or notice given to any one: they shall find thee sleeping on the pillow like a child at rest." Another man says, "I should like to die like a shock of corn fully ripe"; and God says, "No, thou shalt be cut down in the greenness of thy youth, in the immaturity of thy powers." There are others who would like to die in childhood — pass away before five, when the eyes are round wonders, and they know nowise of anything — when everything round about is mystery and puzzle and enchantment; and God says, "No, you shall die at ninety: it is all focussed, all settled." What have we to do, therefore? God allows us to express our own wishes and wills, He allows us to say what we would like to have done, and trains us to say, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done." He sends for some in a beautiful chariot made of violets and snowdrops and crocuses, and these are the young folks that go up to heaven in the spring chariot: the vernal coach is sent for them and they go away — so young! They have just left school, just finished the last lesson, and shut it up, and said "Good-bye" to master and governess, and are supposed now to be ready for life; and God says, "Now, come up"; and they go up amid all the sweet modest spring flowers. And others go up in old age, feeling as if they had been forgotten on the earth, allowed to linger and loiter too long, as if God had forgotten them — some by long affliction, some by sudden call. Elijah did not say to Elisha, "I am going to die," Or "I am going to heaven," but, "I am going to Bethel — stand there." You know what we say to one another in view of the great event: we say, "If anything should happen to me" — a form of words we understand. We do not scene to be able to say plainly and with frankness, "Now, if I should die next week" No, but we say, "We do not know what may happen, and in the event of anything happening to me." We do not like to mention the monster, and to point a long plain finger into the pit, so we say, "If anything should happen to me — in the event of anything happening to me — going to Gilgal, and to Bethel, and to Jericho, and to Jordan, and" The rest is silence. That is the way in the chamber of affliction. We say, "If the wind would only get round out of the east and into the south.west, perhaps we should get you up a little." Never — and we know it. And our friend, unwilling to break our heart, says, "I have been thinking that if the weather were milder, I might perhaps be able to get out a little." Thus touch is not made to the quick; this man says he is going to Gilgal, and he knows he is going to heaven; he says he is going to Bethel, as if it were nothing — only going to pray with the young ones there, lie says he is going to Jericho, as if he is going to stop there — he knows perfectly well he win only be there one night; he is a pilgrim with a staff in his hand and cannot linger. He says he is going to Jordan, and he knows perfectly well that he will never come back over Jordan, but all the time he never says anything about it. So we let our friends down easily, and prepare them for great events by doing certain intermediate things. Elijah says, "Ask what I shall do for thee." Heaven is so near, yet he is still thinking about the earth: he is going to join the angels, and yet wanting to do something for the poor creatures yet to linger upon the earth for ten or twenty years. Oh, bold man, bold, bold Elijah! "Ask what I shall do for thee." Leave me a blessing, leave me one of your old letters, let me have your old Bible: utter one more prayer for me, mention me in the last prayer, let the last sigh mean poor me — me — me. Ay, we can help one another in that way. "Ask what I shall do for thee." Now, what is your supreme prayer? What do you want your father, mother, friend, to leave you? Let them leave you a good example, let them leave you a noble testimony on behalf of the truth, let them leave you an unsullied character, and then they will leave you an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. "If thou see me." And Elisha said, "I will see thee, if it be possible; I will keep my eye upon thee." And did God ever disappoint the eyes that were turned upwards? Did lie ever say, "The morning shall not shine upon those who look towards the east"? Never. And so if you look into the perfect law of liberty — look into the Bible, you will find it always new, always a revelation, always something fresh — May bringing its own flowers, June her own coronal ever, August its own largess of vine and wheat. "If thou see me." Is there any counterpart to that in the New Testament? There is: O wonderful counterpart, — "If thou see Me, thou shalt have it, if not, it shall not be so." "And He led them" — that greater He — "led them out as far as to Bethany." And He ascended, and they watched Him and saw Him, and a cloud received Him up out of their sight. They watched, they saw, they returned to Jerusalem, and were endued with power from on high. That is God's law, that the watching man gets everything, the man who is nearest and looks keenest gets all and sees all — and it is right. The mountain gets the first gleam of the sun, and then the light gets down into the valleys by and by. And so — and so — these great rocks of God are watching men: Elisha was a watching spirit: those who see Christ taken up are endued with power from on high. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; look, and ye shall see; knock, and it shall be opened. Sir Isaac Newton was once asked why he was so much greater than other workers in his particular science. He said, "I do not know, except that I, perhaps, pay more attention than they do!" Just consider. What is attention? We think anybody can attend. Hardly a man in a hundred can attend to anything. The sluggard gets nothing, the shut eyes see not the morning when it cometh, the slumberer's closed vision cannot see the first sparklings and scintillations of the coming day. Lord, open our eyes, that we may see!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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.