Elijah, Elisha, and REAL Power

Posted: May 19, 2010 in 2 Kings

2 Kings 1-2, “Elijah, Elisha, and Real Power”
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In 1 Kings, we were introduced to the prophet Elijah. During a dark time in the Northern Kingdom (Israel), God sent a powerful prophet to the most evil king in Israel’s history (Ahab). Elijah saw God send fire from heaven to consume entire altars as proof of His supremecy – Elijah was used by God to raise the dead – to proclaim droughts & end them…huge! When we last saw Elijah, he had been on the run from Queen Jezebel & God ministered to him at Mt Sinai/Horeb (the place of the 10 Commandments). God told Elijah to call Elisha as his replacement, and the scene turned away from him for a while back to Ahab, as we saw his wasted life & death in battle.

As 2 Kings begins, the author turns his attention back to Elijah – and even though he’s going to pass from the scene very quickly, he’s going to end his ministry in the same way he’s lived it: with a bang! Huge displays of the power of Almighty God.

2 Kings 1 (NKJV)
1 Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.

A. Just a random aside? No – this is setting the stage for events that will take place in Ch 3. Keep in mind this is real history for Israel – this is an update of the nation’s status & shows their waning influence over time. At one point under David & Solomon, the empire stretched from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates; now even their next-door neighbor of Moab is rebelling against them…
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2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.”

A. Must have been a bad injury…
B. There’s nothing much unusual with the King of Israel looking to ask God whether or not he will recover. The problem is – the King of Israel isn’t asking God; he’s asking “Baal-Zebub” = the Lord of the Flies. Some scholars note this is probably a deliberate corruption of the name “Baal-Zebul” (Prince Baal). The writer of 2 Kings couldn’t help poking fun at the false god. … “god of Ekron”? (Ekron = principal city in the Philistine region) This isn’t an acknowledgement of the actual existence of another god; this is simply acknowledgement of the fact that Ahaziah didn’t go to the one true God. Like his father, Ahaziah breaks the 1st Commandment…

C. Isn’t it amazing what people end up substituting for the one true God of the Universe? Out of willful rejection of Jesus Christ (the way, the truth, and the life), people will choose almost anything. They’ll worship trees, the earth, the “Force” & more, but in comparison with the Lord God, they’re all just “the lord of the flies.” …
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3 But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4 Now therefore, thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” So Elijah departed.

A. Elijah receives a message from God…specifically the “angel of the Lord.” Most likely a Christophany… Pretty huge difference between Elijah & Ahaziah! Ahaziah sends messengers to go ask some fictional Lord of bugs; Elijah receives a personal visit from the Lord Jesus, who actually gives him a message. …

B. We think of many characteristics about the Lord – He is righteous, holy, loving, powerful, and more. One we don’t often think about God is that He is jealous. Scripture tells us that specifically in the 2nd Commandment. Exodus 20:4-6 (4) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, (6) but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [] Don’t misunderstand His jealousy, however. God is NOT petty (as we often are…); God is jealous with a HOLY jealousy. He is zealous for those who ought to be serving Him… …
__a. “Good thing I’d never do what Ahaziah did.” Really? Are we guilty of doing the same when we ask everyone else their advice and opinion about a situation before asking the Lord? Are we guilty of the same when we scour what the world & culture has to say about how to deal with problems instead of scouring what the Word of God has to say about it? … God is jealous FOR you! He loves you as His child & He wants the best for you. He doesn’t want your attention turned away to anything that will harm or get in the way of your relationship & walk with Christ Jesus. …
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5 And when the messengers returned to him, he said to them, “Why have you come back?” [probably surprised to see them so soon…] 6 So they said to him, “A man came up to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go, return to the king who sent you, and say to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” ’ ” 7 Then he said to them, “What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you these words?” 8 So they answered him, “A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

A. Ahaziah wasn’t surprised in the slightest at Elijah’s role in giving this message…seems to have expected to encounter Elijah at some point. Elijah had confronted his father on numerous occasions, and Ahaziah had started walking in his father’s footsteps, committing the same sins.

B. Dressed very similar to John the Baptist…which is exactly the role John was fulfilling in Jesus’ ministry. He was the herald of the coming King, as well as the one who preached in the spirit & power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).
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9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to him; and there he was, sitting on the top of a hill. And he spoke to him: “Man of God, the king has said, ‘Come down!’ ” 10 So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

A. Yikes! Kind of harsh? Maybe not. A military team of 50 men is a bit much to take one lone prophet into custody. Ahaziah sent a fighting force to apprehend Elijah – obviously he was expecting a fight. What he didn’t realize is that 50 men is no match for Almighty God! One man + God is ALWAYS a majority! …

B. What went wrong here? Two things: 1st, God makes demands of the king; not the other way around. … Granted, Elijah is not God, but as the representative & voice of God at the time, for Ahaziah’s captain to make demands upon Elijah is to make demands upon God. God is God & we’re not. …
__a. Do we make demands upon God? There’s a big difference between asking God for something in faith, and demanding that He do as we say. … We can ask (Jesus tells us to do so!), but we need to remember (1) Who it is that we are asking… (2) That we are indeed asking; because God alone knows best.

C. 2nd, the captain apparently did not approach Elijah with any sort of faith in God. He calls Elijah the “Man of God,” but Elijah’s response indicates that the captain didn’t really believe it…he just used it as a title. … The captain may not have believed God before; but he sure believed him afterwards!
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11 Then he sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty men. And he answered and said to him: “Man of God, thus has the king said, ‘Come down quickly!’ ” 12 So Elijah answered and said to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

A. Whole episode is repeated again with another captain & another fifty men. This time, the captain adds insult to his demand by ordering Elijah to come down “quickly.” Again, we cannot presume to make demands upon Almighty God…

B. Our God is a consuming fire! He is holy & righteous…
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13 Again, he sent a third captain of fifty with his fifty men. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded with him, and said to him: “Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight. 14 Look, fire has come down from heaven and burned up the first two captains of fifties with their fifties. But let my life now be precious in your sight.”

A. Things change quite a bit with the 3rd captain! Instead of coming in arrogance, this captain comes in brokenness & humility. He had faith in God knowing exactly what God was capable of doing through Elijah, and the captain submitted himself to do whatever God had wanted to do…

B. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6)…
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15 And the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king. 16 Then he said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ”

A. After all this drama – 102 men dying – fire falling from heaven – captains begging for their lives, Elijah finally meets the king. And what does he say? The exact same thing he said through the messengers before. The message hadn’t changed in the slightest…

B. The word of God NEVER changes!
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17 So Ahaziah died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. Because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

A. Ahaziah died apparently without any repentance. As a result, he left no heir…Ahab’s line is starting to die out, per the prophecy of God (1 Kings 21)…
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2 Kings 2 (NKJV)
1 And it came to pass, when the LORD was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.

A. We haven’t heard from Elisha in a while – review…

B. Interesting that the Lord had Elijah & Elisha leave Gilgal to go to another town. Obviously God could have raptured Elijah anywhere – physical location is not a problem for God. (Which gives us a lot of hope for the resurrection & rapture… Decayed bodies… ) What’s the reason for the travel? It’s not for God – it seems that it’s for Elisha. …
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2 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. 3 Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!”

A. Why Bethel & not the final destination mentioned? Perhaps Elijah only was aware of this 1st city to which he was going. Perhaps Elijah was called by God to test Elisha in every city they pass through to see if Elisha would leave. Speculation at best…

B. In any case, Elisha is committed! He’s going to stick next to Elijah, no matter what. Was it emotional? Surely – he was about to lose a mentor & father-figure. Was it frightening? Perhaps – he likely wasn’t sure what to expect, and he knew he’d have a huge responsibility afterwards. But Elisha was committed to the work of God, and Elisha was committed to his friend – and as long as Elijah was around, Elisha was going to be right by his side.
__a. That’s the same type of commitment that the Lord is looking for from each one of us. No one putting his hand to the plow & looking back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). We want to be those who have counted the cost, submitted ourselves to our Lord Jesus & made the commitment of “No matter what happens – no matter what trials come, I’m staying right here! Rooted in Christ, and totally dependent upon Him & His power.”
__b. Too many people calling themselves “Christian” (someone OF Christ), aren’t really that committed to Him. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point. We serve God when it’s convenient for us, or when it feels good. But when things get tough & scary, we drop Jesus & run back to stuff we think we can control & run back to old habits we feel comfortable in. Beware of that tendency! Look to your Lord & Savior & commit yourself to Him…

C. Even in the face of distraction & discouragement, Elisha is still committed… [] How do you deal with discouraging people? Sometimes the best thing to do is simple: stop listening to them. …
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4 Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. 5 Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!”

A. Scenario repeated from Bethel to Jericho. Even with a 2nd opportunity to leave, Elisha demonstrates his commitment…
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6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So the two of them went on. 7 And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.

A. One final opportunity to leave, and one final demonstration of commitment.

B. It’s interesting that although the last group of 50 prophets journeyed with Elijah & Elisha out from the city, at the end they stand back at a distance… It’s impossible to say why – but it’s obvious only two went on beyond the Jordan. The 50 would have to wait & see what happened.
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8 Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

A. Last time this happened, Joshua crossed over, except Joshua was going the opposite direction. When Elisha returns, he’ll do the same thing – mimicing the passing of power from Moses to Joshua, just as Elijah would do to Elisha.

B. We’ve seen Elijah use his mantle before. Seems to be a symbol of the power of the Holy Spirit. … It’s NOT that the mantle is magic or has any special power; it’s just that the mantle is the means by which God demonstrated His power. (Like Paul’s sweat-cloths/handkerchiefs… Acts 19:12)
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9 And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.”

A. Amen! What a great response! Like Solomon asking for wisdom from God to rule the people of God, Elisha asks for exactly what he needs to be able to perform that which God has called him to do. Elisha understands his need for the power of the Holy Spirit…
__a. It’s impossible to do the work of God without the power of God. And the power of God comes through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8)…

B. Elisha doesn’t just ask for a little; he asks for double! The inheritance right of the 1st born son… Don’t get the wrong idea here – it’s not that Elisha is somehow going to get twice the Holy Spirit, or that Elijah was somehow deficient in what he had received of the Holy Spirit. Elisha is simply expressing his desire to be given the fullness of everything Elijah had received. Elisha didn’t want a taste; he wanted the full feast of everything the Spirit had to offer.
__a. Seek the filling of the Holy Spirit! Overflowing! Empowered! Upon you… Ephesians 5:17-18 (17) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (18) And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, [] This is a command – an imperative for every believer in Christ Jesus. This is how God intends for us to live! …

C. Elijah responds logically – this isn’t something he can personally grant; it must be given by God Himself. [] The filling of the Holy Spirit is not something that can be ginned up by man – you cannot ‘prime the pump’ or gather yourself into enough of an emotional state to ‘make’ it happen. The filling of the Holy Spirit works exactly the same way the birth of the Holy Spirit does – by the grace of God given by faith in Jesus Christ & His promise. We know what the Lord Jesus has said on the matter (“your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him,” Luke 11:13); so we simply trust that promise & appropriate it by faith. …
__a. ‘If that’s all there is, what’s the big deal?’ You don’t often get what you don’t ask for. There are many (many) born-again Christians who are indwelt by the Spirit & sealed with the Holy Spirit that are rarely filled with the Spirit simply because they’re content to live their lives without seeking God. That’s NOT what God would have for us as a Church! Over & over through the book of Acts we see the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit – it is shown to be a repeatable action (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31…). God’s methods here have not changed. We know we NEED the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so we need to ASK God for it.
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11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces.

A. Amazing! Rapture… (Not the 1st – that seems to have been Enoch…) Elijah actually went up in the whirlwind; not the chariot of fire. The fiery vision seemed to just separate Elijah from Elisha in order that only one would be taken.
__a. (Unger) “In the transfiguration scene, Elijah represents the saints who will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air without dying. Moses is representative of those saints who will die and be raised again.”

B. Why did Elisha grieve? The same reason any of us grieve. Elijah may not have physically died, but he physically went to be with the Lord. We grieve our loved ones – not because they have ceased to exist (in Christ, they are more alive than ever before!), but because we don’t see them any more. It’s natural & normal & Jesus knows exactly what it feels like… [Lazarus] It’s ok to grieve, even when there’s a reason we have to rejoice…
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13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. 15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.

A. If there were any doubt before as to whether or not Elisha had received a double portion, there wasn’t now…

B. Again, the power wasn’t in the mantle; it was in the Lord God. Elisha asked “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” Not because he had a lack of faith that God would do what God said He would do – but as a proclamation & demonstration that the power that was being shown was not the power of Elisha, but the power of God.
__a. How often do we find ourselves taking credit for that which God has done?
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16 Then they said to him, “Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send anyone.” 17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send them!” Therefore they sent fifty men, and they searched for three days but did not find him. 18 And when they came back to him, for he had stayed in Jericho, he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

A. The 50 sons of prophets sure didn’t have much faith in God! Every group of prophets, even ranging from Bethel (in vs. 3) had known that God would take Elijah from Elisha that day. They just didn’t think God was going to take him somewhere very nice – perhaps just let his body fall from the sky… What nonsense! Elisha called them on it…

B. Hopefully we’re more like Elisha than the 50 prophets here. We’ve seen God work, and we trust Him with all the details…
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19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.” 20 And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ ” 22 So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

A. Like Moses at Marah (Exo 15), Elisha made the bitter waters sweet. … Jericho had been a cursed place after Joshua’s conquest (Josh 6:26). One of God’s 1st miracles through Elisha was to bring healing in reverse of the curse.

B. How did he do it? With salt & the supernatural work of God. Salt was seen as a healing agent & a preservative. Obviously the salt wouldn’t have done anything without the hand of God at work – but God chose to use the salt. [] We are the salt of the earth… God can use us to help bring healing to those around us & He does so through the gospel of Jesus Christ. …
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23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. 25 Then he went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

A. Note to self: don’t make fun of bald people… 🙂 Keep in mind this wasn’t likely a group of 1st graders; the Hebrew word used for “youths” can be used for anything from young children to young men under 30. This seems to have been more like a gang that was threatening Elisha & mocking him. “Elijah went up into the sky, so let’s see you do the same, baldy!” In response, Elisha calmly curses them & God sends a couple of mama bears to break up the party.

B. Isn’t this a rather harsh punishment? Not necessarily. Like the captains mocking & making demands of Elijah was really making demands of God, so the teenager’s mocking of Elisha really a mocking of God Himself.

C. Are we to pronounce curses upon people? Obviously not. Vengeance is the Lord’s. God used this as an example & admonition for the people & the time…not to be imitated today. What IS to be learned is simply reverence for the Lord.

Conclusion:
Huge demonstrations of the power of God! Fire falling from heaven… Chariots of fire, whirlwinds, & rapture… Miraculous molecular change of water… Bears (oh my!)… How do we respond to the power & Spirit of God? 3 main examples here:
A. Reject it: Ahaziah… 50 prophets…
B. Resist it: Captains… youths…
C. Receive it & walk in it: Elisha…

Receive it! Seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit by faith…

In all of this, don’t lose sight of the fact that as a born-again Christian, you are personal witness to an incredible display of the power of God: new life through Jesus Christ. You never have to wonder whether or not God does miracles – your salvation is living proof that He does. Sometimes Christians get discouraged when we don’t see fire physically fall from heaven or people literally raised from the dead. But that’s not all that’s involved with the empowerment & filling of the Holy Spirit. Once we are given new life in Christ, God empowers us through the Holy Spirit in order that we will walk with Christ & be effective witnesses for Christ. … Don’t be satisfied with being ineffective for your Lord – be filled with God the Spirit & empowered to live for Him!

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