Welcome Valley Media                                                                                                                                                                      

Grown-Up Bible Stories

Where Is the God of Elijah?

It was a day like few others; a day filled with parting and grief, a day of victory over death and yet of bereavement, a day of miracle and mystery. While there have been greater days in history, there has never been one just like it. For one man, it was the day from which all days afterward must be counted. That man was there, saw it all up front, and faced the crisis of his own destiny as a result. You will recall the name of the man so honored. His name was Elisha.

Elisha’s unusual experience had not come without warning. It may be that a man that worked for a prophet and associated with junior prophets experienced very little without warning. He knew at its beginning that that day he would lose his friend and mentor. Elijah, the famous prophet of God, knew it and tried to get him to stay behind. Like a family member refusing to leave a deathbed, Elisha refused to be left behind. So they walked together, master and servant, following God’s directions to the master. They walked the long dusty trail from Gilgal to Bethel. Bethel was the place where God had met with their ancestor Jacob on a lonely, stress-filled night nearly 900 years earlier. Bethel was the place their Scriptures called the house of God and the gate of Heaven. Bethel was also the place where people worshipped a golden idol set up by an unfaithful king. It was to this city where an ancient hero had found a real God and where the people of a real God had switched to a phony that the accomplished old prophet walked with a younger serving man following.

In Bethel, they didn’t see Jacob’s vision of angels ascending and descending on a ladder from Heaven. Instead, they met with the "sons of the prophets." These men were probably not literally the descendants of prophets, but rather junior prophets, perhaps prophets in training. They sometimes heard the voice of God and could speak from Him. Yet, they remained a step behind the likes of Elijah who routinely rebuked kings in the name of God and had been known to call down fire from Heaven. They might be tomorrow’s prophets, but they weren’t Elijah.

Even the sons of the prophets knew that Elijah’s end had come. Here, in the city of God’s presence, they asked Elisha, "Do you know God will take away your master today?" Elisha had responded, "I know; be quiet!" [Quotations are not necessarily directly from the Bible unless accompanied by a reference.]

Elijah tried again. He asked Elisha to stay in Bethel. But Elisha swore that as surely as God lived and as surely as Elijah’s soul lived, he wouldn’t leave him. After that kind of oath, staying back could only mean denying the God they served. Elisha followed.

God led Elijah farther. This time, they went to Jericho. Jericho had once been Israel’s entry point into the Promise Land. Jericho was the city of Rahab, an evil woman justified by faith. It was also the city from which Achan, a good man destroyed by lust, had taken the road to death. For hundreds of years, Jericho had lain in ruins. It had been destroyed at God’s command, and a man of God had called down God’s curse on the one who would rebuild it. The Jericho that Elijah led his servant to that day was only about 24 years old. It had taken centuries for someone to get so far out of touch as to ignore the warning. A man named Hiel, the product of a nation that had left God for idolatry, waxed brave enough to rebuild. His sons Abiram and Segub had died in exact fulfillment of the old prophecy, one son when the foundation was laid, and the other when the city gates were set up.

It was at this city of God’s rejection that another group of the sons of the prophets came to Elisha and asked that awesome question: Do you know? They got the same curt answer the prophetic corps at Bethel had received.

Again, at Jericho, Elijah tried to persuade his servant to stay behind while he went on to meet God alone. Again, Elisha gave his determined oath that as surely as God lived and as surely as Elijah’s soul lived he would not leave. Elisha put as much intensity into this decision as he did into his faith. So, they walked on together, master and servant.

It had been a long walk. Gilgal to Bethel was at least 12 miles. Bethel to Jericho is a similar distance. Now, they left Jericho behind and walked to the banks of the Jordan River. Like Moses, the greatest of Old Testament prophets, Elijah would leave this world from the far side of the Jordan.

As they came to the river, Elijah removed his mantle, wadded it up, and struck the water with it. One must wonder what Elisha thought as he saw this super prophet wield his cloak. He would likely have known about the day Elijah, hiding for his life in a wilderness cave, had heard the voice of God and wrapped his face in his mantle before daring to approach the Almighty. Elisha would have remembered the day when he himself had been plowing in his father’s field and suddenly felt the prophet’s mantle drop around his shoulders, signifying that he would take the place of the great man of God. Strangely, on the day of that calling, Elijah had also challenged his decision to follow him. Then, as today, the challenge went unheeded. Elisha had been following his mentor ever since.

He’d followed as a servant. We have no record that Elisha had done anything greater than pour his master’s wash water. We have no record that Elisha had prophesied so much as once. We have no record that he had performed a single miracle. Other than his family information and the account of his calling, the only record of Elisha before this particular day is that he served and followed a remarkable man of God.

Yet those days of service must have proved marvelous. The odds are that Elisha was along when his master accurately told King Ahab that God would deliver him from an unconquerable foreign army. It is likely that when Elijah caught Ahab among the grapes of the vineyard he’d obtained by murder that Elisha heard him tell the wicked king that the dogs would lick up his blood. Elisha would have heard the curse against the notorious Jezebel for her part in the murder and would remember that the dogs would eat her someday. Elisha would have watched as King Ahaziah’s arresting soldiers fell to the fires Elijah called down from Heaven. All this, Elisha had been in a place to see. He knew he was dealing with a man who knew the Lord as few others.

Yet, through it all, Elisha had followed the man wearing the mantle. Elisha wasn’t the prophet yet. Elisha wasn’t doing great things, but he’d followed the man who wore the prophet’s mantle. Now, he saw that same mantle strike the water. At the touch of that garment, the Jordan broke in half as it were. A pathway appeared across the riverbed, and the prophet and his servant crossed with dry feet.

It seems that the whole prophetic community knew that Elijah wasn’t going to simply die and go to heaven. A quick check of 2 Kings chapter 2 reveals that his going was spoken of as his being taken away. It wasn’t to be a death, but rather a catching up, what we might term a rapture. Yet, unlike the coming snatching away of Christ’s followers where the dead and living will all live anew and be together forever, this rapture had the essence of death. The Elijah that Elisha had loved, honored, and served would be gone and gone for good.

Historically, such a transfer from earth to Heaven is extremely rare. Elijah was on the brink of experiencing one of only two such passings in what would become 6000 years of world history. Moses, the great man of the Old Testament didn’t go without dying. Looking futureward, John the Baptist, of whom Jesus Christ would say that none greater had been born, wouldn’t either. In spite of an early Christian rumor that the apostle John would be so blessed, that saint would die also. The reasons are obvious, but even Jesus Himself would have to die before leaving this earth. Other than Elijah, only Enoch, a very holy man, has been deathlessly translated into the heavenly state. Enoch lived clear back near the dawn of time.

Elijah’s end is something so rare as to leave us marveling. Yet, in spite of the sheer, hair-standing-on-end wonder of it all, Elijah’s departure was to his servant just that, a departure. Like Christians who grieve in spite of knowing that their loved ones are in such a place as Heaven, Elisha was about to be left to mourn the ascension of his friend and master. Fallen Israel was about to lose its contact point with Heaven. The great miracle-working spokesman of God would be gone, and only this recent farmer would be left.

In the weighty moments before the end, Elijah asked what Elisha would have him do for him. Considering Elijah’s track record this was a big offer.

Yet, Elisha nearly managed to baffle the prophet’s generosity. He asked for a double portion of the spirit God had sent upon Elijah. It is difficult to say if he was referring to the Holy Spirit, as a New Testament believer most certainly would have, or if to some kind of angelic spirit that God used with Elijah. But in any event, this spirit came from God, and Elisha wanted twice as much. Elijah called the request difficult. Yet, he promised that if Elisha should see him when he was taken up to heaven, God would grant the request.

We aren’t told how long the final talk lasted after Elisha’s request, but, suddenly, a chariot made of fire pulled by horses of the same material charged between them. A whirlwind descended upon the senior prophet, and Elisha watched him rise to heaven. His cry: "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof", continues to ring down through the ages. [Quotation from 2 Kings 2:12.]

Then, in the classic Hebrew show of grief, Elisha ripped his own clothing. Yes, he’d seen the expected miracle, but now he stood alone on the far side of the Jordan.

But wait, what was this? Lying before Elisha was a piece of cloth. What was it? It was the mantle. It was the mantle that had been in the presence of God. It was the mantle that had but briefly rested on Elisha’s shoulders on the day of his call. Where Elijah was, he no longer needed it. Elisha picked it up and headed back for the Jordan.

What were Elisha’s thoughts as he walked toward the river? Was he remembering the oxen he’d made his living with until the day Elijah cast the mantle over him? Was he remembering how he’d sacrificed those oxen to God before leaving all to follow the prophet? Was he remembering the skeptical sons of the prophets who had insisted on watching from Jordan’s far bank? Was he remembering the countless menial tasks he’d gladly done for God’s man, tasks that he would never again have the privilege of doing? Did he walk with a slowly growing sense of awe as he remembered watching Elijah rise into heaven? Did he repeatedly whisper, "He said I’d get a double portion of what he had if I saw him go"? Did he tremble and murmur, "I saw!"? We don’t have a biblical record of Elisha’s thoughts en route to the Jordan. Still, we must realize that Elijah was gone, and his servant had some awfully big shoes to fill.

Elisha stopped on the bank of the Jordan. Joshua and Elijah had demonstrated God’s power there. Someday, the greatest Prophet of all time would ask the second greatest to baptize Him in that river. The Jordan had seen and would see the great power of God, but it never opened its watery heart for just anybody. Miracles were rare, even in the days of the Old Testament prophets. Elisha had seen Elijah as he went up into Heaven and knew about the promise that went with that seeing, but he was still an untried new prophet. Would the river open up for him? Was God as available to the young servant as He had been to the elderly hero? There, on the banks of the river, the new young prophet took the mantle that had fallen from the whirlwind. He struck the muddy water. But he did so with a question: "Where is the LORD God of Elijah?" [From 2 Kings 2:14.]

The whole future of Elisha lay hidden in that question. No, not just of Elisha—on that question hung the future of God’s voice speaking to Israel. If the God of Elijah was somewhere else, there would no longer be a Jewish prophet to present the living God to the whole pagan world. If God wasn’t there to answer the prophet-elect’s: "Where is the LORD God of Elijah?" then it was all over. The great Elijah’s final prophecy would stand unfulfilled, showing the last generation lacking and leaving the new generation in the lurch. Whether God would stay with the descendants of Abraham or pull out with the final prophet depended on the answer to Elisha’s question.

Elisha struck the muddy water with that used garment and asked: "Where is the LORD God of Elijah?"

And the water parted!

* * *

The power and reality of the living God are useless unless we experience them personally. It isn’t enough to be part of a religious tradition. It isn’t enough to have some sort of belief in the historical events recorded in the Bible. It isn’t enough to have known godly parents and ministers. It isn't a matter of developing one's own religious views. It is a matter of getting into close relationship with a God Who is living and real. All the history, all the background, all the religion in the world will do you no good unless when you ask, "Where is God?" you get an answer from Heaven. We can be thankful that God is eager to relate to us and has promised to answer the cry, "Where is God?"

The Bible says:

. . .The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (From Romans 10:8-9)

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6).

Click here to learn how to enter this relationship with God: How to Have a Relationship with God.

To read this story directly from the Bible, click here: Elijah Taken Up to Heaven

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


How to Have a Relationship with God

Home    Bible Studies    Easy English    Essays    Grown-Up Bible Stories   Multimedia    Stories from the Book Itself

About this Site    Copyright Release    Links    Contact: mail@welcomevalley.com