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2015 2 Kings Lesson 1

2 Kings 1:1-2:15
Key Verse: 2:9

2015 2 Kings Lesson 1

ELISHA ASKS FOR A DOUBLE POPTION OF ELIJAH’S SPIRIT

2 Kings 1:1-2:15

Key Verse: 2:9

“‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.”

2 Kings continues the story of the kings and great prophets of Israel. The main figure in 1 Kings is the prophet Elijah. In 2 Kings, it is the prophet Elisha. They are different in character and nature of ministry. Elijah fought idol worship in kings and people. Elisha was a shepherd who served with God's truth and power. Though they were different, God is the same. In today's passage the author presents the transition from Elijah's ministry to Elisha's ministry. We can learn what is essential to inherit God's ministry from the previous generation, and what we need most to do the work of God in our times.

I. Elijah, the man of God (1:1-18)

Chapter 1 reveals the spiritual condition of Northern Israel. Ahab's son Ahaziah became king. 1 Kings 22:52-53 say, "He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done." Ahaziah became an evil man due to his parents' influence. What happened to him? When Ahaziah abandoned the Lord, Moab rebelled against him and his kingdom. He also had personal trouble. One night, as he strolled about on the roof, he fell through the lattice and injured himself critically. It seemed to be an accident, but actually it was God's warning.

In this crisis moment, Ahaziah should have examined himself from God's point of view to learn why this happened. He should have recognized God's warning and repented. Instead, he sent messengers to consult the god of Ekron, "Baal-Zebub." This provoked the Lord God to anger. But God did not punish him right away. The Lord was patient with him. He sent his servant Elijah to intercept the messengers. Elijah told them, "Is it because there is no god in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore, this is what the Lord says: 'You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!'" The messengers returned quickly, surprising Ahaziah, and delivered Elijah's message to him. This warning actually revealed the Lord's merciful intervention. The Lord wanted to save Ahaziah, though he was evil, by helping him to repent his sins. But Ahaziah did not repent. Instead, he investigated the identity of the Lord's messenger. When he heard that the man wore a garment of hair, with a leather belt around his waist, he realized it was Elijah.

King Ahaziah had experienced Elijah's challenging spirit toward his father, Ahab. He should have realized that this warning came from God and listened to it. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to arrest Elijah. Knowing that Elijah was powerful, he did not send just one or two men; he sent fifty men to arrest him. Elijah was sitting on the top of a hill. The captain and fifty men went up to him and said, "Man of God, the king says 'Come down!'" Elijah answered, "If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men." Fire fell from heaven and consumed them (10). The king should have trembled and repented. However, he hardened his heart and sent another captain with fifty men. This captain should have been humble. But he repeated the same mistake as the first captain, and his stubbornness led to destruction. The king hardened his heart again and sent a third captain and fifty more men to arrest Elijah. The third captain fell on his knees before Elijah and begged, "Man of God, please have respect for my life and the lives these fifty men, your servants!" He and his men were saved.

Why were the first two groups killed, and the third group spared? Those in the first two groups arrogantly demanded Elijah to submit. They feared the king more than God. Though they were soldiers, they should have feared God most (Ac 5:29). The third captain respected the man of God from his heart. He feared God and the man of God. So he pleaded for his life and those of his men. The Lord had mercy on them and spared them. Through this we learn that there are two kinds of people: those who fear God most, and those who fear evil rulers most. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Ja 4:6).

Look at verse 15. "The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.'" Although Elijah was sitting on the mountain--calling fire down from heaven and consuming the arrogant--he was also afraid. He was just like us. But when he heard the angel's message, he got up and obeyed. He went to the king and proclaimed God's message directly. Again, King Ahaziah had a chance to repent. But he hardened his heart and did not listen to God's message. Finally, he died. Proverbs 29:1 says, "A man who remains stiff necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed--without remedy." God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish. So God gives sinners many chances to repent. But anyone who ignores God's message and remains stiff necked, will not avoid God's judgment.

II. Elisha inherits the spirit of Elijah (2:1-15)

Chapter two tells us how Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, and how the prophet Elisha succeeded him. Elisha knew what was most important to be Elijah's successor. When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Before he was taken up to heaven, Elijah wanted to visit the schools of the prophets in Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho. Most likely he wanted to encourage them, who were suffering much under the influence of an evil king in Northern Israel. Historically, after Jeroboam had set up two golden calves in Bethel and Dan, all of the Levites went to the southern kingdom, Judah. It seemed that only a few prophets left in in Northern Israel. However, there were at least 50 prophets in each of the schools in Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho, who were receiving spiritual training. It is amazing to see that there were so many prophets who were willing to serve God in that dark generation. One time, Elijah had complained to the Lord, saying, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenants, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too." (1 Ki 19:10,14) To be a prophet one must risk his life. The Lord told Elijah, "Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him" (1 Ki 19:18). Upon hearing this, Elijah realized that God's remnant people were living in Israel. Since then, he must have devoted himself to establish the schools of the prophets, which he now visited before his ascension.

Elijah took Elisha with him. 2 Kings 3:11b says that Elisha "used to pour water on the hands of Elijah." This means that Elisha was Elijah's servant. They must have lived together. Elisha served by doing all kinds of chores, such as pouring water, cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands, and recording. Through this training, Elisha grew to be a great man of God who could embrace all kinds of people and serve God successfully. No one can be used greatly by God without humiliating training. Elijah wanted to train Elisha as much as possible, even to the last moment, when he was ready to ascend to heaven. In verses 2-10 we see how Elijah trained Elisha.

Look at verse 2. "Elijah said to Elisha, 'Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.' But Elisha said, 'As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.' So they went down to Bethel." Elijah repeats virtually the same thing in verses 4 and 6, and Elisha responds the same way both times. Why did Elijah tell Elisha repeatedly not to follow him? Usually shepherds say, "Follow me." But here Elijah was saying, "Don't follow me." Why? It must have been to test Elisha's faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord. In doing God's work, faithfulness, or loyalty, is most important (1 Cor 4:2). Elijah wanted to escape from Elisha. However, Elisha did not allow it. Elisha was determined to follow Elijah to the end. Elisha had received God's calling as Elijah's successor (19:16,19). He loved his teacher from his heart and wanted to be with him to the end. Three times Elijah tried to send Elisha away. The prophets came out and tried to give him a discouraging word but he would not be distracted by any of it. God had called him to a mission and he planned on fulfilling it passionately. It is very easy to become distracted when trying to fulfill the mission that God has given us to do. Every God-follower is a missionary and every missionary has a mission. This mission gives us intentionality and purpose. We must ask ourselves the question this morning, “What is it that God is calling me to be passionate about?” What are the things in this life that are causing me to be distracted from the mission that God has given me? God wants us to be faithful to our mission to the end.

Elijah and Elisha stopped at the Jordan. Fifty men of the company of the prophets stood at a distance watching them. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground (8). When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken up from you?" Elijah wanted to bless Elisha one final time before being taken up, granting his true heart's desire. Elisha had the privilege of asking what he wanted. If the Lord Jesus asked us, "What do you want me to do for you?" what would we answer? We might say, "Help me to pass through college with straight A's and get a good job." Or, "Please give me the best person as my spouse." Or, "Please give me a child, either a son or a daughter." Or, "Please heal my father's sickness." Or, "Please give me a better car and house." There are many things to ask. It is not easy for us to answer such a question. Sometimes we don't know what we need. Yet, what we seek reveals who we truly are, and the inner condition of our hearts.

What did Elisha request? Look at verse 9b. "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit." Elisha could have asked for material goods, fame, authority to govern the schools of prophets, power to call fire down on his enemies, or something else. But Elisha asked for the spirit of Elijah, which was the Holy Spirit. Elisha knew that he needed the Holy Spirit more than anything else to do the work of God. He had learned that this was Elijah's secret. The Holy Spirit compelled Elijah to love God and fight against God's enemies. The Holy Spirit had moved him to love God's people. The Holy Spirit enabled him to challenge impossible situations. In doing God's work, receiving the Holy Spirit is most important. When we have the Holy Spirit we can overcome all hardships and create a new history. However, if we do not have the Holy Spirit we can do nothing, although we have everything else: money, knowledge, fame, authority, position. Jesus said, "...the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing" (Jn 6:63).

Elisha sought a double portion of Elijah's spirit. This shows that he had a clear sense of God's history. He could have tried to start his own work, thinking, "Elijah is Elijah, and I am I." But the work of God is the work of succession. God is the God of history. God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is the God of Elijah and Elisha, the God of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Jesus acknowledged the work of John and humbly received the baptism from John. Elisha knew that he was following Elijah's footsteps according to God's sovereign call. He wanted to learn the God of Elijah. Elijah had been very zealous for the Lord. Elisha wanted to love and serve God as Elijah did. He knew that he could not do this in his own strength. He needed the Holy Spirit. So he asked for a double portion of Elijah's spirit.

This does not mean that he wanted to do twice as great a work as Elijah. This request did not come from his human ambition. Rather, in the language of those times, he was asking for the eldest son's inheritance, which was called a double portion. This was his humble request. Elisha knew his weaknesses. Without a double portion of spirit he could not carry out the demanding work of God as a prophet. We also need the Holy Spirit in order to do God's work in this dark generation. Jesus promised to give us the Holy Spirit when we ask him. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13) Let's ask for the Holy Spirit.

As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Whirlwinds and fire were associated with the power and presence of God (Isa 29:6). Elijah was a man of fire. It was a glorious scene. Elijah went up to heaven as more than a conqueror. When Elisha witnessed Elijah's ascension, he cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" Elijah was not only the spiritual father for Elisha, but also the chariots and horsemen of Israel (2 Ki 13:14). Elijah's departure was a great loss, not only to Elisha but to the nation Israel. Out of great sorrow, Elisha tore his clothes. Then he took Elijah's cloak, which had fallen. Elisha struck the water with it, saying, "Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" He wanted the God of Elijah to become his God. Then, the water was divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. The company of prophets who were watching said, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." When they met him, they bowed to the ground before him. The God of Elijah became the God of Elisha.

We live in a spiritually dark age like the time of Elijah and Elisha. People mock God's servants. People are irreverent. It is very hard for us to do the work of God in this generation. Evil waves of materialism, hedonism, and relativism spread all over the world. We need the Spirit of God to do the work of God in our time. Our problem is not the difficulties, but the lack of Spirit. When we have the Spirit of God we can do God's work in this dark generation. So let's earnestly ask for the Spirit of God.

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