November 10, 2019 | “Elijah: Whirlwinds, Prophets, and a Chariot of Fire

Kings 2:1-3 (NIV)

2.1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 

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.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

 

This is our last Sunday of our Elijah sermon series.

So, you all remember that showdown on Mount Carmel between the God of Israel and Baal when God dropped fire from heaven and burnt up Elijah’s offering, showing without a doubt that Israel’s God was indeed God? 

And you remember that after that Jezebel swore she would kill Elijah and how after Elijah heard her threat, he ran out into the wilderness, found shade under a broom tree, and offered a discouraged and desperate prayer that God would take away his life? 

Hopefully you remember how God did not answer Elijah’s prayer. Instead, God sent angels to meet Elijah with bread and jars of water and sent him off to Mount Horeb where God would meet him. God spoke to Elijah in that cave on Mount Horeb, asking what Elijah was doing there? 

Elijah responded,

I have been very zealous for the Lord God. Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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 Kings 19.10). 

The Lord responded, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.

After the powerful wind that split rocks to pieces … After the earthquake … after the fire … after that sound of sheer silence … After Elijah stepped out and stood at the entrance to the cave … Again, God asked Elijah what he was doing there.

Again, Elijah responded,

I have been very zealous for the Lord God. Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn 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 Kings 19.10). 

 

I am the only one left.” For me, that is Elijah’s trademark line. 

But as we have followed his story, we have seen that this just isn’t true.

Elijah isn’t the only one left.

God constantly reminded Elijah he was not the only faithful person left … actually there were a lot of faithful people left … Elijah was not alone … God was even going to give him a successor, a prophet named Elisha. 

Elijah anointed Elisha to be a prophet. Elisha followed Elijah as something like a prophet apprentice or intern … maybe a constant walking and talking reminder that for Elijah is most definitely not alone. 

We don’t hear much about Elisha until 2 Kings chapter 2.

God instructs Elijah to go to Bethel. 

Elijah gives Elisha an opportunity to stay behind. Elisha wouldn’t leave Elijah. He insisted on tagging along. They all seem to know something is up. The prophetic community in Bethel knew something was up too. They met Elisha and asked if he knew this would be the day the Lord takes Elijah away. “Yes, I know;” he says, “Keep silent.”

The Lord continues to send Elijah to different places. 

Elijah keeps giving Elisha an opportunities to stay behind. 

This is another one of those patterns we find so often in Elijah’s stories.

Kings 2:4-18 (NIV)

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” 

So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

What would be your guess for Elisha’s response? (The winner gets all-you-can-eat breakfast casserole for lunch?) 

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” 

So the two of them walked on.

So, something has happened two times, we see a pattern, but now, the third time, something is going to surprise us and break the pattern. 

This is something we need to pay attention too.

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 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.

This miracle makes a connection with another famous Israelite, someone else who divided water so God’s people could walk across it. 

This seems to be making a connection between Elijah and Moses. Elijah is a powerful leader of God’s people in the tradition of Moses.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

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

Elisha wants to inherit Elijah’s role as prophet. He asks to receive an inheritance similar to what a firstborn son would receive … except, he isn’t interested in property … he wants to inherit Elijah’s role.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they 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. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

 

Elijah is most definitely not the only one left. 

Elisha will continue Elijah’s work as God’s prophet. There are even these companies of prophets in Bethel, Jericho, and by the Jordan who seem to be part of what God is doing. God’s work will not end with Elijah. As we make our way through this story, we can have confidence that Elijah is not the only one left. God’s work will continue through Elisha and through others. God’s people are part of something big … something God is set on making happen and providing for. 

We don’t have many details of what happened during the time Elijah and Elisha spent together. We do see that Elisha was committed to following Elijah. Elijah gave Elisha a number of outs … a number of opportunities to stay behind, but Elisha wouldn’t give up. He stuck with Elijah. Like Moses and Joshua … Jesus and his disciples, there is a leadership overlap one leader prepares another to carry on God’s work after they are gone.

This has been the story of God’s people throughout scripture – God provides leaders. 

God’s work will continue. 

God’s work is bigger than any one person. 

God invites us to be part of these friendships where we grow together in knowing, loving, and serving God.

 

We see this in the ways the Apostle Paul included people in his work. As Paul followed Jesus’ lead and shared the gospel with new communities, Paul constantly invested his life in new leaders. Paul talks about not just sharing the gospel, but “sharing his life.” Paul gives us an awesome picture of how he not only shared the gospel, but equipped and prepared leaders, in 1 Thessalonians chapter two.

6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus …

 

Did you notice the way Paul talks about these relationships and how they grow coworkers and leaders?

They are marked by humility – “we were like young children among you.”

They are nurturing – “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you.

They are encouraging and challenging – “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God …

They also move toward mutuality … they become brothers and sisters … coworkers moving toward the same goal

God provides leaders … God includes us in preparing and equipping leaders … God gives us relationships in the church that shape us to be leaders.

 

Maybe you have experienced someone inviting you to pursue God with them … like Elijah tossing his mantle on Elisha, or like Paul sharing his life with so many people? Maybe you long for that, for someone to come alongside you … to encourage you … to challenge you … to help you grow in your faith? The church is built to incubate this kind of holy friendship. As disciples we are supposed to be sharing our lives with each other … we are supposed to be learning and growing together. Our life as a church … our life together as disciples, is all about growing with each other. The church is where we share our lives with each other. The church is intended to nurture and foster holy friendships where the character … the heart of Christ grows more and more in us … 

There is so much we can learn together.

Together, as we follow Christ, we are invited to take the risk of sharing our lives with each other … of growing in knowing and loving God together.

If we have learned anything from Elijah, it is that we are not alone. 

We are not the only faithful ones left. God has given us an amazing community where we can learn and grow, worship and serve together.

And God’s people said … 

Amen!

11.10.2019SPCCBulletin