Online Text Sermon - The Translation of Elijah, 2 Kings ch.2 vv.1-11
|Preacher||Rev. William MacLeod, Glasgow|
|Sermon Title||The Translation of Elijah (Communion Monday)|
|Text||2 Kings ch.2 vv.1-11 |
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"And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal" (2 Kings 2, 1).
I would like us to look particularly at the first part of this chapter up to verse eighteen and to draw out some of the main teaching of it. I would like to note seven points that are applicable to ourselves and our situation today. God's Word is so rich - there is tremendous teaching in every part of Scripture. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3, 16-17).
I would like us to notice some points out of this chapter tonight and to seek to apply them to ourselves in our own situation here at the end of a communion season and looking forward to the days and weeks ahead of us.
1. A TIME COMES WHEN A PERSON'S LIFE WORK IS DONE
The first thing we notice here is that there comes a time when a person's life's work is done. We are not told that Elijah is particularly old; he still appears strong in his body - he walks from Gilgal to Bethel, to Jericho and across the Jordan. His mind is still clear, he is still able to talk and communicate and yet, the time has come for him to leave this world. There he is, full of the Holy Spirit, a mighty man of God, a mighty prophet, a mighty miracle worker - still that very day performing miracles. He was a great man of prayer, a man subject to like passions as we are. He is an example set before us by James, an example of prayer because, yes, he was just a man and yet, he prayed earnestly and there was no rain for three and a half years. Then he prayed and there was rain. God answered his prayers in marvellous ways. Elijah was a great prophet, a holy man of God - just the sort of man that Israel needed at this time. Yet, God is going to take him into heaven. It came to pass when the Lord would take Elijah into heaven; God's time has come to take him away. His life's work is finished.
Sometimes God does take people away in the height of their usefulness and it surprises us. Remember James the son of Zebedee - chosen to be an apostle, one of those who were particularly close to Christ and yet he is beheaded at a very early stage in the New Testament church. Remember "Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 6, 5); his knowledge of the scriptures was tremendous. He was able to argue and to prove that Jesus is the Christ. His reasoning was so powerful and he was so full of truth and full of God that nobody could argue with him. A mighty preacher of the Gospel - and God allowed him to be stoned to death. Why? We need Stephen, we need James but we have to learn that no one is indispensable to God. The time is come when God would take him into heaven; his life span is over.
You and I have a set time in this world. How important it is that we use it efficiently and well. Scripture says to us, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9, 4). Are you and I busy laying up for ourselves treasures on earth - remember, you will leave it all behind. Let us lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven - we won't leave these behind, we'll go to them; we'll have a great reward awaiting us. It is so important to make use of this tiny little life we have - a few short years - "work while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9, 4). Let us be up and doing while we have the health and strength to do it. Soon we will be called away to render our account. Will it be, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25, 21), or will it not? Alas, we waste so much of our time. Remember, life is short, it is passing quickly, we have only got a set time in this world - use it well, use it for the Lord, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF CLINGING CLOSELY TO GODLY PEOPLE
The second thing we notice here is the importance of clinging closely to godly people. Elijah says to Elisha, "Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel." Elisha replies, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel" (verse 2). In Bethel, Elijah said the same thing - stay here in Bethel "for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho (verse 4). Again Elisha replies, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went on to Jericho" (verse 4). Elijah said - stay here in Jericho "for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan" (verse 6). "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on" (to Jordan) (verse 6). It is easy to stay where we are. It is easy so often to do nothing, yet, there is blessing in following the godly and in sticking closely to them.
This passage reminds us, doesn't it, of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth the Moabitess and Naomi her mother-in-law who had suffered so many trials and tribulations - she lost her husband and her two sons. Naomi told Ruth to stay in Moab and to return to her own people and to her own gods. Naomi could see no good for Ruth in following her. Naomi said the hand of God had gone out against her and she couldn't give Ruth a husband or provide for her. She saw herself as just a poor old widow woman under the judgement of God. "Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law" (Ruth 1, 15). Remember what Ruth said? "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me" (Ruth 1, 16-17). She wouldn't go. She knew that Naomi had suffered and passed through dark times and yet she knew that Naomi had something that she wanted to have. Even when the Lord's people are afflicted and they are going through trials and troubles, they have something that shines forth in the midst of their affliction. "Call me not Naomi (meaning 'pleasantness'), call me Mara (meaning 'bitterness ')" (Ruth 1, 20). However, Ruth wanted to be with 'Mara' (Naomi), she wanted to be with her people, she wanted her God and she wanted to die with her. She wanted to be with Naomi whatever happened.
Remember how the Lord rewarded her under whose wings she had come to trust - the wings of the Lord. Remember how she got a husband, a wonderful husband. Remember how happy she was in her new home. Remember the riches she was given. Remember the child that the Lord gave her - Obed, the grandfather of David. Remember how she, Ruth - a Gentile and Moabitess - became a mother of the Messiah, Jesus, in the Messianic line. Today Ruth is in heaven. How important it is to cling to the godly and to cling to the best.
Remember in Titus 1, one of the qualifications for the eldership there is 'a lover of good men' (Titus 1, 8). Are you somebody who loves the best? The holier people are, the godlier they are, the more you love them. That is the mark of a healthy Christian. "Intreat me not to leave thee" (Ruth 1, 16). Stick close to the best and as they follow the Lord, you follow them - not blindly, but as they walk in the Lord's ways. Let us cling to the Lord's people. There comes a time when our life's work is over, therefore, let us be up and doing while we have time. Let us cling closely to the Lord's people.
3. GOD'S POWER IS REVEALED TO STRENGTHEN FAITH
The third point we have here is that God's power is revealed to strengthen faith. Elijah and Elisha come to the Jordan. They could have crossed it at a ford; they could have used a ferryboat but instead, Elijah takes his mantle, rolls it up and brings it down upon the waters of the Jordan, and they part hither and thither - so the two cross over on dry ground. A reminder of who God is! The God Who parted the Red Sea; the God Who parted the Jordan when Israel crossed over; the God of mighty power and mighty miracles. It is important to remind ourselves of the mighty works of God. It is a great encouragement to our faith.
Remember how Jesus displayed His power and the power of God to the disciples - stilling the storm, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick. It is important for us to remember these great acts of God, to remember times in the past when God has answered our prayers.
I love the Lord, because my voice and prayers he did hear. I, while I live, will call on him, who bow'd to me his ear.
(Metrical Psalm 116, 1-2).
God's power is unlimited.
What's wrong with us today? The trouble with us so often is that our god is too small. We think God cannot do this and God cannot do that. We forget what God did in the past. We forget His plagues upon the Egyptians and the crossing of the Red Sea. We forget the miracles of Christ and the day of Pentecost. We forget the Reformation and the Great Awakening. We forget the revivals of the past. Remember, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear" (Isaiah 59, 1). Remember, God is the same - "For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3, 6). What does this mean? Jehovah - "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3, 14). I am what I determine; I will do what I will do. I will be the covenant keeping God; I will hear your prayers. I will deliver you; I will answer you in the day of trouble. It is so important to remember the power of God. God's power here is revealed to the younger man in order to strengthen his faith. Let us think upon and let us concentrate on, the great things that God has done. Let us remind ourselves of these things and be encouraged in the living God. God is! God reigns! God is powerful to save! Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
4. CHOOSE THINGS THAT ARE TRULY VALUABLE
The fourth point to notice is that we must choose things that are truly valuable. Elijah asks Elisha here, "Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee" (verse 9). Elisha had a choice - he could have asked for anything. What would you ask for in that situation? He could have asked for money, he could have asked for a beautiful house, he could have asked for reputation for himself, he could have asked for prestige, power, beauty, popularity, success, strength, happiness - so many things he could have asked for. Instead of asking for something worldly, he asked for something spiritual - that's important. He wanted a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. "And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me" (verse 9).
Remember Jacob? Jacob valued the birthright. Esau is described in Scripture as a "profane person" (Hebrew 12, 16) who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage; a profane man who did not value heavenly things and sold his birthright for some food. However, Jacob valued the birthright and, later, you remember how he laid hold of God. Twenty years after that event Jacob laid hold of God and said, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32, 26). He wanted the blessing, the spiritual blessing.
Remember Solomon? God said to Solomon, "Ask what I shall give thee" (2 Chronicles 1, 7). He could have asked for riches, he could have asked for victory over his enemies, he could have asked for great power and honour and glory. You remember what he asked for - wisdom. God praised him for what he asked for, and gave him all the other things too. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6, 33). If only, if only, we valued heavenly things. If only we were seeking first the kingdom of God. If only we set our hearts upon these heavenly things. Yes, the Lord will look after our bodies - "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6, 28). Consider the sparrows! They don't have farms, they don't sow and reap, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. O ye of little faith, trust your Father to look after your bodily needs while you seek spiritual things, value heavenly things. What would you have chosen? What would you choose today if you were allowed to choose anything you wanted? What means most to you - is it spiritual things or worldly things?
Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. That used to puzzle me a bit. I wondered if he wanted to be twice as good as Elijah, twice as powerful, twice as great a prophet. But no! A double portion was that which was given to the first-born son - the heir got a double portion and the rest of the family got single portions. Elisha is asking that he might get the place of the heir, the place of the first-born; that he might be the true heir of this prophet. He chooses something truly valuable.
5. THAT WHICH IS NOT OURS TO GIVE
There are some things that we might wish to give but cannot - however, God can. Elijah wanted to give to Elisha a double portion of his spirit, but he knew that he couldn't. He knew that God could give it and so he said to Elisha, "If thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee" (verse 10). "You have asked a hard thing." It would have been far easier for Elijah to have given money - earthly things - to Elisha. "You have asked a hard thing, but if you see me as I ascend up to heaven, it will be given to you."
Spiritual gifts are so valuable. We sometimes want things. We want things, for example, for our loved ones. Maybe we have a son or daughter whom we would love to see saved. We cannot give them salvation but we long for it. Maybe we have an unbelieving husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, friend - and you long for their salvation; you can give them many things but the one thing that is more valuable than anything else, we can't give them. It bothers and troubles us as we look at this loved one. Maybe we see them going on in sin. Maybe we even visualise them being lost forever in hell. We are grieved as we think of a loved one without Christ. We wish we could give them Christ. The wonderful thing is that what we cannot give, God can. That is why it so important for us to direct all our requests to him, to remember the mighty power of God. And to remember too that our God is loving and gracious and delights in answering the prayers of His people: plenteous in redemption, full of compassion. We must look to God to do for us, what we cannot do.
6. GOD TAKES HIS PEOPLE TO HEAVEN
The sixth point: when our life here is over, God takes His people to heaven. When the work is done, the Lord takes them to be with Himself. Elijah was carried up to heaven - body as well as soul - in a chariot of fire. That was unusual. We know of only one other who was taken into heaven, body was well as soul, Enoch, at an earlier stage in Old Testament history. However, the spirit of every Christian is taken to heaven.
Do you remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man died and was buried, and in hell, he opened his eyes. Lazarus, the poor beggar, was covered in sores and had a miserable life. The dogs, the filthy hounds that roamed the city, licked his bleeding sores. He could see them, as it were, preparing to get their teeth into his flesh. There he was, helpless to chase them away - poor and weak and dying. What a pathetic figure. Ah, but he wasn't pathetic! The moment he died the angels were there. The heavenly host gathered around his body and his soul was carried up to Abraham's bosom. What a wonderful picture. A man despised and rejected by others, a poor beggar, yet, so precious to the Lord - one who trusted in God, one who loved the Lord. His name means that - trusting in God. The angels came and carried his soul to Abraham's bosom.
One of the elders in my congregation in Portree speaks of a godly aunt of his. When she was dying many years ago, several folk in the house remarked on hearing the singing of the angels around her deathbed. The angels carried her away; her soul carried to Abraham's bosom. It is wonderful how the Lord's people, when leaving this world of sin and of misery behind, go to the house of many mansions; they have a tremendous future in front of them.
Remember the story of Rev. Roderick Macleod (Mr. Ruaridh), the great revival minister of two centuries ago in Skye. The father of evangelical religion in Skye was blind Donald Munro. When Donald Munro died - Mr. Ruaridh who was minister in Bracadale - walked all the way from Bracadale to Snizort. He came in to the little cottage where Donald Munro's dead body was lying on the bed, and Mr. Ruaridh the minister, got down on his knees beside the bed and cried - "The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof" (2 Kings 2, 12). Poor Donald Munro despised by many and, yet, not poor - crowned with a crown of glory, carried in the chariot to Abraham's bosom. The minister of Bracadale was weeping and mourning over having lost this great man of God from the church militant on earth.
God takes His people to heaven. What a comfort that is for us. We look at our loved ones dying in Jesus and we sorrow not as others who have no hope. We see their bodies becoming more and more frail perhaps, we see them tortured with pain, weakness and infirmity and then the moment of release - they are gone. Gone for ever - lost? No, no, no - gone to be with the Lord. What comfort we have to think of them in the presence of the Father in heaven, rejoicing in Christ their Saviour. When their work is over, God takes His people to heaven.
7. GOD IS STILL THE SAME
Our seventh point is this: God is still the same, the same mighty, powerful God as He was in the past. Sometimes when we lose a loved one we think that things will never be the same again. We feel forsaken and, yet, God is still the same - He is there. We may lose those on whom we depended, trusted and looked to for guidance, and talked to of the things of God. They were great advisers to us; they were people who prayed for us - we really valued them. We feel desolate, empty and weak but oh, what an encouragement it is to remember that although our loved one is gone, God is still there - the same unchanging God.
Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him and walked back to the bank of the Jordan. No doubt, his thoughts were in turmoil. No doubt, there were questions passing through his mind. Doubts and fears - How will I manage? How can I continue? Elijah was such a powerful man of God, such a great preacher and strong protestor for the truth and for the faith - How can I manage? What can I do? That man of prayer, that great prophet - he's gone. Here I am, I only am left alone. How can I continue? There he stood looking at the Jordan and he thought of what Elijah had done but oh, "I'm not Elijah." Then he thought - To whom else can we turn? Thou hast the words of everlasting life. Where else can I go? How can I face the future but in the name of the living God? Then he prayed a powerful prayer, took up the mantle of Elijah, struck the waters and said, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14) What a powerful prayer that was. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14) - and the waters parted. The Lord God of Elijah was still there. He was there in the days of Elisha and He is still there today: the same God Who answered the prayers of Elijah, of Elisha, and Who answers our prayers too. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14)
Where is the God of Pentecost? Where is the God of the Reformation? Where is the God of the Great Awakening? Where is the God of the revivals of the past? Where is the God of the old Free Church? He is still there, the same mighty God, able to answer prayer. His ear has not grown old and hard of hearing, His arm has not grown stiff and weak - "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3, 6). The mighty God of Jacob, the God of the whole earth, the God Who created the world with a word, the God Who answers prayer today. The God Who will one day wrap up this universe like a scroll; the God Who will take His people to be with Himself for ever. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14) God lives and God sees! He still does what He wills in the army of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth.
Oh, that our faith would be stronger, that we would encourage ourselves in the Lord. We feel so weak and so feeble, we feel so few, we feel that the world around us is so strong in ungodliness - atheism and false religion seem to be crowding in upon us. The enemy is so threatening. We can hear Satan laughing at us and yet, the Lord reigns in heaven. There is a throne above every throne; there is a God Who is Lord of lords and King of kings. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14) Let us pray that prayer again today. God lives! God saves! He is mighty! He is powerful! Is this your God? Do you know him as your own Saviour? Have you put your faith and your trust in Him? Who is on the Lord's side? Are you on God's side or are you still His enemy, fighting against Him?
Kiss ye the Son, lest in his ireye perish from the way,If once his wrath begin to burn:bless'd all that on him stay.
(Metrical Psalm 2, 12)
Are you still unconverted? Don't resist the Gospel. Don't reject the Saviour. Don't harden your hearts and stiffen your necks but yield to God. Ask Christ to have mercy upon you and be your Saviour. He has promised, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved" (Acts 2, 21).
To Christian friends - even although at times you feel discouraged and weak, and that you are just part of a tiny minority trampled under foot in the world - "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12, 32). Fear not the forces that are against you, for there are more with us than with them. There are more on the Lord's side if the Lord is with us, no matter who might be against us. Be strong in God! Look to Him! Pray to Him! Trust in Him! Go forward in His name! Remind Him that He is the Lord God of Elijah - "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" (verse 14) He is here tonight, and He dwells in your heart child of God. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Ephesians 6, 10). "We are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8, 37) - and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2, 20).
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