Summary: The final event in the life of Elijah and his departure into heaven.
“How Would You Spend Your Last Day on Earth”
What if you knew without a shadow of doubt that today was going to be your last day on earth? Suppose you had only 24 hours to live. What would you do? Where would you go? How would you spend your last few hours on planet earth? If you knew you were going to die today, what would you do? Where would you go? Would you stay where you are right now, or would you hop on a plane and go see someone you love? Would you pick up the phone and call a few people? If you did, who would you call? What would you say? Jim Elliott said he wanted to live so that when it came time to die, there was nothing else he needed to do but die.
Apparently the Lord has revealed to Elijah that this was to be his final day on Earth. As Charles Swindoll says, “the fiery prophet doesn’t age gracefully and then quietly die – he doesn’t die at all.”
Before the next and final event in the life of Elijah, his departure into heaven, we find him leaving Samaria along with Elisha and walking some 30-35 miles.
First, Places of Remembrance (2:1-5)
Elijah's travels show us something of the progression of the normal Christian life. Lets look at each of Elijah’s stop on his journey to glory.
• Gilgal – Place of Beginnings (v. 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.” Gilgal was important because it was the first place that Israel camped after crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land.
It was also here that the Israelites first celebrated Passover in the promised land. Here the males born during the wilderness wanderings were circumcised and the covenant was renewed (Joshua 5).
Far too many believers spend their entire Christian lives at Gilgal. They never grow and they never leave the place of beginnings. Some go as far as Bethel. They catch the vision of God’s great work which must be done. They see the needs, they feel the tug, but they never get past the place of dreaming about what they might do. They never take the next step of making those dreams and visions realities.
• Bethel – Place of the Consecration
“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!”
Three times Elijah tests Elisha to see whether or not he would remain with him until the end. After months of intensive training Elijah wanted to know if Elisha is up to the challenge, Was he determined to follow through and stay with Elijah to the very end or would he become overwhelmed with the tremendous responsibility that would follow Elijah’s departure. It was a test of loyalty and a test of tenacity. It was Elijah’s way of saying to his man, "I’m about to leave you. Can you handle it?"
The first test is found in verse two where Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind in Gilgal while he went on to Bethel by himself. Elisha would not hear of it, he was going to make sure that he was faithful to Elijah until the very final moment of his life.
It was at Bethel that the patriarch Jacob had met the Lord God, Gen. 28:11-22. Bethel signified the place of commitment and of total dependence upon the Lord.
• Jericho – Place of Past Victories
“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!”
Now a second time Elijah tests Elisha by asking him to remain behind in Bethel while he goes some fifteen miles southeast to the city of Jericho. But again Elisha would not consent to leave Elijah. Twice Elijah has tried to get Elisha to stay put where he was first in Gilgal and then in Bethel while moved on toward his departure. And twice Elisha had refused to leave the prophets side.