Summary: The prophet Elijah passed his mantle to Elisha. We are, as disciples, called to leave a legacy for those who come after us. What legacy are we leaving?
What an amazing story we read as we conclude The Elijah Chronicles. We’ve followed our hero through great and challenging times and some even greater miracles. We’ve also reflected on a time that life got the best of him. Through it all, by God’s grace, Elijah was able to overcome the challenges and live fully into God’s calling on his life. We’re we to read through the entire chronicle of Elijah’s life, we’d see even more adventures, yet of all the adventures of his life, none comes close to this final adventure—we might call it the art of dodging death, but even in this adventure, the chronicle of his life teaches us lessons about the necessity of and power in leaving a legacy.
Dodging death puts Elijah in a very rare category. Only two people in all recorded history have exited earth without passing through the jaws of death. As far as the sacred record is concerned, only two people have been immediately ushered into the presence of God. Enoch was the first. Genesis 5: 21 – 24 tells his story. And, Elijah was the second. Even Jesus did not share this special means of grace with God the Father. No, Jesus tasted every dreg that death had to offer…tasted its pain…felt its abandonment…experienced its loneliness. Not Elijah. He was whisked away on a chariot of fire. The remarkable part of Elijah’s story is that he knew he was going to be taken away. And, he’s not the only one. His protégé, Elisha, and prophets in all the places he would travel this last day of his life knew, too.
That makes me wonder what would I do if I knew today was going to be my last day on earth. The text doesn’t say whether Elijah, Elisha or any of the other prophets knew HOW God was going to take Elijah. We must assume they all thought Elijah would simply die like every other human. So, think about it. What would you do if you knew this was going to be your last day on earth? I’d probably want a big family reunion with all the kids and grandkids around, with a BBQ cookout, and I would want to sit around as the day wore on and tell each person how they had made a difference in my life. Others might want to spend the day in quiet reflection with those closest to us, not being bothered by the outside world. Still others might busy themselves checking things off their bucket list, although I don’t know how much one could really accomplish in twenty-four hours. What did Elijah do? He took a tour of the countryside. I’m pretty certain that’s not what I would do, but in following Elijah’s trek I discover the significance of the people, the places and the priorities that will define each of our legacies.
Relationships matter. Our lives are shaped by the people around us, and we help to shape the lives of people around us—for better or worse—our lives will make a significant difference. Elijah had a special relationship with Elisha. When last we left our hero Elijah, he had run into the wilderness afraid of Queen Jezebel, and he entered a period of deep depression. A fresh encounter with the living God, and a fresh reminder of his call and purpose compelled Elijah to return to the work of God. He was told to go anoint a new king in Aram, but he was also told to anoint a successor for himself. This he did in the young man, Elisha. Elisha, in a compelling story found in 1 Kings 19 (that we don’t have time to tell) goes “all-in” with Elijah, and begins a ten-year matriculation in the Elijah School of Prophetic Ministry. For ten plus years, Elijah has the chance to pour himself into the young prophet, and that’s exactly what he does. Elisha witnesses as Elijah continues to confront the evil and excess of Israel’s leaders—facing down, yet again, King Ahab, and eventually Ahab’s heir to the throne, Ahaziah. Elisha watched as Elijah called down fire from the sky, confronted false prophets and challenged the status quo. Elisha had a front-row seat for some of the most powerful mentoring in history, and it would have an impact for generations to come.
We, too, have an opportunity to pour ourselves out into the lives of others. There are “heroes” among us and you know them. It may have been a teacher that opened our eyes and our mind in a way that no teacher had done before. Or, perhaps it was a grandparent whose kindness and wisdom warmed us during the darkest of moments in our life. Maybe it was even a nameless stranger who reached out with compassion at a time when life seemed hopeless. All of us have been influenced by others during our life’s journey. Those who inspired us to achieve, to give back to others and to live a life of significance are what I call Elijahs. Some have touched the lives of millions with their commitment to the values of charity and empathy while others perhaps only a few. But it only takes one person to change the course of history for another human being.