Summary: Elijah’s ascension, Christ’s ascension, and our hope revolve around the promises of our ascended leaders and the cloaks they give us to have and use.
May 23, 2004 2 Kings 2:7-14
Fifty men of 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.
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. 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 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 own clothes and tore them apart.
13 He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him 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.
When a church or a denomination is led by a strong spiritual leader - it can be a great gift and a powerful tool. For instance, it’s hard to think of any Reformation without the leadership of Martin Luther. Luther provided strength and courage to the people to overthrow the tyranny of the Catholic Church. Many years later Dr. C.F.W. Walther was a key figure in making Lutheranism a solid church and foundational denomination at the turn of the 20th Century. This happens in many denominations. If you think of what Billy Graham has done for the Baptist Church, I don’t think anyone could deny that he has been a key figure in the Evangelical movement - making them as powerful as they are today. Just like the Israelites of old, people like to have strong and powerful leaders who stand head and shoulders above the rest.
However, this isn’t always good. King Saul started out as a reluctant, humble, and yet powerful leader of his people. But when he let his power go to his head, and tried to anoint himself as a priest as well, he ended up falling flat on his face. A powerful leader by the name of Jim Jones led over a hundred people to drink poisoned Kool-Aid over in Guyana. Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker made an embarrassment of televised religion when he was held up on a pedastal by his people and then fell on his face with his sex scandals. Even when the leaders are good and faithful leaders, that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems either. Sooner or later, the leader will have to leave - either with a call to another congregation or to heaven or God forbid a scandal of some sort. When that happens, people feel as if they’ve been deserted on an island - left to themselves - as if God Himself had left them. That’s how the Israelites felt in 2 Kings, when Elijah went up to heaven. Why did they feel that way? What would they do? How would they survive? We’ll find out today as we see how -
Elijah’s Cloak Gives Believers Hope
I. Don’t seek the man
It’s kind of strange, but all the prophets knew when Elijah was going to leave them. Throughout the day he and Elisha had visited three prophet schools. According to 1 Samuel 10:5 and 19:20, these were evidently schools of religion and music conducted by an inspired prophet. At each or these schools in Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho all of the prophets went to Elisha and said, “did you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” Elisha knew, but he didn’t want to talk about it. It must have been too depressing for him to think about. Elijah had been such a strong spiritual leader for all of them. King Ahab had set up Baal worship in Samaria - and Queen Jezebel put a bounty on Elijah’s head. Both were renowned for their brazen wickedness. Elijah stood as the lone ranger of their times who challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a showdown on Mount Carmel and won an impressive victory. Elijah prayed for a drought and caused no rain to come on the kingdom for three years. He provided strength and courage against his ungodly opponents in the government. God had miraculously revealed Himself through the words and actions of Elijah. The believers had come to rely on him, but now they all knew by revelation from God that it was time for him to go.