Summary: Why did Elisha insist (3 times) to go with Elijah to his fiery chariot ride... but all of the "sons of the Prophets" insisted on standing some distance away?
(I opened the sermon by leading the congregation in an old hymn called "If Jesus Goes With Me I'll Go Anywhere". And then ended the sermon by singing the first verse and chorus with them again).
In 1936, a 17 year old Bob Feller became a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, and he was so good that he played 18 seasons for them (only missing 4 yrs because he joined the Navy to fight in WWII). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1965 and is considered by many to be the greatest right-handed pitcher in baseball history. His fastball was so intimidating that they called him “Bullet Bob”, and in his career he struck out 2581 of batters who faced him.
When Bob was 9 years old, his teacher asked him to write an essay about an oak tree, and here’s what he wrote: “An oak tree can be cut down and sawed into boards. You can make baseball bats out of them. You can also make home plates out of the boards. And you can make bleachers out of the boards so people can watch baseball games.” Do you think (maybe) Bob Feller wanted to play baseball? It’s little wonder that he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, because this man was committed to being a great baseball player.
This morning we’re looking at the life of a man who was committed being a great prophet for God. His name was Elisha. About 3 years before, God had selected Elisha to be the great Elijah’s replacement. Now we’re not told anything of what happened during that 3 years (or so) - all we’re told is that now Elijah is leaving! He’s about to be taken up in a fiery chariot and everybody seems to know it.
According to the text, Elijah began his journey in Gilgal, and went to Bethel, then to Jericho, and finally to the Jordan River… to be caught up to be with God. As the story unfolds (and as Elijah is leaving Gilgal) he turns to Elisha and says “Please Stay Here!” But Elisha refuses and says “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will NOT leave you.” And this happens over and over again. At each community Elijah turns to Elisha and says “Stay Here”, and each time Elisha says “I’m not leaving you.” Finally, Elijah just gives up and lets Elisha go all the way to his destination.
Elisha was willing to go as far as he NEEDED to go to be in the presence of God.
Now, there was something that caught my attention was that each of the areas they visited seemed to have a Bible college of sorts for the Prophets - called the “Sons of the Prophets.” And it would appear that Elijah may be paying one last visit to the men he’s been training to be prophets. But what’s really curious to me is this: none of these prophets wants to tag along. None of them seemed interested in seeing a fiery chariot up close. In fact, II Kings 2:7 tells us “Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood AT SOME DISTANCE from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.” They want to see what’s going on, but they don’t want to get… too close. What’s the deal?
Well, it comes down to this: they didn’t want to go THAT FAR, and they didn’t want to get THAT CLOSE.
And when it comes to following God, that’s what happens to some folks. They don’t want to go too far or get too close. A man name T.F. Tenney “Jesus fed 5000… but only 500 followed Him after lunch. He had 12 disciples… but only 3 went further into the Garden. And only 1 stood with Him at the cross. The closer you get to the cross, the smaller the crowd becomes.”
You see some people are afraid to get TOO CLOSE. It’s like they’re afraid that IF they get too close, God might want more from them than they’re ready to give. And so they stand back at a distance because they’re afraid.
ILLUS: I once had the opportunity to watch some 6th graders who participated in a high jump at a track meet. At that age, they’re just learning the technique of that competition. Some of them were REALLY good some – not so much. But there was one young lady who puzzled me. She’d run real hard to the mat… and then she’d run right past it. Every time! Never once did she even try to jump. Even in practice, when they took the bar away, she still wouldn’t jump. I spoke to the coach about this and he nodded - “It happens all the time. Until they get over their fear of failure, many won’t even try to jump.”