16 September 20192 Kings 2:1-15
“Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (v. 14)
Psalm: Psalm 47
In this passage we meet Elijah at the end of his life, when he and Elisha had become almost inseparable and he is preparing to die. The two of them set out on Elijah's final journey, and as they travel we read of Elisha's determination not to be parted from Elijah. The story resonates with Ruth's determination not to leave her mother-in-law Naomi earlier in the Old Testament (Ruth 1:6-18). As Elijah ascends to the heavens Elisha does not take his eyes off him – such is his grief, such is his longing and maybe too such is his unbelief or even his ambition.
When we know that death is approaching a loved one, our human instinct is to stay as close as we possibly can to the one who will leave us: Elisha is no different. He will not allow Elijah to travel ahead without him. Nervous maybe of what may happen, fearful of what the consequences maybe or hopeful that he too can become the prophet that Elijah was, he remains constantly by Elijah's side. Then when the moment of parting comes he cries out in his loss and bewilderment, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" Then taking Elijah's cloak and walking back to the Jordan, he too strikes the waters with the cloak so that he can return to the other side safely and be greeted by those who had accompanied Elijah. He returns to the safety of the people he knows, just as the disciples stayed together after the reports of the Resurrection (Luke 24:33) where they too felt safe and secure, comforting themselves in one another's company where they can reminisce together. Perhaps too, when the community saw Elijah's cloak they then knew what had happened and felt comforted that something of Elijah remained and would continue with Elisha and they could fondly remember together.
At times of heightened grief and uncertainty we can find ourselves asking impossible questions too, wanting to know that despite the separation God is still with us though it may not feel like it at all. We too need to wrap ourselves around with the things that are familiar and hide away from the starkness of reality. We too need to be in the company of those who have lost, for in that safety we may find a hope that enables us to continue.
- Have there been times in your life when you have doubted God's presence or wondered where God might be? Reflect on those times and consider where you may have found some hope.
- Sometimes witnessing a person in the early stages of grief can be upsetting for the local community and, rather than reach out to them, we can withdraw. How could you overcome this situation either for yourself or for your local community?
- Times of change, and times of letting go maybe occasions when we can rediscover hope and find new ways of doing things, involving different people. What have you noticed about times of change or times when you have had to let go?