17 February 20242 Kings 2:9-12
Elisha said, 'Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.' (v. 9)
Even as Old Testament stories go, today’s is odd and exceptional. Elijah is the only person other than Jesus who is described as having ascended directly to heaven. Perhaps this prophet, who had caused so much trouble and stirred so much controversy in life, needed an odd and exceptional departure.We’re told in the verses that precede today’s passage that his ascension came as no surprise either – at least three groups of prophets were aware what was coming, and wanted to make sure Elisha knew too.
The focus of the story is the handover of prophetic authority from Elijah to Elisha. It’s easy to assume that these two must have been key establishment figures, respected leaders in the religious establishment. But no: Elijah had lived on the edge, often in danger either from those promoting idolatry (aka the prophets of Ba’al), or from paranoid kings and state authorities. Perhaps that is why the handover from Elijah to Elisha is described in the gap between two of Judah’s kings – Ahaziah had died and Jehoram hasn’t been introduced to us yet. Here in the gap, there is a power vacuum and God’s power is seen at work.
Elisha saw at first hand the danger and uncertainty of the prophetic life. Yet he stuck with Elijah through thick and thin. Now, when Elijah asks him what he desires most, he responds “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” (v. 9) It's an audacious request: perhaps he realises just how dependent on God he will need to be. As God’s prophet, Elisha would give much, but God’s provision never failed. He had to wait for a storm and a chariot of fire to find out whether his request had been granted. Perhaps there are echoes in Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38: “…give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” The waiting through Lent should remind us just how much blessing God has already provided.
- Elisha had big shoes to fill. We are called to be the body of Christ – to be the presence of Jesus in our communities. That’s a big ask. What blessings has God provided for you to undertake that role? What other blessings could you ask for or accept to help you to serve more faithfully?
Loving God, you never ask from us more than you know we’re capable of. But we know we can only do your will in the strength you provide. Help us to ask you for what we need, and then to accept the blessings you give to us, in Jesus Christ, who calls us, Amen.