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April 10, 2021 12:01 am
Every Christian faces a moment of decision: Will we take up the mantle of our Master and face the rejection Jesus faced? Today, R.C. Sproul addresses how the Old Testament figure Elisha helps us understand the cost that comes with following the Lord.
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When the prophet Elijah was swept into heaven on a sure unifier, his protégé Elisha was there to witness the astonishing event and Elisha cried out, my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen. He cries out in passion and emotion as he realizes with this lightning flash of glory that Elijah is taken away no more. And he calls them his father, many miracles in the ministry another to follow the one shoe had a decision to make when he welcomed the scorn and abuse. All true prophets had experience on the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind.
We continued authorizing school series great men and women of the Bible and the second book of the kings in the second chapter we read that fascinating account of the end of Elijah's life and ministry and of the transfer of the takes place between Elijah and his disciple, his protégé whose name is Elisha and I want to look at that text because I think it gives us what we call the fruitful moments to capture and crystallize the essence of the prophetic mission in general and in the ministry of Elisha starts in chapter 2 of second Kings and it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gil Gail.
Let me make this comment on the texts you will recall that the Jews today when they celebrate the Passover and they seeped themselves around the table at the head of the table. They will have an empty chair and for whom is the chair in the place that is set, it is set for Elijah because the very last prophecy of the Old Testament in the book of Malachi we read that God announces that before the day of the Lord comes to pass. Elijah will return. And of course, the New Testament makes it clear that that prophecy is fulfilled, in whom, and John the Baptist in the Scriptures tell us came in the spirit and in the power of Elijah, but one of the reasons there were such a mystique about Elijah was Elijah didn't die. Moses died in the other heroes that we talked about in the Old Testament all died.
Moses was personally buried by God, but Elijah was taken up into heaven by the chariots of fire and did not taste death. And so it was the people awaited the coming again of Elijah will John the Baptist appeared in the power and in the spirit of Elijah and Elijah himself personally ever come back. Yes, at the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was seen there in his radiant deity shining through his humanity and the disciples beheld his glory, and they saw him there speaking with Moses and with Elijah so we read here in the text of the end of Elijah's life and we say that the Lord was about to take him up by whirlwind into heaven, and he goes then with Elisha from Gil Gail and Elijah said to Elisha stay here. Please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel, but Elisha said as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you. Elijah knows that his moment of departure is at hand. I don't think Elijah knew how it was going to take place and he wants to spare his disciple from whatever trauma is facing him and so he says please Elijah you stay here. This is as far as you go. We been together day in day out where I've gone you've gone you help me you held my hand you've ministered to me you been my servant.
But you don't need to go any further. Elisha response virtually impetuously does me a take somebody say is the Lord… Wherever you go. I go and I will not leave you so Elijah relents and they go on down to Bethel, then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel and Bethel was the central sanctuary of Israel came out to Elisha, and said to him, do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today and he said yes I know that he still be quiet, shut up. This is a polite translation.
He tells him to shut up. He doesn't need their advice.
Right now I Elijah says to them again. Elisha, please stay here for the Lord has sent me to Jericho. Elisha said as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you so once again, Elisha refuses to take his leave from his master and said if you're going to Jericho. I'm going to Jericho, so the two of them went on now 50 men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan and Elijah took his mantle, and folded together and struck the waters and they were divided here and there so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
Another miracle, Elijah's life was a place of miracles, and the mantle that he wore. Is he what he uses here to strike the water to bring about the miracle because the mantle indicates or symbolizes the power from on high that covers this profit and soak the mantle of Elijah is the mark of his office of his role as a prophet and as a miracle worker of God. Now it came about when they crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.
This is there poignant moment where Elijah is about to leave his beloved servant. He said not before I go, what would you like this my last will and testament ask anything of me that I can give you and I will give you what you want.
You remember what Elisha asks. He said to his master. Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.
He asks for a double portion of the anointing spirit of God, and we we can only speculate as to why he made that request. We can look at several ways. I like that and I think maybe this young man.
Elisha is so impetuous and he's got so many stars in his eyes that he's filled with ambition and he recognizes the greatness of Elijah and so he said whatever you were. I want to be twice is great and I realize that you had the Holy Spirit that enabled you to perform miracles and to be a spokesman for God and to do the great things that you've done. I want to bring to buy twice. I want to be twice as good as you are. I want to outstrip my master is a common attitude that disciples have of their teachers and sons after their fathers. They want to be twice as good, and so on. And that's a possibility, but I don't think that's what he asked that I'm I don't think Elisha was that dumb. I can imagine any human being who had been in the presence of a prophet of Israel, day after day and realizing the pain and the travail and the loneliness that goes with being a prophet how anybody in their right mind would want twice the responsibility that Elijah carried on his shoulders. I suspect it's just the opposite. Elisha knew that if he had any responsibility to carry on in any way.
The prophetic tradition if he was going to receive a portion of the mission that was given to Elijah to fulfill that mission.
He realized that whatever amount of the Holy Spirit. Elijah needed to get the job done.
Elisha needed what twice as much of the hot look if you're leaving please don't just leave me that the spirit of support new but need an extra dose. I need twice as much if I were to be to make it so the man understood. I believe his dependence upon the anointing of God if he was ever going to be an authentic disciple of Elijah. Elijah said you have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you but if not, it shall not be so. This is a very difficult request that Elijah is Elijah saying you don't know what you're asking for. Because the implication is that if you get twice the spirit this upon me young man. You're gonna get twice the responsibility this morning.
Is that what is in Elijah's mind when he said you're asking a hard thing. It may be or may be saying this is something that I can't unilaterally deliver. I can give you my shoes.
I can give you my walking stick. I can give you my Bible. I can give you my notes. I can give you my earthly possessions, but I don't control the spirit.
This, upon me, and I can't promise you a double measure of the spirit. Only God can give you the double measure of the spirit and so will have to see and will leave it up to God and the sign will be if you see me depart, then you'll know you're going to get the double portion. If you don't see me you want. Again, I'm not sure which, if either of those assets interpretations capture what's going on here, but the I think approach what's going on in verse 11.
Then says then it came about as they were going along and talking with behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to have now when Christ was born his entrance into this world.
We know came through lowly means and humble origins, but not exclusively cloaked in humiliation.
In addition to all of the dimensions of Jesus.
Poverty in the no room in the end, and all of that.
There was also the contrast of the breakthrough of divine glory at the birth of Jesus. When the heavenly host appeared to the shepherds in the field and the glory of God shone round about. And as we've seen and mentioned a moment ago throughout Jesus life, though his deity was for the most part obscured hidden plane down. There were those moments when it broke through in glory like the Mountain of Transfiguration and we see at the empty tomb of Jesus.
The presence of angels and his ascension into heaven is done on the cloud of glory. And he says that when he returns he will return on clouds of glory the Shekinah glory which is the outward and visible manifestation of the dazzling radiance of God himself.
No notice that it's not your ordinary chariot or your ordinary horses that come to pick up Elijah. It's not like a local Palestinian taxi service that comes up and says stop in and they take a mop, but these are chariots and horses of fire. What does that mean biblically that there is a Celeste Teal dimension to them that they are transcendent that they are majestic that they come from the throne on high that these are the messengers of God. Angelic chariots and jelly courses if you will.
Horses that are displaying that basic theophany that we find in the Old Testament. The basic visible manifestation of God, which is what fire our God is a consuming fire. The burning bush, the pillar of smoke and so on so that this divine breakthrough takes place in the Shekinah glory comes down and scoops up the prophet and takes him into heaven while the question is that Elisha say it with this essay. Verse 12 and Elisha saw it and he cried out, my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen. He cries out in passion and emotion as he realizes it with this lightning flash of glory that Elijah is taken away no more. And he calls them his father and he cries out my father. My father do recognize that form of address from other studies that we've done the repetition, the expression of intimacy, personal intimacy, a cry of poignancy coming from the soul, as Elisha is so deeply moved with the departure of his beloved master. My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen, and he saw him no more then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into pieces so that his first reaction after crying out when he sees the departure of Elijah was that he takes hold of what his own close and in Jewish fashion, to show grief and remorse. He rents his garments, he tears his clothes into this is an expression of profound morning.
That's the first thing he takes hold of his own clubs, but the drama of this story is not yet been reached. The drama takes place in verse 13 after he takes hold of his own close and rips them in half, then what does a takeover the mantle of Elijah now I've said many times that the biblical writers under the guidance and supervision of the Holy Spirit seem to make use frequently of what I call understated elegance. They are masters of the understatement and sometimes the most dramatic moments in all of Scripture are missed because of the low key way in which they are presented. But I want us to use our imaginations here for little while. I want us to think first, here is Elisha who is doesn't want to leave Elijah's side for a second. He's terrified of the prospects of his own future without Elijah. He begs for a double portion of the Holy Spirit.
He understands from his own experience. The excruciating pain that goes with being a prophet of God and the Scripture says in verse 13. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the back of the drawer is almost like a concluding unscientific postscript, as if the biblical writer disrupt doctors offices a week. He runs his garments. He takes all of his own closers as well. By the way in passing mention that before he left he reached over and snatched up the mantle of Elijah and walked on down the street. I don't believe that could possibly have happened like that and I think there had to be a moment of decision for Elisha that was pregnant in that episode he has to know at that brief moment in his life that intersection the time of crisis that will determine the whole rest of his existence. He has two options. He can look at that mantle on the ground and say goodbye. Elijah it was wonderful knowing. Too bad you forgot your mantle. I'm going back home and he could've turned and walked away and left that mantle on the ground. Notice that God when he anoints somebody the anointing comes down from heaven or he will send somebody like Samuel to lay his hands on on Saul or and David to anointing the indicate the activity of God, bringing the spirit on that person's life, but in this case God leaves the mantle in the dark. And if Elisha is going to stand in the prophetic tradition if is going to continue that line. What does he have to. He has to not like an arrogant prince who crowned himself king someone who is so caught up in self-aggrandizement that they snatch for power or for authority or position by grasping it for themselves. Remember, even the words of Paul when he spoke of the example of Jesus when he told us have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who took his equality with God, not a thing to be grasped. The Greek there means not a thing to be tenaciously held onto her clutched for Elisha to pick up that was an act not of arrogance but of surrender soon as he picks up that mantle and puts it on. He is inviting the loneliness score, the hostility, the rejection of his own people. That's what that piece of clothing means they can leave it there, or he can walk over and pick it up if he walks over and picks it up.
He is making the supreme act of human sacrifice. I just talked to of the term of our board yesterday, whose son is in high school and he's been spending his summers on the mission field and this year he signed up to go to new Paul of all places where there rounding up the missionaries right now and throwing them in prison and their killing and he hasn't left yet for this assignment and he was all excited and the sisters to allies in this exciting I can't wait to get over there. It was that the recommended. Take it easy since then. It's a whole lot easier to die for Christ that it is to live when it be nice if the only act of devotion. We were ever call upon the Christ would be one time to go to the stake and say here are you here I stay in and go out in a blaze of glory. Elisha understood if he put on his mantle. That means he's playing for keeps for the long haul for his entire life he has to live for God and be alienated and unpopular with people. Do you realize what the most difficult things God can ever ask of you is to be unpopular how much of your life is spent invested in achieving popularity and getting people to like you. I want people to like me. I want people to hate me. I want people based on the IKEA cinema. People say this that I do this or I say that or I believe this resident who likes the scorn and reproach that goes with being a Christian. Do you is no wonder that the New Testament tells us time after time that unless were willing to participate in the humiliation of Christ. We will have no participation in his exultation Elisha is my heat because Elisha walked over there.
He stared that mantle straight and they picked up the stood by the bank of the Jordan he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said where is the Lord, the God of Elijah. We also instruct the waters. They were divided here and there. And Elisha crossed over.
Now, when the sons of the prophets who were Jericho saw him, they said the spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha because he picked it, none of us is called to be a prophet in the sense Elisha is. But we have something far more valuable. And for more weighty than the mantle of Elisha the stance for us is the tradition of the faith of Jesus Christ the way of the cross and every Christian not just ministers or bishops. Every Christian has that moment when they have to face the decision am I gonna pick up the mantle of Christ is by do this for keeps SMS as you pray for them, a measure when we read about the miraculous deeds of Elijah and Elisha were tempted to imagine what we could accomplish if only we could do things like that. But today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Sproul has reminded us that speaking for God makes us unpopular. In fact, targets of a society hostile to God. Here in the Saturday edition of our program were making our way through doctors, groceries, great men and women of the Bible. Each week we see how God equipped ordinary people centers like you and me to do extraordinary things all for his glory receiving how the New Testament and the Old Testament harmonize from the prophets to Christ and into the early church. Scripture is a cohesive narrative. So let me recommend a resource offer today when you contact us with a donation of any amount.
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