THE LORD GOD OF ELIJAH
Ebenezer Chapel, Ossett
N. H. Roe
Nov. 2nd, 1969
“And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters and said. Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.” 2 Kings 2. 14.
This chapter describes the time when the Lord took away Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven. Previously he had requested in the wilderness that he might die, for he said that he was not better than his fathers, but the Lord did not fulfil his request. He did not die. As Enoch was translated, so Elijah was taken by a whirlwind into heaven.
See in this account of Elijah’s translation cause for sorrow particularly in the heart of Elisha when his master was taken from him; but also cause to praise and bless the name of God, to exalt His faithfulness, goodness and mercy towards His undeserving people. Though Elijah was taken from them, the God of Elijah remained the same faithful and unchanging God. He provided a prophet in his place by raising up Elisha to continue the work of the Lord, to be a true prophet to Israel, speaking to them the words that the Lord gave him. There were differences between the ministries of the two men. They were different personalities, but in the respective days in which they lived, the Lord used them both for the honour and glory of His Name and for the proclaiming of His word. By the gracious signs and wonders He wrought through them, He confirmed that the word of God in their mouth was truth.
God displayed rich grace and mercy when He raised up Elisha to succeed Elijah, and supported him in all his work as He had
maintained Elijah before him. It is a mercy that “the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear” and that God is not dependent upon any man, however gracious the man may have been. Though Elijah had been mighty in the Lord’s work, when he was taken the work did not cease. God owned and blessed His servant and conferred great honour upon him when he did not see death but was taken up by a whirlwind into heaven, but when he was taken, the God of Elijah remained and provided for the needs of His people, as I believe He still continues to do in our generation. Though the Lord takes away, and His people experience sorrow yet let us remember that He remains the same and is still able to raise up men, and to supply all our needs. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” By His good pleasure one source of His consolations towards us may come to an end, but God is not straitened in Himself. He still provides for His people.
The proclamation of His own precious truth, even in these God-despising days in which we live, is a blessed provision of the Lord which few appreciate. He still raises up men and sends them forth to preach His word. He cannot confer a greater blessing upon a people than the sending of a faithful man to preach to them as He bids him. The Lord has promised that although He may try the faith of believers. His word shall not return to Him void, but it shall accomplish that which He shall please and prosper in the thing whereto He hath sent it. He has also promised that the vision is yet for an appointed time but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. It shall come in the Lord’s appointed way.
Israel did not deserve the mercy which God revealed towards them when He raised up Elisha to replace Elijah., Many in the nation were still idolaters, and many indulged wicked practices. God’s provision was not according to their deserts but out of the riches of His grace, and He is still merciful to His people in that He does not deal with them as their sins and iniquities deserve. He chastens them for and from their sins but does not cut them off for ever as their sins justly merit, or withdraw from them the blessing that is even evidenced in His chastening rod upon them. Oh, how longsuffering, how abundant in goodness and mercy and truth is the Lord towards us, as He was towards Israel.
Elisha had been the servant of Elijah for some time. He had followed his master and had seen what the Lord had done through this eminent prophet, the wonders that God had wrought in Israel. Elijah had clearly declared to the people that the Lord was the one true God to whom they were indebted for all things. The time now came when Elisha must walk in that path alone. The sons of the prophets told him that his beloved master was to be taken away from his head that day. Oh, see how he clave to Elijah to the very last, until the Lord parted them asunder and took Elijah from him. How this reveals the mutual love that exists between the Lord’s people and the preciousness of real spiritual communion with
them. The Psalmist in the 133rd Psalm expressed this truth when he said: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” There was blessed union in the things of God between Elijah and Elisha and no doubt Elisha had often been refreshed in communion with him. He was loath for these seasons to end.
Do you not know something of this in your own soul’s experience, in the path in which you have walked? Have there not been those with whom you have been able to take sweet counsel in the things of God, with whom your soul has been knit, as were the souls of Jonathan and David in the bonds of real love and communion? Ah, the Lord has severed for a time that communion which you enjoyed and has taken away the one you loved, even as He took Elijah from Elisha. There was no doubt distress and sorrow in the heart of Elisha at this parting but he could rejoice that Elijah was far better off. To be with Christ, as the apostle says, is far better. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Elisha had requested of Elijah before he had been taken, that a double portion of his spirit might rest upon him. I believe he had at this time an insight into the difficulties of the way before him and was aware of his own great weakness and insufficiency in the light of these things. He wanted a double portion of the spirit of Elijah and was promised that he would receive his request if he saw Elijah when he was taken away. He did see him, and in the words of our text we have a blessed fulfilment of that which was promised to him through the words of Elijah. The Lord inspired that request and in the answer that was given to him He graciously answered it, abundantly manifesting the answer in Elisha’s later life. A double portion of Elijah’s spirit did rest upon him. As Elijah had wrought wonderful things in Israel, wondrous displays of God being given through him, so also, wonderful miracles were wrought by Elisha, through the mighty power of God upon him.
The only material thing that was left of Elijah to Elisha was the mantle that fell from him, a blessed token of the fulfilment of that which had been promised. We read: “And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.” We might think that these were strange words for Elisha to say when he came again to the waters of Jordan – “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” It is particularly this question that we shall now consider.
Elisha had seen what happened when Elijah came to Jordan, on their way to the place from whence he was taken to heaven, and now he stands again alone on the banks of the river. He had the mantle of Elijah in his hand, and as he smites those waters with it he cries: “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” He did not ask an unbelieving, doubting question. He was not ignorant of the abode of the Lord God of Elijah. He was not so swallowed up with grief
because his master was taken from his head that he cried out these words in unbelief. This was the language of living faith, by which he was laying hold on the promise that Elijah had spoken to him. It was the word of the Lord, and as Elisha stands on the banks of Jordan he puts that word to the test, pleads it before the Lord and lays hold by faith upon the promise that he had received. The context proves that this was not an unbelieving cry, but the language of living faith in exercise, because those waters of Jordan parted and he went over, proving that though Elijah was taken, Elijah’s God remained the same, and was also Elisha’s God. The God that had upheld and maintained Elijah was manifest in this event and confirmed the promise of His continuing presence to His servant Elisha. The assurance that He gave here was the same as that which He gave to Joshua after the death of Moses when He said to him: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people.” A great task was committed to Joshua, but he had the promise of the Lord with it. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”
“Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” As graciously upheld by the Lord, Elisha sought in this cry, to venture forth in the name of the Lord God of Elijah. It was an evidence that he was putting his whole trust and confidence in the Lord for the great task that lay before him. Much though he reverenced and esteemed Elijah as a servant of the Lord, this account shows that he was not merely resting upon the fact that he had been a follower of Elijah. He was found resting upon the arm of the Lord God Almighty, the only place for one taught by the Holy Spirit. He was encouraged by what the Lord had done for Elijah but he was not resting upon an arm of flesh but upon the mighty, omnipotent arm of the Lord God of Elijah.
Do we do likewise? Is the Lord God of Elijah our God? Nothing less than this possession will be of help to your soul and mine. Do we not only know of the Lord’s servants whom He has richly blessed, but do we have their God? Elijah’s God was Elisha’s God. Is He your God? Is He mine? We can only find real comfort, strength and support to bear us up and bring us through all difficulties, as we are brought in faith to lean alone upon the Lord God of Israel. Our consideration of those whom God has honoured in the past is of no benefit to us, unless their God is our God. We sometimes sing:Â—
Give me the wings of faith to rise
Within the veil, and see
The saints above, how great their joys
How bright their glories be.
They wept here below, they fought with sin and Satan and passed through trials and difficulties. Do we mark their footsteps and follow them? Are we in the footsteps of the flock, amongst the
followers of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Is the Lord God of Elijah our God, our Lord, our Saviour? How important are these things for us in the light of our future path and in the light of eternity. Have we been brought to seek ardently after this relationship with the Lord? If we have never previously been brought to do so, yet may we now seek to know and prove for ourselves as did Elisha, that the God of Elijah is our God and Saviour. The Psalmist delighted in this knowledge. He could not only speak of the Lord God of Israel, of His mighty, wonderful power and goodness, but he could say “My God, my Lord, my Saviour, my Redeemer.” It is vital that we personally know this great, this mighty God, this wondrous Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only a personal knowledge of Him that will help your soul and mine. Oh, may you know Him as your Lord.
Let us note that where there is the believing in the Lord, the resting upon His word, the seeking to go forth unto Him, such living faith in exercise always leads to action. This faith did not lie dormant in Elisha’s soul. It was put into action. It did not leave him standing on the banks of the Jordan, but caused him to step forth trusting in the name of the Lord. We are so prone to want to walk by sight, not by faith, and to want to see the provision before we venture upon the way. We want to see the way made plain but we have no warrant for this wish in the word of God. No, His people must go forth trusting to Him alone, and this is a course which is contrary to flesh and blood, something which natural sense and reason can never accept. But there is unspeakable blessing in this way of faith. Though many may speak against it, though flesh dislikes the way and complains about it, yet the Lord will never fail the souls that go forth trusting upon Him, looking unto Him to supply their need. They shall find, as Elisha, that as they lean hard upon that almighty arm of the Lord, the way is made plain before them. Cleave alone to Christ and He will make the way.
Venture on Him, venture wholly
Let no other trust intrude.
Was not this proved by Moses when the children of Israel came to the Red Sea? What could they do or which way could they go? The Lord said to him: “Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” There was no way, but they were to go forward, even through the sea. “Lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it.” Moses did so, and the Lord parted the waters. It was the same at Jordan. When the priests’ feet that bare the ark touched the waters they parted before them. A way was made. Today, when His people lean upon Him and venture upon His mighty arm. He makes a way before them.
When Elisha spoke these words, he was seeking, in humble faith and dependence upon the Lord, the demonstration of His power,
the token of His favour, the assurance that as the Lord had been with Elijah, so He would be with him. As Elisha ventured upon Him, the Lord caused the waters to part hither and thither. The fifty sons of the prophets then saw and acknowledged that the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha and that the Lord was with him. When Saul required one to play skilfully upon the harp before him because an evil spirit possessed him, one of his servants spake of David the son of Jesse saying: “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person.” and he added: “and the Lord is with him.” We cannot have greater blessing in life than to know that the Lord is with us, and for this to be manifest in our walk and conversation, as it was in the case of David to Saul’s servant, and in the case of Elisha to the fifty sons of the prophets. Though Elijah had gone, his God remained with Elisha. “I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Though circumstances alter, though change and decay is seen in all around us and difficulties come into our path, yet God remains the same. We have a tendency to lose sight of this precious truth, being so prone to forget what God has spoken in His word. Let us remember that God is as able in our day as He was in the days of Elijah and Elisha. All that God has spoken in His word. He is able to bring to pass and He will cause His people to know and prove its veracity. I believe I can say to the Lord’s honour and glory that I am not without witness, even in my own soul’s experience, that the Lord God of Elijah is still alive and remains the same. His power is still the same and He is able and willing to do for His people today, that which He did for His servants in former days. They that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded.