The title of this devotional doesn’t speak to worldly desires, but to spiritual ones. Yesterday we looked at how Elisha closed the door on his old life in order to pursue God’s calling. He was to be Elijah’s replacement. And eventually it came time for God to call Elijah home. The conversation between Elijah and Elisha shows exactly why God chose Elisha to follow in Elijah’s footsteps:
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” He 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.” As they were going along and talking, 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 heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and 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?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. – 2 Kings 2:9-14, NASB
Verses 1-8 cover Elijah traveling to where he would be taken up into heaven from. At each stop along the way, he gave Elisha the opportunity to remain. But Elisha refused, for Elisha knew he was to follow Elijah so long as Elijah walked the earth. They finally come to the Jordan River, Elijah struck it with his mantle, and just like it did for Joshua, the waters divided and the two prophets walked over on dry ground. Elijah had reached his final destination and Elisha had been faithful every step of the way. As a result, Elijah asks the faithful Elisha what he can do for him. Elisha asks for an interesting thing: a double portion of the spirit that was upon Elijah.
To understand the double portion, it’s important to understand how inheritance worked in Old Testament times. When the inheritance was to be split up among the sons of a man, the first born son would receive twice what everyone else received. That was the birthright of the first born son. So what Elisha was asking for was, in essence, the birthright of Elijah’s prophet career to be passed on to him just as the inheritance would be passed to a first-born son. Elijah responded that this was a hard thing because it was beyond Elijah’s power to grant this request. Only God could grant such a favor. However, Elijah indicated that if Elisha was permitted to see his departure, then God was giving Elisha the birthright he had asked for. In other words, he would be a mighty prophet for God, just like his mentor had been. Elisha was permitted to see Elijah’s departure, and that’s why he cries out, “My father, my father…” And if there were any doubt to God’s favor, that was erased when Elisha went back to the Jordan, struck it with the mantle that was now his, and saw that the Jordan River parted, just as it had for Elijah. Another interesting note is how Elisha struck the water. He did so in reference to the Lord. In other words, the water was going to part because of the Lord, not because of Elisha.
As followers of Christ, we’re supposed to be like Elisha. We’re supposed to want God’s favor and blessing, but for the right reasons. We’re to want everything the Spirit can provide for us. But we aren’t to want it just for our lives to be better, but rather for God to be glorified. That’s always the proviso. This was Elisha’s heart. He was a servant. He served Elijah because God had called him to do so. And he carried out that duty to the very end of Elijah’s time on earth. Then, upon assuming the mantle Elijah had worn, he began his ministry in service to God as God’s number one prophet. And the very first spectacular act that happens under Elisha’s ministry is acknowledged to God. That’s the way Elisha thought. Elisha wanted it all and he wanted it for the right reasons. That’s the challenge for us as believers. Do we want all that God can provide? And if we do, do we want it for God’s glory? Those questions have to be answer from our hearts. If we can honestly answer both questions with a strong, “Yes!” then God can use us in mighty ways, just as He used Elisha. And that’s what we’re supposed to be about, right?