Elijah is in the process of passing the baton to Elisha, the one God selected to take on Elijah’s role after he crosses over. Elijah has given Elisha several opportunities to turn back from the journey God has set before him. Each time Elisha has decided not to leave Elijah’s side. What a great example of faithful following. I think this is the way God wants Elisha, and us, to follow Him.
Elijah and Elisha arrive at the Jordan River once again. The Jordan River seems to be the focal point for much of the Israelite’s history. Perhaps it can be viewed as a metaphor for the spiritual divide that separates them from God. The Israelites have crossed over the Jordan numerous times and for a variety of reasons. This time the crossing is aided by a miraculous parting of the Jordan similar to the time it was parted by God for Joshua and the leaders of Israel before they entered the Promised Land.
Elisha’s request of Elijah is a bit strange…a “double portion of your spirit”. This was certainly a very flattering thing to say to Elijah, but also a bit bold for Elisha. It reminds me of Peter asking Jesus to wash his whole body when Jesus was prepared to wash his feet (John 13:9). Humility would suggest that Elisha should not expect to exceed his predecessor. I would expect him to say something like “God give me even half the spirit that Elisha has and I will be a great man”. It is also interesting that Elisha talks of Elijah’s spirit as if it were some sort of elixir, rather than the soul of a man of God.
Elijah is taken up into heaven and Elisha is witness to it, ensuring that he will in fact obtain a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. This is confirmed by Elisha and the company of prophets from Jericho when Elisha takes Elijah’s cloak and parts the Jordan River just like Elijah did prior to his being taken up into heaven. This relational miracle sealed the new covenant between God and Elisha — making it clear that Elisha would follow God unconditionally and God would have Elisha’s back.
This is the first time I can remember in the bible where someone “crossing over” has taken place in a way other than the normal death experienced by most humans. It is very interesting that in the future some will think that John the Baptist is Elijah returning near this very spot on the Jordan River (John 1:28). I hope to visit the Jordan River some day and experience this place of many crossings.
Prayer: God thank You for providing a “double portion” of the Holy Spirit to guide those who faithfully follow You.