Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on. Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord , the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over. The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.” “No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.” – 2 Kings 2:6-16
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.