Left Behind: Chapter 4

2 Kings 2:12‑18  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Two men were in the field long years ago, a green field, where grew the pink oleander and the bushy tamarisk by the side of the rushing river. One man, Elijah, the master, was taken up from earth and carried into the presence of his Lord. The other man, Elisha, the servant, was left behind, left desolate and alone in the empty field.
Have you ever tried to picture what it will be like just after God’s people are taken suddenly away? In one house all will be Christ’s except one - the one who is left behind. All around will be others as desolate as he is, husbands left without wives, friends left friendless. How blessed to be the one taken; how desolate to be the one left! So Elisha felt, as he stood looking up into the cloudless blue, into which the whirlwind had borne his master.
Yet what a difference between the one left on the Jordan banks and those who will be left when Christ comes for His own! Elisha hoped to see his master again; the parting was only for a time. He could look up and say, “God be with you till we meet again.” But in the awful day that is coming, it will be an eternal parting.
Elisha cried, as Elijah disappeared, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof ! And he saw him no more.” The face he had loved so many years, the hands over which he had so often poured water, the feet which had trod with him so many weary miles, the voice which was dear to him, and the loving heart whose every care and anxiety he had shared were all gone, and he was left behind.
And, in the desolation of his grief, he took his long cloak in which he was traveling and the linen tunic which he wore beneath it and he tore them in two -the Eastern sign of mourning and loss.
But as he looked sorrowfully around, he saw something. Lying on the grass close to his feet was a short, rough sheepskin cloak. It was Elijah’s mantle, the prophet’s garb - the very cloak he had cast over Elisha, as he walked over the newly-plowed field, as a sign that he had come to call him to the work of God - the very cloak in which he had seen him every day of the seven years they had been together, the very cloak which, only a short time before, had divided the Jordan and made a path through the rushing waters.
As Elijah rose, the cloak had fallen from his shoulders and was left behind for Elisha. The young man knew what it signified. He must do Elijah’s work. He must be to the world what his master had been, a burning and a shining light. He was no longer the prophet’s servant; he himself was now the prophet of God, and as such he must wear the prophet’s garb.
Elisha stooped and took up the cloak and took up at the same time all the responsibility which it entailed. Then he turned back to do that which was to be his life work. Soon he found himself standing where he had stood by his master’s side a short time before, on the banks of the rushing Jordan.
Then Elisha remembered the wonderful path and how they two had trod it together. Could it be that the wonderful power which God had given his master had been passed on to him? Would God be with him as He had been with Elijah? He would prove it. Standing by the rushing stream, Elisha cried aloud, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” and, as he cried, he smote the waters with the mantle which he carried. At once, God answered, for the waters divided, and Elisha went over. With a happy and thankful heart he could cross the stream! The God of Elijah was with him, working by him, working through him.
Thank God that He is to us what He was to Elijah, “a very present help”! Did you ever grasp the beauty and the comfort of those words, “A very present help”?
Recently, three men were on an island in the Arctic, trapped by a snowstorm and running out of food. By man’s wonderful, modern means of communication they could talk to their friends and tell them of their need. But none could help; no man could be “a very present help.”
But, thank God, He can always hear and is always able to help in time of need. Not a single moment is lost. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him.” “A very present help in [time of] trouble.”
“Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elisha cried, and found Him as he cried. And so it is with us. We cry to Him and He answers before we call.
Yes, it is God Himself who puts the holy thought of prayer into our hearts with one hand, while with the other He holds out the very blessing for which He is prompting us to ask. “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Where is Elijah’s God? He is close beside us as we go about our daily work, as we walk down the crowded street, as we lie sleepless on our bed by night, or as we hurry through a crowd of difficult duties by day. Elijah’s God is by our side; the very present help is close at hand.
There were spectators that day as Elisha crossed the river. Standing on a hill overlooking the Jordan valley was a party of young men. Who were they? They were the students from the college at Jericho, and they had watched Elisha and his master from the top of the hill. They had traced the two along the hot dusty road; they had seen the Jordan smitten and had watched the master and servant crossing the river, dry-shod, and then disappear from sight among the acacia trees on the other side.
Still the little company of young men had stood watching on the hilltop. And after some time - how long we are not told - they had seen a solitary figure coming down towards the river. Two had gone up the bank; one comes back alone. It is only Elisha, the servant; Elijah, the master, is gone.
How will Elisha cross the foaming, rushing river? It was an easy matter for Elijah, the mighty, wonder-working prophet. He had received food from the hungry ravens; he had brought down fire from heaven; he had even waked the dead - he could cross that rapid stream by God’s power.
But Elisha, the servant, was only one of themselves; in fact, he was inferior to them, for he merely poured water over the hands of Elijah. He was simply a servant; they were the students of the college at Jericho. How then will Elisha, the servant, cross the river?
To their utter astonishment he crosses it just as his master had done. In his hand is the mantle they know so well, and with it he strikes the water; it divides before him, and he crosses on dry ground. Awestruck by this wonderful sign, the inquisitive young men exclaim, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha,” and, coming to meet him, they do him reverence as the new prophet.
But, while acknowledging his office, they urge him to do something to find Elijah. He, as they well knew, had often before disappeared mysteriously. God had again and again caused him to disappear for a time. Alone and unseen, he had passed through the whole country in the time of famine, at the very time when Jezebel was searching for him. Nor was this the only time when this had happened. Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s house, knew of it, for he once said to Elijah, “It shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me.”
The sons of the prophets suggest that this may be the explanation of Elijah’s absence. Once more, as before, the Spirit of the Lord may have carried him away. Let us, they say, send fifty strong, brave men to climb every mountain and search every valley until they find the lost prophet.
Elisha knows where his master has gone; he has passed from the seen into the unseen; he has ascended up above the mountains and above the valleys; he has passed into the presence of the King of glory. How useless, then, to search for him! How fruitless would their efforts to find him prove! How utterly useless to look for him on earth, when he has passed from earth into heaven.
So Elisha says, “Ye shall not send.” But the persistent sons of the prophets are not content to do as he says. They evidently think they know better than he does. They press him again and again. They urge him repeatedly to allow them to make the search.
“They urged him till he was ashamed.” They pressed him and worried him, till at last he said, “Send.”
The fifty strong ones went out and began their search while Elisha waited at Jericho until their return. Three days went by and finally the search party returned. Slowly they came up the hot ascent from the Jordan to report to Elisha that they had been unsuccessful. And he responds, “Did I not say unto you, Go not?”
Now, Elisha takes up the responsibility God has given him - that of God’s messenger to His nation. Like Elisha, there are times when we too look at the responsibilities of life which lie ahead of us. We may see twelve unknown months of duty and care, waiting for us with all their unknown possibilities. Do we not often give a sigh, as we think of what may be coming to us, silently but surely? But I do not think Elisha sighed that day; he set forth to meet the future hopefully and thankfully. The Lord God of Elijah was by his side, and he could say, “I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.”
I think that Elisha trusted in what David calls the “saving strength of His right hand.” There lies the secret of all success in our work and of all comfort in our lives. We are weak, but beside us walks the Strong One. We are powerless, but the right hand of power is stretched out on our behalf. There is saving strength in that right hand. It can ward off all dangers; it can protect us from all enemies; it can shield us in every time of need. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save.”