The Will of an Outcast: Chapter 3

2 Kings 2:1‑11  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
2 Kings 2:1-111And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el. 3And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 4And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. 5And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 6And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. 7And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. 8And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. 9And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. 11And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:1‑11)
Have you made your will? What do you have to give to your loved ones? In our minds let’s go together to a hospital where a man is dying. On the bed lies a poor homeless man, alone in the world, possessing nothing but the ragged, tattered clothes which he wore as he tramped the muddy roads or slept under a bridge or in an abandoned building.
The man is dying; let him make his will. Do you say he cannot do it? The poor man has nothing to leave but his wretched clothes; no one can hope to get much from that man’s death.
Yet this chapter is about a will, the will of an outcast — a man who was homeless and nearly friendless, whose shelter was a cave, and who for years had wandered about like a tramp from place to place. He has no houses or lands or money, yet he makes his will. He had no children, yet he leaves an inheritance to one who calls him father. He is a penniless man, yet he leaves behind a priceless possession.
That old man and the young one who calls him father may be seen walking side by side, coming out of that little village of Gilgal. They are walking together down the stony road that leaves Gilgal on the south and runs northwest towards Jerusalem.
Who are they? The younger one is Elisha, the servant, who for seven years has been pouring water on the hands of his master and waiting on him in various ways. He is a young, strong, active man, just starting on the battle of life, just beginning to run the race, just taking up the service of Jehovah. There is indeed plenty of promise in young Elisha.
And by his side we see the old prophet of God, the tried and proven servant of Jehovah, ready now to be called up to meet his Master.
There is a striking contrast between those two, the master and the servant. Elijah, the master, a rugged, strangely dressed man, attracts the notice of all who pass him on the road while Elisha, the servant, neatly dressed with smooth, well-shorn hair and beard has nothing peculiar in his appearance to make others notice him.
But, if there was a contrast in their personal appearance, there was surely a still more marked contrast in their character: Elijah, the master, is bold, stern, unflinching and uncompromising; Elisha, the servant, is gentle, loving, meek and tender-hearted.
Their natural characters were opposite to each other, but oh, how they loved each other! Often we admire in others those characteristics which we do not ourselves possess. While Elijah and Elisha were utterly different, the tie between them was a very strong one, and the love between them had grown and strengthened during those seven years of companionship.
For seven years Elisha had been the faithful servant and friend of the old prophet. He had shared all his wanderings; he had listened to all his anxieties; he had borne, for his sake, hunger and weariness and care; he had suffered much in his behalf, and all this had only made him love his master the more tenderly. There had been terrible times for Elisha during those seven years. When God had sent Elijah into Naboth’s vineyard to speak the doom of the wicked Ahab, oh, how Elisha must have trembled for his dear friend’s safety! Cannot you picture him hidden away in a cave on the hillside, hardly able to breathe till Elijah came back in safety? Yes, they had weathered many a storm together, those two, master and servant.
But now the end is drawing near. The time has come when Elijah and Elisha must part, when the hearts so closely bound together in love and friendship must be severed. And they know it. As they walk out of Gilgal that day, they know that the parting is drawing near.
As the master and the servant leave the gate of Gilgal and as they are walking down the rough road, Elijah suddenly stops. As he stands still, his eyes would rest upon the scene of his old labors. Mount Carmel, Samaria and Jezreel lie before him, and he looks upon them for the last time. Then, turning to Elisha, his faithful servant and friend, he says, “Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel.”
It is eight miles from Gilgal to Bethel. The road first goes down a steep hill into a long valley or narrow gorge between the hills, which runs on for four miles, as far as an ancient spring now named “The Robbers’ Well.” So far the road is comparatively easy, but from that spot there is no road, save the rocky bed of a dried-up river, until the foot of the hill, on which Bethel stands, is reached. So, says Elijah, “tarry here, Elisha, while I go along this rugged, toilsome path to Bethel.”
But it seems to me that while his mouth said, “Tarry,” his heart said, “Come.” He said it simply as a test of his young friend’s willingness to follow his master. He felt he was drawing near the most solemn moment in his life, and his human soul must surely have longed for sympathy and companionship. Anyhow, Elisha answered at once, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”
It was well he went, for, oh, how terrible would have been Elisha’s loss if he had stayed behind!
So they went down to Bethel, along the valley and across the rough watercourse, a long, weary way. Yet I doubt if the eight miles seemed long to Elisha: Every moment with his master was precious; every word he spoke was treasured in his faithful servant’s memory.
But I do not think they talked much as they went along. Elijah was drawing very near the end of his life on earth, and he knew it. Elisha was losing the friend who was to him as a father, and he knew it too. And at such times we cannot talk much; the heart is too full for words.
Who are these coming out of Bethel to meet them? Down the hill come a company of young men, students in one of the colleges which had been established by the prophet Samuel in the land for training young men for the service of Jehovah. These colleges had been visited from time to time by the prophet Elijah, and he was well-known to all the students. They come up to the two travelers as they begin to climb the hill. To the old man they say nothing, but they look at him, maybe, with awestruck faces. Then, drawing the young Elisha aside, they whisper to him, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” And he said, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.” It was as if he would say, “He is going away from me; I know it only too well. There is no need to remind me of it; hold your peace.”
The young students draw back, and the two pass on together. As they leave Bethel, the old man once more turns to his young servant. Elijah said unto him, “Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho.” Did he speak thus just to draw out the loving tender reply, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee”?
As they near Jericho, the city of palm trees, once more young students are seen coming out to meet them, for there is another school of the prophets in that place. Elisha sees them; he knows they are expecting them; he knows before they speak what they are going to say.
Yes, there it is again, the same whispered question, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” and once more, the sorrowful Elisha answers, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.”
Leaving the city of palm trees, once more Elijah speaks to the faithful soul by his side and says to him, “Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan.” And a third time the faithful Elisha replies, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.”
And they two went on. They two. How many a road had they two traveled side by side! But this was their last walk together. Soon, very soon, Elijah would be gone, and Elisha would have to travel alone. Very quietly, very solemnly, they two went on together.
Seven miles lie between Jericho and the Jordan River, yet they two still went on, mile after mile, till at last the waters of the river are heard in the distance. It is a hot, tiring walk; there is no shade, there is not a breath of wind. They are walking on heavy, loose sand, which is hot and burning beneath their feet, while the air is filled with fine particles of salt blown from the Dead Sea, which cause thirst to the throat and pain to the eyes of the travelers. But what cares Elisha for the heat or the dust or the salt, if only he can be near his beloved master a little longer?
At length the two reach the river. Breaking their way through the tall reeds and rich undergrowth, they stand on the bank of that river which for 3000 years has been a picture of death. Rapidly, fiercely, the muddy river rushes along at their feet, but Elijah is not to struggle through the deep, dark waters of death, and therefore he will not have to stem the current of Jordan, the current of death.
Taking off his rough sheepskin cloak, he rolls it together like a miraculous staff, and he smites with it the rushing river. At once the waters divide, a path opens through it, and they two pass over on dry ground.
Now the old man feels that his last hour on earth is come; he is nearly home. By faith he can see in the distance the fair city of God waiting to receive him; he can almost hear the shouts of welcome of those who are coming out to meet him. Only a few more earthly steps have to be taken before his feet leave this earth to be with his Master.
Now he breaks the long, solemn silence, and turning to Elisha he says to him, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.”
It is as if he would say, “You have been a faithful servant to me, Elisha; nay, you have been more than a servant — you have been a son. You have ministered to me for seven years, you have loved me with true and faithful love, you have comforted and cheered me at all times. And now I am going to leave you. What shall I give you? How can I reward you? Ask what I shall do for you before I be taken away from you.”
Elisha answers at once; he has one wish, and one wish only, in his heart: “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.”
When a Jewish father left his property to be divided among his children, each son had a share, but the firstborn had a double portion, twice as much as any of the rest. And this is just what Elisha asks for. He does not ask to have twice as much of the Spirit of God as rested upon his master, but he pleads for the firstborn’s share, the double portion, the special inheritance of the eldest son.
And Elijah said, “Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.”
Then they walked on, their last walk, and they talked on, their last talk. And as they walked and as they talked, the parting came. There appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire and parted them both asunder. Thus were the two friends divided. Then came a whirlwind, and in the tempest this grand prophet went up to heaven.
But he left a legacy. Penniless and childless, a homeless outcast though he was, he left a legacy to one who called him father, even to the young Elisha, and that legacy was the most valuable thing in the world to Elisha.
It was a twofold legacy. There were two things left to Elisha: his master’s spirit and his master’s work. Without the spirit he could not possibly do the work; having the spirit, he had untold riches, and the most difficult task was easy to him. Now he could go forth and could carry on the glorious work for God which Elijah had begun.
Nearly two thousand years ago, a little group of men, on the Mount of Olives, saw a sight as wonderful as that which Elisha saw. They were gathered around their Master, who was dearer to them than Elijah was to Elisha. He was saying His last words to them, when suddenly He was parted from them; He rose higher and higher into the blue sky until a cloud received Him out of their sight, and He was taken noiselessly, quietly, peacefully, up into heaven.
But He left behind Him a legacy, a double legacy. He left it to the company of disciples who saw Him ascend, but, thank God, He left it not only to them, but to the church of God in all ages.
What was the twofold legacy which Christ left to His people? He left them His Spirit and His work.
And that legacy is the inheritance of each one who is a servant of Christ. The legacy has been left to each of us. The question is, Have we received it?
The postman leaves a letter at our door, which tells us that a legacy of $10,000 has been left to us and instructs us to apply at a certain place where the money will be handed over to us. That money is left to us, but we must apply for it before we can receive it.
God’s letter is in our hands today, His Word of truth. In it we read of the Lord’s legacy, left to us. Have we ever applied for it? Have we ever received it?
Have we received Christ as our Saviour and received the first part of the legacy, the Spirit of God? Are we sealed and filled with the Spirit? Is the Spirit moving us, strengthening us, filling us with divine power?
And what about the work? What are we doing for the Master? Are we carrying on His work? Are we day by day serving Him and toiling for Him?
No one can be poor who has such a glorious legacy. His Spirit must make us rich; His work must make us happy. Have we claimed the legacy? Or does the Lord say to us today, as He said to His disciples, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full”?