2 Kings 2:1
Shortly before the LORD took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal,
Sermons
The Chariot of FireAlexander Maclaren2 Kings 2:1
Preparative to TranslationJ. Orr 2 Kings 2:1-6
Parting VisitsC.H. Irwin 2 Kings 2:1-8
The Departure of Good MenD. Thomas 2 Kings 2:1-14
Elijah TranslatedH. Crosby, D. D.2 Kings 2:1-15
Elijah TranslatedMonday Club Sermons2 Kings 2:1-15
Elisha's Love for ElijahL. A. Banks, D. D.2 Kings 2:1-15
EvensongF. B. Meyer, B. A.2 Kings 2:1-15
Life's EventideF. S. Webster, M. A.2 Kings 2:1-15
The Ascension of ElijahCanon Hutchings, M. A.2 Kings 2:1-15
The Christian a Native of HeavenAlex. Maclaren, D. D.2 Kings 2:1-15
The Departure of Good MenHomilist2 Kings 2:1-15
The Translation of ElijahJ. Parker, D. D.2 Kings 2:1-15
Here, through the telescope of Scripture story, we are permitted to witness the closing scene of a great life. Let us draw near and look carefully at what happens there, for the like of it only happened once before - and of that we have little record - and it has never happened since. Only two men, Enoch and Elijah, went straight from earth to heaven without passing through the valley of death. It was true of Elijah as well as of Enoch, that "he walked with God." It is a solemn time, surely, in a man's life when he knows that his earthly journey is drawing to a close, that the shadows of death are closing in upon him, and that eternity is opening up before him. It is well for those who, like Elijah, are ready to depart. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." It is a solemn time, too, for those who are left behind. What anxious questioning! What possible doubts about the future! What eagerness to look behind the veil and penetrate the darkness which hides the loved one from our view! How happy those who by the eye of faith can see their departed ones entering through the gates into the city, to be forever with the Lord! It is quite evident that God had conveyed to Elijah some intimation of the fact that he was so soon to be taken away from earth. The sons of the prophets were aware of it, and Elisha knew it also. But Elijah seems to have felt no personal anxiety at the thought. Many hundred years after this, when John Knox - the Elijah of Scotland - was on his death-bed, he said to those who stood around him, "Oh, serve the Lord in fear, and death shall not be terrible unto you!" Something like this was Elijah's experience. He had been faithful to God's cause and commands during his life, and now he was not afraid that God would forsake him at its close. How, then, did Elijah spend the few hours that remained to him before he entered into the presence of his Maker? Some there are who would like to spend those hours in peaceful contemplation alone with God. Elijah was himself a man of contemplative disposition. He loved to he alone with God. His "soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." And yet, with all this, the active was stronger in him than the contemplative; or rather, the two were so well balanced that the one was a help to the other. From his hours of solitude and communion with God he drew inspiration and strength for his stern conflicts with men and sin. If he was a man of contemplation, he was also a man of action. And so we find him spending the greater part of his closing hours in busy activity and usefulness - visiting the schools of the prophets. Is there not a lesson here? Ought we not to imitate Elijah in redeeming the time, in working while it is day? Do you want to spend your last hours well! If so, you should spend everyday, as you would like to spend your last. One day a lady asked John Wesley how he would spend that day if he knew it was to be his last. She doubtless expected some rules for pious meditation and seclusion. His answer was, "Just, madam, as I intend to spend it;" and then he proceeded to tell her what his busy program of work was for the day. Oh, that we could all say that every day, that if it was to be our last we would spend it just as we intend to spend it! We ought to be able to say it, for any day may be our last. No doubt there are many whom God lays aside by age, or infirmity, or suffering for weeks, or months, or years before he calls them home. They cannot spend their closing hours in what is usually called work for Christ, though they may be really working for him by their patience in suffering, by their faith and hope, by their words of counsel to others. But so long as God gives us health and strength to work for him, then it is best to do as Elijah did - to live in harness to the last. Notice the scene of Elijah's dosing labors. He visited the schools of the prophets, the colleges or institutions where young men were trained for their future work of teaching others the truths of religion. It was amongst the young his last hours were spent. Elijah felt the importance of these colleges, he realized that the young were the hope of the Church. Hence he would devote to them his last, and probably his best, hours. He would give them words of counsel and exhortation - words that, under such circumstances, few of them would ever forget. There is a lesson here for us all. Parents need to realize more the importance of personally instructing their children. They need to take more interest in the kind of education they receive. They need to be more careful about the companions with whom they permit their children to associate. Not merely parents, but all members of the Christian Church, should take a deeper interest in the education of the young. How little our people know, as a rule, about our theological colleges! and how little encouragement do those laboring in them receive from the Church as a whole! Elijah's closing hours were spent in active work, and that active work consisted in visiting among the young. Such were his parting visits. - C.H.I.







And it came to pass when the Lord would take up Elijah.
I. In the glorious end of Elijah's earthly life we see not simply the reward of one faithful man, but the Divine grace manifested to every believer at the end of his earthly career. One of the purposes, doubtless, of this translation of Elijah was to make plainer to our dull understandings the upward heavenly going of every saint when his Work on earth is over. We are so apt to follow the body with our thoughts, and to imagine our departed friends in the grave, that here God made the body go upward that we may be weaned of this wrong and heathenish notion. To the spiritual mind the whole Old Testament is full of views of the future state; and this ascent of Elijah is one of the many instances in which we behold the immediate contiguity of heaven to earth in the experience of God's holy ones. When, therefore, we are called upon to bend over the mortal form of a departing saint, it is for us to feel how close at hand is the transfer to heaven. "The spiritual heaven is neither 'up' nor 'down,' and this narrative of Elijah's disappearance from Elisha must not be pressed. In reply to this we say that we can press it. We assert that "up" is always used in accordance with the need or weakness (if you please) of our nature to designate the heaven of the departed soul where it abides with God. This is but in conformity with the uni-verbal instinct of man. Why it should be so we cannot tell, nor are we called on to explain. The prophet Elijah ascending through the air teaches us of a present heaven to which his life was transferred. We cannot otherwise regard the incident. The mind refuses to see in it that he went into unconsciousness or annihilation or to purgatory or to hell. The "heaven" is not simply the outward heaven of sense, but the heaven of bliss and of God, just as in the case of our Lord Jesus who led His disciples out as far as to Bethany; and it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them and carded up into heaven.

2. "Elijah went up into heaven." It was Elijah that went up, not Ahab. It was a man of God, one who had been faithful to the Divine will and commands, one who had been jealous for God's name and worship. It is well for us to note this. Only God's saints go up to heaven. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Those who think God will or can take an unholy heart to heaven know nothing of God. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." While no man can derive these requisites from his nature, depraved as it is, he can receive the blessing of the clean hands and pure heart from the Lord, even righteousness from the God of his salvation.

(H. Crosby, D. D.)

"When the Lord would take up Elijah," — when. There is a great doctrine of Providence there. The life of man is absolutely at the disposal of the Lord — that is the doctrine. One might suppose that man would have some choice as to when he would go. Not the least in the world. We might think that man would be permitted to stay a year or two longer — he might be engaged in finishing a work which would require that time to complete it. No. Well, says one, I have built the column, and the capital is nearly ready to put on: I shall have it done the day after to-morrow — cannot I stay until then? No. "When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven"; not when Elijah would go, but when the Lord would take him. Is there not an appointed time unto man upon the earth? God knows when our work is done; sometimes we think it is done when it is not; we wonder what more there is to do to it, it seems so trifling, as if it were not worth while doing, reminding us of what the great sculptor said to some one who wondered that he was so long over his marble: "I know I am doing but a few things that look like trifles, but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." So with us: many a poor life we have seen seems to be doing nothing, and we wonder why it does not go forward into the eternal state. "When the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven." — What is heaven? Critics cannot tell us: they have met in council and can make nothing of it. We must die to know, It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive God's house. And so Elijah goes to Gilgal: it is set down here as if it meant nothing — on to Bethel and to Jericho, as if he were a restless kind of spirit, here and there, going on like some fussy old man who does not know where to rest. But there is plan here, purpose, scheme, Providence; and so there is in our travel and in our movements, "By a whirlwind." — There is a lesson here for us: and it is this. That the way of our going, as well as the time, is of the Lord's determination, and not of ours. He appoints the time, He makes the way, and thou hast nothing to do with it, poor dying man. One says, "I want to die on my birthday"; and God says, "No, perhaps the day after." Another says "I want to die suddenly"; and God replies, "No, that is not the way: it is in the book, it is all written down in the book: you are to have a lingering death." "I should like to die lingeringly, but quietly," says another man; and God says, "That is not the way in the book: suddenly a bolt shall strike thee: thou shalt go to bed well, and in the morning be in heaven, without pang or spasm or notice given to any one: they shall find thee sleeping on the pillow like a child at rest." Another man says, "I should like to die like a shock of corn fully ripe"; and God says, "No, thou shalt be cut down in the greenness of thy youth, in the immaturity of thy powers." There are others who would like to die in childhood — pass away before five, when the eyes are round wonders, and they know nowise of anything — when everything round about is mystery and puzzle and enchantment; and God says, "No, you shall die at ninety: it is all focussed, all settled." What have we to do, therefore? God allows us to express our own wishes and wills, He allows us to say what we would like to have done, and trains us to say, "Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine, be done." He sends for some in a beautiful chariot made of violets and snowdrops and crocuses, and these are the young folks that go up to heaven in the spring chariot: the vernal coach is sent for them and they go away — so young! They have just left school, just finished the last lesson, and shut it up, and said "Good-bye" to master and governess, and are supposed now to be ready for life; and God says, "Now, come up"; and they go up amid all the sweet modest spring flowers. And others go up in old age, feeling as if they had been forgotten on the earth, allowed to linger and loiter too long, as if God had forgotten them — some by long affliction, some by sudden call. Elijah did not say to Elisha, "I am going to die," Or "I am going to heaven," but, "I am going to Bethel — stand there." You know what we say to one another in view of the great event: we say, "If anything should happen to me" — a form of words we understand. We do not scene to be able to say plainly and with frankness, "Now, if I should die next week" No, but we say, "We do not know what may happen, and in the event of anything happening to me." We do not like to mention the monster, and to point a long plain finger into the pit, so we say, "If anything should happen to me — in the event of anything happening to me — going to Gilgal, and to Bethel, and to Jericho, and to Jordan, and" The rest is silence. That is the way in the chamber of affliction. We say, "If the wind would only get round out of the east and into the south.west, perhaps we should get you up a little." Never — and we know it. And our friend, unwilling to break our heart, says, "I have been thinking that if the weather were milder, I might perhaps be able to get out a little." Thus touch is not made to the quick; this man says he is going to Gilgal, and he knows he is going to heaven; he says he is going to Bethel, as if it were nothing — only going to pray with the young ones there, lie says he is going to Jericho, as if he is going to stop there — he knows perfectly well he win only be there one night; he is a pilgrim with a staff in his hand and cannot linger. He says he is going to Jordan, and he knows perfectly well that he will never come back over Jordan, but all the time he never says anything about it. So we let our friends down easily, and prepare them for great events by doing certain intermediate things. Elijah says, "Ask what I shall do for thee." Heaven is so near, yet he is still thinking about the earth: he is going to join the angels, and yet wanting to do something for the poor creatures yet to linger upon the earth for ten or twenty years. Oh, bold man, bold, bold Elijah! "Ask what I shall do for thee." Leave me a blessing, leave me one of your old letters, let me have your old Bible: utter one more prayer for me, mention me in the last prayer, let the last sigh mean poor me — me — me. Ay, we can help one another in that way. "Ask what I shall do for thee." Now, what is your supreme prayer? What do you want your father, mother, friend, to leave you? Let them leave you a good example, let them leave you a noble testimony on behalf of the truth, let them leave you an unsullied character, and then they will leave you an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. "If thou see me." And Elisha said, "I will see thee, if it be possible; I will keep my eye upon thee." And did God ever disappoint the eyes that were turned upwards? Did lie ever say, "The morning shall not shine upon those who look towards the east"? Never. And so if you look into the perfect law of liberty — look into the Bible, you will find it always new, always a revelation, always something fresh — May bringing its own flowers, June her own coronal ever, August its own largess of vine and wheat. "If thou see me." Is there any counterpart to that in the New Testament? There is: O wonderful counterpart, — "If thou see Me, thou shalt have it, if not, it shall not be so." "And He led them" — that greater He — "led them out as far as to Bethany." And He ascended, and they watched Him and saw Him, and a cloud received Him up out of their sight. They watched, they saw, they returned to Jerusalem, and were endued with power from on high. That is God's law, that the watching man gets everything, the man who is nearest and looks keenest gets all and sees all — and it is right. The mountain gets the first gleam of the sun, and then the light gets down into the valleys by and by. And so — and so — these great rocks of God are watching men: Elisha was a watching spirit: those who see Christ taken up are endued with power from on high. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; look, and ye shall see; knock, and it shall be opened. Sir Isaac Newton was once asked why he was so much greater than other workers in his particular science. He said, "I do not know, except that I, perhaps, pay more attention than they do!" Just consider. What is attention? We think anybody can attend. Hardly a man in a hundred can attend to anything. The sluggard gets nothing, the shut eyes see not the morning when it cometh, the slumberer's closed vision cannot see the first sparklings and scintillations of the coming day. Lord, open our eyes, that we may see!

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Monday Club Sermons.
The translation of Elijah means more than an historic statement. The theme is concerned with the great scriptural doctrine of immortality, in whose light we consider it. Observe —

I. THE DUAL NATURE OF MAN. This truth is directly implied in the account of the Creation. The bodily form was made "of the dust of the ground"; but when the "Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, man became a living soul." It is of this dual nature Paul speaks, "there is a natural body and there is a spiritual body; howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural." A denial of this fact asserts that man is on a level with the brutes. The more common belief, however, asserts the existence of the two natures, yet clings to the idea that, somehow, the two are interdependent. This idea is unscriptural, since, in such a case, death could not be a gain. The spiritual body controls the material and earthly, but is not controlled by it.

II. FLESH AND BLOOD ARE NOT IMMORTAL. The apostle calls this the corruptible body, and then declares that corruption cannot inherit incorruption; that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. What is perishable cannot enter heaven.

III. THE NATURE AND MINISTRY OF DEATH. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"; this is the sad history. "The sting of death is sin"; this is the law. In the translation of Elijah we behold what would, perhaps, be the type of death but for sin; but, aside from such a consideration, we turn to a few important lessons in the scene.

1. The power of the human purpose to perpetuate itself. It is in this manner we see the power of Elijah in his care for the schools of the prophets. These organisations were to continue, after his departure, what his unwearied efforts had begun. "I am left alone," was his early cry; yet when upon the cloud of flame he ascended, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, with their throngs of prophets, were left. The theocracy which, in spite of Ahab and Jezebel, he had founded was perpetuated in these schools. There is a future for all men on the earth if they will only plan wisely. As Elijah had been the founder and defender of the faith, so did he become, by these centres, the conserver of that same faith.

2. The unwearied activity of the good man. The true life has no spare hours apart from its purpose. It was "as they still went on and talked" that the chariot came. The last hours were as full of service as if no change were coming. The invisible world needed no further special thought.

3. The immortal life. The history of Carmel's prophet seems hardly complete without the scene on Hermon. A thousand years had passed since the chariot of fire swept the sky. The three favoured disciples had fallen asleep even in their Master's prayer. Nought but that wondrous voice broke in upon the stillness of night. By some revelation the disciples caught the accents of the heavenly visitors. The one, fifteen hundred years before, had trodden the crest of Sinai and spoken face to face with God. It was he who had surrendered his claim to Egypt's crown for the reproach of Christ. It was he whose face had shone with a borrowed glory he wist not of.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

Homilist.
Two subjects are here presented for notice —

I. THE DEPARTURE OF A GOOD MAN FROM THE EARTH. Death is a departure from the world, it is not an extinction, it is a mere change of place.

II. THE POWER OF GOODNESS IN A GOOD MAN'S DEPARTURE. See what a grand spirit Elijah displays in the immediate prospect of his exit.

1. A spirit of calm self-possession.

2. A spirit of strong social interest.

3. A spirit of far-reaching philanthropy.Elijah goes to Bethel, but wherefore? Probably to deliver a valedictory address to the "sons of the prophets."

(Homilist.)

A Christian man's true affinities are with the things not seen, and with the persons there, however the surface relationships knit him to the earth. In the degree in which he is a Christian, he is a stranger here and a native of the heavens. That great city is, like some of the capitals of Europe, built on a broad river, with the mass of the metropolis on the one bank, but a wide-spreading suburb on the other. As the Trastevere is to Rome, as Southwark to London, so is earth to heaven, the bit of the city on the other side the bridge.

(Alex. Maclaren, D. D.)

Here is a man on the borders of heaven. He is living in intimate fellowship with God. Of each step in that last journey he can say: "The Lord hath sent me." Enoch, the first to be translated, "walked with God." Elijah most clearly did the same. So St. Paul says: "If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit"; or, literally, "let us also step in the Spirit." Not merely the walk as a whole, but each successive step should be in fellowship with God. Nothing short of this can be adequate preparation for such a change. Surely if we knew the Lord was coming for us in a few days, those days would be days of infinite and unbroken fellowship; there would be no hours out of touch with the Master. We ought when thus in perfect fellowship to be able to say of each step, "The Lord hath sent me." But this man on the borders of heaven, is found in a retired spot and seeks to be alone. We find him with Elisha at Gilgal, probably the "Gilgal beside the oaks of Moreh," mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:30, R.V. There he proposes to leave Elisha whilst he journeys alone to Bethel. We can understand his desire for solitude. And he has no wish to parade his approaching honour. He will not talk about it to Elisha; and Elisha refuses to discuss it with the sons of the prophets. This man on the borders of heaven, is full of a genuine humility. No traces of self are seen in him during this last journey. There was a sweet attractiveness, however, about this grand old warrior. Elisha felt it, and refused to leave him. Who shall say how far Elisha's brightness and buoyancy were the reflection of the glorious sunset, without clouds, which closed the earthly course of this truehearted veteran. But, again, this man on the borders of heaven takes an interest in his stewardship. There were schools for the sons of the prophets at both Bethel and Jericho. Elijah's Steps were no doubt guided to these places that he might leave at each a parting message of counsel and direction. He who said, "Occupy till I come," is not pleased if His servants neglect the work entrusted to them. Nor, however, should we be so engrossed in our work as to forget His promised return. Once more this man on the borders of heaven has no thought of his own needs, but is only anxious to leave a blessing behind. "Ask what I shall do for thee, before" — mark the limitation: Elijah knew his power of helping those on earth would cease when his life in the body was ended — "before I be taken away from thee." And this desire of Elijah's was fulfilled. He was staggered first of all at the boldness of Elisha's request. Most truly, Elijah left a blessing behind him. The sons of the prophets were forced to acknowledge, "The spirit of Eli]ah doth rest on Elisha." And nine hundred years afterwards the angel Gabriel could say no greater word concerning the promised forerunner than that be should "go before in the spirit and power of Elijah to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." And the very blessing which Elijah left behind him we may have. The Lord God of Eli]ah has not changed. Surely, as the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and the promise, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord," receives its fulfilment, we may look for an increase of the "spirit" and power of Elijah in our midst. Men say, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." But this is the cynical pessimism of an unbelieving age. Really good men never die. Their influence lives; they reproduce themselves in those around them. Judged by earthly standards, Elijah's career might seem almost a failure, for his chief public triumph was so soon discounted by unbelieving flight. But the man is more than his ministry. Character is more than success.

(F. S. Webster, M. A.)

There is always something beautiful in the declining years of one who in earlier life has dared nobly and wrought successfully. Younger men gather round the veteran to whom they owe the inspiration and model of their lives; and call him "father," enwreathing his grey locks with crowns in which love is entwined with reverence. Seeds sown years before and almost forgotten, or reckoned lost, yield their golden returns. Memory rescues from the oblivion of the past many priceless records; whilst hope, standing before the thinning veil, tells of things not perfectly seen as yet, but growing on the gaze of the ripened spirit. The old force still gleams in the eye; but its rays are tempered by that tenderness for human frailty, and that deep self-knowledge, which years alone can yield.

I. THE WORK OF THE CLOSING YEARS OF ELIJAH'S LIFE. The Christian traveller among the Western Isles of Scotland will hardly fail to visit one small, bare, lone spot out amid the roll of the Atlantic waves. It is thy shore, Ions, of which I write! No natural beauties arrest the eye or enchain the interest. There is but one poor village, with its two boats, and a squalid population. Yet who can visit that low shore, and stand amid those crumbling ruins, without intense emotion? — since it was there that Columba built the first Christian church, to shed its gentle rays over those benighted regions; and to shelter the young apostles who carried the Gospel throughout the pagan kingdoms of Northern Britain. With similar emotions should we stand amid the ruins of Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho; where, in his declining years, Elijah gathered around him the flower of the seven thousand, and educated them to receive and transmit something of his own Spiritual force and fire.

II. THE ATTITUDE OF HIS SPIRIT IN ANTICIPATING HIS TRANSLATION. The old man clung to those young hearts, and felt that his last days could not be better spent than in seeing them once more; though he resolved to say nothing of his approaching departure, or of the conspicuous honour that was shortly to be conferred on him. Here is the humility of true greatness! Alas! what a rebuke is here for ourselves! The prophet's trident desire to die alone shames us, when we remember how eager we are to tell men, by every available medium, of what we are doing for the Lord. There is not a talent with which He entrusts us, which we do not parade as a matter of self-laudation. There is not a breath of success that does not mightily puff us up. What wonder that our Father dare not give us much marked success, or many conspicuous spiritual endowments — lest we be tempted further to our ruin!

III. THE AFFECTIONATE LOVE WITH WHICH ELIJAH WAS REGARDED. It strongly showed itself in Elisha. The younger man stood with his revered leader, as for the last time he surveyed from the heights of Western Gilgal the scene of his former ministry. And, in spite of many persuasives to the contrary, he went with him down the steep descent to Bethel and Jericho. What is the Lord to thee? Is He a dear and familiar friend, of whom thou canst speak with unwavering confidence? Then thou needest not fear to tread the verge of Jordan. Otherwise, it becomes thee to get to His precious blood, and to wash thy garments white; that thou mayest have right to the tree of life, and mayest enter in through the gates into the city.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

I. THE TYPE.

1. The last intercourse between Elijah and Elisha is hardly what we should have expected. Elijah knew that he was about to leave Elisha, but almost seems to act with coldness towards him, and to want to throw him off. Elisha had left all to follow Elijah, to be his disciple and attendant.

2. It was a-mark of lowliness in the prophet. He was to be honoured by God in a most marvellous manner, and he shrank even from Elisha's witness of the great event. The law of the spiritual life, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," even then held good.

3. Further, it might have been to test Elisha, his affection, and his detachment. It would seem that there was something which governed Elijah's request, though he does not reveal the motive of it. The strong asseveration, too, of Elijah, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee," repeated thrice, shows how Elijah's proposal had stirred the depths of Elisha's soul.

4. The repeated suggestion that he should depart reveals the perseverance of Elisha. It gave to his will the opportunity of exercising steadfastness and constancy. In this mysterious intercourse we see how graces were set in motion and developed. The crossing of Jordan seems to have been the acme of Elisha's probation; for now Elijah turns to him, and makes a proposal of a very different kind, "Ask what I shall do for thee," etc.

5. Then Elisha is ready with the petition, "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."

II. THE ANTITYPE.

1. There are two ways of approaching the mysteries of Christ — one direct, the other indirect. One through the Gospels, thee other through the types and prophecies of the Old Testament. Besides these, there is the road of experience in the Epistles.

2. We take now the indirect route. We find in this narrative, first, a type of Christ's ascension into heaven. Of the points of resemblance between the two events, no unbiased mind could doubt. Even Scott says it was "a prefiguration of the Redeemer's ascension". In both cases there was the miraculous elevation of a human body from earth to heaven. Both had to be seen, to secure a gift.

3. But it is a law of the antitype to outstrip the type. Christ was self-raised. He who by His Divine power could walk on the water, could mount up into the air.

III. LESSONS.

1. "Exception proves the rule." Let the exemption of Elijah from the law of death remind us that we have to pass through the dark valley, and must prepare for the journey; for "what man is he that shall live, and shall not see death, that shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?" (Psalm 89:48, R.V.).

2. Dispositions are necessary for receiving spiritual gifts — the lowliness, detachment, steadfastness to be traced in the last intercourse between Elijah and Elisha, bear witness to this.

3. To approach the mysteries of Christ through the types of the Old Testament, seeing in them how all leads up to Him, and that therefore the disparagement of the Old Testament cannot but end in an under-valuation of the New (Luke 24:44).

(Canon Hutchings, M. A.)

The length of our lives in this world is in the hand of God. We have no independent lease of life, so that we may decide of our own accord that we will remain for a year, or ten, or twenty years on earth. We have only a lease at the will of God. All the physicians in the world could not insure our fives for a single year-nay, not for a single month, or even a single day. Elijah went when God called him. The record does not say that when Elijah saw that his work was done he decided that it was time for him to go home to heaven; there is nothing of that kind. It is, "When the Lord would take up Elijah to heaven." God decided the matter. This thought ought to give us pause. He ought not to leave undone from one day to another what we would wish to do if we knew this day was the last, for we do not know that God intends to give us another day. Each day ought to see all our affairs in such a condition that we are all right with God and man if this day is the last, for our lives are just as certainly at the disposal of God as was Elijah's, and we have no power that Elijah did not have to stay the hand of God when He would call us away. There is another thought which stands in the introduction to our theme which is very comforting and very precious, and that is the plain statement that God took Elijah direct to heaven. All the good are there, gathered from all ages and from all lands. It is a land of innocence and beauty, of love and worship; a land of music and of light, where the weary find rest, where heroic souls like Elijah's sun themselves in the presence of God. It was Elijah's last day on the earth. Elijah knew it, and said nothing to Elisha. The old man's heart was tender towards the young man, and he was willing to spare himself the sorrow of parting as well as to spare Elisha if he could. But Elisha, too, had in some way been made aware that this was the day when Elijah would be taken from him. What thoughts must have filled the minds of the two men as they walked along the way on that momentous day. Perhaps they were very silent. Elijah's mind must have been full of the past. And Elisha — what is he thinking of? How keenly he remembers that morning on his father's farm, when Elijah came to him with the call of God; how well he remembers the farewell feast, and the tender parting with his parents, and his going forth with Elijah, who during all the years since that time has been to him not only teacher and leader, but father, and mother, friend, and in some sense in the place of God. Elijah has stood to him as the very incarnation of goodness, a goodness that is sustained by unwavering faith in God; and Elisha loves this man with a love in which admiration and reverence and devotion are mingled. His whole heart has gone out to him. His worship of God has seemed akin to his love for Elijah. As he has lived with Elijah he has daily come to know more of God, and the more he has loved Elijah the deeper has been his devotion to God, and he can hardly think what life will mean without Elijah present with him — to sustain him and inspire him. All must have been in his heart as he answered Elijah, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." There may well have been more than a present application to these words of Elisha. Elisha remained true to them after the death of Elijah; in heart and spirit he was never separated from his great friend and leader; throughout his life he remained true to Elijah, to his goodness, to his faith in God, to his heroic purpose, and to his lofty ideals. Now what message may we draw from the loyalty and love of this young man towards the older man? Should it not suggest to us that supreme love and devotion which we should show towards Jesus Christ our Saviour? True it is only a faint illustration, for Jesus has done infinitely more for us than Elijah did for Elisha. Elijah did not die for Elisha, but because he had by his goodness, by his obedience to God, and by his faithful affection, called Elisha to be God's servant and son, Elijah loved him thus devotedly and was determined to cling to him for ever. What, then, shall we say of the proper devotion which we should feel and show towards Jesus Christ? Elisha not only remained with Elijah because of the tenderest considerations of love and fidelity, but because he felt that every moment he had with Elijah was precious, and only by imitating Elijah would he be able to do the great work awaiting him. A still nobler Elijah stands as our example. And both these considerations appeal to us, for surely every moment we spend with Jesus is precious. Every hour which you will spend reading about Jesus, talking about Him, meditating upon Him, or praying to Him will Be an hour of infinite value to you. Not only so, but as Elisha got his strength largely from his fellowship with Elijah in their common faith in God, so we are strong as we keep close to Jesus Christ. I would like to emphasise this message to all who have recently given themselves to the service of Christ. The secret of a growing Christian character, the secret of strength and steadiness in the Christian life, is to persistently keep close to Jesus Christ. Elijah could not remain with Elisha, but Jesus comes to us in the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort our hearts.

(L. A. Banks, D. D.)

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