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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:A Double Portion
Text:2 Kings 2:1-18 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faithfulness rewarded

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


A Double Portion”

2 Kings 2:1-18
Elisha was called by God to take on the ministry that Elijah had begun. It was an enormous task. Elijah was the one who proved the power of God on Mount Carmel as fire from heaven came by Elijah’s request and ignited the alter that had been doused with water three times over. Elijah was the one who confronted wicked King Ahab head on. The Lord had even given Elijah power to raise a widow’s son from death.
What would Elisha need in order to fill such a high calling? Would it be imperative for him to be a great orator calling Israel back to the Lord? Would the success of his ministry rely on his ability to be witty and clever, winning the Israelites over with his personality?
Not at all. Instead, in this passage we see three characteristics that were vital for Elisha to have as he carried on the ministry of the Lord that Elijah had begun.
The first characteristic we see is the steadfast perseverance of Elisha to continue on with Elijah in the ministry that God had given to them. I’m sure you noticed that three times over Elijah urged Elisha to stay where he was as Elijah continued on. In verse 2, Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” In verse 4, Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” And, in verse 6, Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
Yet each time Elisha proved that he would be faithful to the calling that was put before him. Three times over Elisha responded to Elijah by saying, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”
Commentators are not in full agreement as to why Elijah tried three successive times to get Elisha to stay behind and not follow him. But most see it as a test for Elisha. Elisha knew how hard it was to be a prophet of the Lord in Israel. He knew about the ascetic life that Elijah had often lived, at one time being fed by ravens, on another occasion living with a widow whose jar of oil and jar of flour, by God’s gracious provision, never ran out. In contrast to such a hard life Elisha (as we saw this morning) came from a wealthy family and certainly was used to a full provision of material blessings.
He also knew about the unbelief of the Israelites who were at Mount Carmel. They didn’t believe that God would bring fire on the altar that Elijah had poured bucket after bucket of water upon. And Elisha certainly knew of the threats on Elijah’s life. After the Lord answered Elijah’s prayer on Mount Carmel and brought fire on the altar, Elijah used the opportunity to put to death the priests of Baal. Wicked Queen Jezebel, filled with fury, put out a warrant for Elijah. She said, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2)
Now each time that Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel, or to Jericho or to the Jordan,” it gave Elisha an opportunity to back out of the ministry the Lord had given to him. It was a test of faith, a test of his commitment. Would he really go on with Elijah in whatever lay ahead? Or would he stay on safe ground, or even turn back?
Three times over the Lord asked Peter, “Simon son of John (Peter), do you love me?” And three times over Peter replied in the affirmative. Here, too, Elisha has been put to the test. Does he really love the Lord and his kingdom so much that he will leave all? Will he be wholeheartedly committed and faithful? It was a test of his faith. And at many times we also face a test of our faith. Circumstances arise giving us the option to be silent when we should speak up, or to backslide in our conduct instead of going forward in steps of faith. At those times, may you and I follow the good example of Elisha, who three times over voiced his trust in the Lord,  “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”
The Double Portion
A second key to Elisha's ministry is that he requested the most important blessing. When Elijah asked Elisha, in verse 9, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” Elisha replied. “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit...”
By asking for this blessing, Elisha shows his complete dependence upon the Lord. By asking for a double portion of the spirit that Elijah had, Elisha was acknowledging his own emptiness and his own need to be filled with God’s Spirit for the work that lay before him.
In some ways, Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit is similar to the request of Solomon that God would grant him wisdom. Both requests show that a person is not centered on themselves, but on how they can most profitably serve the Lord and his people. Both requests show a recognition that we need the wisdom and Spirit of God – we need to be equipped by God himself – to do the work that he sets before each one of us as we live our lives of faith and obedience.
Both responses also present a challenge to us as well. If we were asked what we would like as our inheritance, what would we ask for? For money? For land and houses? For all that is material? Or given that option, would you and I ask for the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in an ever greater measure? Would we ask for an ever increasing measure of God’s wisdom from his word?
You may have noticed that Elisha seemed taken back by the request. In verse 10 he says, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
Elijah recognized that this request was something beyond what he could grant. The giving of God’s Holy Spirit is by God’s sovereign grace. The grace of God could not be given by Elijah; he could only proclaim that grace to others and encourage them to look to the one true God revealed in Scripture. But he could not give grace to anyone, just as you and I cannot give grace to anyone but are to proclaim God’s grace, and the need to repent and believe in him, both with our words and by the way we live our lives.
It is Christ alone who graciously provides salvation for us and grants us the privilege of service within his kingdom. Elijah recognized that truth. He recognized that he could not give what Elisha requested. He recognized that God alone, in grace, could bestow the double portion of the spirit within him upon Elisha.
Faith in the God of Elijah
A third response that Elisha had to receiving the mantle – or ministry of Elijah – is that he approached the ministry given to him with the same faith of Elijah. Elijah had told Elisha that he would inherit a double portion of his spirit if Elisha could see Elijah when he was taken from him. Verse 12 describes how Elisha saw Elijah taken up into heaven in a whirlwind and a chariot of fire, and he cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
The tearing of his cloak reflects sorrow, on the one hand, but it also symbolized how Elisha was leaving the past to carry on the ministry of Elijah. He tore his own robe but then in verse 13, he picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Verse 14 describes how he took that cloak of Elijah's and struck the water with it, asking, “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”
He struck the water in faith, trusting that just as the Lord had divided the waters of the Jordan River for Elijah, he would do the same for Elisha. We are to have that same faith, that for the sake of Christ the waters of the River Jordan, symbolic of death, will be parted for us, so that through saving faith in Christ we, too, will ascend into glory.
We are to take great comfort in the biblical truth address by the Heidelberg Catechism in question 49, “How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?”
Answer: First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven  –  a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven.
Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
Joy and Sorrow
How else can we apply this unique section of God’s word to your life and to mine this evening? We see, first, as Elisha tore his robe apart when he saw Elijah carried off into heaven, that the loss of a loved one from this earth, even when we know they are in heaven, yet brings great sorrow.
We have seen that the tearing of the cloak symbolized the end of one chapter in Elisha’s life and the beginning of another. But it also reminds us that even though we know that our loved ones are in the glory of heaven, and that every tear has been wiped from their eyes, and that they now see the Lord face to face, we yet grieve, though not as those who have no hope.
I knew a dear elderly lady who always told us that when she died she wanted everyone in the church to celebrate with a great party. She made it sound as though we should party as though she was having another birthday instead of as though she had died. And we all understood what she meant. Scripture says that it is better by far to depart and be with Christ than to remain in this sin stained world. We do rejoice that our loved ones are drawn to heaven, are in the presence of Christ and not in the suffering of this life.
We take comfort in all those truths, just as Elisha undoubtedly had comfort and joy, as well as awe and wonder, as he saw Elijah taken to glory in the chariot of fire. But we still have grief when a loved one is taken from us. Even though their soul ascends into heaven to await the resurrection of their body when Jesus Christ returns in glory, we are yet reminded at every funeral that the wages of sin is death, even as we are also reminded that the gift of God is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:23)
No matter how we try to gloss over death, even at the open casket where so many will remark how good the deceased look, we cannot escape the sorrow that death brings. Jesus shared that sorrow as he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. The Bible never tells us that we are not to grieve at the passing of a loved one, but rather 1 Thessalonians 4:13 tells us that we are not to grieve like the rest of people who have no hope.
God’s Preparation Process
Another application in this chapter is that we see how God prepared Elisha, and prepares us, to serve Him in the everyday experiences of life. Those of you who were here this morning remember that we initially looked at the passing of the mantle from Elijah to Elisha back in 1 Kings 19. Close to a decade seems to have passed. In the closing chapters of 1 Kings and in the opening chapter of 2 Kings – four separate chapters of Scripture – we read nothing about Elisha whatsoever. Yet we can be sure that God was at work in Elisha’s life preparing him to carry on the ministry of Elijah.
The Lord was not necessarily using spectacular events to prepare Elisha for the future, but God was preparing him, both in the trials of life and in the mundane experiences of life, for the work and witness God had in store for him in the future. We get a glimpse of that in the next chapter where 2 Kings 3:11 describes how Elisha used to pour water on the hands of Elijah. The footnote in the NIV says, “that is, he was Elijah’s personal servant.” The Lord may not have used spectacular events to prepare Elisha for service in the future, yet God most assuredly did prepare him through the everyday events of his life, just as the Lord prepares you and me through the everyday events of our lives to minister to others.
As an example, consider 1 Corinthians 1:3-4, where the Apostle writes, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
In the everyday events of our lives we sometimes wonder why God allows us to experience trouble, trials and hardship. We would much rather have God work through the spectacular to prepare us to minister his comfort and encouragement to others. But who is of the most comfort to you when you face a diagnosis of cancer? Or your spouse, who you thought would be ever faithful, leaves? Or the employment that you thought was so secure suddenly ends, taking you by complete surprise? Or a dear loved one dies?
Is it the person who has had good health throughout their life, or the person who has battled cancer and knows what it’s like to be exhausted from the chemotherapy and radiation, who is the most help? If your marriage is filled with heartbreak, who can minster to you most effectively?  Isn’t it often the person who has gone through what you are going through and knows the comfort of God? Such a person is often used by God to build you and your spouse up, bringing reconciliation.
And who can best encourage you when out of the blue your employer tells you that you are dismissed and out of work? The person who will be of greatest encouragement is the person who has experienced similar trials and troubles and hardships. And the same is true if you should lose your spouse or parents, or a child or other loved one to death. It is those who know first hand the sorrow of death who can best comfort you, because they have been where you are. And they have known the comfort of God and can, by His grace, convey that comfort to you.
It is in the every day struggles of life that God prepares his people for the future. And during the ten years or so that we do not read about Elisha, as he served as an attendant to Elijah, we can be sure that God was training him through the everyday experiences of life to minister and to be of encouragement to others.
Even now some of you may wonder what purpose God has for you, either in the great trials of your life, or in the seemingly mundane events of each passing day and week. But you can be sure that God is preparing you, in ways that you cannot see now, to minister his grace to others at a time yet to be revealed.
Spiritually Discerned
And then a third truth that we see in this passage, by way of application, is that spiritual realities are only discerned by those who have God’s Spirit. In verse 9 and 10 Elijah had told Elisha that he would know if he had a double portion of the spirit if he saw him when the Lord called him into the glory. Verse 12 tells how he did receive the double portion. Because he did, he saw Elijah’s ascension and called out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”
The ascension of Elijah into glory was revealed to Elisha but not to the company of prophets who were so curious about Elijah’s ascension into heaven. The company of prophets did not see the chariot of fire, but verse 15 tells us that they did see the waters of the Jordan part when Elisha returned by himself and struck those waters with the cloak that had fallen from Elijah as he was taken to the glory.
But because they did not have the spiritual eyes to see what God had done they begged Elisha to allow them to send 50 men to search for Elijah. They were so persistent that Elisha finally allowed them to do so, but after searching for three days they still did not find Elijah. Verse 18 concludes,  When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”
Why were the prophets from Jericho unable to see the glorious ascension of Elijah which was a shadow or foretaste – a type – of the ascension of Jesus Christ? The reason is they did not have the Spirit of God to see what God revealed to Elisha. In that sense they were similar to those described in 1 Corinthians 2:14: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
As has been pointed out by some commentators, even if the company of prophets had been standing side-by-side with Elisha they would not have seen Elijah ascend into heaven because spiritual realities cannot be understood or discerned or seen apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus told Nicodemus, in John 3:5-6, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” No wonder the hymn writer wrote: “Dwell in me, O blessed Spirit! How I need Thy help divine! In the way of life eternal, keep, O keep this heart of mine!”
This evening, by God’s grace, by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, do you see the spiritual truths of God’s word? Do you see that Elijah’s ascension was but a foreshadow of the ascension of Jesus Christ? Do you see that Christ sacrificed himself for you before ascending into the glory of heaven so that one day you, too, may ascend into glory by his merits and not yours?
If so, then look for every opportunity to serve him with gratitude and joy, just as Elisha did so long ago, as he served as Elijah’s attendant! Amen.
- bulletin outline -
                 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. - 2 Kings 2:9
“A Double Portion”
2 Kings 2:1-18
I.  Elisha proved himself to be a faithful servant of the Lord:
     1) He pledged to stay with Elijah three times over (2, 4, 6)
     2) He requested the most important blessing (9)
     3) He resumed the ministry given to him with the same faith of Elijah  (13-14). The tearing of his garment (12) reflects not only sorrow, but also leaving
         the past to carry on the ministry of Elijah
II. Applications:
     1) The loss of a loved one from this earth, even when we know they are in heaven, yet brings great sorrow (11-12; John 11:35; 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
     2) God prepared Elisha, and prepares us, to serve Him in the everyday experiences of life (approximately ten years passed from 1 Kings 19:21 until
         2 Kings 2:1 without any mention of Elisha)
     3) Spiritual realities are only discerned by those who have God’s Spirit (9, 10; 1 Cor. 2:14)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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