Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chariot of Fire

Queen Jezebel was furious! The prophet Elijah had called a contest on Mt. Carmel, and not only had her side lost, but her god Baal was humiliated, and she had lost a bunch of Baal’s priests! She only saw one possible solution: Elijah must die! In fact, Jezebel was so angry that she promised that if he wasn’t dead by the next day, she didn’t care how badly her gods punished her!

As soon as Elijah got word, he was outta there! He ran to the desert and collapsed, exhausted and scared, under a bush. He was so upset that he prayed that God would let him die! Then he fell asleep. An angel woke him up and gave him something to eat and drink. When he was done eating, he fell asleep again. Later, the angel came back and said, “Get up and eat. You have a long journey ahead of you.” So he got up and ate. Then he walked 40 days and nights until he got to Mt. Horeb. Once there, Elijah hid in a cave. After listening to Elijah pour out his complaints, God told him to stand at the mouth of the cave and promised to pass by. When Elijah got to the mouth of the cave, there was a fierce wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire. But God wasn’t in any of those. Then Elijah heard a quiet voice ask, “What are you doing here?” So Elijah poured out his complaints again.

In response, God gave Elijah some instructions. “Go to Damascus and anoint Hazael King of Syria. Then anoint Jehu King of Israel. Then find a guy named Elisha and train him to replace you as prophet. Between the three of them, many enemies will be defeated.”

So Elijah obeyed God’s instructions. After anointing Hazael and Jehu, Elijah found Elisha working in a field. Elijah threw his coat around Elisha. That meant he was inviting him to a new life of service to God. Elisha sacrificed his cows, said good bye to his parents, and left.

Elijah trained Elisha, and time passed. Israel’s evil King Ahab died in battle, and his son Ahaziah took his place. He was also evil and pretty soon Ahaziah died and his brother Joram took his place.

Some time had passed by now, and Elijah knew his time had come to go. He told Elisha to stay in Gilgal while he went on to Bethel. But Elisha insisted on going along. Other prophets also tried to convince Elisha to stay, but he insisted on going. So Elisha went with Elijah to Bethel, then to Jericho. Prophets at every stop tried to convince Elisha to stay, but he insisted on going with Elijah. The two of them got to the Jordan River, and Elijah took off his coat and hit the water with it. The water parted just like it had for Joshua many years earlier! Once the two prophets got across the river on dry ground, Elijah said, “What would you like, before I go?”

Elisha replied, “I’d like double the prophetic power that you have!” He didn’t feel worthy to succeed Elijah, and he knew he would need a lot of help from God.

“Wow, that’s a tall order!” Elijah said. “But if you see God taking me away, you’ll get it.”
While they were walking and talking, a fiery chariot pulled by fiery horses swooped out of the sky and took Elijah up in a whirlwind! Elisha cried out, “My father! You’re worth all the horses and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha tore his clothes in grief, and then picked up Elijah’s coat, which Elijah had dropped. He watched his mentor disappear into the sky in a fiery whirlwind of horses, then walked slowly back to the Jordan River. When he got there, he hit the water with Elijah’s coat, and it parted again!

When he got back across, the prophets from Jericho were there waiting. They could tell Elisha had gained a lot of prophetic power, to be able to part the waters of the Jordan with God’s help! That was no small river. They offered to go search for Elijah, but he told them not to bother. When they insisted, he said, “Fine, go ahead!” But of course they couldn’t find him. Elijah had just become one of only two people in the Old Testament to be taken to heaven without dying.

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