Living in the mid- to late Ninth Century B.C., the prophet Elisha succeeded his mentor Elijah to perform many miracles including healing the sick, raising the dead, parting the waters of the Jordan River and striking an entire army with blindness.
Referring to Second Kings 2:11, Ministers Tim O’Neal and Greg Fleming say it was little wonder that Elisha was inspired to continue Elijah’s work after seeing his master taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire.
“Elisha and Elijah were both men of God with great faith and great obedience,” said the Rev. O’Neal, pastor of Refuge Ministries. “It was a tall order to follow Elijah. It was like, ‘Hey, you’re next!’ How do you top that?”
But O’Neal said Elisha had shown himself worthy when, talking with Elijah just before Elijah’s ascension and being asked what he wanted, “He didn’t ask for money, he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.
“He had seen how much faith his mentor had and he wanted twice as much faith,” he said. “Elisha’s example is that we should follow on with the work that has been started. Elijah and Elisha were men who paved the way and taught other men how to do the same. In the same way, my generation is teaching the millennials how to be the church of tomorrow.”
O’Neal said the Rev. Russ Cochran, pastor of Hillside Ministries in Copperas Cove in Central Texas, inspired him to dedicate his life to spreading the Gospel when he was the Rev. Cochran’s administrative pastor. “Pastor Russ has been in my life for the past 25 years and he is the reason why I close Odessa for the church here,” he said.
“I’m still under his authority. Every Paul needs a Timothy, somebody he is training up with experience, advice, knowledge, wisdom and all those things. It’s hard to do without it.”
Elisha is recorded in Second Kings 6:8-18 as successfully asking God to strike the invading Aramean army blind. In Second Kings 5:1-27, he heals Naaman of leprosy and then refuses Naaman’s offer of gifts, crediting God for the miracle. Naaman commanded the army of Aram.
Fleming, minister of Downtown Church of Christ in Midland, said Elisha’s call “comes during a time when his predecessor, Elijah, is fearful, discouraged and lonely in First Kings 19:3, 10 and 14.
“In part, God responds to Elijah’s depressed disposition by naming Elisha as his replacement,” Fleming said. “Elisha’s initial response to God’s call through Elijah is to put family ahead of this divine calling, but his wholehearted ‘yes’ to this all is clear when he sacrifices the oxen he has used for farming, cooks the meat with a wooden yoke-fueled fire, hosts a community meal and becomes Elijah’s apprentice.
“When the time of transition from Elijah to Elisha comes, the apprentice prophet asks his mentor for and receives ‘a double portion of your spirit’ in Second Kings 2:9. Then Elisha shows great faith and faithfulness when, like Elijah before him, he strikes the river with Elijah’s cloak to part the water and crosses the Jordan on dry land.”
Fleming said Elisha “shows exemplary patience with others during the time of transition.
“Change tends to be hard,” he said. “You see this when Elijah’s other disciples on the one hand acknowledge that ‘the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha,’ yet in their very next breath they begin to ask if it would be okay with the new prophet if they go look for his predecessor.
“It seems to me that Elisha shows wisdom and great patience in allowing them to spend three days searching for Elijah even though he knows it will be a fruitless effort.”