He’d learned from the troubler of Israel. He’d learned to hear the God of Elijah and he’d learned the power of the Name. But now the man of God was gone. He’d seen the whirlwind take him.
Just as he had hoped, he’d seen it with his own eyes. And now what he had asked was lying heavy on his mind. Three days alone in Jericho gave a man time to think. Three days of undisturbed solitude now the fifty sons of the prophets were gone. Slogging up who knows which mountains and tearing through every valley for miles around, looking for the hero of Carmel.
They wouldn’t find him, of course. Elisha knew that. He knew it because of what he had asked and what he had seen. Elijah was gone.
And Elisha was left.
When the prophet had come and cast his cloak upon him, perhaps even without explanation, his eagerness had known no bounds. The man who could shut up the heavens and open them again had called for him. His life of ploughing was done. His ever more now to be the life of a prophet.
It had been a hard road though. A master who spoke fearlessly to kings yet trembled before a queen. A man who seemed to command at will the fire of God from heaven yet never seemed fully to have obeyed all that God had commanded of him. The anointing, for example. Elijah had once admitted that to Elisha. That the LORD the God of Israel had commanded him to anoint Elisha prophet of Israel in his place. Yet somehow no oil had ever been forthcoming. And, though he’d thrown his cloak over Elisha, that too had been only fleeting before he’d reclaimed it.
Even their last conversation about the succession, there by the Jordan, had been cryptic. As if Elijah could not quite commit to prophesying it, wanted to give the LORD a last opportunity to raise up a different one than Elisha in his place. And over those last few miles from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan, it had seemed like Elijah was testing him, still pushing just to see if he’d give up.
Understandable perhaps. The servant before Elisha had been there. Up on Carmel. He’d seen it all, even the prayer which squeezed the rain out of the heavens. He’d seen it all and yet still he’d let Elijah leave him at Beersheba as the prophet fled headlong into the desert.
No, Elisha would not make that mistake. He’d waited a long time to serve the LORD. To do more than pour water on the hands of his master. He wanted to walk in the same spirit as Elijah. Like the now-ascended prophet, to stand before the LORD so that through Elisha’s word too as in heaven so on earth.
Yet where do you begin with something like that? Three days alone in Jericho gave a man time to think. And those thoughts were not taking Elisha anywhere but over the same old ground. The sons of the prophets had said it as he’d crossed the Jordan. They’d shouted for all to hear about the spirit of Elijah now resting on Elisha, hailed him the successor. Funny, of course, if they really believed that for them to have gone off looking for Elijah. But then that said it all really, didn’t it? They didn’t believe bald-headed Elisha, the old prophet’s servant-boy, was really God’s anointed now.
And so what he had asked was lying heavy on his mind. Was the LORD the God of Israel really inviting him into the kind of intimate relationship whereby it would take only Elisha’s word for heaven’s realities to be released on earth? It seemed almost impossible that the lot of the boy-dreamer who had ploughed really was, all these years later, now the life of a prophet. But maybe he would speak and he too would see oil and flour from empty flasks, life from death and fire from heaven. Maybe this was the day he had so long awaited.
Yet still Elisha wondered. When he would have to speak as the prophet, when they finally returned from the LORD knew where, and when they would ask him to release that first miracle by the power of his word alone, would God hear so that, through Elisha, as in heaven so on earth?