Focus Passage: 2 Kings 2:1-18
Who have you mentored in your life? As the Lord took Elijah into heaven, God passed the ministry onto another with miracles and signs to confirm to this new man that God was with him. Every one of us should be mentoring someone because we may move from the current ministry or God may ask us to do something different.
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Elijah didn't die! He was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by fiery horses drawing a chariot of fire. Like Enoch of old, he walked with God and then suddenly went to be with God (Gen. 5:21-24; Heb. 11:5). Both men illustrate the catching away of the saints when Jesus returns (1 Thes. 4:13-18). But before Elijah left Elisha to carry on the work, he walked with his successor from Gilgal to beyond the Jordan to teach him some final lessons before Elisha took over the mantle of service.
During the years that Elijah and Elisha had worked together, surely they came to love and appreciate one another in a deeper way. "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18) applies to ministry as well as marriage. Moses and Aaron labored together, and David and Jonathan encouraged each other. Paul journeyed first with Barnabas and then with Silas, and Dr. Luke seemed to be a regular companion to the apostle. Even our Lord sent out His disciples two-by-two (Mark 6:7; see Ecc. 4:9-12). We are not only fellow workers with the Lord, but also with the Lord's people, and there must be no competition as we serve the same Lord together (John 4:34-38; 1 Cor. 3:1-9).
1. Other than your spouse or kids, who is a friend that you would miss very dearly if they died in an accident tomorrow?
Answers will vary, but encourage the class to think seriously about who they depend on or who has been a special friend to them. Elisha is losing such a person in this story.
2. What does Elijah continue to tell Elisha (2:2,4,6) and what is Elisha’s response? Why do you think that the younger prophet refuses to be anywhere else when his master is taken by the Lord?
Elijah told Elisha to stay where they were three times, but Elisha promised that he would not leave him each time. Elisha knew that his master was going to leave him (vv. 1, 3, 5), and he wanted to be with him to the very end, listen to his counsel and learn from him. It appears that Elijah wanted Elisha to tarry behind and let him go on alone, but this was merely a test of Elisha's devotion. When Elijah threw his mantle on Elisha and made him his successor, the younger man promised, "I will follow you" (1 Kings 19:20), and he kept that promise.
3. At each of the three places that they visited, the two prophets met some other men. (2:3,5,7) Who are these men and how have things changed in the years since Elijah ran into hiding at Mt. Horeb (1 kings 19:10)
At Bethel, Jericho, and Gilgal, the two men visited the "sons of the prophets" (vv. 5,7, 15; 4:1, 38-40; 6:1, 7; 9:1; see 1 Kings 20:35), companies of dedicated men who were called of God to study the Scriptures and teach the people. Samuel led one of these "schools" at Ramah (1 Sam. 7:17; 28:3; see 10:5, 10; 19:20-23). These groups would be similar to the mentoring groups in our churches, or even like our Bible schools and colleges. These young prophets knew that their master was about to leave them, so these final meetings must have been very emotional. These groups are in stark contrast to Elijah’s feelings that he was the only prophet of the Lord left (1 Kings 19:10).
4. Why was it so important for these groups of prophets to exist? What are you doing to prepare the next generation of servants for the church?
God has different ways of training His servants, but He still expects the older generation to pass along to the younger generation the treasures of truth that were given to them by those who went before, "the faith...once for all delivered to the saints. We often forget that the church is only one generation from extinction. If we do not prepare the next generation, the church will suffer when our generation dies or gets too feeble to do the ministry.
5. What was important about Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho - the three places that Elijah takes Elisha? Why is it important to remember what the Lord has done in the past?
Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and the Jordan River were important places in Hebrew history, each of them carrying a significant message. Gilgal (v. 1) was the first place the Israelites camped after they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land Josh. 4:19-20). It was there that the new generation of Jewish men submitted to circumcision and officially became "sons of the covenant" (Josh. 5:2-9). Gilgal was the place of new beginnings and Elijah wanted his successor to remember that. It was at Bethel that Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder (or staircase) that reached to heaven. There he heard God promise to be with him and care for him (Gen. 28:11-19). Bethel means "house of God," and there Jacob worshiped the Lord and vowed to obey Him. The two men then went fifteen miles west to Jericho, the site of Joshua's first victory in the Promised Land (Josh. 5:13-6:27). It was also the place where Achan disobeyed and took of the spoils that belonged to the Lord alone, a sin that led to Israel's defeat at Ai (Josh. 7). Certainly the wonderful victory at Jericho showed Israel how to conquer the land: get your orders from the Lord; obey them by faith, no matter how foolish they may seem; give all the glory to Him alone.
6. How can remembering special dates, places and events in your walk of faith be especially helpful?
Many people remember their confirmation date, places that they went to church or where their children were baptized. We may also remember special times when the Lord answered our prayers. All of these remind us of the way that the Lord worked in our life and they give us courage that he will continue to help us in the days to come.
7. What remarkable event do the 50 prophets witness at the crossing of the Jordan river? (2:7-8) Why do you think that Elijah used a cloak instead of a boat to cross the river?
As Elijah and Elisha stood by the Jordan River, they were watched by fifty of the sons of the prophets, men who stood afar off. They knew that Elijah was going to leave that day (vv. 3 and 5), but they didn't know how he would depart or when God would call him. It's likely that only Elisha actually saw Elijah go up into heaven (v. 10), and after the prophet disappeared, the fifty students thought he hadn't really left them (vv. 16-18). They saw Elijah open the waters of the Jordan and close them again, and they saw Elisha repeat the miracle. The fact that Elisha had Elisha’s cloak and performed the same miracle was a sign to them that Elisha was God’s choice to be the heir of Elijah's ministry.
8. What was Elisha’s request of Elijah? (2:9) What is he asking for?
Elijah didn't give his successor three wishes; he simply asked him to name the one gift he wanted more than anything else. Every leader needs to be right in his priorities, and Elisha had a ready answer: he wanted a double portion of the spirit of his master. This was not a request for twice as much of the Holy Spirit, or for a ministry twice as great as that of Elijah, but for a greater degree of the inner spirit that motivated the great prophet. The request was based on Deuteronomy 21:17, the law of inheritance for the firstborn. Though there were many "sons of the prophets," Elisha saw himself as Elijah's "firstborn son" who deserved the double inheritance that Moses commanded. Like a firstborn son serving a father, Elisha had walked with Elijah and attended to his needs (3:11; 1 Kings 19:21), but the only inheritance he desired was a double measure of his master's inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God's will. In saying this, Elisha was accepting the prophetic ministry that Elijah had begun and declaring that he would carry it on to completion, with God's help.
9. Have you ever had the mantle of leadership passed onto you? What would you like as you take on this new ministry?
Many people have taken over offices in the church or leadership on a project. Encourage the people to share what they would want from God and from their mentor before they take on the role. Many of us would want just what Elisha asked for: his master's inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God's will.
10. What amazing thing did Elisha witness? (2:11) What was the Lord trying to tell him by this demonstration of God’s power? (2:10)
Elijah was honest with his friend and told him that such a gift was not his to grant, for only the Lord could do it. However, if the Lord allowed Elisha to see his translation from earth to heaven, that would be proof that his request had been granted. Then it happened! As the two friends walked along talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came between them, and a whirlwind lifted Elijah out of sight—and Elisha saw it happen! This meant his request had been granted and the Lord had equipped him to continue the ministry of Elijah. Elijah was certainly the "prophet of fire," for Scripture records at least three instances of his bringing fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 and 12), so it was right that God send fiery horses and a chariot of fire to accompany His servant to glory.
11. What is Elisha’s question after Elijah is gone? (2:14) What is God’s answer?
By taking Elisha west of the Jordan, Elijah forced him to trust God to get him across the river and back into the land! Elijah's successor was now like Joshua: he had to believe that God could and would open the river for him. The students who were watching must have wondered what their new leader would do. In taking up Elijah's mantle, Elisha was making it clear that he accepted the responsibilities involved as he succeeded the great prophet and continued his work. By using the mantle to open the waters of the Jordan, he was declaring that his faith was not in the departed prophet but in the ever-present living God. The miracle confirmed his faith and showed Elisha that God would be with him just as He was with Elijah.
12. What ministry is God calling you to take on right now? How would you like God to show you that He has chosen you for this ministry and that He will stand behind you in this new ministry?
Answers will vary, but the only wrong answer is that God won’t give me a ministry. Each Christian should serve the Lord and others based on who the Lord has made them and what the Lord is calling them to do. It is Ok to ask for a sign or for encouragement, but then we must go forward in faith when God speaks to us.