When Solomon’s reign was still young, the author of Kings evoked the promise the LORD had made to Abram, noting that Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. Furthermore, …They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.
But that was over eighty years ago. The LORD has kept His promises to Abraham, but Abraham’s children have not reciprocated. Judah and Israel are now two kingdoms; Judah’s kings have wavered between fidelity and idolatry; Israel’s have followed in the way of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.
That sin destroys Ahaziah in 2 Kings chapter 1, who takes over the northern kingdom after Ahab’s death in the battle for Ramoth-gilead. As his father’s death was random except for the hand of the LORD, so is Ahaziah’s: he is killed not by an accidental fall, but by soliciting the prophets of Baal-zebub, rather than the LORD. And as Ahab’s death was prophesied by Elijah, so is Ahaziah’s.
This completes the work of Elijah. His was a fitful ministry marked by intense faith that the LORD is God: often on the run for his life, courageously returning when the LORD compelled him to. Yet he never bowed in deference to a king, but proclaimed the word of the LORD, before whom I stand. Through Elijah we see a depth of faith, and a glimpse at the emotional and physical life of a prophet, that we haven’t been privy to since Moses.
The final episode of Elijah’s story, at the start chapter 2, begins with the climax: Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind… Marvel and delight that the Biblical author doesn’t explain the mechanics of this: as Elijah and his protégé Elisha walk along the Jordan – that great boundary line of the Promised Land – chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them….and [Elisha] saw him no more.
Elijah’s cloak falls to Elisha’s feet, and through the rest of chapter 2 we discover that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit has indeed fallen on him as well. Listen throughout chapters 2 and 3 as the LORD shows not only His power, but also His hand on, and words in, Elijah’s successor.
In chapter 3 the kings of Israel head out to fight against Moab, which has rebelled against the king of Israel. Remember that Moab has been subject to Israel and Judah since the days of David, and was also the home of David’s ancestress, Ruth. Elisha’s power has been revealed to prophets, to Jericho, and to a pack of boys. Here, on the plains of Moab, the LORD’s spirit in Elisha, fidelity to His people, and contempt for the king of Israel will intersect.
Our verse for this week is 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Kings 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.