Elijah and Elisha: #2
Elijah and Elisha were godly men. Most of the time, their spirits were in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord. And that is one reason why there is no mention of repeated fillings of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord is an independent agent. By man’s invitation, the Spirit of the Lord will cooperate with the spirit within man for as long as man keeps the door to his heart open for God’s Spirit to live within him. The prayer of David for the Spirit to return to him is an example when man closes the door to his heart with transgressions. The disciples, in particular Peter, were in need of repeated filling of God’s Spirit (Psalms 1:10-12; John 20:22; Acts 2:16; 4:8; 12:44; Luke 22:31-32). The New Testament is filled with references for the need of the Holy Spirit to fill the lives of the saints. In this world, the saints still get their feet dirty and they must daily forgive each other, before the sun sets every day. We can measure ourselves by our words and by our actions just how much we comply with the demands of God’s Spirit.
Elijah and Elisha were perfect human examples how the Spirit of the Lord interacts with humans. It is the Spirit of God that puts the measurement in place, like “what a person sows that he or she will reap,” or “the measurement we use on others, we may end up living with.” And, “the way we treat others, is really the way we will be treated ourselves.” It is the natural law of reciprocation. In the Book of Revelation, men’s deeds follow them into eternity. And it is the Spirit of God that keeps the books (Revelation 14:13; 20:11-12). Elijah and his contemporaries merely applied the measurements to the people who had set them up. They were being given a taste of their own medicine. When a man cheats others, he cheats himself, and he drags others down with him. A distinguished architect did not accept the consensus that the San Francisco earthquake was an act of God, and after a thorough examination concluded, “Dishonest mortar was responsible for nearly all the earthquake damage in San Francisco” (Wa. 794). The smallest change in the law of nature can have catastrophic damaging effects on human survival. Moses’ permission to allow men to divorce their wives is the main cause why our civilization is on the brink of extinction. Morality is the backbone of society, and the “fear of the Lord God,” that Jesus proclaimed, is the heart that sustains life in the world. We have turned our backs on both of them.
Being human, Elijah, and others like him, stretched the measurements of the natural law a little more than they should have. Elijah believed that he was serving God when he had the people destroy four hundred fifty Baal prophets (I Kings 18:40). Elijah also believed, as a man of God, he had the power to burn up two companies of fifty men that were sent to take the prophet to the sick bed of Ahab’s son Ahaziah. The third officer begged for his life and the life of his men, who were merely carrying out their orders (II Kings 2). The writer did not link the spirit that was in Elijah with the Spirit of God. The spirit in Elijah was literally a weapon against evil and Elisha did continue the practice. The same spirit that was in Elijah was handed down to Elisha in a double portion. The magical power was located in Elijah’s cloak. The prophet rolled it up into a staff to part the river like Moses did the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and so did Elisha. When some children called Elisha bald head, he cursed them in the name of the Lord and had two bears maul them (II Kings 2).
This was not the kind of behavior one would expect from a man of God. It was not to be so for Elijah or Elisha had they been familiar with the “Levitical Code of Ethics” that was lost or displaced at that time (Leviticus 19). The Code prohibited avenging, cursing, divination, magic, sorcery, consulting the dead, and many other illegal practices. The Levitical Code did not contradict the first Three Commandments regarding God, His Image, and His Name (Exodus 20:11-7). Joshua was instructed to remove and not kill the Canaanites from the land, so that they would not influence the Israelites’ faith and their way of life. The Israelites disobey and they were nearly absorbed by the many different Canaanite gods, idols, and sacrifices, including humans and children sacrifices. Jeroboam’s calves were Egyptian gods, and they different from Baalism. By the time of Ahab, son of Omri, and Jezebel Sidonian princess in Israel and Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri, in Judah, the Sidonian Ashtoreth goddess had taken over both countries. It is interesting that Jeroboam’s calves survived Baalism. Baasha destroyed the house of Jeroboam; Omri, the father of Ahab destroyed the house of Baasha; and Jehu destroyed the house of Ahab and Jezebel, and many of the Baal prophets, but he did not remove the golden calves from Dan and Bethel (II Kings 9-10). Elijah and Elisha had their hands full with Ahab and Jezebel. They could not restore Yahwehism. Very much like in the days of Noah, God’s Spirit stopped contending with men (Genesis 6:3). God lets man self-destruct. Man does not need any help on that subject.
Ahab reaped what he had sowed. Ben Hadad of Aram had attacked Samaria. And a prophet of the Lord was sent to tell Ahab that God had delivered his enemies in his hand. Ahab believed the prophet and defeated Ben Hadad and his army. Ben Hadad escaped, but he returned and he begged for mercy. Ahab took him into his chariot and called him, “He is my brother.” Another prophet was sent to tell Ahab that the man he called brother would take his life (I Kings 20). Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and Jezebel had him stoned to secure the vineyard. Elijah was sent to meet Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard with a severe warning. This was the encounter when Ahab said, “Have you found me, O, my enemy?” Elijah answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold I will bring evil upon you; I will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger for which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.” Regarding Jezebel, Elijah had to say, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bound of Jezreel. Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat” (I Kings 21:20-24). Ahab did humble himself and Elijah was sent to tell Ahab he would not see the extermination of his bloodline by Jehu (I Kings 21).
Ahab was impatient and greedy. He did not take time to enjoy his victory over Ben Hadad nor his acquisition of Naboth’s vineyard. He invited Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to conspire against Syria (Aram) to regain Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat was cautious and wanted to know what a Yahweh’s prophet had to say about warring against Ben Hadad. He did not feel comfortable with four hundred Baal men chiming the same tune, “Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” To please Jehoshaphat, Ahab had Micaiah brought before them and instructed by his captors to agree with the Baal seers. It was so apparent that even Ahab saw that it was coerced and he demanded the truth:
Then a vision of the Lord came to Micaiah and he said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lords said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth–Gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And He said, ‘you are to entice him, and you shall succeed: go forth and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has spoken evil concerning you” (I Kings 22:19-23).
Zedekiah, the leader of the Baal prophets, slapped Micaiah in the face and Ahab put him back in his dungeon. The two kings went to face the Syrians and both were wounded. Ahab bled to death in his chariot and when his servants washed off the blood, dogs licked up his blood. Ahaziah continued in his father’s footsteps as king over Israel. Jehoshaphat was allowed to escape and tend his wounds as king over Judah. His son Jehoram succeeded him (I Kings 22). Ahaziah fell in an accident from which he did not recover. He had no son and his brother Joram became king and it was during his time that Jehu destroyed all the males from the house of Ahab (II Kings 9). Elijah’s last service, before he was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, was to tell Ahaziah that he would die because he trusted the wrong god, and he handed over his mantle to Elisha. It was Elijah’s spirit that was passed on to Elisha on a double portion (II Kings 1-2). It was an unusual time when a man’s spirit was doing things that was normally done by the Spirit of the Lord. Jesus hinted at such a time when his followers would do greater things than He did (John 14:12). The human spirit, with help from God’s Spirit, is able to do things that man does not deem possible.