The relationship between Elijah and Elisha is a remarkable one. Following the Lord’s direction, Elijah walked out into a field one day where Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Without a word, Elijah draped his mantle over the shoulders of the young man and went on his way (See 1 Kings 19:19-21). Elisha then did a remarkable thing: he willingly exchanged the prophet’s mantle for a servant’s towel. Elisha was called of God – but he willingly accepted a time of personal training and growth. It was Elisha’s testimony later that he “poured water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11). I also would like to point out that because Elisha gave up the mantle in the beginning, he got it back later – to keep.
Immediately prior to Elijah’s translation to heaven (see 2 Kings 2), the old prophet said, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee.” Elisha answered, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” To which Elijah replied, “Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.”
Scripture records the miraculous translation of Elijah which happened soon after:
2 Kings 2:11-13 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (12) And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. (13) He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah said he had asked “a hard thing.” Nevertheless, Elisha did receive a double portion, symbolized by the fallen mantle, and evidenced by a ministry that saw exactly twice as many miracles as his predecessor.
My question is this: What did ELISHA mean when he made this great request?
I do not believe that Elisha wanted to be better than Elijah. I do not believe that he was asking that his ministry would be considered “more successful.” I do not believe that he was motivated by pride. I do believe that he may have been feeling inadequate for the job that was ahead of him. I would have!
Elisha was facing a tough task. The northern kingdom of Israel was wicked; they had long ago turned from the Lord and embraced first the calf worship of Jeroboam and then the Baal worship of Jezebel and her husband, King Ahab. Despite the mighty and miraculous ministry of Elijah, Israel never did experience a revival such as Judah enjoyed on several occasions. Now, Elijah was leaving, and Elisha would have to step into the gap for God. Without Elijah’s help or advice, Elisha would be left to stand and serve God in his generation.
I believe that Elisha may have been saying, “I need a double portion of whatever you’ve had all these years. I need a double portion of whatever gives you strength. I need a double portion of whatever gives you’re the boldness that you possess. I need twice what you had when you stood on Mount Carmel. I need twice of what you had when you faced Ahab. I need twice of what you had when you prayed down fire and then prayed up a storm. I need a double portion of the power of God that is on your life. I need twice as much as you had to face this generation. I need a double portion of thy spirit.”
It saddens me that so many of the old preachers that challenged me in my youth are passing off the scene. Many are in heaven today; their race is over. Many more are retired from active pastoral work. They served in their generation; they faced the issues and problems of their time. Those of us left behind face many of the same issues and some that will be new to our generation. Ungodliness is everywhere. False doctrines and false teachers are coming out of the proverbial woodwork. Golden calves abound on one hand and images of Baal on the other. Nevertheless, I am excited to be alive today and serving God. I want to do the will of God in this generation. Having been placed by God’s providence into the kingdom for such a time as this, we need a double portion of whatever was possessed by those who’ve gone before.
Elijah basically answered Elisha, “I can’t give you what you’ve asked for. Only God can give you that.” Oh, how we need to get something from God for today! How we need to beg God for a double portion of whatever allowed our predecessors to stand and serve and win souls in their day! Have we even asked? Do we consider it too “hard a thing” to pray for? Oh, how we need God’s power for soul-winning and service! Will you join me in asking “a hard thing?”
Thank you for reading. God bless.