Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (21 JUL )

Pastor's Summary of II Kings 2:1-14

Israel has split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. At the time of our story, (850-849 BC) . Ahaziah is King of Israel. The Bible tells us that only two people were sufficiently worthy to be taken up to heaven without dying: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah, Elijah and Elisha start their journey at Gilgal, in the hill country north of Bethel. Three times Elijah invites Elisha to travel no further.: he tests Elisha, to determine whether he is truly loyal to his master. Each time, Elisha proves his loyalty, and so the two travel southward from Gilgal to Bethel, then east to Jericho and the Jordan. The company of prophets are communities of followers, disciples, of Elijah; they are like monks.

Elijah's mantel, his cloak, is almost part of him. As in the crossing of the Reed Sea in Exodus 14 and in the carrying of the Ark across the Jordan in Joshua 3:14-17, the waters miraculously part. Elijah offers Elisha a reward for his loyalty; then Elisha request that he receive the principal share or double of Elijah's spirituality. Deuteronomy 21:17 requires that the eldest son inherit a double portion of his father's estate. Elijah cannot grant this request himself, for it is God's to give. If Elisha sees Elijah taken up, God has granted the wish. Fire is a symbol of God's presence. Perhaps Elisha contrasts the chariots of God with those of Israel, or perhaps Elisha recognizes that Elijah's spiritual strength is better secuirty for Israel than its army. Elisha does see Elijah's departure. Tearing of clothes was an expression of grief or distress. Elisha picks up Elijah's mantel, the symbol of spirituality. The water again parts, God recognizes Elisha as Elijah's successor, as do the company of prophets. Some of the monks search for days to find Elijah's body, but in vain. Elijah has been taken up to heaven.