I had a conversation recently. The person confided, “I want to connect with God. I’ve cried out to God, pleading for him to show himself to me. But there’s nothing. Where is God?” How do we connect with God? Do we connect with God through the Church and its traditions, special anointed individuals, biblical principles, timeless truths, or directly with our hearts? Welcome to 2 Kings 2.1-14. It is a story about connecting with God.
Apparently everyone in the story knows God is about to show up: “Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind…(verse 1).” So, God is about to show up in a whirlwind and nobody wants to miss it – Elijah (obviously), Elisha, and then two schools for prophets. The tension among characters is when and where God will show up. This tension produces some relational weirdness. Three times Elijah tells Elisha, “Stop following me!” Three times Elisha in turn tells Elijah, “No.” Two times a group of know-it-all seminarians pull Elisha aside and say, “Hey man, you do know IT is going to happen sometime today, right?” Elisha’s response is hilarious, “I know! Shut up! You’re annoying.”
The relational weirdness in the story sends off a vibe for control. Everyone wants to be in control of when and where God shows up. This is our first hint at how to connect with God: not by control. No one controls God. No one puts God in their debt. No one earns or achieves God’s love, acceptance, presence, work, help, and blessing in life.
This story is not only relationally weird, but also deeply personal (verse 9): “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.’” Elisha is asking for a first-born son’s inheritance from his spiritual father. In other words, Elisha is asking for Elijah’s spiritual wealth before he exits earth. Why? The answer is because Elisha feels his need for God, both personally and prophetically. No human heart will learn its need for God by simply being told it is needy. It will have to be shown its need – often through raw experience
This story is not only relationally weird and deeply personal, but also mysterious. Elijah exits earth, but his cloak is left behind. So Elisha picks up the cloak, strikes the Jordan River with it, and cries out, “Where is the God of Elijah?” The answer is found in the cloak. The cloak parts the Jordan. The cloak produces a new Exodus. The cloak, the symbol of the prophet’s office, of the power of God’s Words, ends the quest to connect with God. Elisha now knows, just as we now know, God shows up in His Word.
Years later at the same spot in the Jordan, a Better Elisha, the first-born Son of God, the eternal Word become human, receives the double portion of his Father’s inheritance (the Holy Spirit) through baptism. Why? So He can connect lives, homes, relationships, neighborhoods, places, cities, and the world to God. Incredibly, the Jordan does not part this time, heaven does.