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2 Kings 2:1-25 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:56 mins 49 secs

Key Character Qualities for Successful Believers. 2 Kings 2:1-25


What we see in this chapter is the transition of prophetic power that goes from Elijah who has been the major prophet in the northern kingdom up to this point, probably for some thirty years or longer, to a younger man, Elisha. There are some unusual events that take place in this chapter, as well is the coming chapters, because the ministry that God has, especially through Elisha, really expands that which He had through Elijah. In Elijah we saw a number of extremely powerful miracles but we will see even more, perhaps double the amount of miracles, in the ministry of Elisha. But what is highlighted in chapter two is not the miracles but the character of Elisha. That is important because too often people become distracted by the miracles of God in the Scriptures, by the miraculous gifts in the church age, and they forget that the real issue in the spiritual life is character transformation—the transformation of our characters as fallen sinners: that one we have been regenerated, have become new creatures in Christ, then there is to be a character transformation that comes through the study of the Word of God under the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God so that we become conformed to the image of God in Christ. That is what is described as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:21ff. Those character qualities are the character qualities of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in every one of our lives to transform us into that character. That means that if we are interested in our spiritual life and spiritual growth and we are positive to the Word then we will in some sense be cooperating with God the Holy Spirit in terms of His achieving the mission that God the Father gave Him, i.e. to transform us into the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. But if we are just a lukewarm believer and a casual Sunday-only Christian and the Word of God is not the primary focal point of our life then we are going to be at loggerheads with God the Holy Spirit, and that is just going to mean that our life is never going to be what we think it should be and we will be plagued by one problem after another, both externally and in terms of the unsettled, unhappiness of our own souls. God the Holy Spirit's mission is to conform us to the character of Christ and if our objective is to keep ourselves conformed to the world system around us then we are constantly going to be fighting what God the Holy Spirit is trying to do, and that is never a pleasant thing to experience.


As we come to look at this chapter we are going to see some of these4 characteristics and character qualities emphasized in the character of Elisha, and these qualities mark him as a successful believer—not successful as the world counts success in terms of numbers, popularity or financial success, but in terms of his ministry for God. God's definition of success is that we are to be faithful and obedient. The character qualities to be summarized here are in four terms, terms that are synonymous. They overlap, there are slight differences but they do define an important dimension in anyone who is going to be a success in the spiritual life.      


The first word is "perseverance." We are to press on in spiritual growth in spite of difficulties, discouragement, adversity or prosperity. In the New Testament, especially in the epistle of James and in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews this is marked out by a Greek word hupomone [u(pomonh] which means to endure, to stay under. It is the idea of staying under the pressure, staying in the pressure cooker of difficulty, opposition and whatever, and consistently applying the Word of God. It is in those times that we grown and we learn about the faithfulness of God.   


The second word is "persistence." It is very close to perseverance and we use it to emphasize the idea of continuing doggedly or obstinately, even spiritually stubborn, that no matter what difficulty we face, what opposition may come or what failures we encounter we are not going to let any of that deter us from our primary mission in life which is to be conformed to the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is through the study of God's Word to let God the Holy Spirit have the tools He needs in order to work in our lives and in our souls.


Third, this means that we must be spiritually tenacious. That means we are unwilling to let go, unwilling to give up.


Fourth, we are to be spiritually aggressive. We really see all of these in Elisha's attitude and in the way he is handling himself in this chapter. By spiritual aggression we are emphasizing the word "zeal." That sometimes has a negative connotation that comes from the world system that always wants to make someone who is totally committed to the Word of God into some sort of fanatic.


But in terms of what those words really mean that is what we are supposed to be—completely, totally sold out, dedicated to God's mission for our lives. So in this category it is showing a tremendous energy and enthusiasm for learning the Word of God, applying the Word of God in our spiritual life, and growing to spiritual maturity. All of these are seen in Elisha in this chapter.


2 Kings 2:1 NASB "And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal." This is at the end of Elijah's life and ministry. The Hebrew word for whirlwind just means a storm. We must understand it in the backdrop of the ministry of both Elijah and Elisha because they are dealing with the enemy attack on Israel through the perverted fertility religions of Baal and the Asherah. Baal was the storm god, the god of lightning, the god of rain, of fertility, prosperity, success; and here we have this tremendous image of God coming in the storm. He is the one, Yahweh the God of Israel who is the one who rides the storm, controls the storm and who utilizes all of the forces of nature for His purposes.


We read in verse 2 that there is a preparation that Elijah is going to take toward the one God has already designated as his successor, i.e. Elisha. One point of observation: Even though Elijah knows what God's will is and that Elisha is God's intended successor to Elijah that doesn't absolve him of responsibility for training and challenging Elisha for the task. Elisha also knows that it is God's will to transfer the ministry and responsibility of Elijah to himself, but that doesn't give him the right to say that this is God's will so I am going to just sit back and let it happen. There is no passivity in either one of them towards the will of God; they don't use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for irresponsibility in terms of carrying out the spiritual life in terms of their respective ministries. In verse 2 we see the first of three motivational tests, we might say, from Elijah towards Elisha. 


2 Kings 2:2 NA'B "Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.' But Elisha said, 'As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they went down to Bethel." Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. We need to note these three places that are going to be involved in this journey: from Gilagal to Bethel and then from Bethel to Jericho. This was not the Gilgal down near Jericho. There was another Gilgal—Joshua 8:30-35, the mention that after the conquest of Jericho and Ai Joshua took the Israelite army north from Bethel to the area around Shechem. Just outside of Shechem are the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim where they had a ceremony that began with Joshua taking twelve uncut stones, representing the twelve tribes—uncut = they had not been touched by human hand. What that meant was that no human works were involved in building this altar, no human works are involved in salvation—and he constructed an altar. On that altar he offered burnt offerings for the nation. Then he had chiseled upon the stone a copy of the Law of Moses. They were making a monument here for the memory of the nation to the covenant that God had made with Moses. Then he divided the nation into two groups, one on Mount Ebal and the other on Mount Gerizim, and they recited the Law and their commitment as a nation to obedience to the Law of Moses which was the Constitution of the nation.

If we look at Joshua 8:30-35 we see that it states that Joshua did this as Moses commanded him. Then if we go to Deuteronomy 11:29-32 we see the original instruction. Deut 11:29-32 NASB "It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? For you are about to cross the Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall possess it and live in it, and you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the judgments which I am setting before you today." When Moses was giving this message he is on the opposite side of the Jordan, on the east side. So he is talking about the west side. "…opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh." This identifies a Gilgal that is significant to this covenant renewal ceremony "by oak trees of Moreh." We discover that in Genesis 12:6 when Abram and Sarai first came into the promised land from the north, Haran in the area that is now Syria, he traveled down the center of the promised land. The first place that he stopped was at a place identified as Shechem—" as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh." This identifies the location, that the oaks of Moreh which is where Gilgal is located is just there at Shechem, and this is where God promised to Abraham the land promise: Genesis 12:7 NASB "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him."

So when we think of the significance of Gilgal in this journey of Elijah it is not just that the writer of Scripture is saying this is just a little travelogue, he names these places because of their spiritual significance. There is a spiritual significance to these locations, he is not just going there because they are on the way, he is going there and stopping to make these statements to Elisha at these points because he is connecting Elisha's ministry for God to the Abrahamic covenant and to the land promise. So the first place they go is to this location at Gilgal which is at Mounts Ebal and Gerizim where the nation had recommitted itself to the Mosaic Law and where Abram had first built an altar to sacrifice to God when he came into the land, and where God first clearly stated that this was the land that He was giving to Abram and his descendants.

In 2 Kings 2:2 Elijah is testing Elisha. Do you have what it takes to continue the journey or are you just going to stop here and rest and stay inside your comfort zone? But Elisha said: "As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." He makes an emphatic comment: I am not giving up. He is showing persistence, spiritual tenacity, and is being aggressive toward his spiritual life. He is not going to give up or fade out because the journey is going to get a little longer, he is going to stay committed to the mission. What we are going to see in this series of tests is that Elisha is not going to be dissuaded or distracted by any of the circumstances of the journey. He knows that he has been appointed by God and he is not going to take the responsibility of his spiritual life or his spiritual gift lightly. He recognizes that as a believer he needs to exploit the grace of God in his life to the maximum because he has been saved, just as we are, for a purpose, and he is going to focus his life and his mission on fulfilling that purpose to the greatest degree.      

There are all kinds of different spiritual gifts in the church age, all kinds of ministries that different believers have within the local church, and the only way we will maximize our ministry and our own spiritual gift is to grow to spiritual maturity. We don't even have to know what our spiritual gift is because as we grow to spiritual maturity we will naturally gravitate to areas of our spiritual life. Our attitude, by way of application, is to do the same as Elisha. We are not going to stop. We are going to demonstrate the same kind of perseverance and tenacity that Elisha demonstrated here.

Elisha knows that Elijah is about to be promoted to heaven and one of the reasons he is so dogged is that he understands this cultural dynamic that went on that when a person died they would bestow a blessing on their heir. Cf. Genesis 49. Elijah is limiting this to the pursuit of Elijah; he understands the doctrine behind this related to the role of the prophet and the transfer of that responsibility to him, and so he is going to stick with his mentor and the one who is his leader. For us this spiritual tenacity is going to manifest itself in different ways. Generally there are five things that we ought to emphasize that ought to be present in our life if these character qualities are present. First of all it is just regular Scripture reading. Every believer should be regularly reading through the Bible. Secondly, memorizing Scripture. Thirdly, every believer should be going to Bible class. Fourth, there is the need to develop a disciplined and consistent prayer life. This means developing a regular prayer time, one's own personal prayer list, and it also involves coming together for prayer meeting at church. The fifth thing is the three basic laws of spiritual growth: application, application and application.

2 Kings 2:3 NASB "Then the sons of the prophets who {were at} Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, 'Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?' And he said, 'Yes, I know; be still.'"  This represents another kind of test, and this is a test of people who want us to focus on something other than our spiritual life and our spiritual advance. Who are the sons of the prophets? This is a group of men who worked with the prophets, ministered to them and were prophets themselves but were being mentor-trained and apprenticed by senior prophets. But notice where the distraction is coming from. It isn't coming from "the bad guys," it is coming from the good guys, the other prophets. They are already pushing the panic button, they are not focused on the plan of God. It is always God's plan to take some leaders to be with Him. God in His sovereignty gives gifts and ministries to individual leaders for specific objectives. Where did they get their gifts? From God. Where did they get their native talents? From God. Where did they get their distinctiveness? From God. Where did they get their mission defined? From God. When they died God's plan was carried on because God's plan was for them to pass through the scene and for the next generation to go through the challenges, the tests, and everything else, to build on that which had gone before. What do we do when a leader has gone? Same thing we have always done: study the Word of God, apply the Word of God and go forward because God's plan is never limited or restricted or dependent upon the ministry of any human being.

One of the reasons they go down to Bethel is because of its significance in the history of Israel. Gilgal was significant because it is up by Shechem, Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, the location by the oaks of Moreh where Abraham built his first altar to God and God made that first clear statement of the land promise in Genesis 12:7. When Abraham left the area of Shechem in Genesis 12 he headed south to Bethel, and there he built his second altar. This became a primary site. The Canaanite name for the city was Luz and this became another place where God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant. In fact, in Genesis 28 God appeared to Jacob in a dream—Jacob's ladder, where he had a vision of a stairway to heaven and angels ascending and descending, and this is where God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob. So they go to Bethel again because this is a reminder that this land, this people, had a unique role in God's plan and purposes, and the way that they communicate with God and God communicates with them is through the prophets. The prophet is the representative of God.

As part of the ministry of the prophets was that they had this group called the sons of the prophets. This would indicate that they were also prophets. We don't know a whole lot about them; the first time they show up in the Scriptures is in 1 Samuel 10:10-12. They are found again in 1 Samuel 19:20. They are alluded to as the sons of Isaiah in Isaiah 8:18. This idea of the sons of the prophets brings in another important dimension and that is that any leader that is worth the title of leader is preparing and planning for his future departure. He is preparing the next generation of leaders to take his place. Elijah has been preparing Elisha, but not only that but there are these other prophets being prepared for the future. One thing that is found lacking in many leaders is that they never answer the question: what if it doesn't work? What if there is failure? What if this happens? What if that happens? If we don't have a worst case scenario then we are not prepared. There always has to be a training and a preparation and an apprenticeship to prepare for leaders in the coming years.

There are two areas that can be emphasized here when we think about this company pf prophets and sons of the prophets. First, it is an association for mutual encouragement and edification—in an informal sense which is developed through friendship, participation in meetings, conferences that provide material for pastors. A lot of times what pastors benefit from going to these things isn't just the content they learn from the speakers but just the opportunity to spend some time with other pastors who think the same way they do, and that they can interact with, learn and get ideas on how to handle different situations and circumstances. Different men have different gifts and strengths and specialties and so there is that special ministry that can occur. One of the greatest dangers that a pastor can fall into is the trap of isolation where they are isolated from other pastors and trends that are going on in their generation and culture, and today with the multiplication of so much heresy and error and garbage out there it is amazing how there have been pastors over the past thirty years drop by the wayside and fail in the ministry because they don't know who they were reading and had no clue as to who was who and what was what and who the players are and what the positions are. So they get distracted and are defeated by some kind of error because of their own arrogance and isolationism. It is a terrible thing and one of the reason we have conferences.

Another area that needs to be emphasized is education, the benefits of going to seminary, not just staying home and taking correspondence courses in theology or religion or whatever. If one is going to be a pastor he needs to have the spiritual gumption to trust God and move across the country and go to seminary because sometimes the things learned in seminary are important for training a person to be a pastor that don't have anything to do with Greek or Hebrew or theology. It has to do with trusting God to pay your bills, trusting God to provide a job, to find the right place to live, and if we don't learn to trust God for those things when we are in seminary how are we going to learn to trust God for those things when we get out as a pastor and we have a congregation?

2 Kings 2:4 NASB "Elijah said to him, 'Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.' But he said, 'As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.' So they came to Jericho." Jericho is important because it was the first place they had a battle, the first place they defeated the Canaanites as they took possession of the land. So what these three places emphasize spiritually is a recognition that God had given this land to the descendants of Abraham, the Israelites were a special people, the mission that God had given to Elisha and Elijah as prophets was a divine commission just like every single believer in the church age has a divine commission in terms of their spiritual gift. They recognized that they had that and it was their role to fully develop it and use it and to exploit it to the maximum. And we see what is necessary: that perseverance, that tenacity to stick with it, to stay there, to make doctrine the number one priority in life; and not just the knowledge of doctrine but the application of doctrine. That applies to every single believer.