Saturday, 20 February 2016

Appointed and Anointed

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 14th February 2016
 Bible Reading: 2 Kings 2:7-15

The prophet Elijah knew that his days on earth are nearly over and wanted to prepare Elisha, his apprentice as his successor. Elijah took Elisha on a tour of the schools of prophets in Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho and at each place, Elisha was given the opportunity to settle and refuse that appointment. Elisha refused to leave Elijah and kept following from place to place.
Aware that something significant was happening 50 prophets also travelled with Elijah, sensing that they ought to stay near him for final instructions. For Elisha there was a sense of destiny and that he needed to be alert to what God was doing. 

1.      Ready (v 7)
Elisha was on the brink of his destiny but the fulfilment of it meant the loss of his leader and mentor.  Given that Elijah and Elisha are prophets it might be expected that a reassuring prophetic word might have been given to Elijah as it had been given to Joshua when succeeded Moses. “Be strong and very courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)
But Elisha got no word.
Elisha kept on following, without incentives, and at the same time was aware that he was never off duty, rather he was constantly on call, waiting for the signal to move or act when God said, “I need you now.”
Our trouble is we don't serve God consistently.  We get in and out of touch with him and then wonder why we were left behind when he does a new work or new thing in the world.

2.      Step out (v8)
The Jordan is a very significant place in the minds of Israel as the river that the people of Israel had to cross it in order to enter into the Promised Land.  Like the Red Sea it had been miraculously parted the water so the people of God could cross in safety in the time of Joshua.

The Jordan was always seen as a barrier to be overcome.  It speaks of endings and beginnings, or leaving something behind, in order to begin something new in fulfilment of the promises of God. 

Elijah performed another miracle which gave dry passage across the river. But only Elijah and Elisha crossed over. Unlike the other prophets Elisha stepped into the river and walked across with Elijah to the other bank, risking that the waters might return and overwhelm him. 

For Elijah crossing the Jordan meant being taken up to heaven- and ending. But for Elisha it meant relentlessly pursuing his future destiny.
He crossed the Jordan because he had received God’s call but he had not yet received God’s anointing.  Earlier the prophets said to him "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?" (v.3,5) Elisha's reaction was "Yes, I know. But do not speak of it.” (v 5)   It suggests that he was aware of his own inadequacy for the task.   If he didn’t follow Elijah to the Jordan, he could work but what he did would not be ministry.  For Elisha it was better to risk everything in the hope of getting the Spirit’s anointing than to minister using his own ideas and human experience.

Not all activity that is done in the Church, by the church or through the church is ministry.  We can only call something ministry if it imparts spiritual life to another.   It is not that some kinds of activities are ministry and some kinds of activities are not.  It is not that some roles in the church can be called ministry roles and some cannot.  Ministry happens in all kinds of ways and through all kinds of people.  It happens when someone or something is empowered to give spiritual life. So it can happen that in a Church of 4000 people there can be less real ministry going on than in a church of 40.     

For Elisha the Jordan became the place where he left behind his old way of service, which relied upon Elijah and sought his own anointing.

To go through the Jordan in a spiritual sense is to die to our old life, to die to self- reliance to take up a new life empowered by the Spirit. 
Have you been through your own Jordan or will you forever be just one of the crowd of religious people, interested in watching revival but not participating yourself?
We follow Jesus in this. He went to the Jordan, came out of it and started his ministry in the power of the Spirit?  If Jesus had a “Jordan experience” we had better have one too.

3.      Ask (v 9-10)
Elijah says to Elisha, “Tell me what can I do for your before I am taken from you?” (v9)
The older prophet gives him the opportunity to voice his dream. And Elisha comes straight out with it and asks to be equipped for it.  He asks for a double portion. To ask for a double portion was to ask for the eldest son’s inheritance, to be given a position of responsibility and authority.  This was either the height of arrogance or it was humble obedience to God and was bolding stepping out in faith to claim what God promises.  
We don’t receive because we don’t ask, perhaps through some sense of false humility.  Yet God has given us all his great commission to make disciples of all nations and invites us to wait for and ask for his power and blessing to fulfill the task.
Why don’t we ask?  We think it is rude.  We are scared or being disappointed and we don’t believe it means us.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.”  (Luke 11:9)

4.      Receive (v 11-15)
Elijah’s advice to Elisha is to keep watching with the eyes of faith. As they were walking along talking together suddenly a chariot of horses and fire appeared and separated the two of them and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
Elijah and Elisha are separated. Between them are the fiery chariots and horsemen.  In the Bible this picture always represents the power and presence of God.  Now with eyes of faith, Elisha can see that Elijah’s strength had never been his own natural talent but he had all the might of heaven with him.
Elijah knew that what made Elijah different was not personality alone but the anointing of God’s Spirit but now he saw that the same power w available to him too.  The horses and chariots were next to him.
Elisha tore his clothes in grief at the loss of Elijah but then picked up Elijah’s cloak. In a daring act of faith, he used it to perform the same miracle that Elijah performed earlier. 

God had used Moses to part the Red Sea and the Hebrew people were saved from the Egyptians.  After Moses died Joshua was chosen to be leader.  Confirmation that God was with Joshua as the new leader of Israel was given through God using Joshua to part the waters of the Jordan. In this story that same sign was given to affirm that God was with Elisha as he had been with Elijah.
As the company of the prophets watched they said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” (v 15)

In the New Testament Jesus was taken up to heaven, not in a whirlwind but in a cloud. (Acts 1) There is no mantle falling from His shoulders to the apostles.  Instead all of the company, waiting in Jerusalem are told they will receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. 
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Every believer is commissioned to go and witness to God's saving grace, to minister in his name.  The Spirit of the Lord that was on Jesus is poured out on all believers who will receive him. 

God bless

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