The intersection of heaven and earth

Elijah is one of only two people in the Bible that didn’t die and the only person in the Old Testament of which it is said, he went to heaven (2 Kings 2:1). On the day that Elijah was to be taken up into heaven, he traveled more than 20 miles to deliver final messages to sons of the prophets in Bethel and Jericho. At his side was his faithful servant Elisha. The only person to witness his departure.

Elisha knew that Elijah’s ministry was coming to an end and he didn’t want to assume that he would be Elijah’s successor. So, when Elijah was called to go to Bethel, even though Elijah told him to remain in Gilgal, “Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee” (2 Kings 2:2). What Elisha meant by not leaving Elijah was that he wouldn’t abandon the ministry Elijah had started.

The sons of the prophets were actually students of the word of God. This group consisted of followers of Elijah that were committed to God and were most likely expecting the judgment of Israel foretold by Moses because of their idolatry. When it became known that Elijah was going to be taken away, the sons of prophets and Elisha may have feared the end was near.

Elijah’s ascension into heaven is similar to what will happen to believers when the great tribulation takes place. God’s wrath will be poured out on the world and Jesus will come back to rule and reign on earth. Elisha may have been unsure if Elijah’s departure signaled the end of God’s mercy toward his people. When Elijah and Elisha came to the end of their day’s journey, and it was time for Elijah to leave, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be upon him (2 Kings 2:9).

The double portion represented an inheritance of Elijah’s ministry. Elijah’s response indicates he was uncertain of his ministry’s continuance. “And he said, 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” (2 Kings 2:10).

At this point, Elijah and Elisha had reached their final destination. Since they were both still together, the only way Elisha wouldn’t have seen Elijah taken up was if he was blinded or killed in the process. “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 whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it” (2 Kings 2 :11-12).

Divine Intervention

King Ahab’s son Ahaziah did not pretend to be a follower of God. In fact, he was blatant in his pagan worship. When he became seriously ill, he sent messengers to “inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron” (2 Kings 1:2). The word translated inquire, darash suggests that Ahaziah worshipped Baal-zebub (1875) and may have offered sacrifices to the god of the Ekronites.

Ahaziah’s role as king of Israel required him to submit to the LORD and to execute God’s will for his people. Ahaziah had usurped God’s authority and was guilty of violating God’s commandments. Whereas king Ahab’s heart was divided between God and Baal, Ahaziah had no allegiance to God whatsoever.

While Ahaziah’s messengers were traveling to Ekron, God sent Elijah to intercept them. As instructed, Elijah told them, “Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shall surely die” (2 Kings 1:4). When the messengers returned and gave Ahaziah the bad news, he sent 50 soldiers to capture Elijah and kill him (2 Kings 1:9).

King Ahaziah thought he could annul God’s word by killing his prophet. Ahaziah was so steeped in the ways of pagan worship, that he was oblivious to God’s control over his life. Not only did God have the power to remove Ahaziah from his office, but God had the right to punish Ahaziah for his idolatry. The problem with Ahaziah’s way of thinking was he placed himself above God. Ahaziah actually thought he could subject God to his will and could overcome his illness with the help of Baal-zebub.

After three attempts to capture and kill Elijah, king Ahaziah was confronted with the truth:

And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. (2 Kings 1:16)

“So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken” (2 Kings 1:17).

A still small voice

Jezebel’s reaction to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal showed she had a personal vendetta against Elijah. After Ahab told her that Elijah “had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, If I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:1-2).

It is possible that just as Elijah was God’s representative to the nation of Israel, Jezebel was Satan’s direct representative to God’s people. Her presence in Israel was an insult to God because she openly recruited Baal worshippers and encouraged disobedience to God. The name Ba’al means master or to be master, but the primary meaning of this Hebrew word is “possessor” (1167). I think it is likely that Jezebel was demon possessed and may even have been indwelt or possessed by the spirit of antichrist.

Regardless of Jezebel’s spiritual state, her death threat struck fear into Elijah’s heart. It says in 1 Kings 19:3 that when Elijah understood what Jezebel intended to do, “he arose, and went for his life.” Most likely Elijah was given a mental picture of the tortuous death Jezebel would inflict on him and he decided to get out of town as soon as possible. It says in 1 Kings 19:4 that he “went a days journey into the wilderness” to ensure no one could find him.

Elijah’s fear drove him straight into the hands of God. His journey into the wilderness ended at Horeb the mount of God where Elijah lodged in a cave waiting for instructions from the LORD. When the LORD finally came to him, he asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9). The question implied that Elijah had abandoned his post, running from Jezebel was obviously not a part of God’s  plan for his representative.

In order to strengthen Elijah’s resolve, God paid him a personal visit:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake;  but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13)

When Elijah heard the voice of God, he should have realized that the LORD was everywhere and he knew everything, so he didn’t need an explanation from Elijah as to what was going on. The question was meant to provoke a confession. The LORD wanted Elijah to admit that he was afraid and had run away because he didn’t believe the LORD could protect him from Jezebel.

Elijah’s doubt is understandable. If you can imagine yourself having to go toe to toe with Satan, you can appreciate how Elijah must have felt about having a run in with Jezebel. The mighty prophet of God was only human and his fear a natural reaction to satanic forces directed at him because he took a stand for God. Elijah thought he was alone, but a still small voice reminded him that God had sovereign power over the people and nations and could destroy them in an instant if he chose to (1 Kings 19:17).