This is a 3 part series
This post comes after my post on Intimacy with God where I suggest that we have drifted very far away from the intimacy with God that we can have. I am suggesting that even though we may do great things in His Name and even by using His power… we should not be satisfied until we have regained that intimacy again.
In this post I try and explore the life and power of Elisha and the remarkable lack of intimacy that he had, which was so different to the men of God that had gone before him, even different to his mentor Elijah.
and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. (1Ki 19:16-17)
God chose Elisha. He chose him by name and He had a job for Elisha to do. Elisha did that job with great power.
so he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. (1Ki 19:19)
Elisha received his mantle from Elijah. This was what God had asked Elijah to do. It is estimated that Elisha then walked with Elijah for about 8 years before Elijah left.
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. 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. 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.” 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. (2Ki 2:1-4)
Elijah’s time to leave has come. Elijah appears to be trying to leave Elisha. Why? And why won’t Elisha let him go?
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” And he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. (2Ki 2:6)
Again for a third time Elijah has asked Elisha to stay where he is. Again Elisha won’t let him, because he knows that Elijah is about to leave him. Why did Elijah want to leave Elisha? And why wouldn’t Elisha let him go? Did Elisha have something in mind?
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” (2Ki 2:9)
A double portion (power, gifting, anointing, works, miracles) is what Elisha asked for. Elisha was a good man, I have no doubt he wanted it for the sake of the people around him. He wanted power – and power is what he got! Even after he died, when a corpse touched his bones, the dead person stood up.
The thing is… Elisha could have asked for many other things. For example he could have asked for a deeper relationship with God than Elijah had. He might have asked to see God’s face.
He asked for double power. He got it – he even did double the miracles! But what I want you to notice is what he didn’t get (perhaps as a result of his choice).
All the great people before Elisha had intimacy with God. Abraham. Moses. Joshua. Samuel. David. Elijah. All of their hearts were set on a relationship with God and they received it.
Elisha (as you will see) did not get that intimacy. Why? Let’s take a look.
Who did Elisha ask to give the double portion of the spirit? He asked Elijah to give it.
And whose spirit did he ask for?
And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”
He asked for Elijah’s spirit (of course which means: the Spirit of God which was in Elijah). He got it.
So what’s the problem?
He did not ask for these things from God. He did not desire intimacy with God above all else. He didn’t seek God directly… he seeked God through Elijah.
Elisha didn’t see the importance of the portion (anointing) coming directly from God, he saw it as something that he can get through Elijah.
What would his life had been like if Elisha had obeyed Elijah and stayed at Gilgal, leaving Elijah to go alone to the whirlwind? If Elisha had stayed, then Elisha would have received from God directly! This is obvious because God decided to anoint Elisha to be His prophet. God was always going to give Elisha the anointing and empower him – Elisha was the chosen one.
But Elisha chased after Elijah and persisted and received from Elijah… and not from God directly. This is a crucial point. Don’t miss it.
Elijah had said three times that he (Elijah) was leaving and will go alone and Elisha should stay. But Elisha wanted his increased power and he thought Elijah was the person to get it from. He didn’t think of getting it from God directly.
As a result of receiving his anointing from/through Elijah, Elisha now refers to God in a very casual and off-hand way. He also refers to God not as his own God, but as “the God of Elijah”. Look:
Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. (2Ki 2:12-14)
Elisha then retraces the steps of Elijah back from town to town all the way back to Carmel where Elijah defeated the baal prophets. There is no record of him experiencing God at any of these places. That doesn’t mean he didn’t experience anything, but there is no record of it. I have been to some of these places and there is a TREMENDOUS anointing of God in these areas.
Here is a key thing to observe: from this moment forward (except for a few prayers later on) there is no explicit or recorded relationship between Elisha and God. This is tremendously different to the experiences of the people that went before such as Adam & Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah and others.
Have a read of the bible texts below and try find any significant inter-personal intimacy between Elisha and God. It appears to me to be a functional relationship rather than what the people had before his time.
Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (2Ki 2:15)
Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.'” So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.
Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. (2Ki 2:23-25)
But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?” And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.” (2Ki 3:11)
Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do I have to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” And the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the LORD has called these three kings together to give them into the hand of Moab.” (2Ki 3:13)
Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you. (2Ki 3:14)
Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” (2Ki 4:1-2)
Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food. (2Ki 4:8)
The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her. (2Ki 4:17)
When Elisha came into the house, behold the lad was dead and laid on his bed. (2Ki 4:32)
When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” (2Ki 4:38)
It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. (2Ki 5:8-9)
Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” (2Ki 5:10)
But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” (2Ki 5:20)
But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” (2Ki 5:25)
Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. (2Ki 6:1)
One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2Ki 6:12)
Until this moment there has been no mention of Elisha asking for God’s help or seeking guidance, although I am sure he must have received some! By now he had done great things.
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” (2Ki 6:17-21)
Those three times, above, are the only times (that I can find) that it is recorded that Elisha prays to God and God moves to do something. The rest of the time Elisha uses his anointing to get the job done.
Then he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today.” Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man from his presence; but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, “Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door shut against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” (2Ki 6:31-32)
Then Elisha said, “Listen to the word of the LORD; thus says the LORD, ‘Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.'” (2Ki 7:1)
Now Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, “Arise and go with your household, and sojourn wherever you can sojourn; for the LORD has called for a famine, and it will even come on the land for seven years.” (2Ki 8:1)
Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, “Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.” As he was relating to the king how he had restored to life the one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, “My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.” (2Ki 8:4-5)
Then Elisha came to Damascus. Now Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and it was told him, saying, “The man of God has come here.” (2Ki 8:7)
Then Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You will surely recover,’ but the LORD has shown me that he will certainly die.” (2Ki 8:10)
Then Hazael said, “But what is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” And Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you will be king over Aram.” So he departed from Elisha and returned to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me that you would surely recover.” (2Ki 8:13-14)
Now Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, “Gird up your loins, and take this flask of oil in your hand and go to Ramoth-gilead. (2Ki 9:1)
According to chronological/timeline research (not mine!) Elisha was a prophet for 60-65 years and the bible records the first 15 years (the same duration as Elijah’s ministry) only.
When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The LORD’S arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.” (2Ki 13:14-17)
It’s curious that Joash says “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” which is exactly what Elisha says when the whirlwind comes to take Elijah in 2Ki 2:12.
Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet. (2Ki 13:20-21)
I think that the life of Elisha demonstrates some interesting things:
God clearly and deliberately chose Elisha. But the man He chose, Elisha, didn’t desire intimacy with God above all else, he desired greater power than Elijah had. I think his motivation was most likely for the people around him.
I’m highlighting the tremendous difference between Elisha and Elijah. It’s like a “before” and “after” moment don’t you think? Their lives both had power (Elisha more than Elijah) but the contrast in intimacy is incomparable.
Here is the point of this writing
It is for this reason that I am very concerned when I hear of Christians talking about anything teaching that does not rely on having a relationship and intimacy with God.
When people speak of healing which is independant of the Name of Jesus, or they choose to go into the spirit realm, or they open doors to receive power, or open heavens to have access to angels… all of these things do not require the intimacy that we see in the gospels, in the book of Acts and throughout the old testament in the lives of the great men and women.
Power should come only through our intimacy with God. We should wait for Him to give it. We wait… even if we can get it from/through other people (by literally collecting anointings from other people by having them lay on hands – as I have heard some people explain that they do). I believe we shoud not do this.
If our anointing comes in any other way – other than through a deep and personal relationship with God – then I do not believe we have chosen correctly. I believe our role (as His servant) must be driven by intimacy with God.
In this time many people in the church are becoming bothered by the lack of “power” in the church and they appear to be deciding to do something about it. If you are one of these people, you may have at least two choices:
- To seek a double anointing of power and get on with doing the miracles that you believe are missing
- To seek greater intimacy with God… and in this state of intimacy, He might pour out great anointing through you to people (or He might not, it’s His choice and it’s not under your control)
The question is
You can get power without having intimacy with Jesus. But should you?
Making a detailed comparison between Elijah (his choices and his frequent intimacy with God) and Elisha is an interesting activity. It might be worth spending your time investigating this and then making your own choice about what you’re asking God for.