As The Lord Lives, So Do We Live
Text: 2 Kings2:1-12
1Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, 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.”
Do you find yourself feeling for poor Elisha? Everyone knows that God is about to take his friend and mentor away from him. He knew the day would come but now that it is here he is still not ready for it. Who ever really is ready, when a loved one is called home?
3And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel (and at Jericho v.5) came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And (both times) he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” Elisha puts on a brave face but he still comes across as one who is afraid of death and separation! It is a common enough reality for most people. We all know those who simply will not speak of death (or do so only in euphemisms or in hushed tones) as if that keeps it away or will make it any easier to bear when it does happen! Yet keeping quiet does not remove the shroud of death and separation from us. Hiding behind masks, staying 6 feet apart, hunkering down in our homes will not keep death at bay. One day it will come for us as surely as it has come for every human being. Maybe it WILL be this disease. Maybe it will be another or a combination of health issues. A traffic accident, a slip and fall, choking, drowning, or the golden ticket of going peacefully in our sleep. And as I list all the possible ways, death might come for you and me, every heart here is crying out, I know! Shush!
As surely as we live, so must we all die. Well every human being except for two. Enoch, Methuselah's father was granted eternal life without death. One day the Lord just collected him so they could continue to walk together. And the second is Elijah here miraculously taken up in the whirlwind. Yet the separation for those left behind is no less sad for their death being circumvented.
So how do we properly prepare ourselves for just such a day, whether the day of the death of a loved one, or the day of our own? The day when this sinful world and flesh finally have done with us, or the last day when Jesus returns to bring some blessed group of us the golden ticket of joining Him directly without dying first. How can we be ready to depart this life, however God grants it to us to make our exit? We look to Elijah and Elisha for understanding.
9When 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.” 10And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” The child of God Departs this Life prepared and having lived to serve the Lord. Both Elijah and Elisha are confident that God is the giver of gifts, yet they are commendably aware that the measure of those gifts will be conditioned by God’s will. Elisha doesn’t ask for more than Elijah had, but to be allowed to continue on in his work. Elijah is ready to depart because the work God had given him to do was done. Elisha is ready to let him go, because also lives in service to the Lord and knows that both their days and their times have always been in His hands.
How many people are not ready to face the possibility of death for no other reason than they know they have not really lived. At least not in any meaningful way. If you want to be ready for the day of death and departure don’t hide from life now. The harvest is plentiful, the labourers few. Work in the day for the night is coming. There is no time like the present … this is the only moment you know you will be given for sure. In short, live as the Lord lives … with purpose and determination and drive to do what you can while you can, trusting that it is all in God’s hands however much of it you are blessed to do.
8Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. 11And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” Elisha didn’t shout this to Elijah, as a play by play to one who couldn’t see what was going on. He said this OF his beloved Elijah being carried away. Israel’s true strength and glory were not in war horses and military prowess, but in the Word of God and the faithful service of her prophets whatever hardships they faced. It was always God who had seen them through their every trial and danger. It was only ever God who delivered them.
Similarly, our strength and comfort lie not in any part of this life, be it found in wealth or health or peace. These are transitory at best. Our trust is not in the policies of any earthly government, the comprehensiveness of their mandates or the vigor of their enforcement. Our hope is never in a pharmaceutical miracle, a series of behavioural changes or the completeness of our armor physical or medical. Our only strength and comfort lies in the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments which alone give us the hope of everlasting life in Christ. The gifts of Christ alone can give us a place in God’s heavenly kingdom and the joys of a blessed reunion with loved ones who have died before us in the faith.
The child of God Departs this Life not only prepared and having lived to serve the Lord but also victorious and being escorted to heavenly glory. You see, even thought our text ends with the words “And he saw him no more.” Elijah and Elisha did see each other again, with their Lord Jesus Christ. Not even death can take away our God-given life in Christ. In Christ we are victorious even over death itself. Death then, however, and whenever it comes can only usher us into the glorious reunion God has arranged for us. One day we will see them all too because as the Lord lives so too will we live, just as Elijah and Elisha before us and all the faithful who will follow us! And knowing that joy is everything you need to be ready for that day of your death or departure as you live your life for Jesus in the meantime.