Friday, March 4, 2011

Double Portion of Elijah’s Spirit

Long ago there was a mighty prophet named Elijah. You can read about him in the Book of First Kings. He lived during the time of the kings of Israel and Judah. He was full of the Spirit of God. He told King Ahab that there would be a great drought in the land. During this drought he cared for a widow and promised her, by a miracle of God, that her oil and flour would not run out until the drought was over. Later he challenged the prophets of Baal (the pagan god) to a contest. The god that could light a fire on the altar on Mt. Carmel would be the one true god. The God of Israel won of course, and Elijah had the prophets of Baal put to a sword. Still later Elijah spoke against King Ahab for killing a man in order to steal his garden. Finally he was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Just before he went to heaven he asked his assistant, Elisha, if he had any last requests. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah told him that was a difficult request but if he saw him ascend into heaven then God would grant his wish. Elisha did see Elijah go up into heaven and a double portion of Elijah’s spirit began to manifest itself in the ministry of Elisha. His story can be found in the Book of Second Kings.

Elisha’s ministry was characterized by acts of social justice. He raised money for the pension fund for the widow of a dead prophet by multiplying oil, he changed polluted water into fresh water, he prayed for a childless woman to bear a son, later when that miracle-child, who was born to this woman, died, it was Elisha who raised him back to life, he removed poison from a pot of soup, he miraculously raised up an ax head from the water, he multiplied twelve loaves of bread into enough food for a hundred people, and he healed an army commander of leprosy.

One of Elisha’s most amazing deeds was to conquer an entire army. He did this with the disarming power of kindness. The king of the Aramean army sought to kill Elisha because he was able to predict his military maneuvers and tell them to the King of Israel. The Aramean army arrived at Elisha’s home with orders to kill him. He prayed to the Lord to strike the soldiers with temporary blindness. While they were blind he led them to the capital city of Israel (Samaria) where he restored their sight. The king of Israel saw the enemy army and exclaimed to Elisha, “Shall I kill them?” Elisha told him not to kill them but to give them food and water. This they did and after they feasted the army went home and there was peace between Israel and Aram from then on.

Having a double portion of Elijah’s spirit appears to me to manifest itself in acts of kindness, concern for the marginalized, helping the environment, feeding the hungry, showing compassion for one’s enemies and healing the sick. These are some of the basic ministries of a Christian and you don’t need to be a miracle-working prophet to do these things. God’s Spirit can lead you to places in your world where you can make peace. God’s Spirit can empower you to feed hungry people in your community. God’s Spirit can give you a heart for people who are left out of the things that make life meaningful. You can contribute to the Central Conference Pension Fund.

When you do these things it is evident that you too have a double portion of Elijah’s Spirit, which is the amazing Spirit of God.

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