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ELIJAH TAKEN UP TO
"And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan.
"And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
"And it came to pass, when they were gone‹ over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
"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 II. 7—10.
IN a former chapter we have seen that Elijah on one occasion, weary of life, sat down and requested for himself that he might die. He little knew at that time the good things God had in store for him. He was never to see death. He was to be translated from earth to heaven, as Enoch
We now have an account of the manner
of Elijah's ascent into heaven. And also of the blessings sent down, in answer to his prayer, upon Elisha, who became prophet in his room.
This was a great and wonderful event. The like to it had not happened since the days of Enoch, (Heb. xi. 5,) nor after it was the like event until the Lord Jesus went up into heaven in the presence of his apostles. Those who saw Elijah's ascent into heaven were fifty men of the sons of the prophets, "who stood to view afar off," while Elisha was by his side.
But one of the last things Elijah did before he went away, was to prophecy to Ahaziah, a wicked king of Israel, and tell him of his death. As this event was accompanied by some severe judgments on some of Ahaziah's servants, we must pay a little attention to it before we notice his ascent into heaven.
Ahaziah was sick and ill. He had fallen out of a window in his house. He sent, not to the Lord's prophet, but to Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, to know whether he should recover. This was a false god which the Philistines worshipped. Ekron was a city of the Philistines. Baal-zebub means god of the flies. It is supposed by some that
the inhabitants of Ekron worshipped this false god as having power over the minute stinging flies which infested that country. It is from this name the chief of the devils is named Beelzebub, of whom we read in the Gospels.
Ahaziah sent to this false god. angel of the Lord sent Elijah to meet his messenger. And he said to him, “Is it not because there is not a god in Israel, that go to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore, thus saith the Lord, thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." Ahaziah was angry because Elijah had thus stopped his messengers. He asked them who it was. They described the man.
He said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite." The king then sends a captain with fifty men to go and take Elijah. "Elijah answered, if I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty men. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty." This also Elijah did to the next captain of fifty and his men. But the third captain and his men were spared, and why! Because they asked for mercy. This captain fell on his knees and besought him,
and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee let my life and the life of these fifty thy servants be precious in thy sight, and the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, go down with him, be not afraid of him. Elijah went to the king and told him he should die. And he did die according to the word of the Lord. (See chap. i.)
Was Elijah cruel in thus acting? Nofor these reasons. First, he acted under God's direction, for an angel of the Lord seems to have been his counsellor here. (ver. 15.) Secondly, He could have had no revengeful feelings, or he would not have had power to act as he did in the name of the Lord, saying, "If I be a man of God, let fire come down."
Besides, his very character and whole object of life were the very opposite to any feelings of revenge; his life was a life of labour of love. No-his object here was to let God's judgments against sinners be known and felt in such a way as to become a witness in God's behalf against the evil doings of sinners. Hence the captain and fifty who seemed penitent, and came and asked for mercy, obtained it.
Yet this was, no doubt, a severe judgment, and we are reminded of it again in the
Gospel history, and are led to contrast it with the tender way in which Jesus dealt with those who opposed him when upon earth.
It was when some inhabitants of a village in Samaria would not receive the Lord, "because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem," that James and John said, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke ix. 52-55.)
We see, then, how exceedingly in error those must be who ever persecute men for religion's sake. You cannot drive men to become religious. The Gospel is a scheme for drawing with the cords of love.
But now pass on to the still later doings of Elijah, before he went up into heaven.
It seems that he was told by God that he was to be taken up, though he knew not the place where he should last stand upon earth. For some reasons, we find God sent him from Gilgal to Bethel, from thence to Jericho, and from thence to the banks of the