Duane Hopkins – Elijah and Elisha -Williams, Western Australia Convention – 1986

The story of Elijah and Elisha, there are some wonderful things written about these men that can help us, inspire us and lift our eyes to things eternal. The things they did, the spirit they showed, the attitude they were living in very difficult days. It was not a time that was very bright for Israel. In [I Kings 17], we first read of Elijah and the Lord told him that there would not be dew or rain until God’s word came again. So God sent his servant, Elijah to the brook Cherith and he drank of the brook and the ravens came and fed him. Then God sent him to a widow woman in Zidon, and she was to sustain him. This was a wonderful woman. As Elijah was entering into the city she was going out, and he said to her, “Bring me a little water.” As she was going away to get the water, he said, “While you are at it, bring me a little cake also.” Then she turned and said to him, “All I have is but a little meal in a barrel and a little oil in a cruse, and I am just gathering two sticks, and I am going to make a fire, then eat the cake, and die.” Elijah said, “You go and do that, but bring me one first, then after that make for yourself and your sons. The Lord God hath said that the barrel of meal shall not waste neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”

I like this story because firstly, Elijah’s position, it is a very difficult thing to have to say, “Make me one first,” but this is the way of God. Sometimes we don’t feel that we have very much to give, but God said, “You give Me first, give Me a little bit, and I will see to it that it does not waste, you will have enough for future days.” She had a little oil, a little meal in the barrel, and when she went to get that meal, she would live for another day, go to the vessel and get a little oil and live for another day, and in this way, they were sustained many days. They only ever had just enough, but they had faith in the promises of the word of God. She had faith in the ministry of God. She put into action what she knew and had faith in. It is true she did not have much, but when she used it in the way that God planned it did not waste. This is like a person giving and giving, and it never runs out. It is a strange thing, but it tells us in the scripture, there is that scattereth and yet increaseth and there is that withholdeth more than is meat but it tendeth to poverty. The person who keeps back just comes to poverty, but those who do for others, giving and sharing, have joy in the soul and they always have something. We are so slow to learn this lesson, we want to keep for ourselves, hold back, thinking that will bring happiness, but it is only in giving and sharing that we receive. It tells us that her son died, and she said to the man of God, “Have you come to call my sins to account?” She examined herself.

Elijah said, “Give me your son.” He took that son to his bedroom and laid him on the bed, and stretched himself on the child, and prayed earnestly. This is a story that we have seen so often, that people look at their children who are going astray, and in spite of all that they do, they cannot help the child. We have seen this happen in good homes, with all the good influences of Godly parents, and the children go astray. Elijah said, “Give me your child.” He prayed, and the warmth in the heart of Elijah stirred life into the son again. Sometimes it takes the influence beyond the home to stir life in those who are dead. This is something we need to keep alive in the kingdom of God, to have fellowship with one another we need to keep the love of God in our hearts strong enough to combat the awful coldness of others, because the coldness has an effect upon us. People feel the coldness, but if we have the love of God in our hearts, the warmth in the heart, it will help others. But we have also seen it the other way, where the coldness of those in the world has robbed them of life and strength. Elijah saw a man who had warmth in his soul and he could renew life.

The woman said, “By this, I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” This woman had been eating bread for so long, but it took this experience with her son to know that the word of the Lord that Elijah spoke was truth. There are many people in this world who have the word of God in their mouth, they use the Book, they speak of the character of God, they are teaching, they are practicing, but it is far from truth. The only evidence of the word of God in a person’s mouth being truth is when it inspires life in those who are dead, when the word of God and the influence of our lives helps others. For 3.5 years there had been no rain, and now God said to Elijah, “Go, show yourself to Ahab.” When he did this, Ahab said, “We have been searching throughout the land for you. Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Immediately Ahab accused him. But Elijah said, “It is not me, but you, that have troubled Israel. You have forsaken the commandment of God.” He told the truth to Ahab. He said to Ahab, “You call together four hundred of your prophets and make a sacrifice, and then I will also make a sacrifice.” Elijah said, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him, but if Baal, follow him.” The people answered him not a word. They were not sure, they didn’t know. They were so far gone that they didn’t know whether Baal was God or Elijah’s God was God. They put their sacrifice on the altar, but there was no fire. The God who answers by fire did not answer. This is very sad, because many people are making sacrifices, and expect God to accept that. They made a lot of prayer, had a lot of activity but it was dead, there was no fire.

Then in the evening, Elijah put the wood in order, put the animal on the wood, he covered the sacrifice with water, and did it again, then he prayed and the fire of God fell and consumed the sacrifice, consumed the stones, consumed the water. This was the Lord God, and the people understood that. In the world, there are a lot of good sacrifices on the altar, you could not fault it, there is zeal, but there is a lack of knowledge because the sacrifice is never consumed by the fire of the love of God. The sacrifice spoils on the altar and there is no sweet savour going up to God, and it means nothing to God or man. If there is not the fire from heaven consuming the sacrifice, it will spoil on the altar. The sacrifice that Elijah made was consumed on the altar.

I think of an older lady in Oklahoma that I knew well. She was 93 years old. She had a neighbour who said, “I get up at 10 in the morning, and the day is so long, there is nothing to do.” Life had become wearisome. This old lady, of 90, professing said, “I get up at 6 in the morning, and I cannot get done all that I want to get done.” There was the love of God consuming the last drop of her sacrifice. Her sacrifice was not spoiling on the altar. In her relationship with others, there was a joy. To this other lady, there was no joy, she was a burden to others, but the love of God in our sister was growing stronger in her heart. It was consumed by the love of God. We love our older people who can say that they love this kingdom of God more than ever, the love of God consuming their lives, a sweet savour to God, and they are saying that the Lord He is God. We can say that that is the work of God, the power of God in their lives is working. Others who are coming on in the way of God who do not have the same understanding but see the ebbing embers of life in those who are older, look at their example and know it is safe to follow. The people of Israel said, “The Lord He is God.” They took the 400 prophets of Baal and destroyed them all, they destroyed the worship of Baal.

Then we read of Jezebel, and I believe that she was worse than Ahab. She said that she would kill Elijah and so Elijah fled. Here he killed 400 prophets one day and the next day, he fled from one woman. I don’t know, but there is a time to fight and a time to run. This was the time to run. He saw what was happening, and he ran for his life. It says that he arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba, and left his servant there. Then he went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a juniper tree and requested that he might die. An angel came and touched him and said, “Arise and eat,” and there was a cake and a cruse of water by his head. Elijah was by this time an old man and it says that he left his servant there. I don’t think very much of that servant because I believe that this servant left him. This young man let the old man go, who was so discouraged, and because of this I have no time for that servant. Elijah felt so discouraged that he just wanted to die. He said, “I haven’t accomplished anything,” and so he just went to sleep. Here we see the character of God. The angel touched him and fed him. He did not scold him. The old man was discouraged. He did not find fault with him or criticize him, but gave him water and bread, and fed him sufficiently that he could go on that food for 40 days and 40 nights. This is the character of God {that He does not upbraid us} when we are discouraged and sometimes when we have problems.

Elijah did a wonderful thing, he went to the mount of God. When Elijah came to the mount of God, God said to him, “What do you do here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been zealous and have done all I could do, and I am the only one left there are many people who would just like to see me dead.” He did not blame God. I feel this is a marvelous thing, that when he was so discouraged, we see him going to the mount of God. Sometimes when we get desperate in our soul, it is a wonderful thing to go to the mount of God. I have seen people who have been desperate and they have gone to the place where they could get help for their discouragement. There are many places we could go for help, and it is dangerous for us, it is no use to us. If we do not go to the mount of God, and go off somewhere else, and before we know it we are a long way from God. We have seen people make very bad decisions when they were in the valley, but Elijah went to the mount of God. I don’t know if he had ever been there before {but maybe he had} and maybe this is where God had spoken to him before. It was where God spoke to Moses. Discouragement affects us all, it is no stranger to me, those discouraging voices saying, “Have you ever heard the voice of God?” Sometimes with others it may be that they have failed, and things have shaken their faith and confidence, and maybe the Lord has never spoken to them. What do we do when this happens? Do we go for good advice, or do we just say, “Well, it is no use. I might as well just go off to the movies. I might as well go off and have some fun.”

I think of a young man who was in university. He had heard the gospel but was not very well established, and he went out into the country and got a job on a ranch. Many people wondered why he went out to do that. But he said, “I came out for one reason only, and that was to regain my faith.” At the university, professors had told him many things that had shaken his faith. This man ran to those people he had known before, where he had received help before and he talked to people who had established his faith, and he regained his faith, and the last that I have heard of this young man is that he has a meeting in his home, his children are all walking in the way of God, because he ran into the presence of God, he went to seek help when he needed it. He realised that his faith meant more to him than a university degree, that if he lost his faith life held nothing for him.

Elijah went to the mount of God. God said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” “I have been zealous, have tried to do my best, but am no better than my fathers.” God said, “You go up to the mount before the Lord. Elijah was 250 miles south of where he had been.” It took him 40 days and 40 nights to get there. That is not very fast, he didn’t do very many miles per day. He was so discouraged. It tells us that a wind passed by that rent the rocks. That was some wind, but Elijah never even went out of the cave door to listen. I see in that a lot of judgement. We see out in the world a lot of things blowing around, people getting excited, but Elijah never went out. Then it tells us about an earthquake, and Elijah never went out to the cave door to have a look. Then there was a great fire, again, Elijah did not go out. It is not very hard for us to see the things that are like winds, like earthquakes, in the religious world, in the political world, in the social world. Elijah never went out of the cave, it did not disturb him one little bit. There are some great activities that we read of and see in the world, but it is not worth the effort to go and even have a look at them. Then there was the still small voice of God, and he immediately responded and went out, and stood in the entrance to the cave. What a heart! We often hear the words, “Lord speak to me.” I often wonder if we would hear if He did speak. John, on the Isle of Patmos, heard the voice of a great trumpet, it got his attention, but here Elijah heard the still small voice. John needed the spirit to help him hear the voice, but Elijah must have been in tune with Heaven. The still small voice was more attractive to him than the earthquake and the fire. I want the Lord to get my attention, that I may hear when the Lord speaks, whether it be with the voice of a trumpet or the voice of many waters. I want to hear and respond. God said, “What are you doing here?” He was still discouraged; he was saying the same things over and over again.

Then God said, “You go back where you come from and anoint John. I have work for you to do, right in the place where you have come from.” He had to go back 250 miles again. This changed the man’s attitude altogether. Elijah ran towards the presence of God, and God gave him a job to do. It is very profitable for us to read the whole story through, of Elijah. We read that he went and anointed Elisha, he never did anoint those kings. Here was a strong old man. There was no hurry about anointing those kings, but the first thing was to take care of the interests of the kingdom, to anoint another prophet. He saw Elisha, a young man, working with 12 yoke of oxen. Prospects were excellent, he had a good sized operation, and he was not short of bread. The prospects were the best they had been for a long time, there had been no rain for three years, and now they could plant again. Elijah was running after him. Elisha said, “Let me go back first to my father,” and Elijah said, “Yes, go back, I have not got anything to do.” But he had, he had left his influence. Elisha could never get away from that influence, and he left his prospects of natural life to follow Elijah, and became a very useful man in the kingdom of God. This is the story of the gospel in every age and generation. It is God’s influence that is cast upon a young man or young woman, the influence, the mantle, that is cast over a young person, whose prospects are good and they say that God’s interests are more important than their own. This experience was more encouraging to Elijah than his discouragement.

In II Kings 2, we see the end of Elijah’s experience. He had not anointed a king, and this is very interesting, because he never got around to it. The first thing he did after his discouragement was to anoint Elisha. He may have said, “I had better anoint those kings in case something happens to me.” But no, he knew that Elisha could anoint the kings. The material things in this life were secondary. But Elisha never anointed those kings either, which shows to us today that the things of the kingdom mean more, and are more important than the things that belong to this world. There are some things that we need to take care of, and that is right and proper that we do, but they are secondary. Elijah and Elisha proved this. It tells us that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. Before this, Elisha was going with Elijah, and now, how come the difference. I think I know why. Elijah was getting older and older and not so able, and now he was content to follow Elisha. There is nothing more beautiful than that, this relationship between an older man and a younger man, who have the interests of God’s kingdom first.

I think of a man and his son farming back home, and in the early days, the son would come and ask advice from his father, they would go and talk things over. But over the last three or four years the older man is now going to the son and asking the son, the same as Elijah was going with Elisha. Elijah and Elisha would plan together, speak together, and you would hardly know who was doing the discussing, and nothing else matters but the interest of God’s kingdom. Then Elijah said, “I must leave thee,” and here we see a different spirit to the servant who left Elijah before. He said, “I must go to Bethel.” Elisha said, “I won’t leave you.” Elijah said, “I must go to Jordan and I will leave you,” but Elisha said, “I won’t leave you.” A wonderful harmony, something that is to be admired and imitated. As they were walking together, Elijah said, “What would you want from me?” Elisha didn’t need to stop and think, but said, “I would like a double portion of your spirit.” He wasn’t asking to be twice as good as Elijah, because this is impossible. You cannot give more to others than you have yourself. He didn’t say that he would like to have more of his knowledge, more of his experience, but no, a double portion of his spirit. As we live in the world today, it is wonderful if others covet the spirit we have. They may covet our position, our ability, but this does not amount to much, but if we could so live that others would covet a portion of our spirit.

One time, an elder worker who has a brilliant mind was told that he had a brilliant mind, and he said that he did not call that much of a compliment, because this is something that God had given him. If they had said that he had a wonderful spirit, it would have been a compliment. If we have a spirit that other Godly people would covet, this will be far more lasting than anything else that we could have. It is right to have an ambition to have something to leave for our children. One old man said, “I had hoped to leave the property unencumbered for my children.” One day, I heard my Dad talking to a neighbour and he was speaking of things that had nothing to do with material things. He didn’t know that I was listening, but in honesty and integrity he was speaking of an inheritance that had nothing to do with material things; these were things he said when he didn’t know I was there. To have the right spirit, that is the thing to aim at.

Elijah said, “Thou hast asked a hard thing. If you see me when I am taken you will have it. You will only have it if you walk where I walk, and if you suffer where I suffer, and if you stay with me to the end you can have it.” It is time the gift of salvation is given freely, the gift of God, but the same person who spoke those words, also spoke of laying up treasure in Heaven. We have some labour to do. Jesus said, “You go and suffer, then you can have it.” It tells us of some who fell by the way, there was unwillingness, there were reservations. There are things that will keep us back from this kind of effort, this kind of service. This spirit we only get by going all the way, as we worship, as we serve, as Jesus did. Elisha and Elijah came to Jordan and Elijah smote the waters and they divided. They went on and talked and I wish I knew what they were talking about. I am sure it would be the interests of the kingdom, the responsibility of the future, their communications would be sweet.

Then a chariot of fire took Elijah up to heaven, and Elisha was left by himself, all alone. He rent his clothes and the mantle of Elijah fell on Elisha, and he went back to Jordan. He said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? How can I go on? I cannot, without the God of Elijah.” It is far more important for us today to know the God of our fathers than to know our fathers. The hope of this generation is that they might know the God of their fathers. This is the work of God, not the work of man, and we cannot keep the work of God alive without knowing the God of our fathers. Elisha smote the waters. It would have been a wonderful encouragement to him to see the waters divide, the same thing accomplished that he had seen with Elijah. We could have the right ideals and the right purposes, but we need to take steps to make it happen. We need cooperation, to move, to walk, and this will show us the God of our fathers. We need to follow a right example today, so that one day, we may be able to lead. We need to learn to follow so that one day others may follow us. There is a lot of teaching in the religious world, but we need to learn to follow, to suffer, to walk, to follow a safe leader, and one day, we will be able to lead. We do not desire anything for ourselves, but we desire to follow our guide, and one day we will have the same spirit, and the kingdom of God will be safe in our hands. We need to remember the important things, that God is bigger than it all. It is our submission, it is having a contrite spirit, in putting the interests of the kingdom of God first, and in this way, the Lord will be able to bless us and guide us.