Two of the most prominent prophets in the Old testament were Elijah and his protege, Elisha. Before Elijah’s lifetime, the unified nation of Israel split into two portions. The northern part was called Israel, while the southern part was called Judah (kind of like the civil war in our own country’s history). Both Elijah and Elisha ministered in the north, in Israel.
When this split took place, Israel immediately established their own king, who instituted changes to their worship of the true God. For 300 years, until the Assyrians took Israel captive, none of the nation’s kings promoted the worship of God. Nevertheless, God had these two prophets stay in that land as His witnesses.
The eulogies of each of these men is the same. When Elisha saw his mentor taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire, he said, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” (2 Kings 2:12) Years later, when Elisha died, the king of Israel said the exact same thing, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” (2 Kings 13:14) No one uses these words at a funeral or memorial today, so why were they used then?
Armies at the time of Elijah and Elisha measured their strength by the number of soldiers, horses, and chariots they possessed. However, with the eulogies of these two prophets, it was realized that the protection of the nation did not come from their armies, but from God. The closest to these prophets in this nation’s recent history is Billy Graham. He was a strength to our nation, not because he led large armies, but because he reminded us of our need for God.
We are called to the same ministry as Elijah and Elisha. They lived at a time when their nation did not follow God closely. Many in America don’t see the relevance of God to daily life. They prefer that God would only be involved in church and family life, and that He would stay out of public life. Therefore, in whatever capacity we find ourselves, our primary mission is to demonstrate to those around us our daily need for God. Psalm 20:7-8 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”
It is not America’s armies, possessions, intellect, economy, or hard work that enables us to stand with confidence and hope when the world around us is crumbling. It’s a personal love-relationship with God through Jesus Christ that provides us with that kind of hope. For both our own life and that of our nation, our strength, our true “horseman and chariot” is the Holy Spirit. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Our challenge today is not to duplicate the ministries of either Elijah or Elisha, but to follow the Holy Spirit as He guides us to follow Christ. It won’t be our abilities, but it will be His work in us that can produce the qualities that we want in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22–23) Let’s let Him have His way in our lives today.