The Power and Spirit of Elijah
January 15th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
2 Kings 2:1-14
THE POWER AND THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 2:1-15
1-15-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Power and the Spirit of Elijah. As has been announced, our evangelistic conference for the state of Texas begins tomorrow. This is the highest spiritual convocation I know of on the North American continent.
And we will all be present tomorrow night, especially all of us, when the pastor brings the message in the Dallas Memorial Auditorium. It will be a service of consecration, of commitment, of invitation. An appeal will be made, and all of our families, our families are especially encouraged to be there. I shall look for you. They said, “Will a thousand of your people be present?” and I said, “Why, yes.” And our staff has said there will be three thousand of us present in the Memorial Auditorium tomorrow night.
If you would like to turn, you who listen on the radio, you who fill this great auditorium this morning, if you would like to turn to the text, I shall read it out of 2 Kings, second chapter; 2 Kings, second chapter:
And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today? And he said, Yea, I know it; [hold ye your peace].
And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And Elisha said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.
And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master [from thy head] today? And he answered, Yea, I know it; [hold ye your peace].
And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
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 Elijah said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so; but if not, it shall not be so.
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
And Elisha saw it.
He had his request, “If thou dost see me when I am parted from thee, a double portion of my spirit shall rest upon thee” [2 Kings 2:10]. And Elisha saw it!
And [he] cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took off his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
And He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw Elisha, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.
[2 Kings 2]
Doubtless in all human story there is not a more picturesque or dramatic figure than Elijah the Tishbite. In his dress, in his manner, in his looks, in his appearance, in his life, in his ministry, he was as rugged as the mountains of Gilead from whence he came.
So deep an impression did he make upon Israel that thereafter it became the habit of a prophet to dress like Elijah; with coarse hair or with skins and girded about the middle with some kind of a rough girdle, long uncut hair and an ascetic, forbidding demeanor [Matthew 3:4]. That’s one reason why when John the Baptist appeared, his very presence and the sound of his voice was startling!
But Elisha, as he looked upon the older prophet, and as he had been introduced to the life and work of the man of God, showed a deeply penetrating sensitivity, an understanding of the power of the prophet. For Elisha could see and he understood that the tremendous ableness of Elijah, the man of God, did not lie in his dress, or his majestic means, or his asceticism, or his sudden appearances, or his thundering pronouncements, the stentorian voice that shook Israel. But Elisha could see that the power of the man of God was found in the Spirit of the Lord that rested upon him [Luke 1:17]. Consequently, when Elijah asked the younger man, “What shall I do for thee, before I be taken away from thee?” the discerning younger man said, “Oh, that a double portion of thy spirit might rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9].
Herein is demonstrated and vividly portrayed a weakness that we find in the ministry today. Wherever you see an unusually gifted preacher, he will be almost always accompanied by some idiosyncrasy, some peculiarity. And always there will be some turn of personality about him that is very forceful and unusual. And it will be the weakness and the habit of the preachers of that generation to imitate, to mimic, and to copy the idiosyncrasy, the peculiar eccentricity of the preacher, or something of the turn in his personality. For example, Len Broughton, a tremendously successful preacher of the Lord, wore long hair, long hair that flowed to the back of his head and a long, long coat. And in the generation of Len Broughton, all over the length and the breadth of the land, you would find preachers standing up, especially younger ones, with long uncut hair and long Prince Albert-like coats. And I suppose the commonest scenes that I find among ministers today in those little peculiarities will be found in their long hair.
John A. Broadus was a tremendously, scholarly, dedicated student of the Word of God, and because of his much studying, he developed a stoop in his shoulders. And in the generation of John A. Broadus, from one end of this Baptist Zion to another, all the young men who stood up to preach stooped over the pulpit just as John A. Broadus.
Talmage, the most eloquent, doubtless, of all of the preachers who ever lived in America, had a peculiar way of chopping up his sentences, of breaking his sentences. And all over the length and breadth of the land, the young minister preached breaking up his sentences.
And a little later on there came Billy Sunday, and he preached, breaking up chairs. And all over the land there were preachers who broke chairs over the pulpits. And in our own day the pathos in the voice of the great pastor of this church, Dr. George W. Truett, could be heard in a thousand pulpits as the younger men sought to imitate the tremendously effective tones and voice and delivery of the great George W. Truett.
But Elisha could see that to mimic the man in his dress or in his voice or in his appearance or in his delivery was folly and stupidity, unless first he had the power of God that rested upon Elijah. So in his request he makes that humble petition. “What shall I do for thee,” said Elijah, “before I be taken from thee?” And Elisha said, “I pray thee let a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9]. It is God in the man that makes him powerful for the kingdom of heaven.
We shall turn our hearts to that supplication, the power and the spirit of Elijah upon us. First for divine enablement, divine enabling; if you follow closely the Word of God at all, one of the things that will be most startlingly impressed upon your heart is this: that these men of God, almost without exception, were plain, ordinary men who were filled with the presence of the Spirit of God upon them—plain, ordinary men. They were herdsmen, they were shepherds, they were husbandmen, they were tax gatherers, they were fishermen, they were carpenters, they were tentmakers. They were plain, ordinary men. But they were touched by the power of God.
Do you remember the confrontation of Amaziah, who was the priest, the chaplain of the court of Jeroboam II at Bethel? [Amos 7:10, 13]. And when an unknown herdsman from Tekoa [Amos 1:1], down there in the south of Judea, appeared before the golden altar and the golden calves of Bethel and began to denounce the king and began to denounce the idolatry of the people and began to denounce the wickedness of the day [Amos 2:4-7:9]—as Amos stood there, he was confronted by Amaziah, the king’s chaplain, who bid him go his way and stop his voice [Amos 7:12-13]. And do you remember what Amos replied? “It is true”, said Amos, “I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet’s son; I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: but the Lord took me from following the flock, and said unto me, Go prophesy unto My people Israel” [Amos 7:14-15]. “And the lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” [Amos 3:8].
Plain, ordinary men filled with the power and Spirit of God; think of the many poor fishermen in the days of Peter, James, and John—but those men [Matthew 4:18-22]. Think of the many tax gatherers in the days of Matthew—but that man [Matthew 9:9]. Think of the many Hellenists, literally hundreds of thousands of those Greek-speaking Jews in the Greco-Roman world—but Stephen and Philip [Acts 6:5]. Think of the many poor tinkers, men who welded pots and pans—think of the many poor tinkers in the days of John Bunyan, and the visions of glory and heaven that he saw. Think of the many poor cobblers in the days of William Carey, but this man, with an open Bible on one side and a map of the world on the other side, cobbling shoes, reading the Word of God, looking at God’s lost world.
It’s the Spirit of God upon the man that makes the difference. “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee.” And Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9].
Again, the Spirit of God upon us for our testimony and witness in the sanctuary, in the house of the faithful, in the presence of the congregation, here, here, here. Forever and forever are these services lifted out of the realm of the terrestrial and the mundane and into the realm of the extraordinary and the supernatural because of the presence of God among us. Think of it. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20]. Look at these thousands. Think of it, and God is here.
“There am I in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20]. Jesus is here. Sometimes I find myself falling into a pattern of thought like a little boy. Jesus is here. Jesus is here. Is He there? I pass my hand, I wave my hand. Am I passing my hand through Him? Is He here, or perchance does He stand here?
But the Lord, He is here? Where here? Then I begin thinking in the maturity of the Word of God—He is here. The Holy Spirit is Jesus, here, in our hearts. There where you are, yonder where you sit, Jesus is here. In our hearts, the Holy Spirit of Jesus [1 Corinthians 6:19], God’s name, singular, God’s name; in the name of God’s name. God is Father, God is Son, God is Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19]. Singular, not three, but one [Mark 12:29]. We know God as Father [1 Corinthians 8:6], as Savior [Jude 1:25], as Comforter [2 Corinthians 1:3], and Keeper [2 Timothy 1:12]. He is here in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19].
But there is more. Somehow in a theological delineation that my finite mind cannot describe, I cannot command words to frame the conception. It is beyond us. But somehow there is also a presence, when God’s people, in His name, come together in the church. I know that for many reasons. It was especially impressed upon me in preaching through the Revelation, “And the seven lampstands” said Jesus, “are the seven churches of Asia” [Revelation 1:20]. The seven, the number seven, represented all of the churches of the Lord—a complete number. And as John in a vision looked upon those seven golden lampstands, he also saw walking among them, walking among them, One like unto the Son of God, His face bright above the glory of the meridian sun, His feet as though they burned like burnished brass in a furnace, His eyes as a flame of fire; the Lord walking among His churches [Revelation 1:12-15]. There is a sense beyond which theologically I am able to delineate, that when we come together in the household of the Lord, Jesus, God, is somehow present with His people [1 Corinthians 3:16-17].
Who could be an ordinary minister in such a divine and holy presence? Who could do other than bow before the great High God and ask that His blessing and His Spirit rest upon us? “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 rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9].
And last—for we must hasten—and last, the Spirit of God upon us: first, for a divine enabling [2 Kings 2:9]; second, for the worship, the assembly in God’s church, the gathering of His people together [Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17]; and third, for our witnessing to the world [2 Kings 2:9]—what we shall do beyond this hour, this moment, this service, as we go out these doors, as we rise in the morning, as we work in the days of the week: some of us in school, some of us in the office, some of us in the plant, in a thousand ways as we face the assignment of God for us in the earth. How shall we do? O Lord, for a double portion of Thy Spirit to rest upon us [2 Kings 2:9]. A testimony in our strength, an argument in our wisdom, an invocation in our gentleness and kindness, I am sure does not fall to the ground. But if it has power and meaning, it must be accompanied by the Sprit of God [2 Kings 2:9]. And in this assignment and in this task God has given us in our city, in our state, and in our missionary enterprise in the earth; Oh! I pray Thee, dear Lord, let a double portion of Thy Spirit rest upon us!
Stir me, oh, stir me, Lord! I care not how,
But stir my heart in passion for the world;
Stir me to give, to go, but most of all to pray;
Stir, till thy blood-red banner be unfurled
O’er lands that still in deepest darkness lie,
O’er homes where no cross is lifted high.
Stir me, O stir me, Lord! Thy heart was stirred
By love’s intensest fire, till Thou didst give
Thine only Son, Thy best-beloved One,
Even to the dreadful cross, that I might live;
Stir me Lord to give myself so back to Thee
That Thou canst give Thyself again through me.
[“Stir Me!” Bessie Porter Head]
“Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee.” And Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit rest upon me” [2 Kings 2:9]. And the sons of the prophets which were at Jericho saw Elisha and said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha” [2 Kings 2:15]. God grant it to us, as a pastor, as a people, as a church, and as God’s fellow witnesses in the earth.
Now we sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody you, give himself to Jesus; come and stand by me. A couple you, a family you, a child, a youth, one somebody you, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, to the topmost balcony, there will be time and enough to spare. If you are on the way and we were to close the invitation, you just keep coming. There will be some of us who stay here all day and all night if you decide for Jesus. As the Spirit shall whisper the invitation to your heart, come now, on the first note of the first stanza; come, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
POWER AND THE SPIRIT OF ELIJAH
W. A. Criswell
Elijah’s prominence in the Jewish world
Elijah’s prominence in Scripture
Transfiguration – why Moses and Elijah
to the dignity of the Lord Jesus during His darkest hour
atonement they expected from the Lamb of God
way they each departed to heaven
heaven Elijah and Moses are sentient, alive, active
2. They both spoke
to Jesus about the atonement