Between a couple trips through all 66 (and Bible studying) I've read every word in Scripture more than once, yet I still run into stuff I don't ever remember seeing before. Sure, it could just be that I've got an awful memory, but instead it seems to me that God's written word is like a gold mine where no matter how much you dig the precious metal never runs out…even when you are digging in the same exact place. It is inexhaustible.
For instance, a day or so back I was reading how Ahaziah (bad king of Israel) wonders if his injuries are going to lead to his death and decides to go ask Ekron's god Baal-zebub via messengers. The only real God sends Elijah to intercept Ahaziah's intermediaries, and Elijah sends them back with a pretty negative message. Seeing them so soon the king was surprised, and asked them why they were back so quickly. They relate the communication and then:
[Ahaziah] said to them, "What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?" They answered him, "He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite" (2 Kings 1:7-8, English Standard Version).
Now, perhaps you are far more observant than I am, but I never caught that Elijah wore clothing made of hair and a leather belt. Why does that matter? Fast forward to the New Testament and:
Now John [the Baptist] wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).
Followed later by:
And as they were coming down the mountain [after the transfiguration with Moses and Elijah], Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead." And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" He answered, "Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13).
Let's just say that finally noticing that Old Testament verse made an odd New Testament wardrobe have a lot more meaning.
But, hairy outfits weren't the largest "new" thing that stood out in that night's reading. After Ahaziah dies the writer relates the end of Elijah's time on earth. Elijah tries to get Elisha to stay behind during some travels, but the younger prophet refuses. We catch up to them at the Jordan River:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me." And he said, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so" (2 Kings 2:9-10).
Well, Elisha did see Elijah as he was being taken from him.
So, what exactly was the result of a double portion of God's spirit?
Let me back up a little bit first. Although Elijah was an incredible prophet and a righteous man, he seemed to occasionally have a trust issue with God. For instance, there is no question that Jezebel was a ruthless evil queen, and Elijah came into her sights:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:1-4).
Our gracious Heavenly Father was kind to Elijah and sent an angel to strengthen him, but it always seemed odd to me that a man so close to God (right through being able to do incredible miracles) was in such great fear of men. God had his back!
Now back to Elisha. In his case the king of Syria wonders how the king of Israel keeps escaping his clutches, and finds out the prophet Elisha is the reason:
And [the king of Syria] said, "Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him." It was told him, "Behold, he is in Dothan." So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see." So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:13-17).
And even when the army came down after him Elisha didn't freak, instead he prayed to the Lord that they be struck with blindness…and they were. Elisha was one cool cowboy.
Elisha's exit from this earth was much more conventional (he died), but I can't help but wonder if a double portion of the Spirit meant a double portion of faith…and faith and trust are synonymous. A whole army couldn't make Elisha's trust waiver.
And although I suspect we'd all we satisfied having the faith of Elijah, I pray you have a double portion of the Spirit, faith, and trust when you face life's trials…no itchy camel hair clothes required. 🙂