It's not IF
but WHEN


Saturday Reflection


13th February 2021

...Elijah was not taken up in the...

11 As they were walking along
  and talking together,
  suddenly a chariot of fire and
  horses of fire appeared and
  separated the two of them,
  and Elijah went up to heaven
  in a whirlwind.

..... 2 Kings 2: 11

Elijah's departure into heaven
is one of the most famous of the
stories in the Old Testament;
a favourite with all
Sunday School teachers.

But if you ask most people
"How did Elijah go up to heaven?"
you would get the answer,
'In a chariot of fire'
(drawn by fiery horses!
as shown in all those pictures
on Sunday school walls).

Actually, Elijah was not taken up
in the chariot of fire!
As the verse above tells us;
'Elijah went up to heaven
in a whirlwind.'

This is a dramatic tale told with
classic story-telling technique.
There is a three-fold repetition,
and it ends with a spectacular
scene with the chariot and
horses of fire and a whirlwind.

Then as the tale unfolds,
everywhere Elijah goes there
are people who already know
what is going to happen.

First he goes to Bethel
where he finds a company of prophets.
These prophets take Elisha
aside and say to him,
   "Do you know that Yahweh
    will take away your master
    from your head today?"

They already know that
this is the day.

In the second scene,
they go to Jericho
and the same thing happens.
The prophets take Elisha
aside and say,
   "Do you know that Yahweh
    will take away your master
    from your head today?"

Each time, Elisha responds
by saying,
  "Yes, I know it. Hold your peace."

Everybody knows what is
going to happen,
but they don't know exactly
when it will happen.

The question was not 'if'
the Lord was going to take Elijah,
it was 'when'.

As I thought about this,
I realized there are certain
things in life where the
question is not 'if'
but 'when'.

If we have real faith in God,
we do not have to wonder
about the 'if', only the 'when'.

It is not 'if' God loves us
and will be good to us,
it is 'when' God will show
his goodness to us.

It is not 'if God will show
his grace upon us,
but 'when' it will happen.

The Bible strongly affirms
the Second Coming of Jesus.
Just as he departed,
he will come again.
It's not a question of 'if'
he will come again,
it's a question of 'when'
he will come again.

The Bible makes it clear
that we will all die.
It's not a question of
'if' we will die,
but only 'when' we will die.
It's not a question of 'if'
we will receive eternal life,
it's only a question of 'when'.

Faith gives us a confidence
about certain things happening.
We just don't know when
they will happen.
That was the case in
this story as well.

Elisha's response to this
heart-stopping event aptly
demonstrates the human inability
to grasp the divine.
No praises to God or
shouts of glory escape
Elisha's lips,
only a numb-struck
descriptive statement.
He says,
   "My father, my father,"
which is a term of respect
for his mentor.
Then he adds,
   "The chariots of Israel
    and its horsemen".

I would suspect we would be
numb-struck too!

If we heed the lessons
of this text,
we too will find ourselves
in places where we are
struck numb by the
presence of God.

It may not be as dramatic
as this story was.
According to the Bible,
this never happened again.
But there are other ways
in which God makes his
presence known to us.

It may not be for us
something as dramatic as the
chariots of fire;
it may be as simple as the
awe that comes when watching
a beautiful sunset.

But if we follow Elisha's example,
we can experience it too.

"It's not 'if' but 'when'
God will come to me",
if we are blessed in the right place
at the right time
and open to God,
then we too may receive
the mantle of God's spirit
and be struck numb by the
presence of the Holy One.

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'These are the days of Elijah'
(with lyrics)'
sung by Robin Mark
via the link shown below.