Updated: Mar 4
2 Kings 2:2-12
This morning we begin with the end in mind. I would like to start with an exercise that some of you have never done or you have avoided because of how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Bear with me. Imagine yourself on your deathbed. Who do you want to be around you? What do you want them to say to you? What is most important at that moment?
One man, who is now rejoicing in heaven forever, knew that his time was approaching and longed to be with Jesus. A friend walked in to spend a few last moments with him. He brought up old memories of laughter and love. He reminded the dying friend about a collection he had. To which the dying man responded, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” I have yet to hear one person in their last breath say, “I wish I would have collected more stuff. I wish I would have spent more time working. I wish I would have skipped church more often to do other activities. I wish I would have prioritized my life around living safe.” Words that are common to dying Christians are words like, “I can’t wait to see Jesus.” How would you live today if you were prepared to die? Maybe this is why we don’t want to think much about death because we know we would have to reprioritize what we are doing and how we are living. What God wants to do for you today is to prepare you to die. Maybe that day is sooner for some of you or a long way off. God knows that day. God prepares you by transforming you now and reminds you of the glorious transformation later. God prepared a man named Elijah for his departure. His was strange, and we most likely won’t experience an end like his. Elijah had a hard life and a tough job confronting people who were living and believing lies and those lies were taking them farther from God. He faithfully preached God’s law which condemned their behavior but also preached comforting forgiveness. Elijah was given a student with a similar name, Elisha. After a period of teaching, preaching, and mentoring Elisha, it was time for Elijah to retire. He retired not just from ministry but his earthly life. 1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah knew his earthly existence was going to end and so went to Gilgal, a location of religious training and a place where the Israelites would worship. He went there to encourage the students and religious leaders. He would go next to Bethel, which seemed to be a school for God’s prophets. Over the years, Elijah and Elisha probably grew to be pretty close. It must have been a gut-wrenching thing to have to say “Goodbye.” 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” Would it have been with a tear- stained cheek and shaky voice or did he hold it all in to be the strong master and teacher? Elisha had none of it. But
Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. Elisha also knew what was happening and vowed to be at the side of his dear master and spiritual father to the very end.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.” It appears that more knew this was going to be the day of Elijah’s departure. Why does Elisha silence the prophets from talking about it? Perhaps they didn’t quite understand that Elisha knew as well. Perhaps they didn’t understand what hardship it brought on Elisha’s heart to say goodbye to someone he loved. Perhaps he didn’t want it blown up into something that it wasn’t. He silences them. God was preparing Elijah and Elisha for Elijah’s departure. He used the fellow believers to do it. They move on and the exact same thing happens. 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to
Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho. 5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “but do not speak of it.” The exact same conversations. “Stay Elisha.” “No, I will never leave you.” “Don’t you know the Lord is taking him today?” “Don’t talk about that.” This must have been painful for both Elijah and Elisha to deal with. Death is not easy. They confronted it together. Imagining your own confrontation of the unknown can be scary. You imagine what it would be like and it can be hard. You don’t want to think about saying goodbye because you love the people God has put in your life. You want to enjoy
the earthly blessings from God. It’s harder for some of you to confront than others. Some of you might be wondering what purpose God has for you and you are almost waiting to give God a reason to take you home. But part of you still is a little scared because it is something you’ve never experience before. Some of you want to avoid it because you’ve
never been taught to approach it in a healthy way. You don’t need to dwell on it but you can’t avoid it forever. When we are prepared, we prioritize.
God prepared both Elijah and Elisha and that will help all of us prepare. 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on. One more time, Elijah attempted to deter Elisha. One more time Elisha promised to stay by his side until God took him to heaven. That was good for both of them. They continued together. One way God prepares us to die is through Godly companions.
A godly companion will help keep you grounded in what matters most. A godly companion will remind you about being ready to meet God. Are you ready? Have you done enough? Have you lived up to the expectations you have for yourself? Have you accomplished what you’ve wanted to accomplish? Have you left your mark on the world? All of those are the wrong questions to ask because they point us to ourselves but those are what a lot of people gravitate towards to indicate readiness. You can’t do enough. You will never accomplish everything. You will never be able to please everyone or make some great lasting legacy.
I’m sure Elijah wrestled with this but look at the gifts God gave to Elijah. 7 Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.” 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. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and
horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.
Some think of the greatest miracle was that Elijah was taken up to heaven in the whirlwind. I am amazed at a different one. They all believed God. 50 prophets watched at a distance because they believed God. Elisha went with Elijah because he believed God. Elijah went where God sent him because he believed God. All believed God. That was a miracle. Elijah believed God would take him to heaven. One time Elijah despaired of God’s promises and wanted to die. He felt alone which displayed his lack of trust in what God said. God didn’t judge him according to his failure but by the promise that a Savior would one day sacrifice himself. God prepared Elijah to die by faith in a promise. You are prepared because you have one who went ahead of death for you. Jesus did every good, met every expectation,
accomplished every goal. He confronted death and talked with Elijah and Moses ahead of it on the Mount of Transfiguration. He did it. Not without some fear or anxiety. He poured out his soul to the Father, “Is there any other way?” But he still did it because there was no other way to save you. You are ready for death because of what Jesus did. God used the people to help Elijah in his last moments. God uses others to help you. God uses you to help others. It’s
mutual. We need each other. This is why we offer both in person and online. I am amazed by people’s commitment to both and sticking with us, even when you may not agree completely on all our decisions. Because it is about the message of Christ and the mutual encouragement we give one another through the word.
You are prepared to die, no matter when that will be. We don’t have to be afraid to talk about it with our spouses, kids, parents, grandkids because we know our Savior. He has defeated death and Satan. He crushes fear with his sacrifice.
One resource we offer is planning your funeral. What songs would you want sung? When you imagine those gathering, you want them to hear about Jesus. One way you can make sure that happens is by directing whoever will do that uses comforting bible verses and hymns that reflect that. A Christian is prepared to die. When it is your time, God will take
you home to heaven, just as he did to Elijah.
Amen – Pastor Josh Bishop, 2/14/21