Posted by: arieliondotcom | May 11, 2013

Such Sweet Sorrow (2 Kings 2)

Such Sweet Sorrow
(2 Kings 2)

In Romeo and Juliet, as the young lovers are trying to pull themselves away from each other, Juliet says:”Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Later song writers describe it as “It hurts so good.” And if you have cared about anyone, you know that feeling. Sending a child off to college is heartbreaking, yet you know the joy of being proud of their accomplishment and that in reuniting you will have a more mature relationship than ever. The same for their getting married. If you are married you remember that last sweet parting before the wedding day, feeling how horribly wrong it was yet knowing in a few hours you would be united in a way sweeter than you could imagine. And if you care for a Soldier, you know the bittersweetness of that departure that hurts sending them away but is sweetened by the knowledge it’s their last deployment. And the reunion will be spectacular.

EliSHa (hereafter referred to as S) was assistant in ministry to EliJah (hereafter referred to as J). GOD had picked S out to help J after J had complained about doing ministry alone, just the way GOD had provided Aaron to help Moses when Moses complained about being unfit to lead the people out of Israel.

In the very first verse of the chapter we are hit between the eyes with the same shock S was hit with in a message from: GOD. GOD is about to miraculously take J into Heaven!

This was to be a sweet but sorrowful parting. Over time, S had grown to respect who J was as a man, not just a leader. J had become a mentor, and a friend as well as a teacher and spiritual leader. He had become like a father. To hear that his father figure was being taken away was sorrowful to S.

That’s why as whole crowds of fellow prophets can’t wait to tell S that J is going to be taken away, S tells them that he knows, to be quiet. It’s like they’re rubbing salt in the wound of his broken heart.

But knowing what a great blessing this was for his father figure, a sign that J really was a great man of GOD, made it very sweet as well. S was heartbroken for himself but overjoyed for J.

J keeps telling his assistant not to follow him further. He knows how much it will hurt S to see him go. But S won’t be put off. No matter how many times J tells him to not follow, S can’t be persuaded, like a toddler grabbing his father’s leg, unwilling to let him leave.

When they come to the Jordan river, J snaps the river with the jacket he had around himself and the river splits so that the two of them can cross on dry land as 50 of the other prophets see them do it.

Notice the parallels to Moses again with the Red Sea. And also with the people coming into the promised land when the waters split to let them pass through.

After crossing the Jordan J brings up the topic neither of them want to mention. He asks his assistant how can he bless him before he leaves. S says something shocking but touching: He asks for twice the spiritual power from GOD that J had. He could have asked for wealth or prestige or long life. But S only asks to follow in J’s footsteps but to be even more effective in ministry.

J says this can only happen if S sees him being taken away. Jewish scholars say this is because J couldn’t give S more blessing than he had in him, but since GOD would be supernaturally increasing his power as he was being taken away, S could have the increase as well.

As they are still talking, a chariot made of fire with horses made of fire come between them and a tornado takes J (Elijah) off into Heaven. S (EliSHah) shouts out in shock and grief and joy “Papa! Papa!” as Elijah his father figure is being taken to heaven by the chariot of their mutual patriarch and ancestor, Israel (Jacob).

Alone, now, EliSHa takes the jacket that had fallen off of Elijah as he was being carried away. Returning home the way they came, he calls on GOD to answer him as he had answered Elijah and whips the water of the Jordan river and it divides, Jewish scholars say, twice as much as it had for Elijah. And the 50 prophets who had seen the two of them pass over see EliSHa return alone.

They realize that he has been given at least as much power as Elijah had and ask to go search if the Spirit had dropped Elijah somewhere. This sounds silly until we realize in Acts that, as with Phillip after he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit did occasionally physically carry the prophets and apostles from one spot to another, like an invisible hand moving chess pieces. Though Elisha knows Elijah was carried off to heaven the other prophets pester him so much he lets them search though as he told them they could find no trace of Elijah.

We see more evidence of EliSHa having the same if not more power than Elijah had when he is able to miraculously purify poison water and call the judgment of GOD down on evil children.

This is a controversial verse because we don’t like to hear that what just seem to be some teasing boys who mock EliSHa’s baldness get eaten by bears for it. But Scripture emphasizes that he stared at them the way JESUS stared at the rich young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Staring at the young man, JESUS could see into his heart just as EliSHa could see into the hearts of this gang of young men. JESUS loved what He saw but EliSHa saw these boys would never stop being evil and cursed them so bears ate most of them.

We can see many parallels to JESUS and His disciples in Elijah and EliSHa.
In Mark 10 where we read that incident of JESUS looking into the heart of that young man we read of many sweet sorrows.

Divorce, though sorrow, can be made sweet with reconciliation with GOD if not with the one divorcing us or from whom we’re divorced.

Children sorrowful to be kept from JESUS are overjoyed to be with Him, called into His arms.

The rich man who thought he had something sweet in riches was told by JESUS the real joy was in parting with those riches and helping others. And that the ultimate riches are to part with all the world says you need and find the sweetness of the Kingdom of GOD by following Christ. He tells James and John the sweetness of being parted from the desire for power.

Throughout the Gospels JESUS told the apostles before the crucifixion that He was about to be taken from them. But He said it would be a sweet sorrow. They wouldn’t see Him for a little while but unless He went away and became glorified in Resurrection He couldn’t send the Holy Spirit. But when He was resurrected and they realized they could have eternal life and have His Spirit with them always, their joy would be unimaginable.

And after JESUS ascended to the Father, the disciples returned to Jerusalem rejoicing. JESUS was gone from their sight but now they knew He was GOD, that He would be with them always, and that they would be reunited with Him forever either after their own death or His return.

JESUS calls us to the same sort of sweet sorrow as EliSHa and the disciples felt. In losing what and whom we love in one sense we find them restored in ways and a sweetness we can’t understand.

In your loss, look to Christ as your gain. And look to that tomorrow where in our fullness with Him, we will never part or sorrow again.


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