The king of Syria was hunting for God’s prophet Elisha and tracked him to the walled hill-city of Dothan. By night, the Syrian ruler sent horses, war chariots, and troops to Dothan. By daybreak, his forces had closed in on the city.—2 Ki. 6:13, 14.
When Elisha’s attendant arose and went outside, he saw the prophet’s would-be captors. “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” he cried. “Do not be afraid,” said Elisha, “for there are more who are with us than those who are with them.” Then the prophet prayed: “O Jehovah, open his eyes, please, that he may see.” The account goes on to say: “Immediately Jehovah opened the attendant’s eyes, so that he saw; and, look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Ki. 6:15-17) What can we learn from this and other events in Elisha’s life?
Elisha was calm in the face of the Syrian siege because he trusted in Jehovah and saw God’s protective power in action. We do not expect miracles today, but we do discern that Jehovah is protecting his people as a group. In a sense, we too are surrounded by fiery horses and chariots. If we “see” them with our eyes of faith and if we always rely on God, we will “dwell in security” and will experience Jehovah’s blessing. (Ps. 4:8) Let us consider how we can benefit from other incidents in Elisha’s life.
ELISHA BEGINS SERVING ELIJAH
On one occasion, when Elisha was plowing a field, the prophet Elijah approached him and threw his own official garment upon him. Elisha knew what that meant. He held a feast, said good-bye to his father and mother, and left home to minister to Elijah. (1 Ki. 19:16, 19-21) Because Elisha readily made himself available to serve God as fully as possible, he became an instrument in Jehovah’s hand and eventually served as prophet in place of Elijah.
Elisha served Elijah for perhaps six years. During that time, Elisha was the one ‘who poured out water upon Elijah’s hands.’ (2 Ki. 3:11) In those days, people customarily ate with their hands, without forks, knives, or other eating utensils. After a meal, a servant poured water on his master’s hands to cleanse them. So at least some of Elisha’s tasks were menial. Nevertheless, he considered it a privilege to be Elijah’s attendant.
Today, many Christians likewise take up various forms of full-time service. In doing so, they are motivated by faith and a desire to use their energies as fully as possible in serving Jehovah. Some of the assignments require that they leave home and do work—at Bethel, on construction projects, and so forth—that many might consider menial. No Christian should consider such service insignificant or demeaning, for Jehovah values it highly.—Heb. 6:10.
ELISHA STUCK TO HIS ASSIGNMENT
Before God ‘took Elijah up to the heavens in a windstorm,’ he sent the prophet from Gilgal to Bethel. Elijah suggested that his companion not accompany him, but Elisha replied: “I will not leave you.” As the trip continued, two more times Elijah urged Elisha to stay behind but to no avail. (2 Ki. 2:1-6) Just as Ruth had clung to Naomi, so Elisha stuck with Elijah. (Ruth 1:8, 16, 17) Why? Evidently because Elisha appreciated his God-given privilege of ministering to Elijah.
Elisha set a fine example for us. If we receive some privilege of service in God’s organization, we will value it highly if we bear in mind that we are serving Jehovah. No greater honor exists.—Ps. 65:4; 84:10.
“ASK WHAT I SHOULD DO FOR YOU”
As the two men were traveling, Elijah said to Elisha: “Ask what I should do for you before I am taken from you.” Just as Solomon’s request made years earlier was of a spiritual nature, so was Elisha’s. He asked that ‘two parts of Elijah’s spirit might come to him.’ (1 Ki. 3:5, 9; 2 Ki. 2:9) In Israel, a man’s firstborn son was to receive a double portion of an inheritance. (Deut. 21:15-17) In effect, then, Elisha asked to be recognized as Elijah’s spiritual heir. Moreover, Elisha evidently wanted to have the same courageous spirit as that of Elijah, who was “absolutely jealous for Jehovah.”—1 Ki. 19:13, 14.
How did Elijah respond to his attendant’s request? “You have asked a difficult thing,” said the prophet. “If you see me when taken from you, it will happen to you that way; but if you do not, it will not happen.” (2 Ki. 2:10) Elijah’s answer apparently had a twofold significance. First, only God could determine whether Elisha would receive what he had requested. Second, if Elisha was to receive it, he had to maintain his resolve to stay with Elijah, come what may.
WHAT ELISHA SAW
How did God view Elisha’s request for two parts of Elijah’s spirit? The account says: “It came about that as they were walking along, speaking as they walked, why, look! a fiery war chariot and fiery horses, and they proceeded to make a separation between them both; and Elijah went ascending in the windstorm to the heavens. All the while Elisha was seeing it.”* That was Jehovah’s answer to Elisha’s request. Elisha saw Elijah taken from him, received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and became the prophet’s spiritual heir.—2 Ki. 2:11-14.
Elisha picked up the official garment that had fallen off Elijah and put it on. That garment now identified Elisha as God’s prophet. Further proof of his appointment was evident when he later performed a miracle by dividing the waters of the Jordan River.
What he saw when Elijah ascended in the windstorm undoubtedly made a very great impression on Elisha. After all, a person does not see a fiery war chariot and fiery horses every day! They provided proof of Jehovah’s positive response to Elisha’s request. When God answers our prayers, we do not have a vision of a flaming war chariot and fiery horses. But we can discern that God uses great power to ensure that his will is done. And when we observe that Jehovah is blessing the earthly part of his organization, in effect we “see” his celestial chariot in action.—Ezek. 10:9-13.
Elisha had many experiences that convinced him of Jehovah’s tremendous power. In fact, God’s holy spirit enabled the prophet to perform 16 miracles—twice as many as those attributed to Elijah.* The second time that Elisha saw horses and war chariots of fire was during the crisis at Dothan described in the introduction of this article.
ELISHA TRUSTED IN JEHOVAH
Though surrounded by enemies at Dothan, Elisha remained calm. Why? Because he had developed strong faith in Jehovah. We too need such faith. Therefore, let us pray for God’s holy spirit so that we can display faith and other aspects of the spirit’s fruitage.—Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23.
The incident at Dothan also gave Elisha sound reason for trusting in Jehovah and his invisible protective armies. The prophet realized that God had deployed angelic hosts to surround the city and its besiegers. By striking the enemy with blindness, God miraculously saved Elisha and his servant. (2 Ki. 6:17-23) At that critical time, as in other situations, Elisha exercised faith and put his complete trust in Jehovah.
Like Elisha, let us trust in Jehovah God. (Prov. 3:5, 6) If we do so, “God himself will show us favor and bless us.” (Ps. 67:1) True, we are not literally surrounded by fiery chariots and horses. During the coming “great tribulation,” however, Jehovah will protect us as a worldwide brotherhood. (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:9, 14) Until then, let us always remember that “God is a refuge for us.”—Ps. 62:8.
Elijah did not ascend to the heavens that are the spiritual dwelling place of Jehovah and his angelic sons. See The Watchtower of September 15, 1997, page 15.