The end of Elijah’s ministry is approaching, and it is soon time for him to be taken away by the Lord to Heaven. A reading of the text reveals that this was not a surprise to any of the people described as taking part. Evidently Elijah, Elisha and the company of 50 prophets who accompanied them all seemed to know that the departure of Elijah was coming soon.
The story itself is short and to the point. After some back and forth, between Elijah and Elisha, Elijah miraculously parted the waters and he and Elisha crossed on dry land. After one more exchange between the two, a fiery chariot appeared and…Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind.
It’s that final exchange we are going to talk about briefly today. Here it is: “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” 2 Kings 2:9
Some questions are important; this one was. When Elisha witnessed the miracle of the parting waters of the River Jordan, he knew God’s power was in play; he could have asked for anything. What did he ask for anyway? He wasn’t asking for twice the miracle performing power of his mentor, although he certainly did far more miracles than Elijah had done. He certainly wasn’t asking for twice as much of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not some force that is given in increments; we get all of Him or have none of Him. Rather than try to force my own words into this answer, I will just share that John McArthur had to say because I think he said it perfectly.
“In Israel, the firstborn son inherited a double share of his father’s possessions and with it the right of succession (Deut. 21:17). “A double portion of your spirit” was not merely Elisha’s request to succeed Elijah in his prophetic ministry, since the Lord had already revealed this succession in 1 Kin. 19:16–21. Nor was it Elisha’s desire for ministry superior to Elijah’s, though Elisha did, in fact, do twice as many recorded miracles as Elijah. Apparently, Elisha was asking to succeed Elijah in the prophetic office, as God had promised, with spiritual power beyond his own capabilities to meet the responsibilities of his position as Elijah’s successor. He desired that Elijah’s mighty power might continue to live through him.”
This was much wisdom from Elisha, and no doubt this was a test to see what he would ask for. What do we want? Do we want a powerful ministry that spotlights us and makes us look like heroes? Or do we want great things, beyond our capabilities, that will showcase the greatness of God?