Alphagramma
Alphagramma
 

The Prophet's Apprentice (Elisha Reimagined)

Written by Peter Robert Flounders
(During The First Decade And A Half Of The Twenty-First Century)

   

 

CHAPTER 10
(2 Kings 9: 1-13; 14 - 20)

Consequences and Endings

It was ending. My ministry, or at least my public ministry as a thorn in the side of royalty, was coming to an end; years before I would have expected it to, but no less certainly. My time of speaking to kings in their heathen courts, of dealing with apostates, treacherous rulers, blasphemers and worshippers of calves and idols, was all of it finished even while I was not yet old. Others would have to take up the spiritual mantle of a prophet in Israel, but no other would ever wear the mantle bequeathed to me by Elijah. Perhaps I did not have his spiritual stamina. Perhaps the LORD had just recognised my weariness of blood and battle and continual strife, and decided to let me use the rest of my allotted years taking care of my children, the prophets and the colleges. (A circuit that was more than able to fill my days, and even more able to fill my hours of intercessory prayer.) Possibly it was all of these things, probably it was none of them. Perhaps I might even see Abel-Mehola again, but this time I would not dance, not even in my Meadow of the Dance. Why think of what might be to come, when did I ever try and perceive the plans God made for me?

Whatever it was, of one thing I was certain, surely it was time to lay my burden down, for I was no longer able to carry it.

Yet there remained one more task to be completed. And although I would not personally perform it, it would be my instruction that instigated the action, that sent another in my place. The words would be mine, given to me by the LORD and passed on to my messenger; words that would unleash a time of horror and bloodshed as God used evil men to work His promised acts of justice and retribution. Promises that had been constantly ignored or laughed at in spite of my country's history, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. God is patient but He never fails to do what He says He will do. And as He had often used Israel's enemies to discipline His chosen ones for their disobedience and apostasy, now he would use faithless Israelites to discipline faithless Israelites, and apostate Israelites to kill the foreign queen who defiled His name. For many in the divided kingdom, the time was coming when they would reap the bitter fruit of the wild seeds they had so uncaringly sown.

The season for repentance was drawing rapidly to a close, while the season of judgment was hard upon the land.

..........

King Hazael of Aram, following my prophecy to him and his subsequent murder of Ben-Hadad, had wasted no time in fulfilling my words and filling the empty throne. Consolidating his position as king after the murder of Ben-Hadad, he immediately waged war with Israel to demonstrate to his commanders and to his armies that Aram once more had a strong leader at its helm, a soldier of courage. He first waged war at Ramoth-Gilead, one of the cities of refuge built in the territory of Gad.1 Ramoth-Gilead was a walled city and the conquering of it would not be easy. However, after some days of determined defence King Joram was wounded and returned to Jezreel to tend his wounds and rest in preparation for what he knew would be a long war. He was correct in his prophecy, it would be a long, cruel war - but not for Joram. And as for Ahaziah, king of the southern kingdom, who had joined Joram in the battle against Aram, for him also it would not be a long war. Perhaps he would have time to regret that he went see his ally, King Joram, to see how he fared.

And while they were away from the field of battle, leaving their commanders to talk and determine new strategies of war and peace, I shot the arrow that would begin another slaughter; but not a slaughter of the Arameans or any of the other enemies of the Kingdom. This slaughter, merciless and without recrimination, would have the chosen ones as the victims, and chosen ones as the executioners, and it would end only with the total and utter destruction of an apostate dynasty.

But for a short while there was peace on the battle field while the king's commanders took time to relax and discuss the fortunes of war, and perhaps the fortunes of commanders. Among them was a man named Jehu. A man whom the LORD had commanded Elijah to anoint king of Israel, and when I took up the mantle of Elijah the task fell to me.

But I also passed the burden on.

...........

I called one of the men from my college of prophets, Jonah son of Amittai,2 and said to him, 'Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room.

When you are alone with Jehu take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, "This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel." Then open the door and run; do not delay!'

I told him to run immediately he had anointed Jehu as king of Israel for Jehu's fellow commanders would probably think he was a madman and perhaps injure or kill my servant. What I had not foreseen was that the LORD would give Jonah the other words to say, words that still lay locked in my spirit, for I was unable to voice them, unable to speak the horror they commanded; and that the LORD was now lifting the load from one now less able to bear it.

..........

Jonah did not voice any useless questions of me, it was as if he had already perceived the change. He never queried my words; words that would anoint another king in place of King Joram who still lived. And he refrained from asking me why I had delegated so great a responsibility. The questions were in his eyes, bubbling in his chest, but they never reached his lips. The young man, Jonah, a son of a prophet and a son of my college simply turned and left. And I loved him.

When he arrived he found the army officers sitting together just I had told him. But when he spoke to them, he also added the words I had not given him, but which he had still received. The words that remained unspoken in my spirit, the same spirit that witnessed everything he did and said.

'I have a message for you, commander,' he said.

'For which of us?' asked Jehu.

'For you, commander,' he replied.

Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu's head and declared, 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: "I anoint you king over the LORD's people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD's servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel - slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no-one will bury her."' Then he opened the door and ran. (The only part of my instructions he obeyed in detail. For the rest, he obeyed someone greater than I.)

When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, 'Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?'

'You know the man and the sort of things he says,' Jehu replied.

(His words were rhetorical. They did not know the man - but they knew the type of man who had spoken with their friend. A prophet from the college, easily recognised by manner, clothes and appearance. Someone who was often mocked and ridiculed, such was the apostasy in Israel. But his colleagues felt his excitement, smelled the blood lust in the air and refused to be deceived. It was a decision that pleased Jehu, commander in the King Joram's army.)

'That is not true!' they said. 'Tell us.'

Jehu said, 'Here is what he told me: "This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel."'

They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, 'Jehu is king!'

And so Elijah's commission was at long last completed and now I could rest for my time was finished. The last words I would ever say that would destroy lives, punish the wicked, and speak of God's justice. My time henceforth would be spent in the building up of my children, the prophets. I turned my back on the divided kingdom and began the first of many days on the college circuit.

..........

For twenty-eight years while I worked in the colleges with my students I watched the reign of King Jehu. Like Hazael, King of Aram, he adapted to the throne and kingship far too easily, it was as if he had long practised for the position, a prince in hiding, a prince in waiting. That he had wanted the throne for some time was self-evident. And the alacrity with which the other commanders accepted him seemed to prove that Jonah's words were not much more than confirmation to them and, as many before him full of their treacherous dreams and ambitions, the anointing was immediately accepted as a sign of God's blessing on him. Would he also remember that God's blessings demanded a righteous walk with Him, I wondered - but without hope.

However, the task God gave him to do in the working out of His purposes, Jehu accomplished with more joy than godliness, and eventually his trust in Baal exceeded his trust in the LORD. I observed and experienced the beginning of his reign, then I became nothing more than a watcher with no more influence in the lives of kings.

Jehu was quick to test the loyalty of his comrades; quick to take action to consolidate his position. He said, 'If this is the way you feel, do not let anyone slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.' If this the way you feel... Not that this is the way I feel; not that my blood is nearly boiling in my veins with the thought of kingship and power. No, rather, 'If is this is the way you feel...' then of course I am your servant.

He wasted no further time, quickly jumped into his chariot and with some of his guard drove like the wind to Jezreel. King's Joram life was now measured in hours.

With guile and subterfuge he slaughtered the priests of Baal.3 With a self righteousness that was unbelievable he accused Joram of idolatry and witchcraft then put an arrow through his back as the king fled. In similar vein he killed Ahaziah, curtailing his royal rule to a mere year.

With Jezebel, King Ahab's widow, he was particularly merciless. Painting her face, and especially her taunting, evil eyes, the harlot waited for him. 'Have you come in peace,' she asked of him.4 She was thrown out of the window of an upper room by her personal eunuchs and trodden under the hooves of horses. Yes, this blasphemer deserved her fate; yes, she deserved to die, this murderer of God's people, this worshipper of Baal. But the concern that remained with me was not for the victims of God's righteous wrath, but with the heart of God's weapon, the commander who became king - Jehu.

He continued his crusade and bodies were heaped behind him in his cleansing of Baal's followers from the kingdom. And God was pleased with him and promised that his descendants would remain on the throne of Israel.5 But the golden calves were not removed from Bethel and Dan, and after a reign of twenty-eight years King Jehu died - and Hazael grew strong.

And so in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah the murders and the treachery, the apostasy and the worship of Baal and golden calves continued. And the voice of Elisha the prophet was no longer heard in the land.

..........

Jehu was succeeded by Jehoahaz and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord and for a time was kept under the power of Hazael.6

I remained with my prophets, teaching and being taught, visiting and receiving visits. And although my heart and soul ached for the lands of Israel and Judah, and although I wept painful tears through many nights for the way my LORD's name was treated, I never more entered the courts of the evil-doers, and my voice was silent.

Then Jehoahaz's son, Jehoash, came to the throne of Israel. He is the last king I shall ever see in this world of pain and evil.

For now I lie on a bed I will never leave alive. My young prophets, sons and grandsons of the ones Elijah bequeathed me, are beside me constantly in an ever-changing stream of faces distraught with grief, and tears that cannot be quenched. They will not listen to my words that it is enough, I have been in this world already too long. I want now only to be with my LORD, and to see again my fathers.

But like Elijah's sons when it was time for him to leave, they are insecure and afraid. I tell them not to fear: to the younger men I say that the older brothers will protect and teach them; and to the older men I say that the LORD Himself will lead them. For among them all, there is no Elisha on whom to lay the mantle, or no head on which to pour the oil of anointing. Of course other prophets will rise in Judah and Israel, but they will not speak to kings face to face in their palaces, nor directly pass the LORD's judgment on them, as Elijah and his son Elisha did.

King Jehoash, the hypocrite and coward, that he is, has sent his court physicians, the best in the land I am constantly told, to tend me. They tell me it is a disease that is killing me. They also assure me they will try everything in their power to heal me. Fools! They have no power, and nothing is killing me - it is merely the LORD calling me home. And very soon I will answer that call with a heart full of joy.

But before I could leave there was one last task to complete; one final attempt at helping those that will not be helped; who ask for words of counsel and advice - and reject them. Jehoash, King of Israel came to see me, weeping and wailing as if his life depended on my survival. But not for a second could he deceive me, he cares nothing for me but - fool that he is - in his wickedness and ignorance he believes that I alone am responsible for Israel's fortunes, for the good or for the evil. Why the LORD continues to protect him and allow him to live is beyond my meagre understanding - but soon, very soon, I shall know more, for then I will stand before Him, my LORD and my God.

So Jehoash came to me and I told him what to do to gain God's favour and so defeat Aram once and for all. As always, he failed to obey. As other kings before him, and exactly as the people they rule, he listens for a season, perhaps even stay faithful for a while - then turns away from the one true God. An evil man, a wicked king, yet I warned him, like those before him, righteous and unrighteous. Why? Because my LORD commands me - and that is, and always has been, reason enough for me, his servant.

King Jehoash swept into my room, his demeanour a picture of grief as he wept over me. 'My father! My father!' he cried. 'The chariots and horsemen of Israel!'

My father? He is no son of mine. And only Elijah was the army of Israel, the chariots and the horsemen. For a while I too warned and protected her, but now I am just a dying man with one last task to perform.

'Get a bow and some arrows,' I ordered and he did so.

'Take the bow in your hands,' I said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, I put my hands on his hands.

'Open the east window,' I said, and he opened it.

'Shoot!' I said, and he shot. 'The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!' I declared. 'You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.' He grew visibly stronger before me and the false tears left his eyes and dried quickly on his cheeks. He waited, an eager and impatient man. Surely this was to be more than just one victory.

Then I said, 'Take the arrows,' and the king took them. I told him, 'Strike the ground.' He struck it three times and stopped.

I, the man of God was angry with him and said, 'You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.'

Such a simple thing, but it showed the man; impatient, wanting the end without the journey. It would cost him dearly, as all our failures cost us.

He left subdued. Yet his face showed his feelings even as he took his leave of me. Three defeats of the Arameans, three defeats of Hazael. It was more than he had dare hoped for when he came. And who knows the ways of the LORD. Perhaps Elisha, the dying prophet, had not heard correctly, and had not repeated God's words exactly. And if he pleased God in the promised defeats of the Arameans, then perhaps….? King Jehoash like all men of selfish ambition, would soon adapt the words, the facts, to suit his wishes. I watched him go and forgot his name as he walked from the room.

For very soon this earthly life of mine will end, and for me eternity will begin. I am tired, and to rest in the shadow of His wings is all I now desire.

Yet I can easily remember how good it was to be young, to feel the unthinking courage of youth storming through my veins, to flex the sinews of my young body - and to look forward to the hope that lay eager within my breast.

How good it was to be the son of Shaphat - one of the godly few who refused to bow the head to Baal - full of hope and excitement, not yet tarnished by the sin of men, or sullied by the unfaithfulness of Kings. My life stretched long before me, dedicated to the God of my Salvation, the name given me by the first of my fathers, the name Elijah made me value and remember, Elisha, God of my Salvation. And although unsure of His plans for me - I rested in the peace that He had designed them and that they, like the maker, will prove perfect.

I sigh, a deep sigh as this world fades from me. My eyes close for the last time and I see again my Field of Dreams. Ah, yesterday, it seems like only yesterday. My hands are flexing on the shafts of my plough and I can feel the sweat running down my shoulders, see the oxen stretching ahead of me, smell the newly turned earth, and across the field a small dark shape strides towards me. My father, the horses and chariots of Israel.

It is time, I am going home.

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