Now it came about that when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:9)
Elisha was Elijah’s right-hand man. Wherever Elijah went, Elisha went with him. Almost from the moment that Elijah threw his mantle upon Elisha, he followed him.
But what’s interesting is that Elijah wasn’t the most likable kind of guy. In fact, he had downright attitude. He was instructed by God to seek out Elisha, and when he first saw him, he threw his mantle upon Elisha, a sign that Elisha was being called to be a prophet. Elisha immediately responded and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you,” to which Elijah responded flippantly, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?”
One of my commentaries explains that Elijah’s response inferred that he had not called Elisha, but rather it was God who was calling him. Nonetheless, Elijah didn’t go out of his way to mentor Elisha, or to welcome him into his call as prophet. In other accounts of Elijah in the scriptures, he was a man of few words and an acid wit. He certainly was not possessed of a personality that anyone would be drawn to. Yet Elisha ran after him, after having a farewell feast with his family, and remained with him until Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.
I believe that Elisha was not so much drawn to Elijah, but to the spirit of God that rested upon him. The simple act of draping a mantle–a cloak–upon Elisha would not, in and of itself, cause a man to leave his family and follow a stranger. The spirit of God was so clearly and perceptively upon Elijah that Elisha was drawn to that lovely presence like a moth to a flame. He wanted to soak up the presence of the Holy Spirit because of the life-giving qualities He emanates. Being with Elijah was, in a way, like living around Jesus (except that Jesus had more people skills).
So when it was time for Elijah to be taken up into heaven, and for Elisha to become his successor, Elijah asked him: “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you?” Elisha didn’t hesitate: “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”
Elijah had been given the capabilitity from God of granting nearly any wish that Elisha had. In his career as prophet, he had ordered fire from heaven to consume 50 men on two different occasions, he had declared a 3-1/2 year drought, he had been fed by ravens morning and evening with bread and meat throughout the drought, he had outrun King Ahab on a horse for 17 miles, and he had separated the waters of the Jordan river so that they could cross on dry ground.
So when Elisha was given the opportunity to choose anything, he chose the Holy Spirit, and requested a double portion. There are a couple of reasons for this. Elisha knew that one of the laws of God was that the first-born son was always to be given a double portion of all that he has (Deuteronomy 21:17). And while Elisha was not technically Elijah’s son, he was as close a son as anyone in Elijah’s life. But more than that, I believe, is that Elisha wanted what Elijah had. He wanted the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit. He had seen what a life lived with the power of the Holy Spirit looked like, and he wanted it…times two.
Even Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is the best gift. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13) In this statement, Jesus implied that the Holy Spirit is the best gift of all.
Elisha was bold to ask for such a thing. Elijah’s response wasn’t encouraging: “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Such a desire wasn’t something he could grant to Elisha; only God can give the gift of the Holy Spirit. But it would be confirmed to Elisha if he could see the fiery chariot and horse when it appeared, because no one else would be given privy to such a vision. Even the sons of the prophets who seemed to follow them at a distance would not see Elijah taken up. And when the heavenly chariot and horse appeared, Elisha saw it and knew God had granted his desire.
After Elijah departed, the sons of the prophets saw him and said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” It was that clear, that obvious. Perhaps it was a flame atop his head like those that appeared at Pentecost, or a holy glow of God’s glory. We don’t know how beautifully the Holy Spirit rested upon Elisha, but only that at the sight of it, they came and bowed down before him. It wasn’t Elisha that they worshipped, but the Holy Spirit of God.
As Black Friday approaches–that day where retail is king and people lose their minds and their manners in pursuit of this world’s trinkets–let us ask God for a far greater gift. Let us ask for a double portion of His Holy Spirit to rest upon us with power and glory. Let us ask that as the Holy Spirit rests upon us, that others will see and know that it is from God alone, and let the vision of His Holy Spirit outshine everything the world has to offer. Let others be drawn to the His Holy Spirit and bow down before our magnificent God, the Giver of the best gift.