Intro: The life of Elijah has been a whirlwind of activity! From the time he stepped out of nowhere to confront the king of Israel, to his adventures of faith at the dry brook and the widow’s house, to his great victory on Mount Carmel and to his fall into and restoration from defeat and disuse. Elijah’s life has been tempestuous to say the least! Now, that life is about to end! Verse one of our text makes it clear that God is about to remove the prophet from this earth. He will leave here like he lived here; in a whirlwind!
As Elijah lives out the last days and hours of his life, it is interesting to see how he conducted himself. He did not live like a man who knows his time is short. He actually lives like a man who thinks he has plenty of time. It is this time just before Elijah is taken into heaven that I want to focus in on this morning.
I believe that Elijah sets a great example for those of us who are waiting on that time when we too will leave this world. If we were to be honest this morning, every saved person here would readily admit that they are anxiously awaiting that time when they will be home with the Lord in glory. But, what are we to be doing here, in the meantime, while we wait? Elijah shows us in this passage! As we read this account, we find there are three ways that Elijah spent his time as he waited on the whirlwind. One of these days all of our journeys will be over. Those who are saved will leave this world either by way of the cemetery or be way of the rapture. Either way, we will leave here in a whirlwind. Swept away into the presence of God. Until that day comes, we must live our lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and in a way that honors His will. Elijah shows us how to do just that. Let’s look in on Elijah and see the ways he spent his time as we think on the subject, Waiting On The Whirlwind.
Verse 1 Shows “IT WAS A TIME OF WATCHING”
For A Precious Event – According to this verse, Elijah knew the precious truth that he was going to get to go to Heaven without having to pass through death. This was a privilege that had only been enjoyed by one other person in history. Genesis 5:21-24 tells that story of a man named Enoch. He was a man who lived for and walked with the Lord. When his time here was over, God simply took Enoch to Heaven, without him having to pass through death! This is the precious event that Elijah was anticipating.
(Ill. That is the precious event that Elijah was anticipating. If you are saved, you too should be anticipating that event! Jesus is coming and I am certain that His coming is sooner than any of us realizes!)
- For A Promised Event – As one reads these verses, it quickly becomes apparent that everyone knew what was coming. The sons of the prophets knew, verses 3, 5, & 7. Elisha knew, verses 2-6. As I have already said, Elijah knew about it. So, this wasn’t a secret event! It was something people had heard about and could prepare themselves for.
(Ill. So it is with the return of the Lord Jesus Crist. This is not a thing that has been hidden from men. Jesus predicted it during His life, John 14:3.
- For A Private Event – Even though all these people knew it was coming, no one knew when it would happen! Elijah knew that God was coming for him, but he did not know just when. Therefore, he lived his last days and hours in anticipation of that coming event.
(Ill. The same is true concerning the return of Jesus for His people. The Bible is clear when it tells us that it will happen, but it is also clear when it tells us that we do not know when it will happen, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”, Matt. 24:36. Therefore, we must be certain that we are ready for His coming at all times! If you aren’t ready, the time to do so is now! Remember these sobering words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”, Matt. 24:44.)
(Ill. So, the question remains: Are you ready for the coming of the Lord. Just like the whirlwind came for Elijah, Jesus is coming for you and me.)
Verse 2-11 Shows “IT WAS A TIME OF WALKING”
- Verse 1-6 Walking with Purpose – As Elijah anticipated his departure from this world, he continued to live as he always had. He continued to walk in humble obedience before the Lord God! Notice his statement, “The LORD hath sent me…”, v. 2, 4, 6. If Elijah had been like many in our day, he would have spent his last days on the earth in retirement from service. He would have spent his time doing all the things he hadn’t had time to do while he was active serving the Lord. However, Elijah knew a truth that many people never learn: There is no higher call than that of following the Lord and doing what He bids you to do!
(Ill. The lesson for us is this: there will never come a day when we can quit serving the Lord. Even though we know we are leaving, and that our leaving could be today, we should still seek to live lives that are filled with surrender to the call of the Lord. If we want to take a biblical example, let us look to the book of Nehemiah. As he and his workers were being threatened by their enemies, they worked with one hand and held a weapon in the other, Neh. 4:17. In other words, they watched and they worked all at the same time! I will say it again, there will never come a day when we can quit serving the Lord! If you have been guilty of quitting on the Lord, let me encourage you to pick up your tools again! There is work to be done!
- Verse 1-7 Walking with Progress – As the Lord led Elijah from place to place, God was bringing the prophet to that place from which he intended to remove him from this world. For Elijah, these places also gave Elijah the opportunity to reminisce about his life and how the Lord had worked in it so powerfully and so wonderfully. Let’s take a moment to look at each of these places Elijah visited and note the significance each held for the prophet.
Gilgal – v. 1 – Gilgal was the first place Israel camped when they crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. Gilgal was the place of new beginnings. Here, they were near the battles, but not fighting them yet. They were in a place of safety, of preparation, and of communion with the Lord. Here, they renewed their covenants and grew strong in their relationship with the Lord. For Elijah it was time for him to remember how it all began for him. How the Lord called him and filled him to use him for the glory of God.
Bethel – v. 2-3 – Bethel was a holy place for the people of Israel. It was at Bethel that the patriarch Jacob had met the Lord God, Gen. 28:11-22. Bethel signified the place of the altar and of total dependence upon the Lord. Bethel was the place of revelation. Bethel was the place where God became known and where He became big in the eyes of those who worship Him. For Elijah, Bethel was a place to reflect upon all the altars he had experienced in his life. He remembered how his life had been one lived in total dependence upon the Lord God!
Jericho – v. 4-5 – For the people of Israel, Jericho represented the power of God to give victory in the day of battle. This was the place of their first major conquest in the promised land. Jericho was the place of victory and power. For Elijah, Jericho was a place for him to remember all the great victories he had enjoyed in his life. He could reflect back on all the great things God had done form him and through him. Times like the ravens, the barrel of meal, the resuscitated child, the victory at Carmel, all flooded the prophet’s mind. He remembered a life of powerful victories!
Jordan – v. 6-8 – For Israel, the river Jordan marked the end of their wilderness wanderings. It was a picture of death. That is, it was the place where the pilgrims died. When they crossed Jordan, they were no longer pilgrims, but they were a people who had arrived home. Jordan was the place of death. For Elijah, it was the perfect place to reflect on all the ways he had died to self during his years as a man of God. There, he could reflect on the fact that he had lived a selfless life, and that he had lived a life to the glory of God!
(Ill. What does all this mean for us? Well, Elijah’s travels show us something of the progression of the normal Christian life.
- First, we all must have that Gilgal experience. That is, there must be that time of beginnings, when we meet the Lord Jesus in a personal manner. Jesus Himself said it this way, “Ye must be born again”, John 3:7. There, we are safe, we are brought into communion with the Lord. It is a time of spiritual preparation for the battles that surely lie ahead.
- Then, as we grow in the Lord and learn to pray, we come to that Bethel time of our walk with Jesus. At Bethel, we learn to walk in dependence upon the Lord. It is the place of maturity.
- Eventually, if we grow as we should, we will come to our Jericho experience. This is where we see the Lord give us victories in the battles of life. Here, we will see the flesh, the world and the devil defeated as we live victoriously for the Lord our God.
- Eventually, we will face our own Jordan. We will come to the end of our journey just as Elijah did. Of course, Jordan isn’t a bad place. It is merely a doorway into the presence and blessings of the Lord. That leads us to our final step: Glory! One day, we will arrive in that place that Elijah went to: Heaven, to live in the very presence of the Lord God!)
(Ill. Do you see what I am trying to say? The Christian life is not meant to be a life of stagnation. It is meant to be a life of progression.
- V. 2-11 Walking With People – As Elijah traveled his last miles here on the earth, he did not attempt to travel them along. Verses 2, 4, and 6 might lead one to believe that Elijah wanted Elisha to stay behind. However, these statements were merely tests for Elisha. Verses 6, 8-9, and 11 tell the real story. These verses speak of friendship and fellowship. As Elijah completed his tasks upon the earth, he did not withdraw himself from those who could encourage him. He continued to walk in fellowship with other believers! This is seen in the fact that he visited the schools of the prophets and in the fact that he walked with his friend and associate Elisha. Apparently, Elijah knew that he needed others in his life!
(Ill. There are too many Lone Ranger Christians in our day! Far too many believers act as though they no one else in their life. However, the truth of the matter is, we need one another! We need good, godly fellowship and friendship. We need the presence and the ministry of the other saints of God! Even the Lord Jesus longed for that kind of ministry in His own life. Notice Him as He goes to the garden to pray. He takes three special men with Him and asks them to watch and pray with Him. When He returns from prayer, He finds them asleep and is disappointed that they could not stand with Him during that lonely hour, Matt. 26:36-40. This is the very reason we are commanded to make attendance upon the services of the Lord a priority in our lives, Heb. 10:24-25. Whether we will admit it or not, we need one another!
Verse 2-11 Shows “IT WAS A TIME OF WORKING”
(Ill. I have already touched on this thought, but this man did not spend his last days sitting on the bench of do nothing. He was busy in the work of the Lord until the instant God called him away.
- Verse 8 Trusting His Redeemer – Even at the end of his life, Elijah is still walking by faith. When he and Elisha come to the river Jordan, they need to get across, so Elisha does what he always did, he expected the impossible from God and received it by faith! It appears that Elijah never reached a place in his life where he said, “Well, I’ve seen God do all that He is able to do!” No, he just kept on walking in faith and dependence until the very end of the road.
(Ill. Friend, no matter how long you may walk with the Lord, no matter what you have seen Him do, no matter what He has done through your life, there will never come a day when you should stop trusting Him. Just because the years have brought you closer to your crossing, you should not stop walking by faith.
- Verse 9-10 Training His Replacement – As they walk together, Elijah spends his last moments with Elisha teaching him about obedience and faithfulness. Ill. Elisha’s request and the stipulations attached to its fulfillment. Elijah doesn’t clap Elisha on the shoulder and walk off into the sunset. He knows this man is to take his place someday. He knows that Elisha needs and deserves the best training he can be given. The future depends on Elijah doing his duty today. Before he leaves, he must hand down his ministry to the same keeping of the next generation.
(Ill. Friends as we near the end of our own road, there is another generation coming along behind us. What are we teaching them about faith, obedience to God, faithfulness to the Lord’s house and work, love for the Bible, etc? What kind of legacy are we leaving behind as we travel toward our crossing? We are here this morning because some people were faithful to hand down their faith to us, 2 Tim. 2:2. Our duty to those who follow is to give them what they need to get the job done for Jesus.
- Verse 11 Traveling His Road – In this verses, there is the phrase, “as they still went on.” Even though he was nearing the end of the life, Elijah found no stopping place. He found no place to unhook and drop out of the journey. Even though the end was near, he still went on. In fact, it was as he was going on that the Lord sent that chariot of fire to get him and bring him to glory! What an exit this man had! Can you imagine what it would have been like to see that? Can you imagine what it would have been like to experience that? But, as impressive as all that is, what impresses me more is that while Elijah waited on the whirlwind, he just remained faithful and kept on serving the Lord like he was going to live another hundred years!
(Ill. What a lesson for us! The Lord might come for you and me today. The rapture could take place, or today could be the day when we leave this world through death. Just this week a 27 year old professional football player, in the prime of life and at the peak of physical health, died of a heat stroke. You never know when your number will come up. You know, it doesn’t really matter! Why? Because we are called to serve the Lord today. May we never come to the place where we sit down on Him and say, “I’ve done enough! Someone else can take over for me.” No! Let us resolve, like Elijah, that we will “still go on” until He calls us to leave this world.)