I and II Chronicles are more connected with the establishment of the kingdom on earth; I and II Kings more figurative of what is heavenly. In the temple in Chronicles there is a veil (2 Chron. 3: 14), in Kings not. The veil will not be rent for Israel in the millennium.
II Kings 2:14, and following, Elisha is the character of Christ after His resurrection.
2 Kings 2:2. Bethel (Genesis 28, especially verse 15) where God promises to preserve Jacob, type of Israel, wherever he went, to bring him back, and not to leave him until the promises were fulfilled which he had made before. This name, Bethel, plays a great part in the word of God, as recalling the eternal care of God for His people. Here Elijah is type of the man Christ, who enters into the midst of the people, and identifies Himself with them, starting from the principles proclaimed at Bethel.
- Verse 4. Jericho recalls the most complete curse. It was where Christ goes after His identification with the people.
- Verse 6. Jordan is death.
- Verse 8. The power of death, which falls at the touch of the power of Christ.
- Verse 9. After the victory Christ can distribute gifts.
- Verse 10. If one can see Him far beyond death, He can give everything.
- Verse 14 and following. Elisha is the character of Christ after His resurrection.
- Verse 22. He returns to Jericho, and destroys the effects of the curse, and brings in blessing instead of it.
- Verse 23. He returns to Bethe in full realization of the promises made to Israel; but He exercises judgment.
- Verse 25. Then he goes to Carmel, the garden of God - millennial rest. Then one finds Elisha exercising the power of the age to come. The miracles are for the profit of the people of God.
This last history is, in all the three Gospels, introduced by His healing the blind man on the roadside by Jericho. Jericho itself has a peculiar character in Jewish history. The first opposing power to Israel's taking possession of promise; marked with a curse as the seat of the power of evil when the power was overcome; visited by Elijah on his way to Jordan and glory; healed by Elisha on his return to Israel, when the glorifying of Elijah had been accomplished:-it had the stamp of a certain initiatory character in God's relationship with the land of promise, not the direct title of blessing, but the way of blessing, through the curse, and the meeting the power of evil. Here the Lord, just as He was called out of Egypt, begins His last presentation to Israel. He heals the blind under the name of the Son of David-heals them who under that name called on Him for mercy, in persevering faith, in spite of the multitude. He had compassion on them. Luke adds here mercy to the chief publican, and the Jewish correction of the idea of the kingdom, announcing His departure, the responsibility of His servants, and the judgment upon His citizens, who, when He was gone, sent after Him, to say they would not have Him to reign over them.
There is a great difference between the David of Chronicles and that of Samuel. The king in 1 Chronicles is the David of grace and blessing according to the counsels of God. The king in Samuel is the historica lDavid exercised in responsibility. In Chronicles we do not find the matter of Uriah nor that of Solomon. It is a question of God's mind: no evil is reported, save that which is necessary to make us understand the history.
Even Joab with all his crimes, who is not cited in 2 Samuel 5 and 23, is here mentioned because he took the stronghold of Zion. This shews what value Zion has in the eyes of God, and in what way the Chronicles regard the history. In the Book of Kings, it is the history of Israel and the conduct of the kings under responsibility.
I have no doubt that we have, for the spiritual eye, a hidden testimony in their persons. Elijah places again, so to speak, the violated law in Jehovah's hands, in Horeb; then he follows each step of Israel: Gilgal, where they were set apart for God; Bethel, the place of the earthly promise made to Jacob; Jericho, the place of the curse; then the Jordan, or death; and Elijah goes up to heaven. From thence Elisha passed through death again, and enters upon his career of service. But Elijah's miracles are miracles of judgment; Elisha's, except the second, are miracles of goodness and grace.
It is another question whether the Lord's people are to be used in testimony by Him in time of failure; this will be according to His wisdom. We see this exemplified (as we have before remarked) in Israel; the failure of the golden calf was met by inward spiritual power in Moses putting the tabernacle outside the camp. And when the open and vowed worship of Baal prevailed, then God raised up Elijah and Elisha with great outward manifestation of power; but then the seven thousand faithful ones were hidden of God. The Lord may not choose to put the outward honour of testimony upon that which has failed. Still He gives the needed grace and inward power of life to sustain the individual soul; and this, as regards the saints now, flowing from the Head in glory for the nourishment of the body on the earth, can never fail. Thus, as regards gifts in the church, for instance, those which were for signs ("sign-gifts" as they are sometimes called, and a testimony to the world, signs being for those which believe not, as "tongues," "gifts of healing," etc.), these may be all gone; but never can those gifts be removed which flow down from the Head to sustain the members of the body; for "no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it even as the Lord the church."
Elijah and Elisha, on the contrary (witnesses for God in the midst of a people that according to grace God still recognised as His own, but who had openly forsaken God and worshipped golden calves), perform striking miracles in proof of their divine mission.
Elisha, is, so to say, the link between these two things as to prophecy. He does not return to Horeb, to announce the uselessness of an earthly ministry, and, in some sort, to place the broken law again in His hands who gave it, but who was really acting in grace. It is this grace, which Elijah had not properly understood; that was the only means by which God could maintain His relationship with the people; so that a return to Horeb could only put an end to the relation itself as standing on Sinai ground, and especially to the ministry of Elijah which took no higher position. Nevertheless God wrought for the revelation of all this.
The starting point of his ministry is the ascended man, evidently quite a new starting point in God's messages to Israel. Up to this point he constantly attached himself to Elijah. The latter had thrown his prophetic mantle over him (1 Kings 19); Elisha thenceforth was as if identified with him.
At the present moment, when Elijah is under the extraordinary power which is to snatch him away from Elisha, will the faith of Elisha maintain this position? Yes: the power of God upholds him, and he accompanies Elijah until the chariots of God Himself separate them, and in such a way that he may see Elijah ascending to heaven upon them.
Through grace the whole heart of Elisha was in the prophet's ministry, and by faith he walked in the height of God's thoughts in this respect.
Elisha will not leave him; and they go away to Bethel; that is to say, Elijah places himself in the testimony of God's unchangeable faithfulness. to His people. (See Genesis 28: 13-15. Here too one of the calves was set up; the place of special blessing again made the place of idolatry.) He acknowledges it; he takes his place in it; and Elisha is with him.
. . . but he does not remain there either; he is still under the mighty hand of God, Elisha following him. The sons of the prophets give their testimony to that which shall take place (but they only look on from afar, when the two prophets draw nigh to Jordan); Elisha knows it too, and puts an end to a discourse which, adding nothing to his knowledge of the mind of God, and disturbing the concentration of his thoughts, tended rather to weaken the union of his soul with Elijah.
Elijah comes at length to Jordan, the type of death, which should carry him out of the land of earthly promise, and break the links of God Himself with Israel on that footing. He crossed it indeed dry-shod.
We know that he ascended without having tasted death, but typically hepassed through it. (It is not a question here of expiation, but of passing through death). And now, beyond the borders of Israel-the land of law, forsaken of God-he can freely propose blessing to Elisha according to his desire.
As Jesus said, "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." In every detail death is the path of liberty.
Elisha, attached by the power of God to the prophet-to the same ministry which Elijah had just left-asks for a double portion of his spirit; and, although now separated from him, yet associated by faith with Elijah, gone up on high (testified by his having seen him in his heavenly condition), his request is granted. He again receives Elijah's mantle; but it is that of the ascended Elijah.
As we have said, the starting point of his ministry is not Sinai. It is heaven beyond the borders of Canaan, the other side of Jordan, which is the type of death. For, the law having been broken, and prophecy - which set before the people their relation to God on earth, and Hisblessing on that earth-having been proved powerless for restoration, the faithful prophet, forsaking a land which had rejected him, had taken his place outside a blind and ungrateful people, and had been taken up to Him who had sent him (hidden, so to speak, in God; although that expression, in its fulness, is true of the precious Saviour alone).
Up to Jordan Elijah demanded, by his ministry, that the righteous claims of God upon His people should be satisfied. He sets these claims before them. He must withdraw, and God takes him away from a peoplewho did not know Him.
At Sinai he acted in human weakness, although God had revealed Himself. Why retire to Horeb, where the law dwelt which the people had broken? This could be only to demand the execution of justice. While manifesting that He could in His own time exercise justice, God reserved to Himself His sovereign rights of grace. But in effect it is fitting that it should be exercised in a sovereign manner beyond the limits of man's responsibility. The relationship of Christ with Israel, with man, clearly explains this. Therefore God first shews that grace has reserved the perfect number who were known of God in Israel; then, having sent Elijah to fill up the long-suffering of the will of God in grace towards the people, instead of cutting Israel off, He places ministry in a position with respect to Israel, in which He can act sovereignly in grace towards every one who has faith to avail himself of it.
After Elijah had passed the Jordan, we have seen that all was changed. Until then Elisha is on probation; after that, grace acts. In principle it is the position of Christ towards the assembly (And of course towards Israel also) or at least towards men in grace; that is to say, it is sovereign grace, to the actings of which death has given free course, justice having nothing more to say, and no longer resting on the responsibility of man who had undertaken to obey, and from whom obedience was due. Justice now consists in God's having His rights, in His glorifying Himself, as is just, by being consistent with His entire being, love, justice, sovereignty, majesty, truth, and every attribute which forms a part of His perfection. He does so according to His sovereignty; and He does it by the Christ who has glorified Him on the earth in all these respects, in every part of His being, so indeed as to make Him known. The testimony of it is that He has exalted Christ as man to His right hand. It must be remembered here that the application of this regards Israel, so that the rejection of the people is considered to have taken place by the very fact of Elijah's rapture. God has ceased to maintain His relationship with them. In His sovereign counsels God never withdraws His love from Israel; but, on the ground of the people's responsibility, God has judged them. He has stretched out His hands all the day to a rebellious and gainsaying people. Therefore Elisha says to the king of Israel, "Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of king of Judah, I would not look toward thee."
Elisha nevertheless returns to Israel in grace. His ministry has then this distinctive character, that it is a testimony to the rejection of all that belonged to the condition of responsibility in which the people had been placed; but at the same time it is a testimony to grace by faith, according to election and the sovereignty of God, in order to maintain the people in blessing; and that through the righteous execution of the judgment which their sin had brought upon them.