2 Kings 2:9: Now it came about 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.
The story of Elijahs departure into heaven follows the sequence of a sacrificial rite. By their journey around the land, Elijah and Elisha become a unit, the two of themEbecome inseparable. They are washed in the Jordan, as parts of a sacrificial animal would be washed before being placed on the altar. Fire descends from heaven, which divides the men in two, and one of them ascends in fire to God, as the altar portions of the animal ascend in smoke to heaven. In the ascension offering, the skin of the sacrificial animal is given to the priest, and here the mantle-skin of Elijah, the hairy garment of the Baal of hair, is left for Elisha.
Through this sacrifice,Ethe covenant is renewed, Elisha becomes a successor to Elijah, and a new phase of prophetic history begins. In this sense the story is a type, a type of the sacrifice of Jesus: Washed in the Jordan, giving Himself over to death, ascending into a cloud, leaving His Spirit to be with us, just as the spirit and mantle of Elijah remain with Elisha after his ascension. JesusEascension and Pentecost are part of the sacrificeEthat brings salvation.
When Elisha tells his master that he wants a double portion of his spirit, we are reminded of JesusEpromise that the heavenly Father will not deny the Spirit to those who ask. When Jesus talks about that promise, He uses metaphors of eating: Just as an earthly father will not deny bread and fish to his children, so the heavenly Father will not deny the Spirit. Elijahs response to Elisha also uses a food image. The Hebrew literally says that Elisha asks two mouths of your spirit,Eor a double mouthful of the Spirit.E For both Elisha and for Jesus, the Spirit is food.
Here at this table, the Lord offers us food, bread and wine, and this is a token that He will not deny the Spirit to those who seek Him. But more than a token: Through this meal, we drink of the Spirit, of spiritual food, as we feed on the Son through the Spirit. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it,Esays the Lord. He will fill it with a double mouthful of His Spirit.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, May 29, 2005 at 08:37 AM
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