"As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart." 2 Kings 2:11
I always remember this being one of our Bible stories in Sunday School. It was always a really cool story, and we still hear about it often- about Elijah being a person who didn't actually die, who was just caught up in a chariot of fire and taken to heaven. That's still cool! There is so much mystery that surrounds the process of death- the only people who actually know what that process is can't actually tell us about it because they're not with us anymore. My thoughts this morning though aren't about death or dying, but they're about Elijah and his mysterious actions. There were other men with Elijah and Elisha who saw what had happened, but suggested that they go look for Elijah, here is what they said.
"Look," they said, "we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley." 2 Kings 2:16
If you read that verse, it doesn't sound very urgent or surprised. It doesn't sound as though these men thought it strange at all that Elijah would be picked up by the Spirit and dropped off somewhere else. Lo, and behold, this must have been a regular occurrence, because if we go all the way back to 1 Kings, chapter 18, we see another reference to it.
"But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' 12 I don't know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth. " 1 Kings 18:11
Now, I know that Elijah is referenced often as a great prophet and man of God but am I the only one who is simply in awe of this? That Elijah and the Spirit are so in tune with each other, that the Spirit will just pick him up and take him to where he needs to go? Yet as I read on, we also see that this great prophet and man of God also dealt with bouts of depression, and when he was dealing with these issues of depression, he was not working in tandem with the Spirit and in faith. When he goes through periods of depression, he has to make his journey the hard way- actually walking for the duration.
"Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God." 1 Kings 19:3-8
I think that Elijah is the perfect example of how important it is to hang onto our faith and to the joy of the Lord. Depression is a robber- it robs us of so much, including our ability to interact with the Spirit. As I'm reading these things about Elijah, I really don't think that the times he was caught up in the Spirit was a surprise to Elijah- I think he knew how to do it. I can't even begin to fathom what that entailed, but he knew the right way to approach God and be picked up and moved supernaturally. But the spirit of depression would come upon him heavily and it would rob him of that interaction with God. Where just the day before he could be picked up and moved, he now had to travel physically for forty days and nights.
Elijah is an example of how important it is to stay in God's Word, to stay rooted in the Bible, because that is where our protection is. Our protection is also called the Armor of God.
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:13-17
Elijah certainly could have used the shield of faith, as the devil knew that depression would do him in. Elijah curled up under a tree and begged to die- he needed some protection from that depression. Thankfully, we have what we need today to fend off any attack from the enemy. Where Elijah had to rely on himself and God and those around him, we have a mighty sword in the Holy Bible. The Bible will give us what we need to stand firm and resist the attacks of the enemy.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12