Geography Lessons

2 Kings 2:18, 23, “[Elijah] was staying at Jericho … he went up from there to Bethel.”

2 Kings 2 describes the transition from one great Old Testament prophet to another – from Elijah to Elisha. As prophets are fundamentally to be seen as God’s mouthpieces speaking the word of God, this transition scene in 2 Kings 2 teaches us fundamental truths about God’s word. And there are three truths concerning God’s word that I want to highlight in this passage. We will examine the first today and the following two in subsequent weeks.

Today I want to focus on the continual presence of God’s word. God does not leave himself without a witness. Where God has his sheep he will provide his word to feed them.
How do we see this in the passage? Elijah was now gone. The Lord had brought him home in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Yes, Elisha was his divinely chosen successor (1 Kings 19:15-17); but could he really replace Elijah. Elijah was the great prophet of the LORD who stood down and defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). He was a powerful and dynamic figure. What now? Was he really gone (2 Kings 2:16-17)? Could Elisha really fill his shoes?

The author of 2 Kings answers this question by means of geography. In other words, continuity between Elijah and Elisha is established by means of a geography lesson. As one reads the pages of 2 Kings 2, it seems as if Elijah and Elisha are constantly on the move. They travel from Jericho to Bethel – from Bethel to the Jordan River – and finally they cross the Jordan. But notice the sequence of Elisha’s travels after Elijah’s removal. He retraces – as it were – the steps of Elijah. First, Elisha (now alone without Elijah) crosses the Jordan back into Israel (vv.13-14). Second, Elisha comes to Jericho (vv. 15, 18). And finally, Elisha comes to Bethel (vv. 23-25). The overall sequence looks as follows: (Elijah and Elisha) BethelJericho Jordan River; (Elisha alone) Jordan RiverJerichoBethel. And the great question situated in the heart of this passage? Verse 14: “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. God’s mouthpiece – the one who brought God’s word was now gone – where was God now? Where was God’s word now that Elijah was gone? The resounding answer given in the chapter is … God has raised up another mouthpiece. God is still present. God is still with his people. God is present as his word is now proclaimed by Elisha.

Indeed brothers and sisters, God is always present with is people. He is always present by means of his word. Where his word is faithfully proclaimed, there the LORD is with his people. But what if we ask the questions: “where was God’s word after Elisha went to be with the Lord? And after Isaiah? And after Jeremiah?” The book of Hebrews tells us that God’s final prophet has come. His final word has been spoken in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). Christ poured out his Spirit inspiring his Apostles to write his revelation in the New Testament. Thus today, dear friends, God is still with us – and God still speaks to us. In fact, his word is constant – his word is fixed and sure forever – he has given us his final and sufficient word in his Son (the living Word) and the Scriptures (the written Word).