Dads, What Will Your Legacy Be?
Everybody has a legacy. The question is, “What kind of legacy will you have?”
Imagine with me that you are attending a funeral service. You sit toward the back, and the casket, which is open, is here. Friends are passing by. Some are weeping as they glance in the casket, move on by, and are seated. The pastor comes in, and he is seated. Finally, he moves to the pulpit. The pastor motions for everyone to stand, and then the family comes in. You are shocked. You look at that family, and you notice—“That’s my family. That’s my wife and kids. That’s my sister.” Suddenly, you realize you are attending your own funeral. The pastor gets up and reads a eulogy. Then he turns to your children and says, “The children would like to say something about their dad.” All of a sudden, you are really listening; because you know what your kids say about you represents your legacy.
Everybody has a legacy. Elijah had a fabulous legacy. As a part of that legacy, we find the man Elisha. Elijah stood on Mt. Sinai. He came out of a cave and heard God speak; not in a wind, hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or even in fire that fell; but God spoke to Elijah through a still, small, whispered voice. He told this prophet who had lived such a dramatic life that the normal way He speaks to people is the way He was speaking to him that day. “I speak through a whisper, Elijah; a still, small voice.”
What else did God say to Elijah? He said, “I’m not finished with you yet. I’ve got more for you to do.” God challenged him to go and live for Him another 10 plus years. As Elijah left the mountain of Sinai and went to the wilderness there in Damascus, he spotted a young man whose name was Elisha plowing in a field. The name “Elisha” means “God is salvation.” Elijah walked out to this young man and took his mantle, or cloak off. The mantle was a sign of office, a sign that he was the prophet. He went to Elisha out in the field where he was sweating and plowing with these oxen. Elijah put his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders, indicating that God was calling him into the ministry of being a prophet. God was calling him to be his successor. God was calling Elisha to stand with Elijah like a son. Then Elijah took the mantle off and put it back on. Elisha killed some oxen and offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and for the next 10 years, he followed Elijah everywhere he went. If you saw Elijah; Elisha was somewhere close by. They were together all the time.
Now we come to the last 24 hours in the life of Elijah. It’s interesting; I dare say that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who finished their course in the way that Elijah did. He went on a tour. I call it a “heritage tour,” because evidently Elijah knew that he was not going to die. He was going to be taken up. Evidently Elisha knew that. Evidently, all of those in the school of prophets knew that. How they knew that, I do not know; but that is implied in the study of this chapter. Elijah knew that he wouldn’t die. He would be the second person in history who did not die. Remember Enoch? The Bible says Enoch walked with God and was not, because God took him. You can imagine Enoch, a man of God, walking with the Lord. They walked a long way together as they did day after day; and suddenly, they walked so far that God said, “Enoch, it is closer to My home than it is to your home. Why don’t you walk on home with Me?” So Enoch was not, because he didn’t die. He just walked home with God.
Now we see the prediction that Elijah would soon go up in that whirlwind. We read in our scripture what I call the “legacy tour,” or the “heritage tour” of Elijah. We find him at Gilgal, and while he is there, what do you think took place? Gilgal, by the way, was where a school of the prophets was located. We see Elijah there in his last 24 hours. Here is Elijah on the last day of his life with Elisha at his side, and he’s visiting Gilgal first.
We should remember that Gilgal is the place where it all started. When Joshua brought the children of Israel across the Jordan, they marshaled their troops at Gilgal. That was the place of beginning. That’s where circumcision took place, and the covenant with God was reinstituted. So when Elijah went to Gilgal, he visited the school of prophets that he perhaps had established, or re-established. Samuel had such a school… Elijah spoke to them. It was a reminder to them and to Elisha of the heritage of God’s people.
We go back to those times when we came to know Jesus Christ. We’ve got to go back to our Gilgals, the places of beginning. Our first walk with Christ. How important that is. So I am sure this was part of the heritage tour that Elijah was taking Elisha on the last 24 hours of Elijah’s life.
They went from Gilgal to Bethel. Bethel means “House of God.” It was fifteen miles away from Gilgal. When I say “Bethel,” what comes to your mind? You think of Abraham building his altar at Bethel, and praying to God. Incidentally, everywhere Abraham went he built his altar and pitched his tent; compared to Lot, who built his tent, and just pitched his altar.
What was Elijah saying to Elisha in this last 24 hours? He was saying, “Remember your roots, your heritage.” He said, “Remember also, you have to be a man of prayer. Let me tell you something: I built an altar at Cherith when I depended on that bubbling brook, and those ravens feed me. I built an altar at Zarephath when I was dependent upon that poor widow.” He said, “I learned how to obey at an altar, and I learned how to be dependent on God at an altar.” He said, “It was at those altars I learned to live one day at a time.”
Elijah was leaving his heritage to Elisha, making sure he understood it with this whirlwind tour. Then they left there and went to Jericho. That’s where Israel knew they were following the Lord, and Joshua led them to victory. What was Elijah saying to Elisha there? He was saying, “You’re going to have some Jericho’s.” He said, “I had a battle on Mt. Carmel. Man, it was some battle with evil.” But he said also, “I had a battle at Beersheba when I went into depression, and I asked God to take my life.” He said, “You’re going to have some battles, Elisha.” He was preparing him for battle. There will be some Jericho’s…”
Finally, he went over to Jordan and they crossed over. What was he saying? He was saying, “Elisha, in your life, you’ll have to learn how to die to yourself before you can really live and serve the Lord. Don’t go through life trying to hold on to everything, keeping and possessing everything. You have to die to your agenda if you’re truly going to follow the agenda of the Lord.”
Do you see the last 24 hours of this man of God, this great prophet, Elijah? It was fabulous. He took him to Gilgal to help him remember those first steps. Bethel was on the tour to teach him how to pray. You have to have God with you every step. Jericho reminded him that there were going to be times of conflict in battle. Then finally Jordan was the reminder that you cross over.” This was his experience.
. I want you to see something that happened all the way through during their time at Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, Verse 2: “Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” In other words, in Gilgal Elijah said, “Elisha, you stay here. You don’t have to go to Bethel.” He said the same thing to him when they were in Bethel, before they went to Jericho; and then the same thing again when they were in Jericho and went down to the Jordan. What was that all about? I think Elijah was saying to Elisha, “How far are you going to stick with me? How far are you going to go as my successor? How far are you going to reach in your prophetic ministry?” And every time Elisha answered and said, “I’m in your hip pocket. Wherever you go Elijah, I’m with you. You can count on that.”
What was that all about? It was a test of Elisha. Was he truly ready to serve the Lord and follow his father, Elijah? Everywhere they went, there were those schools of prophets, and they were speaking and influencing those young men who would follow the Lord for days to come. You see how it’s handed down from generation, to generation, to generation? There is a legacy. There is a heritage that goes down. And Elijah was establishing that through Elisha and through all in those schools they were visiting the last 24 hours of Elijah’s life on this earth.
Then we’ve got a powerful scene, Verse 7: And now fifty of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Elijah and Elisha. Elijah took his mantle and folded it together, and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. And when they crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” In other words, Elijah is saying to his son, “Whatever you want, you ask for it.”
Look what Elisha said: “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” Now that’s something. Elijah was big for God. I mean he was a giant serving the Lord. Now this upstart Elisha says, “I just want twice of what you had.” It would be like Dr. Billy Graham saying to a 24 year old protégée “Son, I’m in the 4th quarter of my life. What can I do for you?” If the young man said, “Well Mr. Graham, I want just twice the ministry that you’ve had”—it would be kind of presumptuous, wouldn’t it? Billy Graham has spoken to more people in the flesh than anybody who has ever lived. That is how strong his influence has been. Yet, here this young, little 24-year-old guy would be audacious enough to answer “I want just twice of what you’ve had.”
I think the request of Elisha even shocked Elijah, because look how Elijah responded. He said, “You have asked a hard thing.” Undoubtedly. “Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; for if not, it shall not be so.” What’s he saying? He’s saying, “Son, I can’t grant your request. God will have to do that; but I’m going to put a fleece, or a test out. If you are there when I am taken up into Heaven; then you will be a double-portioned man. You’ll have twice of what I have had.”
Now watch how this works immediately following this. We have them crossing the Jordan. Verse 11: And as they were going along and talking… Now mind you, he had taken the mantle and struck the river. They had walked on the other side of the Jordan. Elijah said, “What do you want?” Elisha told him. Then Elijah put out the fleece. “If you see me carried up…” So now, they’re walking together. I love this scene. And as they were going along together talking, behold. There appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire which separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to Heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father. The Chariot of Israel and its horsemen.” And he saw Elijah no more. And then he took hold of his own clothes, and he tore them in two pieces. What a dramatic scene. There is no way anyone could do justice to that scene of chariots and horses of fire, and a whirlwind which took Elijah up into Heaven; and Elisha exclaiming, “My father, my father.” as he tore his clothes in grief and in mourning.
When someone graduates from this earth—nothing of God is lost. There are plenty of servants in the wings, ready to take up the task and finish the course for God Almighty. But here’s Elisha feeling so helpless. “Father, father, father.” He’s tearing his clothes.
What was the heritage that Elijah left Elisha? There were two things—many things actually; but two things primarily. Look at it in our Scripture, Verse 13: He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan.
The mantle. Elijah’s mantle was left. Elijah was gone in the whirlwind. Elisha’s standing there crying out, “My father, my father.” I’m sure his clothes were blown, and his hair was a mess; but as he looked over there in the bushes, he saw something. “What is that thing?” It was Elijah’s cloak. His mantle. The mantle that was the indication of the office of the prophet.
Now, Elisha had a choice. He could have looked at that mantle and said, “Man. Enough of this.” He could have turned away. He could have looked at the mantle and picked it up and said, “It is indeed Elijah’s mantle, and it is here; but I’m going to do my own thing. I want to be my own man. I’m not going to be under his shadow.” Or he could have picked up the mantle as he did, and put it on. He said, “My father Elijah has left this legacy for me, this calling.” That was a sense of his Divine call and unction upon his life. Anyone who would serve God has to be confident of that call, or you’ll never, never last. He put on that mantle to follow Elijah. That was what Elijah left for Elisha, and he heard the call and voluntarily picked it up and put it on.
Now look what happened after that. What a wonderful thing. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and struck the water—that’s the Jordan, and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there, and Elisha crossed over.
When the sons of the prophet who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” He inherited Elijah’s mantle, and he inherited Elijah’s God.” The power wasn’t in the mantle. It was in God, and when they saw him strike the water as Elijah did, and the water divided, they knew that he would serve the same Living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Scripture.
Dad, your kids inherit your faith? They take and hopefully build upon whatever degree of faith you have. A vital part of our legacy is that they understand the mantle. It is important that they understand that God has a plan for every person on this earth. Have you built that in your sons and daughters? Do they see it? Do they know it? That God has something unique and special for them? That’s the mantle. That’s the call of God. That’s the will of God for every life. Also, do they understand how you know God? Do they see your faith is vital? It affects everything you do, and wherever you go, and that is a heritage to pass along to them.
In our mixed-up world, how we try to re-invent our heritage. Today there is website you can purchase. You can send an e-mail to certain people long after you’re dead. They’ll get an e-mail from you every week, or every month, depending on how much you’ve paid. You can speak from the grave. That’s someone trying to say, “Now I’m going to still give you advice. I’m still going to run your life, even though I’m dead.”
Also, there is a patent-pending that they have for an electronic tombstone sign. You can go and punch a button, and the dead person will be there in color, speaking to you about their life and challenging you about whatever is on their mind and heart. Can you imagine going to a cemetery and saying, “Wonder what old Bill’s got to say?”
Fathers, dads—what will be your heritage?