The names Elijah and Elisha are very similar. But just like Moses and Joshua are kind of a pair so are Elijah and Elisha. Most of Elijah’s ministry was calling out Israel’s sin and pronouncing judgment. Elijah at Mount Sinai was given very specific messages of judgment against Israel but included was reference to God keeping for himself a remnant of 7000 faithful ordinary Israelites for himself. Elisha’s ministry is mostly toward a godly remnant. Although he still speaks some words of judgment just as Elijah did a few acts of saving – it is a matter of emphasis. Elisha’s ministry is mostly about salvation and restoration. The name ‘Elisha’ means ‘my God saves’.
Elisha’s ministry includes stories such as the following:
- Elisha teaching the next generation of prophets,
- a widow in the remnant not running out of oil,
- raising an axe head so the family wouldn’t be sold into debt-slavery,
- a woman’s son being raised back to life,
- people suffering food poison being healed,
- a leper being healed,
- multiplication of loaves.
These miracles are pointing forward to God, not only saving the remnant, but also brining restoration to Israel through this remnant.
In the New Testament, Elijah’s call to repentance in the face of judgment is picked up by John the Baptist. Some of Elisha’s miracles of restoration are like the ones that Jesus does in the gospels. The ministry of Elijah-Elisha points to the greater ministry of John-Jesus. Jesus is a greater Elisha (Interestingly Elisha means ‘my God saves’ and Jesus means ‘Yahweh saves’).
Another feature of Elisha’s ministry is that several times Elisha is used by God to speak words against the nations that attack Israel thus bringing deliverance both to the faithful remnant but also to Israel as a whole. The most famous of these is where a heavenly army of horses and chariots of fire are present with Elisha. Ultimately this also points to Jesus’ delivering people from the spiritual forces during his days leading up and including his death and resurrection (e.g., delivering from legions of demons).
If one considers the ministry of Elijah and Elisha as a single unit, their ministry and actions reflect the same structure as that of the writing prophets during the time of the divided kingdom.
- Prosecuting Israel for their sin (Elijah)
- Speaking words of divine judgment in response to their failure to repent (Elijah)
- Speaking words against the nations that attack them (Elisha)
- Speaking words of a future deliverance and restoration of a remnant of God’s people (Elisha)
Each prophetic book in the Old Testament basically has this structure from sin to judgment to a future hope.
The grace of God that despite how sinful the world is, he has committed himself to saving a remnant that includes you and I.
It was good for the remnant to have Elisha but better for us to have Jesus.
Thank God for the faithful people of the past like the 7000 ordinary faithful non-Baal worshippers.
Do not lose hope when things are bad. Elisha’s miracles, Jesus’ miracles, God’s continuing work all point to an undoing of the curse and a restoration of Eden.
There are spiritual beings, unseen, who serve and protect God’s people – including us.