2 Kings 2:9-10 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied. ‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.’”
Elisha was the heir apparent to Elijah’s ministry. God had told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. When he asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, he wasn’t asking for twice as much as Elijah had. He was asking for the first born son’s inheritance. In ancient times, since the first born son would take his father’s place in the family, he received twice as much as any of the other heirs. If Elisha was going to inherit Elijah’s position as spiritual leader of Israel, then he wanted the spiritual gifts from God that were necessary to carry it out.
Do you see what Elisha is thinking? He sees that the task in front of him is greater than he is. He is aware of his spiritual poverty, his spiritual neediness, in the face of his responsibility to lead God’s people. He knows that he is not a super-spiritual, great man of God, but an ordinary man, a simple sinner in need. He needs to lean on someone other than himself if he is going to be of any use to God.
Is that hard for us to admit? We are no different than Elisha, but that doesn’t go down easy with our pride. Even in purely secular matters we find it difficult to admit our neediness, our weakness, our dependence on others. Isn’t that why I insist that I can fix the car myself, or assemble the gas grill without reading the instructions, or lift the heavy box without someone on the other side to help? And what does our pride get us in such cases? Costlier repairs? A dangerous explosion? A wrenched back?
In spiritual matters, the stakes are higher still. Perhaps we are tempted to think that we came to God with empty hands when we first became believers: we could not pay for our sins, so we freely received his forgiveness. But since that time it has been up to us to make our commitment and show what we can do. We develop a false sense of self-confidence that we can do God’s work on our own. We are afraid that if we keep coming to him with empty hands, we will develop a welfare mentality. We forget that sin is a permanent disability, at least this side of heaven. Even the ability to serve is a gift of his grace. The Apostle Peter was once too proud to receive Jesus’ help when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Do you remember Jesus’ response? “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Persistent refusal to depend on God and receive his gifts not only guarantees that our service will flop. That kind of pride cuts us off from God.
Only when we come to the same realization as Elisha do we have the confidence that Christ’s work will carry on, in spite of our neediness and dependence. The same grace of God who did everything to save us gives us every power to do his work. The Apostle Paul once said of his suffering, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” To be honest, I am always weak. But when we recognize this, then we are able to see God’s strength at work. Then we are in a position to see his will fulfilled through us.