The Law of Divine Succession

Photo credit: <a href="">Vicente Villamón</a>

2 Kings 2:1-12

When God was ready to transport Elijah to heaven in a tornado, Elijah and Elisha were leaving the Circle of Stones. Elijah said to Elisha, “You stay here. God’s calling me to God’s house.”

But Elisha said, “God help me if I ever leave your side as long as you live.”

So off they went, down toward God’s house. The truth-tellers from God’s house came up to meet them, and said to Elisha, “Do you know that today is the day God is going to take Elijah away from you?”

Elisha said, “Yes, I know. You don’t need to tell me.”

Elijah said to him, “Stay here. God is calling me to Palm City.”

But Elisha said, “God help me if I ever leave your side as long as you live.”

So, on they went, and fifty of the truth-tellers went along with them, following at a distance. When they reached the Jordan River, Elijah rolled up his cape and struck the water. The water parted, as if in a pile on both sides, and they crossed over on dry ground.

Once they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “What do you want me to do for you before I am taken away from you?”

Elisha said, “Let me inherit your spirit, only twice as much.”

You’ve asked for a hard thing,” Elijah said. “But if you see me as I am taken from you, it will be so. Otherwise, not.”

They continued to walk along, deep in conversation, and as they walked a fire in the shape of a chariot and horses separated them, and a tornado came and swept Elijah away into heaven. Elisha watched the whole thing, crying, “Father, the chariots and charioteers of Israel! Father!”

Then, when it was over and Elijah gone from sight, Elisha took hold of his clothes and tore them in two.

A great prophet gets swept away by a tornado and another even greater prophet takes his place. It’s a story of succession, complete with fifty eyewitnesses to vouch for the new leader of the movement.

The prophets were, and still are, a resistance movement. They were and are the ones who dare to tell the people in power what they don’t want to hear. As such, the lines of succession don’t follow the same patterns as the politics and economics the movement stands against.

In spite of all Elijah’s miracles, Elijah never had any politically actionable power. Kings came and went with all the dynastic intrigue and politics that goes along with rulers of nations. Kings and political rulers rise and fall with assassinations and plots and coups. Economic power flowed (and still flows) along family lines.

The leadership of the opposition movement that stands against those in power and wealth, goes to the one who understands the spirit of the movement. When one truth-teller is swept away in the whirlwind of events, there is no telling where the next one will arise. There is only the certainty that one will. Conversely, you can be pretty sure that a movement has devolved into a political party when its leadership is determined by dynastic considerations, or even (gasp!) votes.