Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Roots of the Remnant

"And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken" (2 Kings 2:22).

Elijah’s departure out of the land was in a sense a judgment. He led Elisha, his protégé, out of the land with him and into the wilderness. Since Elisha represented all the prophets, who in turn represented all the faithful, we can see in this a new departure from Egypt, so to speak. Ahab and his dynasty were like Pharaoh, Israel was like Egypt, and God’s people had to make an exodus. Moses died in the wilderness without seeing the conquest of the land, and Elijah also departed in the wilderness. No one knows where God buried Moses (Deuteronomy 34:6), and in the same way, the prophets searched for Elijah’s body but could not find it (2 Kings 2:16–18).

Later Elisha returned to Israel. Keep in mind that Elisha was to Elijah what Joshua was to Moses. As it had done for Joshua, the Jordan River parted before Elisha as he entered the land. Elisha’s task was to lead the godly remnant in a new conquest, and he began, as Joshua did, at Jericho. This new conquest would be unlike the first one, since there would be no transformation of the political structure of the land as a result. Instead, the conquest would result in the formation of the remnant, the church of the faithful in the land. Elisha would train up the prophets to be pastors of local assemblies.

This later conquest of Jericho was unlike the first. Joshua, under God’s direction, completely destroyed that city. The people were told never to rebuild it, and it was prophesied that whoever did would lose his children as punishment (Joshua 6:26). In Ahab’s day, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city, and received the curse (1 Kings 16:34). The city continued to labor under God’s judgment, however, since its water was foul and the land unproductive as a consequence.

The citizens appealed to Elisha to heal the waters. Instead of condemning them for living in Jericho, Elisha took salt (representing the covenant of God, Leviticus 2:13) and put it in a new bowl (representing God’s new work of grace). Elisha threw the salt into the spring, and the waters were cleansed. Jericho had been conquered by the gospel, and became a center for the remnant community (compare 2 Kings 6:1).

The second Elijah, John the Forerunner, also went out into the wilderness and called the people to go through the Jordan in a new baptism and enter a new kingdom. Many today feel that America has become an apostate nation and that our task is to be a remnant in her midst. What do you think? What lessons might a study of Elisha’s ministry have for the church?