A New Year’s Lesson From Elijah’s Last Day on Earth

2 Kings 2:1-6

And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head today? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.

And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head today? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.

And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan…

J. R. MILLER (1840-1912): God leads us on step by step, each step a new revelation. He led Elijah on with new calls to new errands, from Gilgal to Bethel, from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho to Jordan, and then over the river and up among the hills, until at last, as he went on, the chariot came down and lifted him away. In this same beautiful way does God lead each one of His children through life. We know not what any day may bring forth. But He knows; and He calls us forward, to this duty and experience today, to others tomorrow, and so on and on, until we come to the last step, and that will be into glory.

Elijah’s prompt obedience teaches us our side of the lesson. He went swiftly from task to task. He would finish his work before the end came. It was to visit the schools of the prophets that he went to Bethel and to Jericho. He wanted to give his last counsels to the young students whom he had been training and on whom the future religious work among the people would depend.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work,” John 9:4. Saith Christ, I have a set time to work in; that is, that which he here calleth day, the time wherein Christ was to live upon the earth. I am not to be here always, there will come a time when I must be absent from the earth, then none of this work can be done. A good argument to persuade every Christian to work while the time of his life lasts, for the night of death will come.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Are there not twelve hours in the day?” John 11:9. Christ here divides the day into twelve hours, according to ancient custom; for though the days are longer in summer and shorter in winter, yet they had always twelve hours of the day, and twelve of the night.

ALEXANDER MacLAREN (1826-1910): To say to a man, ‘there are twelve hours in the day of life, and then comes darkness, the blackness that swallows up all activity,’ may either be made into a support of all lofty and noble thoughts, or, by the baser sort, it may be, and has been, made into a philosophy of the ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die’ kind; ‘Gather ye roses while ye may’; ‘A short life and a merry one.’

JOHN CALVIN: God doth not prolong the lives of His people, that they may pamper themselves with meat and drink, sleep as much as they please, and enjoy every temporal blessing.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Christ’s saying is one which should be remembered by all professing Christians. The life that we now live in the flesh is our day. Let us take care that we use it well, for the glory of God.

CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): We are not sent here to eat, and to drink, and to pass our time in pleasure; but to do the work assigned to us. Every moment of our time is given us for that purpose, and should be employed for that end. When we rise in the morning, we should inquire, What duties have I to perform this day? And, when we lie down again at night, we should inquire, how far we have executed the will of our heavenly Master. The performance of our work should supersede every thing else.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): This made John Calvin answer his friends with some indignation, when they admonished him, for his health’s sake, to forbear studying so hard, “What! would you that Christ when He cometh should find me idle?”

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening,” Psalm 104:23. There is the work of every day, which is to be done in its day, which man must apply to every morning―for the lights are set up for us to work by, not to play by―and which he must stick to till evening; it will be time enough to rest when the night comes.

CHARLES SIMEON: Through the mercy of our God, the day is yet continued to you; that day, which, within the last year, has closed on thousands, who, humanly speaking, were as likely to live as you. And, to multitudes of them, how dreary a night has commenced!

MATTHEW HENRY: The night comes―it will come certainly―may come suddenly―and is coming nearer, and nearer…The consideration of our death approaching should quicken us to improve all the opportunities of life.

JOHN CALVIN: So, when we see that a short period of life is allotted to us, we ought to be ashamed of languishing in idleness.

J. R. MILLER: The nearing of the end of life should intensify our earnestness.

J. C. RYLE: Our time is very short. Our daylight will soon be gone. Opportunities once lost can never be retrieved. A second lease of life is granted to no man. Whatever our hand findeth to do, let us do it with our might.

CHARLES SIMEON: Those who are more advanced in years—much of your day is obviously gone: and little, according to the course of nature, remains. Your glass is well nigh run down. Is it not then time for you to awake, and to begin the work which God has sent you to perform?

A. W. TOZER (1897-1963): We have much to do and little time in which to get it done!

CHARLES SIMEON: Let me entreat you, beloved brethren, to be of that happy number; that, when you come to die, you may be able to adopt the words of our blessed Lord, and say, “Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do,” John 17:4.


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