2 Kings 2:12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the
chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took
hold of his own clothes, and tore them in two pieces.
This passage in the Bible is one of the most beautiful speeches or eulogies I have heard in my life. I wrote the other night about Elisha's love for Elijah as a mentor in the blog titled, "Hey Baldy! You Think You Gonna Get Raptured Too?!" But, I think the metaphor chosen by Elisha brings out exactly the impact Elijah's life and death had on Israel, and we know that Elisha had vision enough to see this.
Chariot -(Hebrew) rekeb reh'-keb
a vehicle; by implication, a team; by extension, cavalry; by
analogy a rider, i.e. the upper millstone:--chariot, (upper) millstone,
multitude (from the margin), wagon.
Horsemen -(Hebrew) parash paw-rawsh'
a steed (as stretched out to a vehicle, not single nor for
mounting (compare 5483)); also (by implication) a driver (in a chariot), i.e.
Both a chariot and the horsemen are vehicles. But, a chariot specifically carries. Elijah was seen as the wheels of his organization. He brought motion to the people in a religious sense. He put wheels on the Spirit of the country. He carried them to greatness. A chariot is like the undercarriage or chasis of an automobile. It is essential to support. Meaningful movement is not going to take place without this support. In the same way, a body with no skeleton can not have meaningful movement.
The horsemen, or the horsepower of the chariot, is much like the engine of an automobile. Elisha saw Elijah as the force that drove Israel. Note that the Spirit is what drives the individual person. Elijah was the one man in Elisha's eyes who embodied the Spirit of Israel. Elijah was both the support and the driving force of Israel. This is an amazing credit to the man.
2 Kings 13:14 Now Elisha had fallen sick of his sickness of which he died.
And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and
said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
Fastforward sixty years into the future to Elisha's deathbed, for he did not "go up like Elijah." Once again some young man is there beside him as he prepares to leave Earth, one with enough vision to see that Israel is losing their locomotion and driving force. The exact same eulogy delivered by Elisha is spoken at his death bed for him. And, of course, the eulogy includes the title "My Father." I wait till last to add this to the eulogy because it brings in so much more of what a great leader can be. Your father is the source of life. He is the one who gave you existance. Your mother is the vehicle alone. But, your own spirit is the engine that keeps you moving. Here in this one eulogy, Elisha and Elijah were credited with having the role of mother and father and spirit of Israel.
They are beautiful words, and I believe they were well founded and rightfully spoken. But, that is not the real story here. Sadly, you can't help but notice that the man who spoke the words to Elisha at his deathbed was not asking for an inheritance. He was not taking up Elisha's dropped cloak of the Spirit. He had only been king for one year and was just a young man, possibly onlly eight years old. He was seven when he began to reign. Yet, he had lived long enough to witness the slaughter of his whole family. He knew what war was and he took the throne in a coup, led by the High Priest. So, he was well aware of the violence of his kingdom around him. How much more should he have been aware of the threat from outside the kingdom?
2 Kings 13:15-19 records that Elisha gave Joash a prophecy before he died there that day. There must have been a desire inside of Elisha to mentor the young King, who hadn't asked for an inheritance. Yet, he knew the right words to say. Imagine that! An eight year old boy knew the exact words Elisha had spoken when Elijah was taken up. He had heard the story many times from his Spiritual advisor's own lips. He knew the Words. But, he didn't ask for the double portion. Why?! What is wrong with this picture?
Elisha wanted to help the young man. He knew the crown would be a heavy burden for a man who was Spiritually weak. So, Elisha told Joash to take up his bow and shoot an arrow out the window toward the East. Joash must have been handy with the bow and the shot was good. Elisha was happy with his aim. He pronounces that Joash will surely be able to win a few battles against the Syrians in the East with an aim like that. Then Elisha tells the boy to take the arrows in his hand and to strike the ground. He didn't tell him how many times to strike the floor, just to strike. This was a test to measure the boy's stamina, his endurance, his passion for victory. The boy struck the ground three times and stopped.
Elisha was disappointed that Joash stopped so quickly. He wanted to see an enthusiastic show of gung-ho readiness to take the reins. This did not happen. Joash gave up to quick. Elisha told him that he should have struck the ground five or six times. Elisha knew it would take repeated wars to subdue Syria. The fact was, Joash was not like Elijah or Elisha. There would be neither a chariot to carry Israel, nor horsemen to lead them into the coming thirty years. Joash would eventually turn to idolatry and Israel would eventually fall into captivity, without Spiritual leadership.
Interestingly, the name Paterno means Father-figure, and Joe Paterno was certainly a father figure to many young men. It is sad to see the reins taken from his hands. As he himself has said in the past, "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy
your hunger, but it won't taste good." -Joe Paterno