This post’s written on Aldeburgh beach, which feels like a good place to sit and write!
It has always seemed to me a poor bit of planning on God’s part to call as successor to Elijah someone called Elisha. It’s asking for confusion, really. Admittedly, I may be over-sensitive on this, having followed three successive Rectors of Wednesfield called ‘John’. I still get called John from time to time, even after six years…
The stories of Elijah and Elisha are very different, though, and I found myself getting a bit frustrated as I read these chapters. Elijah’s story was one of heroic stands for the LORD, in the setting of which his miracles take place. Elisha’s story reads at times more like a collection of demonstrations of power without the context that gives them meaning. At times they seem almost to be more to do with demonstrating the importance of the prophet than that of the the LORD of the prophets.
A theme that runs through is the absolute nature of the Word of God through the prophets. Anyone who tries to go against it, even innocently, is in for a hard (and probably brief) time.
Naaman fits in to this theme, in a way. There’s a bit of a contest of status, as Naaman expects a good show from the prophet, appropriate to his standing and the effort he has made to get there. He’s furious to be told by a servant that he just needs to wash in the Jordan seven times. But Elisha’s making the point that prophets outrank generals, and God is making the point that his word isn’t about show but about effect. He’s also making the point that if we want to be part of what God is doing, our obedience is essential.
Perhaps it’s ok to be irritated by Elisha. But I need to remember that God’s message stands even if God’s messenger is a bit of a pain.