One of the great stories in the Old Testament is of the prophet Elijah being taken to heaven in a whirlwind. As a child who grew up in the church and who by the second grade had read the entire Bible, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah and Daniel have been my heroes. In my first year of college when I was assigned to write a story on my favorite hero, while many of my classmates chose to do their papers on American heroes, I chose Samuel for his great integrity.
Rarely do I repeat my sermons, but I like the series that I have done many years ago on Elijah so much that I repeated it. I preached the entire series on a preaching tour to Romania and then I went to my parents' church in Los Angeles and preached the same series. You guessed right! There was a person in the congregation who was visiting from Romania and who came at the end to tell me that he heard me preach the same sermon in Romania many years ago.
Elijah was a prophet in one of the most difficult times in the history of Israel. One can do a study on all the characteristics that this prophet had. He runs the gamut. He is one of the bravest men that we encounter and yet he is frightened by one announcement by Jezebel. He runs faster than horses and yet he is fed up and wants to die. He knows that God is in the power of the thunder and lightning, and yet he has to learn that God is also in the sound of the zephyr.
In the Old Testament there are only two people who did not taste death - Enoch and Elijah (there are some people who think that there are three, the third being Moses). According to the text, it seems that the news about the taking of Elijah to heaven was known by the school of prophets. Thus some of the men came to Elisha, the disciple of Elijah and said: "Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?" The reply of Elisha is puzzling: "Yes, I know, but do not speak of it." (NIV)
I thought that if there was ever an event which needed to be announced, if there was ever an event that everyone in Israel should have seen, it this was this event. An announcement should have been made from Dan to Beersheba (from North to South). The life of Elijah the servant of God would have been recognized for what it was - he was servant of Jehovah, the only true God, and God has blessed him by taking him directly to heaven. What better declaration for the works of God!
A couple of weeks ago I read the farewell interview of Tony Blair with British press. Blair mentioned that in the absence of news, some journalists who need to be constantly published invent news, or stretch a small piece to the extremes.
Many years ago I read a review of some works by the sociologist turned novelist, Father Andrew Greeley. The reviewer, while appreciative of what Greeley had done, mentioned that Greeley has come to the conclusion that every thought that passed through his mind must be published. He would benefit by some time of reflection and absence of publication.
Elisha, the student of Elijah, wanted to allow his master to set the stage. Therefore, one of the greatest events of the Old Testament was witnessed by only a small group of fifty prophets. A similar major event in the New Testament was seen only by those who walked with Him during his ministry here on earth. It was called the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.