I wonder how well Elisha knew Elijah. No doubt he had heard the stories of his exploits. He had heard how he fearlessly faced up to the wicked King Ahab. How Elijah had prophesied the coming drought, and how God had instructed the ravens to feed him as he sat by the Brooke Cherith. Perhaps he had heard how Elijah had stayed with a widow woman and her son in Zarephath, and while he was there the flour and the oil was miraculously multiplied, and her son was raised from the dead. And no doubt he had heard how Elijah had challenged 850 false prophets on Mount Carmel, and God had answered by fire. And perhaps how Elijah had ‘girded up his loins' and ran before Ahab's chariot all the way to Jezreel. I wonder if he broke the marathon world record!
Elisha was a farmer. He was ploughing with twelve yolk of oxen – that's twenty four of them! I guess he had workers to help him. Then along comes this hairy guy with a leather belt (a bit like John the Baptist) and walks past him. As he walks past he throws his cloak over him. Elisha responds by putting everything down and following Elijah. He becomes his servant.
Some time later it is time for Elijah to be called home. Elijah tells Elisha to stay while he goes on. Elisha refuses to leave him, as he accompanies Elijah to Jericho, and then over the Jordan. Having miraculously opened up the Jordan to let them pass through, Elijah asks Elisha what he could do for him before he goes. Elisha wants a double portion of Elijah's spirit. What a request! How audacious! Elijah responds, “You have asked a hard thing.” Elijah knew this was something he could not do, but he knew God could if He wanted to. He said, “If you see me when I disappear, then your request will be granted.” Then a chariot of fire came down and Elijah was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind. God granted Elisha's request. Elisha went on to be a great prophet of God, doing many mighty miracles and speaking God's word.
Why did Elisha ask for such a thing? Was it selfish ambition? Did he want to be the greatest? To have his name in the headlines? I do not think so. As we look at the subsequent events in his life, there does not appear to be any arrogance, and it seems that he is the reluctant prophet, not pushing himself forward or trying to exalt himself. His heart was to do exactly what God was telling him to do, so that God would be glorified. I am sure that his desire was to see God working twice as much as He had been doing within the nation of Israel, so that they would cease their idolatry and wicked behaviour and turn back the living God who brought them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the promised land.