Leaving Gilgal

”Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal”  (2 Kings 2:1, ESV).

I’m intrigued by some things in things in this verse.

First, the author starts out the narrative by revealing what seems to be a climactic event—Elijah being taken to heaven by a whirlwind. It is counterintuitive. Why would any writer say the most important thing first? The answer is simple: the purpose of the narrative is to show us something far more important.

The second thing that caught my eye is that the verse doesn’t tell us where they were going, only where they were leaving. It seems unnatural. If someone were to pull over in front of my house to ask directions, they would be much more likely to say, “How do I get to 123 Main Street?”, than “I left 321 Mulberry Street.” Right?

Perhaps we have been trained to be forward thinkers. We are so concerned about where we are going that we lose sight of where we have been. But we can learn so much about who we have become by looking at where we have been.

My daughter will be getting her undergrad degree in a couple of weeks. My wife and I will travel the two-and-a-half hours to her university to watch her walk across that stage. Yes, most, if not all, of the graduates will be thinking about their future, then next step. But when I think of my daughter, I think more about the amazing person she has become and the things she has experienced that made her who she is today.

In that spirit, we’ll look at where Elijah and Elisha came from briefly and address the whirlwind more when we see it next in scripture. They were on their way from Gilgal.

The name Gilgal means “a wheel,” and “rolling,” and it is the first place that the Israelites made camp after crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land following their 40-year hike in the wilderness. It’s kind of fitting after spinning their wheels for so long. Gilgal was also home to a number of individuals known as the Sons of the Prophets, and Elijah may have used Gilgal as a home base for a time.

I have personally identified with Gilgal. I’ve shared before how I became bitter and angry because of how I was treated by a pastor in my youth. I’ve spoken of years of disillusionment before getting my train back on the tracks, or more fitting, getting the wheels back in motion. I was stuck in a loop and couldn’t find my way out.

We can also get stuck by settling into a comfort zone of faith. We like where we are and so we don’t do anything to move forward. I think this is what was going on with the sons of the prophets. They were comfortable hanging out in Gilgal while Elijah confronted kings.

We’ll pick up here again tomorrow. Blessings on your day!

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

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