2 Kings 2:2
Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel.
And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It sounds so profound, and there is no doubt it is a well-written and concise statement, and yet it really is just common sense. The simple truth is that every journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Every journey also has a goal, a place we are trying to reach. The goal may be far or it may be near, but we have to start somewhere if we are to get there.
In our journey of faith, we begin with… faith itself. Before we come to knowledge of our Savior and the gospel of the kingdom of God, we don’t know (at least, not with any certainty) that there is a God who loves us, and we don’t seek His face. We stay where we are, complacent and mired in sin, unaware that we could be going somewhere else. When the Holy Spirit moves in us and plows the ground of our hearts to receive the gospel, we suddenly know – in the way that faith is “evidence of things not seen” – that somewhere Christ is waiting for us to step out in faith for Him. And so we take that first step of a thousand-mile journey.
The last days of Elijah on this earth are a beautiful and simple outline of our journey of faith, a way of tracing our spiritual growth as we go from simply knowing the presence of God, to knowing the power of His Spirit, to crossing into the fulfillment of His promises, and on into eternal life. The first stop Elijah makes is at Bethel.
If you remember, Bethel is the place where Jacob had a vision of God, where God Himself visited with Jacob and made His covenant with him. The Hebrew word “Bethel” means “house of God,” and as we can see from today’s verse from Genesis, Jacob was sure that God dwelled in that very place. When we first encounter the reality of God moving in our lives, we might think His power and presence are concentrated on one spot. The temptation might be to venerate that place, to stay right there and worship God and never move. We might say to ourselves, “If this is the place and this is my condition when I found God, then this is where I want to be.” But God never intends that we should stay in one place.
10 “For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
12 “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
13 “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
We can and will return to that place where we were first with the Lord, because He himself will call us there. His plan is a “future and a hope” that leads us elsewhere, to other places where we may call upon Him and find Him. The glorious thing about our Lord God is that He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, to always go with us wherever we go. And more than that, He plans to use us.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We cannot truly walk in faith and stand still. When we step out in faith from our Bethel, we may travel a thousand miles or more in our journey of faith. But we cannot stay where we are, and precious few will travel that same road. Elijah tried to leave his disciple Elisha behind at each step of his final journey, but Elisha refused to stay behind. Elisha wanted to travel the same road in faith as his master, just as the apostles swore to follow Jesus wherever He would go. But everyone’s journey is meant to be different, just as every believer’s spiritual gifts and ministries are different, because all have different roles to fulfill in the body of Christ. After Elijah was taken up to God, Elisha returned from that journey to travel his own road in faith.
Recognize the Bethel where your journey of faith began, but do not stay there. Nor should you try to follow exactly in others’ steps. Take the first step of your own journey, and be ready to travel in faith wherever the Lord will lead you. You will be challenged, and you will face persecution, but with your eyes upon Christ you will finish in His glory.
Heavenly Father, I praise You for your promises, for the faith You have in us and the mercy You show us. Such great love deserves great faith, and so, Lord God, I wish to step out in faith for You. It may be a little step, made timidly and in some fear, but I know, Father, You will give me courage for greater and bolder steps in the future. Give me the courage of David to step out into battle for You, precious Lord, so I may someday hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.