Hearing all these stories back to back, I’m also beginning to notice things I hadn’t before—the most recent being that God seems to have a thing for parting waters. So far, my son and I have gotten through the stories of Elisha and we’ve heard about at least four water partings. There’s the parting of the Red Sea, when “Moses stretched out his hand over the sea . . . . and the waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left” (Exodus 15:21-22). Later, at Joshua’s leading, there’s the crossing of flood-staged Jordan, whose waters “piled up in a great heap a great distance away” as soon as the priests carrying the ark “reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,” and all the people passed through “on dry ground” (Joshua 3:15-17). Then, most recently, we heard about the parting of the same river by Elijah and Elisha, like watery bookends to Elijah being taken “up to heaven in a whirlwind” and Elisha’s taking up the mantel of prophet. First, Elijah rolls up his cloak and strikes the water and “the water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” After Elijah goes up to heaven in that whirlwind, Elisha picks up the dropped cloak, stands on the bank of the Jordan and strikes the water with it: “it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over” (2 Kings 2).
I’m not sure why these watery events stand out to me. They seem to have a mixture of purpose and meaning. Two seem like the crossing of barriers, but one is a barrier to escape while the other is a hurdle to be crossed to a promised land. The other two are more like the crossing of thresholds, with one who’s at the end of his earthly life and on his way to heaven while the other’s at the beginning of his and ushered into prophet-hood.
I suppose what strikes me most, though, is that each crossing is a matter of faith. A choice to trust beyond what we see. A choice to take that step into those places “that cannot be seen,” where “the scope of our vision is too small for our strides.” A choice to believe God is who he says, does what he says, will do what he says. A choice to walk with God in that wild and water-parting Kingdom of his.
And I suppose underneath it all is that haunting awe of a God who does such things—and does them through the hands, feet and clothes of those who walk with him.