This is a draft I wrote some time ago but never published:
Mal 4: 5+6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Lately I have been in contact with some people who have been deeply wounded by the church. The hurt primarily came from church leadership and in their brokenness and search for healing, my friends are questioning the whole thing we call church. They are disillusioned with the idea of sitting and listening to sermons preached by less-than-perfect pastors, they wonder if church couldn’t be less formal and more about relationships, and they have a distaste for anything that seems prescriptive and legalistic.
I often wonder how these friends of mine would respond when they read what I am about to say. The only frame of reference they have to go by is their previous experience with churches that perhaps in some respects have a ‘form of godliness but denies the power thereof’, and they might interpret what I say out of their experiences. I am talking from my own experience here though, and I hope that somehow my friends will not summarily dismiss what I am saying but instead consider if there might be any truth in it.
The verse in Malachi has a companion verse in Luke 1:17 where the angel tells Zacharias that John the baptist was going to come in the spirit of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Both verses mention the prophet Elijah, so I looked up the phrase ‘the spirit of Elijah’ in my trusty e-sword. The phrase is used twice in the Old Testament: once when Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit (ie: his anointing and his ministry), and the second time when the other prophets see Elisha after Elijah is taken to heaven and say that the spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.
If you read the whole chapter 2 of 2 Kings, you’ll see that just before Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire he travelled from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho, and to Jordan. At each location he encouraged Elisha to stay behind, for he had to move on to the next place. Yet Elisha refused, saying: ‘As long as you’re around, I will not leave you’ (Sumi paraphrase)…
Our pastor has taught on the meaning of the names in this passage before. Each is very significant. You can look up the names for yourself, but basically Elisha followed Elijah from a place of initial consecration to God (Gilgal), to a place of fellowship (Bethel), to a place of deep worship (Jericho), and finally to a place where he was required to ‘go down’, and die to himself (Jordan). At each place he was offered the opportunity to remain, but it was only after he followed Elijah all the way beyond the Jordan that he was given the opportunity to ask for the double portion.
There were other prophets that stayed behind at each place, yet they never received the double portion. Elisha got a double portion ministry because of his loyalty to Elijah, and his willingness to stick it out and go all the way, even to the point of choosing the low road (Jordan) instead of remaining in a fragrant, worshipful place (Jericho). The past few decades God has been restoring the church to a new place of worship, and worship has regained the important place it had lost in the church, yet we are not to remain in that place and make worship the end-all and be-all. We need to be like Elisha and press into everything God has for us, and for us, the road to go up higher in the things of God often takes us down.
Elisha got a double portion because his heart was turned towards the heart of his ‘father’ in the Lord. He desired to go everywhere Elijah went and receive everything that Elijah had to give to him. Malachi 4:6 says that he will turn the hearts of the fathers and children towards each other, lest he come and strike the earth with a curse. What curse could he be talking about? I think he might just be talking about the curse of having a single portion ministry. Having a single portion means you only have enough for yourself. There is nothing left to share.
There are many christians, leaders even, who only have a single portion. They are an end to themselves and think they are self-sufficient, hence they are not sufficient in God. They are like the priest and levite who walked past the wounded man by the side of the road while the samaritan (who had the double portion) came and bound up his wounds, poured in the oil and the wine, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.
So where does this double portion come from? I believe that this is something God is going to restore in the church in these last days: He is going to raise up men and women who have a true Father’s heart (in the spirit there is no gender) and they are going to minister to people who have the same kind of humble, hungry-for-truth-and-more-of-God spirit that Elisha had towards Elijah, Joshua had towards Moses, and Timothy had towards Paul.
This is when we will see ‘a people prepared’ for the coming of the Lord (see Luke 1:17), a people who will inherit the double portion that Elisha got from Elijah. It is this group of people who will go on to do the greater works that Jesus promised the church it will do, which really sounds sooooooo incredibly far-fetched when you look at the church of today. But Jesus promised it, so it is going to happen sometime!