Elijah and Elisha proceeded to Jericho, which means “a place called pleasant.” Yet this city was now barren, dry, utterly lifeless with no trees, no pastures, no fruit. Everything had withered because a stream of poison had infiltrated Jericho’s water supply. This city represents dead, dry Christianity, a church Jesus describes in Revelation this way: “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
Elijah had established a school of prophets in Jericho, and when he and Elisha visited the school, some of the young, upstart prophets approached Elisha, asking, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head today?” (2 Kings 2:5). Elisha quickly cut them off, telling them, “Be silent! Of course I know it.”
This generation of ministers would be sent out across Judah and Israel to minister to society. But clearly something was missing in them: the power, anointing and authority of the Holy Spirit. The next day, these same ministers would be begging Elisha to let them go look for Elijah’s body, in case the Holy Spirit dropped him off some mountain or into some valley. They were totally ignorant of the ways and workings of the Holy Spirit. They could witness, preach, and speak of miracles but they had not experienced God’s power for themselves.
It appears that Elijah suggested, “Elisha, you’re looking at the next generation of ministry. Why don’t you settle here and teach these ministers the ways of the Spirit? You’re just the man to awaken this dead, dry church.”
But Elisha knew what would happen if he pastored these ministers. They would remain enamored of Elijah’s powerful ministry and constantly barrage him with questions about it. “How many hours a day did your master pray? What methods did he use? What doctrines did he preach?” Elisha would end up spending all his time recounting the past. And these young ministers would spend all their energies trying to be just like Elijah, hoping to recreate his miracles — yet without the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
The church today has fallen into the same snare.
We study past movements and revivals, looking for keys, trying to discover methods to bring down fire from heaven. Ever since I can remember, the church has been crying for an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost revival. Yet this all stems from a desire to see God recreate something he did in the past.
Elisha knew he could not impact anyone in this dead, dry church until he received his own touch from God. He could not rely on Elijah’s great works. He was telling Elijah, “I respect the faith of my forefathers, the spiritual giants of the past. But I know the Lord wants to do a new thing. And I must have a greater touch from him than anything seen before.”
David Ray Wilkerson (1931–2011) was an American Christian evangelist, best known for his book The Cross and the Switchblade. He was the founder of the addiction recovery program Teen Challenge, and founding pastor of the non-denominational Times Square Church in New York.