We left Elijah and Elisha walking away from the border area, Gilgal. I’ve been sharing how we can’t live with one foot in the past and one in the future. But there is more to the history of Gilgal, and it is important to us in our walk.
Long before Elijah and Elisha walked the area
The book of Judges, chapter 1, tells us that when the tribes of Israel entered the Promised Land they did not conquer the people who lived there, in disobedience to the Lord. They compromised with the pagans, thinking they were strong enough to resist their gods and worldly ways.
That compromise started almost as soon as they left the border area of Gilgal. They comprised with the people of the land, making treaties with them, and allowing them to serve their gods. The Lord told Israel they would be thorns in their flesh and snares to their walk with Him.
This is the way of sin. Repentance means a complete break with the past, but compromise often sets in before we truly move on with our new life in Christ. The Israelites were tired of fighting so they compromised, and that is an example we see in the lives of Christians today. “I can’t conquer this so I’m just going to have this in my life until I die”. Sometimes the addict thinks ‘just a little’ won’t hurt. The New Testament phrase is: “A little leaven (yeast) leavens the whole lump (of dough).” I Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9
Leaving our own ‘border area’ with the past and sin onto our own ‘Promised Land’ is a process.
Elijah and Elisha had to walk away from the area. They didn’t live in the border as we are not to live in our spiritual border land – they walked on. Gilgal remember, means ‘wheel’ or ‘rolling’. So keep moving forward. The chorus in Margaret Becker’s wonderful song entitled ‘Clay and Water’ says: “I am clay and I am water, falling forward in this order, while the world spins ’round so fast, slowly I’m becoming who I am.”
Slowly I’m becoming who I am. You get things rolling with God at Gilgal – a place of repentance and leaving the old for the new. But when Israel compromised with the pagans in the land, once they had compromised and settled in to the compromise, the Lord confronted them, and they repented.
And this adds another element – they repented, but their past compromises had been established for so long, they could not change things. The time to deal with the inhabitants of the land had passed, now they were stuck with the consequences of their decision – even though they repented – God didn’t magically make up for their disobedience – they had to walk it out.
They were stuck with the consequences of their compromised life, though they repented.
The place the Lord confronted them near Gilgal is called ‘Bochim’, or ‘weeping’.
Judges 2: 1-3 tells us the Lord went from Gilgal to confront them, saying: “I will never break my covenant with you.” He told them they had broken His command NOT to make treaties with the inhabitants of the land in direct disobedience and asked them directly: “Why have you done this?” They wept greatly in that border area, calling it Weeping (Bochim).
So when Elisha refused to leave Elijah, he was making a statement that he refuses to compromise; he would walk with Elijah to the end. He would not go back to his former life of farming*. He would move forward into the call of God on his life. *(When called by Elijah, Elisha was plowing a field: I Kings 19: 19)
More on the history of Gilgal: It is also the place Saul was made king: I Samuel 11: 14
When Saul is made king, Samuel says, ‘Let us go to Gilgal to renew the kingdom there’. This is the start of a new day for Israel – from Judges to having a King – and they ‘renewed’ the kingdom there, again a place of dedication and purposeful act of leaving the old for the new.
It is in the border area that we actually make the change. The word ‘repent’ means to have a change of mind. This change happens while we are still in our sin, in our compromise, in our spiritual border area. It is in our hearts, a simple change, that we establish Who is king in our lives. As Saul was crowned king in the border area and near the place of weeping to be crowned king, so too we decide Who will be king in our lives while we are in that in-between land. Now we just have to walk it out.
It was in Gilgal: I Samuel 13: 11-13…that
…Saul offered a sacrifice to the Lord when Samuel had told him explicitly to wait for him. He usurped Samuel’s authority due to his fear of man, as the people were afraid. Instead of starting a new season of his life by leaving his old fears behind, he ‘fell’ into the old sin. By doing so, by refusing to grow up in the Lord and conquer his past, he lost the kingdom from his family line. He was still king and could live out his life with that level of spiritual and personal growth, but the kingship would not stay with his family.
Up to that point God would have made the kings of Israel in Saul’s line of Benjamin, but because he compromised himself to make an offering in sin, he lost ground. Many Christian feel like this, like they were called of God early in life and then as the saying goes, life happened. Now they are old and that time of being able to make changes in life are gone, and they are discouraged that they failed God.
The good news is that we are in New Testament times, which reveal Christ in us and that there are ‘ages to come’ according to Ephesians 2: 7 and others. That means if you missed it in this life, God’s word for you will come to pass but it may take another 200 years, 500 years or more – but you will walk in what He called you too. We are already in eternity, so our best days are ahead of us.
One last part about Gilgal: I Samuel 15: 11-13, Saul did it again – He had been commanded not to compromise with the people, but he disobeyed because he never conquered the fear of man. He kept the animals to sacrifice to the Lord at Gilgal. He thought he could get around obedience by making a sacrifice to God and that God would be happy with that.
It was here that Samuel told him in v22-23: “To obey is better than sacrifice…for rebellion is like witchcraft (witch craft manipulates God’s Word and facts to fit one’s own agenda), and stubbornness as idolatry and iniquity.”
All of that was involved with Elijah and Elisha as they walked away from Gilgal. Away from the border lands. Away from the past. Elisha didn’t know exactly what lay ahead, but he knew he would never again return to the border area of one foot in the past and one foot in the future. It was time to move towards his future, and he would not leave Elijah’s side until his future was revealed to him! We pick it up there next week, until then,