Young students are quite familiar with the concept of having a teacher or leader to guide them. For most, it’s a fact that is taken for granted, with little thought given to what we do with the information we receive from mentors. In this story, we see an eager learner who not only persists in following his teacher, but insists on picking up where he left off in devotion to God. As kids experience the spectacular whirlwind that took Elijah into Heaven, they can consider how they can live lives of service to God and to others.
Lesson focus: We ought to listen to our teachers and parents, and pay attention to what they show us. We can learn from those that God has placed in our lives, and we can apply the teachings of others to our lives as we serve the Lord.
Passage: 2 Kings 2:1-12
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade (variable for activity emphasis)
Materials Needed: Construction paper, scissors, decorations, glue, string, hole punch, paper towel tubes, tissue paper, cups, yarn, pipe cleaners, Bible (optional, depending on crafts and activities of choice).
More Teaching Ideas
- Compare our Elijah and the Chariots of Fire Sunday School Lesson
- Compare our Elijah is Taken to Heaven Bible Lesson for Kids
- Download the Story of Elijah Coloring Page
- See craft ideas on Elijah and Elisha
Game and Lesson Introduction
Lesson Opening: This lesson includes themes of following in a teacher’s footsteps, as well as concepts of Heaven and miraculous sights. If your flaming chariot has a flat wheel, feel free to improvise with some other fun openers!
Here are some activities to get kids thinking… (select the best ones for your audience and age group):
- Relay race: in this story, Elijah passed on his abilities and blessings to his follower, Elisha. Use a relay to illustrate the idea of “passing a baton” literally or figuratively. You may conduct a basic back and forth relay race (inside or outside), incorporating various types of movement. Or you could pass something like a cloak or even a scroll with a message inside, to recount the messages of God that prophets carried.
- Believe it to see it…Elisha trusted his teacher and also trusted God. He believed God was doing amazing things in Elijah’s life, and would do great things for him also. Start the lesson by explaining that you have something special for the children, but keep it hidden away in a bag or foil. Ask students if they trust you that there is actually a treat tucked away in the wrapping. After discussing the idea of faith in what we can’t see, hand out the hidden contents: small toys or candies. Talk about how we can know things are great sometimes, even without seeing them with our own eyes.
- Look at pictures of whirlwinds or tornadoes, or fire blazes. Explain that such items are featured in the Bible story.
- Follow the leader: since this lesson involves learning from a teacher, play a simple “follow the leader” game, choosing one student at a time to guide others through activities or steps. You might also play “Simon says” and substitute the title for “Elijah says.”
- Simple instructions: have one student guide others through step-by-step directions to do something simple like draw a picture. Encourage the “followers” to listen carefully.
Explain to students that today’s lesson involves a man that God called to do amazing things for Him. In this story, that man is going to pass on his work and God-given ability to his student, and then go up to Heaven in a stunning and remarkable way.
Ask: Who are some people in your life that teach you things? Do you think they do this just because it’s their job, or are you actually learning from others?
2 Kings 2:1-12 Sunday School Lesson on Elijah and Elisha
Bible Lesson: Begin by reminding the students of who Elijah was. He was a prophet, or messenger sent by God to deliver important news to people. Elijah often had a hard time with those he was sent to, but he continued to do God’s work. God sent a helper for Elijah, who followed him closely until it was time for Elijah to leave Earth.
This story can be a great one to act out. You might select a few students to take on roles of the story and mime the activity. Or you could have all of the kids help by responding to certain cues (for example, reciting “I will not leave you” or “yes I know” at appropriate intervals). Choose the best story-telling and Scripture-reading methods for your crew.
Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3 And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” -2 Kings 2:1-3
There are a few details in this passage that we are not quite certain about. Why were Elijah and Elisha heading from Gilgal to Bethel to Jericho? It might be that those were significant sites for prophets, or that God had special meaning for those cities. Either way, He was directing their steps. And why did Elijah ask Elisha to stay behind? Perhaps it was a test, in a way, to make certain this was the true successor.
Ask: Have you ever gone on a trip with someone? How did you prepare for it?
Explain that the “sons of the prophets” were probably other groups that were learning from Elijah. They might have also received revelation from God, but were not quite as notable or significant as Elisha. Elisha was persistent in following his master, and was determined to stay close…
Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” -2 Kings 2:4-5
Elisha does not want to leave his master. He’s aware that God will be taking Elijah, but perhaps he doesn’t want to think about it. He also wants to make sure he can carry on the work that God gave his teacher. Eventually, the two came to a river:
Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. -2 Kings 2:6-8
This was not the first time waters had been parted by God. Older students may be familiar with former stories (and younger ones can be reminded) that this event reflects. Moses parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross on dry ground. Joshua parted this same Jordan River, before the conquest of Jericho. In both instances, God was about to do something big, and this case is similar.
It’s also interesting to note that the “Jordan” has traditionally been used (in hymns and stories) as a symbol for death. We must “cross the Jordan” to go to Heaven, as Elijah is about to do in this story. If time allows, you might even have students listen to the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, which was based on this story.
Ask: What is the best gift you have ever received?
Elisha knows that his time with Elijah is almost up. He wants to ask for an “inheritance” of sorts, which would usually pass from a father to a son. Since Elijah has no sons, he asks what he can bestow upon Elisha, and Elisha has a pretty big request:
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” 11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. – 2 Kings 2:9-12
Ask: What is going on here? How do you think you would react if you saw this kind of sight?
It’s interesting, because in Elijah’s lifetime as a prophet, he called fire down from Heaven to defeat the prophets of Baal. Here, the fire is taking him up into Heaven. The Divine army has come to take Elijah away. In Biblical tradition, fire and chariots have strong associations with God and His disclosure of events. Elijah is one of only a few people in the Bible who did not die before departing into Heaven. The chariots take him away to his eternal reward.
Elisha knows that because he has witnessed this incredible occasion, he will inherit what he asked for, and will be used by God to carry on Elijah’s work. He takes his teacher’s clothing, and in so doing takes up his role as prophet, too. Being a prophet was never an easy or glamorous task, but Elisha knew it was an important one, and sought to do God’s work wholeheartedly.
Close with a prayer thanking God for our purpose in life, and asking for help in listening to our teachers and understanding their role in leading us.