Words. What power they possess.
This verse says that life and death are at the hand of the tongue; meaning that it truly is possible to stir life or bring about death with the mere sound coming out of our mouths.
This also means that we care a great deal for specific words from specific people, and especially when those people are about to leave this world. What last words will they leave with us? What echoing meaning would they choose to leave resonating behind them?
Only two people were ever recorded to leave this world without dying, and out of the two
, we have a more detailed record about just one - Elijah.
On his last day on earth, he went on a journey that signified foundational stations we all pass through in our lives: Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and Jordan. It is quite intriguing why Elijah would choose to visit these particular places prior to his departure from earth (as the biblical text tells that he knew in advance that this was what lay ahead for him), but Swindoll in his book about Elijah shares a thought I resonate with and wish to take a step further.
Gilgal is where it all started for the people of Israel; it was a symbolic place of newness, of decision, resolution, obedience, wholeness, purity, covenant, communion, miracle, fulfilled promise. According to scholars, it's also one of 3 places where ancient seminary schools trained would-be prophets in the time of Elijah. This makes me wonder what he might have left with them in terms of his last words; what he would have emphasized, prayed, shared, taught.
Bethel is familiar for being the house of the Lord, and where Abraham often returned to and erected altars of memorial for how the Lord had answered him or delivered him, or came through for him. It's a place of prayer and revelation. Surely Elijah would have thought about his time of meeting with the Lord daily on Cherith, or when a miraculous cake appeared before him under the juniper tree, or how God was found in the still small voice in that cave.
How would he have shared the moment with those prophet trainees? Would there be tears in his eyes as he remembered the terror of experiencing the whirlwind, and the earthquake, and the fire?
Jericho was a place of triumph. It was a place where worship prevailed, where the sound of praise brought about magnificent and glorious victory, much like the account on Mount Carmel. Elijah must have reenacted the whole scene, climaxing with the answer in the form of fire sent from heaven. I wonder what stirred in the innermost parts of those who listened, I wonder if Elijah touched on what happened after the answer in the fire to all those who rejected the Lord God. I wonder what those would-be prophets thought about at that very moment, what they were dying to ask.
Then lastly he came to Jordan. He even stroke it with his mantle, splitting the way in half, in like manner of the Israelite in generations past walked through the dry ground of the split waters.
Jordan for Elijah was a place of crossing from one reality to a new one. A place of ceasing to live in one form and starting to live in another. It was a place of transformation, of renewal, of complete change. For us, it's a place where the old is brought to death so that new can be brought forth and grow strong.
The Jordan signified complete faith in Lord God, that He will make the unimaginable possible; that He has a plan, a future, a vision.
Jesus' last words on the way to Gethsemane contain covenant (Gilgal), prayer (Bethel), triumph (Jericho), and transformation (Jordan).
What are your foundational stations of life? What do Jesus' last words mean to you?