Richard Harbur - First Speaker at Funeral Service for Gilbert Ricter - Lakota, ND - June 4, 2005, 10:30 a.m.

Richard Harbur (South Dakota) prayed. 

In thinking of today, my thoughts went to some verses in 2 Kings 2:11-15, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, 'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.' And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and smote the waters, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, 'The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.'”

In Luke 1, I like the description of that spirit that the angel gave to him. In the 17th verse, “And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power 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.” I don’t think it is hard for us to picture today what Elijah meant to the children of Israel. We think back on that story and the different things that had taken place and how he had turned their hearts to the Lord – those 7,000 that had never bowed to Baal, what it would have meant to them, what it would have meant to Elisha. If I understand right, it would have been about 10 years that they would have had together.

You would know that Gilbert was never married, but that he was a father, as Paul was to Timothy – a father to some of us in this work, a father in the gospel. He was a father who cared. He gave direction. He guided, and wanted what was best for his children. I was noticing that they talked as they walked. Gilbert loved good food, both naturally and spiritually. We saw him lose his appetite for natural food, but he didn’t lose it for the spiritual. Those nine days I was with him, I don’t know how many times he asked, “Will you please share something form the Word? Tell me something that has fed you.” He often shared what searched himself.

The Word is called a sharp two-edged sword, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. Gilbert loved that search. He understood what it did for his soul and his relationship with God. Elisha asked a question that day, “Where is the God of Elijah?” He didn’t ask, “Where is Elijah?” The 50 sons of the prophets of Jericho wondered if God had cast him on some mountain top or cast him down in some valley. The question Elisha had was “Where is the God of Elijah?” You know, my friend, that really is the question for us today, it’s not “Where is Gilbert?” but “Where is the God of Gilbert?” There wouldn’t have been anything that would have pleased Elijah more than that God’s Spirit was with Elisha. That is what he lived and gave his life for.

I’m grateful for those nine days I had with Gilbert. We covered a lot of ground from New Mexico days. He saw a lot of work done there, and a lot of people responded to the gospel. One thing that he made very clear was that “it wasn’t me, it was God.” “Where is the God of Elijah?” If you took God out of that story you would have nothing because it was all about God.

The time that he called fire down form heaven, he said, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God…” (1 Kings 18:37) It is what God has done, it’s not me. Gilbert talked about coming to North Dakota. He told about some problems he faced and situations that were not pleasant. He mentioned that there wasn’t much he could do, but that it was God that helped him through. His presence can help us today and through the various experiences of life. Jesus paid the price so God could be with us. May this God be with us – the God of all comfort.