Miracle by the River Jordan
By the River
Miracle by the River Jordan
The Fallen Axe-Head
I've been meditating on the story of the fallen axe-head in 2 Kings chapter 6:1-7. Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:
i. 6:1. 'The place is too small'; let us expand. So said the sons of the prophets, or the disciples being trained in the school at Gilgal. It is good to have a desire to expand the work and ministry for God. We cannot live small and narrow lives. Our God is infinite and illimitable. Didn't William Carey, the pioneer missionary, say, 'Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.'?
ii. 6:2. They went down to the Jordan. In Haggai 1:8, we are told to go up to the mountains and cut down wood for the house of God. That is but natural. But here we find the disciples going down to the river Jordan to cut trees. How does that speak to us? In the Christian experience, 'the way up is the way down'. It was when the Israelites crossed the Jordan that they entered into the Promised Land. Elisha crossed the Jordan (with Elijah) and received a double portion of his spirit. Jordan speaks of death and self-surrender. Only when we die to ourselves can we really live and bear fruit for the glory of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ began His glorious ministry after being baptized in the river Jordan. The Jordan experience is crucial to the overcoming life.
iii. 6:2. 'Let us each cut down a beam.' Each disciple had to do his part, and contribute a beam for the building of the house. It was a cooperative effort. Not something done by a few. But all had to work & contribute. In the Body of Christ, every member has to be active. But sad to say, we see only a few members in a church contributing to the overall work. Most Christians are content to remain passive, and let others do the job for them. Church life is a life of mutual cooperation; it is 'body life'
iv. 6;2,3. The disciples took permission from Elisha to go down to the Jordan, and they wisely requested Elisha to come with them. What do we learn from this? Respect for elders. A society or church which does not respect its elders is doomed. The Bible makes it very clear that 'wisdom is with aged men', Job 12:12.
v.6:5. 'Alas, my master! It was borrowed.' The young man was cutting a beam with a borrowed axe. Obviously he was not familiar with the implement.; neither did he care to fix the axe-head tightly before using it. He was chopping with a loose axe-head, which could have been dangerous. A lot of our work and ministry is second-hand, borrowed ministry. We learn something in a theoretical way in Bible School, and we feel the urge to pass it on to others. A lot of what we preach is what we have learnt bookishly in a theological seminary. The Lord wants us to preach out of first-hand revelation and experience. Has the Lord spoken to you? What have you experienced in the hands of the Lord? It is not preaching what others say, but what the Lord has said personally to you!
vi. It was a borrowed axe. David couldn't use Saul's armour. 'I have
not tested them,' he said, 1 Sam 17:39. If it is your own axe, you are
familiar with it; and you would have tested it. Alas, the tragedy of
borrowed teaching, borrowed messages, borrowed truths. Preaching is not
reading a religious book and lecturing out of it. Preaching has to come
out of one's personal life & experience. I cannot live by another's experience;
I have to prove God for myself. I have to prove that He is the living
and true God, 1 Thess 1:9. That He is Faithful and True, Rev 19:11. By my own experience!
vii. It could have been a blunt axe-head, and the young man must have kept hitting the tree with it and it had got loose. We need to sharpen our tools; It is a sharpened arrow in the quiver that finds its mark, Isa 49:2. It was with the sharp end of his spear that Abishai slew three hundred, 2 Sam 23:18. We need the sharp sword of the gospel. The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. The gospel of grace is what finds its mark, and fells huge trees at a stroke. If your preaching and message lacks the gospel of grace, you have missed the mark. And no matter how forcefully you preach, you are merely beating with a blunt axe-head.
viii. We cannot use a blunt axe to bludgeon someone. The axe-head has to be sharpened. The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, Heb 4:12. But that sharpness comes out of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It's pathetic to see someone preaching without the Spirit of God; it's like beating with a handle that has lost its axe-head. Many preachers hammer their audiences with blunt axe-heads, because through their love of the world they have lost touch with the Spirit. It is the sorry story of Saul; he knew not that the Spirit had departed from him. 1 Sam 16.14.
ix. The disciple had to return the axe (borrowed from a friend), and pay for its loss. It must have been prized by its owner, because the disciple cried out, Alas. He lost not only an axe-head, but he had lost a friendship.
x. Speaking of 'borrowing', every gift and talent we have is something received from God, 1 Cor 4:7a. It is not ours. It is lent by God to be used for His glory. It is maintained in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to learn to value the things that God has lent to us, given to us as gifts during our lifetime on earth. We should not forget how particular God is about lost things. Remember the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in Luke 15.
xi. 6:6. Elisha cut off a stick and threw it above the place where the axe-head had fallen. Moses, on the other hand, had to throw a tree into the bitter waters at Marah, Exod 15.25. It required a tree to satisfy the needs of the nation of Israelites, whereas here it required just a little cut stick (or twig) to solve the problem of the single disciple.
xii. Both the stick and the tree speak of the Cross. We have to carry the cross and apply the cross to all situations. The most unpleasant situations are 'crosses' given by God for us to bear. As the Lord told Saul, there is no point in kicking against the pricks.
xiii. 6:6b. The cut stick thrown into the Jordan made the iron to float. That was the miracle. Twice we have the word 'iron' in this passage. Iron speaks of human strength, Dan 2.40. Human nature, like iron, has a tendency to sink in times of trouble. Remember Ps 42.5, 43.5. Why are you downcast, O my soul? [Why have you 'sunk down' into the depths?] But the power of the inward cross is such that, though outwardly we may be cast down, yet inwardly we rise up again and again. The righteous fall seven times, but they always rise up again, Prov 24.16. Does our human nature rise up? No, it is the divine nature within us that rises up in such crises. Our self, our human nature, our flesh - is always failing; there is no hope for it; it has to go to the Cross. But the divine nature of which we are partakers enables us to rise up again and again, through the power of His resurrection.
xiv. It is through the cross that we experience the power of resurrection. The cross is basic to the experience of resurrection. We have to confess our failures and our sins, and be humbled and emptied, if we wish to experience the power of resurrection.
xv. The disciple had to point out the place where the axe-head had fallen, and he had to take up the recovered axe-head himself. We have to learn from our failures, and it is by way of conviction and contrition. I cannot do the learning for my children. They have to learn the hard way. Human nature is built in such a way, that without failure and suffering we never really learn. Sometimes we learn (as David did) by bitter experience.
xvi. The disciple cried, Alas. We have to give an account before God for our sins and our losses. The sins are covered by the Blood. But our losses? We remember the parable of the talents, and how the lazy slave was cast into outer darkness, Matt 25.30, for the loss that he had caused to his Master. He was a worthless and lazy servant in the eyes of God. But here was a careless disciple, and he too would have to explain. What are we doing with the salvation, the gifts & talents and the resources we have received from God? Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling (i.e. with all diligence), for the time is short.
xvii. Borrowed: Everything we have is borrowed from God. Nothing belongs to us. Every gift is given by God for the benefit of all His children.
xviii. Borrowed: It was given on trust. He should have kept it safe. But he was careless and he lost it. The law demanded a penalty, but grace (through the Cross; thru the finished work of the Cross, and grace thereby) would more than meet the penalty.
© Tan Pratonix/Roland N.Oliver