The Swimming Axe Head
Copyright 2009 Douglas Carlson
READ 2 Kings 6.1-7
The number of prophets was growing; and we can attribute this spiritual growth to Elisha's work in the ministry. The house where they were living was becoming too small, so they decided to build another house. What a happy time it is when a church sanctuary becomes too small for the growing number of members. Unfortunately in New England where I live, many churches have closed. The former church buildings become stores or apartments or something worse (like a bar or a strip club). Other churches try to struggle on with a few members to do all the work and pay all the bills. Let's listen to the teaching found in 2 Kings 6. In that time, the number of Christian workers was growing.
Godliness with Contentment
The prophets didn't have the money to hire others to build the house for them. They couldn't even afford an axe, but were able to borrow one. These events occurred during a time of spiritual revival. Throughout the ages, many have taught that "gain is godliness" but they are wrong. (1 Timothy 6.5+6) Jesus taught that the pagans are concerned about money and riches, but God's people should be content in any situation. God has promised to provide for us, so we can be at peace. (Matthew 6.24-34) The prophets in Elisha's day decided to build a simple house, not a palace or a mansion. There is no shame in being poor. A person is not more or less spiritual because he has more or less money. A spiritual Christian can be content without riches; or he can be wealthy and yet not be corrupted.
In this account, every man took a beam. "Many hands make light work." (John Heywood) Some Christians think they are too spiritual to work, but the Bible teaches no such thing. Jesus said "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." Matthew 9:37 We need more laborers to further God's kingdom. We should earnestly pray and each lend a hand ourselves!
The sons of the prophets asked Elisha to come with them. It wasn't Elisha who first volunteered; and he didn't ask. The prophets saw their need for a spiritual leader, and they respected Elisha's maturity in the faith, so they chose him. They didn't make the mistake of many "Christians" today who say, "I can be close to God on my own. I don't need a church or a pastor." They didn't make the mistake of others who say someone is their pastor, but then don't listen to his counsel. Jesus asked, "...why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" Luke 6.46 Israel was experiencing a spiritual revival. One of the reasons for this is that the sons of the prophets had chosen a spiritual leader and did what he told them. They lost the axe head and didn't know what to do, so they went to Elisha for help. Their mentor started to do something that seemed to make no sense. In our natural minds, how does cutting a stick and floating it on the water seem to help their situation? It doesn't. Despite this, the prophets had the faith to follow Elisha's instruction and the axe head swam to the surface! Then Elisha had a simple instruction for one of them. "Grab the axe head." Too many people expect God to do everything for them. They would ask, "Why can't God just have the axe head fly right into my hand?" God could do that, but He chose not to. God often leaves a simple thing for the person to do for himself. When Jesus healed people, He often left them something simple to do. He told the lame man to carry his bed. He told the lepers to go to the priest. He asked the blind men for to confess their faith in Him. (John 5, Luke 17, Matthew 9) Our faith isn't one where we can sit back, be lazy, and expect God to do everything for us.
Jesus has promised us that God will provide food, clothing, shelter, and all of our daily needs. Sadly, many wait for these provisions to fall miraculously out of the sky. Though that could happen because God is Almighty, it would be the exception and not the rule. The normal order of things is for Christians to work hard with our hands so that we can support ourselves and our families; help the poor in our community; tithe to our church; and give to other good cases as the Lord leads us. "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." (Ephesians 4.28) Some are elderly or disabled. God realizes this and understands. The early Church looked after elderly widows, but only if they had been hard workers during their younger years. (1 Timothy 5.3-16) From the beginning, the Church was swamped with people who were in need and wanted a hand out. Often God's way is to give a person a hand out (for his immediate need) and then offer a hand up (so he can help himself). If he doesn't want to help himself, it is OK to turn him away. The local church simply does not have the resources to support all the lazy people. God won't give us those kind of resources because it's not His way. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Healing and Restoration
God can heal the disabled so that they can work. God can bless situations that the world says are hopeless. In 2 Kings, the prophets had lost the borrowed axe head. In those times, iron was very expensive. Not everyone could afford an iron axe. The equivalent today would be a tool or a piece of equipment that costs thousands of dollars. When they lost it, they lost their ability to work. What is worse, they had lost someone else's property, so they went seriously in debt. The situation seemed hopeless until they went to their spiritual mentor; asked for his help; and followed his instruction. God was faithful met their need as He had promised.
God heals and blesses today. There is help at your local church. A worthy Christian mentor is not hard to find if you pray for one. AMEN
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God bless you.