Elisha the prophet had just exercised serious discipline upon his servant Gehazi for lying to Naaman, the Syrian captain, and to Elisha. The punishment: lifelong leprosy for Gehazi and the plague of leprosy upon Gehazi’s posterity forever! One would assume such harshness would keep enrollment in the school of the prophets down. But not so. Enrollment soared so much that the school outgrew its dormitory and classroom space and needed a building program. (2 Kings 6:1) Lesson to be noted: Lowering standards of deportment in a school, church, or organization that has the Word of God as its rule for faith and practice will not diminish enrollment. To the contrary, it may have the opposite effect! (cmp. 2 Kings 5:27-6:2)
So, school leaders petitioned Elisha for permission to build. They sought not only his permission but, wisely, his presence. Elisha was on board, and the plan was that each of the sons of the prophets would take on the task of “felling a beam” of a tree near the Jordan river, from which the expansion would be built. Interestingly, they did not engage a feasibility study for the project; nor did they “float” a bond program to finance it, nor even a Kosher bake sale! They just rolled up their sleeves and individually went to work. And, all went well until…
Until one of the aspiring prophets lost his axe head! It was a borrowed axe, and the last the young lumber jack saw of it was when the axe head disappeared into the Jordan river. That was an immediate crisis, and the instinctive response of the borrower was to cry out for his master’s help. Explaining the dilemma, the young man told Elisha what had happened, underscoring the fact that the axe was borrowed. The prophet asked him where the axe head had fallen into the water, the exact place. Elisha then instructed him to “cut down a stick” and cast the stick into the water at that very place. It was done as per instructions—and, lo, the axe head “did swim.” The young prophet to be took it up, and the problem was solved.
We can learn from these seven verses, 2 Kings 6:1-7, some lessons that might just help us through some of our life crises today:
(1) The axe head was lost while the son of the prophets was working. Never do anything and your tools will never get dirty, dull, or damaged. You will not get anything done—but you will always have nice, clean tools to work with, when and if you ever decide to go to work. God has given us tools with which to work, tools for ministry. They are called “gifts” in Eph. 4 and I Peter 4:10. There are varying gifts to be used for edification (building) of the body of Christ, the church. Sadly, too many believers have put their tools on a shelf and are not using them to build His body.
(2) The young man lost his axe head at a critical time—just when he was felling a beam. You will no doubt do the same if you are in the heat of a battle working to advance His kingdom. Just at the worst time, just when it is most important that your work not be interrupted, you will find yourself in a crisis moment. The Devil knows your most vulnerable point, and the most opportune time to strike. Beware of his strategy.
(3) The young man was wise in crying out to his master. We would do well to do the same. Jesus is Lord of the church, and He is our Lord. At that critical moment, that crisis moment, when we have lost our axe head, as it were, in the course of our labors for Him, we must not forget to cry out to Him, “Master!”
(4) The axe was borrowed. Whatever we have with which to serve our Lord and His church is either a “gift” or borrowed. There is, in our flesh, no good thing. (Rom.7:18) The body we possess, the next breath we draw—both are borrowed. The prophet in training knew it would do no good to keep on hacking away at the beam with an axe handle—no matter how good the handle was. The size of the tree was not an issue, either. He needed an axe head, and without help from his master, it was a lost cause.
(5) The prophet Elisha wanted to know the exact place where the axe head was lost. That axe head was his power—power now lost. We have been given power. (Acts 1:8) Our power will never be lost, for He indwells us. But we may lose access to the use of His power for service. We may lose power with Him in our prayer closet, our quiet time, our devotional worship of Him. It will do no good to keep busy with activity; the spiritual beams in our life cannot be felled with the prettiest handles, nicest looking “tools,” most fervent activity. We must have the source of our power, His Holy Spirit, at liberty to fell the spiritual beams in our ministries.
(6) To retrieve the power, a stick had to be cut down. We may have to be cut down also. Our Lord Jesus was prophesied in Isaiah 11:1 as a branch out of the stem of Jesse. As the branch, He was cut down. He humbled Himself, He learned obedience through suffering; He was crucified, having been humiliated. The stick was cut down before the power was recovered. Cutting is painful, but for service it can be very productive. (John 15)
(7) And, our Master can miraculously make the lost axehead (our power) “swim” again right before our eyes. All the young man had to do was reach out and take hold! The power was back, the work resumed. Paul, the Apostle, knew what it was to have been cut down. He writes to the carnal Corinthian church, “Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my infirmities—that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Have you grown weary in well doing? Are your tools on the shelf clean he but not being put to good use for His glory? In the heat of the battle, did Satan get to you, so that you lost your power? Go back to the place you lost it. Confess your sin; cry out to your Master for help. Let yourself be cut down, so that in humility you can once again see His power at work in your life.
“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Eph.1:19)