Building with a Borrowed Axe
From a series of sermons on the prophet Elisha. www.rivercitycc.org.au.
And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, Behold now, the place where we live with you is too small for us.Please let us go to Jordan. And let each man take a beam from there. And let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go.And one said, Be content, please, and go with your servants. And he answered them, I will go. And he went with them. And they came to Jordan, and they cut down trees.And it happened as one was felling a log, the axe-head fell into the water. And he cried and said, Alas, master! For it was borrowed.And the man of God said, Where did it fall? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick and threw it in there. And the iron swam. And he said, take it up to you. And he put out his hand and took it.
This is a story about a group of young men (the school of the prophets) who had a desire to build a larger place for fellowship, as the place where they were was too small (youth=expansive or containing vs. the comfort of old age).
2 Ki 6:2 Please let us go to Jordan
The place they chose was Jordan; this was where Elisha received the “double portion” of the anointing that was on Elijah, it’s where Elisha did his first miracle when he struck the waters. They said; “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha”.
Can you see (imagine) these young men sitting around the evening meals and listening as the prophet told them how he saw the heaven’s opened and Elijah taken up, how the mantle fell on him, describing the chariots of fire and the wind, the wind of God that whooshed down upon the Prophet Elijah and swept him up into heaven.
Faith grew as they listened and a vision to build at Jordan was birthed, at the place where the heavens opened.
Praise God we do not have to go to places to find an open heaven, the Cross has already made a way… Hebrews 10: 19-20“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,”
And again in Ephesians 2: 18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
They wanted to build at Jordan to try to catch something of the anointing that was upon Elisha for them. Have you ever sat under a ministry and said; “I want what he’s got?” Whatever Elisha had, these young prophets in training wanted, they loved him; they loved his spirit, he was one of those persons who are in touch with God, one of those that have that special attraction within their nature. I think it’s wonderful how the grace of God can change us to be like that…
“Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me”
But what they did not realise is that Jordan is also the place of humility – the very name literally means: to godownwards; to bringdown. Naturally the river flows down from the Mountains into the Jordan valley- Jordan is the place where they would learn things they didn’t expect.
Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. It was there that his ministry began when “he made himself of no reputation” and humbly walked out into the river to be baptized by John, like the priests of old who washed in Laver before they entered the holy place, Jesus as our high priest who has come, “not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life”, washed in the Laver of Jordan’s humility. And again the heavens opened like they did for Elijah, then to complete a ministry, now to begin a new one; in the place of the “downward flow,” the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and his ministry began. The dove that never returned to the Ark of Noah, found its rest upon Christ – who is our resting place.
Whatever we are called to do, we do in total dependence upon the Lord, and are not so proud to think we can build the Church, for we cannot. Jesus said; “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
2 Ki 6:2-3 Please let us go to Jordan. And let each man take a beam from there. And let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go.And one said, Be content, please, and go with your servants. And he answered them, I will go.
Can you see the excitement in these young men as they started out to build a new school “can we go?” Elisha not wanting to quench their enthusiasm answers “Go”.
“Go with us”… Isn’t this the great promise of God repeated many times in scripture? “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”. It’s actually a double positive in Heb. 13:5 Amplified. “For He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax my hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”
Jesus may not bless every undertaking of the church but he will never forsake his people. He is the head of the church, and he will impart his vision and dream, if we trust him to do it. Sadly many places of divine movements are now memorials to the past, from a movement to a monument. Let’s not forget who is the head of the church, who builds it, who fills it with his power, who adds to it, who multiplies, who is to be centre of all our worship – The Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us continually be filled with the knowledge of His will, walking worthy, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work, strengthened with the “dunamos” of his glorious power. Let’s not forget who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, who has delivered us from the power of darkness and placed us the kingdom of His love.
Let’s not forget him, who’s Blood had redeemed us and forgiven us of our sins, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the un-surpassing pre-eminence. “Unto him be glory in the church”.
“Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”! Hallelujah!
Now, there are valuable lessons we can all learn from Elisha and the young prophets:
2 Ki 6:5 And it happened as one was felling a log, the axe-head fell into the water
The axe head represented the man’s effectiveness to cut down a beam; without it he could not fulfil his ministry, and he also represents so many of us who try to live the Christian life on second hand faith, on borrowed revelation, mainly because our own relationship with the Lord is not what it could be.
Paul prayed in Ephesians; “that you may know what is the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead”.
Here’s the real work of the Holy Spirit, to work the resurrection power – to take all of Christ and make him real to us. John R. W. Stott said: “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion.
Sons of the prophets represented the new generation to follow, but to fulfil their ministry they needed more than just academic knowledge like you and me, to be educated into the school of the Spirit. They had a great vision, a good dream, no objection from Elisha, he encouraged them to go, plus they were not of the kind to discard the old generation; they wanted Elisha to come with them.
If our desire is to press towards the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus, for enlargement, it cannot be done with borrowed tools, a second hand testimony; the word of God must become flesh in us.
Psa 18:16-21 - He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me.They went before me in the day of my calamity; but Jehovah was my stay.He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.Jehovah rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has repaid me.For I have kept the ways of Jehovah, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
Psa 118:5 - I called on Jehovah in distress; Jehovah answered me, and set me in a large place.
We stand on the ground of our relationship with Jesus.
The four who carried the sick man dropped him at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes we need others to carry us, but ultimately it’s our relationship with Christ that matters the most. We borrow from videos, CD’s, books, but unless those things become ours by experience they will not work, the head falls off, and we can’t cut it.
Ecc 10:10 Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work; Use your head.
Part of our problem is we walk subject to the weather, if the climate outside is good we feel good, etc. God wants us to begin to walk by the greater one in us, and regardless of the outside conditions. Christ dwells inside, in all of his fullness. Spiritual highs are wonderful but do not last, we’re ok for a while but then the head falls off.
By nature we are all like bits of iron, we are of the sinking kind, it’s in us, we can’t help it; it’s that part of us that tends to make us go under, to put us down, to sink. We see it in scripture, in others and mostly in ourselves.
That which is in all of us, that has its root and offspring in this inner-core of self domination, self centeredness which has been ours from birth. Yes, we may be reconciled to God by the blood, but still ruled by self.
The cost to be honest is great. To admit we aren’t right, we are lawbreakers and do not really love Jesus enough to give him total control and trust him completely even when everything is opposed to us. Jesus may be behind the wheel, but we are in the back seat telling him how to drive and where to go.
We were all born wrong, we cannot escape that fact; we cannot change ourselves by self-improvement courses –self cannot be improved.
Some people are buoyant; always appearing to be on top of things floating through life without ever seeming to sink, but it’s not natural buoyancy that God uses. It’s spiritual buoyancy, that has been resurrected out of the death of disappointments, discouragements, disillusionment and disasters into a resurrected life.A complete reversal of the natural order, like Paul who had all the reasons in the world to have confidence in the flesh, considered it all dung and prayed that “he might know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”
2 Ki 6:5 And it happened as one was felling a log, the axe-head fell into the water. And he cried and said, Alas, master! For it was borrowed.
“Alas it was borrowed” is a crisis of faith that we all have gone through from time to time, but God in his love for us allows these so called accidents; where everything about our Christianity seems to let us down, doesn’t seem as though it’s working, a crisis arises like this one here and we cry: Alas! Alas!
We feel as useless as an axe handle, we can’t seem to do anything, left just standing with nothing…it’s a very painful time, we feel as if we have failed God, we accuse ourselves, we see what little faith, why God? Angry and downhearted, Alas! Alas! Alas!
All the borrowed stuff is not working; I need to find Jesus again in all of this.
To admit to God our lack of ability is our first step back, we are exactly in the place of God we have reached the end of do it yourself Christianityand are reminded again of the words of Jesus who said; “Without me you can do nothing”.
2 Ki 6:6 And the man of God said, Where did it fall?
“Where did it fall?” How did we become a person who sinks? Originally in the garden of Eden, “The Fall”. But now in Christ ask yourself: did I sink? did I loose focus? am I accommodating sin? have I allowed the waters to become muddied?
I want you to know that in these moments of crisis God is very faithful, and he will bring our life onto new ground by a miracle, so that we truly own Christ. He becomes ours by experience, by the resurrection power of God. Whatever the crisis, God will resurrect new life. Peter said: “it was impossible for the grave to hold Jesus”, (Acts 2: 24) you and I will not be held down forever. God always comes through. He is faithful.
God allows the “Alas” to bring us to the end of self, but also to know the power of the anointing of Christ’s resurrection life beyond words. “We have this treasure in jays of clay that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.”
Not something borrowed, knowing the truth – not in theory alone– but knowing him, knowing his power, living by His resurrection life?
2 Ki 6:5 …and he cried and said, Alas, master!
There is no way this young prophet in training could have found the axe head, let alone raise it; he had to admit he needed help from the master Elisha, who is a picture of the Father who loves us and is ever standing by to bring about by a Miracle of resurrection complete reversal of the natural order.
2 Ki 6:6 And the man of God (…) cut down a stick and threw it in there. And the iron swam.
Elisha cut of a stick and raised the axe head from the river… This is how God dealt with the sinking nature of us all. He had a tree cut down and upon it nailed his Son, our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ. How does he bring us into this resurrection life? By inviting us to embrace this same Cross and letting it do its work upon the sinking nature that’s within us all. Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved (continuously) by His life”.
We’re not going to swim to stay on top merely by our natural strength, we’ll sink. We cannot float, we’re of the sinking kind. But the wonder of the power of the resurrection life, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is to make the us floating kind…
Although we are so sinkable under trial, the marvel is you and I are afloat today. We might have sunk many times, but we did not drown; we have something of that extra factor that causes us to survive a thousand sinkings. We always rise again because death cannot hold us down. Like Paul who could have sank but testified “troubled yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;.Read his account in Acts 27: “Unless you stay in the ship, you cannot be saved” Stay in the ship of God’s power and strength, do not jump off into human ability alone.
2 Ki 6:7 And he said, take it up to you. And he put out his hand and took it.
What was the encouragement from Elisha who by the double anointing reversed nature? Out of death resurrected new hope, new faith, and a new ability to play a part in the vision. “Pick it up for yourself”. God is the God of restoration, to give us more than we had before, to help us discover afresh our Christian faith so we can embrace Jesus all over again.
Many times I have had to pick it up again – many times like you I’ve sank, but praise God I’ve never stayed under, I never drowned, I have something that refloats me again;“If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead, shall also give life to your mortal bodies by his Spirit dwelling in you”. The iron will float; we may be the sinking kind, but God has reversed the natural order to make us the floating kind. We are partakers of His divine nature and can partake of it for all of life’s journey.
We will pass through the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side with our heads anointed with the oil of His resurrection life and power, and the cups of our spirit man will overflow with this life with goodness and mercy.
Yes it’s mine, its mine, and its mine! The iron did float.
We cannot improve on Jesus. Christianity is in you, Jesus, the greater One, is in you!
To be in Christ that is redemption, but for Christ to be in you, that’s sanctification. Trust Christ for His life, by yielding to Him, letting Him live His life through you.
Christianity is impossible to live by natural means; it must be by the supernatural.
Psalm 127:1 “Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it.”
Pastor Jim Garlick
RiverCity Christian Church - Hobart - Tasmania - Australia