Today, we're wrapping up our series on the prophet, Elisha. In the past few weeks, we have talked about a committed faith, a faith that was willing to burn the plows. We talked about digging ditches and the kind of faith that anticipates a great move of God even when the signs all around us suggest the opposite. And last week, we talked about gathering empty jars, and the abundant provision of God, who kept the oil flowing as long as the empty jars kept coming. This morning, in the fourth and last message in this series, we are going to examine one of the most unusual miracles in all the Bible.
Before we read this passage of Scripture in 2nd Kings, let me explain a little of the context. Just as Elijah had mentored Elisha, now we see that Elisha is mentoring a group of young prophets himself. So there are all these students, these young prophets, who want to learn from him and they had run out of room; the place where they were meeting was too small and it was time for a building campaign. And that's where we pick up the story in 2nd Kings 6, starting in verse 1:
“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live."
And he said, "Go."
3 Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?"
"I will," Elisha replied. 4 And he went with them.
They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!"
6 The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. 7 "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” (2 Kings 6:1-7; NIV)
So this group of students, these want to be prophets, went down to the Jordan and began cutting down trees. Now this is where the story gets exciting, because the guy who is cutting down the trees is swinging away, when suddenly the iron axhead went flying off the handle and splashed into the murky depths of the Jordan River. The prophet who had been swinging the ax cried out in distress, and he’s like, “Oh, my Lord, it was borrowed!”
Now how many of you know that feeling when you borrow something and suddenly you can’t find it? You know its that sinking feeling deep in your heart, or maybe its the frustration of knowing is gotta be right here, but you can’t find it. How many of you know that feeling of looking for something you’ve lost and you’ve had it in your possession all along? You know when you’re looking for your glasses and they’re on your head… you’re looking for your car keys and they are in your hand… or you’re looking for your phone and your talking on it? Have any of you ever done anything like that?
Well since we’re having church this morning, and we’re all being honest, how about if we take it up another level? Maybe today you have found that you’ve lost your passion for God or for the things of God. You know that excitement and that joy that you used to have is gone. The spiritual contentment that you once had, somehow got lost along the way, and you’re not even sure how you lost it, but its gone! Maybe at one time, you had great faith, and you prayed and believe God for big things. You had a hope in a God who was good and who had plans to bless you and prosper you. Yet today, you’re not praying for much of anything, and honestly you’re not even sure what you believe anymore. You had something significant spiritually, but somehow, somewhere, you’ve lost it along the way.
Today, we’ve seen one of the most unusual miracles in all of the Bible. As a matter of fact, if you considered all the different miracles that Elisha performed, there were some really big, really important, and significant miracles. Yet here we have a seminary student, who borrowed an axe, and was chopping down a tree when the axhead flew off into the water. So Elisha, the man of God takes a stick, throws it into the water, and God causes the axhead to float. That’s pretty cool right? But what is the meaning of this? What is the significance of this random miracle?
Well this prophet who lost the axhead was most likely very poor. You know he was living under the weight of student loans, he’s eating Ramen noodles, and he’d borrowed this axhead which was of great worth. You see in that day, iron was very valuable, because it was very hard to come by. So he had borrowed this axe, which he knew he couldn’t afford, and he knew he couldn’t pay it back. And so when we see the man of God bring the axhead back it reveals to us just how much God actually knows and cares about the little details of our lives.
And so this morning if you’ve got a headache again, God cares. If you got a chemistry test coming up, God cares. If your car wouldn’t start this morning, God cares. If you’re on the phone, when you can’t find your phone, God’s laughing, but he cares. And that’s really important because we serve a God who is totally into restoration, he cares about those little things in our lives, he knows how to help you find what you’ve lost, our God will help you find what you’ve misplaced.
For those of you that are Christians, it’s my guess that whether you have been for 20 years, 5 years, or for one month, that for any of you who are followers of Christ, and you’ve been born again, that you might honestly say that there was another time in your life when you were more into the things of God than you are today. You might recognize that there was time when you surrounded yourself with Christians who encouraged you and prayed for you, but not so much anymore. That there was a time when you served in the church, you were used by God, and you had the thrill of making a difference in people’s lives with your gifts. But then you got busy and you stopped. You were going to get back to it, but you never did. And now you’re missing something, because you knew what it was like to be used by God, but now life is pretty much about you.
Some of you, there was a time when you had a passion for prayer; I mean, you would even get up early to pray, and you would pray fervently for lots of people. There was a time, when you really loved to share your faith with people who were outside the family of God, but something happened along the way, you’ve misplaced your passion, and now you can't even remember the last time you had a spiritual conversation with someone who wasn’t a follower of Jesus. Truth is, you haven't even prayed in a significant way for a very long time and so now you wonder, "How did I get way over here? What happened? How did I lose my first love?
And the reality is that it can happen to any one of us, because we have a spiritual enemy whose mission is to steal kill and destroy everything that matters to God. In fact, I can tell you now that I find it happening to me time and time again. You see, if I’m not careful, I can get so caught up in being a pastor that its almost as if I become a part time follower of Christ. You know, I can be praying publicly, but not privately. I can be studying the Bible, but to preach and not for personal devotion. I can become so busy serving God that I don’t allow God to continue changing me.
And I would bet that many of you can relate. You've become a full-time parent and a part time follower of Christ, a full-time business person and a part time follower of Christ, a full-time student and a part time follower of Christ. You didn't mean to lose your love, but you did. You didn't mean to fall back into your old ways, but you did. You didn't mean to misplace the love and intimacy you had with God, but you did. You didn't mean to become a part time follower of Christ, but that's exactly what happened. You lost your first love.
So what do you do when you're working, you’re swinging away, and suddenly the axhead flies off? In our remaining time together, I want us to look at the account of Elisha, the young prophet, and the Iron Axhead; and apply symbolically two ways in which you and I can get our love back… two ways in which you can be restored.
And the first one is this, it’s found in verse six, Elisha asks, “Where did it fall?” In other words, we need to be honest about where we lost it. You see the axhead wasn’t gone; it was just misplaced, it was right where it was left. And so we need to ask: Where did you start to lose your love? You know, you can probably look back and say, “Oh yeah, it was when I made some friends that were probably the wrong friends, or I started dating the wrong guy, or I started that new job, that new hobby, and got so busy that I stopped praying, stopped reading my Bible, and I stopped seeking God.”
This morning you need to know, that if you’ll be honest about where you lost it, with God’s help you can get back what you lost, because our God specializes in helping you find what’s been misplaced. I mean look at this here in verses 6 and 7, “When (the prophet) showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. "Lift it out," he said” (2 Kings 6:6-7).
Would you turn to your neighbor this morning and say, "Lift it out." Now just reach out, touch someone else, and say, "Lift it out." …Elisha said, "Lift it out." Then the man reached out his hand and took it” (2 Kings 6:7). You see with God's help, what was misplaced can be found. With God’s help you can lift it out. With God's help you can take it back… you can take back what you lost.
Remember, a couple of weeks ago, we read how God can send the water but sometimes he wants you to dig the ditch. Or how God can provide the oil, but he wants you to gather some empty jars. Well, this week, God can make the axhead float, but he wants you to lift it out. He wants you to take back what you lost as he brings it within your reach. And this morning, you need to know that with God it’s not too late to be the person that you could’ve been. It’s not too late to get back what you thought was lost forever. It’s not too late to have what you used to have and even more of it. You haven’t gone too far. You haven’t done too much. Because our God specializes in restoring, in helping you find, what you have misplaced.
So God is going to make it within your reach, but you’ve got to lift it out, you’ve got to grab it back, you’ve got to go after it and get it. So here’s what you do. Here’s a second way, the second principle, to get back what you’ve lost. You simply do what you can do and trust God with the rest. Did you get that? You do what you can do… and trust God to do what you can’t do.
Now can you make the axhead float? You can’t do that can you? But can you lift it out when it floats the top? You can right? You can lift it out when God brings it within your reach.
Now let me take that up another level. Can you create or stir within yourself a spiritual passion and faith? You can’t do that can you? But we do know that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). So you can put yourself in a place where you hear God's word and where God can build your faith. You can choose to pray even when you don’t feel like it. You can choose to worship even when you don’t feel like it. You can choose to share your faith with other people even when you don’t have all the answers. And you can draw near to God again, because he promises, when you “come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). You see, you can take back what is available to you.
I love what Revelation chapter 2, verses 4 and 5 says: Jesus was speaking to a group of people like many of us here today and He said, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:4-5).
In other words, say you're sorry, turn back, turn from your sin, turn from your complacency and do what? All of you, say it aloud. "Repent and do the things you did at first." Do the things you did at first. In other words, if you want what you once had, you've got to do what you once did. When God causes it to float, you reach out, and lift it out. You do what you can do and you trust him to do the rest. You see our God wants to help you, because our God is a God of restoration.
The Book of Joel says this: “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:23-25).
There's a verse in Proverbs 6 that says, “Do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house” (Proverbs 6:30-31). Today, maybe there’s somebody here who feels like they’ve been robbed by the enemy. I want you to know that he’s going to pay you back seven times over. You see what the devil meant for evil our God is going to use for good. And you need to know that our God specializes in bringing back what’s lost. It doesn’t matter where you are or how you’re hurting or how far you’ve gone. Our God want you to know that you haven’t gone too far. You can be the person that you were meant to be, because our God specializes in helping people find what was lost.
As a matter of fact, God promises his kids in Deuteronomy 30, verses 3 through 5, “Then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.”
Now why would God do this? Because we serve a God who specializes in helping people find what they lost. That's how good our God is. When he makes your axehead float, lift it out.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
March 8, 2015