Many years ago I was working on clearing some small trees and brush away from a natural pool of water on a neighbors property. There was a nice flow of water, and in this pool they could enjoy the cool water on a hot day. For the larger trees I used my chainsaw, but for the smaller branches around the pool, on trees they did not want taken down, I used my hatchet. It would be less damaging to the tree, and on the edge of the pool it was a safer option. When I was done I put the hatchet in my hammer holder on my belt, or I thought I did, then “splash!” Into the pool it went.
Of all the miracles recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, one that I consider from time to time, is perhaps the most unusual of them all, this includes the parting of the Red Sea, manna, and the sun standing still.
An axe-head falls into the Jordan River, and a prophet retrieves it; as we read, “So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it” (II Kings 6:4-6).
God does not want to bless you for the sake of blessing – He blesses you for the sake of healing. But why this miracle?
The young man who lost the axe-head was from בְנֵי-הַנְּבִיאִים, the sons of the prophets. In other words, he was a student of the leading prophet of the time Elisha. Elisha, “to whom God is salvation,” was a farmer, not surprisingly, when Elijah set his mantle on him. Elisha then destroys every means of returning to his former life: oxen, yoke, and his own clothes. He follows, serves, and learns from Elijah over a period of 12 years; and then, upon seeing Elijah taken away into heaven bodily, he walks with greater anointing than Elijah – a double portion, as he was “adopted” as Elijah’s spiritual son.
The young prophet, without income or any possession, borrows an axe, and promptly loses it; according to the Torah, Exodus 22:13-14, he is now liable for it, and must make full restitution. He borrowed it because he could not afford it in the first place; and in that moment, the waters of the Jordan became bitter for this young prophet.
Elisha cuts a branch, and tosses – literally “sent it” – to spot where the axe-head had fallen. The axe-head then rose from the water, and was restored. This miracle draws the readers attention back to Exodus 15:22-26, when Israel runs out of water, then coming to bitter waters they need a miracle to make them sweet. The Lord shows Moses a tree – or “taught Moses a tree” – and throwing it into the water, the waters are sweetened.
It seems a rather unusual miracle; however, what we notice of Elisha is that he walked the dusty streets, he went into the dirty shops, into the wars, the places where people worked, and where they lived, and brought the life and character of God there. He was present in life.
The young prophet who dropped the axe into the Jordan did not have the resources to make restitution to its owner, so Elisha restored an ordinary implement of labor by extraordinary means. Elisha made the young prophet whole again, thus removing the bitterness from the flow of blessing – the Jordan. Elisha cured the bitterness.
Yeshua/Jesus has done the same, and to a greater degree (Heb. 12:15). He did not endorse moving to the Jordan, away from the profane; rather, He sat and ate with tax-collectors and sinners. He healed and restored people so they could get back into life. He showed them extraordinary grace.
The crowd of prophets who followed after Elijah and Elisha often stood at a distance watching, not drawing near; but God never builds His Kingdom on the crowds standing and watching – He builds His Kingdom on those who press in.
After we sing, dance, praise, and learn in congregation, the world of harsh realities is still out there. People are still watching their ax-heads fall into the flowing water. Again, God does not want to bless you for the sake of blessing – He blesses you for the sake of healing: yours and theirs.
I did not get a miracle with my hatchet. I got wet. And at times we get wet for the recovery of life.
God is able.
He will still lift anyone’s ax-head – their loss in life – not for the sake of the loss, but for them. He is in the recovery business. And business is busy, but so good. Yet, sometimes, He does not send a stick into the water. Sometimes He sends you into the water; and in that sending, He includes you in the miracle of turning bitterness, loss, and hopelessness into eternal joy.
Be well. Shalom.