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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Messages » The Significance of a Swimming Axe

The Significance of a Swimming Axe

There are many miracles in the Bible that seem odd to us. Some of the things that God has recorded in His Word are mysterious. We often read right through an account and just pass it off as strange. The truth is that everything God has kept documented for the past six thousand years really is relevant. If it’s in there it means something! The story I want to look at today is just such an event. The account is only seven verses long and is unlike any other miracle in the Bible. It happened long ago during a construction project involving Elisha and a group of students.

The Prophet Elijah was the head of a large number of prophets in training known as the School of the Prophets. Elisha was one of his students. As you may remember, Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Before Elijah was taken to Heaven Elisha asked him for a double-portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9). The double portion was what the oldest son received in a family when the inheritance was given. If there were four children in a family the inheritance was divided into five parts and the oldest son received two of those parts. It was not because Elisha was arrogant that he asked for the double portion but because he had great faith. At times we get taken away with someone’s ability and stand in awe of them-thinking we could never do what they had done. Elisha was not that way. He knew that Elijah was only able to do what he had done by the Power of God. He understood that God was not a respecter of persons. When he asked for this double portion Elijah told him that if he saw him when he was taken away then it would be so.

God did indeed grant Elisha’s request and he was given the mantle of Elijah. If you do a quick search of the miracles of Elijah versus Elisha you will find that the latter had twice as many as the former. As the inheritor of these gifts he became the head of the School of the Prophets. Let’s catch up with him now in 2nd Kings Chapter six. This school could be compared to a seminary of today. It trained ministers to hear the voice of God and to understand His Word. It is important to have men who are willing to devote themselves to keeping the Word of God. Many today are content to merely warm the pew each week and to let someone else carry the torch. They don’t want to preach the Gospel but will make sure the preacher knows when he has made a mistake. It’s always easier to steer the car when you are a back seat driver. These men had sacrificed their lives and were committed to serving God. We need men of God today who will answer the call.

Please note in verse one of this chapter that the students had run out of room. Before you get the idea that they had luxury dwellings that were getting a little crowded let me say that the world we live in today is much different than it was then. If they said they ran out of room you can be sure they were sleeping in tight quarters. College students of today may complain about the dormitory but I assure you it was nothing like what these men had. The need was there and they were willing to work for the new facility. They didn’t seek charity or handouts. They were to travel to the river Jordan and cut down trees to hew out beams. Each man was to hew one beam. They asked permission from the prophet and received it. Then, one student asked Elisha to go with them and he agreed.

When this man of God agreed to go with them it told us what type of man he was. He was not a teacher who believed he was above everyone else. He was not a man who felt like his calling made him better than others. He was willing to suffer along side everyone else. I want you to remember these points as we see what this story is about. When asked to go Elisha went willingly. Men of God need to make sure they are about the Father’s business, no matter where He leads. God doesn’t always need a man behind a pulpit. Sometimes the harvest is at the supermarket or on the job. If we are under the impression that the Holy Spirit only calls men in the sanctuary of a church building we are missing the boat. Go where He sends you!

When the students got to the Jordan they began to cut wood. Since the largest trees grow around water I can imagine they had to get quite close to the water. One student was cutting his tree when the axe head came off.  It flew into the Jordan River. He became very upset for two reasons. First, the axe was borrowed. This man had the integrity to protect borrowed property. I have known people who borrowed things from me and either returned them broken or didn’t return them at all. I don’t treat people that way. I am even reluctant to borrow things because I feel if I break it or lose it I will need to restore it to the owner. If it’s something expensive that I can’t replace I chose to not borrow it at all. When I do borrow something I try to return it in better condition than when I got it. If you borrow something from a friend you need to take better care of it than if it was your own. If you damage it or lose it you need to make retribution to the owner. This man was living by these rules. The axe of this day was hand made by a blacksmith. It was not something that could be bought at the local hardware store. It would have been an expensive item to replace.

The second reason he was so upset at the accident was that the axe was such an important item for the construction of their facility. We have lost sight of entire cabins being built with just a few hand tools. Consider that this was equivalent to a bulldozer breaking down on a construction site. This lost axe meant that the building stopped. It also meant that the others would have to work harder. Without the axe this student would not have been able to meet his part of the job. The fact that he was upset shows the character he had. When the prophet was told about the axe head going into the water he asked the student to show him where he had lost it.

You might ask “what difference does it make?” when you hear that question. Who cares where the axe went into the water. It was gone for good! Friend, have you ever experienced a hopeless situation? Do you know the sheer desperation of a battle that is un-winnable? The important question here is “where did you lose it? They say hindsight is better than foresight and had this man been able to see that the head was loose he might have cut in a different direction. Certainly he would have stopped to take care of the axe. But he didn’t and now it was gone forever. The prophet asked him where he lost it. He pointed out the area of the river where he saw it go in. Elisha simply cut down a stick and put it in the water. What a strange thing to do! I can imagine all the students gathering around and watching their teacher. Perhaps they thought he was going to fish out the axe with the stick. Instead he cast the entire stick in the water. And that’s when it happened. The axe head swam!

What a strange miracle this was. Maybe you don’t even believe it happened at all but it did. The laws of physics were broken that day and an iron axe head swam to the top of the water so that the student had to simply reach out and take it. Why was this so important for Elijah to do? Why was it so important to have it recorded for all time in our Bibles? This miracle did not save a life or heal a sick person. To us it seems to be a miracle of convenience. To understand this event you need to see the symbolic nature of it all. First, the situation of the students is that of a real need. They had no room left in their lodging. This means that their ministry was growing. They were willing to do what it took to build a new building. Whenever the Lord moves and things start growing you can be sure that the enemy will soon come around and strike a blow. The man who lost the axe showed great character and yet his personality and personal qualities could not change his situation. It didn’t matter how good he was morally he could not get that axe back. He lost a borrowed axe and the cost to replace it was beyond what he could pay. The prophet asked him an important question. He asked him where he lost the axe.

It’s important for each of us to understand where we lost what we had. Many today are living miserable lives that weren’t always miserable. Somewhere and sometime back they lost a life of peace and now are living out only a daily existence with no hope in sight. They have a situation that is beyond repair and they don’t know what to do. Their borrowed axe is gone for good. The student in this passage knew where to turn to. He went to his master. I will tell you that Elisha is a type of Christ. In this story he represents Jesus in several ways. Elisha was willing to go with his students and not simply stay in his dwelling. Jesus left His home in Heaven and came down to live among humanity. Elisha was a prophet of the people as Jesus is the Savior of the people.

When Elisha cut the stick and placed it in the water it was symbolic of the Cross of Christ. That stick made the difference in a supernatural way that we don’t understand. The Cross of Christ is very much like that. It doesn’t make sense to many people and yet, without it your situation is hopeless. When the stick went in the water the axe head floated. I can just imagine the heart if that young prophet floating as well. But it was not enough to see the answer. Elisha finished this miracle by telling the student to take the axe. Friend, your salvation might be seen but if it is not taken you don’t have it. It might even give you happiness to know that the cross has such power but have you really reached out and grabbed hold of what you’re missing? A floating axe won’t cut any trees down. One that is taken back and put in place on a handle will become a life changing tool.

Let me ask you the same question that Elisha asked the student. Where did you lose it? Where did you lose the life that you dreamed of? Where did the joy go in your life? And where did you lose sight of God? Maybe you began your life with the knowledge of God and then you experienced something that caused you to deny His existence. Maybe it was a college professor that you thought was much smarter than your pastor or parents. Perhaps a friend told you that he didn’t believe in God and he told you his life was happier than ever. Maybe you experienced a loss that went against your understanding of God and now you’ve turned from the only source of help. Somehow, you’ve lost what you had. If you are wise you will be like the student and go to the Master. Tell Him your story and experience the power of the Cross. When you receive the realization of a changed life reach out and take it. He already has made the way for you. Its up to you to step out in faith.

Prayer-Father, help us to see the beauty of this story in Your Word today. I pray for those who have lost something in their lives. May they know where to turn and what to do to recover their lives with You. May they take action today and not simply find the answer.

In Jesus’ Name-Amen


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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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One Response to "The Significance of a Swimming Axe"

  1. Suzanne says:

    I never looked at this story the way you explained it. Thank you for giving it such practical application to our lives. You are right, everything in the Word is relevant to us today!

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