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The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 18


The Prophet Series: Elisha part 18

2KI 6:1-7 Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, "Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. Please let us go to the Jordan, and each of us take from there a beam, and let us make a place there for ourselves where we may live." So he said, "Go." Then one said, "Please be willing to go with your servants." And he answered, "I shall go." So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, "Alas, my master! For it was borrowed." Then the man of God said, "Where did it fall?" And 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 for yourself." So he put out his hand and took it.

Elisha is the witness of God. As we have seen in our posts, there are many prophets in Israel in the schools of the prophets, but Elisha is "the" prophet of God. This means that when Elisha is about any task or mission for the Lord he can't fail. Elisha can't call in sick. He can't have a bad day when he is about the Father's business. This is a daunting fact, and the reason that not just anybody can be the Lord's messenger and main representative to the people of Israel. If Elisha goes with these men to build a living quarters, and the whole project falls apart due to any number of reasons, then it is not just Elisha who failed, but Jehovah as well.

This reveals something important about our own witness to the world, and of course it isn't sinless perfection. The church, comprised of all born-again believers is the witness of Christ in this world until the end of this age. The burden is upon us, though as Christ said, it is a light one. It is not a hard burden. It is no different than witnessing to someone about someone you love. I love and admire my wife. She's a great girl and daughter of our Father. If someone asked me to tell them about her, I would not find it difficult. In fact, I would enjoy it very much, and also, it wouldn't be from a rehearsed script. It would be easy. However, what if I was telling someone about my marriage after they had just seen me hitting on another woman? My wife is still great, but I'm a jerk, and I greatly hinder the witness.

Yet, this analogy isn't going far enough because I am not my wife's official representative. All of God's children are His representatives to the world, and so not only are we united to Him in marriage, but we are called to represent Him. If I am failing in the virtues of Christ, and I tell of Him to another, the same thing happens: Christ is not diminished, but my witness is greatly hindered as the listener has his eyes on me and not on Christ.

Getting to work.

Elisha's disciples have grown in number and their living space has gotten cramped. They suggest something like a Amish barn raising. It is wonderful for a group of God's people to work together towards a common goal. I have personally been involved in the building, really remodeling, of two churches, but assuredly as unskilled labor. There is a certain special camaraderie when joyful work for God's kingdom is being shared among believers.

Working for the common good, not just my own.

When the quarters became overly cramped, the individual prophets didn't decide to go off on their own and fend for comfortable, personal quarters, which would be human nature. They all together decided to build for the common good, for all of them to remain together, and have ample room. It is usually our first instinct to seek out personal comfort, and when achieved, to cease all consideration of what potential may lie in the local church. We are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, HEB 10:24. Do we get what we need from the church and then forget about what we could input? Do we fail to see the latent potential in the united people of our own home church? Do we wait until a need is immediate? Do we consider what we could do together to further the impact of the church upon the members and the community? "There is abundant opportunity and abundant material everywhere, if there be only willing hearts and busy hands." [Edersheim]

The fact that they don't want to start the project without Elisha is endearing. I don't think it is a matter of them being afraid, or that only Elisha knows construction. Elisha is a type of Christ, and so the prophets are in essence wanting to labor and sweat alongside the Lord. This should be true for all of us. In everything we do, we should do it with Him, i.e. in fellowship with Him, and with the eyes of our soul upon Him. An enterprise in which God does not take part can never truly succeed. Let's not just get the work done. Let's get it done with Christ.

Unskilled labor.

That everyone worked, skilled and unskilled, is shown by the fact that one of the men was able to break the head off his axe, and with such vigor that the heavy axe head flew into the Jordan River. Perhaps the man had not wielded an axe before, and he walked down to the bank of the Jordan and started hacking away at a tree with violent but not accurate blows. Perhaps it was a poorly made axe. Either way we can glean some simple principles from it.

Bad aim is akin to making decisions that are bad, made for the wrong reasons, or made at the wrong time. Paul said, "I run in such a way, as not without aim." He was talking about running the race that is set before us. We may be very gung ho, but if we are unwise our vigor is spent in the wrong direction or place. The Galatians became very vigorous, but for the Law. The Corinthians became very vigorous for grace, but aimed at antinomianism. With wisdom we achieve much more, and we don't have to swing so hard all the time. With wisdom, when we know it's time to swing hard, we will not miss the mark.

It's the handle's fault, not the head.

Using a poorly made tool is akin to intently applying false doctrine. The solution again is wisdom. All of us come into Christianity with quite a few lies in our heads. Let's find out the truth through consistent reading and study of God's word, and avoid grabbing hold of the old lies and swinging them at our target. Better to wait for training and wisdom while doing no work than to do the wrong work and ruin or break things.

Another plain truth is that the iron head of the axe does the work and not the handle. The word of God is a sharp two edged sword. Our hearts are the handle. We always have a handle, but what is upon it? If it is the word of God, then much good work will get done. If the axe head is made of wood, plastic, paper, soap, etc. then it will do no work, though with the proper camouflage it might look like it should. Human views and errors added to the word of God remove its density and cutting edge.

The heart can be used with great eloquence, passion, and influence, but if it doesn't have the right axe head, then it is good for nothing. I can figure out all kinds of showy tricks with the handle/heart that will dazzle the eyes of others and convince them that I can do work, but their eyes are on the handle only and they don't see the flimsy head. It's a good show, but I still can do no work.

Solution to the unskilled.

The man cried out to his master. When confused, perplexed, unknowing, we should make our first inquiry to our Master. Before you call out to anyone else, call out to Him.

The man was also honest that this was not his axe, but was borrowed. He is honest. If anyone has ever borrowed your tools, or anything else, and not taken care of it, it is rare that they are honest about it, or that they seek to restore it. Be that as it is, when we call to the Lord, we must be honest with Him. Also, we must do no ill to a brother. We must love our neighbor as ourselves.

Be honest.

The fault was ours. We wielded the axe head, the word of God that is not our own but belonging to Him, and we missed the mark causing pain and loss. We cried out to Him and was honest with Him. We were humble, and He restored the word to us, but not with the old handle.

Elisha cut a new stick. Jesus reveals to us that the word is perfect, but it was our heart, the handle that was in error. He corrects our thinking through instruction, and then bids us to grab the word again and get to work.

The old handle or the old heart was self-involved, it was filled with controversy and argument, it was zealous but aimless, vigorous but legalistic, desirous but judgmental. The old heart was without love and grace, and it used the word of God in the wrong manner, but here, in this man's cry to Elisha, lies the antidote. We cried out the Master in humility. We understood that we were in error and we sought the Master's guidance and counsel, and how could He not give it abundantly? Is this not a request keenly tuned in to His will? And He gave us a new heart, a new handle to which the word of God was again attached, and miracle above miracles, He again trusted us to wield it. Swing with humble skill my brethren.

To Him be all glory and honor,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries
 

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