My mom has said this to me since I was a kid. She was
talking about money, but the adage came to mind when I was reading 2 Kings 6 this morning. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.
Listen, I have some hard stuff going on in my life. After almost 20 years of
marriage, my husband declared in January that he wanted to move back to Switzerland to become a train conductor. Since this declaration came after him spending a couple of weeks "alone" there, I had my suspicions about the real reason he was going to abandon
his children and life here. A little work from a private detective
confirmed what I thought was going on.
Not only that, he has told the court that he effectively wants 100% of the equity in our home and has been sending money to his squeeze in Europe, having traveled there twice recently and meeting up in London for some shady stuff. Meanwhile, I’m worried about where my kids will live, and whether he will live up to his financial obligations assuming the courts see it my way. I've had a counselor tell me the night terrors I’ve had since 2004, in which I wake up screaming and flailing at an assailant who seems absolutely real, are signs of PTSD from an emotionally and financially abusive relationship. I've thrown myself into a full-time job that felt like a real gift from God. It’s one of the brighter spots in my daily life.
When life exploded in January, it was easy for me to slip into
battle mode and square off with the ever-present change and chaos. I tightened,
compressed, and directed all my energy into solving the problem at hand. In it
to win it, am I right? I'm a fighter, not a lover.
Work, problem-solve, fend off personal attacks, meet with the attorney, respond to unreasonable demands, circle back with friends to whom I have been maligned, check-in with the kids, work on house projects, work more, rush home to cook. Gone are leisurely gourmet cooking, sweaty gardening, even more sweaty CrossFit, and (gulp) intense Bible study. I’m going full-tilt on my considerable strength and have been for a while.
Life has changed.
I have changed.
But a timely message from Pastor Sandy Armstrong the other
day was a real shot in the arm. Thankfully, it was more of a sedative in nature than a stimulant. He spoke about, among other things, not getting
distracted by all the strange goings-on in the world. We know where our hope is
and should stay focused on that. Just look at everything God has done for
humanity. Don't be afraid.
OK, that sounded a little too trite as I thought about it, so I decided to mentally list all God has done for me in the last few years. Let's all look at what God has done for us in the last few years. We know He’s moving among His people and giving visions, dreams, spiritual gifts, deep understanding, miracles, and the gift of connection with a group of Watchmen, each with a little piece of the puzzle. That’s been very much on my mind since I heard the message. I feel so much better re-focusing on what’s truly important.Then I made some coffee and settled into a little Sabbath Bible study. I randomly flipped open the Bible to 2 Kings 6 and began to think about where I might feel led to study. The paragraph on the top of the page caught my eye:
2 Kings 6:6
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.
I was intrigued. I went back to verse 6:1 to see what was up. It’s a funny little story that seems completely out of place. That’s when I realized it was exactly what I should be reading.
1 Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, "See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.
2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there." And he answered, "Go."
3 Then one of them said, "Be pleased to go with your servants." And he answered, "I will go."
4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.
5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water; and he cried out, "Alas, my master! It was borrowed."
6 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.
7 And he said, "Take it up." So he reached out his hand and took it.
So, it’s a little story about needing some new digs, chopping down some trees, and losing an axe head in the river. What’s that got to do with anything? you might ask. And why is this section sandwiched between Namaan getting cured of leprosy by bathing in the Jordan (then announcing the God of Israel is the only real God) and the king of Israel getting some good intel that kept him safely out of the clutches of the king of Syria? Those are major stories that make the axe head look relatively unimportant.
But check this out.
The sons of the prophets is a description that is applied to the group of people who knew that Elijah was going to be raptured up to Heaven in a chariot. They warned Elisha of this a couple of times at Jericho and Gilgal, but he just to them to be quiet. When Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan together, the sons of the prophets remained silent and at a distance. These guys knew what was up, literally. But they didn’t get taken up or receive a double portion of the Spirit, like Elisha. That’s interesting. I think it means they were operating on their own strength.
So, in verse 1 they clearly need a new place to stay. The word “small” in this verse is only translated to narrow a couple of times. However, it’s translated as enemy
37 times, adversary 26 times, and trouble 17 times. You get the idea. It’s not
a crowded place, it’s an oppressive place and the sons of the prophets need to
get out. They're in a tight spot, not a small one.
In verse 2, the sons are actually asking Elisha permission to go to the Jordan, not telling him they're moving out. The interlinear reads, “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.”
Well, the Jordan is often the place of transition and crossing to get to God. It’s the place where people make their decision for salvation. They want to raise the roof there, quite literally. And what does a roof represent? Shelter. Protection. The sons of the prophets want to build a secure place for themselves, safely out of the reaches of the adversary. And they propose to do it by their own strength. Hmm. I wonder how that’s going to turn out?
Verse 3 is an afterthought on the part of the sons of the prophets, and they asked Elisha to bless them by
coming along. I mean, he does have the mantle of Elijah, right? How often have we asked God to bless our actions without first consulting Him about His plans for our situation? I’m ashamed to admit I do
this all the time. Elisha obliges the lads and joins their road trip. Off they go.
In verse 4 they’re at the Jordan and are going to cut down some trees. In the interlinear translation, the verse doesn’t actually say they say they were successful. In fact, the next verse says the opposite. Some guy lost the head of his axe in the river. Bummer. But why does the verse even mention it was borrowed? What’s the significance?
First, let’s look at the axe head. It was iron, and in scripture that represents strength. The guy was trying to chop down a tree to set up his own fortress of protection, and he lost his strength. To be clear, the strength he was using wasn’t even his to begin with.
The picture these seven verses paint is getting more transparent
every moment, isn’t it? Even though the sons of the prophets were arguably intelligent
and blessed and hanging out with Elisha, they couldn’t rely on their own strength for protection. Neither can
Neither can I.
Still with me? I’m almost done. In verse 6, Elisha isn’t
called by his personal name. Instead, he’s the Man of God. In a tremendous act
of mercy, the Man of God asks the son of the prophet where he lost his iron axe-head of
strength. And then, he throws a stick into the water so that not only will the
guy's strength be recovered, but it will also be wielded by the handle the Man of God
gives to him. It’s new strength and it comes directly from God – or at least
the Man of God. I’ll bet that axe was much stronger and reliable than before, too.
Here’s the best part. In verse 7, the Man of God tells the son of the prophet to take up his axe. But again, the interlinear text is different and the word definitions are much richer than they appear.
7 And he said, "Take it up." So he reached out his hand and took it.
The son of the prophet been given new strength which has transformed his
situation, and then given marching orders to make use of what was given to him.
There's no mention of him continuing to chop down trees, either.
I really needed to hear that today. Maybe some of you did, too.