The company of the prophets said to Elisha, “Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.” And he said, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Won’t you please come with your servants?” “I will,” Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!” 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. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. – 2 Kings 6:1-7
This is one of those passages that I read and think what in the world am I going to do with this one….a floating axe head….really. Elisha seems to have acquired quite a following of prophets, kind of like prophet “roadies” I guess. There are so many they have to move to the Jordan River where apparently there is room to build a larger meeting place. The description of each prophet getting a pole is somewhat puzzling. Was this merely a division of labor or was it perhaps symbolic of each prophet helping to build and invest in this new meeting place. They invite Elisha to participate in their building project, which is a good thing as they will soon need his help.
Now I don’t want stretch this passage further than is called for but what if this entire story is alluding to the important role Elisha and the prophets play in building and maintaining God’s presence here on earth, and the building they are doing is more than the cutting of trees and erecting of poles. At this time in Israel’s history the countryside, and the Israelite’s hearts, are full of idols and altars that are replacing God. Elisha and these prophets have been given the spiritual task of felling these “trees” so they can build in their place a temple and place for God. The loss of the axe head was a setback in the process of transforming the trees into a place for Godly men to gather. Elisha, and God, stepped in to float the axe head and allow them to continue their important work.
When I first read this passage I thought — there is no way that there are any insights or hidden wells here. I have been surprised once again. I think there is an important message here about discouragement as we go about the work God has set before us. We all encounter times when it seems our “axehead” has flown into the muck. We look to heaven in frustration and wonder how we can go on doing what God has called us to do. If we are willing to seek God’s help, or in the case of these prophets, seek the help of God’s representative, then God will “float our axehead” and help us to continue our work.
Prayer: God thank You for dwelling with us when we are discouraged and providing what we need to complete the work You have set before us.