Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 69. The Miracle Of The Axhead

Prophets And Kings
Day 69
The Miracle Of The Axhead

We see Elisha perform another miracle today, one that may seem small to us but that shows us the Lord cares bouts every aspect of ours lives. And we also learn a powerful lesson that, no matter how dark the world may seem, the Lord still adds faithful believers to Hims church day by day. 

2 KINGS 6:1-7
"The company of the prophets said to Elisha, 'Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us.'" (2 Kings 6:1) The meeting place for the faithful of God has gotten too small because the number of those faithful to God is growing. What a wonderful problem to have! What a faithful God, to keep adding to the number of believers even while the nation as a whole has fallen into idolatry. Sometimes we worry about our own nation and the direction it's heading. Yesterday I read an article that stated Americans are becoming less and less religious every year. The article claimed that the number of people who say they are Christians is diminishing. For a minute there I felt concerned but remembered that, in my own church and community, it appears that the Lord is adding more believers all the time. I don't know where the news organization conducted their study or how big a sample pool they chose from, but I know that in every generation the Lord calls out a people to Himself. We see here that the number of believers was growing in Israel even as the government itself sponsored idolatrous practices. God's power is not limited in our times any more than it was limited in Elisha's time.

The church I'm a member of began in 1930 in a little log building with only six members. As the congregation grew, new facilities were constructed several times and several additions to the buildings were made because, as the prophets say in our passage today, the place where the people met was too small for them. The latest and largest building was constructed in 2000 when the attendance number on Sunday mornings was reaching two hundred and above. By now our Sunday morning attendance regularly runs anywhere from six hundred to seven hundred and we are overflowing the building we currently have. God is faithful, adding to the members of the body of Christ in my area, in every state of our nation, and all over the world. We don't need to read the news headlines and be fearful that there will come a time when no godly men and women remain. Even after the Lord calls the church to heaven and the Great Tribulation begins on earth, He will still be saving souls even in those troubled times.  

King David once looked around him and felt fearful about the direction the world seemed to be heading. His reign took place about a thousand years before the advent of Christ and even then the faithful of God worried about the state of the nation and the state of the world. David took his concerns to God and said, "Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race." (Psalm 12:1) But in that same psalm he receives an answer from the Lord, that the Lord will protect his own, that the Lord will keep the needy safe. He is still going to call out a people for Himself by the truth of His word, "And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times." (Psalm 12:6) In our day, about three thousand years after David sat on the throne, the Lord is still protecting His own and keeping them safe. He is still saving souls by the truth of His word, through the gospel of His Son.

If you think the articles in the news are scary, just try reading the comments people post below any online article about Christians or the church. On second thought, don't read them, because I've decided I'm going to have to stop reading them. The rabid hatred of Christians displayed by those remarks is shocking. A great deal of the comments amount to hate speech against Christians but there appears to be little concern that there are people posting that Christians need to be wiped from the face of the earth. There are comments stating that religion is the worst thing to happen to mankind and that Christianity, above all other religions, is the most evil. All I can say is, we need to pray for these folks and they need to be careful what they wish for. Those of you who did the Revelation study with us or who have ever read the book of Revelation know that someday the world will get its wish. The Lord will come for the church and we will be gone. That's when the darkest days will come upon mankind. Removing the church is like turning the lights off. The Lord Jesus says that His followers are the light of the world, so when we are gone and those who hate us are free of our presence, it will be like somebody flipped a switch and plunged them into a darkness never known since the world was created. If not for the mercy of God in calling two great evangelists in those last days to preach the gospel to the world, there would be no hope for the remainder of mankind. But even in those dark days He will still save souls. The world won't be free of Christians for very long because a great revival is going to break out. Even in a time when claiming the name of Christ will carry with it the threat of imprisonment or death, the body of believers will grow. There will still be those willing to risk it all for the salvation of their souls, who will dare to stand and say, "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ! I believe He is the holy and sinless Son of God who came in our image to take our punishment upon Himself, who died in our place, who was buried, who rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of God. He is my Savior and Redeemer. I love Him because He loves me. I will not deny His name."

The company of the prophets in our passage today are asking Elisha's blessing to to to the Jordan and cut logs for a new and bigger building. "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.'" (2 Kings 6:2) He agrees that they have outgrown their current place of meeting. When a meeting place runs out of room, there is a risk that those who want to join may feel there isn't a place for them there, and God forbid anyone should want to join with a body of believers and feel like there isn't room for them. Elisha doesn't want this to happen and so he gives the men his blessing.

Because he is their leader and such a great and powerful man of God, the men know they will feel even more confident of their success if he comes with them. "Then one of them said, 'Won't you please come with your servants?' 'I will,' Elisha replied. And he went with them." (2 Kings 6:3-4a) If our church takes on the building of a bigger sanctuary to meet in, we certainly feel more confident if we see our pastor present, sleeves rolled up and helping any way he can. This shows us that he is fully committed to this project for the Lord's name and for the Lord's people. In the days of Elisha, kings went to battle with the troops because it gave the soldiers a huge boost in morale. It gave legitimacy to their cause. The same can be said for the presence of Elisha at the building of a new meeting place or for the presence of the church pastor at the building site of a new sanctuary. Having Elisha present gave the men the confidence that they were in the Lord's will and that they have the Lord's blessing.

When my home church was building our latest sanctuary they hit an underground spring when digging the foundations for the lower level where classrooms are located. It delayed construction for a long time as experts were called in to come up with a plan. People in the community were driving by and shaking their heads and talking about what a shame it was. For a while there it looked like the plan was going to meet with disaster. But the leaders of the church had taken on the project feeling certain the Lord had given them the go-ahead and His blessing, so they soldiered on and evventually the problem was solved. When the Lord makes a promise, He fulfills it. He doesn't always let us reach our goal without difficulty, but He does ask us to keep going forward in faith when we know that we are acting in His will.

The building project of the prophets is going to hit a snag today too. "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!'" (2 Kings 4b-5) The Israelites were not iron workers. Iron tools and weapons had to be imported and they were expensive. The company of the prophets was not wealthy and had little means with which to import tools for the work. This man had borrowed the ax he was using and I think it's likely that many of the men had to borrow their tools. As he's swinging the ax at the tree, the axhead comes loose from its handle and flies into the Jordan. It's bad enough that he's lost the tool but it isn't even his. A friend loaned it to him. This is what seems to trouble him the most, that he has not been able to protect the property of another that was entrusted to him. 

"The man of God asked, 'Where did it fall?' When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float. 'Lift it out,' he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it." (2 Kings 6:6-7) Iron is heavy and the axhead would have sunk quickly. The stick itself has no miraculous power but as always we see Elisha using an ordinary material at hand with which to perform a miracle. The power of the miracle is in the Lord, but both these men participate in it by faith. By faith Elisha cuts a stick and throws it into the Jordan over the place the axhead fell. By faith the other man reaches over and grabs the axhead as it floats to the top. Of course the Lord could have miraculously caused the axhead to float up on its own and wash onto the bank of the Jordan. But in that case, the men might have been able to convince themselves that it happened by a natural means and not a supernatural means. In fact, the Lord could have prevented the axhead from ever falling into the Jordan in the first place. But there's nothing miraculous in an axhead remaining affixed to its handle. And the men wouldn't have witnessed a miracle at all if the axhead had remained on the handle. What grace the Lord has shown these men by allowing a difficulty to arise in their building project. In doing so, He increased their faith and proved to them that He is with them in their desire to build a bigger meeting place.

I've heard people say, "If God was in this we wouldn't be having so much trouble," but more often than not it's actually a sign that God is with us. When we are doing a work in the Lord, something we feel in the spirit He has told us to do, we can usually expect difficulties to arise. The last thing Satan wants is for us to step out in faith, believing that the Lord has called us to do things in His name. The devil never wants us to have our faith increased. We have an enemy who wants to block us at every turn. So if you know in your spirit that the Lord has told you to do something for Him, whether big or small, you can expect obstacles in your path but you can also expect the Lord to increase your faith. You can also likely expect Him to involve other people when He builds your faith, just as He did in the miracle today. Elisha, the man who lost the axhead, and the rest of the prophets were all encouraged by the miracle. And who knows how the difficulties my church experienced strengthened the faith of the church members and the community? Everyone who knew about the problem got to witness the faith of those who decided they were going to keep moving forward because the Lord had given His blessing. And who knows but what the Lord intended for experts to be called in so they could witness the faith and determination of a church body that was committed to completing a project the Lord had given them to do? This may have influenced the lives of those experts in such a way that some of them who didn't formerly know Christ will come to Him.

The Lord is concerned with everything that concerns His children, big or small. And the Lord is in anything He gives us to do, big or small. And the Lord intends to keep adding to the number of those who, by faith, receive salvation through His Son. In all these things we need not fear. Our God is with us.  

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