This section is focused on the ministry of the prophet Elisha. So far we've seen him intervene in the affairs of nations, leaders, random individuals, and those who serve and learn from him.
Floating Iron: Verses 1-7
The "sons of the prophets", which seem like seminary students or maybe more like professional ministry workers had grown to a size in which they needed a larger facility.
It's important to note that it may have been Elisha's ministry that caused this one to grow. When people are about God's business, others see it and are drawn to it.
Anyway, they asked of they could go get material to build a bigger home. He said yes. They asked of he'd come along. He said yes.
When one man was felling a beam, his axe head fell in the water. He cried out to Elisha in grief because his was borrowed.
A Ryrie Study Bible footnote makes the point that this shows them too poor to own an axe. That seems like a presumption to me; but worth noting.
A more important point might be that ministry isn't a guarantee of success and protection from risk. Don't assume that because you're in ministry, things will go your way. That sounds obvious, but I've been bitten by this mentality more than once. You know you're in the right place, doing the right thing and then, due to carelessness or unfortunate events, there's a loss or other negative thing and you (I) feel betrayed. Jesus assures us that there will be suffering...and ministries are not exempt.
Elisha asked to see where the axe head fell, then he cut and threw in a stick, causing the axe head to float. The Elisha told the man to get it himself.
To me it's noteworthy that the man would bring this issue to Elisha. To me, it shows that these men knew that Elisha cared enough to listen to their small complaints. I know it wasn't small to the man who had the trouble; but small for the type of things Elisha is known for handling.
It reminds me of when Jesus' disciples were in a boat in a storm and he "walked" near them on the water. They cried out to Jesus and He tended to them. He would have kept walking if they had not cried out. We have a God who cares about us at a personal level and we should do the same for those in our ministry.
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this chapter, points out that everything we have is borrowed. Every good gift is from the Lord. The axe heads we use in our ministry belong to Him and it is to Him that we go regarding how we should best use what's been given us. And if we get careless, or events go against us, and our axe head disappears in the murky Jordan- He's all we've ever had and all we'll ever need. Cry out to Jesus. Amen.
The end of the story also reminds me of Jesus.
Elisha, through the power of God, cause metal to attract to a stick and then have it float. These are contrary to basic science. Having don these amazing things, he ends with, "Take it up for yourself." He has the one being assisted participate. Jesus would heal a man and then tell him to pick up his mat. Or "Go and sin no more". Or "Go show yourself to the priest and such..." It seems like the formula is 99.9% miracle and .1% personal contribution.
I'm not saying that He needs us to participate. He could effortlessly handle it all Himself. We need to participate. I don't know if it's "skin in the game", or activating our own faith, or just the privilege of getting to be part of something so sacred, or something else. But I know it's important because Elisha's command is included in the text, as are the commands of Jesus. It seems obvious that the man who pick up his lost axe head and that the healed man would take up his mat when he walked away.
The same is true of salvation. It's the ultimate healing, the ultimate gift; but must be received. You must reach out and grab the axe head- left floating on the water doesn't help you. We have to receive God's gift as an act of faith; as a willing participant.
Attempted Kidnapping of God's Prophet: Verses 8-23
Israel was at war with Aram (Syria). The king of Syria would make plans to set a camp and raid certain spots; but Elisha had supernatural knowledge of the plans of the king of Aram, so he would tell the king of Israel and the king would avoid those spots. The king of Aram thought there was a spy; but was told it was Elisha, the prophet who knew what he said in private. So the king of Aram decides to kidnap Elisha with a fighting force, including horses and chariots.
I'm still amazed how much Elisha is doing for Israel and her king. This is still under the sons or grandson of Ahab, who is still sinning and still has the two golden calf altars up. But, Lord knows how patient He's been with me- so I'm glad our Lord is so long suffering and willing to care for us when we do not deserve it.
So Elisha and his servant wake up to find their city surrounded. His servant freaks out and asks what they are to do.
And now we see the words found in most books of the Bible:
So he answered, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."II Kings 6: 16
And then it gets even better.
Elisha prayed that his servant could see supernaturally, as Elisha could. And his servant saw that the mountain was full of horse and chariots of fire!
Wow. Wow. Wow.
But Elisha wasn't showing his servant the instruments of destruction; because he didn't use them at this time. He was just showing him, in my opinion, why the servant needn't fear. We are on God's side and He uses HIs Host of Heaven for our good.
If we could only hold that truth in our head all of the time.
So, once again, Elisha didn't even use or need the horses and chariots of fire around him. He asked God to strike them blind, which in this case is a Hebrew word for confused and disoriented, used only one another time in Genesis 19. He was now able to lead them compliantly to Samaria, and deliver them to the king of Israel.
How interesting that the Lord juxtaposes "opening the eyes" of his servant and "blinding" or disorienting the eyes of the enemy. I don't have an specific revelation about it; but I bet it is significant.
Two surprising things happen next. Twice the king of Israel asks Elisha is he should kill them. And the king calls Elisha "father". Both of these things, to me, are clear acts of submission. Something Ahab never really did voluntarily to Elijah.
Elisha has to explains that killing disoriented soldiers would be as dishonorable as skilling soldiers captured in battle. Elisha tells him to give them bread and water and send them back to their own king. The king actually served them a feast and then sent them back.
No more marauding Arameans attacked Israel.
In this section, The king of Aram besieges Samaria. This may or may not be the same king of Aram as one footnote points out that these aren't necessarily told in chronological order.
There was severe famine in Samaria. A woman cries out to the king that another woman told her they should eat her son and then the woman would share her son to eat the next day. So she boiled her son and they ate him; but the other woman hid her son then next day.
Having heard this, the king tore his clothes in view of everyone. And then he said, almost word for word what his evil mother once said about Elijah, "May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today."
It's unclear how beheading Elisha would improve their situation; but the Ryrie footnote theorizes that Elisha had told the king to wait and He would resolve it. So he sent a "messenger" to Elisha's house.
Elisha knew, supernaturally, what was coming in advance and his servants bar the door.
The message from the king was that the evil (famine and the siege) was from the Lord; so why would the king wait on the Lord to fix it?
Wiersbe also reminds us of the covenant the people had with the Lord. And consequences for disobedience were military losses, famine, and even people ending up eating their own children. So if we wonder why God would let the famine get that bad in the first place, don't blame God; blame Joram. He could have repented and led his people back to the Lord who would have turned to them and healed their plight, but Joram did not. The golden calves stayed up; baal was still worshipped, as were other idols in high places.
The king took no responsibility for the condition of his nation. He knew enough about God to know Who was in control; but he didn't submit to the Lord and seek the Lord's will and way.
In response, Elisha proclaims that by the next day, food would be so abundant that the price of flour and barley would be nice and low. The messenger mocks Elisha, so Elisha promises that he will see the truth come to pass; but will not eat of it.
Just as a side note...This story starts by describing the severity of the famine by how much a an unclean donkey's head and dove poo was going for on the market and Elisha describes how well things will be by the low price of basic commodities. This is free market economics being described here. This is supply and demand. And although Christ provided individual meals for large crowds at time, nowhere does the Bible promote a socialistic system where labor is stolen in exchange for promised provision. Unless you could the kings taking slaves, which is exactly what modern socialism always devolves into as well.
Econ rant over...back to the story...
The story picks up with four lepers outside the city gate.
Plot twist. I did not see that coming.
They were despairing and knew that if things kept on as they were, they would die. they thought about sitting there and dying, taking leprosy with them into the city and dying, or hoping for mercy from the Aram camp (and possibly dying). they took their chance and went into the camp of Aram.
And it was empty. God had sent the sounds of chariots and horse hooves to them, and they though foreign armies were coming to Israel's aid- so they fled and left everything behind. all of their animals, provisions, and equipment. Including all of their food.
So the lepers started scavenging and hoarding, but after a couple of tents of this realized how selfish and dishonorable they were being. They needed to spread the good news.
Oh how many times have I been hoarding the blessings given to me; when I should be telling others of God's salvation and provision. Lord, please open my eyes to Your plan for all of the blessings of my life!
When the good news arrived to the king, he suspected a trap; but his servants talked him into sending a recon party to check. It was true and the provisions were collected and the food and market balances were restored, per God proclamation via Elisha. The messenger who had mocked Elisha had been put in charge of the gate and the starving people trampled him as they stampeded for the food.
Wiersbe points out the contrast between God and the idols still being worshipped by the king of Israel, Joram. God was active and accurate in His predictions. He made sure He was the only one who could receive credit, so that Israel and her enemies would all know He was the only God.
Axe Head Down
There is so much here. dozens of sermons and bible studies. i am thoroughly enjoying this section of scripture, although often convicted.
But, personally, because of what I have going on in my own life, those seven small verses about a son of the prophets having his axe head fly off the handle and into the muddy Jordan strike closest to home right now.
I have had a series of health problems and a parade of doctor visits. Some are health problems due to my own bad choices (food), at least one was originally caused by someone else (30 years ago), and others are unknown or maybe just simple aging.
I feel like I'm fighting a multi-front war. It makes concentration at work difficult. It's hard on my husband to have to deal with all of it. It's tough to get everything done, including the ministries that I love.
And everything I have is borrowed. I'm not entitled for things to be a certain way. So I cannot make demands or find answers in the world. That's not where the axe head came from and there is no solace there. God provides what I need. So I cry out to my Lord; make my plea know; ask for help; and trust Him in however He chooses.
Not my will; but Thine be done, Lord. My axe head has flown off the handle into deep, murky water. It was borrowed! Please help!