The Iron Did Swim
2 Kings 6:1-7
We find illustrated here, I am sure, the constant danger besetting every true child of God of losing his touch with God, and of sinking into the mire of worldliness and sin as a consequence. Let's look at it from that point of view.
There are a number of commendable things here:
1) These sons of the prophets were anxious to expand—they were evidently having blessing on their testimony.
2) They prayed about the situation—a very healthy sign.
3) Every man wanted to go and cut wood—there were no shirkers among them.
4) They wanted Elisha to go with them—they realized their need of his presence and his help.
All these were lovely features, but now the Spirit of God points out the ever-present danger facing every Christian. We are never safe unless we keep near to Christ: "But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed."
That's how we often lose our touch with the Lord, because we use borrowed tools. We fail to be in God's presence in personal study and meditation of His Word. It is so easy to borrow from others rather than to labor in prayer and study for ourselves. When an axe is dull you chop and get nowhere. Whenever there is a lack of communion with God, there is likewise a display of energy and a lack of fruit. We need more agonizing before God and less organizing with men; more prayer and less preaching; more walking than talking; more holding up our hands in prayer before the Lord than having the audience hold up their hands before men. This fellow chopped and chopped away with his dull, borrowed axe, and pretty soon he really got results! Not by loosening the tree, but by loosening and losing the axe head.
Now, it is all right to borrow truth from others; in fact, we must do so. God has given ministers and ministry to His saints, that they in turn may become ministers to others, but we should not employ what we borrow just as we have borrowed it. I have always found that when I borrow thoughts from others they are like dull tools in my hands. So you and I must keep our noses on the grindstone, poring over God's Word in earnest study and meditation, by the help of God's Spirit, expending time, sweat, and tears, so that we may be able to do exploits for God.
When you seek to serve the Lord in your own fleshly energy, you are apt to lose your head, as this man lost his axe head. At least he had sense enough to stop hacking away with the handle, which cannot be said for many a worldly Christian! Such often go on with a show of devotedness, but they are chopping with the handle only. They have lost the power; they are going through the motions. This man did not go diving after the axe head or go poking around on the bottom of the muddy river, either. He did the right thing; he cried to the man of God. There is power with God, and there is forgiveness with Him.
Elisha cut down a stick and cast it in. He did not pick up a dead stick, but used a living stick that had died, a beautiful picture of Christ the living Saviour who died for us on Calvary. That is the remedy for a fruitless, useless life. Bring Christ in—all the wonder of His life and marvelous death, and all the power of His risen glory. He cast the stick in, and the iron swam. That which naturally floats—the stick—sank; that which naturally sinks—the iron—floated. What a matchless story! He—the blessed Son of God—who naturally would rise above all things and reign on God's throne, voluntarily sank down under all the weight of our sin so that I—a poor guilty sinner—who naturally sinks to the depths of sin and shame, might rise to be forever above with Him. Oh, praise His Name; He lifted me!
—Condensed from Elijah & Elisha by August Van Ryn. Published by Christian Missions Press.