But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”
2 Kings 6:5
Let me start by start by saying that when interpreting the scriptures it is ALWAYS best to look for the clear meaning of the passage in it’s original context. Too many theological rabbit trails have been carved out by interpreters so desperate to find something “new” that they take a very clear text and over-spiritualize it – often distorting or completely changing its meaning.
I think this passage has a very clear meaning. Believers should be people of integrity; honoring their obligations and fulfilling their commitments. In this case a workman has borrowed an axe and while using it the head falls off into the water. God demonstrates his grace and mercy by empowering the prophet Elisha to cause the axe head to float to the surface so it can be retrieved.
So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.
2 Kings 6:6-7
That’s clear enough, but I think there’s something more here.
I was checking the notes in my study bible for this passage. I read that during this period most tools were made of bronze, which would make an iron axe head very precious. The loss of this item would have been compounded by its great value (and by the fact that it was irretrievable by any natural means).
I see this axe head as a metaphor for our relationship with God. There is nothing more precious than being in a right relationship with the Creator of the Universe. But because of His utter holiness, our sin has caused all of us to lose that relationship. Something unbelievably precious has been lost and we are completely helpless to retrieve it.
Our only hope is for a miracle. Even more improbable than a “floating axe head” is the idea that the Almighty God would wrap Himself in human flesh and allow Himself to be brutally murdered on a wooden cross – all so that we could be forgiven and our relationship with Him restored. But that’s exactly what happened.
And don’t miss the end of the story. No matter how precious that axe head, or how amazing the miracle of it floating to the surface, it could not benefit the workman until he followed the instructions of the prophet who said, “Pick it up for yourself.”
The same is true about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for you and me. It is the most precious and valuable gift in all of time and space, but it does not benefit any of us until we reach out and accept it for ourselves.
The gift of forgiveness and eternal life is “floating” right there in front of you. Pick it up for yourself. Turn your back on your sin and ask Jesus to forgive you and make you His own.
Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Woodley