The Gift of Floating Iron
2Kings 6:1 Now the company of prophets said to Elisha, “As you see, the place where we live under your charge is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan, and let us collect logs there, one for each of us, and build a place there for us to live.” He answered, “Do so.” 3 Then one of them said, “Please come with your servants.” And he answered, “I will.” 4 So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a log, his ax head fell into the water; he cried out, “Alas, master! It was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float. 7 He said, “Pick it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.
Elisha was not alone but was a member of a company of prophets. The fellowship had grown considerably and they needed a larger place to live. One of the company wanted to help out in the process but was poor. He had no ax because iron was very expensive. He didn’t just “borrow” an ax, but he literally “begged” to use the one that belonged to someone else. The sense of responsibility was overwhelming when he saw the ax head fall into the water. While this may seem like a small thing to us, he may have seen his entire life flash before his eyes as he contemplated the reaction of the owner of the ax.
Elisha’s response is one of great compassion in which he intercedes on behalf of the one who is lost and needs salvation. Embodying the love of God, nothing is beneath Elisha if it means redemption.
The scene leads us to the parting of the waters found in baptism when one is raised to new life. The life of the one was saved by the raising up of an iron ax head from the waters. Iron doesn’t float and the dead are not to be raised to life but both happen when the power of God is unleashed on behalf of all who are in need.
Last evening I was having a bite of supper sitting outside of a train station in London when a woman stopped in front of me to ask me if I had any change. Thin as a rail, face gaunt wearing tattered clothing and smelling as if it had been a long time since she’d had the privilege of bathing I had nothing to offer her. I felt guilty. Then she noticed the NTS pin I was wearing — with the cross on it. She asked about it and what it meant. I almost felt guilty because I didn’t feel that I could be a good representative of Christ. What did I have to give her? But I tried to give her what I could — so I stopped what I was doing and looked her in the eyes and we had a conversation. Eventually our discussion came to and end and she reached out to shake my hand and I was happy to feel her hand in mine. She disappeared into the crowd. I don’t know if I’ll ever see here again but her name is Sada and I want to remember her!
Within a few seconds of her departure a policeman came stood at my side and wanted to know what happened in my interaction with that woman and whether she had asked me for something. I mentioned that she had asked whether I had any coins and he responded that it was illegal to beg in England. He then went on to give me a bit of a history lecture on English laws as related to the poor and begging. I think we talked sufficiently long enough that he forgot about Sada.
Elisha reached out and brought life to the one who had begged for an ax. The poor prophet was not beneath the love and compassion of the great prophet. When we begin to see the world through the eyes of Jesus Christ we will be troubled because the Sadas of this world will not just be a beggar interrupting our solitude, but will be the lost soul who may have their only experience of Christ in our response. The responsibility to be a faithful witness will break our hearts as the protective barriers of self-preservation are removed by the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Floating iron became the gift of life. We have been given the gift of life in the new birth symbolized in baptism. By the receiving of the gift we are called to participate as agents of Christ’s redeeming work and help someone else’s ax to float.
Lord, please help me to be a faithful witness for you. Help me not to be afraid to reach out and touch those whom you place before me. Please be with Sada today, provide for her daily need and may she encounter you. Amen.