Sermon delivered August 18, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Flying Off The Handle

Sermon based on 2 Kings 6:1-7
Seventh in a series on Elisha

I want you to take your Bible and open it to the book of 2 Kings, and we're going to be discussing here a section of seven verses about an experience in the life of Elisha. The ax-head flew off the handle and landed in the water and Elisha made it float. But I do have more to say about it than that. You may wonder how could your get a whole sermon out of that, I'm beginning to wonder the same thing, but we'll see what happens.

Let's read verse 1. The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us." They were meeting in a meeting house that was very crowded. I suppose people were sitting all around and there was just no room for anybody else. Maybe they were trying to get in the door, there was no place for them: it was too crowded. They had several options I suppose. There were three schools of the prophets. There was one down in Jericho on the Jordan River. There was another up in Gilgal where they were at this particular incident. And then there was a third one over in Bethel. They decided that since they already had three, that's enough, so we'll just add on. We'll just enlarge our building.

Growth is a good problem to have. When a church bulges at maximum capacity, that is a sign that God is blessing. It is not a sign for some teacher to take credit, or the organist, or the pastor, or whoever else. It's a sign that God and His Holy Spirit are blessing the church. It is God Who draws people to His church, and so, we give Him credit for the success. When the Holy Spirit attracts the multitudes to the House of God it is up to the church to accommodate the that are attracted.

These mini seminaries served not only as training schools, but as little mini-meeting houses. And the reason for that is because most of Israel had apostatized. They were worshiping idols. But God always has a remnant. Praise the Lord for that. His remnant people were meeting Him and they were running out of room.

Elisha was providing healthy leadership and God was blessing. God's work needs infrastructure. It needs buildings, facilities, to advance God's cause. A shrinking church is just the opposite. If you see a church that is going down, it's usually caused by one of the three problems: heresy, or sin or poor leadership. These things bring a reproach upon God's cause. So, God was blessing this church back there, so, praise God for a crowded church.

Elisha's group initiated the idea. It says the company of prophets came to Elisha themselves. The idea came from them. They could see the working of God and wanted to help. They did not say: "Building projects are a waste of the Lord's money." They were willing to sacrifice and labor to advance God's work. 2 Kings 6:2. "Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live." Apparently the living quarters were attached to the meeting house. And he said, "Go."

After forming a building committee of sorts, they decided to build a new structure. Now, what kind of structure were they going to build? A great cathedral? a mud hut? What does this lead you to believe? Each were going to get a beam, a pole from the river and come back and build a structure out of wood. That's what they were going to do. It wasn't going to be out of gold or mud. It wasn't going to be trashy and it wasn't going to be showy. It had a nice balance. I believe their structure was strong and suited to their needs. It was big enough for future growth.

Our churches are not to be places to show off our marble and crystal. Neither are they to be drab and tacky. God's house ought to be somewhere in the middle. Pleasing, durable, and certainly with ample space. There should be room to accommodate those who choose to attend. So that's what they decided to build.

How many of them were involved in the building project? What does verse 2 say? "Let us go to the Jordan, where each can get a pole." So the entire group, nobody missing. That is what you call, "everyone participation." Everybody was there. They were all involved and God wants His church involved. I doesn't want pew-warmers. He doesn't want people to sit there and molt. Each did what they could. Notice what they did. They all went to the river and they got a pole. Some poles are bigger than others. You know that not every board is the same length or the same size. Not all boards are two-by-fours. Some of them carried big beams back, others could not carry such large beams. So they each carried what they could. What that tells me, is that it was not equal giving, but equal sacrifice. That's a very important stewardship principle. That is exactly what is demonstrated here. They each carried the size of a board or beam that they could.

Now come to 2 Kings 6:3. Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?" "I will," Elisha replied. So, even the minister should be involved in the effort. No one is exempted when it comes to adding on to the church. Everybody, 100%, was involved.

2 Kings 6:4. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. Trees usually grow beside rivers. If there is no water, there is no growth. They did not go out into the desert - no trees grow there. They went to the sluggish Jordan and found tall timber. These youth were volunteers. How wonderful when young people are willing to put their own shoulder to the work.

2 Kings 6:5. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax-head fell into the water. In those days an axe with an iron head was very expensive. Iron was the top cutting-edge quality here. The most expensive you could get would be iron. Archeologists have dug up bronze ax-heads, but this was iron. It was about like borrowing a commercial chain saw. It was very valuable. One of the poor pupils had borrowed such an axe. He didn't have an ax of his own. He may never have cut down a tree in his life. They went to the river. He stood there by the muddy bank and started whacking away on this tree.

Unbeknownst to him the ax-head started working its way loose and he didn't know it. It was just about to fly off the handle. Is it possible that your wife or husband or your kids are at the breaking point and you don't know it? That could be. That's exactly what could happen. That's what happened here. If the ax-head did fly off the handle, it would be impossible to find the iron axe head in that muddy river. This volunteer might have to be a bond-servant until the price was paid in full, perhaps the rest of the year or longer.

2 Kings 6:5 - "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!" I know a lot of folks who would say, "Praise the Lord, at least he wasn't mine." It's bad enough to break something you value, but when you ruin something that belongs to someone else it is worse. That's what happened here. He cried out, "It was borrowed!" I was in somebody's house a few years ago, watching a home video of a vacation trip. They asked, "Would you like to see one of our home videos?" I said, "Yes, I would." So, we sat, and they were showing us their vacation. They had gone out west and they had rented a sport utility vehicle and were tearing up and down through the wilderness taking movies through the windows. I watched as they saw a deep mud hole in a real bumpy area. They floored it and crashed into the murky water sending up a high spray of mud. The windshield is covered with mud and the wipers are wiping the mud off. The video showed them gyrating through the worst part of it and at the end they all shouted out... "Rental car!!!, Let's do it again!!!"

They could care less about the car because it did not belong to them. Shame on them. I will tell you that here in 2 Kings 6:5 you see old fashioned values. This is old-fashioned virtue here. These Virtues are desperately needed today. The eighth commandment still says thou shalt not steal. When you borrow something it should be returned in like or better shape than when you got it.

Have you ever borrowed something only to break it or lose it? And, you're responsible for fixing it, aren't you? Murphy's Law says that if you borrow something it will break or be ruined before you can return it. I wish Murphy had never lived. I don't know who he was. That is one law we should get rid of.

That borrowed axe head got looser and looser and with one mighty stroke it flew off the handle and landed in the river. If it had gone in the direction of Elisha or one of the other people it could have killed him. Maybe an Angel guided it safely into the midst of the river. The death of someone else was prevented. The lumberjack did not have to flee to a city of refuge.

The Bible has rule about that. Deuteronomy 19:5 (KJV) As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbor, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: (Do you understand this old dialect?)

Let's try the NIV: For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life.

I preach out of the New International Version of the Bible because it is easier to explain the meaning. Many of you may not even know what a helve is. The axe head landed with a splash and sunk out of sight into the muddy river. This youth probably thought, why do bad things always happen to me? I borrowed this. I'm trying to help the church. My intentions are of no avail. Bad things are happening to me. Gloom and Doom settled upon him when he thought of "It was borrowed.." But is there not something to be gained by accidents? When you place your accidents in God's hands you're going to see something different. You're going to see something special. I believe that when we nave some tragedy that comes to our life, we need to place that into God's hands. Then and only then are you going to see God's miraculous working. So, when something bad happens to you, remember that Jesus is larger than your pain. Jesus is larger than your trial.

Now, notice that the man quit chopping! That's a good idea. When you have lost your cutting edge, you need to quit. Some folk have lost their effectiveness years ago and are still going through the motions. They are still swinging that handle. There's no head on it. They are not even making a dent for the cause of God. They are no longer able to cut down any trees for the Lord's work. They go through the motions but they have lost their cutting edge with Jesus. They are sitting in the pew, but nothing is happening. No chips are flying. Unless you're making chips, you're not making progress, unless they're the right chips. Yet they continue to swing their handle. I believe that we need to stop and go to God and get our cutting edge back. God can give you an experience like you used to have, or like you want. He can do that.

Our ministry for Jesus, Pastor Crutcher and myself, is a borrowed ministry. You can lose your cutting edge by a lose prayer life. You can lose your cutting edge by a shaky devotional life. Maybe you're not reading the Bible enough. Maybe you've read the Bible over a number of times, now you're just not reading it like you used to. You can lose your cutting edge by losing your connection with Jesus! You can do that. You can lose it through a number of ways and not have any more baptisms and you try to help others but the problems only get worse. If your prayers no longer get answers, then you should stop and get back into your prayer life for a miracle. Go and tell Jesus that you have lost it. Get back to God. Get back to the Word of God. Get connected to Jesus.

This young "Paul Bunyan" went to Elisha. I imagine that a crowd quickly assembled. "What happened?" "Where did it land?" They're all talking about this emergency, this crisis. And so the crowd assembled. They got nearby and they gathered around. And they looked out over the Jordan River.

Have you ever noticed that you can be driving down the freeway, and suddenly come up to a sea of brake lights. Finally after a mile or more of stop and go you see the reason for the trouble. There has been an accident. The lanes are not blocked so why should the traffic be stopped? Because of rubber necking. People stop to gawk.

Soon, they all gathered around the despairing lad looking out into the muddy Jordan river. 2 Kings 6:6 The man of God asked, "Where did it fall?" When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.

We serve a God that fixes things. Our God can bring good out of evil. Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Have you ever lost something. You know what you do when you lose something. This teaches us what to do. He came to the man of God. We need to come to God. Elisha was representing God. We need to come to God and tell Him about our problems. If you've lost your credit card, you've lost your wristwatch, whatever it is you've lost, have you prayed about it? You need to pray about it. Whatever it is you've lost, give it to God. Ask God to help you to find that object.

2 Kings 6:6, Elisha asks, "Where did it fall?" Now, why did he need to ask for that? Well, he wanted this young man do his part, to do all that he could do. "Tell me where it was." That's about all that young man could do. Tell him where it landed. It would be impossible to find the ax-head but Elisha expected the lad to do what he could. God expects us to do all that we can. We must do all we can before the miracle will come.

So, Elisha cut a stick and threw it out into the water. Sticks float. I got to thinking about this. I read this several times. Elisha cut a stick. I have operated a chain saw for a number of years. I have cut wood. I will tell you that if the whole seminary were out there cutting trees down, there would be plenty of wood all over the place. Why does Elisha have to go out and cut a stick? The ground is littered with sticks. The ground is littered with limbs and logs and brush. Why does he have to go out and cut a stick? That's what the Bible says. "He cut a stick." I looked up the word, "stick" in the Hebrew. The word stick is translated, "tree" 162 times. Here, it's translated, "stick." This could have been a tree, a young sapling that Elisha cut down. Now, that's what I think it was. He cut down a young live sapling or a live branch off of a tree and threw it into the water.

Now, here is the symbol of Jesus! Jesus is the Branch. Now, this gets beautiful here. I want you to think about this. This was not a dead stick. This was a living branch. Zechariah 3:8 refers to Jesus as the Branch. It says, ... I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. "I'm going to bring Him to you." And Jeremiah 6:12 (KJV) says ...Behold the Man whose Name is the Branch. Now, you think about this. Jeremiah 23:5 calls Jesus the Righteous Branch. Now you think about this. If you are stuck in the evil filthy mud of sin take heart. Your situation is not hopeless. That axe head was lost, just like the sinner is lost, mired deep down in wickedness. But friends, Jesus is the answer! Notice that the branch must be cut off to save the iron. Jesus must die to save sinners. Jesus had to descend into the place of death where we fell in order to lift us up and restore us.

God made that heavy Iron to float like a cork. God can take your load of heavy problems and make them as light as a feather so that you can handle them with Him. Your catastrophes will become victories with Jesus. He can do that.

Instantly that lost axe head floated to the surface. Like a submarine ascending at full tilt from the great depths, that ax- head shot out of that water and landed there bobbing on the surface like a beach ball. What a shout for joy must have ascended. How they praised God from Whom all blessings flow. We serve a God Who can retrieve the unretrievable.

That's not the end of the story. That ax-head swam over to the feet of the lad that had lost it. Did you catch that in the story? All he had to do was reach down and pick it up. It had no rudder, no sail, and here it came right on over and all he had to do was reach down and he didn't even have to get his feet wet. We serve a God who can retrieve the irretrievable. You may say, "I'm beyond hope. I started out to do this in my life and I failed. This was taken away from me and I can't do what I wanted to do." God can still use you. God can retrieve you. It doesn't matter how deep you've gone, God can bring you up. You can be saved. You can be re-instituted. Have you ever lost something? Maybe death has separated you from your husband, maybe back pain separated you from comfort, Maybe you've lost a child, whatever it is that you've lost, do you believe that God can restore to you that which you've lost? That he can resurrect it out of the murky waters and bring it back? He can, and he's going to.

Did you know that the Jordan river is a symbol of separation? It separated the promised land from the Eastern wilderness. So this is a symbol. There are lots of symbols in here. This ax-head resurrection is a neat story and observes many thing about that. Maybe the river of death has swallowed up something of great value and you are left helpless. Let it sink to the bottom. But do not give up. You pray that God will soon restore that which you have lost back to you.

Observe that he did have to reach out and repossess what he had lost. We must do our part. Do all you can and God will handle the rest. Someone jokingly told me to read Hezekiah 10:10 "God helps those who help themselves." Is that a true statement? Absolutely!

The inexperienced lumberjack did not say: "I can't use that ax- head again! It's gotten too muddy." No, I am sure it was used again. And it doesn't matter how bad you've gone, how far you've gone, how muddy you have become, you can be used again. However deep you have sunk down in the mire of sin, Jesus can lift you and use you again.

The iron will swim if we do our part.

    There are several steps in the recovery.
  1. Present your situation to your Master. Verse 5. Tell Him all about your troubles.
  2. Discover the reason for your loss. Verse 6- "Where fell it?" In other words: "How did this happen?" Let God point out the place in your life where you lost your blessing. Discover why you failed.
  3. Confess it to God. Truthfully tell Him of your situation. Admit the blame that you bear.
  4. Make use of the living branch; make use of Jesus Christ.
  5. Stretch out the hand of faith. You must act on your faith. Do your part.

The ax-head did not fly into his hand. No. But apparently it navigated with no rudder or sail to the very spot where he stood at the rivers edge. The heavy helpless iron could do nothing to save itself. The young man did have to reach down to pick it up. He did have to do his part.

When that iron was down on the bottom, was it capable of saving itself? Impossible. Had it struggled it would have sunk deeper. It was totally dependant on the Branch. And that's our only hope.

How did God make that iron float? I have no idea. I don't know. There are many things that we don't understand. For instance, a Monarch butterfly. Have you ever thought about that? That Monarch butterfly spends the winter down in Mexico, goes all the way up to Canada in the summer and comes all the way back down to Mexico for the next winter. Two thousand miles up that way, two thousand miles back. About four thousand miles. And arrives back in Mexico at the exact same little spot that it started from. How does it know how to do that? And not only that, it's not the same butterfly. The same butterfly doesn't fly all the way from Mexico to Canada and back. There are several generations here. Its great great grandmother was born in Mexico. It never saw Mexico. It doesn't even remember Mexico. And yet as it is out there, that little butterfly heading south for the winter, flying out past the Baja peninsula out over the open ocean, no land in sight, gets to a certain point and makes a right-angle turn straight east for fifty miles right over to that little spot of an island. How does that little butterfly do that? It had never been there in its life. Scientists don't know.

You might say, "Well, it's impossible for all these butterflies to do that." They do it on a regular basis. You might say that it is impossible for my iron to ever float, my heavy problems to be lifted." I will tell you that the Branch has great lifting power. The Branch can lift you out of the deepest problem if you will trust yourself into the hands of Jesus where the battle is .


Hymn of Praise: #546, The Lord's My Shepherd
Scripture: II Kings 6:5-7
Hymn of Response: #327, I'd Rather Have Jesus


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