The Floating Axhead


‘The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to meet.’ And he said, ‘Go.’ 2 Kings 6:1-2

As we begin to look at the text, the first thing we notice is a problem that we would love to have. The place where the trainee prophets met was too small and so they suggest to Elisha that they go to the Jordan where there was an abundance of trees.

It appears they love Elisha so much that they wanted to accompany him wherever he went. These students wanted to be taught by Elisha, they wanted to spend more time with like-minded people.

Now, remember, during the days of the kings, Israel were immersed in idolatry, and everyone was drifting further and further away from God and His ways.

This tells me that there were a dedicated few who wanted to get back to God and His ways. More and more people were starting to believe in the One True God, and so, the company of prophets just continued to grow numerically.

Isn’t this a problem we would all like to face?

Wouldn’t we like to have our meeting place so full of people who want to get back to God and His ways, that we need to go elsewhere to meet?

Yes, there are times when it appears as though our numbers are dwindling, but we must not give up, Galatians 6:9. God will add the increase when the time is right.

‘Then one of them said, ‘Won’t you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees.’ 2 Kings 6:3-4

Notice that the prophets wanted Elisha to go with them, why? First of all, because they knew they can’t grow in their learning without a teacher. We need to recognise the need to be taught God’s Word.

On the Day of Pentecost when God added 3000 souls to His church, the first thing they did was devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching, Acts 2:42.

They got regularly at the feet of men that were the leaders of the church and said, ‘teach us God’s word’ and you need to do the same thing.

You need to make it a regular habit of going to your congregation and sit at the feet of the teachers who have been appointed by your congregation to feed the flock and soak it up.

There was a woman who was very nervous about crossing a busy road; she didn’t know how to cross over, so she stood there and stood there. Until finally a strong-looking young man walked up and put his arm inside her elbow and said, ‘may I cross the road with you?’

She was relieved until they got out onto the road, they were all over the place, dodging cars and they almost got knocked over a few times, finally, they made it to the other side; she turned around angrily and said, ‘you call that help, you look like your blind.’ And he said, ‘I am blind, that’s why I said can I cross the street with you?’

Now you need to be very careful about who’s going to be leading you in your new walk with Christ and what the church does, it says, ‘here are men and woman who can teach.’ You need to come and sit at their feet, and you need to make it a priority to listen and learn Bible-based lessons.

And so, when Elisha gets the invitation to go with the prophets, he’s more than happy to do so.

‘As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh no, my lord!’ he cried out. ‘It was borrowed!’ 2 Kings 6:5

One of the students began chopping down a tree, the axhead flew off and landed in the river. He immediately cried out to Elisha for help because the axhead was borrowed.

To you and I, losing an axhead wouldn’t be a big deal, we would simply go to the hardware shop and buy another one. But to this prophet, this was a big deal, not only was it now lost but it wasn’t his, to begin with, it was borrowed.

He obviously didn’t have enough money to buy his own axe, so he had to borrow one. Back in Bible times, an axe was valuable because it took hours of forging to get it into shape and it hours getting it sharp.

You had to pay the Blacksmith a lot of money to get one made. The whole idea of borrowing anything from anyone is that you give it back when you are finished with it. He borrowed the axhead and as long as it was in his possession, it was his responsibility to look after it and return it.

Have you ever given something to someone because they wanted to borrow it?

How did you feel when you never got it back?

No wonder the prophet cries out to Elisha for help in desperation.

‘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. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.’ 2 Kings 6:6-7

Elisha could have told the prophet off and told him how irresponsible he was. Elisha could have just told the man, it’s your own fault, it’s gone now, it’s lost forever.

Elisha could have just jumped into the river and tried to feel his way around under the water to locate the axhead. But he didn’t, after asking the prophet the exact location where it fell into the river, Elisha throws in a stick and made the iron float.

Think about this for a moment, this was totally impossible because as we know, iron is heavy. Iron doesn’t float, it sinks but as we have seen time and time again, nothing is impossible for God. Elisha tells the prophet to lift it out of the water and the man’s borrowed axhead was safely back in his hands.

Can you imagine the relief on this young man’s face?

Coffman in his commentary says the following.

‘Several important deductions from what is written here are justified.

1. Elisha’s work had been successful. More and more people were believing in the One God, and the sons of the prophets were increasing in number.

2. Their love for Elisha is evident in their desire that he should accompany them.

3. The sons of the prophets were entitled to be praised for their creative energy and industry.


So, what can we learn from this event?

1. God Is Aware Of What’s Happening In Your Life.

There are times in our lives when we face some big challenges, and we think God is totally oblivious to what is happening in our lives. He knew the consequences of the man who lost the axhead, He knew he didn’t have the means of replacing it or paying for a new one.

Some of you may be facing some serious health problems right now and starting to think if God is even aware of what you are going through.

Some of you may be facing a huge relationship problem right now, but despite praying, you are not sure if God is even listening to your prayers.

Some of you may be facing a massive debt problem but think that God isn’t interested in your debt problem.

Some of you may be facing big problems at your work where you could lose your job and you’ve prayed about it and are worried about how you’re going to pay your future bills.

Many people look at sparrows and think they are worthless, but God notices them, and He cares for them, Luke 12:6-7. Just as He knows the sparrows, He certainly knows us all on a personal level, even to the point of knowing how much hair we have on our heads.

I can imagine over the years, God smiling when He looks at me and says, ‘ha, there’s another hair gone.’ Don’t ever think that God doesn’t know what’s happening in your life, He is absolutely aware of what’s happening in all of our lives.

Mankind is worth far more than the sparrows, and Jesus tells us that God will certainly take care of us because He takes care of the sparrows.

2. God Wants To Save The Lost.

This poor man’s axhead was lost in the depths of the river, but God found it and restored it to the man. Because Christ’s mission was to ‘save’, this tells us that we couldn’t save ourselves, Christ had to come and do something for us that we couldn’t do ourselves, Luke 19:10.

God wants to save the lost and there are times when He places people in our lives just at the right time.

It was no accident that the prophets asked Elisha to go with them. If Elisha wasn’t there, the axhead would still be at the bottom of the river.

God is always one step ahead of us, He knows what’s coming up in our lives when we don’t. He has a habit of putting the right people in the right place at the right time.

We see this with the Samaritan woman at the well who went back and told everyone about Jesus. We see this with Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. We see this with Paul who met a woman named Lydia.

We see God putting people in the right place, at the right time.

Before you became a Christian, can you remember the people God placed in your life to help bring you to salvation? Now that you are a Christian, can you look back and identify those very people who introduced you to Jesus?

From a personal point, if God hadn’t put certain people in my life when He did, I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

God is always one step ahead of us and it is no accident that God places people in our life. Everyone that comes into your life, and everyone who has been called to be in your life is there for a reason.

God puts people into your life at strategic times because He knows what we need. There are circumstances that God has arranged in the past and is arranging right now long before we know that we’ll ever need them.

He knew before you did, that you would need His people to support you through that serious health problem. He knew before you did, that you would need His people to support you through that relationship problem. He knew before you did, that you would need His people to support you through that work problem.

If you are not a Christian, ask yourself, why has God surrounded you with His people?

Do you think it’s just pure luck that Christians are a part of your life?

Or has God put His people in your life because ultimately, He wants to save you too? 2 Peter 3:9.