Sink Like a Rock, Float Like a Cork
by Patricia Knight
“The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
Some of us have experienced the embarrassing situation of borrowing an item and witnessing it break before we return it. The damage must be explained and restitution made. Though all sensible brain cells scream caution when contemplating borrowing an item, convenience usually nullifies any reservations we may have originally had.
Borrowing tools in not new to our generation. The Old Testament prophet, Elisha, was a popular teacher in a theological seminary where young prophets were educated. The students lived in a communal housing structure which was getting over-crowded, so the students invited Elisha to help them construct more classroom space. Each man planned to fell a tree by the Jordan River to use in the building project.
“As one of them was cutting down a tree,
the iron ax head fell into the water.
‘Oh, my Lord,’ he cried, out, ‘it was borrowed’”
(2 Kings 6:5).
Iron implements were extremely rare among the Israelites. Their long-time enemies, the Philistines, controlled iron production, so precious few iron weapons existed among the Israelites. On a particular day of battle “not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son had them” (1 Samuel 13:22). The Israelites commonly fought only with a bow and arrow or a slingshot.
No blacksmiths could be found in the land of Israel, for the Philistines had decreed, “‘Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears’ So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, and axes sharpened” (1 Samuel 13:19-20). The price was exorbitant for sharpening farm implements. Maintaining such control allowed Israel’s enemy to know the amount of equipment available and its general condition.
When the heavy iron ax head plunged into the river, the borrower responded in horror. He knew instinctively the value of the tool that he would be responsible for replacing or reimbursing. Since he was a student with little income, he could be facing the prospect of becoming a bondservant until he worked off his debt. Imagine the chilling fear and guilt swirling around the borrower’s mind.
The prophet, Elisha, was also aware of the ramification of the lost tool.
“Elisha 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)
It was truly a miracle for a weighty iron ax head lying on the bottom of the muddy Jordan River, to float to the surface like a buoyant cork. What wonder and gratitude Elisha’s students learned outside of the classroom that day as God demonstrated His mercy for the welfare of His faithful ones.
The ax head anecdote preserved in God’s Word, assures us that our Lord is personally involved in our lives without reservations. It doesn’t matter how minor the problem, God always responds to our crisis. He hears our prayers instantly, already aware of our personal needs before we utter the words. Included in His instructions to His disciples about prayer, Jesus said, “’ Your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask him’” (Matthew 6:8). What comfort!
Our heavenly Father desires that we remain in constant communication with Him, but He realizes when things occur quickly, our prayer tongue is often tied. It is then that the Holy Spirit is available to interpret our needs and to comfort us.
We may never panic in response to the loss of a broken ax head, but each of us can relate to similar traumatic times when we were “on the hook” to someone else, when our well-being or health depended on one decision, or when a situation occurred so quickly, there was no time for thought or action. During each of those scenarios, we need an advocate, a guide, or a miracle worker—perhaps all three. God is delighted to help. He is the one answer to our multiple problems.
Our Lord extends mercy and grace through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, who paved the way for us to communicate with His holy Father. If we place out trust in Him, pledge to follow and serve Him, Jesus will enable us with His power, lavish us with His love and grace, and shower us with mercy, regardless of how underserving we may think we are.
Grace is one of the key attributes of God. Grace is His love in action as He passionately shares all of His goodness with believers. “’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9), was God’s response to the Apostle Paul when he pleaded for healing of a particularly bothersome physical pain. Few of God’s servants have demonstrated the Lord’s strength as consistently as the Apostle Paul. Similarly, our weakness also provides the ideal opportunity for the display of the Almighty’s power.
The story of the loose, flying, sinking, floating ax head comprises a mere seven verses in the Old Testament, but the message of God’s miraculous intervention and His overwhelming kindness have inspired readers for centuries. Do not be lulled into thinking that any instance in life is too small to attract God’s attention and to activate His immediate action.
The prayers of God’s people invite and assure God’s response. “‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’” (Jeremiah 32:27).
I think not.