This was the first SOP that we did. I can’t believe we started in 2014! I started out writing up detailed notes like this, but that didn’t last long… But I’ve been thinking about this message lately, as well as a couple of other things that I’ve shared over the years, and I think they are worth revisiting. As far as this one goes, the Lord wants us ready, with our axe-heads sharp…
The story is in 2 Kings 6 vs 1-7
“And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us.“
Elisha is one of the most complete Old Testament types of Jesus. Miracles he performed include raising the dead, healing the sick and multiplying food, among others. Historically, the “sons of the prophets” were probably young disciples of Elisha, living in community with him in order to learn the prophetic ministry. Figuratively, we can see them as types of ourselves; children – “sons” – of the Living God, living in fellowship with Him, learning from Him.
The place where we dwell with Him is too small. God wants us to “stretch forth the cords of our tents”; to see His Kingdom extended in and through us. He want us to give Him more room in our lives; He wants to build His church
“Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.”
The symbolism of the river suggest the River of Life; “Rivers of Living Water”: in other words the Holy Spirit. We cannot give Jesus more room in our lives and see His church built unless we go to the River; using the resources (the gifts) that the Holy Spirit provides, and dwelling in close fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Every “Son” is to take a beam – everyone has their own contribution. God has called everybody in the church to play a specific role; to take their own beam to build the place where they will dwell with the Lord.
This is a corporate task: each individual making their own contribution to the building. It’s a new testament picture of shared life and fellowship, not the “billiard ball” model common today of meeting together once a week and bouncing off each other to our separate corners until the next meeting.
Like everyone else, the prophets work together to help build the place where Jesus is glorified.
Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.”
Was Elisha testing them to see if they would want to go on their own? We cannot know, but we do know that on another occasion, on the Emmaus road, “Jesus continued on as if he were going farther,” (Luke 24:28) and the disciples “urged Him strongly” to stay with them.
Do we ask Jesus to “go with us” in all that we do? Jesus always wants us to ask Him to come with us. We know that He has promised to be with us always, but that doesn’t mean we take Him for granted: it is in the asking, the prayer, that we build our relationship with Him. That is what He is looking for.
“Then one said”. Only one asked Elisha; not the whole group. If that “one” hadn’t opened his mouth, would Elisha have gone with them? Would the iron have floated, and given us this wonderful story for our edification? Sometimes God will give someone a word, and because they are reticent He moves on and gives it to someone else. But sometimes,”one”, a single person, has the job of saying what is on God’s heart. If one of us is given a prophetic word to share, it is our responsibility to do so. If Elisha hadn’t been invited along, the axe head would have been lost forever. If we are given an opportunity to bring to bring Jesus into somebody’s situation through prophetic ministry and fail to do so, their “axe head” might be gone forever.
So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.
Before the dwelling is built, there is preparation to do. Before God brings revival, resources must be in place, and space must be cleared in our lives to make room for God’s work. A piece of wood that is used for building no longer draws on the sap that originally gave it life. For God to build with us, we can no longer draw on those things which gave us life before we knew Him. Can God build with us, or do we keep trying to run back to the stump that we were cut from?
Each individual was engaged in cutting down trees. The building may not have been visible, but they had a common vision and each one was engaged in the activity of preparation. We don’t wait until we see the building before we put our hands to the work: we prepare in faith. Two points arise: do we see the vision that we are working towards? How clear is it? How big is it – God-big, or just man-big?
When we waited on the Lord at the end of the meeting, a word was given to Andrew about the plans for Park Life: “It is too small a thing”. The plans for the church may stretch our faith, but God wants our faith stretched further than just a building.
And the second point, which actually came out in a conversation on Sunday, is this: if we believe we have heard from God but cannot see how His purpose can be accomplished, that is not our problem. We can still start “cutting down trees” – preparing our minds, our hearts, our resources. How the “dwelling” will be built is in God’s hands, and He will accomplish it by His Spirit.
Moving on to the effectiveness of our own ministries – our “axes” – how good is our cutting edge? As one woodcutter said to another:
“Why are you taking so long to cut down that tree?”
“It’s because my axe is blunt”
“Why don’t you sharpen it then?”
“Because I’m too busy trying to cut down this tree!”
It is through prayer that we keep our axes sharp.
But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.
A borrowed axe head speaks of a “borrowed” ministry; one that we have not made our own. Do we rely on somebody else to bring the word that we think the Holy Spirit may be speaking to us? Do we say “this isn’t really my responsibility – I’ll let him or her do it – they’re much better than me anyway…?
God wants us to chop with our own axes, and be responsible for them. The way one person will bring a word is unique to them. He wants us to support each other, but He doesn’t want us to lean on each other. 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
Did his axe fall into the water because it was blunt? A lost axe head in our lives might be a work that we started that ran out of steam, an opportunity that disappeared – a myriad of places where we, for whatever reason, may have lost our grip on something that God has given us to do. It may be that the work stopped because it was not sufficiently covered in prayer; it may be for any other reason. The Holy Spirit says to us “where did it go wrong?”, and (with His guidance) we will see where we lost our effectiveness, or where the work stopped. And He will show us why.
The stick thrown in speaks of the Cross: we have to come to the cross, quite possibly in repentance, and seek God’s grace, and He will make the iron float. It will be a supernatural work.
Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.”
From a wider perspective, the lost, borrowed, axe-head can represent the “lostness” of living without Jesus; life, that is not our own but belongs to God, falling into a lost Eternity. Only when we reach out to Jesus is Life supernaturally restored to us.
Again, in the context of the prophetic ministry, God is asking us to reach out and take hold of our own axe head. If the man was able to reach out and take hold of it, it must have been close to him. Moving on in the prophetic ministry that we feel God may be leading us into is not way out there, in the middle of the deep water, unreachable for any except the most spiritual, the most mature, the strongest swimmers: it’s right by the bank, close to our feet. God is calling us to reach down, pick it up, and make it our own.