A Stick in the Mud

Let me tell you a story about a man, a student, and a stick. Shortly after the prophet Elijah was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, a group of young student prophets asked Elisha to go with them to build new places to live. They had planned to build near the Jordan River, a river of significance and provision.

As they began the work on their new living quarters, one of the students was cutting down a tree. And as he swung the axe, the head of the axe fell into the water and sank into the bottom of the murky river.

So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” (2 Kin.6:4-5)

This was much more a catastrophe than the simple loss of an axe head. As a lowly student, he was a poor man. So poor, he had no axe of his own and had to borrow one. In ancient times, an axe head was highly prized. It was considered precious and valuable. (See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of lowly)

What to do next?! Jump in the river and search for it? Try to procure another piece of iron? Or simply sit and bemoan the crisis? Old Testament law required that whenever someone lost or damaged something he had borrowed, he had to either replace it or make good the loss. But this poor student had no means to do either. The young man cried to Elisha for help.

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. (2 Kin.6:6)

Elisha picked up a stick…a plain ordinary stick and threw it into the water where the axe head had sunk. Immediately, the heavy iron blade floated to the surface! It defied the very laws of science! It also demonstrated that nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37).

You see, this is really a story about you, me and God. It is a redemption story. Elisha (whose name means, God is Savior) is a picture of God…there when we need Him and able to rescue us from every trial.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps.46:1)

This story is truly amazing for many reasons, the most beautiful and significant reason is because it is a story of redemption. Just like the axe head, we are very valuable to Jesus. We are precious to Him…He loves us more than we could ever possibly comprehend.

The axe head had sunk into the dark and dirty water of the Jordan, caught in the depths of the muddy bottom. Its natural properties caused it to sink even deeper, seemingly lost forever.

That is where I was…lost and sinking ever so deeper because of my sin with no way to pull myself out. But Jesus came looking for me and saved that which was lost. As Elisha threw the stick (sometimes translated as tree) into the Jordan, so Jesus saved us with another tree…the cross of Calvary.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal.3:13)

Now, everyone knows that iron does not float, but when Elisha threw the stick into the water, the iron took on a new nature. The old nature caused it to sink but the new nature caused it to rise. This is what Jesus has done for us! We have a new nature through Jesus. We have been set free from our old nature, and have become new!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor.5:17)

The law of sin and death is a law that threatens us because of the debt we would owe. We could never repay such a debt. But the work of Redemption in Christ paid the debt…complete and full! This is the compassion of God. The compassion Elisha had on the poor helpless student for his debt is a picture of the compassion God has on us. The miracle performed by the power of God through Elisha of retrieving the axe head by the tree is a beautiful picture of the work of Jesus and the accomplished work of the cross.

The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. (Matt.18:26-27)

I am so grateful for a stick in the mud of Mount Calvary. Amen!

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