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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Surprised by an Old Story

Last night I presented the story of the ax head floating in the Jordan River. I told the congregation that I had no explanation how an piece of iron could float in a river. I also told them what I had learned from the story.
The ax had been borrowed. The head flew off  as it was swung to fell a tree. It landed in the Jordan. The borrower was distressed. The Bible gives clear instructions for us when something we borrow breaks. It says full restitution must be made. (Exodus 22:14) This means that the ax must be replaced at the borrowers expense. He has lost the money for an ax and never owned one either.

The head on the ax was loose. It had been used. The owner may not have noticed. The borrower evidently had not noticed. Of course, the responsibility lies in the one using the ax. However, the borrower would have to replace a new ax for an old one.

I learned that I should borrow as little as possible. I borrowed a pressure washer from a friend recently. I used it, cleaned it and took it back to him in good shape. The pressure washer broke when the next person borrowed it. It could have broken when I was using it. I would have been obligated to buy my friend a new pressure washer or, at least, have his fixed. In either case, I am responsible to the lender for the things I have borrowed. Afterwards, I bought my own pressure washer. I guess "neither a borrower or lender be" fits well here.

Elisha asks the borrower where the ax head fell. I would have retorted, "It fell in the river! That's all you need to know!" Sometimes I give up on things that God can solve. I don't take things to Him. I just assume that's the way things are. I fail to see His solution because I either feel it is too small a thing to take to Him or that there is really nothing that can be done about it.

My wife and I bought a Chevette while I was in seminary. It was really a good vehicle except the clutch burned out frequently. We had very little money and I learned to replace the clutch myself. (I did it so many times that I could do it between thirty minutes to an hour.) Once, I did not have the time to replace the clutch but I still had to use the car. My wife suggested that I give the problem to God.  I laughed and said, "Should I also anoint it with oil? How about 30 weight? Its a clutch! You don't pray about a clutch." However, she prayed and, you know what? The clutch got better! I learned I should bring everything to God.

Elisha cuts a stick and throws it into the water where the ax head had landed.  The iron ax head floats on the water. There is no reasonable explanation for this. Iron will not float on water unless God supersedes the laws of physics. He must do a miracle. Miracles don't need explanations. Miracles just need faith.

God is never constrained to follow His laws. He set them in place as the standard operating procedures until His sovereignty. He did not make them such that He couldn't suspend their operations. It is all His creation. He also created the laws that generally govern His creation. Yet, He is still the Almighty God.
I was called to a hospital room several years ago because a relatively young lady had a stroke. (She was in her thirties.) I prayed over this lady and left. Her sister told me that she was immediately healed. In fact, not only had the symptoms disappeared but all evidence of the stroke disappeared too. This young lady who had been carried into the hospital a few days before walked out a couple of days later. There was no secular explanation for her healing.

I learned that I do not produce miracles any more than Elisha did. There was nothing magical about my words or actions. The decision and power to heal remained in the hands of God. God gave me the privilege of seeing Him work. He strengthened the faith of this young woman. He confounded the learned doctors.

I went into the Bible study thinking: "This is an old story that we have heard so many times. What could we possibly learn from it?" Yet, God continues to surprise me with His word.

2 Kings 6:1-7 (NIV)
1 The company of the prophets said to Elisha, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. 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." And he said, "Go." 3 Then one of them said, "Won't you please come with your servants?" "I will," Elisha replied. 4 And he went with them. They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. "Oh, my lord," he cried out, "it was borrowed!" 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. 7  "Lift it out," he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.

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