"So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 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.”
6 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. 7 Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it." 2 Kings 6:4-7
I read this passage a few days ago in my daily Bible reading- I had to read it a few times, because honestly, I was wondering why this really was in my Bible. I even came back to it a few days later, because I couldn't stop thinking about this ax head. I mean, it was such a small and trivial thing, I was wondering if there was symbolism here with the iron floating or cutting down trees or something. But when I went back to it I actually started thinking on the man who lost the ax head.
I thought about this man, who obviously was a poor man, because he didn't even have his own ax- he had to borrow one. He was a poor man who was traveling with the man of God, and in this passage, he is using this borrowed ax to build shelter for himself and his comrades. Think about how exciting this must have been for this man- they've been traveling with this man of God, and now they are going to build a place to dwell for a time- it had to have been truly exciting- like a church breaking ground for a new building project. Only, a short while into this project, the man's ax head falls off the handle and into the water.
Have you ever tried to find an item dropped into a river? It's tough to do! A river constantly is swirling with different currents, and if you drop a heavy item it can still be carried quite far away via the current at the time. That ax head could have been anywhere in the river- and on top of that, depending on the flow of the river, it actually may have been hazardous for this man to attempt to retrieve the ax head. A river can be a dangerous place to go for a swim. So his ax head falls off, and I'm sure there are a few things running through his mind. One, this ax head was borrowed. Not only that, but since the ax head fell off the handle, I am also inclined to believe that the person he borrowed the ax from also was poor- but just happened to have an ax. For the man who loaned the ax, that ax may have been a precious item from his household. So here we have our man who dropped the head into the water, upset that he will now have to go back to his friend and figure out how to replace the ax head. But I also think that there was something else there that he was even more upset about.
Without an ax, how was this man going to help build the dwelling place for the man of God? All the excitement of the day was for nothing if he couldn't help build this shelter- I am certain he was full of zeal for the activity at hand, and to have it all brought to a sudden halt had to have been devastating to him. For us on the outside, this seems like such a small trivial thing, but for this man, this act of chopping down trees and building the shelter was very important. It was so important that he borrowed someone else's valuable ax to do the job in the first place. And now that ax was at the bottom of a raging river. I can clearly imagine the despair running through this man's mind.
And then God comes to the rescue. When this man shares with Elisha what happened to the ax head, God shows Elisha how to bring the ax head to the surface of the water. I can see the joy in this man's face. I can see his excitement and his fervor at getting the ax head back and being able to continue serving the man of God. And I can even see his face as he tells his comrades what happened, because it's such a big deal to him. But then I can also see the response of his comrades as they tell him that's great, but then dismiss him to get back to work, and I can see how disappointed this man is when his friends do not share in his great excitement.
This little story here in 2 Kings is chock full of notes for us as Christians. How many little things have we dismissed? I talked the other day about praying for small cuts and bruises- you know, when God heals those small things, it's a really big deal to the people who had the healing. Yet we dismiss them because, well, they're just cuts and bruises, they're not life-threatening diseases or debilitation's.
This is a cautionary tale with several different dimensions. The biggest thing I think we can take away from this story is that God truly does care about the small things. If they are important to us- they are important to Him. I think about my vegetable gardens and the trials I've had in getting them properly going. To many people, my gardening seems trivial and not particularly important. But to me it is, it's a source of food for my family, and hopefully for others. And God cares about how I care about my garden, so He's provided answers and finances to get it going like it should be going. God cares about me! And if my garden is important to me- it's important to Him. When my daughter cares about how well her swimming lessons go, God cares, and gives her the determination to see them through. God cares about all His children, and the things that may seem little to everyone else are not considered little in God's eyes. And that's the second thing to take away from this story.
To that man, that ax head was everything, and God saw that. When someone shares with us a story about how God did something- no matter how small, we should rejoice with them, because that tiny little thing may have been absolutely huge in their eyes. Sometimes, it's those very little things that God uses to bring someone to Him in the first place- which makes them just as important as the great big major things. We should not measure God's goodness with human eyes. In fact, we shouldn't measure God's goodness at all- we should simply rejoice in it, because His goodness is everlasting and may be different for each and every person He pours it out upon.
So I am going to remember this story of the ax head and rejoice in the little things. Whether they be for me or someone else, I am going to remember that God is a God who cares- no matter how small the matter may be.