Chopping without an axe head

Introduction Sbongiseni Khumalo
We thank the Lord that for the opportunity to meet again in God’s house under His word. It is wonderful that we can sing with all our hearts and in different languages. This is a way in which we can participate in the service.

Albu van Eeden
Brethren, we have been blessed. It is wonderful to see you in the service. We have seen new faces almost every day. It is a joy to have you here and it is our prayer that you will be blessed. We trust that the Lord will be with us and speak to us in this service.

Let us begin by reading some words from the Bible, from 2 Kings 6.

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.  But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:1 – 7

These verses have been a blessing to me in many ways. I have many notes on them but let me share a few thoughts with you.

Firstly, there was a type of school for prophets who were taught by Elisha. There were so many of them that the place where they met became too small. I don’t know whether the fact that Gehazi, Elisha’s servant had left, played a role. When Gehazi served Elisha, there was no such school, seminary or place of teaching for young prophets. Gehazi’s heart was fixed on earthly gain, money, clothing, and special things. When God removed him, it appears as if there were many young prophets who wanted learn from Elisha and hear more of how to follow the Lord.

Friends, it will surprise you how the presence of one person who is selfish and carnal and who wants material gain, can stem the working of God. Achan’s presence, in the time of Joshua, played a role in Israel losing a battle. It will surprise you to know to what extent the presence of one person among God’s children, who is selfish and carnal, stems the working of the Holy Spirit.

The sons of the prophets told Elisha that the place where they lived was too small. The Hebrew word for ‘place’ is a word related to the Hebrew word for the ‘tabernacle’; it is related to the word that explains the glory of God that rested on the tabernacle. The place where they lived with Elisha was not a secular school; it was a place where the glory of God rested. This is what the fellowship was like that the sons of the prophets had with Elisha. This is what the church and the body of Christ should be. It should be a place where God’s glory is upon the people. They experienced fellowship with one another and fellowship with the Holy Spirit of God.

We have just experienced 70 years of ministry of Rev Stegen. We lacked accommodation for everyone who came. Every aspect of the celebration contained something of the glory of God, and how God, through revival, was present amongst His children. The church should not be a social gathering. It is not a place to feel comfortable; sit and drink coffee and tea to attract people. The church should be a place of the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. This is what Elisha and his prophets had. They experienced the same problem we did: the place became too small.

Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.”

The sons of the prophets asked Elisha to accompany them. Elisha’s name is another version of ‘Yeshua’, the name of Christ. Elisha was a type of Christ. Through biblical history there were many people who were a type of Christ. Noah – God saved the world through him; Joseph. Every true Christian who is saved from his sins becomes a type of Christ. We thank the Lord that we have among us a man who is also a type of Christ.

The sons of the prophets asked if they could go and Elisha consented. One of them asked Elisha to accompany them. He wanted the man of God to go with them in an ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill weekday. There was a fondness, a mutual love, between the young son of a prophet and Elisha. It was not a formal arrangement between them rather it was like speaking to a father – ‘Won’t you please come with us?’ Do we remember as we go through the day, on ordinary run-of-the-mill days, to ask the Lord Jesus to go with us? They needed Elisha to go with them; they also needed him when an impossible situation presented itself. Friends, we need Christ always. Do we live in communion with Christ every minute of the day, share every experience with Him and ask Him to be with us in those experiences?

The fact that we pray before we drive should not become a dead routine or ritual. Last week while driving from Ballito to the mission, there was a little girl of about 6/7 years next to the road. There was water running down the side of the road. She stood on the tar road, jumped over the stream of water, and ran a few steps up the side of the road. When we were about 10 metres away, she turned around and jumped across the stream and back onto the tar road. If she would have run in front of the car, we would have driven over her. Even though I was driving very slowly I would not have been able to prevent it. My heart stood still for a few seconds. I braked, but even braking would not have stopped the car in time if she had ran into the road. When we arrived home, I prayed and thanked the Lord for being with us as we drove and for the miracle He performed.

In everything we do, think or speak we should ensure that Christ is with us. Then there is something that will protect us and a fellowship we will experience with the Lord.

Let every man take a beam to build a place where the glory of God will be in their midst. Everyone had to get a beam. There were no excuses, ‘I’m not like this, I’m too weak, I can’t carry a beam.’ In God’s word we need everyone to carry a beam. Nobody is too insignificant for God to use in His kingdom. The beams may not be the same. Some may be able to carry thick, big logs; others who are weaker, may carry small beams, but for that person, in his condition, he carries a beam. This one son of the prophet was so keen to be part of that work of God that he borrowed an axe because he did not have one.

Do you know this language, dear friend? You feel that you do not have an axe, but you want to be part of God’s work. You see everybody else put heart, soul and strength into God’s work, and you want to be part of it. Not part of the blessings necessarily, just part of the work. You don’t have an axe but you still want to be part. You don’t have the talents of others, you’re not a good speaker, you feel poor – ‘…but God, allow me to be part of Your work.’

I remember in my first practical year while working in a hospital. I had worked through the night and I was off duty until 11 the following morning. At 10 I listened to a sermon of Rev Stegen and said, ‘Lord, Your work is continuing there. Rev Stegen is preaching. The choir is there. I don’t know what they are doing today. It is 10 in the morning, and I know I am busy with what I’m supposed to be busy with but Lord, is that miracle possible that I can be part of the revival where You are working like that?

This is the type of spirit that son of the prophet had. He did not have an axe but he borrowed one from somewhere. Do you realise that what you have is borrowed from God? It is not your own. Your life is not your own. God has lent you a body for 30, 40, 50, 60 years on earth and He will demand it back from you with what you have done with that body. He has lent you a body that should serve as a temple of the Holy Spirit and the time will come when you must give account of what you did with your body. Is your body, your heart, a temple for the Holy Spirit today? Is it holy? Can the angels fly over your heart and shout ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the God Almighty,’ because He stays in your heart? Or have you begun using your body for your own gain? You use your strength to get qualifications to use for yourself.

When this man chopped with the borrowed axe, the axe head flew off and plunged into the water. He was left with a handle but no head with which to chop the wood. What is the use of having an axe handle without a head? Friends, do you realise how easily this can happen? He tried to chop wood and the next moment there was no head. What was his reaction? He did not look around to see whether anyone saw what had happened. He did not make plans to take another axe head off someone else’s axe and put it on his. There are people with such an attitude. The moment their axe head slips off they look around to see who has seen them. It is not important what God says about the situation, no - they look around to see who has seen them. Friends, and then you make plans to hide the fact that you have an axe without a handle. How many years have you lived on the mission, and you are an absolute hoax. You are only concerned about what people think of you; you just want people to respect you and think a lot of you; you do not realise that you are an axe handle without a head. You think you are part of the group of the sons of the prophets. I do not think there is a greater deception than that and yet people live like that year in and year out.

Do you realise how easily the axe head can slip off? You say something but it comes out differently to how you intended it to come out. It comes out in the wrong way, a hurtful way and your response is, ‘I didn’t mean it like that.’ Friend, you lost the head of your axe with the words you spoke. With those few words you have not just harmed your axe, you have lost the head of your axe. You continue everyday with your work; you justify yourself because you say that you didn’t mean it like that and the people around you don’t realise it. God in heaven says, ‘Your axe head is off. You are, as far as I am concerned, worthless in My Kingdom.’

You may mention something confidential about another person which you know that person would not want others to know. You let it slip out when it should have remained confidential. It has become a gossip. Friends, you have lost the head of your axe. You have shared something confidential which should not have been shared. You think, ‘I didn’t mean it like that, I didn’t want to sit and gossip; it just came out.’ You have lost the head of your axe; it is not just a chip on the handle.

You have a dark eye. The Lord Jesus said the eye is the light of the soul. If your eye is dark, how dark isn’t the soul? The law says, you shouldn’t commit adultery but then the Lord Jesus said that anyone who looked at a woman with lust has committed adultery.

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

Many people think it was said in the Old Testament that you should not commit adultery and in the New Testament the Lord Jesus said that if you do it in your heart, it is the same as if it was done in the body, but the Lord Jesus repeated what was already said in the Old Testament. In the 10 commandments we read: you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (want her, want his servant (male/female), want his ox, want his donkey, or anything that is of your neighbour.) If you covet your neighbour’s wife/husband, you are committing adultery. The Old Testament stated it and the New Testament emphasised it.

Carefully think friends, whether you haven’t lost the axe. You may have thought, ‘What would it be like if my husband died, and I could marry so-and-so? What would it be like if my wife died, and I could marry so-and-so?’ As a man you think, ‘That woman and I fit so well together, where she is strong, I am weak, where I am strong, she is weak.’ You covet another man’s wife or another woman’s husband. Don’t say that I exaggerate if I say you have lost the head of your axe. You are a hoax.

You notice a couple where you think the husband is so clumsy with the children or so hard on them and you think if only I could be her husband I would know how to handle the children, I would be such a blessing to the family. Or you think a wife doesn’t know how to handle her children and if you could marry that man, if God would make it possible, through cancer, you could show that man what a real mother should be like. You have lost the head of your axe because you have coveted. Don’t dismiss it as nothing especially if you let those thoughts run – step 1, step 2, step 3 – this and that will happen, we will do this and that.

You may have acted in a carnal way and lost your temper with someone. You comfort yourself with the thought, ‘After all he needed to hear the truth and let me just tell him the truth for once.’ Yes, you are telling him the truth, but you are doing it carnally and not spiritually. You are doing it in a way that breaks down and does not build up. You have lost the head of your axe.

The man immediately realised the gravity of the situation and shouted, “Alas, my father!” Friends, do you realise the gravity of the sin you are sitting on?

I read Nehemiah 9 and 10 and saw how seriously God took sin. When the Jews returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, Nehemiah discovered that many of the Jews had married Babylonian and heathen wives. We would say, ‘Well, it has happened, what can you do about it?’ What did Nehemiah do? He tore his clothes. He called them together. He grabbed some of the people by their hair and pulled them. ‘No, Nehemiah, you are really carnal now,’ you might say. But Nehemiah was in the spirit because he realised the gravity of the sin. They should not have married the heathen women who brought their idols into the families. He told them to get rid of the wives they had married. Friends, this is what will happen when you realise you have lost your axe head.

Did this prophet try to hide it? No, he cried out loudly in front of everybody, ‘Alas master! And it was borrowed!’ This is how you should react if you are open before God and not a Pharisee. He spilled the beans and told the whole story. He even said that it was borrowed. He cried out immediately.

Often when I have sinned, even before I reach a counsellor, I cry out to God and say, ‘Alas, I have grieved You with what I have done.’ Yes, I will see a counsellor, I am not living before people and trying to please my counsellor, but in the first place I have sinned against God and I cry out, ‘Lord, I have sinned!’ Even if it was just a slip of the tongue, you stumbled, it was an accident.

This man came with good intentions. He was honest before God. He honestly desired to be part of God’s work and then the axe head flew off. Sometimes if we are in God’s work, there is no sin involved; nobody has done anything wrong, I only want to serve Him and God sees my heart, but He allows the axe head to fly off and it seems as if your service to the Lord is of no avail. Nothing can save God’s work. ‘Lord, You know I came with an innocent heart. Lord, You know I want to serve You but I have ended up in a situation where Your work has been harmed and there is a danger that it has been totally destroyed.’ In such situations, do not forget that you serve an omnipotent God who made a piece of iron float on the water. Never lose your faith in the omnipotence of God if you walk blamelessly and honestly before God. This will not happen only sometimes. In God’s work it feels as if it happens all the time. God allows that to happen because He wants you to be totally dependent on Him. You need to realise that as a human being you can do nothing to save God’s work. The devil wants to destroy God’s work and there is nothing you can do about it. The axe head has fallen off - how can you ever repair that? Do not allow the devil to conquer you with unbelief. God can save His work.

This young man immediately called Elisha. Elisha said, ‘Show me where it happened.’ Friend, if you confess your sins, don’t just say, ‘I was jealous. I looked at porn. I had lust in my heart.’ No, Elisha said, ‘Show me exactly where it happened.’ How do you counsel? In your counselling do you say exactly how and where it happened? That is the first step you should take to be saved of your sins. Call a spade a spade. Admit where you have sinned. Do not say, ‘I watched porn.’ Say exactly what you have been looking at and the images you have seen. ‘Where did it fall?’ asked the man of God. That was the first step, but it would not make the axe head float yet. Honesty does not make the axe head float. Something else had to be done to make the axe head float. A piece of wood had to be thrown into the water. That is the way we are saved from our sins - a piece of wood. A man hung on a piece of wood. He paid the price for us to get the axe head back.

In conclusion allow me to relate a story titled The Long Silence
At the end of time, billions of people gathered before God’s throne. Most of them shrank back from the bright light before them but some spoke loudly and heatedly saying, ‘Can God judge us? What does He know about suffering?’

One Jewish girl who had been in a Nazi concentration camp said, ‘He hasn’t endured terror, beatings, torture and death.’ A black slave boy spoke up, pulling down his shirt and showing the marks of the rope on his neck which had burned through his skin. He was caught as a slave and finally killed. Another one was a school girl who said, ‘Why should I suffer, it was not my fault, it is my uncle who molested me.’ Each one had a complaint against God. They said how lucky God was to be in heaven where there was only sweetness and light, no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred. ‘What would God know about the suffering we endured in this world?’ So each of these groups sent their leader to God. The Jewish girl, the slave boy, someone who lost his limbs in the Hiroshima bomb explosion, someone with arthritis who was never without pain.

They got together before God and decided who would take their decision to God. If God had the courage to judge them, they said, He must be sentenced first. He must live on earth like us. The Jewish girl said that He should be born a Jew and suffer like the Jews. Even His death must be shameful. Then he should be given a job so difficult that He would go crazy just thinking about it. Let Him be betrayed by his closest friend, face false charges, and let Him be judged by a jury or judge that is biased and bought over. Let him be found guilty by a judge who is too cowardly to stand for the truth. Let Him be tortured or let Him feel what is like to be terribly alone and then let Him die so that there is no doubt of his death. Let there be a group of witnesses to testify that He is dead.

They stood and waited. A murmur ran through the group. When they made their last claim, there was silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved. All stood dead quiet. For suddenly they realised, they knew that God had already served this sentence.

Friends, this is the price that He paid for you and me to have our axe heads afloat again. He was hung on a piece of wood. He carried our sins. How heavy do your sins appear to you? It could be that your sins are so heavy that you cannot bear them. But if you follow the example of this young son of a prophet you will experience the miracle of God in your life. After he pointed out to Elisha where the axe head fell, we read these amazing words:

And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:7

Friends, the price has been paid. The axe head is floating. God says, ‘Pick it up yourself.’ You need to take the step in faith and pick it up yourself. After you have done this, and confessed your sin, accept God’s forgiveness.

Then we read the most beautiful words of the whole piece. So he reached out his hand and took it. That is all that is necessary this morning, if you have not yet done it. Praise God if you have done it but if you haven’t, the Lord says, ‘Go and pick it up for yourself. Don’t worry, I have paid an impossible price for your axe head to float.’ It does not matter if it seems impossible when you look at your sins. You may think, ‘Others yes, but not my sins Lord.’ God has paid the price to make that float. You must go and pick it up for yourself.

May there be no one this morning who does not take the step, reach out and fetch it for him/herself. Christ has paid the price to make the axe head float. Make it yours so that you can be part of the group of the young prophets, the sons of the prophets, who are building the work of God. Do not allow the devil to tell you that you cannot be one of them. God says, ‘Go and pick it up for yourself and you become part of God’s kingdom.’

Conclusion Jabulani Dube
Do what God has told you to do. This service reminds me of the revival. You did not say, I am troubled by stealing, anger, lust, grudges, you specified where it started, what happened and then we felt free of our sins.

Elisha agreed to go along with the prophets. Would we have done the same? He humbled himself. You might go if you were asked to preach but Elisha was asked to go to the forest where logs were chopped. A parent, preacher, wife should be able to humble him/herself in that way.

The prophet cried out and said, ‘Alas! The axe has been borrowed.’ Elisha asked where it fell. Show me. The prophet showed him. Come to the Lord and say, ‘I look at pictures that are like this and that, I get angry when it is like this or that,’ then you will see the axe head float. If you hit a snake on the head, it dies. Even if it moves it will die. Jesus can hit sin on the head so that it dies. What kind of sin keeps recurring in your life and refuses to die? Bring it to the light so that it can float and die.

I was blessed by the message. I asked myself whether I was the only one experiencing it. I was reminded of Peter’s preaching when the Holy Spirit descended on the people. Is that fire burning in our hearts? When God enters, when the Holy Spirit enters, your heart is on fire, those sins are burnt and God helps you conquer. You have seen the secret today.

Why do you not conquer sin? The prophet said, ‘Show me where the axe head has fallen in. He was troubled because it had been borrowed. Show, say, I am troubled by this and that and bring it all to the light. Girl, mother, boy, father, come and show the Lord what troubles you. The Lord has shown you that you have sinned by speaking in a particular way, go and apologise truthfully so that the axe head can float.

We will not be able to carry the cross standing up straight. We will carry it by bowing. Are we dead to sin? Where have you lost the Lord? Where have you lost the will of the Father? We need to speak for ourselves.

Jesus saw the blind man could not see and He asked him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ Jesus knows our needs. He waits for us to call to Him. The Lord has spoken to us and it is up to us to tell the Lord where we have failed. Be specific. Say where the axe head fell. Why do I get angry? This is where it started. God showed us we need to explain where the sin came from. If you are unable to overcome sin, you do not explain to God where it came from.

You may say to your parent, ‘I am a thief, I steal.’ You need to also explain what you took. ‘I took this on that day because I needed something for this and that which is why I took it.’ This is revival. We are being revived through this service. God is at work, reviving our hearts. We need to live for him. We will still stand before God’s throne and account for our works. Each one will have to explain how he/she behaved while on earth. If you confess your sin, confess the root of it. It is of no use if you have a big tree and you only chop off its branches, you have not dug up the roots. Dig them up so that the tree can die. We live in sin because we do not get to the root of the sin. It is clear when someone has parted from sin. They have received something by the way they behave and speak. The time came where they pointed out where the axe head had fallen in.

Is it possible for iron to float on water? By the power of God that was in the prophet, the word was spoken, and it floated. It calls for you to take a step. We had to go to different homes and towns and make restitution with people. If the Lord does not give you peace, then you realise that what you said was not right.


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