Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He found her out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland. He threw His arms around her, lavished attention on her, guarding her as the apple of his eye. He was like an eagle hovering over its nest, overshadowing its young, then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air, teaching them to fly.”
Deuteronomy 32: 10, 11
The Message Bible
“When God brings any of His children into a position of unparalleled difficulty, they may always count upon Him to deliver them.”
From the Song of Victory
“When God puts a burden upon you He puts His own arm underneath.”
Charles H. Spurgeon
Today’s Study Text:
“And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried, and said, ‘Alas, master! For it was borrowed.’”
II Kings 6: 4,5 K.J.V.
“5 Big Lessons From One Little Iron Axe”
Lesson 4 “Honesty”
Definition of Honesty: The quality of being filled with integrity and sincerity. Truthful. Upright.
“A straight line is shortest in morals as well as in geometry.” I. Rahel
When I have “borrowed” something in my life, how have I handled what was “borrowed”?
What does the student’s response to the possibility of losing the “borrowed” axe teach me as I live in the 21st century?
“One’s mere word should be as trustworthy as a signed agreement attested by legal witnesses.”
“Even when we think no one is watching, we must be faithful to live for Him, in His way and His light.”
Rebecca St. James (2008)
It was what we might call a “work bee.” One of those times when all the students at the School of the Prophets refrained from study and instead, took time to cut down pieces of timber and ready them to be used as walls and covering for a space that would provide a larger area to handle the growing needs of the students and the school.
I can only imagine that since these young men were not likely of great wealth, it would not have been easy for each student to have individually, purchased their own axe. It is possible that the students didn’t need an axe of their own at this time in life. I’ll never forget a few winters ago when we had a terrible snowstorm in our city. Unlike most winters when the snowfall is what I like to refer to as a powdered-sugar covering we ended up with 18 inches of snow in eighteen hours. We couldn’t get our car out of the garage and all the paths away from the house were piled high with drifts of snow. Having what I thought to be was a bright idea, I called our local Ace Hardware Store to inquire if they had snow shovels for sale. In the midst of a great deal of laughter, the sales person informed me that they normally had only 3 shovels in stock at any given time. And then he continued by telling me that, “Those three shovels had sold out long ago. There’s nothing here to help you,” he said. Thankfully, it was a next-door neighbor, who had moved here from the Midwest and was used to a lot more snow than we ever get, who kindly loaned me the implement I needed to clear at least a little path that got me outside to the street. And when I finished with his snow shovel, I returned it, happy that what I needed was made available.
It was this experience that got me to thinking about how I would have felt if I had been in the place of the students at the School of the Prophets and I wanted to be part of the team assisting in the building project. What if I didn’t have an axe? I hadn’t ever needed to own one or more likely, I simply didn’t have the funds to purchase one. So without hesitation, maybe one of my friends loaned me theirs after they cut down a beam. Or possibly a local family offered the use of their axe.
Whatever the case, the Bible tells us the axe was borrowed and without a moment’s notice, that “axe head fell into the water.” The interesting thing about this story is that you don’t hear the student making some excuse like, “It was an old axe.” Or you don’t hear him saying, “It wasn’t my fault that it broke.”
Instead, this distraught young man cried out to Elisha, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” In other words, “It wasn’t mine. Someone lent it to me but I am responsible for it.”
It isn’t often in this day and age when people take responsibility for what happens, especially if the end result does not turn out to be totally positive. So often all you hear is, “It’s not my fault!” And at the foundation of the blame game or the inability to say, “I made a mistake,” is the quality of honesty – telling the truth. Admitting you made a mistake. Or accepting the responsibility for the end result.
I want to go back to the comments Matthew Henry penned on the book of II Kings. The preface to the second volume of his work, containing this particular story, was written in 1708. Now I’m not going to jump to the conclusion that the ethical standard of behavior in the 1700’s was higher than in 2013, but let’s just say, I don’t think societies’ moral aptitude has taken a turn for the better in the last 300 years. This is why I find it interesting to read the way Henry chooses to describe this situation. Here’s his Godly take on the problem of the broken axe head:
“These were honest men. Men that were in care to give all men their own. When one of them, accidently fetching a fierce stroke, threw off his axe-head into the water, he did not say, ‘It was a mischance, and who can help it? It was the fault of the axe, and the owner deserves to stand the loss.’ No, he cries out with deep concern ‘Alas, Master! For it was borrowed.’ Had the axe been his own, it would only have troubled him that he could not be further serviceable to his brethren; but now, besides that, it troubles him that he cannot be just to the owner, to whom he ought to be not only just but grateful. We ought to be as careful of that which is borrowed as of that which is our own, that it receive no damage, because we must love our neighbor as ourselves and do as we would be done by. It is likely this prophet was poor, and had not the wherewithal to pay for the axe, which made the loss of it so much the greater trouble. To those that have an honest mind the sorest grievance of poverty is not so much their own want as their being by it rendered unable to pay their just debts.”
I want to highlight several vital points made in these words written so long ago.
Henry begins his comments, underscoring the fact that these were honest men. Behaving honestly wasn’t something people just talked about, it was a core value of their life that was incorporated into everything they did as well as the work they undertook. It meant something to be honest. Your word was worth gold. I long for a time like that again when we know that those we interact with in home life, business, and even church duties, are people who value being honest.
It was the quality of honesty, so deeply woven into the character of the young people at the school which was reflected in their behavior and as we see, if something was borrowed, it was treated with care for if the axe head had been your own, you would not want it to be used in an ill fashion. I can relate to this thought for both Jim and I grew up in families who lacked the resources to purchase a home and so for many years of our lives, we lived in “rented” homes – call them “borrowed” homes if you will. We both still talk about the care our parents instilled in us as a daily necessity to take care of what belonged to someone else with the same care we would show to something we owned. I can still remember moving out of one house and hearing the landlord tell my dad that “the place sure looked better when we left than when we moved in.” I can tell you, nothing made my dad happier than to hear that from the man he “borrowed” the house from for a year.
And finally, Matthew Henry even tackles the tough subject of finding yourself in severe financial straits and not only wanting to pay your bills but feeling badly when you can’t. I would like to add an observation that has really hit home with me during the past eight years here in Transformation Garden as I have, daily, read every prayer request that has come to the Garden. Not once in all these years, did anyone suffering under the hand of tough financial burdens say, “I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me. I’m just going to leave these bills for somebody else to figure out.” Instead, just the opposite has happened as person after person has conveyed the deep pain they feel as they work as hard as they can or search for any job possible, attempting to get themselves out from under the weight of the financial crisis that has hit their life like a tidal wave. And since no one says this, I will. In many cases, as I have read these stories, I find that the situations so many are in, were not even of their own making but often were the result of unforeseen circumstances or even crooked acts of human evil perpetrated upon them.
And yet, even with the weight of all these outside burdens that have broken the “axe head” so to speak, and caused such distress, those who desire to be honest in all they do will cry out to our Master for help when the worst happens.
The axe head broke and fell into the water – and it was borrowed. What, I ask, would you have done? How would you have responded? I love the words written by Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use…When you are in trouble, why do you not tell Him all your grief?...Do not lament your weakness. He is your strength. Why not lean upon Him?...There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show of Him and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious will He be to us.”
Today, why not call out, “Alas, Master! I need Your help.” That’s just being honest with your Heavenly Master.
“Honesty, or dishonesty, is shown in every little act of life.”
Mabel Hale (1922)
“Almighty God who hast sent the Spirit of truth unto us to guide us into all truth; so rule our lives by Thy power that we may be truthful in thought and word and deed. May no fear or hope ever make us false in at or speech; cast out from us whatsoever loveth or maketh a lie, and bring us all into the perfect freedom of Thy truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Brooke Foss Westcott (1824-1901)
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. During the coming weeks, gifts which are sent to Transformation Garden will help us honor requests for God’s Word, as shared through our bookmarks, with God’s children in India, Russia, Pakistan, Australia and here in the United States in women’s prisons and for Domestic Abuse Shelters. I thank you so much for the gifts you have chosen to send – Praise God! Your generosity is helping us share God’s Word in countries where the bookmarks are accepted as beautiful artwork but they carry the message of God’s saving grace. Thank you again!!
My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-349-8619.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.