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“When Ax Heads Float” (2 Kings 6:1-7)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Perhaps one of the most famous prophets in all of the Old Testament is the prophet Elijah. He was a major part of my favorite Old Testament story, the showdown on Mt. Carmel.

However, as wonderful as Elijah was, the prophet who followed him actually had a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. That prophet’s name was Elisha. Let me tell you, Elisha was very special, and he had some weird stories.

Today, we’re going to learn about one of the weird stories from the ministry of Elisha. Before we do, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.


Well, today’s sermon is entitled “When Ax Heads Float.”

In case you didn’t know, iron ax heads are not supposed to float. However, in today’s passage, we’re going to see that sometimes they do float.

Let’s look at 2 Kings 6:1-7:

1 The sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Please notice that the place where we live under your supervision is too small for us. 2 Please let us go to the Jordan where we can each get a log and can build ourselves a place to live there.”

“Go,” he said.

3 Then one said, “Please come with your servants.”

“I’ll come,” he answered.

4 So he went with them, and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Oh, my master, it was borrowed!”

6 Then the man of God asked, “Where did it fall?”

When he showed him the place, the man of God cut a piece of wood, threw it there, and made the iron float. 7 Then he said, “Pick it up.” So he reached out and took it.

Ok, let’s learn some more about Elisha and about this story.

First, let’s realize that . . .

‌I. Elisha was God’s servant.

Elisha is perhaps one of the most underrated prophets of the Old Testament.

He had some amazing miracles and stories associated with him. Some of these stories include:

Parting the Jordan River.

Purifying contaminated the water.

Producing endless oil for a widow to sell.

Raising a dead boy back to life.

Multiplying bread.

Healing a man named Naaman of leprosy.

And, one of my favorites: cursing some young boys who were making fun of his baldness. Let’s read about that one.

Look at 2 Kings 2:23-24

“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, chanting, “Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the children.”

I mean, this could be a sermon in the weird stories series for sure. However, this was one of many signs that Elisha was God’s anointed servant.

In fact, (as I said earlier) Elisha was given a double portion of the spirit that his predecessor, Elijah, had.

Listen to what 2 Kings 2:9-13 says about this: “When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken from you.’ So Elisha answered, ‘Please, let me inherit two shares of your spirit.’ Elijah replied, ‘You have asked for something difficult. If you see me being taken from you, you will have it. If not, you won’t.’ As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire with horses of fire suddenly appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went up into heaven in the whirlwind. As Elisha watched, he kept crying out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ When he could see him no longer, he took hold of his own clothes, tore them in two, picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.”

So, we see the evidence here that Elisha received two shares, or double, of the spirit of Elijah. Elijah had a special anointing from God, and Elisha apparently had twice that!

That brings us back to our story today about the floating ax head.

We have this miraculous event where an ax head goes crashing into the river, and Elisha causes it to float supernaturally.

By the way, some people have tried to discount this story by saying that the ax head was perhaps in a shallow part of the river, or that Elisha used a stick to drag if off the bottom of the river. That is not at all how the story reads.

Listen, folks: ax heads don’t float, they sink. They’re really good at sinking. The fact that this ax head floated is weird and unnatural. In fact, it is supernatural.

This story, though weird, very clearly points to a miracle by Elisha, the servant of God.

So, back in our weird story, we have this group of men called “the sons of the prophets.”

The sons of the prophets were likely a group of young men who were training under Elisha to become prophets.

Elisha served as a prophet for 60 years, so he had some experience. Remember, he trained under Elijah, and now he is training others.

Elisha was an influential prophet, who not only performed miracles, but was consulted by multiple kings for spiritual advice.

Elisha was an ideal man to learn from to be a prophet. However, there was one problem: they were cramped for space.

In verse 1, the sons of the prophets say to Elisha, “Please notice that the place where we live under your supervision is too small for us.”

If you get too many young men crowded together, it can be a problem, and it was starting to become a problem for the sons of the prophets.

So, Elisha allows them to carry out this plan. Notice in verse 3 that they say, “Please come with your servants.”

I imagine that Elisha was a good man to have around. He could cleanse water, he could multiply bread, he could cleanse leprosy, he could sic a couple of bears on disrespectful children. So, they asked him to come along, and he did so.

Now, I have an ax here that has a head on it that’s a bit loose. If I were to swing this a few times toward the congregation, that ax head may just come off. Some of you may not like that too much. I really need to get a new handle for the ax.

Perhaps the ax this man was swinging had the same problem. No matter the cause, the effect was that this man lost the head of the ax. What made it especially terrible was that it was a borrowed ax. Anyone worth any good, knows that you don’t bring a borrowed tool back to someone when it’s broken, unless you do so with a handful of cash also.

So, there’s a problem here. Don’t you know, church, that our God is a problem solver?

He’s a waymaker, He’s a miracle worker, and He’s a problem solver.

Now, God is most concerned with the big problem of our sin; He wants to fix that problem, and He’s done so through Jesus. However, this story is what I call one of those “cherry on top” miracles. In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether that ax head gets found or not. It may matter for that man, but it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of eternity. However, God is sort of just putting the cherry on top by showing how wonderful He is.

All these young men got to witness God work a miracle through His servant, as Elisha threw a piece of wood in the river and that iron ax head floated.

Not only did the man get the borrowed ax head back, but God demonstrated His power through Elisha, the man of God.

That brings us to our second point:

‌II. God can do wonders through His servant.

God did many things through His servants all throughout the Bible. He did great things through Elijah, He did great things through Elisha, and He did great things through others as well.

What’s wonderful is that this power is not just limited to the Old Testament prophets.

God is still working miracles today.

God still heals others through our prayers.

God still encourages others through our love.

God still brings clarity to confusion by providing His wisdom.

God still provides through the generosity of His people.

God still blesses through loving churches.

God still saves through the proclamation of the gospel.

God still restores churches through the faithfulness of those who won’t give up on the idea of a thriving biblical church.

God is still using His servants to work miracles.

God wants to use you as His servant to do great things!

Now, you might say, “Surely you don’t mean me, Pastor Matt? I’m nothing like Elisha.”

Listen to me: Elisha was not what made Elisha special (he was a weird bald guy). God is who made Elisha special.

By the way, we still serve the same special God today!

Jesus said in John 14:12, “Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these.”

Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you . . .”

Paul said in Philippians 4:13, “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”

Acts 4:13 says the community around the apostles reacted this way: “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

Church, God can accomplish wonders through His servants, by His power, and for His glory.

God can heal the hurting, God can feed the hungry, God can save the lost, and so much more, through you, His servant.

That takes us to our bottom line:

‌Bottom Line: The person of God can be used to do the work of God.

Elisha was the man of God. He was used by God because he was devoted to God and anointed by God.

Let’s go back to 2 Kings, when Elijah handed off his ministry to Elisha. Look at verses 12-15:

“As Elisha watched, he kept crying out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ When he could see him no longer, he took hold of his own clothes, tore them in two, picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle Elijah had dropped, and he struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’ he asked. He struck the water himself, and it parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over. When the sons of the prophets from Jericho who were observing saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ They came to meet him and bowed down to the ground in front of him.”

You see, church: Elisha realized that Elijah was gone. He knew that it was his turn to be used by God, so he picked up Elijah’s mantle (which was like a cloak or cape), and he got busy with the work of the Lord.

In these days, God still works through people, and it’s people like you and people like me.

God is still using His servants. Is He using you? Will you pick up the mantle and be used as a servant of God?

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Determine if you are a servant of God.

Do you belong to God? Are you committed to Him?

Elisha was committed to God. What about you? Can you say, “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give?”

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Determine if you can be used of God.

Do you believe that God can use you?

Do you believe the words of Philippians 2:13, which say, “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose.”

Determine if you can be used of God. God’s Word says that He can use you. Do you believe the Word of God?

You might not make an ax float, but you just might be used by God to do something even greater.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

Response Song – Living Hope

(Announcements – Richard)

(Giving emphasis)


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