Sunday, July 18, 2010

The improbability of the floating iron and the inevitableness of freedom.

2 Kings 6.5-7
“ 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.
And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.”

The sons of the prophets spoke to Elisha and stated that the place they were was too crowded. (Greek: tsar tsar.. tsar tsawr) It is written in this scripture as ‘strait.’ The Greek word is interpreted in other passages to mean: narrow, close, distresses, small, and other meanings. We are closed in, they were saying. We are too close. We are troubled by this narrowness. The word has connotations to an adversarial relationship. It is much akin to what we call ‘cabin fever.’ We bite the head off of those around us for the slightest irritation. The sons said, “It is too close here and we need to stretch out.”

It was decided that they would go to Jordan. Every man would fell a tree and take a beam. They would build a place with the wood collected by the sons. As they went and began felling trees, one began to cry out. Let’s look at some pertinent facts presented by this passage of scripture:
· The axe head was no longer on the handle
· The axe head was in the water
· It could be seen
· It could not be reached
· It was borrowed
· The stick was cut down from a live tree
· It was cast into the water
· By an act of the prophet it was brought into reach

The head of the axe was useful as long as it was attached to the handle. It could have uses being not connected. It could be a paperweight. It could do very limited work. However, for the axe head to do the work for which it was intended, it was necessary for it to be connected to the handle. The handle gave it support, direction, power, force, and helped it fulfill its designed purpose.

How like the Child of God that is. We can live an entire life working and doing work, but until we are connected to God, we will never reach our divine purpose, nor will we fulfill our designed intent. Ecclesiastes 12.13 tells us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Man was created to fear (yare) God and keep (shamar) his commandment.
Yare: to fear, revere, respect
Shamar: to keep, to hedge, to guard, to protect, to attend to
We were created to make the choice to revere God and to protect his commandments. That is the duty of man. Now, I am not talking about just keeping the Ten Commandments. I am not talking about keeping the 613 laws in the Law of Moses. Of the 613 laws, 365 of “do not’ laws and 248 were “do” laws. Jesus, when asked which of the commandments was most important, responded thusly:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When we are connected to the power, we can do all these things, and more. It is when we ‘fly off the handle’ that we get into trouble. It is when we become disconnected from the source that we falter and fail.

When we get loose, we get lost.

While that is good stuff, it is not the analogy upon which I want to focus.

I want to look at that axe head. I want to talk about salvation.

I was 17 and a freshman at the University of Kentucky. I was getting ready to leave the house one morning for class, when a car pulled into the drive. I was sitting on the steps putting on my shoes. Two ladies got out of the car and began to walk toward the house. Mom came out on the porch. Before they even got to the porch they were talking. “What religion are you?” one of them asked mom. Without batting an eye, mom responded, “I don’t claim religion, I claim salvation.” Before that day, I never considered the difference between religion and salvation. It seemed to me they were synonymous. One was just the same as the other. Boy, was I wrong.

Religion (and I am not teaching against having it) is a set of guidelines that define an individual based on a predetermined set of rules and boundaries. Religion is the lumping together of individuals into groups to make them easier to identify. One will say, “I am Methodist.” Another will say, “I am Lutheran.” While others believers will claim to be Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals, Apostolics, or Catholics. Religion is the constraints. Salvation is the freedom. Christ did not come to bring us religion. When He came, the world was full of religion. He came to bring us salvation.

He fulfilled the law. He set at liberty the captives. He broke the yoke of religion. He came to give us freedom. Some will use freedom as an excuse to sin. Some will use that freedom as an occasion to do the wrong thing. These acts do not diminish that freedom. Those that commit atrocities in the name of religion and call it salvation will never drown the cry of freedom in the blood of those that seek it.

Let’s look at salvation and this axe head.

· Borrowed
The son of the prophet borrowed an axe. He did not have one of his own. He did not buy one. One could surmise from this that it was beyond his ability to purchase. If he could buy one, he would have. If he had not, when the borrowed one was lost, he could replace it. Instead, he cried out. The axe was beyond his ability to acquire.

If one could purchase salvation, what would be the price? How many of us could pay it when Jesus told a rich young ruler that he had to sell all he had to obtain it. If there was a price tag on salvation, most of us would never come close to buying it.

· Out of reach
It was beyond his reach. If he could reach it, there would be no need to alert the prophet or to cry out.

Salvation (the hope of mankind) was beyond our reach. God said that our ‘righteousness’ was as filthy rags. No matter how high we would jump, it was still out of our reach. Innocence was not enough. It failed. Conscience was not enough. It failed. Human Government was not enough. It failed. Judges were not enough. They failed. The Law was not enough. It failed. While each dispensation had its moment of triumph, each eventually fell into apostasy and judgment. The wherewithal to bring man into the right fellowship with God was out of the reach of man.

· The Branch
The Prophet cut a stick (branch) from a tree. Isaiah called Jesus a branch. Jesus was a branch from the tree of humanity.

Isaiah tells us: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:” Several of the most underused parts of scriptures are what many call the ‘begats’. In 1 Chronicles, and then again in the first chapter of Matthew, are genealogies. They trace the lineage of families. Matthew 1.17 says, “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.” Matthew goes on to say, “Now, the birth of Jesus was on this wise..”

While we may get lost in the ‘begats’, it is imperative that the lineage be substantiated. Every person following after the birth of Abraham are called the sons of Abraham. Those in that lineage following after the branch of the birth of David are called the sons of David. Jesus’ lineage can be traced back through to David, and farther back to Abraham. His pedigree is right. He is the branch from the root of Jesse.

Isaiah 53.1-3
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

· Cast into the stream
Jesus was cut down and cast into the stream. He came to his own and his own received his not. He came to give His life on Calvary. Every action in his life was a stepping stone to bring him to that place. Never before nor since has any one life had such singularity of purpose. He was the Lamb, slain from the foundation of the earth. From time with neither beginning nor end, He had this purpose.

Of the Passover, a lamb of the flock was taken on the tenth day and killed on the fourteenth day. The lamb had to be out of the flock. It was not a stranger to the flock. It was not a stray. It was a purposeful lamb. It was to be a male without blemish. It was to be killed and its blood swabbed on the upper doorpost and the side posts. The whole assembly of the congregation of Israel was to kill the lamb in the same evening.

In Matthew, chapter 27, verse 25, “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” The chief priests persuaded the mob, the congregation of Israel, to ask for the death of that precious spotless lamb. We esteemed him not. Jesus came, lived, and died as foretold. He was the branch cut from the tree thrown into the waters of the stream.

· The Miracle
The axe head floated to the surface. It came into reach. The son of the prophet reached forth his hand and took the axe head from the waters.

With His sacrifice, the veil in the temple was rent in two. No longer did the priest have to intervene in the sins of the individual. Freedom had come to the world. Every man can now reach Salvation. Eleven times in the New Testament, the phrase, “Whosoever will” begins a statement about serving or following Christ. These two words have great meaning. One is the great uniter and the other is the great divider.

WHOSOEVER: That is you. That is me. That is every person living in this world since the day of Pentecost. It unites us all into one great congregation. It includes the believer, the agnostic, and the atheist. It includes every sectionalized group of every religion. We, humanity, are whosoever. It is everyone to whom salvation is available.

WILL: This is the great divider. While salvation is available and free to everyone, everyone will not avail themselves of this gift. The reasons are as vast as the number that will turn away. “I have bought a piece of land and must go see it.” “I have bought a team of oxen and must go prove it.” I have married a wife and therefore cannot come.

Still …
That which was previously unobtainable became obtainable. That which was previously unreachable came within reach.

It was improbable. There was no cause to believe that the iron would float. Yet, a cry and a sacrifice, and that thing which was lost forever, was found.

It is inevitable. As you struggle in this life, it will pass by you. Whether you are at the top of your game or living at the bottom of the barrel, it will come to you. Freedom will pass by you. It will be improbable. It will be like that floating iron. However, it will be inevitable. It is something that will come to every man. Everyone will, at some time in their life, come to the place, where freedom will be within their grasp. They will make a decision that will change the course of their lives. Choose freedom. Choose salvation.

You may say, “I am a free man or woman.” While, I live in a free country, I can be in bondage. The Word tells us that ‘all have sinned.’

John 8:30-34
As he spake these words, many believed on him.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

The reminder about ‘eth’ applies here. The suffix ‘eth’ in the Bible represents a continual action. Where the Word tells us, ‘he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’; it is telling us those that believe continually, will be saved. Conversely, John here tells us that the person that continues to sin remains the servant (in bondage) to sin.

The call to freedom may not come in the form of a man preaching a sermon. It may come in a still small voice. It may come in the counsel of a friend. It may come in the words of a stranger. There is no predetermined fashion in which you will arrive at your moment of decision. Do not be so deluded that you miss the calling by looking for the call in only one fashion. For all it may or not be, one thing is definite; it will be from God and you will know it when it comes.

I cannot tell you the day or the hour that God may call on you. It could be in your youth. It could be in your teens. It could be in you early adulthood. It might be in your midlife. It may even come when you are old. What is inevitable is that at some point in your life, you will come to that point. Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock. You will come to that door one day. Many of us are given multiple opportunities to answer that call.

Freedom, however improbable, will inevitably come to your door.

How will you answer?

How will you respond?

Will you reach out and take it or will you turn away?

If it hasn’t already, freedom is coming.

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