The Iron Made to Swim

2 Kings 6:1‑7  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
This is a simple, domestic scene, and yet, according to the same wondrous ways of Elisha, calculated again to call the doings of the Lord Himself to mind. For whether it be Peter, or the iron, that stands on the face of the waters, both are equally contrary to nature. Neither is there any natural alliance between the cause and the effect, between the casting in of a stick, and the swimming of the iron, as there was none afterward between the putting clay on the eyes and the restoring of sight. It is neither the skill of the workman nor the fitness of the instrument that is to be considered, but the excellency of the power of God. How natural and easy was the behavior of our prophet here! In a moment he is one of a company that are busied about the simplest domestic concern. The great Apostle of the Gentiles would gather sticks to help to make up the fire; and the Lord of prophets and apostles, even after He had risen from the dead, would get ready the dinner on the seashore! And yet what august power lay in their hands all the while. The Apostle shakes a venomous beast into the very fire he was kindling, and the *prophet makes the iron head of the ax to swim on the face of the water! Oh, the beautiful, godlike condescension of real power!
But I read another lesson here.
It has been observed, I believe, that properly speaking, there is “nothing either great or little with God”—His nature opposes the thought. That may be so. But we are less able to infer consequences or truths from God’s nature than from His revelation. Indeed, we dare not assume to know His nature, but from His revelation. From His revelation, however, we are led, in some sense, to see this to be a truth:there is nothing either great or little with Him.
We may trace some expressions of this in all His ways.
At creation, so to illustrate it, the wing of an insect was framed with the same care as the heavens or the earth. The small and the great, in that way, then stood before Him.
In settling the nation of Israel, protection for the roofs of the houses by battlements, lest blood should be shed, was ascertained by a divine oracle, with as full and clear decision as the services of the sanctuary or the allotments of the tribes.
Jesus, in His ministry, would take the little children in His arms, as He would His most honored disciples up to the mount of glory. This was still of the same character.
So, in feeding and ordering the churches afterward—the details between men and women, old and young, with other relations, are attended to by the same Spirit, who was at the same time revealing mysteries kept secret from the foundation of the world. He gives directions about taking a little wine for the stomach’s sake, as He would unfold the inheritance of the Father of glory in the saints.
And it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, in this equal care about the great and the little things, which has especially dwelt on my heart at this time. For though His due, yea, and happy work, is to take of the things of the Father and of Christ, and to show them to us, still He turns to matters of discipline for the comfort of the weakest of us. And is not this done, to speak after the manner of men, at some personal cost? “Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, to go to be promoted over the trees?” The blessed Spirit’s joy is to deal with Jesus. But in His grace, He consents to deal with all the possible exigencies of the saints.
And thus indeed it is: Whether the divine action be in creation, in providence, or in redemption,—whether it be in Israel or in the churches; whether dispensationally it be the Father, the Lord, or the Holy Spirit, still we see the big and little equally the care of God—the great and the small standing alike before Him—as we read again and again in the Apocalypse.
This is to be observed also in more private actings of our God. By His prophet (as we have it in this passage) he will raise an ax’s head from the water, because the recollection that it was borrowed was distressing the mind of one of the prophet’s companions. So the Lord (as another once observed) encourages His people to pray that “their flight might not be in the winter,” simply, of course, because flight in that season would be the more uneasy and difficult; thus showing His care about the most ordinary conveniences of His saints, as well as about their troubles and anxieties. The little scene in this passage, as I have said, is one illustration of this.
And what is all this? It is not merely the condescension of power, though that is beautiful, but the grace of benevolence. It is because these little things concern our comfort and present well-being, that they are thus waited on. And we, in our measure, should be imitators of this. It may not be the delight of the spiritual, nay, it cannot, to forsake the sweetness and good fruit of the doctrine of the Father and of Christ, for matters touching the discipline of the saints—to be promoted over such thorns and briars as they are—but still, this pattern of divine benevolence, which thus parcels itself out on things, be they great or small, provided they do but concern others, puts it upon us as our duty: “Be ye imitators of God,” it is written, “as dear children.” “Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”