2 Kings 2:19—22
As we begin a look at this miracle, we need to understand why the water was bad in the first place. To do that, we need to understand that at this time in Hebrew history, the city of Jericho had been living under a divine judgment since the days of Joshua.
At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is anyone who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26)
Just like our sin-cursed world, Jericho’s curse could only be lifted by the sacrifice of a first-born. All the wealth and collected wisdom of the town fathers could not remove this “plague of bitter waters.” The same is true of the sinful condition of mankind: all the wisdom, wealth, and schemes of man cannot change his sinful state one iota. The nature of sin is what it is and there is nothing any human being can do about it apart from Jesus Christ.
The desperate need of Jericho represents the desperate need of every life lived apart from Jesus Christ: divine healing.
1. The sad condition
The state of Jericho can be viewed in two different aspects:
(a) It was pleasant, verse 9a.
“Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see…”
Looking at Jericho from the outside, from a distance, everything looked good. The town was in a good location. The soil was rich in possibilities. The climate was perfect. The city was well-built and beautiful to look at.
What a picture of a person without Jesus Christ who may have everything else going for them! A person without God in his life may have success, prosperity, a measure of joy and happiness, friends and all things this world may have to offer. Imagine that kind of life. We all know somebody who, at least as far as we can tell from the outside, from a distance, who “has it all.” Yet, “having it all” is not enough.
(b) The ground was barren, verse 9b.
“…but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”
The people of Jericho worked and worked that land but to no avail. No matter what they did, the land yielded exactly nothing. The problem, though, wasn’t the land or the growing conditions, it was the water; the water was bad. The people were treating the symptom but ignoring the source of the problem.
Here is another sad portrait of a person without Christ. They continually “kick against the goad,” trying to get what they cannot have with out God. These people may do all the right things by the reckoning of man, but their problem is not what they are doing, it’s what they have failed to do: seek the healing of their sin-sick hearts. Those without Christ become experts at treating the symptoms; symptoms like a bad marriage, financial problems, family tension, job dissatisfaction, alcoholism, emotion distress, etc. These same people have failed to see their real problem: they need a relationship with Jesus Christ!
The fruit of joy and peace cannot grow in a patch of weeds and thistles; the state of the human heart without God.
Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3:11)
The answer to James’ question is, naturally, no. Bad water will always flow from a bad heart. Nothing clean can come from something unclean.
2. The cure
(a) Its nature, verse 20.
“Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.
This new bowl is really a picture of the New Testament, with Jesus Christ as the Salt of salvation. In Elisha’s work or restoration, the salt represents the healing power of God. Praise God, to this very day, that salt has never lost its savor!
(b) Its application, verse 21.
Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’”
Elisha went right to source in order to heal the water. He did not try to heal the ground or heal the streams or the bodies of water around Jericho, he went right to source of the bad water. The salt could not work its miracle until it came in contact with the spring that fed the streams around the city. The salt in the bowl did nothing for anybody. Elisha needed to exert an effort; he needed to find the source of the problem and he needed to throw the salt into it.
Nobody can make themselves righteous or holy by doing “good things.” Nobody can make their life right before man without letting God make their heart right before Him. Trying to work your way into heaven would be like Elisha trying to purify a stream while the spring was still spewing forth the bitter water! That would be a waste of time and effort.
It is not Jesus Christ in the Bible that saves, it is Jesus Christ in your heart that saves. Just as Elisha cast his salt into the spring, dealing with the source of the bitter water, so our Lord case salt into the spring of life when He told Nicodemus: You must be born again.
Mark 9:50 makes it plain:
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
3. The results
(a) The healing, verse 22.
And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
The streams around Jericho, the streams that irrigated the land, were healed, and they remained healed. It the heart is healed, the life will be healed, also. Make the soul healthy, and the spirit will be healthy. Only the Good Physician can do that.
When Jesus Christ comes into a life, He heals it completely and forever. The presence of the Jesus Christ in a person’s life changes everything about that person.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The streams that surrounded Jericho still looked the same after they were healed, but they were as different as night is from day! Once they killed, now they brought life. A person who is born again may look the same, but once he was dead, now he is alive! For the first time in his life, he is fully alive.
(b) The land became fruitful, verse 21b.
…Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.
The the land that just a day before was poisonous and barren, the next day was perfect for growing crops in. The water that just one day earlier was bitter and unusable, the next day was cold and clean and pure. If this is what the power of God could do to a spring of water, imagine what He can do with a life that is turned over to Him! God can transform any life into something pure and useful. He can turn a sinner from one who is dead into a one who not only lives but is able to help others to live.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)
When we are in Christ, we bear the best kind of fruit! Fruit is more than the result of what we do, though. A barren heart will make a barren heart. A life with Christ in it will produce other lives with Christ in them.
Salvation is contagious! The power of God is explosive. When the spring changed, all the water changed. When your life is changed by the power of God, other lives will be changed, as you live in obedience to Him.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:38)