“The men of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” “Bring me a new bowl, ” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 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.'” And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.” II Kings 2:19-22
At first glance, like many such accounts in the Bible, this story seems to be very strange to our human understanding. But there is a message here to us from God, as there is in all the scriptures. Think of your life as a town, as land and as a river, as water flowing toward its destination.
“The town is well situated….” Everything else in our lives seems to be alright on the outside. Appearances can be deceiving. We may dress well, tithe, go to church, have Bible studies, give to the poor, invite folks over, have a good job, and even smile at the little children; (I smiled at a little kid one time as he was walking down the sidewalk to go into a gas station and said, “hi there!” He got the most serious look on his face I’ve ever seen and said as he was staring down at his feet, “I know what to do, don’t talk to strangers!”). Long ago I knew a couple that seemed, “to have it made.” They both had good jobs, enough money to go on vacations and have the things they wanted. They would always say good-bye at the beginning of the day on their front porch and greet each other at the end of the day with a kiss. One day the guy informed me his wife left him that she had found someone “better” at work. You would never have know anything at all was wrong in their lives. They were “well-situated.” Sometimes you and I may have a pretty good life for the most part, but deep down something may be wrong, tilted, out of sync ever so slightly. There is a spiritual problem. There is “bitter or bad water.” Water represents the spirit – the life of the spirit. Man can go quite awhile without food, but not without water.
All living things must have water. In Genesis chapter two, there was a river in the Garden of Eden which watered the garden. It was clear, fresh, unpolluted, good, pure. It was from God. The last book of the Bible, Revelation also mentions a river.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:1-2
“They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” Psalm 26:8-9
These verses speak to us of the abundant life that God gives to those who believe in Him, as Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and that abundantly.”
In Exodus chapter seven, God turned the Nile river into blood. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile. To them it was the source of life itself in a land void of water. They used it for drinking, bathing, watering crops to grow food, to cool down and so forth. When God struck the Nile, he struck to the core of their spirituality which was idolatrous. The Nile turned to blood. Like a cut artery, it signified the deadness, filth, poison and stench of their spiritual life, a life without God. They sincerely thought they were worshipping God alright. Contrast this picture with the spiritual life of God as mentioned earlier. His wisdom which is described in James as pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial, and sincere. These qualities then, ought to characterize the spiritual lives of you and me. God’s life giving spiritual water is first of all clear as crystal.
Notice also that the river of God mentioned in Revelation is also deep. There is a depth, a clarity, a purity about a true believer in Christ. No matter how we decorate the façade on the outside, God is concerned and always has been about the inside.
The river flows. God’s spirit life is abundant, it is rich, it is clear as crystal, it is active. It is moving, cascading at times like a mountain stream. It is not stagnant like the waters of a cistern or a mud puddle. His life is always working in ours, changing us, molding us, making us to be like His son Jeus Christ. When God finds some stagnant water collecting all kinds of impurities in our lives, He moves those things out of our lives. Sometimes we try to hold on to that old stale, muddy water. I wonder why when God wants to replace it with the fresh, clear, clean, pure wisdom from above. Scripture says this “water of life” flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb Himself.
The Bible also says that the “River of God” flows down the middle of the great street of the city of God. Can you imagine such a street? Imagine if you can the magnitude of this great city, that a river of such beauty and majesty would flow down its center. There is meaning even in this. God’s life-giving spirit is at the center of all life. We would shrivel-up and die like an old yellow leaf which has fallen from the branch without it.
This life-giving water is the Lord’s to give. Do you want it? Like a little child asking his parents for a drink, why don’t you ask God to give you the water of His life-giving spirit through Christ. He is more than willing.
The men of the city told the prophet Elisha that the water was bad and because of it, the land was unproductive. What about your land? Your life? Is it unproductive? Are you bearing fruit for the Lord in your life? Or is there some “bad water” inside, hindering the production of fruit in your life? In the book of James, chapter 3, beginning with verse thirteen, we are warned of a wisdom, of “bad water” that is unspiritual, of the devil. Notice that James is talking to believers here. It is quite possible for believers to get out of the life of the spirit of God, to get side-tracked, deceived. It is possible for them to get out of the deep flow of God’s tender, loving spirit-life.
When the prophet added salt to the poor water, it was healed, made better again, made productive. This is what God intended all along, for the land to bear fruit, just as he has intended for each of our lives. Some of us allow old habits, bad attitudes, spiritual problems of all kinds to hinder our relationship with God. There is a progression of events in II Kings. First of all the men of the city noticed they had a problem, they had “bad water” (a spiritual problem), otherwise they had a fairly good thing going. Next, they listened to the prophet and did what the man of God told them to do. He didn’t ask them for something they could not give. The solution was simple trust, faith and obedience to God. They didn’t argue with him or demand a more complex answer of him. They didn’t blame Elisha for the bad water problem, nor did they ignore him. They knew he had power with God, that God used him to accomplish His work on earth. They were blessed as a result.
Elisha took action by both doing something and saying something. He threw the salt into the water. But he knew that the salt had no spiritual or powerful quality in itself, but that only God could miraculously heal the water which led to what he did next – he said something. He prophesied; he prayed to God; he spoke in the name and the power of the Lord over the water problem. Elisha used salt symbolically. Jesus called his followers “the salt of the earth.” Salt symbolized hospitality, durability and purity. To eat bread and salt together was to make a pact of friendship and trust. Followers of the Lord then ought to be the best of the earth because of Christ in us. We ought to preserve the earth by our presence here. If we have bad water in our lives, wisdom from below not from above, we must pray and ask God to change our hearts. God healed the bitter waters. It is His problem ultimately and He wants to heal us if only we will acknowledge our problem and ask him to do so. He wants our lives to be productive and bear spiritual fruit.
Will you drink from the river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God?
“The spirit and the Bride say, come!” And let him who hears say, come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17