Listen to audio above while following along in the transcript below, which is also available for download in Word at www.biblestudyministriesinc.com
As we look into the word, I remind my heart and yours that we need the Holy Spirit. It’s His book and only He can reveal Christ. I’d like to share a verse before we pray. Psalm 84, the last portion of that verse, “How blessed is the man who trusts in You.” That’s the simple verse. It’s not just, “How blessed is the man who trusts.” It’s the man who trusts in the Lord, because we can trust in our surrender, in our prayer, we can trust in our faith; blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. With that in mind, let’s commit out time to Him.
Father, again we thank You for the privilege to gather in this home. We thank You for the sisters who have opened the home for us. Lord, we ask you now to guide us as we look in Your word, in order to behold the Lord Jesus. I pray that You would deliver me from my own ideas and flesh and blood and protect Your people from anything that’s not from You. We want to be taught of God this morning. Turn our hearts toward the Lord Jesus. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We welcome you again to our fresh look and revelation and discovery of our Lord Jesus. I’ll repeat what I’ve already said; you know we’re studying 1 & 2 Kings, and you know we’re also studying the spiritual history of God’s servants, Elijah and Elisha, but if that’s all we’ve come to see, 2 Kings or the spiritual history of the men of God, our purpose for gathering will be in vain. The purpose is to behold the Lord Jesus. Every time you study the Bible ask the Holy Spirit to put the spotlight on the Son of God. We need to see Jesus. The Bible is a revelation of our Lord Jesus, and in God’s revelation of Himself to us He’s made Christ central in the Godhead, so we need to see the Lord. If we only learn the Bible, the more we learn, the prouder we will become, because knowledge puffs up. We don’t want just knowledge; we want a heart knowledge of our Lord Jesus. So, let’s continue our meditation in that direction.
Let me summarize a little. In our last study we transitioned from the prophet Elijah to the prophet Elisha, and we began our look. Let me sort of summarize what we looked at last time. We began with 1 Kings 19:19, “And so he departed from there and found Elisha, son of Japheth, and while he was plowing with the twelve pair of oxen before him, he with the twelve, Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantel on him.” That was Elisha’s call, and the mantel which we tried to show you, symbolizes the life of God, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, that was on him. Elisha’s response to the mantel on him, his proper response was an immediate, thorough surrender. When the mantel is on us, the only proper response is a total surrender, full unqualified surrender to the Lord. That was illustrated, because immediately he kissed his family goodbye, and he immediately burned up that which represented his past employment, and with great joy he threw a banquet, a party to celebrate, “The Lord has called me.” It was such a blessing to him. So, a surrender, a yielding without turning back, that’s how it began. According to the record, that’s how it was for the next six years, or seven years, depending upon how you read it, even more than that.
He was the faithful servant of Elijah during that time. Listen to the last part of 2 Kings 3:11, “Elisha, the son of Japheth is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.” That expression “pouring water on the hands of Elisha” is just a way to say, “He was a humble servant.” Whatever Elijah needed, he was there, and they travelled together.
I’m not suggesting at all in those years of total surrender that God never used him. He was serving the people of God, and he was serving Elijah, but we call that ministry, or the main flow of God’s redemptive purposes, that had not yet begun for Elijah. He had come, the mantel was on him, and he was totally surrendered, and he lived that way for years, but his real ministry had not begun. Those were years of preparation, as he observed the life and ministry and the Lord working through Elijah.
When we closed our meditation last time, we saw what we called final preparation. This time the mantel was not on him, but the mantel was in his hand. He took hold of that which represents the life and Spirit of God. 2 Kings 2:13&14, “He took up the mantel of Elijah that fell from him, and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan, and he took the mantel of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And when he had also struck the waters, they were divided here and there, and Elisha crossed over.” Again, the mantel signifies, pictures the Spirit of God, as Jesus in His ascension sent down the Holy Spirit, picturing that, Elijah in his ascension dropped the mantel. That mantel is an apt picture of the Life of God.
When it was on him, his response was surrender, but now it’s in his hand, and what is the response? His response is not, “I will surrender more,” but he took it up and his response is, “I will now appropriate His life.” There’s a big difference and a large step, brothers and sisters in Christ, between me surrendering me, or me appropriating Him. It’s my life surrendered, or His life appropriated, and he had his grasp now on the Lord. For Elisha that was the beginning, the start of his ministry. The proof of that preparation came when by the mantel he was able to cross the Jordan River. He needed to get to the other side, and he couldn’t swim across, and there were no boats or barges to get across, and no raft, and there was not bridge, so listen to verse 14, “He took the mantel of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And when they struck the waters, they were divided here and there, and Elisha crossed over. That for Elisha was the first evidence of his new experience, the life of God.
When a person, man, woman, young person, a child of God lays hold of the Lord, then there’s going to be an opening of the way. There’s going to be a crossing over and a new beginning, and there’s going to be a removing of that which pictures a hindrance. That Jordan River was an obstacle that was in the way, but there’s no obstacle to the life of the Lord. He can open and no man can shut. That was not an obstacle. So, crossing the Jordan was Elisha’s first taste of his miracle life, but it was not the first taste of his ministry. That’s what we’re going to look at today, his early ministry, the beginning of his ministry. We’ll look at his ministry at Jericho. I was planning to look at his ministry at Jericho and Bethel, but too much happened at Jericho, and I’d be keeping you too long. We’re only going to look at Jericho.
You remember when Elijah walked his last mile with Elisha by his side, the route that they took to get to the Jordan. They visited the schools of the prophets on the way. At first, they went to Gilgal, 2 Kings 2:1, “It came about when the Lord was about to take Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal,” and from there they went to Bethel. 2 Kings 2:2, “’Elisha, stay here, please; the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel,’ but Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So, they went to Bethel.” From Bethel they went to Jericho, 2 Kings 2:4, “Elijah said, ‘Elisha, please stay here; the Lord sent me to Jericho,’ but he said, ‘As the Lord lives, as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So, they came to Jericho.” That’s the path they took: Gilgal, Bethel and Jericho. Now we’re going to go in reverse Jericho/Jordan, Jordan/Jerichol. It’s the exact same path but in reverse.
His early ministry, then, began after he crossed the Jordan at Jericho. After we look at that early ministry, I already told you we’d come to see Jesus, and you didn’t come to see the ministry of Elisha. We’re going to see that, but then, because of that ministry, the Holy Spirit puts a special light on the Lord Jesus. So, what is the revelation of Christ illustrated by Elisha’s ministry at Jericho? That’s where we’re heading, and that’s where we’ll end up. That’s what we want to see. First, we’re going to look at this ministry at Jericho. Before we actually begin the ministry at Jericho, I want to make one comment. I’m going to put Jericho and Bethel together, and I want to do an overview of both ministries, and call attention to an observation we already made when we studied the life of Elijah. After that general observation, we’ll come back and just look at Jericho and some of the details, and then, of course, how our Lord Jesus is revealed.
Let me remind you of the principle that we saw some weeks ago when we looked at Elijah. It was illustrated in the story when Elijah called down fire from heaven, 2 kings 1:9&10, “The king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty, and he went up to him and behold he was sitting on top of the hill, and he said to him, ‘Oh man of God, the king says, “Come down,”” and Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” If you remember the story, it was repeated again, because the king sent another group of fifty to arrest him. But the third time was different, 2 Kings 1:14, “’Behold a fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifty, but now let my life be precious in your sight.’ And the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him, and do not be afraid of him.’” So, on the third fifty Elijah showed great compassion and great mercy as he was guided of the Lord. At that time I pointed out that the man or woman of God that God uses will always have a double ministry; sometimes it will be positive, illustrated by having mercy and compassion, and sometimes it will be negative, illustrated by calling fire down from heaven.
At that time we looked at Micah, and I want to show you that one more time, Micah 5:7&8, “The remnant,” and that’s you and me, those who seek the Lord, the generation of those that seek His face, “of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on vegetation.” That’s very precious, isn’t it? I want to be used like dew, like showers on vegetation. But look at verse 8, “The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, among the people like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep, which if he passes through, tramples down and tears and there’s none to rescue. So, our life will be a blessing, and our life sometimes will be very negative. The New Testament words that truth this way, 2 Corinthians 2:14, “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. We are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one, an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” It’s the same message, and sometimes it melts and sometimes it hardens. It’s the same message. The reason I call attention to that is because Elisha in his early ministry tastes and begins to experience that principle.
At Jericho, 2 Kings 2:20, he said, “’Bring me a new jar and put salt in it.’ So, they brought it to him, and he went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I’ve purified these waters. There shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.”’” We’ll look at that story, but it was a blessing. The spring was foul; it was polluted, and God used Elisha to sweeten and purify the water. That was at Jericho.
It was different when he went to Bethel, 2 Kings 2:23, “And he went up from there to Bethel, and as he was going by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up you baldhead; go up you baldhead,’ and when he looked behind him, he saw them and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.” That’s not very positive. That’s pretty negative, and then he went into Bethel. Wouldn’t you think that after having all those people killed, that they would not be happy with him? I’ll tell you, though, when there is fire in the sky and bears in the woods, they’re going to honor God’s people, and that’s what they did.
Anyway, let me give the truth from God’s side. In time, and by that I’m contrasting it with eternity, while you are alive rather than after you’re dead and live, in time, when God smites, when He uses a negative ministry, it is always, without exception, redemptive. Every time God calls you to be negative, if He’s calling you to that, it’s going to be redemptive. That’s not the case after death. When God smites after death, that’s eternal and that’s very scary, actually and not redemptive. In this life when God uses you as a lion or a bear, it’s redemptive. Let me give a couple of passages. I love Isaiah 19:22 in this regard, “The Lord will strike Egypt, striking but healing, so they will return to the Lord. He’ll respond to them and he’ll heal them.” Just that expression “striking but healing”, and KJV says, “smiting but healing,” God smites in order to heal. That’s why He does the negative. Sometimes He has to bring people pretty low, and He has to smite them, but it’s always redemptive.
You are probably familiar with that group of psalms which we call the imprecatory psalms. What that means is, when you pray against the enemy. Those psalms are, sometimes you wonder, boy it seems like they are full of animosity and vindictiveness and hate and vengeance, but they aren’t at all. Listen to one of the imprecatory psalms, Psalm 83:15&16, “Pursue them with Your tempest, terrify them with Your storm, fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, oh Lord.” Why does He do it? It’s that they will turn around and repent and come back to the Lord. Verse 17&18 in the same chapter, “Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the most high over all the earth.” Every time you saw a plague in Egypt, it was followed by, “in order that you might know…” That’s the reason He smites.
So, if God calls you to a negative ministry, an uncomfortable confrontation that you have to make with some other Christian, a rugged stand you may have to take on some truth of God, someone teases you for being a fanatic and you have to take an uncompromising stand on something to them seems trivial, don’t be afraid to do it. Let the Lord work through you positively, and let Him be dew through you, refreshing showers on vegetation, but also, don’t be afraid to be a lion and be a bear and take a rugged stand; it’s redemptive, it’s for them. When you recoil at that, you can find yourself working at cross purposes with the Lord. So, we need to be sensitive to the Lord. That was Elisha’s first taste of ministry. One minute he’s positive and healing a spring, and the next minute bears are coming out of the woods tearing people up.
There are two Jericho stories. We’re going to Jericho now, and there are two stories in Jericho; one was the sons of the prophets searching for the prophet Elijah, and the other one was the healing of the spring that was polluted. Each contains a principle of ministry. We’ll look at the story, the principle of ministry, and then together that points to Christ, and that’s what we want to see. Let’s look together at Elisha’s ministry in Jericho.
We know that some of the sons of prophets from Jericho were watching from a distance when Elijah was caught up to heaven. 2 Kings 2:7, “Fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan.” So, they were watching from a distance what was going to happen. They knew he was going to be taken; they had an advance knowledge of that, but what did they see? They’re looking from a distance. What did they see? Did they see the same thing Elisha saw? Listen to verse 11&12, “As they were going along and talking, behold there appeared a chariot of fire, horses of fire which separated the two of them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it and cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen,’ and he saw Elijah no more.”
Remember, he was promised a blessing, a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, if he would stay focused, if he could see what was actually happening, and he did stay focused, and he saw what took place. The Lord in a chariot of fire took his servant to heaven. That’s what Elisha saw. What did the fifty men standing on the other side of the Jordan see from a distance see? They didn’t see what Elijah saw. Verse 11, “Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.” They saw a whirlwind. They saw a tornado. They saw something natural come and separate them. They didn’t see the fiery chariot. They just saw the whirlwind, and that’s why they wanted to search for him. 2 Kings 2:16, “They said, ‘Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please, let them go search for your master.”
Before we continue the Elisha story, let me draw a practical observation from this. Many, even Christians, even some instructed Christians make the mistake that the fifty prophets who saw from a distance made. When a loved one is carried away, forget the chariot, when a loved one dies, when you are separated from them – it could be a wife or it could be a husband or it could be a child or a grandchild or some relative or some friend – when a loved one dies, we need to heed the advice that Elijah gave to Elisha, “You’ve asked a hard thing. If you see me when I’m taken, it shall be so for you. If not, it shall not be so.” We need to focus when someone dies on what’s really happening. When our loved one who is a believer, a Christian, dies, the Lord is calling that person to heaven, to glory, and we need to see that by faith, but sometimes we can get distracted and just see the whirlwind and just see the tornado, the wind that comes and turns the house upside down, that makes a mess and leaves everything in shambles. If all you see when your loved one departs is the whirlwind, if you just see the pain that they’re going through and the suffering that they’re going through and the agony, and all you see is the whirlwind, when they’re gone you’re going to be broken hearted and confused, and you’re going to feel alone and you might even hold the love of the Lord in suspicion, “Why did You allow this loved one to go?” You’ll have a difficult time adjusting and processing and, “Why at this time did God take my loved one?” May God give you and me vision and focus when a loved one goes; look at what’s really happening. That person is being carried by the Lord to heaven. The Lord Jesus said, “If you love Me, you would rejoice because I’m going to the Father,” and if you loved that loved one, you would rejoice because they’re going to the Father in the Father’s house. I just wanted to make that little application.
So, the sons of the prophets just saw the storm and just saw the whirlwind. Verse 16, “Behold, there are with your servants fifty strong men; please let them go search for the master.” Remember that the only information they were given is that Elijah would be taken. They were not informed that he would be taken in death. All they knew is he would be taken, so when they wanted to search, did they hope to find him alive? Is that why they wanted to search? We read, remember Obadiah in the Elijah story? 1 Kings 18:12, “It will come about when I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you where I do not know, and when I come to tell Ahab that he cannot find you, he’ll kill me.” They believed that the Spirit of the Lord could carry you away, and he said, “I’m afraid that’s going to happen.”
Literally, in the New Testament we have that, don’t we? In Acts 8:39, “When they came up out of the water,” this is Phillip and the eunuch, “the Spirit of the Lord snatched Phillip away and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing, but Phillip found himself at Azotus.” So, it’s possible. My own guess is that they were not expecting to find him alive because of what they said. I think they were looking for his body. As the mantel fell from heaven, so they expected the body to fall from heaven. Verse 16, “Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him out and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.” That’s what they said, I don’t think they expected to find him alive. I’m not going to argue about that. I think they just wanted to give him a proper burial and to honor him. They thought it would be dishonoring to have that body of such a man eaten by birds of prey and that kind of thing, and other animals. When they said, “Perhaps the Spirit of God threw him on a mountain or in a valley, I don’t think they had a bad view that the Spirit of God was cruel. I think they were trying to be spiritual. They saw the whirlwind, and I think they’re just trying to say, “Of course, God is behind everything, and maybe the Spirit of God just allowed that to happen.” I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that.
The Holy Spirit calls attention to two characteristics of those sons of Israel. I want to focus on that for a moment. #1 They seem to glory in the physical strength. In verse 16, “Behold, there are with your servants fifty strong men.” In other words, we can make the hike and we can go up the mountain; we’re in good shape, we can go in the valley. The Septuagint, are you familiar with that? That’s the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In the Septuagint on that verse it says, “Maybe he’s in the valley and maybe the Spirit threw him on the mountain,” and it adds, “or in the river Jordan.” “Maybe he’s in the river; we’ve got to go check the sides of the river.” Anyway, they’re claiming that they are in good shape to do that. #2 I already mentioned, they were living and operating by sight. They saw the whirlwind. They didn’t see what spiritually took place. When you put those two things together, looking at physical strength and living by sight, you can see the ministry Elisha needs to have, because they’re trusting their own selves, and they’re trusting vision, their natural sight.
There was a back and forth when they said, “Let us go,” and Elisha said, “Don’t go,” and they said, “Let us go,” and in the original Hebrew it’s that they kept going, that was back and forth, “Please let us go,” “No, you can’t go,” “Please let us go,” “No, you can’t go,” “Please let us go,” “No, you can’t go,” until it came to this, verse 17, “And when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, ‘Send.’” What does it mean that they pressured him until he was ashamed? Did Elijah cave in? Did Elijah give into high pressure? Did he compromise? What was he ashamed of? What does that mean? Does he think that if I don’t let them go, they might have bad thoughts about me? We don’t know what was going through his mind. God doesn’t tell us. Did he think maybe, “What if they are thinking that we’ll find him alive, and now I’m taking his place and I’m the new prophet, and maybe they’ll think I don’t want to find him alive and I like this idea of being the new prophet.” Did that go through his mind? Or, “Are you afraid if we find him alive you’re going to have to return the mantel?” We don’t know what they were thinking.
That’s not what it means when it says that he was ashamed. Let me quote a scripture that uses the very same Hebrew word. It’s Psalm 69:5&6, “Oh God, it is You who knows my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You. Let those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, oh Lord of hosts.” Let me use myself as an example, and the possibility is there because we’re human. If I take my eyes off the Lord, I can do anything an unsaved person can do, and so can you. If I publicly fell from the Lord…. You’ve been coming to these studies, and I’m supposedly the instrument of teaching, and if I publicly fell into some sin, would you be ashamed? See, the same word for shame can be translated as disappointed. If I fell from the Lord, I’m sure everybody in this room would be terribly disappointed because of the testimony that would have been broken. I think that it’s in that sense that they insisted on going out based on their strength and their eyesight, “We’ll go,” I think Elisha was terribly disappointed. He was trying to get them to live by faith, to walk by faith, and they insisted in going by sight. They trusted their muscles and they trusted their eyesight and they persisted.
2 Kings 2:17, “They sent, therefore, fifty men. They searched three days but did not find it. They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho and he said to them, ‘Did I not say to you, “Do not go.”? That’s not the same as “in your face”, “I told you. You should have listened.” It’s not that at all, but there’s just some people, and in an early ministry that had to be disappointing. There are just some people that insist, and they will not be satisfied until they fail. They are going to try it their way and do it their way, and they’re going to come back, and the man of God is disappointed and says, “I told you; you should have trusted the Lord.”
That was the first message that Elisha had to the children of Jericho, “Don’t trust your physical strength and don’t trust your eyesight; trust the Lord.” Looking at it from his standpoint, if you want to take the word “shame” to mean “ashamed”, he may have been ashamed in the sense of embarrassed that he couldn’t convince them. In other words, he had the power to open the river that has no will, and now he comes to a people with a will and he can’t convince them. He could have been embarrassed thinking sort of like the blind man that was healed, born blind, and he just couldn’t understand these Pharisees, “Why can’t you get it? I was blind and now I see. I don’t understand why you don’t see it.” Maybe Elisha expected that kind of a response, “Now I have the Life of God, and I’ll go and share it and they’ll accept it,” and they don’t, and they just insist on sight.
Looking at it from their standpoint, I think he was terribly disappointed that they insisted on that which would end in futility, by looking with the eyes of nature. His body was not going to be found, not on the mountains, not in the valley, and not in the river Jordan and not anywhere on earth; he was in the presence of the Lord in heaven. So, the first principle is Elisha’s appeal to faith.
Let’s look for a moment at the second ministry he had in verses 19-22, “Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Behold now, the situation of the city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful. Bring me a new jar and put salt in it.’ So, they brought it to him and he went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I have purified these waters. There shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.”’ So, the waters have been purified to this day according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.”
Verse 19 begins with the words, “The men of the city came..” There’s a good chance these were not the same sons of the prophets. It looks like the men of the city were the authorities of the cities, the rulers, the politicians, the ruling class. The problem in the city was the water supply. It’s a graphic picture, verse 19,”To the eyes it was pleasant,” but underneath it was corrupt and polluted. Jericho was a pleasant place. It was perpetual summer there. That’s where you’d go if you were a snowbird in that area. You would go to Jericho. It was a beautiful situation, the palm trees and you could look over to the mountains of Judea which were 3500 feet above. It was just a beautiful place to go, but the problem was that everything was miscarrying. In other words, the trees would bud and blossom and then they would rot. There was no fruit. It looks good and it starts good, but it just miscarries. That was the problem they had.
What happened? Some people think it went back to the curse that Joshua put on anybody who would build Jericho. Joshua 6:26, “Joshua made them take an oath at that time saying, “Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho.” Obviously, it had been rebuilt because that’s where we’re talking about. “With the loss of the firstborn he shall lay it’s foundation and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up the gates.” That was a curse. They did rebuild it by a man whose name was Hiel and you can read about that in 1 Kings 16, and as they began, his son died, and when they ended, his youngest son died. So, the curse was literally fulfilled. Something was foul in the water and some think that curse was included, and that’s why it was foul. I wonder if Hiel would have rebuilt Jerusalem, he did it at great cost, his two sons, but if he had known the water was no good, I don’t think he would have tried to rebuild. Something was foul.
It wasn’t like what happened in Palestine, Ohio, with the train wreck and thirty-five hundred fish were killed because of chemicals in the water. There was nothing like that, but it’s implied the foul water was a judgment of God on sin. When we go back to these places, Gilgal, Bethel, don’t forget these are lands of idolatry and Baal worship and they’re not looking to the Lord and the people of Jericho were wicked people. In that connection listen to Psalm 107:33, “He changes rivers into a wilderness, springs of water into a thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salt waste because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.” I assume the water was foul because they were sinful, and God was smiting in order to bless.
Anyway, Elisha did a symbolic act. What he did was parabolic; it was a parable, a parable to show God’s heart forever. That is, the way to deal with pollution is to go to the source, to the spring. Publicly he asked for a new cruse and to put salt in it. Why a new cruse and why salt? I think because there’s going to be a symbolic act here, they carry a spiritual truth. When God wanted something to be sanctified and set aside for His use, even the vessels in the temple, you couldn’t have a bowl that was used for something else; it had to be new. I think because God is about to do something spiritual, He didn’t want to have it been corrupted by something worldly.
So, get a new cruse and put salt in it. Why salt? Some say, “Well, salt prevents corruption.” Well, that’s true if you put it on a dead fish, but if you put it in water, you don’t drink salt water. Salt makes it brackish; salt makes it worse. Others think it had to do with what the Bible calls the salt covenant. Are you familiar with that? I’m not going to get into that, but I’ll tell you, the Bible talks about the salt covenant, and there are three of them. God made a salt covenant with His people, Israel, and God made a salt covenant with the priesthood, and God made a salt covenant with the house of David. If you ate in my house and there was salt on the food, I’m obligated to protect you forever. That’s the idea of the salt covenant. While you are under my roof, you have my protection. If it means I have to lose my wife and I have to lose my kids, lose my own life, I will protect you because there is a salt covenant. Some of the commentaries relate that to the salt covenant. I don’t see it there. I think it’s a little fanciful, so I’m not going to do that. I think the spiritual principle is this symbolic action, verse 21, “He went out to the spring water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I’ve purified these waters.”’
I think the salt was sort of like, remember when Jesus healed the blind man? He always healed the blind differently, never did it the same way. One time he used spittle and clay, made mud and put it in the eye. Is mud a good thing for giving you sight, mud in the eye? I think that was just to show that it was the Lord and not the instrument. I think the salt was the same. It’s not the instrument. It’s the Lord that’s going to do that. So, he threw it in the spring. There were creeks and brooks and stuff; he didn’t throw it in the brook, he didn’t throw it in the stream, he didn’t throw it in the creek. He said, “We’ve got to go to the spring, to the source.” As he tried to get Jericho to live by faith, now he’s trying to teach them, “If you’re going to deal with pollution, you have to get to the source.” That was the parable, that purification comes by getting to the source, and we’ll see that later when they need to deal with Baal and idolatry and all of that. It’s an important lesson, even for us. It’s so easy and we are so apt to chop weeds off at the surface and not deal with the source. There are roots, and we’ve got to deal with the source. The problem is me, the problem is always me; I’ve got to reckon myself dead. It’s got to deal with the source.
Watchman Nee gives a wonderful illustration in one of his writings of this. He was talking about a drunkard who was longing to be delivered from drink, and the way he did it was that he kept smashing liquor bottles. Watchman Nee said, “It might have been better to deal with the factory, than to keep smashing liquor bottles, because you keep breaking the bottles and they keep producing more.” I think our nation has not yet learned that lesson at the border, because we’re intercepting fentanyl and opiates and destroying it. I read that last year they seized 11,000 pounds of that stuff. I think they need to deal with the cartels and the factories and get to the source.
I’ve never been to the Holy Land? Have you been to Jericho? I read this. You tell me if it’s true. When you go on these tours and they stop at places of attraction, there’s a place outside Jericho, they say, a spring, and it’s named “Elisha’s Spring”. Did you experience that? I read it and I don’t know if it’s true. Anyway, the ministry of Elisha was to live by faith and get to the source of the problem, but now as we get ready to close, what is the distinctive revelation of our Lord Jesus in that early ministry of Elisha? I want to start by calling attention to faith. Elijah lived by faith, but Elijah could not pass that faith onto Elisha. You can’t pass that on to your neighbor or anybody in your family. When Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantel, now he has the Life of God in his hand. 2 Kings 2:13, “He took the mantel of Elijah.” Let me just say as an example, let’s say he took that mantel and threw it over his shoulder and started walking toward the Jordan river, would the Jordan river open up? He’s got that which symbolizes the Spirit of God on his shoulder. I’m suggesting that it’s no; if he started to get into the Jordan, he’d get wet and he’d have to come out again or start swimming. What we read in verse 14, “He took the mantel of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And when he struck the water, they were divided here and there.” Until he struck the water, holding the mantel is one thing, but using it is another. I think all Christians have the Spirit of God, but not all Christians know how to live by faith and apply that. So, faith is a big deal here. Until he struck the waters, that obstacle was still in the front. There was a block, a hindrance. Striking the water was by faith.
It’s like Moses when he stretched out the rod over the Red Sea, and then the way opened up. Just so, the salt that was put into the spring was an act of faith, and it’s Elisha’s attempt to dissuade the sons of the prophets from their search committee, appealing to faith. Up until this time the ministry was all about faith, but now we’re getting close to the revelation of the Lord. Is faith the main message? Was it faith that opened the Jordan? Was it the mantel that opened the Jordan? 2 Kings 2:14, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” It was the Lord and not the mantel. It was the Lord and not Elijah’s faith. Elisha had as much now of the God of Elijah on earth that Elijah had of the God of Elijah, now that he’s in heaven. Was it the salt that healed Jericho’s waters? Was it Elisha’s faith that healed Jericho’s waters? 2 Kings 2:21, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified the waters.’” It was the Lord that purified the water.
The point is that faith needs an object. The revelation of Christ is Christ is the object of faith. We’re not called to have faith in our faith. Actually, faith is the most unreliable object that you can ever have. We began this lesson by quoting Psalm 84:12, “How blessed is the man who trusts in You.” It’s the object of faith. Many Christians are faith-centered. You’ll hear somebody say, “Oh, please pray for me. You have such faith. I wish I had faith like you. You’ve got so much faith and it’s so wonderful.” Then they pray, “Lord, increase my faith and make my faith stronger, and make it bigger and make it larger. I want to be rich in faith. If I had more faith, I could have victory. If I had more faith, I could understand the Bible. If I had more faith, I could be healed. If I’m not healed, it’s because I don’t have enough faith. If I had more faith, I could have more peace. If I had more faith, I could move mountains and I could walk on water. What I need is more faith.”
No, it’s not faith. Faith needs an object. What are you trusting? I weigh around 205 now. If I walked on ice that could hold only 85 pounds, but I’m going to trust the Lord to get across, the ice will only hold 85 pounds and I weigh 205, how much faith would I need to cross that ice? None; it won’t work. All the faith in the world wouldn’t help me because my object is ice, thin ice. If I have ice that will only hold 85 pounds, all the faith in the world is not going to get me across, no matter how much I pray or trusted the Lord.
Why am I calling attention to this? It’s because I want to call attention to the only object of faith. Faith is only as strong as the object of faith. If a chair or a bridge could only hold a certain weight, all the faith in the world isn’t going to help if I tried to sit on it. Who is Christ? The answer is that He’s the object of faith. That’s why it doesn’t take a lot of faith, and that’s why your faith can be the size of a mustard seed. Why? It’s because of the object; Christ is so great that a little tiny faith lays hold of a great big Christ, and that’s the message, that Christ is the object of faith.
Let me give a closing illustration based on Colossians 2:6, “Therefore, as you’ve received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him.” In other words, it’ll never be harder to walk in the Lord than it was when you first trusted the Lord. I’m going to give an illustration. I want you to picture a room filled with obstacles. It could be stones, it could be bricks, it could be a chair, it could be a table. It’s filled with obstacles, and the room is large; it’s a great, big room, and it’s totally dark, absolutely black, and on the floor are also marbles and other things like that. You are called to walk through that dark room filled with obstacles. How do you think you would do? Do you think you might stumble, might trip, might fall, or might bump into something? What if you turned the switch on and all of a sudden, the light filled the whole room, the whole room filled with light, and you could see the obstacles? Now you could navigate your way through. You could step over them, you could walk around them, you could get by without tripping and falling.
Suppose another day comes and you find yourself in a season or in another room or situation and it seems all dark, and there are obstacles all around, the same kind of obstacles, and you know you’ve got to walk through. So, you start, and you hit a marble and you’re down. Then you get up and you bump into a chair. You say, “Wait, I remember, a switch. I turn on the light.” Was it any harder the second time? Did it take more effort to turn on the light? That’s faith. It’s not going to grow. You are just going to use it more, and you are going to rise up and use it sooner, before you start tripping and falling down all over the place. It’s faith with a history. You need faith with a history. It’s not going to get any harder. It’s always the same, trust Jesus, “As you receive Christ, so walk.” It’s that simple, and it will never get harder. “Oh, with all these obstacles it’s going to be so hard to trust Jesus this time.” It’s exactly the same. It never gets harder.
I don’t know if you know this, but my eyesight is not great. In fact, my eyesight is pretty bad. I don’t have bifocals. I have another kind; there’s more than “bi”, there’s more than two. When I first got these glasses, I’m telling you, I couldn’t move and couldn’t walk. I almost fell down the stairs because I couldn’t see, until I learned to stop looking at my glasses and start looking through them. That makes a difference. I was looking for the lines and trying to walk looking at my glasses. Don’t look at faith; look through it to the Lord Jesus Christ. He IS the object of faith. So, this is Elisha’s ministry. His ministry is to turn people to faith rather than sight and strength; it’s to get people to get to source of the problem and get people to see the object of their faith, and not at all rely on faith. Next time we’ll take Elisha’s hand and go to Bethel where the bears are. Let’s pray together.
Father, thank You for Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for Your precious word. Thank You for the simplicity of it, that a little child can understand it. We pray that You would write indelibly into our hearts these great truths, that we might learn to live by faith, that we might always know that You purify the source, and that we might know that You are the object of our trust. Work this in us we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.