“The people 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 pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.”(NIV)
It is easy to draw a parallel between this Biblical story and modern headlines about Flint, Michigan. Unlike our modern society (in the U.S.), however, the people of Jericho in 2 Kings 2:19-22 live in an agricultural society. This means that they are farmers. Farmers are responsible for cultivating land, planting seeds, watering the seeds, managing the growth, harvesting what is grown, and repeating that process time and again. If they do not, they don’t eat. With this as the background, what is told to Elisha in verse 19 is about as worse as it can possibly get.
They explain that they are “well situated” but “the water is bad” and “the land is unproductive.” When we compare this to Flint or any city or country, this becomes contradictory. Traditionally civilization has been built along bodies of water, with the Great Nile in Egypt being a prime example. Even the geography of New York, both the island of Manhattan and the rest of the boroughs, is largely responsible for the success and prominence the city grew to have and enjoy, as the de facto capital city of the world. Water was a part of the foundation for that. But, I’ll end the history lesson here and get back to the point. How can they be well situated with a poor water supply that is not only causing sickness, death, and infertility when it is consumed, but also destroys the possibility of the seeds they have planted to growing into the food society needs. In short, they are on their way to a famine in the land.
How can such an incredibly bad situation also be a good position to be in?
I believe this scripture reveals that answer to us in two distinct ways.
1) When we are faced with bad, unproductive, and seemingly hopeless situations, we should exercise the faith that the people of Jericho display. They go to the source that can do something about their problem. Elisha is the prophet, the go between for the people and God. Nowadays we don’t need a go between because Jesus tore the veil once and for all when he gave his life on Cavalry. We can often practice “spiritual procrastination” by going to other people and other sources first, or by simply not going to God when we know the “He” is the only one with the solution to our issues. We should prioritize The Lord first, and when we do we will discover or rediscover that God is the first and last stop on our list of people and things to turn to when faced with challenges.
I believe that one of the reasons we spiritually procrastinate in going to God is because we understand that there will also be something required of us. And, this leads to the second thing.
2) When faced with a bad, unproductive, and seemingly hopeless situation, we would save ourselves a lot of trouble if we were only obedient to the instructions that we are given. The people of Jericho diagnose the problem, go to the source that they know can do something about it, and then they receive instructions from that source. Elisha tells them to, “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” We are then told that they comply with what he instructed them to do.
I think it is important to highlight the fact that he told them to bring him a new bowl. That language is intentional. We try to bring the same old tired stuff into new seasons of life. God wants to do a new thing in our lives, but we want to hold on to the old thing. we want to hold on to what worked before. We want to hold on to who we used to be. We want to hold on to how things were, misremembering that they were so great. We are called to new life in Jesus, which means that we must be obedient to The Lord’s call to do a new thing.
Their faith displayed when they go to the source of their potential breakthrough, deliverance, and salvation, and their obedience displayed when they follow the instructions Elisha gives them, was the spark behind this turnaround. It was the spark.
Ultimately, the water was not healed by Elisha’s or the people’s actions alone. The water was healed because God showed up and moved in a miraculous way to turn their situation around. “He” heard their cries and rewarded their obedience! Then it hit me. The reason they were in a good position even though the situation was so bad and unproductive is because God will take that/those bad and unproductive thing(s) to perform the transformational miracle in your life that you so desperately need!