Summary: Elisha and the poluted Water at Jericho
Jericho had been destroyed by the Lord when Israel first entered the Holy Land, Joshua 6, and it had been placed under a curse:
Jos 6:26 Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.”
It had been rebuilt only shortly before the story we have read
1 Kings 16: 34 In his (Ahab’s) days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
Jericho was a lovely place to live. The climate was good and the ground was fertile. There was only one slight problem – there was no water! Or, more precisely what there was polluted and apparently made the area around barren and possibly caused the animals and women to miscarry. This picture reminds me of our western world today, even in a time of recession. We are well provided for by science and commerce. Most of us have more than enough to eat and drink. We live in comfort – even luxury compared to people of Old Testament times or those in the 3rd world today. We are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, though you would not think so from our complaints!
Yet despite this plenty there is barrenness – spiritually speaking. Men and women are searching desperately for something to satisfy them – a meaning to life. They are spiritually thirsty yet though they drink deeply of human religions, riches, power, sex etc. they can never live, spiritually, for they are drinking from a polluted, toxic, spring. Even the Church is barren. Our spiritual lives are shallow and we see more miscarriages than new-births. Even the hardy perennials are wilting and turning yellow for lack of pure water. It sometimes seems that only the most prickly cacti have survived!
What did Elisha do when confronted with this problem of pollution and barrenness? He threw salt into the spring. It was a strange thing to do – especially if, as is likely, the problem was that the water was brackish – ie it contained salt! Nevertheless, the result was a dramatic, lasting change. Barrenness was replaced by fruitfulness.
David Wilkerson, who died recently, said: “Do you see the picture? The poisoned waters of Jericho signify the polluted word being preached from the town’s pulpits. These men of God had never dealt with their own sins, so their sermons were full of poison from corrupted hearts. And their lifeless, flesh-oriented sermons were causing spiritual death among the people.
Show me a preacher in the pulpit who no longer believes God’s word is infallible – who has rejected the virgin birth, who is hooked to a secret sin, who no longer weeps over the sin he sees in God’s house – and I’ll show you a church that’s dying because of the poison spewing out of his heart.
What was the cure for the poison in Jericho? It was to purify the water supply. And that’s just what Elisha did. He took a clean vessel, filled it full of salt and poured it into the fountainhead of the city’s water. Soon all the waters were cleansed, and life sprang up all around.
Of course, the salt Elisha used represents the gospel of purity and holiness. And the clean vessel he used represents ministers who have been cleansed by Christ’s blood and sanctified by the Spirit’s purifying fire, prepared to preach a pure gospel. Beloved, only these things can stem the evil tide in God’s house: clean, pure vessels who walk in holiness and preach a pure word with fresh anointing.”
I think that he is right and this is a picture of a place where God’s word is preached, but it is not Christ, the living water that flows forth, something is added or something taken away so that the preaching is polluted – ie not Christ. I’m also sure that decades of wishy-washy or false teaching is one of the reasons for our current spiritual barrenness. It didn’t happen overnight, but the toxins have gradually accumulated and the effect is now quite noticeable.
How can we recognise polluted preaching? As David Wilkerson said one of the signs of such pollution is a lack of belief in the infallibility of Scripture. Preachers who don’t believe in the Genesis account of creation, the virgin birth of Christ or His bodily resurrection. Nowadays the pollution is often much more subtle – the water doesn’t taste bad at first, but it still has an insidious effect on us over time.