A New Bowl of Salt
A passage in the Bible tells how
Elisha treated bad water with a bowl of salt:
men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Behold, the situation of this city is
pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.’
He said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him.
Then he went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it, and said, ‘Thus
says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; henceforth neither death nor
miscarriage shall come from it.’ So the water has been wholesome to this day,
according to the word which Elisha spoke.” (2 Kgs 2:19-22)
The land of Canaan
was, in the beginning, a land of hills and valleys, nurtured by rains from
heaven. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of abundance and
prosperity. God wanted his people to dwell in Canaan, to love Him and follow
His commandments. If they would do so, their days would be prolonged and they
would receive material and spiritual blessings from the Lord (Deut 11:9-17;
30:15-20). The chosen people were not alone in the Promised Land, however.
There dwelt also seven Gentile tribes who worshipped pagan gods and practised
evil. They often lured the Israelites into iniquity, and were a severe test of
the Jewish nation’s faith.
The nature and location of the
city of Jericho
is also significant. Jericho was a great center
of commerce, due to its geographical proximity to the Transjordan,
or “outside” world. As such, it was a magnificent, prosperous city, with
caravans coming to and fro carrying traders and goods from far-off lands.
bad water and its treatment hold much spiritual meaning.
After the people of Israel conquered Jericho through the mighty power of God, they
took an oath declaring that they would not relay the foundations of the city.
The Lord further placed a curse on anyone who dared to do so (Josh 6:1-21, 26).
The city was seen as a place to be abhorred. This portrayal of the city is
continued in the New Testament as well. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a
man was nearly beaten to death on his way from the HolyCity down to Jericho. From a spiritual standpoint, Jerusalem may be taken to represent the church, and the
journey down to Jericho
as a decline in faith. Furthermore, the robbers can be seen as the evil one. Jericho is thus a symbol
for wickedness and the corrupt world (Jas 4:4-5; 1 Jn 2:15).
seemed a pleasant land, its appearance may be likened to the prosperous cities
of Sodom, Babylon,
and other worldly cities that mislead people into seeking temporary pleasures
and gains. Jericho
was, in the eyes of God, full of sin and evil (Gen 13:10-13; Mt 4:8-9; Rev
18:1-3, 7, 12, 13, 16). The comment that the situation of the land seemed
pleasant can also be linked to the spirituality of the people there, “a form of
godliness in outward appearance only and without any real substance” (2 Tim
3:5), similar to the “white-washed tombs” to which Jesus likened the Pharisees.
This is a very dangerous situation.
In the Promised Land, the children
of God were able to reap in abundance and enjoy plentiful wine and oil (Deut
11: 14; 28:11). Christians today likewise enjoy the grace of God, and receive
the living water of the Holy Spirit (Is 32:15; Jn 4:13-14; 3:34; 7:37-39; Eph 5:18).
They receive abundant showers of blessing and the downpour of the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to this, those who do not know the true God and who rebuild the
foundations of Jericho,
conforming to the world and indulging the flesh, will suffer “bad water” and
famine, both physically and spiritually. Their life is full of sorrow, and they
ultimately reap corruption and death (Rom 8:5-8; Gal 6:7-8; Jer 17:5-6; Heb
Just as Elisha and other prophets
and disciples lived in the city of Jericho,
so Christians live in the midst of this crooked world. It is not possible to
physically live apart from the world, but it is possible to avoid conforming to
it. A Christian must be resolved to transform the world through the Holy Spirit
(2 Cor 10:4-5). Elisha’s method of treating the bad water is significant to a
believer’s spiritual refinement and preaching. Three things in particular merit
consideration - the salt, the new bowl, and the pouring of the salt into the
Salt is often taken for granted and
seen as a mundane port of life, but it possesses many good characteristics. It
is used as a disinfectant, flavouring, seasoning, and other properties. In this
disbelieving, perverse, and crooked generation (Mk 8:38), Jesus wants his
disciples to be the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13). In order to do this, they must
become gentle and humble like Him (Mt 11:29) and bear the fruits of the Holy
Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control (Cal 5:22-23). As the salt of the earth a
Christian must season those around him with love and peace, and must love his
brothers and sisters (Mk 9:50; Jn 15:12-17; Php 2:1-5; 1 Pet 3:8-9; Rom
12:10-16). The true believer must act with gentleness and with wisdom (Col 4:5-6). Like the
four living creatures in Revelations who hod eyes facing in all directions, he
must be able to know and discern between right and wrong, good and evil, truth
and falsehood. With wisdom it is possible to understand God’s will (Eph 5:18)
and rely on Him to lead the way to victory in Christ (2 Cor 2:14). As the salt
of the world, the believer is able to facilitate peace between God and man and
between man and man. This he does through the “ministry of reconciliation” (2
Cor 5:18) and the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). With God’s help, the spiritual
salt extends the righteousness of God’s kingdom, peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit (Rom 14:17), and transforms the toil and sorrow of mankind into joy and
contentment (2 Cor 6:9-10; Php 4:13; Ex 15:22-25; Mk 4:35-41; Ac 16:22-34).
Elisha’s request for a new bowl to
be filled with salt may be compared to Jesus’ teaching that new wine be
contained in new wineskins. The truth that Jesus brought into the world
strengthened the spirit and principles of the Mosaic Low (Rom 3:31). But the
human traditions of the old Jewish law are incompatible with the spiritual
principles of God’s kingdom. New wine must be contained in new wineskins. In
the some way, outward actions must be matched by the inward faith, for the old,
sinful self cannot inherit the new life in Christ (1 Car 15:50; 1 Pet 3:10-13).
The new bowl represents a
Christ-like transformation (2 Cor 5:17; Cal
6:15). For it is God’s will to grant “a new heart” to His chosen ones so that
they may keep His commandments and walk in His ways (Ezk 36:26; Jer 32:39).
This spiritual transformation comes through the washing of regeneration, or
baptism, and then through the washing of the Holy Spirit and through living
each day according to the Word of God. Then, when a person is purified, he will
be a worthy vessel of the Lord (2 Tim 2:21).
After Elisha received the salt in
the bowl, he poured it into the spring, and henceforth the water became sweet
and the land fruitful. This is a metaphor for the believers’ task today - to transform
spiritual land, or men’s souls. The first step to take is to become upright and
holy himself, to be able to manage his own household (1 Cor 9:26-27; 1 Tim 3:3,
4, 13) and build up a good foundation in the Lord (Eph 6:14-18; 3:16-19)
through faith, godliness, wisdom, and love. These are attributes that can be
developed gradually through prayer and mediation on the Word. Through the power
of God, a Christian will be able to live out his faith through his good deeds
in his community, and in this way transform it.
transformation, a most important (ask for a believer is to transform his heart
and the hearts of those around him, for this is the key to God’s blessing. The
heart is often full of wickedness in this sinful age, and so the first step is
to transform his own heart. In the same way as Elisha
treated the spring, the believer must go forth and treat the source of
wickedness in others -. the heart. Then, he will be
able to lead unbelievers to God, who searches, tries, and refines the hearts of
men (Jer 17:10; 1 Sam 16:7; Job 23:10). God’s Word can indeed cleanse a
person’s heart (Ps 19:714; Eph 5:26; Rom 15:4), and the Holy Spirit can renew
him and lead him to holiness (Tit 3:5; 2 Thess 2:13).
Just as the land of Jericho
became fruitful, so can the souls of those who accept Christ. God’s children
will enjoy His grace upon earth, and receive eternal inheritance in heaven.