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,’” (2:21).
Perhaps, one of the better-known dramatic stories of the Old Testament is the story of Elijah’s final moments on earth. Caught up in a whirlwind. Chariots and horses of fire. Taken up bodily without experiencing death. But miracles can’t really be quantified, can they? For isn’t every act of His, a supernatural act of Supernatural God?
And in the background of this miraculous blazing whirlwind was Elisha, Elijah’s soon-to-be-replacement. Big shoes to fill. Was that perhaps why the other prophets continually reminded him that Elijah was soon departing? But Elisha repeatedly and faithfully expresses his commitment to follow God’s appointment in refusing to leave his mentor, even in light of Elijah’s imminent departure, although it would probably be easier to turn back now.
And after God supernaturally takes up Elijah, He supernaturally confirms Elisha as anointed, through another parting of the Jordan River to cross on dry ground; and He further authenticates Elisha’s appointment as 42 foolish lads are cursed and eaten by two bears for mocking his bald head (a healthy head of hair was often considered to a sign of strength, see 2 Samuel 1:26).
Supernatural evidence of God is displayed throughout this chapter and major miracles are recorded through another man of God who is filled with the power of the Spirit. And interestingly, after confirming Elisha now had the Spirit of God upon him in the likeness of Elijah (by the dividing of the Jordan), the very first miracle needed is the purifying of the waters.
Water represents a source of life and abundance. And although the city is pleasant, possibly meaning free from external threats, the water is bad.
“Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful,” (2:19).
Bad water was a curse incurred through forsaking His blessing in choosing to disobey and forsake the LORD.
“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst,” (Exodus 23:25).
“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you,” (Deuteronomy 28:15).
And it is as Elisha throws salt into the bad waters that they are purified. Did you find yourself wondering why Elisha would call for salt to remedy the bad water situation? Couldn’t he have just waved his mantle over the water? But salt was called for. And I was reminded of His Covenant of Salt.
Salt was often used in the East to ratify covenant agreements; the eating of salt together was considered a pledge of perpetual fidelity.
“…covenants were ordinarily cemented in the East by the rites of hospitality; of which salt was the obvious token, entering as it does into every article of diet. It indicates perpetuity,” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.
Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? (2 Chronicles 13:5).
His rule over Israel, by His covenant of salt, would be given through the line of David, forever; a foreshadow of the fulfillment of His everlasting covenant in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Consider Him Who Purifies with Salt
An image of Jesus emerges as Elisha proclaims, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer,’” (2:21).
God’s everlasting covenant through Jesus Christ abolishes death and unfruitfulness. We can rest in His finished work. It is His Purifying Work, symbolized in His Covenant of Salt, pledging His perpetual fidelity to His eternal work accomplished in Him alone.
- He Purifies with Salt, pronouncing the abolishment of death.
- Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water,” (John 4:10).
- But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
- He Purifies with Salt, promising fruitfulness.
- “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples,” (John 15:5-8).
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law, (Galatians 5:22-23).
- He Purifies with Salt, pledging His everlasting commitment to His covenant.
- “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” (Jeremiah 31:31).
- And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood,” (Luke 2:20).
- For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, (Hebrews 9:15).
- He Purifies with Salt, through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
- But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin, (1 John 1:7 NIV).
- He Purifies with Salt, through His Living and Enduring Word.
- Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God, (1 Peter 1:22-23).
- He Purifies with Salt, through humility, faith and dependence upon His Holy Spirit.
- …Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified, (John 7:37-39).
How do we respond to Him Who Purifies with Salt?
If the source of our life is not in Him, even if the “situation of the city” seems pleasant, but “the water is bad and the land unfruitful,” then we are in dire straits. Temporal pleasantness is fleeting and offers no assurance for eternity. Only as we place our faith in His provision for cleansing, the blood of His Son shed for our sins, will we have eternal security.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7).
And as we well know, even after we receive salvation in His sacrifice, the situations of our own cities, our external circumstances in life, can often be anything but pleasant. This life is filled with trials and sufferings. But oh, how much better to be able to say, “the water, our source of life and abundance, is good and our land fruitful,” whatever the situation, than put our hope in what this world has to offer.
As we cling to Him Who Purifies with Salt, as He reminds us His Covenant is founded on His faithfulness, He will strengthen us to live in a world so opposed to truth and righteousness.
It is also interesting to note, this covenant of Salt was God’s covenant made with His priests and ministers, regarding their offerings of holy gifts to the Lord. God invited His priests to enter into an agreement of dependence, based on their relationship to Him, a perpetual agreement in surrender to Him; “an everlasting covenant of salt.”
“All the offerings of the holy gifts, which the sons of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord to you and your descendants with you,” (Numbers 18:19).
And there would be security and care allotted in this covenant as priests committed their lives to minister and serve Him forever.
When we are born again, by His grace through faith in our King from the line of David, we are chosen as His priests to offer our gifts to Him as an everlasting covenant of Salt.
- Let us daily come to Him, believing that through His everlasting Covenant of Salt, He will Purify our hearts and abolish all threats of death to our peace and hope.
- Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God, (Romans 5:1).
- Let us daily come to Him, believing that through His everlasting Covenant of Salt, He will Purify our faith to abide in Him and bear much fruit.
- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing,” (John 15:4-5).
- Let us daily come to Him, believing that through His everlasting Covenant of Salt, He will Purify our confidence in the security we have for our eternity.
- Who will separate us from the love of Christ? … 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Romans 8:35, 38-39).
Oh, let us choose to live by faith in surrender and service to Him, through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, His Living and Enduring Word and the power of His Holy Spirit. And may our lives be a demonstration of His Everlasting Covenant to draw others to Him Who Purifies with Salt.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:5-6)