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Bitter Water that Doesn't Kill; Bitter Words that Do

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  1. Background to the passages
    1. Broadest Context

                                                               i.      Creation.  Everything good.

                                                             ii.      Sin.  Man should die.

                                                            iii.      Curse instead of immediate death

    1. Israel are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

                                                               i.      Promised that if they follow God, they will have long life in the promised land.

                                                             ii.      They service other gods.  They should be wiped away.

                                                            iii.      Holding Out.  God sends prophets like Elijah and Elisha to bring the people back to God.

    1. The ten tribes of Israel are the Northern tribes.  Not Judah and Benjamin. #. Life and times of Elijah.

                                                               i.      God is the God of really real life.

                                                             ii.      God is the only true God- obey him.

    1. The transition of ministry to elisha.                                                                i.      Characterized by Miracles.

                                                             ii.      The message of the miracles is. . . .

1.      Elisha is the authentic messenger of God in line with Elijah.

2.      God punishes the disobedient with death.

3.      God rewards faith with life in unexpected ways.

  1. Miracle of healing the water of Jericho.  

Healing of the Water

19 The men 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.”

20 “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

21 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.’” 22 And the water has remained wholesome to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.


    1. What town?

                                                               i.      Jericho.  One of the oldest settled cities.

    1. What happened to the water                                                                i.      Don’t know exactly.  But the water had become deadly.  Even making the land unproductive.
    2. The  Miracle                                                                i.      Elisha throws salt from a new bowl into the water.

                                                            ii.      We see the theme coming through loud and clear.  This first public miracle of Elisha shows, it proves to the school of prophets that Elisha is the real deal.  He got that double portion of Elijah’s Spirit.  He has received the spiritual inheritance passed down.  This is the prophet of God.

                                                            iii.      We see the last theme coming through:  God brings life to the faithful in unexpected places.

1.      Faithful prophets.

2.      The Unexpected Place:  Salt in the Water.  Are you crazy?  Good way to kill the water.

3.      Instead, the water becomes purified and ready to sustain the life of the plants and the people in Jericho.  There is still a spring in Jericho today commemorated as Elisha’s spring.

                                                          iv.      Moves us to have the same assurance:  That God brings rewards to the faithful in often unexpected places.

1.      Jesus’ first public miracle was making the finest wine out of the jug of water used for washing peoples dirty, dusty feet.

2.      Jesus, like Elisha performed miracles to prove the authenticity of their prophetic word.  For Christ it is to prove that he is the son of God

  1. Cursing the mocking children. 23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.


    1. Connection to the ministry of Elijah:  Mount Carmel and Samaria.
    2. The difficulty

                                                               i.      Elisha causing the death of 42 youths.  Its awful.

                                                             ii.      Many passages in Scripture that do not sound the way we would like them to.

    1. Attempts to resolve the issue.                                                                i.      Commentators try to easy the horror of the death of these youths by talking about their age.

                                                             ii.      BUT that’s not the point.  Does it really change anything. 

    1. No reason to resolve the tension, we have to allow the horror of it to fit with the whole message of Scripture.  All are guilty and worthy of death. #. Live with that tension like we had talking about ananias and saphira.  We don’t like the judgements of God.
    2. What’s in the mocking.  Two things

                                                               i.      “Go up…” possibly jeering from the youths calling Elisha crazy for his message about Elijah going up.

                                                             ii.      “Baldhead…” a couple of different options

1.      the school of prophets may have shaved their heads.

2.      he may have been folically challenged- which may have made him look like on of the prophets of the neighboring nations

                                                          iii.      Main point:  The youths prove themselves to not be aligned with God and his prophet, making them disobedient to God.

    1. Message of the Miracle:  God punishes those who do not have faith in him. #. Reference Hosea 13. Like Elisha, a prophet to the Northern tribes.  Like Elisha, called to show the wrath and the mercy of God.

Even in a passage like this comes the promise of ransom from the grave.  God is like a bear separated from her cubs.  The judgement is fierce on the entire nation.  But the remnant, those who stay faithful will be the life from the unexpected place.

Much like a savior from Nazareth.  Who turns water into wine.  And who conquered the grave.


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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