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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Living Water in Jericho
Text:1 Kings 2:19-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy
 
Preached:01/15/2017
Added:2017-01-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Pastor Ted Gray
01/15/2017 – p.m.
Living Water in Jericho”
2 Kings 2:19-22
 
The city of Jericho had a lot going for it. It was, in the words of verse 19, well situated. There was a lot of potential for the city of Jericho, but it also faced a huge problem. The water was contaminated, and because the water was bad the land was unproductive. The city that had such great potential was plagued with a severe water problem. However, as the men of the city explained the situation to Elisha, God used Elisha to heal – to cleanse –  the water. In doing so, God’s mercy was powerfully demonstrated.
 
His mercy was demonstrated, first, in that He healed the water even though the people had disobeyed God by rebuilding Jericho. Jericho had been a key city for the Canaanite people. It had been a powerful, imposing city. When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River, Jericho was the first city they had to conquer.
 
There was no way that they could conquer Jericho by their own power, but you recall how the Lord brought down the walls of Jericho by his divine power. He had the people of Israel march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing their trumpets. On the seventh time around when the trumpets were blown, the walls of the city fell, and the Israelites were able to take over the once powerful city of Jericho.
 
But because the city of Jericho had been a Canaanite fortress, an evil city, Joshua 6:26 records how at that time (after the fall of Jericho) Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.”
 
Some 500 years went past before Jericho was rebuilt. But then a man by the name of Hiel rebuilt the city, and the curse that Joshua had proclaimed centuries before became a reality in Hiel’s life. 1 Kings 16:34 describes that reality: In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.
 
Consequently, as the men of the city approached Elisha, describing the problem with the water, they were in a real sense testing the Lord. They knew that the city had been under a curse and that its rebuilt walls led to the death of Hiel’s sons.
 
Yet the Lord, in a demonstration of great mercy, restored – healed – the water, and Jericho became a prosperous beautiful city. The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes how it was the city of palms, a city that served as a beautiful oasis for centuries after this incident recorded in 2 Kings 2.
 
Cleansing Through Faith in Christ
 
A second way that we see God’s mercy unfold in this passage is that it points to the cleansing of sin that we have through faith in Christ alone.
 
The polluted water is similar to sin with its detrimental effect on all things. Sin is like a fast moving, extremely destructive stream. It destroys everything in its path. Like water that is thoroughly polluted, it can cause even the most productive land to become unproductive and useless. And wherever such a stream of polluted water goes, it brings that destruction. It is pervasive. Just as water can seep into even the smallest crevice or crack and bring its destruction in every area where it seeps, so sin also permeates and destroys all that is in its path.
 
As this situation was described to Elisha, he asked for a new bowl to be brought to him, and he told the people to put salt in it. That seems like a very unusual request, doesn’t it? We understand that salt doesn't purify water. In fact, we look at ways to remove salt from water so that the vast amounts of water in the ocean can be used productively on land.
 
Although the salt seemed to be a strange remedy it reminds us that God will use whatever means he chooses to accomplish his purpose. It also impressed on the people of that day that the healing came by divine power, not merely the salt that was thrown into the spring.
 
But there is also a positive symbolism to salt. Salt was required on all grain offerings. We read of that in Leviticus 2:13, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”  Salt symbolizes purification and  incorruption. In the place of the polluted, corrupt and sinful practices of the world, Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth. Salt has a preserving element as it symbolizes purification and incorruption.
 
Through the cleansing of the water, from a polluted stream to a life giving flow, we see in this passage a foreshadow of the cleansing from sin that we have through faith in Christ alone. You remember when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples how Peter objected and said, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:8-9)
 
In order for your life and my life to be cleansed from the pollution of sin we need that cleansing that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. When, by grace through faith, we are cleansed by the precious blood of Christ, we are cleansed once for all. Yet, by the same token, we need the constant cleansing that comes from the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying presence within us, as we are, in the words of Ephesians 5:26, cleansed ... by the washing of water with the word...
 
Cleansed at the Source
 
A third way that we see God’s mercy demonstrated in this passage, is there in verse 21 where God sent Elisha directly to the source of pollution, to the spring, the fountain head, to cleanse the entire stream of water. Elisha threw the salt into the spring, to affect the whole stream of water.
 
What Elisha did is a shadow of what God does for us. The Lord in grace, goes to the center of our being, the heart, to bring cleansing in the stream of our life. Just as the water in Jericho was polluted at the source, at the spring, so also our sin and pollution has its seat in our heart. As Jesus taught, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23).
 
The root problem of our own pollution and sin is deeply embedded in our heart. Our heart represents the very center of our being. The heart represents our intellect, our emotions and our will, all that is within us. That is why Proverbs 4:23 tells us: Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.
 
However, we cannot guard our heart unless it has been cleansed, and then we guard it by God's grace and indwelling Spirit within us. Our heart, untouched by the gift of faith in Christ is like a stone, totally unresponsive. But the Lord graciously gives His people a new heart, one that will respond in faith and ever increasing obedience to Him. In Ezekiel 36:26-27 the Lord promises, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
 
We see God’s mercy in that he cleansed the whole stream of water by going to the source, just as he cleanses us entirely by giving us a new heart, one that responds to him with repentance and faith, cleansed by Christ and sanctified through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
 
A Permanent Cleansing
 
A fourth way we see God’s mercy in this passage is that since the cure was of God’s doing, it was permanent. As Elisha threw the salt into the spring of water he said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’”
 
Just as the water of Jericho was purified permanently, so, too, our cleansing through faith in Christ is permanent. If by God’s grace you have been cleansed through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, then that cleansing is permanent. Philippians 1:6 tells us that we can be confident about the permanency of our salvation. The Apostle writes, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
 
If the cleansing of our sin depended upon us, there would be no true cleansing, and even if there was, it would not be permanent. But because the cleansing of our sin is of God’s doing, by his grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be sure that we are completely cleansed, and that we will remain cleansed in the sight of God.
 
We recognize, by the Holy Spirit’s conviction, that in this life we remain sinners. Until the day that we die, pollution remains within us. And yet at the same time, our salvation is permanently sealed and guaranteed. Martin Luther expressed it famously in his Latin expression, Simul Justus et Peccator.”meaning that we simultaneously both righteous (justified) and sinners.
 
We are justified by faith in Jesus, who gives us living water, as he described it to the Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4:12-13, Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
 
When we drink of the water of life, which we do when by God’s grace we have faith in Christ, we never thirst again because then we are held in the hand of both the Father and Son in such a way that no one can snatch us from God’s hands. We are permanently saved. We are to take great comfort in the words of Jesus recorded in John 10:27-30 where he assures us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
 
Although our salvation is secure in Christ, we recognize that the stream of our life still carries the stain and the pollution of sin. We recognize that although our justification is complete in Christ, our sanctification – that is, our growth in grace and in obedience – is not complete until physical death. That is what Luther meant by his phrase that we are simultaneously both justified and yet sinners.
 
But everyone whom God graciously justifies, he also sanctifies, and that truth is also symbolized for us through water. The Apostle John describes for us in John chapter 7 how Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the Feast of Booths) held in Jerusalem. He writes, On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
 
You see, God the Father graciously gave us his Son, to cleanse us from our sin, and then both the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into our lives to sanctify us. When John says that for as yet the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified, he is speaking about how the Holy Spirit would come with power at Pentecost. Although the Holy Spirit was active in creation, and was active in the lives of the Old Testament believers, the ascension of Jesus into heaven resulted in the Holy Spirit being sent in a new way, from the Father and the Son, into the lives of all who believe in Jesus.
 
Jesus in Jericho
 
The cleansing of the water at Jericho so long ago was truly remarkable. It was a demonstration of the immeasurable mercy of our God. He healed the waters of the city, even though the city had been rebuilt against the clear command of God. The cleansing of the water points us to the permanent cleansing that we have by the precious blood of Christ.
 
The water from that spring in Jericho that was cleansed, caused a land that had been unproductive, to become some of the most productive land in all the area. Jericho became something of a “postcard city.” It was known as the city of palms. It was a beautiful place to live and visit.
 
About 900 years or so, after the cleansing of the spring recorded in our passage in 2 Kings, Jericho received a special visitor. You young children among us know who that visitor was, and you know who he visited. You sing about it in one of those many beautiful, biblical songs that you children sing.
 
You sing about that wee little man, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus lived in Jericho, and when Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus knew that the crowd would gather around him, and that being so short he would not be able to see Jesus. So he climbed up into the sycamore tree so that he could look down on the crowds and see Jesus as he walked through Jericho. And your children sing about what happened next:
 
And as the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree,
And He said,
Zacchaeus, you come down,
For I’m going to your house today!
 
The passage from Luke 19 which describes the visit that Jesus made to Jericho, tells us how the people grumbled when Jesus went to the home of Zacchaeus. The people said, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” But Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
 
In that sense, Jesus is still in Jericho, because by his Word and Spirit, and through the witness of his people, the Son of Man still seeks and saves those who are lost. It is possible to be a lifelong member of the church and still be lost. To be lost is to be without the cleansing that comes through faith in Christ. To be lost is to be apart from the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, with both his conviction of sin and with his blessed assurance of salvation.
 
But the free offer of the gospel, the offer to be cleansed completely from all your sin, is given to you throughout the pages of the Holy Bible. In fact, toward the very end of the last book of the Bible, in Revelation 22:17 this invitation is given: The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
 
The same One who cleansed the waters of Jericho so long ago, can cleanse your heart and mine. He does so first by faith in Christ as we are justified. And then having begun that good work in us he carries it on to completion as he sanctifies us by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
 
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. May that verse describe your life and mine, this day and always! Amen.
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
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. (2 Kings 2:21-22)
 
“Living Water in Jericho”
2 Kings 2:19-22
 
I.  God’s mercy is demonstrated in healing the waters of Jericho:
     1) The people had disobeyed God by rebuilding Jericho (Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:34)
 
 
 
 
 
     2) The polluted water is similar to sin with its detrimental effect on all things (19). Salt (20) was required on all grain offerings and symbolizes purification
         (Leviticus 2:13; Matthew 5:13). It pictures for us the cleansing from sin that we have through faith in Christ alone (John 13:8-9)
 
 
 
 
 
 
     3) The salt was cast into the spring of water (21) to affect the whole stream, just as God’s Spirit comes into our heart to change the whole course of
         our life (Proverbs 4:23; Ezekiel 36:26-27)
 
 
 
 
 
     4) The cure was of God’s doing (21) and thus was permanent (22)
 
 
 
 
 
II. Application: Jesus also went to Jericho (Luke 19:1-10) because in His words, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” He gives us “living
    water”  (John 4:10,12-13) through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39)

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 01/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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