Grace Meeting and Blessing Helpless Sinners

2 Kings 2:19‑22  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
"And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day according to the saying of Elisha, which he spake." (2 Kings 2:19-2219And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. 20And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. 21And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. 22So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. (2 Kings 2:19‑22).)
That man is a sinner most will admit. Few will deny it. Those who believe there is a God know it is true. Some are accused by conscience, others by comparing themselves with their pious neighbors; and others by scriptural instruction. Open, flagrant sins are, in this country, generally condemned. Morality moreover, is found by experience to be a better thing even for this life than vice; hence, on the ground of expediency, as well as conscience, gross sins are shunned by many. Much is said in scripture about man's practical sinfulness and rebellion against God, much about his unclean and corrupting ways. The cross of Christ gives us the climax of man's enmity against God, as well as shows the aboundings of divine grace. There man's activity in evil was fully manifested.
Perhaps there is scarcely a sin that man is capable of, God has not noted in His holy word; which shows how thoroughly He knew what was in man. As to sins then, in their enormity and foulness, many have no question, for they are often acted round about us; but man's entire helplessness toward God is a truth which we fear few will admit. The scripture statement that man is "without strength" is at direct variance with many minds, who think themselves both competent to worship and serve God, as well as to exercise a judgment on divine things. It is this truth which this brief record of one of Elisha's miracles in the name of Jehovah strikingly illustrates.
No doubt the great point in it is the readiness and power of God, in grace, to bring in healing in Israel, where all is death and barrenness. Elijah had been God's faithful witness to the nation's terrible departure from God. Both king and people were such transgressors, and the prophet so felt himself alone that he said, " I only am left." The prophet's testimony to the people's departure from God, He confirmed in translating him from earth to heaven. A man now had ascended into heaven, after crossing Jordan, the river of death and judgment. This Elisha saw and knew to be the secret of his power. The first thing, therefore, after this, we find Elisha conscious of, was, that Jericho was the place of barrenness and death; but he knew also that there was power in God to heal, and that when the people took their true place of owning such to be their condition, He would heal. But mark, this is the first action of Jehovah's faithful servant for the earth's blessing, after the man had ascended into heaven. The time will come when the people of Israel will say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." We know it is also written concerning our Lord's coming again to this earth, "Unto you that fear my name [a remnant in Israel], shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings." (Mai. iv. 2.)
But as we have said, this little incident illustrates the state of man as a helpless sinner, and the way in which God is now in grace bringing in healing and blessing. We have not represented here the gross sins of which man is capable, but his helplessness, his inability to bear fruit, the absence of spiritual life because he is dead in trespasses and in sins. It is solemnly true that" all have sinned," and that the heart of man " is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked;" but it is equally true that men are "dead in sins," "without strength" and not bringing forth any fruit to God.
The acknowledgment to the man of God was " The situation is pleasant, but the water is naught, and the ground barren." (Ver. 19.) The circumstances were agreeable. The sun shed upon it his cheering rays, and showers descended from heaven, fructifying seasons passed in proper succession, but there was no fruit. All who passed by, while noticing the pleasantness of the situation, could not fail to be struck with its perpetual barrenness. The sun's rays, and the showers from heaven made no difference; it was still said, " the water is naught, and the ground barren."
And such is man. His circumstances are often pleasant; he is surrounded with kindly influences, providential mercies, and untold comforts and advantages, yet, alas! as to his actings toward God, all is really a blank; there is no life, and consequently no fruit. With all the busy movements of religious activity, men have to learn, if they come under divine teaching, that " the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom. 8:7, 87Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7‑8).) The unconverted man being "without strength," and "dead in sins," lives on earth as "having no hope, and without God in the world." How very solemn! He may be a nominal professor of Christianity, surrounded with exemplary Christians, and exposed to the influence of some of their privileges, yet is he a fruitless professor, like a barren fig-tree. He may even take the place of leading and instructing others, and bolster himself up on his educational accomplishments, yet, because he is not born of God, he has not life, and is but the blind leading the blind, and both falling into the ditch. He may be as diligent and scrupulous as a Pharisee in his endeavors to benefit his fellow creatures, and use every means and appliance within his power to ameliorate their distress, and, withal, be " dead in sins/' and bearing no fruit acceptable unto God. There is no life, and therefore no fruit—not as some would have it, a little life, and a little fruit, for, though their circumstances may be pleasant, u the water is naught, and the ground barren."
Many will allow that man is sinful, and that he can do nothing unless assisted by God; as if man had some innate power of holiness which only needed help. But such is far from the truth. It is not help from God, but life which he needs; for "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And as to fruit-bearing, Jesus taught even His own dear and blessed disciples, who had life, that they must abide in Him even as a branch abides in the vine, as their alone source of power and blessing, or they could not bear fruit; for said He, a without me ye can do nothing."
It was not then at Jericho a question of digging or dressing, or of irrigating the land, or, in any sense, improving the old condition of things, but the bringing in of something entirely new. The gospel of the grace of God is not an improvement of the Jews' religion, but a new order of things altogether; for the gospel makes no demands on man in order to be blessed, but brings to him freely everything that he needs. It is not do and live, but live and do. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Yes, since Jesus rose from among the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent down the Holy Ghost, the glad-tidings of peace made, and redemption accomplished have been declared. The prophet says, "Bring me a new cruse and put salt therein." It was something new, for it was meeting the need in pure grace; and to illustrate it a new cruse must be brought. Whatever salt may teach us, it is clear first, that "salt is good:" secondly, that it has "savor" and can season or preserve; thirdly, it was to be mixed with the sacrifices—"with all thine offerings, thou shalt offer salt." (See Luke 14:3434Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? (Luke 14:34); Lev. 2:1313And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13).) Its goodness, savory qualities, and association with all the offerings, clearly tells us of the grace of God to us in Christ Jesus. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8, 98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8‑9).) How wonderful that God has thus come out to us in this matchless way of grace, and thus completely and forever saved us; for a God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."' (Rom. 5:88But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).)
But it is not the knowledge of the letter of scripture, important as it is, but the application to the soul of the grace and savor of Christ that man needs for healing. It is when the Holy Ghost brings Christ who died on the cross to save sinners, in all the sin-cleansing efficacy of His blood, deep down into the heart, that souls have life, realize peace, and are strengthened to bring forth fruit. "How much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb. 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14).) And so we read, that Elisha " went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith Jehovah, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more dearth and barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake." (Vers. 20-22.) Observe here the two things in this illustration which are often presented to us in the scripture for peace and rest of soul: the work of Christ, and the word of God. The salt was applied to the spring, and then it was said, "Thus saith Jehovah, I have healed these waters." The ground of peace is the work of Christ on the cross—His blood -" having made peace by the blood of his cross," and the sole authority for peace, the word of God, and therefore it must be only on the principle of faith. The word of God declares that "Whosoever believeth on him [the Lord Jesus Christ] shall receive remission of sins".... and "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." (Acts 10; Heb. 10:1717And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17).) Thus the person who takes his place by faith before God, as a helpless and guilty sinner, looks to Christ as the object of faith, reposes on the blood of Christ as the ground of peace, and rests on the unalterable word of God as the authority for peace; such are cleansed from all sin, are justified from all things, are children of God, and "have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
What saith the reader to these things? Have you taken your true place before God of a guilty, helpless sinner? And have you so reposed on the blood of Christ, as to be assured by the word of God that you are cleansed from all sin, justified from all things? If so, the language of your heart has been, when looking unto Jesus -
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall,
Thou art my Lord and righteousness,
My Savior, and my all."
Christ now is risen and at the right hand of God? in virtue of what He did on the cross for us; and He has sent down the Holy Ghost, "that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."