GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
In my younger days I worked for the US Soil Conservation Service. One of my tasks was to check on the stands of perennial grasses in recently planted fields that were part of the Conservation Reserve Program. Since one tract consisted of about eleven square miles, I used a three-wheeler for mobility. I quickly learned the skill of counterintuitive steering: to turn left I had to lean right.
Scripture contains the accounts of many amazing miracles. One that might come to mind is how Jesus healed a blind man by smearing mud on his eyes. If not counterintuitive, it’s at least unexpected.
2 Kings 2:19-22 brings us another example of a counterintuitive miracle. Shortly after the dramatic ascension of the prophet Elijah into heaven, Elisha, his successor, was approached by the men of Jericho. They desperately needed help. They readily admitted that their living conditions in the city were pleasant, but with a couple of caveats: the water was bad and their fields were barren.
Elisha instructed the men to bring him a new bowl with salt in it. He then went to their water source into which he cast the salt. Then Elisha said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’” And thus the water was healed and remained healed.
We do not doubt or question this miracle of God.
Not for a moment! But we might wonder about the counterintuitive nature of it. Jericho was not that far away from the super-salty Dead Sea, so we might suppose that the spring or well in question was brackish, unfit to drink and use on the fields. To heal brackish water with more salt seems counterintuitive, if not plain foolish. Yet God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform—they are His own ways, mysterious as they might seem to us.
It is worth mentioning that the prophet Isaiah used the same Hebrew word for “heal” in verse 5 of his great Gospel chapter (53): “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him [Messiah], And by His stripes we are healed.” This is a wondrous Gospel proclamation, yet the world despises it. Atonement and redemptive healing through a man’s blood makes little sense to most. Salvation without any added works on man’s part seems counterintuitive to the natural human mind. But Christ and His healing wounds are part of the Gospel mystery, which St. Paul said was not just counterintuitive to the unbelieving mind, but utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The water source in Jericho left the fields unproductive. But then God healed it. In the spiritual field, our life is barren of fruit without our Savior, as Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) By nature, no sinner can bring forth fruits of righteousness unless he has been healed. No person can be fruitful unless he abides in Christ and Christ in him. But in the Christ-Vine he bears much fruit. And this healing, this faith, and this fruitfulness are totally of God’s free grace.
But that also is counterintuitive, and perhaps explains why so many reject it. If it’s free, it must be worthless! Which reminds me of the man who had five puppies to give away. So he advertised “Free puppies,” but with not a single taker. Then he changed his sign to something more counterintuitive: “Five free puppies: four cute, one ugly.” Within hours all five were taken.
Our Redeemer-God, with healing in His blood, offers us free salvation. To the world it is judged worthless.
But to us ugly sinners who believe in counterintuitive healing, it is our new life and our most precious treasure.
David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.