It was interesting to read in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s recent autobiography that his children were baptized with water from the Sea of Galilee. The family was out of water when their third child was born, so kindly Israeli officials sent a fresh supply.
This is unusual since in other cases I’ve known it’s Jordan River water that’s used. Yes, I know, the Sea of Galilee flows into the Jordan, so it’s a close match. I’m acquainted with several Christians rebaptized in the Jordan on trips to the Holy Land, so it’s not unusual to do so.
We tried this a few years ago when our first grandson was born.
We Baptists don’t baptize our children, but Presbyterians do. Col. Joe Berry of Marion traveled to Israel and gave me a 20-ounce bottle of Jordan River water on his return. Baptists also use a lot of water when we baptize, but 20 ounces will baptize a dozen Presbyterians!
Our daughter asked her pastor about the water, and he didn’t want to use it, saying there’s nothing magical about it. I wish now I’d had called him and explained we knew it was simply H2O, but we thought it was a special gift from a special friend.
Every time I think of this story, I remember another Old Testament story (2 Kings 5).
Army commander Naaman of Syria had leprosy. This terrible disease is a staple in the Bible, though modern medicine has almost eradicated it. Naaman had a Hebrew servant who urged him to contact the king of Israel, who sent him to Elisha, the prophet. However, it seems the prophet treated him a bit shabbily. Elisha didn’t come out to talk with his guest, but simply sent word that he go dip seven times in the Jordan River.
Naaman balked since the Jordan was muddy. Perhaps it was the rainy season. But he finally realized this was worth his effort. After dipping in the Jordan, his flesh became like that of a newborn.
This is where the story gets stranger, at least to me.
Naaman went back to Elisha and asked for two muleloads of earth. He found healing through the God of Israel, and wanted to take some of Israel home with him so he could worship this God. We have no record of Elisha exhorting him that the God of Israel was the God of Syria, too, and Naaman could worship in Syria.
Nothing magical about Hebrew soil, or Hebrew water.
But Gov. DeSantis reminded me of a gift received from a good friend.
And that American believers worship the God of Israel whether we do so as Baptists, Presbyterians, or in his case, Roman Catholics.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.