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Living Waters. Parched Lands.

The ancient Hebrew people struggled to forge out a living in the arid lands of the middle east. The region is known for its deserts, and its vastness is nearly waterless compared to most populated areas in North America. It was not a land marked by vibrant greens, or flowing blues, but rather a land marked by the flat tones of sand and dust. Most of the area’s people were dependent upon private cisterns which captured and held water after the rains. While living springs did exist in the area, they were few and far between. The life giving value of those springs was unmistakably evident to anyone who lived in the area. Wherever living water flowed, life flourished. Because of this, the idea of living springs is a frequent cultural element of old testament stories. Living springs were, for obvious reasons, associated with the Spirit of God, and linked with life and growth. You find it everywhere in ancient Hebrew literature. It is in that context that Jesus famously shares his metaphor that anyone who drinks the water he gives, will never be thirsty again, and how such water will become a spring that wells up to eternal life (John 4:13-14).” It won’t be that a person will have a cistern that is dependent on the relatively unpredictable rains, but instead, they’ll have a living spring that continually produces life-giving water that flows in abundance. The desert dweller of Jesus’s day would have understood the metaphor fully, and in ways that those of us who have taps in our homes do not understand at first blush.

Consider this terrible warning from the prophet Jeremiah: “Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water (Jeremiah 17:13 NIV). Jeremiah directly links the Lord to a spring of living water, without whom people are doomed to the dust or a parched ground. Now consider how the bible characterizes a blessed man. The psalmist says that such a man meditates on the law of the Lord, and is like a tree planted near streams of water. He produces fruit, and his leaves do not wither. On the other hand, the wicked man is like dried-out chaff that the wind blows away (Psalm 1).

Without Jesus, we are in a state of spiritual dust – parched and thirsty. We must work to build cisterns to catch the rain that drains from places that are divinely watered. And when the unpredictable rains stop, our cisterns dry up. But with Jesus, we produce water that naturally and effortlessly flows out of us to nourish the fruits that we bear, and that keep our lives from withering. We then water the land around us.

Where do you get your water? From a spring, or a cistern?

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