The Bible is full of stories of water – real and imaginary. From Genesis chapter 1, when God moved over the water, through to Revelation 22 – the river of the water of life. Water, water everywhere! It even comes through into our songs and hymns. Water is life!
Whether they were crossing the Red Sea, crossing the Jordan, being swallowed by whales, fishing on Galilee, the watery images resonated in the lives of God’s people. The physical geography around them, the interaction of the weather and what their eyes saw in the skies above them spoke of God’s power and relationship. But water was particularly important because water gave life to all living things. Without water there was nothing – a desert, a valley of dry dead bones. Too much of it and the world disappeared under a flood.
So, the prophets, the writers of the scriptures, and Jesus, as he taught, often and regularly used the imagery of water. It was an image every one could relate to. In our two pieces of scripture, water is being offered. Water that will not only sustain life, but water that will satisfy our deepest need.
There is a well-known tonic water advert, which tells us “ if 2/3 of your G & T is tonic then make sure it’s the best tonic water. Why spoil the G & T by splashing in anything of less quality?” Similar sound advice comes from Isaiah and Jesus.
In the words of Isaiah, God is saying to his people – yes, you naturally have an appetite; you are calling out because you are thirsty but what is it that you are calling for, what is it that will quench your thirst? You expend all your energy and effort on satisfying your physical desires; and you earn money to buy all the things the world can offer. You seek fulfilment and happiness. Yet, with all that you have, you are still not satisfied; you know that something is missing. It is your very soul that is thirsty; that deep down part of your being that needs quenching. Only I can do that says God; only I can give the spiritual fulfilment that is needed. Thirst after me, I am the water that truly will quench your thirst.
And Jesus echoes the same message as he talks to the Samaritan woman at the well. She is seeking water to quench a physical thirst – a heaven sent opportunity for Jesus to speak of that living water which will give deep down fulfilment. And he announces it again later in John 7:37 – “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” And alluding to the Holy Spirit he says in verse 38: “Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
The best things in life
And the great thing is that all this thirst quenching is for free. No charge for this special water. I am reminded of the song from the Sixties which begins: “The best things in life are free, but you can keep them for the birds and bees; give me money, that’s what I want…” And, following the austerity of the Fifties, we fell headlong into the worldly worship of materialism, consumerism and celebrity.
It’s a mind-set that’s hard to put aside, even when there is a growing awareness that there must be more to life than this?! It’s a mind-set that the prophet Isaiah and Jesus were very much aware of as they urged people to come back to God and find that which will satisfy your soul. Come back and find something which will be of everlasting worth, something really worth having – life lived in the assurance and hope of God’s promises.
What’s really important?
Over the past four months, while we have all been brought back to earth with a resounding bump as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, we have seen many signs of re-assessment of what really is important in life. Consumerism and all the rest of it has had to be put to one side. Suddenly the lives of all of us were on the line. What is important? What can we do? So many people have got together to help others in their communities. All kinds of ‘help our neighbour’ projects have sprung up. Weekly clapping in appreciation of those on whom we depend – and not just the doctors and nurses, we clapped all kinds of what we realised we key workers; the cleaners, bin men, transport drivers and so many others.
Such times in history do bring out the best in us, they say. Why is that? Why don’t we act like that always? And why do we wait until such situations occur before we focus on what is really important? Why don’t we seek out where we can find real satisfaction for our lives, our souls, before the crisis occurs?
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6 – Sermon on the Mount).
So, are we hungry; are we thirsty? Do we need to re-develop a hunger and thirst for God? Have we found ourselves in a position where the world has taken over too much of our appetite and what we long for in nourishment?Is there still room for that deeper nourishment? Do we have a spiritual thirst? Are we looking to come to the waters and quench our thirst? Have we allowed the busy-ness in our life – perhaps even busy-ness in church life – to push aside our eagerness for God?
Over the past couple of months in Sunday@Seven we have been looking at the Holy Spirit and asking about whether the flame is still burning within us? Do we need to re-ignite the embers? Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit in terms of living water, so perhaps we need to come to those waters and ask for refreshment and re-invigoration. Whether we need firing up or washing through, let us open ourselves to God our Father and in our prayers ask him to give us new life and new hope. Pray for a rekindling of our appetite for all that God can give.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”Psalm 63
‘Water is life!’ is a reflection by Nigel Silvester for Sunday@Seven on July 26th 2020. It’s based on Isaiah 55: 1-5 and John 4: 4-15.