Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All

Living Water

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Did I tell you that I love water? You could have guessed it from my post, “An Amazing Place”. Today is the day for this post because the temperature is about 94 degrees Fahrenheit (!) here in Monrovia, CA. and the temperature for the next week is predicted to be similar. Did I tell you that I avoid heat? Yes, I did (in some post). Jack has learned to avoid heat also, watching me from the shaded porch now while I go to check the mail box. Smart dog. He will make his exercise up, like many of you will, in a nocturnal romp. Speaking of Jack (the Bible Study Dog), he’s wondering why we are not having our Thursday Night Bible Study, that he helps to host, in our home tonight. That’s because tomorrow is Independence Day and we are taking tonight off. However, the heat has us thinking about water, so thus this post.

More specifically, I am writing about “living water”. It’s a biblical term, and basically means running water instead of still water. So living water could be a stream, a river or a fountain but not a pond, a stagnant pool or a still lake. I suppose the ocean is a special case, but for me, that’s alive.

But in the Bible, “living water” is used as a metaphor for the life of God which he shares with humans. This can be seen in the offer of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, as he breaks through social barriers out of love to bring her forgiveness, acceptance, salvation and eternal life. Jesus has this habit of crashing into peoples’ lives and love-bombing them whether they think they are ready or not. This is not to say that Jesus is not spiritually calm and collected and focused on his Father, but his effect on people is explosive! World-views are turned upside-down, hearts are melted or hardened, people fall hopelessly in love with Jesus or they run for their lives (literally!), Jesus becomes a best Friend or the Enemy. Let’s listen for a moment to Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman. “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?'” (John 4:9-11, NRSV) Good question. And reasonable. There’s the well: deep. And the bucket: non-existent (unless you want to use mine? No?). Sooo… The attractions of Jesus and his mysterious offer are pressing in on the Samaritan woman.

The question, universalized, is also our question: Where does one get living water? I’m not sure that we’ve ever asked any other question. Or at least, don’t so many questions boil down to where can I find deep, satisfying life that is not just an idea, but an overwhelming reality that soaks and saturates me to the core? Other ways to ask it: Where can I find refreshment? How can I find (know) God? Where can I find the power, ability to live a good life? Sometimes I think that even when we are asking mundane questions like getting driving or walking directions, we are still asking at a deep level ‘Is this real? Just like with the Samaritan woman, Jesus wants to scratch the itch, inflame the desire. C.S. Lewis wrote to the effect that Jesus doesn’t think that we desire too much or too strongly, but too little and too weakly. We are, Lewis wrote, like children, who when offered a holiday by the sea, not being able to imagine it, would prefer to remain in a slum and make mud-pies in the dirt.

Jesus is bold and proclaims that he has what we want. “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”‘ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive…” (John 7:37-39b, NRSV) Really Jesus proclaims that he and the Holy Spirit are what we need!

I’m ‘thirsty’. I’m ‘thirsty’ most of the time. I will go to Jesus. Will you join me?

Do you doubt that, at some deep level, we all, even if in a disguised way, are asking the God question and the satisfying life question? If we will not receive life in Jesus, we will create idols (see the post “What We Are”), something or someone we look to instead of God. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD declares that “…those who turn away from me… have forsaken the fountain of living water, the LORD.” (Jer. 17:13, NRSV, margin Heb.) The LORD says that it is appropriate to be “appalled” (Jer. 2:12, NRSV) and “shocked” (Jer. 2:12, NRSV) because “…my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13, NRSV)
So let’s get this straight: 1) it’s evil and tragic to forsake the living God, the fountain of living water; and 2) it’s evil and sad to dig out for ourselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water. Cisterns were used to collect rain water in a semi-arid climate for domestic use. It’s sad to make arrangements apart from God for our sense of life, vitality and meaning because it doesn’t work.

Let me play with this idea of leaky cisterns a bit. So many of us find that our lives are like leaky containers. Vitality, a sense of meaning, spiritual life, the will to live just seem to leak away continually. And so we desperately fill ourselves up with whatever we can find. We desperately need to feel good, to have a sense of meaning, of purpose.
We suck the people around us dry. I have a huge need for meaning myself. I also seek life desperately sometimes. But the LORD assures us that he is the fountain of living water, a fountain that always overflows so that we may be constantly filled and saturated with the life of God. Living under the fountain of living water takes the panic out of life!

A final scripture text looks to the future. “And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one.” (Zechariah 14:7-9, NRSV)

If you need some reading for July 4th, try my earlier post, “True Freedom”. Well, Jack is looking forward to his bed-time ritual. He gets some treats and then lays down and sleeps along the outside of my right leg. So until the next post, may the LIVING WATER be yours now and always.

This post was powered by “To Heaven and Back” (1998), “The Best of the Call” (1997) and “Live Under the Red Moon” (2006) all by The Call.


Split-View of Sipadan Island, Borneo

Author: Zachary Bright

Until February 2014, I was pastor of Divine Savior Presbyterian Church for about 24 years. I am interested in theology, alternative music, new worship music, culture making, philosophy and dogs. Most of all I am interested in extending the Kingdom of God and its blessings to everyone around me. I am the Director of the Southern CA. C.S. Lewis Society and I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary. My wife Terry, my dog Jack Lewis and I host a Bible Study in our home on Sunday afternoons.

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