‘Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed
with pure water’ Hebrews 10:22
How much thought we give to the water that we drink, I suppose, depends
upon where in the world we are, and how freely available is a safe supply
of potable water. It is difficult to put ourselves in the place of those
who have nothing, or indeed everything.
For a substance that has no colour, odour or taste and for most people in the developed world is always to hand, it is an often forgotten but salient thought that there are no living things in this world that can survive without water.
Those who live near to the ocean know only too well that within waters which at times seem so calm and inviting lies the potential for destruction. Hurricanes can cause tidal waves, earthquakes generate tsunamis; both bringing misery and death.
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is contained within the oceans, and is too salty to drink. But evaporation is taking place constantly which takes this salty water, leaves behind the salt, and forms into clouds that are blown by the wind and deposited as rainwater onto farmland, irrigating fields and sustaining human life.
There is a story told of a scientist who developed a wonderful space saving dehydrated water tablet, but then couldn’t think what he could dissolve it in… A silly tale, but it serves to remind us that within our bodies at any one moment are a host of minerals, nutrients and chemicals dissolved in water and being conveyed silently through blood vessels and tissues, keeping us alive and functioning. If we are ill and in hospital, water allows antibiotics and other life-saving substances to be given and absorbed.
Water has other fascinating properties. As well as being chemically inert and a superb solvent, it has a high boiling and freezing point which allows humans to live in sometimes quite harsh conditions. Because of its surface tension properties water in plants can work against the force of gravity and flow upward from root to shoot within the smallest plant and tallest tree.
In Biblical times the People of Israel knew well that water was a valuable commodity. Imagine if you can their wanderings through the wilderness for forty years and their inevitable dependence upon God to provide for their needs.
Several of the Old Testament prophets, including Elijah and Jeremiah considered drought and the threat of drought as evidence of God’s punishment on the people’s disobedience.
‘1 This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the drought: 2Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. 3 The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads.’ Jeremiah 14
Conversely rainfall is a sign of God's favour and goodness.
‘17When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: 18I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.’ Isaiah 41:17-18
The provision of water was and is important, but the Bible deals not only with the physical but also with the spiritual condition of mankind, and when we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find deeper spiritual symbolism in the use of the word ‘water’
‘Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
There are also references to the cleansing qualities of water (the spiritual equivalent of washing ourselves clean)
'let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water’ Hebrews 10:22
Are you feeling a little more exited about water? Can you stand at the oceans edge and begin to appreciate the awesome power that lies in front of you, and the wonderful way in which the Creator distributes that water throughout the world? Look up at the clouds. Can you begin to imagine a more efficient way of bringing purified water to the crops growing in fertile fields behind you?
Can you then make the jump and begin to look at water with spiritual eyes? We rely on the rain to sustain our crops as they grow, bring goodness to every part of a plant or tree; to provide us with the means of quenching our thirst, clean and refresh our bodies and to be literally at the very centre of all that we are. Without water we are physically dead within such a short space of time.
For lives that are dried up spiritually, thirsty for the experience of God’s presence in their lives, He comes like a gentle rain and entering in, like sap flowing upward in a tree feeds heart, mind and soul. Those who feel unclean are washed and purified, the tired refreshed and all who open themselves in such a way will know the truth of Jesus’ words in their lives.
‘…, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’
'If I could live in a tiny dwelling on a rock in the ocean, surrounded by the waves of the sea
and cut off from the sight and sound of everything else, I would still not be free of the cares
of this passing world, or from the fear that somehow the love of money might still come and
snatch me away.'
Cuthbert of Lindesfarne (d.687)
1. Cuthbert raises an interesting question. We have talked about the cleansing properties of water, of the power contained within the ocean which echoes the awesome power of God the Creator. Does the sound and sight of the surf breaking loudly upon the shore simply remind us of all that separates us from God or are we comfortable with the picture?
People have literally been washed away by an incoming tide. Like Cuthbert is there a measure of fear that wherever we are in our lives temptation could ‘snatch us away’?
2. There is a strange dichotomy between the gentlest raindrop and the violence of a tsunami, and yet we also see in the nature of God the gentle love of a Father and the awesome force of the Creator of this universe. Can you grasp that picture?
What does it tell you about God?
3. ‘We have lost sight of the great provider in the midst of providence…’ How easy is it to lose track of God’s provision in a world where most things are handed to us on a plate?