The Biblical land of Israel straddles the world’s largest mirage, giving an illusion of life where there is none. This has forced her inhabitants to lead out in the human quest for that indispensable and life-giving substance – water. It also provides an enlightening backdrop for some of the wisdom, wildest hopes, and extravagant promises in the Bible. These promises extend to you and, offer a life lived with satisfaction. But to glimpse this we need to see what those living there have had to learn to do because of it.
The Unique Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the most prominent geographical feature in the land of Israel. It is located at the lowest elevation on earth, 431 m below sea level in the middle of a desert. To have such a beautiful and large body of water in the middle of a parched land would seem to be most fortunate for the surrounding inhabitants. However, at 35% salt content it is the largest permanent hypersaline lake in the world. Therefore it supports no life – hence the name Dead Sea. You cannot drink this water. Even getting some in your eyes and on any open sores causes extreme irritation.
The Bible first mentions the Dead Sea in accounts of Abraham some 4000 years ago. The Dead Sea has provided the backdrop to all subsequent writers, kings, and prophets through Biblical history, just a few miles from Jerusalem. These writers used water, a life-or-death necessity in that region, to illustrate truths about ourselves. They used water as a theme to extend promises to us.
Jeremiah Diagnoses our Thirst
Jeremiah lived at the close of the period of
13 “My people have sinned twice.Jeremiah 2: 13
They have deserted me,
even though I am the spring of water that gives life.
And they have dug their own wells.
But those wells are broken.
They can’t hold any water.
Jeremiah used water as a metaphor to help them understand sin better. He declared that they were like thirsty people searching for water. There was nothing wrong with being thirsty. But they needed to drink good water. God himself was the good Living Water that could quench their thirst. However, instead of coming to Him to quench their thirst, the Israelites relied on other sources, leaking ones, to drink from. But their broken cisterns would not hold water long-term and would thus leave them even thirstier.
In other words, their sin, in all its many forms, could be summed up as turning to other things apart from God to satisfy their thirst. But these other things would not be able to quench their thirst just as a leaky glass cannot be relied on to provide ongoing refreshment. In the, after all, their empty pursuits, the Israelites remained thirsty. They were left holding only their broken cisterns – i.e. all the problems and difficulties caused by their sins. Solomon, the richest and most successful person in all history, detailed, in masterful ways, the pursuit he undertook to quench his thirst.
Thirsty People in a Sea of bad water sources
This aptly also applies to
Jeremiah’s warning and Solomon’s chronicles should provoke us to ask some honest questions ourselves.
- Why in our modern age with so much, do we struggle with depression, suicide, obesity, divorce, jealousy, envy, hatred, and pornography,?
- What ‘cisterns’ do you use to satisfy your thirst? Do they hold ‘water’?
- Do you think you will ever get enough to satisfy your thirst? If Solomon’s thirst could not be quenched with all he obtained, how will you?
Jesus taught on these same questions, promising to quench our thirst. He did so claiming to represent Israel, with our conclusion here. His promise regarding water stands out particularly as we note that the nation Israel leads the world in water technology. The two Israels offer water, albeit of different kinds, to a thirsty world.
Israel offers great water to the world
Because of their arid conditions, Israelis have had to become world leaders in water technology, vital to their national survival. They have developed and built industrial-scale and world-leading, reverse osmosis water desalination plants that convert seawater to drinking water. This technology is energy efficient and less expensive than other desalination methods, which evaporate water. Israel has five such desalination plants giving it so much drinking water that it can now replenish the Sea of Galilee with drinking water. Countries across the Middle East are signing agreements with Israel so that this water technology can be developed for them.
Another Israeli technology can generate drinking water from moisture in the air. Begun by helping militaries to supply drinking water to troops, the technology has been expanded to quench the ‘global thirst’. Automaker Ford has recently added this technology to some of their so that you can take a drink ‘while you drive. SodaStream, which sells C02 cartridges with kits to carbonize your drinking water, has a global distribution allowing you to ‘fizz your way to sparkling water’.
Truly this arid land with its
Israel offers Living Water to the world
It is fascinating then that the other Israel, Jesus, also offers water – Living Water – to the world.
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard about him. They had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John. 2 But in fact Jesus was not baptizing. His disciples were. 3 So Jesus left Judea and went back again to Galilee.
4 Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar. It was near the piece of land Jacob had given his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from the journey. So he sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 A woman from Samaria came to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew. I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” She said this because Jews don’t have anything to do with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered her, “You do not know what God’s gift is. And you do not know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would have asked him. He would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you don’t have anything to get water with. The well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Our father Jacob gave us the well. He drank from it himself. So did his sons and his livestock. Are you more important than he is?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. 14 But anyone who drinks the water I give them will never be thirsty. In fact, the water I give them will become a spring of water in them. It will flow up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water. Then I will never be thirsty. And I won’t have to keep coming here to get water.”
16 He told her, “Go. Get your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands. And the man you live with now is not your husband. What you have just said is very true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our people have always worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus said, “Woman, believe me. A time is coming when you will not worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know. Salvation comes from the Jews. 23 But a new time is coming. In fact, it is already here. True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. They are the kind of worshipers the Father is looking for. 24 God is spirit. His worshipers must worship him in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming.” Messiah means Christ. “When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus said, “The one you’re talking about is the one speaking to you. I am he.”
The Disciples Join Jesus Again
27 Just then Jesus’ disciples returned. They were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want from her?” No one asked, “Why are you talking with her?”
28 The woman left her water jar and went back to the town. She said to the people, 29 “Come. See a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 The people came out of the town and made their way toward Jesus.
31 His disciples were saying to him, “Rabbi, eat something!”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples asked each other, “Did someone bring him food?”
34 Jesus said, “My food is to do what my Father sent me to do. My food is to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying? You say, ‘It’s still four months until harvest time.’ But I tell you, open your eyes! Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest right now. 36 Even now the one who gathers the crop is getting paid. They are already harvesting the crop for eternal life. So the one who plants and the one who gathers can now be glad together. 37 Here is a true saying. ‘One plants and another gathers.’ 38 I sent you to gather what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work. You have gathered the benefits of their work.”
Many Samaritans Believe in Jesus
39 Many of the Samaritans from the town of Sychar believed in Jesus. They believed because of what the woman had said about him. She said, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” 40 Then the Samaritans came to him and tried to get him to stay with them. So he stayed two days. 41 Because of what he said, many more people became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said. We have now heard for ourselves. We know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”John 4: 1-42
Jesus asked her for a drink for two reasons. First, he was thirsty. But he also knew that she was thirsty as per Jeremiah’s diagnosis. She thought she could satisfy this thirst through relationships with men. So she had had several husbands and was with a man her husband. Thus her neighbors viewed her as immoral. This explains why she had gone alone to get water at noon. The village women did not want her along when they went to the well in the cool of the morning had alienated themselves from the other village women.
Following Jeremiah’s lead, Jesus used thirst as a theme so she could realize that she had a deep thirst in her life – a thirst that is quenched. He declared to her (and us) that only he could ultimately quench her inner thirst.
To Believe – Confessing in truth
But Jesus’ offer of ‘living water’ threw her into a crisis. When Jesus told her to get her husband, he was purposefully provoking her to recognize and admit her broken cistern. He pushed her to confess it. We avoid this at all costs! We prefer to hide our sins, hoping no one will see. Or we rationalize, making excuses for our sins, but if we want to experience the living water’ then we must be honest and admit our ‘broken cisterns’ because the Gospel promises that:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,Acts 3:19
For this reason Jesus told the Samaritan woman
God is spirit. His worshipers must worship him in the Spirit and in truth.”
By ‘truth’ he meant being truthful about ourselves, not trying to hide or excuse our
The Distraction of Religious Arguments
But this requires an honest vulnerability. Changing the subject from ourselves onto a religious dispute creates
How easily and naturally we do the same thing – especially if we have some religious affiliation. Then we can judge how others are wrong or how we are correct. We can ignore our need to be honest about
Jesus did not follow into this dispute with her. He insisted that her honesty about herself in worship
The Decision We all Must Make
So she had an important decision to make. She could continue hiding behind a religious dispute or perhaps just leave him. But she finally chose to admit her thirst – to confess. She did not hide anymore.
To become a believer is not simply mentally agreeing with correct religious doctrine – important though that is. It is about believing that His promise of mercy can be trusted, and therefore you no longer should
Vulnerable questions to ask oneself
Do you excuse or hide your thirst? Do you hide it with devout religious practice or religious dispute? Or do you confess? What stops you confessing before our Creator the broken cisterns causing guilt
The woman’s honest openness to her need led to her understanding of Jesus as the ‘Messiah’. After he had stayed for two days the villagers understood him as ‘the Saviour of the world‘. They
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
Dead Sea will come to Life
Jesus promises to quench our internal thirst with Living Water today. So also the Bible promises that
“This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers ofEzekiel 47:8-10
fish,because this water flows there and makes the salt waterfresh; so where the river flows everything will live. 10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the MediterraneanSea.
This will happen when
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. 9 The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be oneZechariah 14: 8-9
Lord,and his name theonly name.
The Bible foresees that Christ will return. When he does, in His Kingdom, he will transform the Dead Sea into one teeming with life. That image of sterile death will no longer be needed then. The Dead Sea will accurately picture the Living Water flowing from the two Israels, both the nation and its Messiah.
Next we see Jesus teaching about investing, and he does so with contrarian convictions.