Posted in encouragement, good shepherd, living water, sheep

Sheep lie down

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:1-3)

Regarding the sheep who lie down, I was listening to James Montgomery Boice exposit the 7th chapter of Micah, verse 14.

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest,
in fertile pasturelands. (Micah 7:14)

Mr Boice explained about the Shepherd and the sheep. He said that he had heard, but did not know if it was true, that sheep won’t lie down until their needs are met. Only when they are full, their thirst slaked, and their surroundings peaceful, will they rest. I began looking that up because having lived next to a flock of sheep for the past year, I like looking at them and learning their qualities so as to better understand the Bible’s use of them as an example. O.P. Gifford, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Brookline MA in 1909, wrote an exposition of the Twenty Third Psalm for the Homiletic Review Minister’s Monthly. Pastor Gifford remarked-

A sheep has four stomachs. When its first stomach is full, he will lie down and ruminate, that is, chew his cud so that it can pass to the second stomach. But it will still not lie down if there is restlessness within the flock, or if there is friction between sheep family members, or if there is a predator. A lying down sheep means he is full, peaceful, and content.

EPrata photo

Here is an excerpt from Pastor Gifford regarding the still waters:

The pictures in the Bible are tremendous for allowing us to see biblical truths, no matter our age, culture, or epoch in which we live. I look forward tot he day when I can lie down, thirst slakes, hunger dismissed, and no friction in the flock, and no predators. Ahhh, the Lord is good, or should I say the Good Shepherd is good!

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Further Reading

Sheep Know His Voice: Inspiring Video

Wells of Living Water

Posted in isaac, living water, old testament, wells

Wells of living water: Old Testament pictures are New Testament promises

The passage today is from Genesis 26:17-22. I found that as far as my interpretation of it goes, there seems to be a historical/practical meaning, a spiritual meaning, and a metaphorical meaning. God’s word is great. Here is the passage.

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, [contention] because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. [enmity]. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, [room] saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

Ancient well diggers dug a shaft to obtain water from a water-bearing layer beneath the ground. They lined the shaft with wood, stone, or baked brick to prevent it from caving in. To keep contaminants from the well and to protect people from falling in, well diggers often built a low stone wall like the one shown here and covered the well opening with a large flat stone. ‎Gen 16:14, Gen 21:19, 25, 30, Exod 2:15, Isa 12:3, Luke 14:5, John 4:1–45. (Source, Myers, R (2012) Logos Bible Images, Lexham Press, images are public domain.)

Practically, as a herdsman Isaac would have depended greatly on water to keep his flock alive. Water was a precious commodity in a dry and thirsty land. Earlier in Genesis 26 it had been reported that Isaac had become a very wealthy man.

And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.)

Isaac’s father Abraham had obtained the land legally and rightly, and he had dug the wells. Yet the Philistines stopped them up. And the Philistines’ envy and hatred carried through to Isaac’s day, when they contended with Isaac over the water and there was strife. It must have been a great hardship for Isaac with all his herds, servants, and flocks to go without enough water during the periods the Philistines contended against him. Calvin said of the stopped-up wells,

Moreover, the fact that the wells had been obstructed ever since the departure of Abraham, shows how little respect the inhabitants had for their guest; for although their own country would have been benefited by these wells, they chose rather to deprive themselves of this advantage than to have Abraham for a neighbor; for, in order that such a convenience might not attract him to the place, they, by stopping up the wells, did, in a certain sense, intercept his way. It was a custom among the ancients, if they wished to involve any one in ruin, and to cut him off from the society of men, to interdict him from water, and from fire: thus the Philistine, for the purpose of removing Abraham from their vicinity, deprive him of the element of water.

Aside from the physical need of the practical matter of water, the second item to note is Isaac’s placid response. Stopping up a well is akin to a declaration of war because no water equals financial ruin and perhaps death. The Philistines had already noted Isaac’s large retinue and knew he could have defeated the them yet Isaac did not fight. He simply relied on the Lord’s providential care by abandoning his freshly dug well – several times – and moved on. Talk about turning the other cheek! (Luke 6:29).

Calvin again, this time of the spiritual relationship Isaac had with YHWH-

First, Moses, according to his manner, briefly runs through the summary of the affair: namely, that Isaac intended to apply again to his own purpose the wells which his father had previously found, and to acquire, in the way of recovery, the lost possession of them. He then prosecutes the subject more diffusely, stating that, when he attempted the work, he was unjustly defrauded of his labor; and whereas, in digging the third well, he gives thanks to God, and calls it Room, because, by the favor of God, a more copious supply is now afforded him, he furnishes an example of invincible patience. Therefore, however severely he may have been harassed, yet when, after he had been freed from these troubles, he so placidly returns thanks to God, and celebrates his goodness, he shows that in the midst of trials he has retained a composed and tranquil mind.

Thirdly, the metaphorical aspect. Whenever there is water in the Bible, I pay attention. It is a blessing to me to think of the Lord Jesus as the Living water. With the stopping up of the wells and the final well finally flowing freely in an area of enough “room”, I searched to see if my hunch had been right. Matthew Henry alluded to the flowing water, metaphorical aspect of Isaac’s wells issue.

In digging his wells he met with much opposition, v. 20, 21. Those that open the fountains of truth must expect contradiction. The first two wells which they dug were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred. What is the nature of worldly things; they are make-bates and occasions of strife. What is often the lot even of the most quiet and peaceable men in this world; those that avoid striving yet cannot avoid being striven with, Ps. 120:7. In this sense, Jeremiah was a man of contention (Jer. 15:10), and Christ himself, though he is the prince of peace. What a mercy it is to have plenty of water, to have it without striving for it. The more common this mercy is the more reason we have to be thankful for it.

Source: Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 60).

The two verses which come to my mind are:

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3).

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:38)
Matthew Henry one more time:

Upon God’s providence, even in the greatest straits and difficulties. God can open fountains for our supply where we least expect them, waters in the wilderness (Isa. 43:20), because he makes a way in the wilderness, v. 19. Those who, in this wilderness, keep to God’s way, may trust him to provide for them. While we follow the pillar of cloud and fire, surely goodness and mercy shall follow us, like the water out of the rock. 2. Upon Christ’s grace: That rock was Christ, 1 Co. 10:4. The graces and comforts of the Spirit are compared to rivers of living water, Jn. 7:38, 39; 4:14. These flow from Christ, who is the rock smitten by the law of Moses, for he was made under the law. Nothing will supply the needs, and satisfy the desires, of a soul, but water out of this rock, this fountain opened. The pleasures of sense are puddle-water; spiritual delights are rock-water, so pure, so clear, so refreshing—rivers of pleasure.

May the Lord bless you abundantly as you drink freely from the well of salvation and refresh your justified soul in the river of living water.

Posted in hagar, living water

Hagar in the wilderness drinking from the living waters of life

Two of my favorite scenes in the bible are the Woman at the Well, and Hagar in the Wilderness. In the former, the Lord ministered to a marginalized woman whose sins had given her an illustrious reputation which preceded her wherever she went.

Hagar was Abraham’s slave and her sin was forced upon her: Sarah (Sarai) concocted a plan to hurry-up God’s plan to get the promised child. She convinced Abram to use Hagar as the maternal vessel. When Hagar became pregnant, Sarah’s jealousy grew, and Sarah death harshly with Hagar.

“But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” (Genesis 16:6-8).

The Angel of the LORD is interpreted to be Jesus, pre-incarnate. He told Hagar to go back and to submit, and she did. Genesis 16 has the full account.

The child born to Abraham and Hagar was Ishmael, but as Ishmael grew, Sarah became jealous again. Dissension came up between the two women. Sarah expelled Hagar from the community and with her child, Hagar fled to the desert.

The wilderness is a harsh place and when the water in her pouch ran out, Hagar knew that death would soon come. She placed the boy down near bushes and went to die herself a little ways off, not bearing to see the death of her child.

“In 1835, Camille Corot created this painting, inspired by his trips through the Northern Italian countryside. The painting depicts Hagar and the child Ishmael, dying of starvation and thirst in the hot desert sun. An angel flies in from the background to save the child from an untimely death. When Corot presented this painting at the Paris Saloon in 1835, it created a sensation, as the crowd was in awe of the way Corot portrayed the serene harmony of the setting against the harsh reality of the dying child.” (Source: WikiArt)

Again The the LORD came to Hagar, this time by voice, and comforted her.

“Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:16-19)

Both times Hagar was in the wilderness, God immediately heard the the plea of her heart and the piteous lonely cries from her mouth. He asked her a similar question as He had asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, Genesis 16:8). Both times Jesus was dispatched to provide life to her, with water. Jesus is the Living Water. He gives life and He sustains life.

Our God is mighty. He is sovereign. He has His plan, which none can thwart. Yet He is tender, and caring, and gentle with His people. I hope the beauty of the painting and the even greater beauty of the Word comforts you today. Cast all your cares upon Jesus, who is the Living Water.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
(John 7:38)
Posted in bible symbols, carrying water in a sieve, living water, wells

Are you futilely carrying water in a sieve? Read here for the answer

Israel is a dry land. It is verdant in some areas where it is close to the humid Mediterranean, and in the north rain does fall between November and March. More than 70% of the average rainfall in Israel falls between those months. June through September are usually rainless, however. For the most part it is a dry country. The Jordan rift valley is the the lowest place on earth (1300 feet below sea level) where where only one to two inches of rain fall annually.

Egypt, where major portions of the bible events take place, of course is also dry, with rainfall averaging from 8 inches per year in the north to 2-4 the further south one travels.

It is dry there. Water is an issue.

The first time a well is mentioned in the bible is in Genesis 16:14, where as so often a well is the major landmark- “Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.”

David longed for a sip of water from the well at Bethlehem. (2 Samuel 23:15)

Famously, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, and they got thirsty, they grumbled and clamored for water. So Moses inquired of God what to do and God said to strike the rock and when Moses did a flow of water gushed out. (Exodus 17:1-7).

Think of how many times in the bible Jesus (or The Angel of the LORD) met someone by a well or a spring.

When Abraham and Sarah put out the slave girl Hagar that had begotten Ishmael, Abraham gave her a skin of water and sent her on her way with the boy. They wandered, but the water ran out. She put the boy Ishmael under a bush and sat weeping a little ways off so she would not have to watch the boy die. The Angel of the Lord (Jesus?) heard Hagar weeping, and comforted her with His words and when she opened her eyes there was a well of water. (Genesis 21:8-21).

I’ve mentioned before that the Woman at the Well is my favorite story in the bible. John 4 has the story. A woman who seems to have been marginalized came to the well at midday (hot!) to draw water by herself (unusual- wells were the original water cooler place for talk and gathering). Jesus was there, being tired and thirsty. He was sitting. He told the woman to draw water for Him, and this was also unusual because it broke a gender and race taboo- men did not speak to women alone and Jews did not speak to the hated Samarians. She exclaimed in surprise.

“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.””

Living water? He seemed to her to be an unusual man speaking of an unusual thing. And indeed He is an unusual Person and the Living Water is the everflowing Holy Spirit. He said in John 7 in the section titled Rivers of Living Water:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Of course the enemy hates that the people have water. Wells were often targets of the enemy to plug up.

“For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. (Genesis 26:15)

“And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.” (2 Kings 3:19).

In the bible, water is a symbol for Salvation, Holy Spirit Truth, and Everlasting Life.

  • “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3).
  • “Understanding is a well-spring of life unto him that hath it; …” (Proverbs 16:22a)
  • “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

Peter likens false teachers and false prophets to dry and empty wells, hypocrites offering a pretense of Christian life but having no water at all: “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.” (2 Peter 2:17)

Can you imagine if Hagar, for example, had wandered alone with her son in the desert, her skin empty and the sun beating down, knowing life would end for herself and her boy if she didn’t find water, spotted a well. Eagerly moving the rock so as to draw water, she lets down the bucket, only to come up with nothing but sand and earth. Her wailing would have been all the worse for this bitter disappointment, having had the glimmer of hope only to have been fooled by the pretense of life giving water.

There is nothing worse than pretense! There is nothing more disappointing to sit under a teacher only to discover they were only offering dry earth and vain hope all along! (Colossians 2:8). They were a dry well and a broken cistern!

In Jeremiah 3:10 God says that He hated the pretense Judah was putting forth in their devotion to Him. Matthew Henry Commentary explains:

“Josiah went further in destroying idolatry than the best of his predecessors had done, and for his own part he turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul; so it is said of him, 2 Ki. 23:25. The people were forced to an external compliance with him, and joined with him in keeping a very solemn passover and in renewing their covenants with God (2 Chr. 34:32, 35:17); but they were not sincere in it, nor were their hearts right with God. For this reason God at that very time said, I will remove Judah out of my sight, as I removed Israel (2 Ki. 23:27), because Judah was not removed from their sin by the sight of Israel’s removal from their land. Hypocritical and ineffectual reformations bode ill to a people. We deceive ourselves if we think to deceive God by a feigned return to him.”

“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

Have you heard the phrase “carrying water in a sieve?” That comes from Greek Mythology. “In Greek mythology, the Daughters of Danaus were the fifty daughters of Danaus. They were to marry the fifty sons of Danaus’s twin brother Aegyptus, a mythical king of Egypt. In the most common version of the myth, all but one of them kill their husbands on their wedding night, and are condemned to spend eternity carrying water in a sieve or perforated device. In the classical tradition, they come to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed.” (Wikipedia)

John William Waterhouse
The Danaides, 1903

You cannot earn your own salvation. If you are not complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10) you are no better off than the Danaides daughters, carrying water to fill an endlessly leaking well. If you’re in church and you believe that to be enough, it isn’t. Filling a leaking cistern in a church is just as leaky and incomplete as it would be in any other place.

Whenever you’re reading the bible and you see a reference to a spring or a well or a fountain, then think of these symbols of water and what they mean.

“Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

“Whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

How might you get some of this living water? Christian blogger and author Joel C. Rosenberg linked to a simple Gospel web animation that explains why we need Jesus and how to be saved. It is here. Please share it widely and often. And I pray you are saved and partaking of the Living Water daily.

Posted in cross, living water, woman at the well

The Water of Life, became thirsty

JESUS gave of Himself so completely that while hanging on the cross, He, the Living Water, The Water of Life, said- “I thirst.”

Macha Chmakoff

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28-30).

And now risen by the grace and power of God, Jesus springs forth those waters upon His children forever.  With a love like that, no week or day or even a moment is barren for us but is full of life and plentiful refreshment of love and grace. Jesus IS the Living Water, He brings refreshing rivers of life to those who repent!

Francesco Allegrini

“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 nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:10-11).

O, precious brethren, always remember the tremendous love of Jesus, who poured Himself out for you.