A few summers ago, some relatives and I decided to climb one of the eleven thousand foot peaks in Utah’s Wasatch Range. They were having a heat wave, with temperatures forecast to be 105 in the desert valley. But we figured that if we could start before dawn we could outclimb the heat, and we planned on some patches of snow higher up to cool ourselves with and rehydrate.
Everything went well until we broke out above the tree line. We discovered that all of the snow had melted away, leaving only a jumble of dry rock above. Most of our water had been drunk by this time, but we were still intent on making the summit, so we proceeded up. Even though it was somewhat cooler up high, there was no shade, and the relentless sun drew out of us what little water was still in our systems. By the time we made the summit, all four of us were seriously dehydrated.
Since there was no trail, we were free to choose any way down we wanted. Looking over toward the next peak, far below in the expanse of dry granite, we spotted a tiny patch of green with a few small trees. No one needed to say which way we should now take. Our thirst led the way as we scrambled down toward that small alpine oasis. We were desperate for water now – afraid to even hope that there might actually be some in that small copse of shrubs. We finally arrived, and there between a few rocks and moss, we beheld a sight that was, at that moment, more marvelous than the Taj Mahal.
A tiny spring, no larger than a shoebox, was bubbling up with the coolest, clearest, most beautiful water that any man has ever beheld! We filtered it into our bottles and drank our fill. Then, fully revitalized, we were ready to work our way down the mountain and back into the valley heat.
Water! Cool, clear, running water! It is the fluid that sustains all of life. All of us need it every day. No one can last very long without it. Water fills every cell of our bodies. Virtually all of life’s processes, from photosynthesis to metabolism, require this unique and precious substance. When scientists search for life on other planets, the first thing they look for is water. Water is a metaphor for that which provides life.
All of us have experienced what it is like to be very thirsty on a hot dry day. We all know how refreshing a cool drink of water can be when we really need it. No wonder that Jesus used water as a beautiful illustration of the life he gives freely to those who seek him.
John 4:6-10 “ and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.). Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Jesus certainly knew how to get someone’s attention! This woman was about to draw water from a well – a still pool of water in a hole dug into the earth. Yet, Jesus said he could provide “living” water – a term commonly used for fresh, clear, running water. He explained further:
John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The term “springing up” is from the Greek word hallomai, which means to “leap up,” and it is translated as “leap” in the Scriptures. It implies that the water that Jesus gives us is not from a stagnant puddle or even a well, but from a flowing supply that is fresh every day. He is the one who gives us life. After all, he is our life (Colossians 3:4). When we drink of the water only he can provide, it not only refreshes us, it sustains us. As we would not think of going a single day without drinking water, we should want earnestly to seek out his presence and drink freely of the water he provides through the spirit.
David wrote in Psalm 23: 1-3a “The Lord [YAHWEH] is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;” These words paint a beautiful image of a flock of sheep peacefully drinking from cool, clear water under the watchful gaze of their shepherd.
Today, Jesus fulfils the role of the shepherd over his people, since God has chosen to place him in the exalted position of head over the church (Ephesians 1:22).
John 10:14-16 “I [Jesus] am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”
Speaking of Jesus, Peter writes: 1 Peter 2:25 “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
As our good shepherd, Jesus is the one who watches over us, protects us, restores our souls, and cares for his flock. One of the key responsibilities of a shepherd is to provide water for his sheep. The ideal source is a quiet, flowing stream – it is fresh, flowing water, yet quiet enough for the sheep to hear any predators, as well as listen for the shepherd’s voice. Under such conditions, the sheep feel cared for and safe. What a wonderful illustration of how Jesus works with us today, as we dwell in his presence, listen for his voice, and drink of the water he provides us through the spirit.
John 7:37 – 39a “ Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit”
A burning thirst drove four weary hikers seeking water off a Utah mountain that day. How much more should we thirst for the living water that only Jesus provides – water which springs up into eternal life! How long has it been since you dwelled quietly in his presence and listened for his voice – since you drank in his words and instruction?
John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;”
Oh that we would take the time every day to listen for and obey his voice, and follow his footsteps where he leads us! Only then can he fully satisfy our thirsty souls and bring us into the green pastures where our souls can truly prosper.