From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water…”
When you are on the CROP walk, one of the pleasant surprises along the way is the way station where there are drinks of cold water to slake your thirst. It just feels so good to drink when you have been exerting yourself.
After you work hard in the garden, or push the lawn mower, or work out, there is nothing like cold water.
Your body craves it.
If you watch Bear Grylls on Man vs Wild, he is always on a quest for fresh drinking water, hard to come by in desert climates where he is sometimes.
Ironically, out at sea, if you are cast adrift, surrounded by water, you can die of thirst.
“Water Water everywhere and all the boards did shrink
Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”
Rime of the ancient mariner. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“And every tongue through utter drought
Was withered at the root
We could not speak no more than if
We had been choked with soot”
Thirst is deadly.
We live in a country with abundant clean water. We have our rivers and lakes and underground aquifers, and as if that was not enough in the United States, we have the Great Lakes, vast seas with nothing but wonderful fresh water over 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
But lands our faith springs from faith knew a lot about the desert. Wells in parched regions play a critical role. The whole long chapter 24 of the book of Genesis is about lovely Rebekah at the well. She comes to the well to draw water and Abraham’s servant believes she is the one chosen to be Isaac’s wife. It is a wonderful story. And it clearly demonstrates the crucial nature of sources of water in a dry land in Bible times.
Without water, there is no life.
So when the people of Israel are wandering around the Wilderness of Sin (Sinai Peninsula – an area of harsh desert), where they were required to stay for forty years before entering the Promised Land, it is understandable that the suffered parched throats. “But the people thirsted there for water.”
And they start having second thoughts about being delivered form Egypt. Maybe it wasn’t so bad there after all. Yes, they had been slaves, yes, they had to toil for their taskmasters, but at least they had food and at least they had water. They wouldn’t die there of thirst.
So God provides for the people.
There in the desert, God instructs Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb, and out from the rock flows clean, pure, cold drinking water. Poland Springs in the desert.
The people are saved. Their thirst assuaged.
God cares if we thirst. It is not God’s will for us to suffer.
We have learned, and we have learned the hard way, that we must care for the environment if we are to have healthful water to drink.
On June 22, 1969, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. It awoke the nation to the disaster we were causing with pollution, there was so much toxic oily discharge in the water and so much debris it actually burned.
Today, the river is much cleaner fish have returned and kayakers paddle on the Cuyahoga.
But we learned, the hard way, we can’t use our rivers and streams for sewers.
We need water to live and we can’t be healthy if our water supply is full of chemicals and sewage.
Because our thirst drives us to the water. We crave it.
Jesus was thirsty one day. He stopped at a well and a woman came with her bucket to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink.
The woman was a Samaritan and Jews and Samaritans hated each other. “How is it you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” she asked.
Jesus told her that if she had only known who he was, she would have asked him and he would have given her living water.
The Samaritan woman liked that idea. It meant she would no longer have lug water from the well back to her house in town. She knew the phrase “living water.” In a desert country with little rainfall, springs were invaluable. Living water is spring water, bubbling up from the ground. You can cup your hand a drank it and not worry about giardia or any other parasite. You cannot drink the water anywhere in the world like that. Even in pristine wilderness areas, like the Adirondacks, or the mountains of the west or New England. The only water you can drink without sterilizing it is living water. Spring water.
But even that is not what Jesus was talking about.
Jesus himself is living water. If you drink of water from the well, you will thirst again. If you open your refrigerator and take our your Brita pitchers, or you pour a glass from your tap, you know you will be coming back for more.
But if your drink of what Jesus has for you. You will never thirst again.
“Give me some of that,” says the woman.
“Give me some of that, Jesus, that living water welling up to eternal life.”
If you read the gospels, there is only one time you hear the disciples asking Jesus to teach them something. One day, they came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Now the disciples were all good Jews, and they had been praying since they were old enough to talk. Their dads and their moms taught them to pray. They learned to pray in the synagogue. All their friends knew how to pray and did pray – out loud. But they knew Jesus was different and they asked him to teach them how to pray.
“When you pray, pray like this, Our Father who art in heaven, holy be your name.”
And then he teaches them pray something very curious – “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Can’t you hear your mother saying, “That’s “PLEASE, give us this day our daily bread, dear.”
But Jesus does not teach us to say “please” when asking God for today’s food.
And here is the reason I think why Jesus teaches this stark, unpolite asking for food. God made us. He made these bodies of ours. He likes how they are made. We are made in the image of God. God pronounced his creation good.
And these bodies of ours need fuel to live. If we don’t have food to eat, we will die, and by extension, we need drink – every day. Or we die. God made us like this.
So since God made us like this, and made us dependent, made us having to eat and drink, he has to provide the means for our survival – to provide that without which we cannot live. Daily bread.
I once read an article on pet care that said something simple but profound that I will never forget. It was talking about caring for your cat, and feeding your cat and it said, remember, when you are filling that cat dish with her food, that is the high point of her day.
I never thought of it like that. The best moment of the day is when you fill that dish and put it on the floor. In my first church, I was driving the kids home from confirmation class and one young girl said, this is Wednesday, my favorite day of the week. “Why is Wednesday your favorite day, Tori?” Because my mom makes spaghetti every Wednesday!”
Her favorite meal – and it was something to look forward to indeed.
“If you want to be satisfied – you must find satisfaction in me,” says Jesus.
“I am the high point of your life.”
And you and I have been baptized into Christ with water – that is the sign and seal of our salvation – we belong to Jesus.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
What kind of thirst is that?
I did an internet search while working on the sermon of the phrase “living water.” The first citation was a Bible website, but the second was an organization called “Living Waters” which digs wells for poor people in the Third World. To thirst for righteousness is to care about people who need help. The oppressed the poor. To thirst for righteousness is to hate the horror caused by war. To thirst for righteousness is to worry about the people in Japan whose water supply might be contaminated with radiation and want to help them. For if their water is polluted, they will surely get thirsty, but will not be able to satisfy their thirst. To thirst for righteousness is to yearn for goodness and peace and justice.
As Americans, we have those words on one of most beloved icons. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,” Those words are on the Statue of Liberty In New York Harbor, and that Statue by the way, is part of NJ! Emma Lazarus wrote them. “Yearning to free,” means hungry for something better. When we live up to those words and care, we are thristy for righteousness.
God is with us in our thirst. We are in Lent and we think about the so-called seven last words on the cross. Things Jesus said as he was dying on the cross. One of the things he said was, “I thirst.” Jesus was the Son of God, fully divine, yet fully human, in a human body, which felt all the pain and which knew hunger and thirst. Gasping on the cross as his life slowly ebbed away, he uttered those heartbreaking words. “I thirst.”
He thirsts still. He thirsts for us, to bring us back to God. He thirsts for the sick, for them to find strength and healing in our Lord God and ultimate freedom from sickness in the Kingdom of Heaven. He thirsts for his children to be righteous people on the earth, pointing the way to another reality.
He thirsts for you – for your heart. For your love. For your companionship in prayer, and for your presence in church and for your service in church.
“I thirst,” he says.
But for us, he has living water.
I wish to end with the opening words of Psalm 42
As a deer longhs for flwoing streams,
So my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Fred D. Mueller
17From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
5Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 1