Water of Life


Isaiah 12

One of the Rimsky ('Roman') fountains in Peterhof

One of the Rimsky (‘Roman’) fountains in Peterhof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

I have never depended on a well.  I live in an arid climate, but there is always water at the tap.  There has always been water at the tap.  Hot and cold – though I sometimes have to let it run for a moment to heat up or cool down.

It is so commonplace, it is hard to remember what an exceptional luxury it is in human history, how profoundly life depends on access to water, how precious is a spring.  Among Rome’s remarkable achievements were the aqueducts.  In the 16th century Luther’s prince built a new water system for the town of Wittenberg.  It involved seven fountains for the city, seven sources of fresh water.  The Biblical narrative identifies the various springs and wells upon which ancient life depended – most, like Jacob’s well in the story of the Samaritan woman, were attributed to the work of the patriarchs, so precious and honorable and venerable were they.  Jacob meets his beloved Rachel at a well.  Disputes break out over access to them.

3With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

For a people in an arid clime, it is a vivid image.  Visceral.  Access to a well is access to life.  Access to a well is salvation.

“If anyone is thirsty let him come to me,” Jesus will say, “and out of his heart will flows rivers of living water.”  A river of life will flow from the temple on that day when all things are made new declares the prophet Ezekiel.  It will not soak into the desolate ground and dry up, it will grow deeper and wider as it moves through the land.  It is an image taken up by the author of Revelation describing the New Jerusalem.  On either side of this river stands the tree of life, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.  “The Lord is my shepherd,” writes the psalmist, “he leads me beside still waters.”

God is our saving well.  God is our life-giving spring.  God is our eternal joy.

2Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.


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