I’ve been thinking about wells the last few days. And no wonder, I suppose. When a friend said the other day, “It’s been so dry,” his comment could easily have been a reference to the weather. But I knew he was speaking of the spiritual drought many of us are enduring. We know firsthand what the psalmist means by “a dry and thirsty land where no water is.”
So did the ancients our Bible tells us of. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… they were desert people. They hadn’t yet entered the land of flowing streams and brooks of waters, and since water was a matter of life and death to them (as it is to all peoples) this meant searching for wells in the desert for themselves and their flocks.
Abraham digged wells. Later Isaac had to redig them, for the Philistines had plugged them with earth in an effort to force him out what they considered their own territory. Isaac dug other wells also, which became a source of contention when the inhabitants of the land he sojourned in sought to expropriate the wells for their own use.
In the days of Jacob flock-watering had become tightly controlled. No one was allowed to water their flock till all the flocks were gathered together, at which time “the shepherds” took the stone off the well’s mouth. Jacob, however– though he was not a member of this organization of shepherds and had no pastor’s official credentials– rolled away the stone and watered the flock that the shepherdess Rachel had led to the well (Gen. 29.1-10).
Moses did much the same thing. When the daughters of the Reuel came to water their father’s flock at a certain well the shepherds tried to drive them away. Moses rose up and helped Reuel’s daughters, and watered their flock. This eventually led to Moses becoming a shepherd himself—first of sheep, and then of the flock of God. It was when he was shepherding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law that he met God at the burning bush and was commissioned to shepherd His people out of Israel and through a wilderness, where, time and again, the need for water was a serious issue.
On one occasion when they were faced with no water the LORD spoke to Moses:
Gather the people together, and I will give them water (Num. 21.16).
How did He give them water? He commanded the people to start singing to an unseen well in the sand as the elders began digging with their staves.
Then Israel sang this song, Spring up O well: sing ye unto it:
The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves.
In other words, right there in the sand below their feet there was a secret well. The people didn’t know it was there, but God did. Right in the bleakest most desolate of places there was a well.
Is not this a promise for you and me? I see in my mind’s eye another flock of bleating sheep in a waste and howling wilderness… and a Shepherd leading them. Leading them where? To a Well. For, we too are a people of eternal purpose, just as those of old were. I know it’s very dry these days, but God will not let the sheep of His pasture perish in this present wilderness for lack of water. The Shepherd of Israel… we are the sheep of His hand. It is His responsibility to lead us to water. And He will do so. We have His promise that He will do so—to “fountains of living waters” (Rev. 7.17).
It is for Him to do the leading. And for us? What is our part? Our part is to cry out to Him for this precious Life Source, and follow His leading. At times it may mean getting the earth out of a well the Philistines have contaminated. It may mean moving to another locale. I don’t necessarily mean geographically, although that might be the Shepherd’s leading at times. I mean spiritually. We the flock of His pasture must be nomadic, ready to move on, ready to follow our Shepherd, ready to move out into the desert as He searches out for us another Well.
And when instead of water we find nothing but sand even though we know we are there in the leading of the Lord, it may mean singing to the sand around us—and digging. It is the Spirit of Christ Himself who is that Well of living water… but at times we might have to engage in some serious digging to find Him… all the while singing as we dig.
And blessed is the person who does so. Blessed is the person who, through all the wildernesses of life, continues to seek out and find that Well of living water. For, an even greater promise awaits such a one. God says:
I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water (Isa. 41.18).
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water (Isa. 35.7).
Note this. The dry land becomes a spring of water. The thirsty one—the one who needs water—ultimately becomes a spring of water himself.
Just as Jesus promised that thirsty woman at the well of Samaria:
Whoseover drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be (that is, become) in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (Jn. 4.14).
That is to say, we come to Him thirsting for water, and we go away having become a fountain of living water that satisfies the souls all around us thirsty for Life.