Running the race in the last days Bible Study
The Refreshment: Where to find water
by I Gordon
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
We have been talking about running the race in the last days and last time we explored ‘the acceleration’. That is, we looked at how in a race (and in the last days) there comes a point when everything speeds up. You can run a long distance at a constant pace but as the end approaches and thoughts of the finish line come to mind, it is all on! We mentioned that it is getting harder to be a Christian in this world. The race is accelerating. No doubt about it. Many of the things that you and I hold to be true and dear are becoming increasingly despised by a world moving away from the truth. We need courage and strength to run well in this day and age.
But where is that to come from?
Now I could tell you what I’m speaking about today but that would be too easy. So… a ‘what am I’ riddle.
I can run but I don’t have any legs
I can fall but I don’t get hurt
I can be sparkling but I’m not a star
I am in you and you are sometimes in me
I’m found in a bath but I’m not a rubber duck
I can help you clean but I’m not soap 1
There was one verse that I mentioned last time that got me thinking about the message I want to give here. It was from the book of Jeremiah where God says:
Jer 2:12-13 Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate," says the Lord. (13) "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water.
In this passage in Jeremiah the Lord says that He is ‘living waters’. Water, both in the natural and the spiritual, are essential. What water is for the body in the natural, the Lord is for the believer in the spiritual. Without this living water we dry up, cease to function and shut down, spiritually speaking.
I’ve entitled this message ‘The water and the well’ and we’ll look at the importance of water today. Specifically we’ll look at:
The importance of water in the race
What water represents in the Bible (brief overview)
What we can learn from an Old Testament story about the importance of water and wells.
How to get water
The importance of water in the race
I’ve mentioned before the 160 km round Taupo race that my brother in law Graham and I rode. To reiterate, simply said, it’s just a long, hilly, gut busting, backside complaining cycling race. Especially if you’re not fit! When you finish your backside and legs, who have been bitterly moaning for a long, long time, are incredibly thankful and love you very, very much! But boy do you need water as you ride. Going around the course I had a little regiment of watching my speedo and having a good drink every 5km, then munching on a power bar every 10km’s. And I wouldn’t miss it. Now you might think ‘that’s very discipline of you… that’s not like you!’ I know… but you see I had learned the hard way the importance of water! (More in the fine print if interested.)2
How important is water in the body?
We hopefully know how essential water is to life.
How much of your body weight is made up of water? About 60%. When you think of all your bones, muscles, and fat (ok, don’t think about your fat too much!) the fact that 60% of your weight is made up from water is a staggering about.
Every cell in your body (and at last count that was 37.2 trillion) contains and needs water to function and survive. Every organ needs water to function.
Dehydrate yourself and you’ll soon know about it... as we did. How long do you think you can survive without water? The answer is about 10 days on average. So you are potentially 10 days away from death… if you suddenly found yourself without water. On that uplifting note, let’s move on!
A quick survey - What water represents in the Bible typology
So what about the spiritual? What does water represent symbolise in the Bible? Being so important to human life and survival, it obviously represents key important spiritual realities. What can you think of?
- Spiritual nourishment and life – Psa 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. (3) He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
- Blessing others – Pro 11:25 The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. 3
- The Lord Himself - Jer 2:12-13 Be astonished, O heavens, at this, And be horribly afraid; Be very desolate," says the Lord. (13) "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water.
- Spiritual teaching, encouragement, help in growth : 1Co 3:6-8 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth… Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.
- Cleansing/washing of the Word - Eph 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.
- Holy Spirit – (Most important) – John 4:12-14 "You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?" (13) Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; (14) 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."
There are lots of people going to all sorts of ‘watering holes’ seeking fulfillment. But it never lasts. Jesus is the only one that offers that which can quench that longing and thirst forever!
John 7:37-39 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. (38) "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
An Old Testament story
Let’s look at a story in the life of Isaac that emphasizes the importance of physical and spiritual water. Now we’ve got a bit of reading to do but don’t be lazy!
Gen 26:6-33 So Isaac stayed in Gerar . (vs 7) When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister," because he was afraid to say, "She is my wife." He thought, "The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful." (8) When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. (9) So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, "She is really your wife! Why did you say, 'She is my sister'?" Isaac answered him, "Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her." (10) Then Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us." (11) So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: "Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. (12) Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. (13) The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. (14) He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. (15) So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. (16) Then Abimelech said to Isaac, "Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us." (17) So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. (18) Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. (19) Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. (20) But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. (21) Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. (22) He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land." (23) From there he went up to Beersheba. (24) That night the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." (25) Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. (26) Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. (27) Isaac asked them, "Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?" (28) They answered, "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'-- between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you (29) that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD." (30) Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. (31) Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. (32) That day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, "We've found water!" (33) He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.”
So here is a pretty long story about Isaac and his encounters, problems and eventual blessing with wells and water. When I read something like this, I think often to myself ‘why would God want this in His word?’ Of all the stories, why this one? There are only three main stories that focus specifically on Isaac.
1. The offering of Isaac by Abraham in Gen 22 – Signifying the cross and sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus)
2. Abraham sends his servant out to find a bride for Isaac in Gen 24 – Signifying the taking of a bride (who like Rebekah have never seen their husband to be) for the Son, the Lord Jesus.
3. This story of where Isaac finally finds water and peace in Gen 26. This story seems to signify important lessons for the believer in receiving the living waters of the Lord.
So let’s look at a few parts of the story and what we can take from it in some quick points..
Vs 6 The location of Gerar – Firstly we read in verse 6 that Isaac moved to Gerar. According to ‘A dictionary of Scripture proper names’ by J.B Jackson, Gerar means ‘a dragging away’. Not a great sounding name! Gerar was south of Gaza in the land of the Philistines, bordering Egypt. It wasn’t quite down in Egypt (a type of the world) but it bordered it. It stands in scripture for 'world-bordering'. That is, not completely worldly but not dwelling in the land where God wants them either.
Vs 7-11 The compromise on truth - Though blessed personally, Isaac starts to repeat the same mistakes that His father Abraham made in the same area. Giving in to fear, he, like Abraham his Dad, tells the king that his wife is actually his sister. So we see that compromises are beginning to be made. Truth is being compromised. Some Christian’s think they can live on the border of the world and not be compromised... But it doesn’t happen.
Vs 12-16 – The blocking of the wells - The Philistines of the area blocked up the wells with earth. Loads of dirt were dumped into the wells so that no life giving waters could be drawn there. That’s quite the picture of ‘world-bordering’. Some Christians try to win the world by being more like the world but the end result is normally always compromise on the truth, enmity and blocked wells. Don't let your wells be blocked!
Vs 17-22 - Isaac moves, but not far. Isaac gets the message and moves... a little. Ever had the feeling ‘I’m not where I should be spiritually speaking?’ Isaac started to realise that he needs to move back to where he once was. But he doesn’t go far. From Gerar he goes moves to the valley of Gerar. Just a little move away. He tries to dig two new wells to get life giving water but it doesn’t end well. Those wells end up being called ‘Esek’ and ‘Sitnah’ – which means ‘contention’ and ‘enmity’. He’s still digging in the wrong spot! Where are you looking for life giving water?
Vs 23-24 – Finally back in the land! Isaac finally moves back to Israel, in Beersheba (‘well of the oath’) very close to where he lived when first married (Beerlahiroi (‘well of the living God who sees me’). Sometimes, like the Church in Ephesus, we need to come back to our first love which we have moved away from. (Rev 2:4-5) Having made the move back, that same night Isaac experiences the presence of God! The Lord speaks to Isaac saying that He is with him and not to fear. There is nothing better that experiencing God’s presence and hearing His voice!
Vs 25 – Isaac’s response - Isaac builds an altar (worship), pitches His tent (abiding in Him), and digs a well (looks for life, refreshment). Isaac obviously likes this place and doesn’t want to leave! It’s where he sets up home. Anytime we experience even a little of the living Lord it’s a place we don’t want to leave!
Vs 32 – The end result – Jumping to the end we hear the exuberant shout of Isaac’s servants. ‘We’ve found water!’ Of course they did. The conditions of their heart were right!
Conclusion - How to get water…
This is a great little story packed with pictures and nuggets of spiritual truth. Just to recap, in any long distance race you need water. Without it we dry up and shut down. That’s what happened when I tried to ride a long way without water. And the same is true in the spiritual. We need the ongoing water of God’s Spirit to run well! But as we have seen from this story of Isaac, there are things that we should do and things we should not do, to aid this. Here are three take-aways:
1. Sow to the Spirit, not to the flesh.
In other words, dwell in Beersheba
(‘the well of the Oath’), not Gerar (‘the dragging away’)
Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (8) The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (living water).
Isaac may have been prosperous but he was compromising on the truth down in Gerar. He wasn’t completely in Egypt (the world) but he wasn’t in the Promised Land either. He bordered both. It only lead to problems, strife and enmity. It only lead to his wells being blocked by the Philistines.
Isaac had to dig. If he had just thought, well I don’t have to do
anything to get water… it will all just happen… nothing would happen. The
well of salvation is deep indeed. Paul says we have been blessed with every
spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. But God wants us to dig. Do we care
about that? Are we willing to take time to dig into what that means?
Php 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not
only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work
out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13) for it is God who
works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Mum – why fear and trembling? You are dealing with that which is the most
important and previous gift God has – His salvation, His life through His
Spirit, in you. It’s important.
3. Abide (the tent), worship and be thankful (the altar)
The final picture of Isaac is one of abiding in the land and worshipping the Lord. As we are thankful to the Lord, giving Him the honour and praise that is due His name, and dwell in His promises, we are filled with the life giving water of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18-20 is a great passage that ties these two thoughts together. It speaks of being filled with the Spirit (which in the Greek is in the continuous ongoing tense, not a one-off event) and links that to singing praise and giving thanks for everything in your heart.
Eph 5:18-20 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we put this verse into action and learn from the spiritual lessons Isaac encountered down in Gerar, we will have the life giving water for this Christian race!
Yes! Easy right? It is water. Pat yourself on your back. But not for too long as a got this riddle from a website called 'Riddles for kids'. Sorry to slightly pop you riddle solving bubble there! ↩
Graham and I had previously gone out for a training ride on the same course to see what we were in for. And we rode and rode… up and down… down and up. Being a little excited we went a lot further than we should have and quickly ran out of water. So imagine yourself in the middle of the wops. There were no houses around, it’s hot, you’re sweating and the wind is against you. You’re cramping, the hills are looking and feeling more and more like Mount Everest… and you’ve got no water. We were starting to struggle! Graham especially was tying up, cramping a lot, with not much left to give. And we are still a long way from home. Now I know what you are thinking. ‘Cut him loose. He’s dead weight. He’s dragging you down. It’s better that one of you survive than you both perish!’ Oooh… you’re not thinking that? Was I the only one thinking that? Alright, I wasn’t thinking that. Being the wonderful brother-in-law that I am, I helped him up some of the hills until finally we saw it… a wonderful sight… a house… with a golden hose glistening in the sun. Well, not a golden hose but an old garden hose but to us it was just as good! Thinking back I can’t remember whether we even knocked on the door. I think we just went straight for the hose for water, glorious water. It has never tasted so good! ↩
Ravi Zacharias tells a great little story (based on an old song) about Desert Pete that illustrates this verse.
"A man is wandering through a desert with bottles of water on his shoulder. He conserves his water careful until it is all gone and then he begins to get thirsty. That thirst gets deeper and deeper until he sees a pump and runs to it. He lifts the handle and pulls it down but all he hears is the sound of metal on metal. He starts to panic. Then he sees a tin can at the bottom of the pump and in the tin can is a message. “Dear traveler do not despair there is enough water here, just follow the instructions. Lift the handle of the pump, bring it down and when you hear the sound of metal on metal discouraging you here’s what you do. Under the pump in front of you there is buried under the sand a bottle of water. Do not despair. Pick up the bottle of water pour it into the cylinder and start priming the pump. The moisture will get the system to work. A rush of water will start gushing out of the pump. You can drink all of the water you want, fill all your bottles but do not forget to fill up the bottle again and leave it for the next passerby. Warning: you’re going to be tempted, when you see this one bottle of water, to drink it. But you’ll be soon be thirsty again and so will everyone else who goes by. Empty it out as instructed and you will have all the water you want and so will everybody else going by.”
He goes on to say - “When you come up against Christ he offers you that drink, that living water to free you to be what he designed you to be, not to be enslaved just by the moment. If you empty your life on yourself you will soon be thirsty again and so will everybody else who comes across your path. Empty it out into his hands and he will fill you and give you the water that you can share with everybody body else too so life can be full and meaningful." ↩