Living Water

by Rev. Ed Visser

En Gedi WaterfallMy people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. – Jeremiah 2:13

“Drink lots of water,” we were told. “Sip it constantly, 3 – 5 liters a day.” It didn’t take long to discover why. Israel is a desert culture; nothing is more precious than water. Maybe that’s why Bible authors often use water imagery — even for God!

Early on our trip, we sat by one of the sources of the Jordan River at Dan. Here there are 17 spots where the water comes out from Mount Hermon in springs, joining together to form a rapidly flowing river. The Jordan flows south into the Sea of Galilee, then it continues south until it empties into the Dead Sea.

In Jeremiah’s prophecy, God uses the spring as an image for himself. And for good reason. A spring produces water year-round, while all other water supplies are temporary or seasonal. Throughout the desert one can see hundreds of wadis, large and small, which flow with water Qumran broken mikvehduring the rainy season, but are dry riverbeds the rest of the year. To keep a steady water supply when not near a spring, people constructed cisterns from rock, plastering the insides. But these held tepid, often polluted water, when they were in good repair. …

Cisterns were useless, of course, when cracked from heat or usage. Springs, on the other hand, produced “living water” — water directly from the hand of God. Regardless of the season or location, the spring brought life in a “dry and weary land.”

Similarly, God is “living water” for our lives, much more like the spring at Dan, the headwaters of the Jordan, than the end of the Jordan, the Dead Sea. The water at Dan was fresh, cool and clean; we even drank from them. But drinking any quantity of the Dead Sea waters would cause rapid illness and even death.

God is also a constant spring, not a seasonal wadi. Yet his people have not only left him, the living water, but they’ve also forsaken him to build their own cisterns. Spiritually they’ve carved out a reservoir which they can control. Sometimes we develop a “cistern relationship” with God. We try to get along without Him, do it our own way, until we get dry and need refilling. Even a short time in the land will convince you how ludicrous it is to forsake “living water” — life itself!

The “Rock” and the Transfiguration

by Pastor Ed Visser

Jesus: “Who do you say I am?” Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus: “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:15-18

Rock cave at Caesarea PhilNot long before Jesus went to the cross, he gathered his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, an area known for its worship of the pagan god Pan. At an outdoor theater, created in front of a large rock, with a cave they thought entered the underworld (Hades), people worshiped Pan in orgiastic fervor.

“What are we doing here?” Jesus’ disciples must have wondered. But he had an important question for them. In the face of all this blatant paganness, which seemed so strong in their culture, who would they confess that Jesus was? Peter’s response, revealing Jesus as Messiah and God, was stunning, if only for the setting. And Niche for PanJesus’ response also fit the setting. Perhaps gesturing to this rock and cave, he said he would build his church even here, in the midst of pagan culture, and that the “gates of Hades” (the name of this cave, but also denoting Satan’s realm) would not overcome his church.

To understand the impact of this setting on his message: if Jesus were to do this today he might very well take his disciples to Hollywood or Las Vegas or a porn theater in Times Square, and tell his disciples that his church was going to be built there, and Satan’s smut would not overcome it. That remains a strong message to the church today about our need to impact our culture.

If that was a little intimidating for those disciples, Jesus’ next stop was just north of this rock, to a much bigger one: Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel. There, before his three most intimate disciples, Jesus was transfigured into his glorified body. Moses & Elijah showed up, representing the Old Testament (Law & Prophets) and talking about Jesus’ atoning death. And God the Father himself declared (as he had done at Jesus’ baptism) that Jesus was indeed his Son and Messiah.

Mt HermonFrom this amazing illustration of Jesus in all his heavenly power and glory, it would be all downhill from here — figuratively and literally! The next stop was Jerusalem and the cross, which the disciples could now face, armed with a confession and an image of a glorious Lord!