I’ve learned something about adding water to outdoor hanging flowers: they are either terribly dry, or soaking wet. And the soaking-wet stage does not last very long, as the elements of wind and sun cause a 360-degree, 24-hour cycle of evaporation.
When I thought about this, I saw a parallel of sorts: each of us is like a beautiful flower, bringing a fragrance of Him while suspended in the world with the elements of worldly winds and cultural heat beating down on us, 360-degrees, 24 hours a day. The leaves get a little crunchy. The blooms lose a few petals. And sometimes it’s a genuine challenge to keep our roots tender, the spiritual ground in which we are planted moist enough for nutrients to flow and remain healthy.
As Jesus traveled across the land during the hot summertime, He would have been keenly aware of the hardness of ground when it became parched. One online source states of the two water supplies in Israel, “Cistern water was rainwater trapped in pits dug into rock and plastered to prevent leakage. Most homes and public buildings had them. The water was often dirty, having flowed from roofs or streets into the cistern…running water, especially spring water, was different. It stayed fresh and clean. And most springs were dependable, providing water year round. This constant fresh source of water was called ‘living water,’ probably portraying its life-giving qualities as well as its constant freshness.”*
Life-giving qualities and constant freshness…that’s actually a pretty good description of what happens when we are walking with and in His Spirit. Yet before Jesus referred to Himself as “living water,” His Father spoke through Jeremiah as being “…Me, the fountain of living waters” and “…the fountain of living water, even the Lord.” (Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13, NASB)
The well at which Jesus stopped in Samaria, and encountered the woman drawing water, is described in Scripture as being the archaeologically-excavated “Jacob’s Well.” (John 4:6)
Christiancourier.com describes it as being both a “spring” and a “phrear”, or cistern, “suggesting that its water was supplied by both an underground spring and rain.”
The Samaritan woman, then, was drinking from a well that contained both fresh and polluted water…sometimes, just as we do….
The Message translates one of Jesus’ statements to her as, “The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” (John 4:14) Jesus’ answer intrigued her, and she responded immediately, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty…” (John 4:15) Her focus, however, remained on the physical water and her own convenience as she quickly added, “…nor come all this way here to draw.”
The Samaritan woman inferred the length of her journey each day to “draw” from the well. It’s an effort that is well-rewarded when we are seeking Him, however, and it is crucial to focus on Jesus’ artesian spring, rather than settling for the water that just looks like a cistern that is full and fresh. While the riverflows, the cistern simply maintains, holding in what it has received and growing stagnant, becoming spoiled in the process.
Interestingly enough, I discovered a “dark side” to the historical cistern. Bible.history.com states that “cisterns were not only used to store water but were also used as underground chambers, hiding places for fugitives, burial places, and even as prison cells, as in the case of Jeremiah the prophet…”**
Indeed, Jeremiah 38 records, “Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern…and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.” (Jer. 38:6, NASB)
Where had all the water gone? Well…there could have been a drought so that no rainwater had entered the storage cavern for a prolonged period of time. Possibly the cistern had developed cracks which allowed a slow seepage of water to escape over time, until only mud was left. Whatever the circumstance, Jeremiah “sank into the mud” and a chamber designed for sustaining life had now become a prison.
A prison. Sunken into the mire because the water was virtually gone.
That’s where I want to camp for just a minute. I think there’s a danger to a “cistern-mindset,” rather than an artesian-well mindset. By this I mean it seems to me that without that Artesian Spring of the Spirit flowing through us, cleaning out the silt, carrying off the heavy particles of disappointment, discouragement, and loss of courage…we are each susceptible to sinking deeply into a waterless mire that will hold us captive.
We’re not meant to be cisterns. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38, italics added, NASB) There’s that artesian spring, again. Flowing. Drought-proof. Ever-filling so that the “sediment” that comes our way will be washed away and not entomb us.