Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Water and Stone

We thirst for righteousness. We thirst for what is holy. And yet, we walk around without quenching this thirst. We are made of the earth, and like that earth, we thirst. (Proverbs 30:15,16)

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

God formed us of the clay. Then he breathed life itself into us. When we are born, we begin breathing constantly and automatically. But even though water is so crucial for us that we die in only days without it, we drink only as an infrequent choice; people typically acknowledge that they don’t drink the 48-64 daily ounces advised for our health. We become accustomed to getting by on less than what our bodies need to be fully satisfied.

And so we spend our days in thirst, soon not even noticing our dehydration. Water is what we need, but it’s also what we must seek.

Breathing in and out, we have life, received from our Creator. But do we know our God? We need relationship with Him like we need water. And it is that relationship that we must seek.

O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.

Isaiah 64:8, NIV

When God creates us, He then gives us the choice: Will we continue to be crafted by Him? We are clay, but stone we can become. Clay on a potter’s wheel receives a steady hand and a touch of water that renews. This water keeps the clay from hardening before it is developed into useful form. Just so, our hearts need the touch of what Jesus called Living Water. Jesus introduced a way of living, which is delighting in God and living to delight God. This living water sustains even to eternal life. This living water refreshes spirits. This living water saturates hearts, making them malleable for reshaping.

People living to delight in God were in shortage even in the time of Noah. When men’s hearts hardened and evil was prevalent, God overwhelmed the world with water. He then resumed His craft with a man and his family that were still willing, still pliable enough, to obey Him.

When Moses and the Israelites were trapped by the Egyptians at the Red Sea, one group – the Israelites – received God’s saving grace. These were the descendants of Abraham, a man who chose God over everything else he knew. God had chosen him and his family to become His people, to show His glory among all the nations. When they called out to God for deliverance, God answered. God displayed his faithfulness, carrying out his plan for His chosen people and rewarding Moses’ obedient faith. He saved them in a way they could not anticipate – the parting of the Red Sea – and made them an example they did not comprehend: of deliverance from bondage that is not only physical and political, but spiritual as well.

Another group, the Egyptians, followed a man whose heart was unrelentingly hardened. Their pharoah’s hardness became part of the record of God’s plan. The Egyptians, who did not seek God and who would not hear from Him, were destroyed.

Later, it was the same Israelites who witnessed these miracles who eventually chose fear and pride over faith. Instead of trusting God, they despaired and defied Him. They too became brittle and unyielding, and those who would not be led were not led into the Promised Land. Instead, their children received the land, as evidence of God’s faithfulness.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
Psalm 46:4

O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13

When the next generation of Israelites crossed the Jordan River, also parted by their God, He prompted them to build a stack of stones there to recall God’s care. The memorial of rocks stood in the midst of the Jordan just as they had, recalling their physical journey and their spiritual journey. These rocks testified to the survival of these Israelites. They likely also resembled a familiar stubbornness that lingered in their own hearts. Just as the Jordan river current washed over the memorial rocks, God’s presence remained with the Israelites over the ages, continuing to care for them faithfully, in spite of many more generations of rebellion. With time, water shapes and polishes rock. And generations of Israelites came to slowly learn just how faithful their Lord God was.

Awash in His ways, even our stony hearts can be smoothed, polished, reshaped. Overwhelmed at the fountain of grace, we can allow our wills to be broken like rocks into sand. Once broken, we are finally usable. Broken into dust, we are drenched and renewed by God’s purpose, and made once again like clay pliable to God’s will – found in His Word and revealed in relationship with Him.

Whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:35b

In Jesus’ first miracle, He changed water into wedding wine. First, he directed the servants to fill jars with water; then, He directed them to draw out from those jars. The wine that was drawn out and served was declared as the finest.

Over the years, I’ve brought myself and those I care about before God, seeking not only resolution to problems but also restoration of the people facing the problems. And I’ve come to realize that we who worship God are being shaped, like clay, into jars.

Whenever I've taken time to focus on Him – praying to Him, listening to His word in Scripture, and speaking or singing praises to Him, I have been filling up like a jar with living water, and filling the jars of anyone who took the time to pray with me, read with me, and praise with me.

Whenever I've acted in faith, I've drawn out from that water, which is Jesus’ brand of wine. It comes from Communion with Him, relationship with Him.

This living water, which restores, refreshes and sustains unto eternal life itself, is the finest served.