Genesis 24:10-20 & John 4:3-30
Like other watering holes such as the club or pubs, the well was a gathering place, a place to slow down or to stop doing things, a place to refresh and a place to talk and a place to listen.
In places such as Mesopotamia, Israel, Judah Syria and Samaria where the Bible was written and lived, wells have always been extremely important places of gathering, and refreshing, but more so, places where life itself is sustained.
You see, Israel and much of the Middle East has very low rainfall but it also has large quantities of limestone and dolomite bed rock, which tends to have caves and sinkholes, so when rain does fall during the three winter months, it is collected in underground reservoirs and raised to the surface via wells to quench the thirst of people and animals alike.
Wells and cisterns are mentioned many times in the Bible. They have a significance and symbolism that should not be overlooked. Often a meeting at a well changes the history of a person or even a people.
Saul who seeks the Prophet Samuel’s advice goes to a well (in 1 Samuel).
Hagar is sitting desolate at the well in the wilderness when an angel appears and promises her a restoration of her fortunes (in Genesis 16).
Moses sat by a well in the land of Midian, after escaping from Pharaoh’s wrath and by providence meet his future wife Zipporah (in Exodus 2).
And so Providence or God sees another encounter at a well in our first reading today.
In the lead up to this passage, we see an aged Abraham who has been promised a great nation from his descendants by God.
But at this time, his only son Isaac, was without a wife or children. He sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac from his brother’s line, in far-off Nahor – a city in ancient Mesopotamia or modern day Iraq. After a long time travelled, the servant stops and rests at a well outside Nahor, and prays to the God of Abraham for a specific supernatural sign to identify a wife for Isaac.
God answers his prayer and identifies Rebekah as the partner for Isaac. She responses to the families’ wishes and decides to take up this call (we are not sure on a real level of volunteerism – as women usually had to accede to the wishes of men).
Into this marriage are born Jacob and Esau.
Jesus is from the line of Jacob (according to both Matthew and Luke’s genealogy) and it the same Jacob whose name was given to the well – where Jesus and the Samaritan women met, about a millennia later.
Jesus, comes to rest, to refresh, to meet others to talk and to listen.
In this supernatural encounter, this outsider (a Samaritan woman who draws water in the middle of the day because she knows at that time she will not encounter the other local women who will come either in the cool of the evening or the morning) – this woman is transformed. She loses her inhibitions and becomes an evangelist and, like Rebekah – becomes God’s instrument – and tells others and leads them to the Christ or the Messiah.
In both of these stories, the women are foreigners to the ‘chosen race’ – yet both women offer water to the strangers. In both stories God is present. God gives living water. Both women receive it and both proclaim it or are, at least, witness to it.
But, both stories have something else in common – a stopping and a refreshment occurs. Not just for Jesus and for Abraham’s servants, but also for Rebekah and the Samaritan woman.
For what really many only be a few brief minutes, there is a symbolic time to sit – like Mary – at the feet of the master and take it all in.
We mentioned during our Kids’ talk that we are called human ‘beings’ and not human ‘doings’. How often we fuss about like Martha and not be seated in the presence of God.
I always find it interesting that in our world, after we are introduced to someone, the first question we are asked is ‘What do you do? – Work wise, or in school or now that you’re retired).
When was the last time someone asked you, ‘What sets your heart on fire?’ ‘What do you believe?’ ‘Do you have faith in a power beyond yourself?’
Are these any more personal questions that what do you do for a living?
If we look at our church services, we often fill them up with words, music and actions. Even in our prayers, we often get a little uncomfortable if there is just silence and resting and waiting.
When we come into church there is often a great deal of noise, hearty greetings, discussions, notes to be given to the worship leader, so the stillness of ‘being’ doesn’t begin when we enter the sanctuary. It usually only begins when we sing ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord is moving in this place.
Even then, for me, it is sometimes a matter of, ‘how can I get through to someone today, rather than simply providing the space for God to act.
We are always in God’s presence, but how often do we allow ourselves to ‘be’ in God’s presence, so we can find God’s will for our future actions.
One of the more controversial customs associated with the Pentecostal movement is being slain in the Spirit. Falling in the presence of God and surrendering. It is better termed ‘Resting in the Spirit’ – that space where we can acknowledge who we are in the sight or presence of God, when we hand over our control back to God and then listen as God performs his will, or even his being, on our being to become fully God’s instrument for a time.
Finally, there has been some discussion over the years about making the lecture hall into a café, an outreach place where people can come to gather and rest, refresh both physically and spiritually, to talk and to listen.
If, indeed, we do go down this path – I have but one request – Could we call it Jacob’s Well.
May God bless you as you try to spend more time ‘being’?