A Long String of Downs

Genesis 26:19-22 (New International Version)
Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 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.”

In most of our homes in the US, when we want a glass of water, it’s as easy as walking over to the faucet and turning it on. Or, if we have one of those fancy refrigerators, holding our glass under the spigot to receive an ice cold stream of filtered water. We don’t usually even consider how that water miraculously arrived in our kitchen. It is simply a given that when we need it, it will be available.

It was just a wee bit more complicated for people in biblical times. If you lived near a river, you could carry water back using large jugs, heavily balanced as you walked the uneven path home. But if you were settling down in an area without even a stream nearby, you would have to dig to reach water. The wells were dug by hand; it was difficult, dirty, and dangerous work. Imagine spending days digging out the ground and finally finding water, only to have another group of people come by and claim it for their own. How maddening! It’s not surprising that Isaac names the first well “Esek” before they move on– from the Hebrew word asaq, which means “to contend.”

They find another site that looks promising, and repeat the whole exercise. Digging, shoring up the sides of the well so it doesn’t collapse, digging more and more, and, eventually, water. I can almost hear the workers’ voices lifting in despair when Gerar’s herders show up again. Their increasing desperation is evident in the naming of this well: “Sitnah.” In Hebrew, sitna means “enemy” or “accusation.” After two failed attempts, surely it was time to pack it in. For all their efforts, they have nothing. The workers can’t even quench their own thirst from the water. Why don’t they just give up?

Simple. No water = no life. Their families and flocks were depending on them. So they pick up their stuff, walk along, find a new location, and start digging. Again. This time, finally, they’re left alone to enjoy the fruits of their three-times extended labor. They call this well “Rehoboth,” from the Hebrew noun rehob, “open place.” They now have access to life-preserving water. This well was a symbol of hope for Isaac and the people.

All of us know folks who are struggling. People who have been searching for employment, but no matter the number of résumés sent out, nothing happens. People who have been blindsided by unexpected, life-threatening illness. People yearning for a deep, meaningful relationship, but who have been disappointed time and time again. So many stories of challenge and of trying to discern God’s will. People who are so thirsty, and who seem to have in their past a string of wells-that-could-have-been. We know that every life has its ups and downs. But when you find yourself faced with a succession of downs, it can be profoundly discouraging.

In John’s gospel, Jesus sits by the side of another well, this one built by Isaac’s son Jacob. In the noontime heat, a woman approaches to draw water from the well. Scripture tells us that she had experienced her own long string of disappointments. No doubt she felt alone and bereft. Then she is engaged by Jesus in a deeply surprising conversation. Jesus tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

This woman did not start her day expecting to find hope at the well. She did not expect to have her life transformed. She did not expect to come face to face with the Messiah. But that is exactly what happened.

What obstacles are you facing in your life right now? Who can you reach out to for the help you need? Where do you find hope in the midst of difficult times?

This entry was posted in Pondering Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Long String of Downs

  1. Pat Bleech says:

    Thank you for the blessings, Heather, I have missed them sooooo much! Pat

  2. Maggie Hamberger says:

    Dear Heather,

    I think I told you via FB or the comment section on your blog that I have been looking for something, anything, to help me with my daily devotionals, and BOOM! Here you are! In fact when I was skimming through my journal last night, my April 4 entry read, in part (and in all caps!) FIND, READ, PRAY ABOUT DAILY DEVOTIONALS!!!!!! Wow! Does God act really, really, really quickly on occasions or WHAT!?

    Love you, miss you! Maggie

    >________________________________ > From: Love God | Understand Yourself | Serve Others >To: mah33069@yahoo.com >Sent: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 4:35 PM >Subject: [New post] A Long String of Downs > > > > WordPress.com >Hedy Collver posted: “Genesis 26:19-22 (New International Version) Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disp” >

  3. Valerie says:

    Thanks Heather. It’s so wonderful to read your daily devotionals again.
    It really helps me get through my day! Welcome back, my dear friend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s