Toorak Uniting Church

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The wells of salvation

Isaiah 12: 2 – 6
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
14 December 2003, 9.00 am

What caught my attention in today’s reading was the image of wells and of the drawing of water from them. Maybe it is the draught and the phase two water restrictions that make me feel guilty when I have a shower for longer than two minutes. Or perhaps it was the effect the rain had last week on our garden: I could see the plants grow the day after that awful deluge that caused so many problems for so many people.

Other images sprang to my mind. A journey to the Sinai desert where I saw a real oasis for the first time in my life. And where it was explained to me that somehow, water from all around the desert after the occasional rainfall (very occasional, once every few years apparently) would flow down to a point beneath the oasis and would provide a small area with an inexhaustible supply of water and greenery. It was really weird to travel for miles and miles through arid desert and then suddenly be in the middle of a village with lush vegetation that would stop as abruptly as it had begun.

Another image: Children with big round eyes and swollen tummies in Africa, walking barefoot through dry and inhospitable land, looking for food.

And again images of children playing around a pump that had been put in place by some Christian Charity. Enjoying health and a good life because of the presence of this very precious commodity: water.

Then my thoughts went back to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. I was at University and still remember how scared we were that the nuclear fall out would contaminate our rivers and our drinking water, making it useless. And people speculating what would happen if in a country like the Netherlands the waterways would get contaminated with radioactive material.

Memories of our first summer in Australia where it took us some time to work out that we had to keep drinking and drinking to prevent us from getting headaches, funny feeling legs and shaky hands. And that one time we went for a walk and forgot the drinking bottles and nearly did ourselves an injury.

Water is a precious and necessary commodity in life. As people we cannot live without it. Where there is no water all life eventually dies out. But where there is nature will suddenly burst with life and be re-invigorated by even a little bit of rain after a period of draught. Dew in the night was enough, and I assume in any desert, enough to bring out some tiny tiny flowers in some cracks where the water of the dew had gathered, to evaporate within an hour after sunup in the hot sunshine. Water is an amazing life force.

And the image Isaiah draws for us is a very strong one: Draw water with joy from the wells of salvation.
The word used in the Hebrew suggesting plenty. An abundance of salvation, of life giving stuff. Of a plentitude that calls for joy, praise and celebration.

It is coming says Isaiah, salvation by the bucket full. It is coming, as much of it as you may be longing for. Do not be afraid, simply trust that it will happen, because it will, starting with us but spreading out until it encompasses the whole world and all people.

It is a song of faith Isaiah sings, a song that imagines a future that is not yet there, but is coming.

And that brought another memory back. A memory of a boat trip in the middle of summer, sailing somewhere on a lake when we were suddenly becalmed. No wind and no motor we drifted for hours. And what was worse: no food and no water after a while. We kept each other going with stories about the meal we would have when we would return to dry land. Telling one another about our favourite dishes, drawing up images of the best things we ever had for lunch, dinner or even breakfast. We knew we would get back at some stage. The only thing was that we did not quite know when that would be and how long we would have to go without before we got there.

Reading those age old prophesies in Advent to me is something like that: In the middle of the desert, with no water in sight for miles, Isaiah starts talking about wells of salvation. Starts talking about trust, and faith that all will be well, that the time will come when there is salvation in abundance.

Isaiah never saw it. He had been dead for centuries when Jesus was born. Who showed in his life and death just how strong God’s arm is when it comes to saving his people.
Again we might feel sometimes as if we have ended up in some desert. Thirsting for justice, righteousness and peace, wondering about the suffering of people around us, or even of ourselves at times. Feel that life is hard going and we only poorly equipped to cope with it.

We have an advantage over Isaiah. We can look back at what God has done and look forward to what he will surely do. Buckets full of salvation are awaiting us and our world. Proof for this is what God has done in Jesus Christ. Sign of it is the continuing work of the Holy Spirit. Here, there, everywhere where people find wells of salvation and draw from it. Everywhere where trust and faith brings people to dream and work for the actualization of those dreams in Jesus Name. Everywhere where the Holy Name of God is made great. Anywhere where Christ is born today.


© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2003

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