“Life In The Desert of Sin”
Lent 3A – March 19, 2017
Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42
In our lesson from Exodus, verse one, we heard these words: The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. The name of the desert is an incredible metaphor for the journey all of us are. In our journey from here to heaven we also travel through the Desert of Sin.
So the desert is a metaphor for our existence as human beings. The name Sin is a metaphor for disobedience to God. The water in the desert is a metaphor for what is needed to quench spiritual thirst, and Israel’s Exodus is a metaphor for our journey from here to the promised land of heaven. So,
What Can We Learn From Today’s Exodus Lesson?
We know life in a desert is dangerous. There is usually harsh weather: very little rain, extreme temperature fluctuations, very little shade, and little shelter at night. There is also a limited food supply. Deserts also tend to get very cold at night because there is no moisture to hold in the heat. If the daytime temperature is 105, and the nighttime is 75, that’s a drop of 30 degrees – that chills your body. But, the greatest danger in the desert is lack of water.
Dehydration is the killer. A couple of days without water and a person is suffering symptoms of dehydration that lead to serious medical problems.
Water is essential for life! Finding water in the desert is the key. That is why the people were grumbling against Moses (:3). “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” Moses cried out to God, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me” (:4). To provide for the people, God had Moses strike a designated rock, out of which water flowed for the people to drink. Water is the central theme in today’s lesson from Exodus. Likewise, water is the central analogy Jesus uses to teach a spiritual lesson that brings a woman, and many of her neighbors, to faith in Christ.
The desert Israel traveled through stands for our world. Sin describes our lives with God and each other. Sin is disobedience to God’s perfect will, and this world is very sinful. To keep God’s perfect will has proven to be essentially an impossible journey. We know that God attributed righteousness to Abraham because of his complete trust in God, but aside from Jesus I’m not sure of anyone else who actually lived a perfect, sinless life.
That is why St. Paul, writing in his letter to the Romans (3:26), states that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. From today’s lesson, Paul says that God solved our sin dilemma through the person of Jesus Christ. Verses 6-8: 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ, the Rock from whom flows living water.
The Desert of Sin, and
The Woman At The Well.
Jesus and his disciples are traveling to Galilee from Jerusalem, going through Samaria. There was animosity between the Samaritans and the orthodox Jews because the Samaritans were considered religious half-breeds. They were Jews who were not carried off to Babylon. They remained in the land and intermarried with the peoples whom the Babylonians transplanted into Judea. They did not fully convert the new-comers to worship Yahweh, and ended up with a syncretistic religion. A more modern illustration would be the Catholicism that existed in South American after the Spanish conquests. It was a mixture of Christianity and Native American religions. That is the background for the discussion Jesus has with a woman he meets at Jacob’s well.
Jesus was tired. He sends the disciples into town to buy food. This is one of those moments that are either a “coincident”, or a “God-incident”. I’ll let you chew on that. Anyway, a woman comes to the well at noon; way past the normal hour for gathering water for the morning. And, Jesus just happens to be sitting there and he asks her to ‘give him a drink’. Even Jesus needed to drink water.
The woman recognizes Jesus as a Jew and is surprised that He would ask her (a Samaritan) for a drink. Jesus responds to her by saying: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (:10).
The woman is confused by Jesus’ reference to “living water”. She wants to know how Jesus will provide it. Jesus responds to her questioning with this statement: “Everyone who drinks this (well) 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” (:13-14).
The woman still doesn’t understand that Jesus is talking about spiritual matters and using the well water as a metaphor for a spiritual relationship that does satisfy the human soul for eternity. So, she replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (:15). Jesus knows he has her attention so he switches the conversation and instructs her to go get her husband. She replies that the man she is living with is not her husband. Jesus responds to her truthfulness by revealing that he knows she has had five husbands before the man she is currently living with.
The talk about water has now led to the mining of her spiritual need. She realizes that Jesus is a prophet. He, of course, is more than that, and leads her into a conversation that uncovers her understanding that the Messiah will one day come and then explain everything. To that, Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah.
The woman returns to her village and tells her neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? (:29). Because of her willingness to share her testimony about meeting Jesus, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in (Jesus)…” (:39). There Is A Link Between The Water in The Desert and Jesus’ ‘Living Water”.
Even as God miraculously provided water for the Israelites, so God miraculously provides satisfaction for our deepest spiritual thirsts.
We thirst in our bodies when we don’t have water. Likewise, we thirst in our souls because we don’t have Jesus’ living water flowing through us. Sin does not satisfy the human soul. It always leaves us thirsting for a deeper spiritual reality.
Sin ought to shock us. God didn’t create us to sin, yet, we build up a tolerance to everything we experience to an excess. It is part of our nature. A little sin use to shock us and cause us to feel ‘guilty’. But a constant dose of disobedience increases our tolerance to feeling guilty. It doesn’t take long and we have so silenced the voice of our conscience that we feel only fleeting guilt for our sin. Sins that becomes habitual in our lives, or to which we become addicted, leads to an increase in the same destructive behavior. Human answers to our sin problem, like a drink of water from a well, don’t cure our need. They satisfy us for a short while, but the thirst returns.
We Need God’s Answer, What Jesus Called “Living Water”.
“Living water” is spiritual. It flows from a well that will never run dry. The well is God Himself. The living water is his Holy Spirit. The cup to get the water from God to us is Jesus Christ. God has a plan for satisfying our spiritual thirst. It comes out of His great love for us, revealed through His son, Jesus Christ. When we give our lives to Jesus, we are attempting to empty ourselves and be filled with God’s Spirit.
We can keep seeking our own answers to our sin problem – whatever particular manifestation it comes to us in – or we can accept God’s answer. God offers to let us drink from a well that will never run dry; of a living water that will never cease to satisfy. Verse 1
You said You’d come
And share all my sorrows
You said You’d be there
For all my tomorrows
I came so close to sending You away
But just like You promised
You came there to stay
I just had to pray
And Jesus said
Come to the water
Stand by My side
I know you are thirsty
You won’t be denied
I felt ev’ry tear drop
When in darkness you cried
And I strove to remind you
That for those tears I died
CCLI Song No. 13948 © 1972 Bud John Songs, Inc. (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing), Marsha J. Stevens CCLI License No. 700196
Whatever God is calling you to pick-up or lay down this Lent God will provide you the resources needed to accomplish His will. Will you trust God like Moses and the woman trusted?