Go, Figure.
A March 12 Magazine of Rehashed Thoughts

Water of Life

From Meribah to Sychar

The Woman at the Well

Cool water

John 4:5-42 and Exodus 17:1-7

Short Version Preached on Facebook

Preached Live at Valley Springs Church

There is nothing like water on your tongue when you are thirsty.

I have been thirsty in two ways.

On one hand, I have been dehydrated where I have needed to receive fluids through an intravenous drip. That brings a feeling of weakness and inability to function or even think clearly.

On the other hand, I have been hot, dry, and deprived of water on my tongue. That comes with a certain desperation and burning desire to drink.

Then, there have been sometimes when I could not take anything by mouth, but I was receiving adequate fluids in my arm. My mouth was thirsty, but my body was OK.

We go to the desert in Exodus 17:1-7. The people felt thirsty before they dehydrated. Yet, they were in grave danger.


From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink."

 Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"

 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."

 The LORD said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink."

 Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"


That was a place with two names.

Massah means "testing" and Meribah means "quarreling."

The people were tested by the lack of water and thirst, and they responded by quarreling with Moses and, ostensibly, with God.

God supplied them water.

In Psalm 95:6-11, the Psalmist reflects on that moment and, musically, calls for people to be responsive rather than resistant to God:


O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation and said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways."

Therefore in my anger I swore, "They shall not enter my rest."


The test is in the questions:

  • Is God able to bring water from a rock and care for our basic needs?
  • Is God willing to do so?

It takes faith to adequately answer the question:

Romans 5:1-2 says:


Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.


Verse 3 continues the thought and lays out the process of being tested without quarreling.


And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.


Notice that we are moving beyond physical thirst to the deepest sort of spiritual thirst. It is the thirst for real life which is eternal.


Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


The two questions. God can and God does care enough to do so.

God can quench our thirst and desires to do it because of divine love. It is sacrificial love. It is the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Yet, we quarrel. We set ourselves as enemies of God and we make enemies of others as well.

By the time of Jesus, for a variety of reasons, descendants of Jacob/Israel were divided into two people groups: Jews and Samaritans. Samaritans were a mixed group of people who had settled in what had been the Northern Kingdom and developed a hybrid form of Judaism.

The Jews were the purists who came out of the great Exile and did not mix the Law and the Prophets with the teachings of the nations.

These two groups did not get along.

They were both thirsty for what only God could give them, but they did not regard each other as worthy of God's love.

John 4:5-42 describes an encounter between Jesus, a Jew, and someone who had three things going against her.

She was a Samaritan.

She was a woman, and that was a disadvantage in Jesus' world.

She was a moral outcast, a woman of tarnished reputation.


4:5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

4:6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.


Thirsty, tired Jesus is traveling. He did not, like almost all of his countrymen, avoid this region. Normally,a Jew would go the long way around Samaria. Jesus plowed through. He must have known he had an appointment in Sychar.

We get tired. He got tired.

We get thirsty. He got thirsty.

We are tested. He was tested.

We quarrel. He seized an opportunity to reach out to another human being.


4:7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."

4:8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)


I am sure he said it politely even though it is translated as a demand. The woman makes it clear that she considered he was asking for a drink.  We do not need to parse the details and culture. The message comes clearly in the next verse:


4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)


She is not offended by his request.

She is astounded, perplexed, and overwhelmed. This just did not happen.

Jews and Samaritans shared nothing, not even water. They had no common ground. They had no interaction. They did not recognize each other's dignity, humanity, and in this case, thirst.


4:10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."


Here is how we know why Jesus had to ask. He had no bucket.


4:11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?


But he was also there to ask, to break a wall, and to start a conversation. He also had no barriers, animosity, or shame in asking.

He wanted this encounter. Rather than perpetuate a quarrel, he was there to build a bridge. It would turn out to be a big bridge. It took no time at all for him to introduce the idea of spiritual thirst.

Jesus spoke first, he seems to say, but if you had known who I was, you would have asked and i would have given, living water.

Jeremiah called God the spring of living water. Jerusalem was known as the soource of living water. Living water is fresh, clean, and, by virtue of effect, sweet to the tongue and refreshing to the soul.

Water is a source of life.


4:12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"


Jacob was their common ancestor. He was honored in both of their traditions. He was revered by the Samaritans as their father. It is a rhetorical question that the woman asks, rather snarky perhaps.


4:13 Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,

4:14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life."


I think he is making it clear that the discussion has moved from the world of sand, sun, and water to the world of the Spirit. What we do not know is whether or not Jesus has gotten the cup of water by now. I like to think he has.

In the God well, you do not have to lower you bucket by a rope. God's water springs up. God's water results in eternal life.

This woman has come to the well on off-hours for years- not with the other women. They shun her. She is a threat to their homes. She is not a friend.

It is drudgery to survive sometimes in this world. You must do so many things just to get by.

It feels that way spiritually sometimes too.


4:15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."


I think she is getting it. They are in metaphor land. They are talking about big things, deep things, eternal things. She is playing along. Jesus has touched a nerve. She is interested. She says.

"Give me this water. I am tired and thirsty."

What makes you tired?

What makes you thirsty?

What makes your soul ache?

What remains unsatisfied in your life?


4:16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back."

4:17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband';

4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!"


Don't you love it, and don't you hate it when Jesus gets personal?

This woman has blown through 5 husbands. She does not even bother any more. She just moved in with this guy. That was not common in her time. She was continually lowering her bucket into the well of love and acceptance and it kept leaking. She had to keep coming back for that which never satisfied.

She must have felt rather defeated by life. But she was a survivor. She kept going to the well

She is amazed at Jesus' insight and knowledge of her and declares:


4:19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.


A prophet proclaims truth from God. Jesus spoke truth. But she sees more and that is about to become obvious.

She is fully immersed in this interfaith, cross-denominational discussion by now and brings up the historical quarrel between the Jews and Samaritans: Where to worship and how:


4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem."

4:21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.


Jesus declares a day to come when none of the quarrels will matter. In that that day, God will address the real source of our common human thirst for life, for meaning, and for truth. All the sources of our divisions and argents will fade.

He continues:


4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.


He does not play down the truth. He does not diminish the role of Judaism. Judaism contributes a knowledge of God to humanity. It possessed the Covenant, the Torah, the Name of God, and the most complete descriptions of God's character according to Jesus.

But even so, they both worshipped the same God.

Jews were worshipping a God they knew.

Samaritans, Jesus said, were worshipping an unknown God.

But all of that was about to change in the coming of a new hour of the spirit, a new era, a new time of refreshing when living water would flow to all.


4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.

4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."


That is a mouth full. That is profound. That is game-changing, Let it sink in.

Sip it.

Guzzle it.

It is Living water for a Thirsty soul.

Notice a few verses back when he said, "He would have given it."

First, the Father is seeking worshippers, He is seeking them everywhere, even at a well in Sychar in Samaritan country. It is not about going to God anymore. It is about God coming to us. A seeking God.

Then, this God is spirit. He is wind. He is breath. He is moving. He is invisible. He is everywhere.

Finally, if we are going to be true worshippers of God, it will not be through quarrelling over water, or altars, or theological concepts, but in spirit and in truth.

At this point, the woman introduces another plot of common ground. Jews and Samaritans believed in a coming Messiah.


4:25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us."


Messiah or Christ means, the one anointed by God. It has a long prophetic tradition and many traditions and beliefs associated with it. The woman is fishing for more information and Jesus gives it. It becomes very plainspoken about an area where he has been very vague.


4:26 Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."


Catch it while you can because you will not hear it much.

Now, there are only two people in this conversation.

Who told John?

Was it the woman or was it Jesus?

If I knew, I would tell you.

One thing we know is that it was about to be broadcast widely.


4:27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?"


They could have chosen the taboo to shock them. They chose the fact that Jesus was breaking protocol by having a serious conversation with a woman.

But this is Jesus.

He has no respect for tradition barriers of culture, lineage, reputation, religion, or gender.

For Jesus, what matters is:

All the people are thirsty.

Living Water is for all.

God is seeking worshippers who are longing for a life of truth in the spirit.

If that is you, then God is seeking you.

Hint: If you are fully honest, you know that it is you.


4:28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

4:29 "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?"


Let's follow the woman for a moment:

She left her jar. Are we too attached to our water pots to carry the call of Jesus to our cities? Are we so fixated on our trivial tasks that we cannot leave them to bear witness to His power, grace, and truth?

Maybe that is a stretch of interpretation, but it is right there. She abandoned her menial task to go back to the city with this news.

Here was a woman with the worst reputation in the village and she went to the very people with whom she had made her reputation.

To the men of the city, with whom she had no credibility at all, she declared the credibility of Jesus. At least they would talk to her. And she did it without the slightest hint of intimidation and completely undistracted by the unfinished mission that had taken her to the well in the first place.

Who cares about two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen when you can have living water?

Washing clothes can wait. Cooking can be done later. Even drinking water can be postponed. It’s not everyday that you have a chance to meet a man who can tell you everything you have ever done – and in such a way that you feel love, forgiveness, and acceptance rather that shame, guilt, and fear.

This woman had been summoned to a new mission, a higher calling. She received the call and bore the call with passionate conviction and urgency. The call is upon us and on our lips, but if it is to be heard by the people of the cities, we must leave our water pots and deliver it in person.


4:30 They left the city and were on their way to him.


At the very least, they were curious. At the most, they were thirsty.


4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, "Rabbi, eat something."


They were concerned for him.

They knew how absorbed Jesus could get in these conversations.

In many ways, they were stuck in the mundane elements of the moments and unaware of the intensity and significance of those moments.


4:32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about."

4:33 So the disciples said to one another, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"

4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.


We have moved from water to food.

Our essential thirst being quenched, we must still eat. we need nourishment. It is not, for most of us, quite the emergency of going without water, but it is a human need. It is an urge for days before it becomes truly urgent.

Jesus takes the opportunity for another great lesson.

The work of the Father feeds his soul.

That conversation was worth more to him than a 5 course meal. I doubt that he could have eaten in that moment if he had tried. He was basking in the wonder of the encounter and waiting for the next wave that was coming as the townspeople would arrive.

Don't distract us with food when we are eating a real banquet of purpose.


4:35 Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.

4:36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

4:37 For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.'

4:38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."


This is harvesting time, he declares!

I am here reaping a harvest!

Others has been part of it. God has been working for some time.

We can all rejoice in it.

You are going to be part of it too!

It is a feast of joy.

In a thirsty world, what could be more gratifying than offering fresh water?

ILn a hungry world, what could be more rewarding than offering food for the soul?

In a needy world, what could be more fulfilling than being part of God's work in God;s Kingdom?

We are the Jesus team!


4:39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done."


Many lives were changed that day.

Many thirsty souls found living water.

Something began at Masah and Meribah with thirst and testing and quarreling.

That day, in Sychar, water flowed from the rock!


4:40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.

4:41 And many more believed because of his word.


Jesus did not generally stay that long. It says something about his motives, his heart, and his purpose.

Not all the divisions would be healed in two days, but he knocked a hole in the wall and extended the flow of the river of life.


4:42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world."


Let that sink in.

Powerful words.

Real encounter with God is very personal and experiential.

Jesus had sought these people. The conduit was one woman. She was the link. Many came to believe. Many became disciples.

He was and is the Savior of the world. The whole world. Not just one side of a quarrel. Not just one tribe or people. The world!

We return to Psalm 95 for an admonition."


“Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.” - Psalm 95:8


Thirst is a powerful drive. Water is a basic human need. To be without water is a hard test. To trust God for water is a profound demand.

At Massah, also called, Meribah, the children of Israel quarreled with Moses and tested God. They doubted God’s presence and provision. They did this because they were thirsty.

They quarreled; they doubted; but God provided in spite of their hard hearts. The water came from the rock. Psalm 95 admonishes us to praise God who is the rock of our salvation and not to harden our hearts toward God.

Hard times test us to the core. Paul tells the believers in Rome, in Romans 5 that suffering, filtered through faith, brings endurance that leads to character and hope. God helps us. God provides.

God quenches the deepest thirst of our lives.

We can trust God.

Jesus delivers this message to the woman at the well. In his conversation with her, he reminds her that whoever drinks from Jacob’s well will thirst again. However, he will give water that will satisfy forever.

She understands the metaphor. She looks at her life of dissatisfaction and at Jesus and she believes Jesus. Her heart is not hard.

She runs home to her Samaritan village and invites everyone to come see a man who knew her completely when he did not know her at all.

Come see him!

Many came. Their hearts were not hard. They believed also.

It is amazing what God can do with a soft and receptive heart.

No matter how thirsty you are, you can open your heart to God and drink from the well that never runs dry.

Come and See