For six years you are to plant and harvest crops on your land. Then during the seventh year, do not plow or plant your land. If any food grows there, allow the poor people to have it, and let the wild animals eat what is left. You should do the same with your vineyards and your orchards of olive trees. You should work six days a week, but on the seventh day you must rest. This lets your ox and your donkey rest, and it also lets the slave born in your house and the foreigner be refreshed. Be sure to do all that I have said to you. You must not even say the names of other gods; those names must not come out of your mouth. (Exodus 23:10-13)
Choose your path well, because as you repeatedly travel it, you’ll soon develop a deep rut. Routines give us stability, but they are meant to help us learn, grow, and improve, not mold us into robots. A faithful life marries consistency with flexibility, celebrating the dependability of God with his mystery. We explore God every moment of every day for our entire lives and still not completely know him. If we allow ourselves to create ruts in our lives, we will have great familiarity in some experiences but miss out on others. If we meander with no intention, we will not create ruts, but we’ll have no well-developed habits of discipline.
The verses in Exodus 23 are just one of many examples of God’s guidance. They include God’s desire for routine and discipline but also demand an intentional break from the norm. Instead of working the land, rest is required every seventh year. Rest is also required on the seventh day. God wants us to step off our normal paths. Sometimes he has to personally intervene to make us consider another route.
How have you experienced God’s intervention to take a route other than the one to which you’ve become accustomed?
The woman in John 4 personally encountered Jesus when she took her daily trek for water. She had taken the path over and over. She walked by herself, because she wasn’t welcome by other women in the area. Her sin isolated her, so she walked in the heat of the day, when most people would never be walking in the unprotected heat. Yet she met a man at the well: Jesus. When he asked for water, a conversation followed:
Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “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.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “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.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:7-26)
Meeting Jesus was a divine appointment. As the conversation began about water, the woman keeps referring to literal water when Jesus quickly shifts to spiritual water. Literal water is all the woman knows. Literal water is the basis of her routine. She goes about her daily routine, walking the familiar path to get reliable water. She dips into the well she believes will sustain her.
What daily routines do you rely on for familiarity and comfort? What sustains you?
We rely on daily wells that we believe will sustain us – wells such as friendships, approval, marriage, intellectualism, strength, past successes, family name, and whatever brings us joy, security, hope, peace and contentment. They’re not necessarily bad things, but they’re not the best thing.
Jesus refers back to spiritual water. He does the same with us, but when we’ve worn a path to and from our daily wells, creating ruts in the road, we are often too preoccupied in what we believe is sustaining us to listen to the truth of who will sustain us.
Jesus knew just what to say. He asked about the woman’s husband, which was an uncomfortable topic. Jesus knows how to meet us in our rut, then pulls us out by facing us with truth. It’s uncomfortable, because truth doesn’t keep us where we are. Truth itself doesn’t change, but it changes everything and everyone it touches.
You might be comfortable trudging to and from a well that you think nourishes you. You might be exhausted by it, but because you believe it’s what you need, you continue. You believe you’re harvesting something life-sustaining. Pause and listen to God’s truth. Rest in his presence. You might just be relying on a hole in the ground when the living well is standing right in front of you.
Only Jesus can nourish you. We think we know what we can rely on and what works best for us, but that’s God’s job, because he sees the big picture. He created us. He knows you more intimately than you know yourself. When we draw on anything or anyone other than Jesus for contentment, hope, security, peace, and life, our thirst – while perhaps temporarily relieved – will quickly return. Our own solutions and preferences will ultimately leave us spiritually parched.
Is Jesus your living water?