In the Bible, water is used symbolically in a number of different ways. One of the first stories we remember from Sunday School is of a guy named Noah who has to build a huge boat to save his family and the various animals from a deluge of... water. The water symbolized God's judgment. It's strange that something which we are so dependent upon for life can be so damaging in large doses. In fact, unless we have something resembling "the right amount" of water, we find ourselves in trouble.
Last Tuesday I ran over to the church to work on a project. This church building is empty for much of the week. My office is at home. Most everything I need is at home. The only time the building is occupied is for services, youth meetings and cleaning. So I suppose I shouldn't have been that surprised when I ventured down to our church basement to find two inches of water on the carpet at the bottom of the stairs. It seems the sump pump had failed and the overflow was sitting stagnant in three classrooms and a hallway. It took all week to get the water out, then the smell of wet carpeting out. Too much water. To be plain, any amount of water on the basement floor is too much.
But water isn't always found in the wrong amounts. And when it's not, water is very useful. Look at what Peter had to say about the flood waters:
In it [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ...The flood waters also served as cleansing waters -- not clean on the outside, but clean on the inside. According to Peter, the flood symbolized one giant baptismal for the eight survivors. It's not the only place that the waters of baptism are mentioned in Scripture. Paul writes about being buried with Christ through baptism. It's a real symbol which identifies us with Christ Jesus.
Water was bubbling to my attention yesterday as well. Last night we had a baptismal service with another area church. I had the pleasure of baptizing two people. One was the first baby I dedicated way back when. The other was my oldest son. Yeah, you could say I was emotional! As I dunked each of the two into the water then brought them back out, they were saying to the world that they too were dead to sin but alive in Christ. The water symbolized the washing of a soul until it is whiter than snow.
But for me the most interesting way water is used symbolically in Scripture is illustrated beautifully by Jesus while talking to the woman at Jacob's Well. A lady with a bad reputation sneaked out in the heat of the day to gather water while no one is around, only to find a Jewish prophet who breaches etiquette to ask her for a drink. When she questioned Him as to why He would do such a thing, 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."
The woman obviously didn't catch what Jesus meant. She started questioning how someone who couldn't get Himself a drink could draw a bucketful of "living water" -- whatever that was.
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The allusion is to a relationship that satisfies fully and saves completely. Still, I'm always reminded of Psalm 42 at this point; about the deer panting for streams of water and the Psalmist longing for God in the same way. Something about equating our thirst for water and our thirst for God. Scientists say that a human can only last about three days without water. Isn't it amazing that we can so easily do without our Creator for three days, but not our old pal, H-2-O?
"Lord, help me to rely on You, just as my body relies on water for survival. Allow me to thirst for You, but never fully quench my thirst. Call me to seek more of You until we meet face to face."