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Sunday, February 16, 2014
Scripture Reading: Genesis 26:1–33
Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you. Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
So Isaac settled in Gerar. When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive in appearance.” When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.” Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.”
Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. (Now the Philistines had stopped up and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham.) And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
So Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar and settled there. Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham; for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herders of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herders, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also; so he called it Sitnah. He moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
From there he went up to Beer-sheba. And that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army. Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you; so we say, let there be an oath between you and us, and let us make a covenant with youso that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.” So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths; and Isaac set them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water!” He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day. (NRSV)
There are a lot of wells in this passage: old ones and new, wells being filled and wells being dug. And they’ll pop up again at key moments in our biblical story, these wells, whether it’s Isaac’s son Jacob drawing water (Genesis 29) or young Moses (Exodus 2).
It’s not surprising, really, that they factor so prominently into the narrative. In the desert lands of the Middle East, water is life itself. And a well, with a ready source of water, thus provides a measure of stability and security. A nomadic people can settle where there is water, can sustain their flocks and their families, can live. It is not the running, living water of a stream or river that always flows and does not require digging and discovery and hauling out of bucket after bucket, day after day. A well requires work, but a well still provides water.
And so they are at the center of life and its daily rituals, these wells. They become a gathering place, a place of encounters. A place of unfolding story and generations, of promise and of future. The place where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman and promises that in God’s kingdom, we will no longer have to search or labor to relieve our thirst: “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.” (John 4:14).
For the gift of living water, O Wellspring of life eternal, all praise and thanks, now and forevermore. Amen.
Written by Ann Rehfeldt, Director of Communications
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