A few weeks back, I was reading about freshwater usage in our agriculture and food system. There’s a good bit of concern about the sustainability of the practices that support the food that comes to our tables. We humans, besides being more than 60% water, use fresh water routinely. In Guelph it‘s 156 litres per person per day.
The concern? Growing crops, feeding livestock and processing a multitude of ingredients on the way to feeding 7.9 billion people takes more than 70% of our freshwater usage.
It’s hard to identify with this concern in Guelph. We’re surrounded by the Great Lakes that contain 20% of our world’s fresh water. The highlands of southwestern Ontario get 15% more precipitation than the coasts of the Great Lakes. Guelph is vulnerable to overuse. It’s the largest community in Canada that is almost completely dependent on groundwater for our taps. The aquifer below us is connected to one of the Great Lakes, but it takes a long time to recharge.
One kind of reading led to another. Water is important today. Was it important in the past – in Bible times?
I took a notion to read every verse in the Bible that included water. Easy to find. Open Bible Gateway. Type “water.” Click “search.” The result – 617 verses – was more than I expected! But it became a treasured read – a revisit to many favorite Bible stories heard around the family supper table in the fifties, when I was a kid, and again in the seventies, when we were bringing up our children.
From the second verse in Genesis to the second last verse in revelation, story after treasured story.
- Noah and family entering “the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” Genesis 7:7
- Lot choosing the plain of Jordan when he saw that it “was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt,” and by his choice, ultimately involving his family in the infamy of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 13:10
- Abraham welcoming three men who turn out to be our Lord and entourage: “Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.” And Abraham learns he will have a son.
- Abraham sending Hagar with his son into the desert. He “took some food and a skin of water and …. set them on her shoulders ….” Genesis 21:14
- Abraham’s servant praying beside the well in Nahor: “May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.” Rebekah with her jar comes before he has finished praying. Genesis 24:14
- Jacob, on first seeing Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, “went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep.” Genesis 29:10
- Joseph’s brothers throwing him into a cistern. “The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.” Genesis 37:24
- Joseph’s brothers brought before Joseph, now second-in-command in Egypt: “The steward …. gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys.” Genesis 43:24
- Pharaoh’s daughter naming her adopted son: “She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”” Exodus 2:10
- The seven daughters of Jethro reporting on being rescued by Moses: “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” Exodus 2:19
- The Lord, through the night driving the sea back with a strong east wind “…. the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” Exodus 14:22
- Moses shouting, angered by the whining of the Israelites, at Meribah: “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” And he struck the rock instead speaking in the name of the Lord. Numbers 20:10
- Israel crossing the Jordan River on dry ground: “…. the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away,” Joshua 3:16
- Gideon directed by the Lord he to reduce the number of men in his army: “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Judges 7:5
- David on a hilltop in the early morning, shouting at King Saul’s army – the army that was pursuing him: “Where are the king’s spear and water jug that were near his head?” I Samuel 26:16
- Elijah, in his confrontation with King Ahab, preparing a sacrifice: “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” 1 Kings 18:33-34
- Isaiah announcing judgement on Jerusalem and Judah: “See now, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water,…” Isaiah 7:19
- Daniel avoiding Nebuchadnezzar’s food: “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” Daniel 1:12
- Jonah praying inside the fish: “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.” Jonah 2:5
- And from the New Testament.
- John the Baptist’s preparations for Jesus: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Matthew 3:11
- The big catch after Jesus told Simon Peter “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Thereafter Peter and others abandoned their boats and followed Jesus. Luke 5:4-6
- The baptism of Jesus: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” Matthew 3:26
- Jesus’ first miracle: “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, ….” Jesus tells servants to fill them with water and then to take some to the master of the banquet for tasting. The master takes the bridegroom aside: “You have saved the best till now.” John2:6-10
- Demons begging Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs: “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.” Matthew 8:32
- The walk on water: ““Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:28-29
- Jesus calming a storm: “He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.” Luke 8:24
- Jesus rebuking synagogue leaders after they criticize him for healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath: “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?” Luke 13:15
- Preparations for the Last Supper: “So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” Mark 14:13-14
- Jesus at the last supper: “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:5
- Pilate shouted down: “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!””
Story after treasured story.
A final one – Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well: “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.”
The Samaritan woman didn’t grasp all of Jesus’ message. During Bible times fresh water was an essential. During our time fresh water is an essential, And, there is reason to be concerned about its future availability.
But, for the welling-up-to-eternal-life water we don’t have to go anywhere to draw it. It has already been poured out for each of us – in abundance.