I saac was the son of a great father,” F. W. Boreham wrote, “and the father of a great son.” And Isaac was more: he was a digger of wells.

One has to live in the desert to fully appreciate wells—especially when one’s flocks and herds depend on the water they provide. “Deep wells tap the life-giving water beneath the surface of the earth, but the animals cannot reach it. The shepherd must draw the water with a bucket and offer each animal a drink (Gilbert Beers, in the Book of Life, vol. 1).

In John 4, Jesus, wearied by walking in the heat of the noonday sun, sat beside a well that Isaac’s son Jacob had dug centuries before. It was in Samaria, and a woman came at midday to get water. He knew women in that time and place did their water carrying in the cool of the mornings and evenings. This one chose the heat of noon for a reason, and Jesus saw right through her pretense. He always does.

He asked her for a drink. Imagine—the Great Shepherd asking a little black sheep for a drink! But it worked. Why, she wondered suspiciously, did he, a Jew, ask a favor of a Samaritan? (You can read the background of those Jewish-Samaritan tensions in 2 Kings 19:24–31.)

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Deftly she changed the subject. “Sir,” she said, “you have nothing to draw with and the water is deep. Where can you get this living water?”

We have now shifted gears completely. From H2O we have gone to the Water of Life. Here was a thirsty Shepherd, an even thirstier sheep, and many more in that village coming to drink of him.

Since that day there have been many thirsty sheep—and perhaps shepherds, too—who thought they could improve on that Water. William Cowper wrote:

“Letting down buckets into empty wells and growing old with the drawing nothing up.”

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