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Springs of Water

And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage. One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?” She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. Joshua 15.16-19.

On the face of it, this is just a simple record of a small incident in the life of Caleb, Joshua’s right-hand man. He needs a difficult hill town to be taken and Othniel manages to do it, so Caleb rewards Othniel with some land in the Negev. (The text seems a little corrupt at this point but the meaning is clear.) However, the Negev is dry and barren. Without water it is useless and unproductive and will remain so. So Caleb’s daughter comes to him and asks for a bit of adjoining territory that includes a spring. That way Caleb’s original gift can be irrigated and watered and transformed. And Caleb does more than she asks; he gives her land that has upper and lower springs in it. A great blessing!

And when the story is told that way, it can, of course, easily be seen as a parable … an illustration of a kingdom truth. And so it has been seen by many through the centuries. During my time in the Closed Brethren, I recall the upper springs being synonymous with “blessings above” and the lower or nether springs being synonymous with “blessings below”. And indeed, in our own day, far removed from the world of the Closed Brethren, the ‘Mother House’ of the Northumbria Community is called “Nether Springs” because it is a place of blessing on this earth for those who visit it.

But “blessing” is perhaps too vague a word to use of the springs of water that God wants me to ask for and that he will put into my life when I do. For a spring of water was always, for Jesus, a picture of the Spirit that brings life wherever he is found. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him,” he once said. And as John comments: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7.38-39).

“Living waters” was an expression that was current throughout Biblical times for spring water as compared with water that was gathered in cisterns, which is probably why the woman of Samaria at first misunderstood Jesus when, having asked her for a drink, he told 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?” (John 4.10-11). But, of course, Jesus is again talking about the Spirit who she, like Acsah with Caleb, should be asking him for.

What is all this saying to me this morning? It is reminding me that, whatever I have from God, it needs the enlivening power of the Spirit in it to make it productive … or even fully enjoyable. And that goes for things spiritual and things temporal. I need both upper and lower springs. I need the Spirit to fill my life “in every part” so that everything in my life becomes blessed and becomes a blessing to others; and I need to ask for that afresh today. For in that Scripture I quoted earlier (John 7.38) Jesus emphasises that, having flowed in, the spring waters must flow out!

Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound,
make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
freely let me take of Thee;
spring Thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.

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4 comments on “Springs of Water

  1. Cynthia Rene says:

    Whoa….Neil,
    I’m speechless. God showed me that exact passage of scripture last night. I read it and re-read it at least 10 times. I looked up all the foot note references in my NIV study. I just knew God was trying to tell me something about that passage. So this morning, still I was trying to think about what it should mean for me. As you said, on the face of it, the passage just seems like a recording of land division. I decided to ‘Google’ ‘springs of the Negev’ to see what I could find. And up popped your devotional. When I read your post, it answered some questions, but it also caused me to think I needed to study this passage in even more depth. But the thing that blew me away was the fact that your post was dated today! It wasn’t some archived post. It was in *real time* with my revelation of this passage. That is definitely NOT a coincedence. When I saw the date, 4-24-2008, a feeling of real peace washed over me. I cannot describe how assured I felt. God became even more strongly ever so real, and it gave me such confirmation that He is working in my life.
    Thanks, CR

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  2. Neil says:

    Hi Cynthia … I couldn’t be more delighted by your response. If you look at other postings on my blog, you’ll see that hardly anyone ever comments on what I write, so I often wonder whether what I get from God is really just for me and me alone. But now this! Hallelujah.

    If you do get greater insight as you meditate more deeply on this passage, I’d love you to tag your thoughts on here as another comment.

    God bless you richly as you continue to drink.

    Neil

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    1. Cynthia Rene says:

      Hi, Neil,
      It’s been almost 4 years, and I still have not gotten any further insight into that passage [springs of Acsah],but maybe that wasn’t the point at all. Maybe the point of our “coincedence” was God just being God; showing us that He is always there, always knowing, always listening. [He’s been showing me HIs sense of humor lately.] I’m glad to see that you are back writing your blog. I wondered if you were alright when I noticed you had suddenly quit posting. Your writings are extremely insightful, and I don’t wonder that it takes a toll on you to write such wonderful pieces every day. Congratulations on your book! I would like to suggest that you take your blog posts and create an anthology of your writings. Keep pouring out your words, God will continue to refill your lamp.
      Now that I know you are back, I will stop in again often. Blessings, CR

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  3. Neil says:

    Hi Cynthia … Lovely of you to get in contact again and to be so supportive. I felt the time was right to begin blogging again – though not necessarily on a daily basis. (Less pressure!) I do hope you and others continue to be blessed by what I write. Thank you once again. Neil

    Like

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