Drinking at the Well
So he (Elijah) arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink (1Kings 17:10).
MEDLOCK HOLLOW (my birthplace) impressed upon me the importance of a good water well. It’s the number one thing at any homestead. My great grandpa Richards dug the well in the mid-1800’s that still produced the best water in the 1940’s. It was hand-dug about 30’ down, which left about 4’ of water standing in the bottom of the well; lined with smooth field stones. The top of the well was covered with a large 5” slab of sandstone and a round, 30” manhole cut through it in the middle. A wood frame and roof stood over the big hole. A wooden manhole cover kept stray cats and little kids out of the well.
A ROPE WAS ATTACHED TO A HAND CRANK fitted with a piece of smooth tree trunk. The rope was long enough to reach water. Grandpa was a master of letting down the bucket into the well. He dropped the bucket through the big hole and used his right hand as a brake on the tree. When I could “solo” on letting down the bucket, I forgot to keep my head out of the way of the iron crank and it hit me in the head and almost put my lights out. Just once. The well with its rope-and-crank method of bringing up a bucket of water was “hi-tech.
WHEN WE HAD COMPANY, the first thing of hospitality was to run to the well and draw a fresh bucket of water. It was community etiquette. The well had a reputation. When I read about Elijah, I always think of the well at Medlock. I also think of how important it is to draw the living water from the Word of God, daily.
ZAREPHATH WAS IN PAGAN TERRITORY OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL, a hundred walking miles from the brook Cherith. The name means “smelting furnace.” We are waiting for a long drought to stretch into 3 ½ years and humble Israel. The drought has also affected this regional hotbed of Baal worship from which the wicked Jezebel migrated into Israel. She became the headstrong wife of weak and passive King Ahab of Israel.
TOGETHER THEY WERE GOING TO ELIMINATE the worship of “outdated” Jehovah and replace it with the worship of Baal that included child sacrifice. Zarephath was built on the sea between Zidon and Tyre. In the distance, the sometimes-snow-capped Mt. Herman gave mass and majesty to the little town. A little later there would be a big contest on Mt. Carmel about 50 miles south on the coast.
ELIJAH WAS TIRED, THIRSTY AND HUNGRY from his hundred-mile journey on foot. He probably arrived near nightfall looking for a widow woman. God had told him: …behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee (1Kings 17:9). Was it a coincidence that he arrived at the gate of the city at the exact time a widow woman was gathering sticks to cook supper? To the person of faith there is little coincidence in life and a lot of: The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: (Psalm 37:23).
ELIJAH CALLED TO THE WOMAN, asking her to bring him some water. We are not told where she got her drinking water. It had to be from a well because they were at sea level. They could not drink water out of the sea. It is interesting that the woman gave him no argument, no complaining of how bad things were.
JESUS HAD SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT THIS WIDOW WOMAN hundreds of years later. Jesus had gone to the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth where he had grown up and read the Scripture to those in attendance. And he began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:21).
SOME IMMEDIATELY POINTED OUT that Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary whom they knew, implying that Jesus was not fulfilling anything. He answered them: But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, (Zarephath) a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow (Luke 4:25-26).
AT THIS ANSWER THEY WERE IMMEDIATELY FULL OF WRATH. The woman in Jesus’ story was a pagan outside of Israel receiving the attention and blessing of God that should have gone only to a Hebrew woman. This was too much. Today our verses in blue again return the focus on this pagan woman. What was so special about this widow?
DID SHE HAVE A GERM OF FAITH AND HUMILITY that only she possessed? Did God give her a strong impression of a prophet visitor coming her way as well as directing Elijah? We have such a double communication in the case of Saul (Paul) and Ananias and in the case of Peter and Cornelius in the book of Acts. In other words, God worked on both ends of each set of people to make it work.
APPARENTLY, THE WIDOW OF ZAREPHATH was not surprised to be asked to share her scarce water but also her last hot-cake with a total stranger who could be faking his identity. However, Elijah’s request for bread set off her pent-up worry for survival. She was picking up sticks to go inside and cook the last meal in her little barrel and she and her son would eat it and lie down together to die. But she would share the last she had with the prophet Elijah. This woman was different from all the other hungry widows. She had her own story.
WE'RE REMINDED OF JESUS AND HIS GREAT STATEMENT: In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39)
JESUS IS THE LIVING WATER and His true believers are the dispensers of the living water in a thirsty and fallen world. In John 4, Jesus met a depleted, fallen and thirsty woman by a well in Samaria. He left Judaea and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. (John 4:3-4) Good Jews didn’t go through Samaria, the land of half-breeds with their polluted and half-cocked theology.
GOOD JEWS WENT AROUND SAMARIA and avoided it altogether. But Jesus went through Samaria to meet a woman by a well. He toyed with a few minutes to draw her out and cause her to face herself. She was starving for the water of life. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Joh 4:10) The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (John 4:15)
A children’s chorus reads: “Jesus gave her water that was not in the well. Jesus gave her water that was not in the well. She went away, singing. And came back bringing, others to the water that was not in the well.” (Key of C or E-flat)
Read Through the Bible in a Year
JANUARY 7, 2019 - MONDAY
A.M. Genesis 18-19 P.M. Matthew 6
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A Good Verse to Memorize:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:5,7)
SUGGESTIONS FOR MEMORIZING: You may know more Bible than you think. From sermons, Sunday school lessons and Bible reading, we have extracted many bits and pieces of Bible truth. We think in phrases and easily absorb phrases; Not from words or from complete verses, but from phrases. When memorizing, break the verse down into phrases and fasten them together.
Speaking or writing verses is more productive than merely thinking verses. A verse should be reviewed five times a day until it flows out of your mouth without effort. Review all your verses once a month. The verses you know like your name should be reviewed at least once a year. Any time you hesitate in recalling a verse or its reference, return the verse to daily review for a while.
Song for Today:
Drinking from the Springs of Living Water (2:14) (Dick Anthony’s Melody Four)
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