Exodus 17:1-7, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42
The whole congregation of Israel are grumblers. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, and our children and our livestock with thirst?” True, they have been wandering in he wilderness for a very long time and what seems to have happened is the bright promises of the Passover have faded before their troubled journeying and they have lost hope. They left Egypt on a high heading for the promised land, crossed the Red Sea buoyed by the triumph of the Lord over the waves and the destruction of the pursuing chariots, but now wandering, worried, thirsty impatient they have lost hope. “Is the Lord with us or not?”
A Samaritan woman coming alone at noon to draw water from the well is a particular picture. Firstly as a Samaritan from birth she has been used to being treated as an outcast: The antipathy of the Jews for the Samaritans was such that they avoided all contact with each other, even much later than Jesus’ time it remained unlawful for a Jew to eat bread with or even buy certain foods from Samaritans. Now I have seen, as many of you may have done, women walking to wells in the early morning or the cool of the evening to collect water. They come in groups, convivially, conversing this is a social occasion. Our unnamed woman comes at noon, no-one would come at that hottest time of the day so we know she is an outcast in her own community. (As the conversation with Jesus proceeds we discover why) So she is in a wilderness, she is thirsty she has little or no hope.
Paul writing to the Romans says we boast in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. He goes on to say “and our hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”
In the desert God answers Moses prayer “Go on ahead of the people strike the rock and water will come out of it.” and it flowed from the rock and the people drank. God’s love was poured out of the rock - living water just there like the manna in the wilderness, when the Israelites were weak, despairing and angry God’s wine, which is still today the desert tribes people’s word for water, God’s wine was there abundantly.
The Samaritan women, alone, thirsty, dusty, tired, cast out from the village is cast in by Jesus: Stunned by the acceptance and welcome she listens to Jesus telling her of living water and she thirsts for it. “Sir, give me this water so that I may bever be thirsty again.” Her life is transformed, suddenly she has hope again and she goes back to her village so enthused that she is able to draw a crowd to the well.
It is through belief that we can have the the hope that first eluded but was then given to the Israelites and the Samaritan woman. Poured like water into their hearts and souls.
You may feel sometimes that we are living in an age when hopelessness could easily take hold. Last week there was a short news clip from Yemen where a doctor having discussed the case of a malnourished baby and indeed the child’s malnourished mother turned away from the camera and said in dejection and little expectation “Take the war away from us and we will be alright.”
It was an emotional plea, who can bring hope to a situation like that?
God, only God.