So, you might be wondering why I called this blog “Notes from the Well?” There are a few reasons. One is that in the Bible there are a lot of cool things that happen at wells.
The first well we see in scripture is in Genesis 16. Here we see Hagar, having fled from Sarai, meeting the Lord at a well between Kadesh and Bered. Hagar was in a bad situation, being the second wife of Abram. She was Sarai and Abram’s desperate attempt to fulfill in the flesh God’s promise of a son. Then, to top it off, Sarai gets jealous of her (big surprise) and treats her so badly that she flees to the wilderness.
Now, Hagar wasn’t blameless in this situation. She rubbed Sarai’s face in the fact that she herself was pregnant but Sarai was barren. Just another reason I can relate to Hagar. I’m far from perfect myself. She was partly responsible for her own situation.
At a well in the wilderness, the Lord reaches out to Hagar and tells her that she must return to Sarai, but that He will make her son’s descendants into a great nation. He tells her to call her son “Ishmael” (God will hear), because the Lord heard her affliction. The well was called “Beerlahairoi,” which is translated to “well of the Living One seeing me.”
She was at a very low point in her life when she fled, but God saw her, and met her there. He heard her cries, and He saw her need. So she called Him the God who sees. God reached out to her, even though she was partly to blame for the mess she was in, even though she was so far from perfect. How amazing is that?
Then, when Hagar was finally cast out from Abraham and Sarah, and she and Ishmael were near death from dehydration, God met her again, and showed her a well of water so they could survive (Genesis 21). Once again, God saw her. I love these stories. I’ve felt like Hagar before: used, mistreated, and rejected. And I’ve been neck-deep in problems that I was at least partly responsible for. It’s good to know that God sees me, and that He hears my affliction.
In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. This woman was also at a difficult place in her life. She was gathering water at the well at an hour of the day when the other women in the village would not have done so. Perhaps this was because she was an outcast in her village? Or maybe the other women gossiped about her? They surely knew about the fact that she had had five husbands, and was now living with a man who was not her husband. There’s shame in that in our time. Imagine how much more shameful that must have been in the first century!
This woman was also a Samaritan. Samaritans were half-Jews and half-Gentiles, and their religion was a mixture of Judaism and pagan rituals. Full-Jews looked on them with great contempt, and would have no dealings with them. And to be a Samaritan woman was even worse! Jewish religious leaders said that they were unclean at all times.
So this troubled woman goes to the well to avoid people, and who does she find there but a Jewish rabbi! If I was her, I probably would have been thinking, “Oh great. I came out here to avoid judgement and now I’m going to have to deal with this Jewish man judging me.” She did not know how blessed she was going to be to meet the God-man Jesus.
When she gets to the well, to her shock, Jesus asks her for a drink. She is very suspicious, but keeps talking with Jesus. He offers her the living water – that quenches all thirst. She is still thinking in a temporal way, and asks for the water so that she can stop coming to the well. (I’m sure I would have done the same thing!) Eventually she reveals that she knows the Messiah is coming, and that when He does, He will tell them all things. And Jesus says to her “I who speak to you am He.”
She believed on the spot, and ran to her village to tell others. They came out to see Jesus and many of them believed because of her testimony. Her encounter with Jesus took her from a woman imprisoned by shame to a great evangelist!
I relate to this unnamed Samaritan woman, too. Before I met Jesus, I lived in the deep shame of my past. I can feel the pain she must have felt, and that must have driven her to numb her pain through multiple men. But I met Jesus, too! And He healed all my pain.
I’ll continue this discussion more in my next entry.