In desert lands it is a well-established courtesy to offer a newly arrived visitor water for washing and also something to drink. One day Abraham was visited by three strangers and that is exactly what he did: "Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts" (Gen 18.4-5). We note that it may have been only "a little water" and "a morsel of bread", but it was offered with a willing and generous spirit. That day Abraham unwittingly entertained a divine visitor, the Lord, and two angels.
The writer to the Hebrews presses this point home at the end of his letter when he reminds us of those things that we should not forget, including hospitality: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb 13.2). Hospitality requires commitment and often takes us outside our comfort zone. Visitors sometimes arrive unexpectedly and at awkward hours; they may need to stay longer than expected; they can also require additional help of different kinds during their stay.
A cup of water
Today most people are much better off than their parents ever were but there is a danger of neglecting the ministry of serving others using our own homes. Some are constrained by their lack of space and resources, but others who have no such constraints seem unwilling to gird themselves with the towel, metaphorically speaking, and minister to others. Discipleship and service are costly as the Saviour explained, but He also revealed a deeper dimension in regard to Himself: "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me…And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water…he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Mt 10.40,42). Kingdom blessings and rewards in a future day will depend upon faithfulness in service: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Mt 25.35, 40). Children of the King should exhibit the manners of the court.
Another king long ago expressed a desire for a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem, held at that time by the enemy Philistines (2 Sam 23; 1 Chr 11). Three of King David's loyal soldiers overheard this and they boldly and courageously risked their lives, breaking through the ranks of the Philistines to fetch the water for their king. When David was brought the water and thought of the high price of obtaining it, he could not drink it, but poured it out as he would an offering before the Lord. Oh, that we were as willing to seek to satisfy the longings of our Lord and King, and as prepared as the mighty men were to risk all for Him! The early Christians hazarded their lives for the name of Christ (Acts 15.26), and people like Aquila and Priscilla were prepared to lay down their necks for the Lord's servants (Rom 16.4).
Another source of refreshment for the people of God is when they hear good news from a far country. King Solomon wrote an apt proverb to this effect: "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Prov 25.25). Reports of the triumphs of the gospel in distant lands have often encouraged our weary spirits, but before the good news comes from the far off land, someone has had to carry the "Good News" to it.
A basin of water
Christ left us an example when He washed the disciples' feet. We have already seen the significance of this deed in terms of cleansing, but we should not miss the lesson of lowly service: "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you…The servant is not greater than his lord" (Jn 13.15-16). We recall that Judas Iscariot was present when this occurred and we are sure that the Saviour lavished as much care and tenderness upon His betrayer as upon all the rest, even though He knew all that would transpire. We are prone to favouritism and partiality. Our love is often measured out carefully and discriminately so that some get more than others. Had divine love been so measured out to us unworthy ones, where might we have been?
We are to be channels of blessing to others. God's love has been poured into us to flow out of us (Rom 5.5). The Dead Sea cannot support life because of its high mineral content due to evaporation. It takes water in but gives none out, and surely there is a lesson for each of us here. As we have noted above, to pour out our lives for Christ will demand the very best of all that is within us. We will need to make constant readjustments when self rears its head and seeks to assert itself. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you" (2 Cor 12.15).
A fountain of water
Not far from the barren shore of the Dead Sea is an oasis known from Bible times. It is where King David took refuge among the rocks when he was on the run from King Saul (1 Sam 23.29). It is known as Engedi – "the spring of the goat" – and modern day travellers who have had the good fortune to visit it cannot easily forget the welcoming shade of the rocks, the soothing green of the vegetation, and the refreshing spray of the waterfall there. In Solomon's time it was known for its vineyards (Song 1.14).
We too can be like an oasis where the spiritually weary can be refreshed, and where the needy can find refuge. Any help we give is that which we have first received ourselves from the source of all blessing, our Lord Jesus Christ. He has satisfied our every need. We can testify to those who are perishing of His love and grace: "O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is that man that trusteth in him" (Ps 34.8), and we can continue to sound out the wonderful invitation: "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" (Is 55.1).