When I was young, in the village, some places had no easy access to streams or spring water and, therefore, the people had to collect flood water during rainy season. A shallow trench was dug beside the house and, whenever it rained, water from the compound flowed into the trench. The water was then scooped into clay pots and left for the particulate matters to settle down. This water was then used for domestic purposes and drinking.
The reservoir for the collected water harboured various microorganisms, which we knew nothing about. Tadpoles, which we often saw in the water, were believed to purify it. At that time, we had no idea of water-borne diseases. It was indeed by God’s grace that the children, in particular, did not suffer from various diseases as a result of drinking such polluted water. Ironically, those who drank the water seemed relatively healthy. It was even believed that the water made people to be kind-hearted and generous
Let me compare these memories with what I observed during my recent visit to Miami, a city in Florida State of the USA. One main feature of Miami is the large number of lakes and canals. The lakes are man-made, to beautify the environment and promote air quality. Some canals are chanelled to run alongside the beautiful and spacious roads. Many residential estates are provided with lakes for fresh air and aesthetics. A clear notice at the lakes reads:”No swimming, no fishing, no boating”. Provisions are made for these activities elsewhere.
While in Miami, I watched the construction of a lake as heavy equipment was used to excavate and carry away sand and debris. The process was reminiscent of the way we dug shallow ditches with hoes to collect flood water those days in my village. The principle is the same – but more importantly, the process contains some vital spiritual lessons that can improve our lives.
Firstly, to collect and retain water, we must create a lower level; we must dig a trench. Spiritually speaking, this implies that you must bring yourself low – you must humble yourself -in order to receive from God. Just as hills cannot retain water, you cannot receive anything from God if you are full of yourself. Hebrews 4:6 says “…God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Secondly, just as machines are used to dig and remove sand in order to create a lake, so also must we clear our hearts of injurious ideas, philosophies and prejudices in order to gainfully receive the Word of God. Ditches must be emptied to receive much water. Similarly, you must not allow the enemy to fill up the ditch of your mind with rubbish. The Bible reveals that Isaac once inherited some wells dug by his father, Abraham. But some Philistines, who were envious of Isaac because of God’s blessings on him, filled the wells with sand. Therefore, Isaac had to move to Gerar, where he dug a new well and found spring water.
Thirdly, the notice at the Miami lakes says, “No swimming, no fishing, no boating.” The reason is because, if allowed, these activities would disturb the serenity and beauty of the lakes and introduce some environmental hazards. In the spiritual sense, allowing hazardous elements like hatred, envy, bitterness, malice, fear, falsehood and dishonesty can affect the tranquillity of the mind. Such a mind cannot receive and retain the Word of God.
Also, the lakes were of various sizes and shapes. The larger the surface area and depth, the more water it can contain and, therefore, more fresh air and more aesthetics with a panoramic view. It is the same in the spiritual. When God wanted to bless a certain needy woman with financial resources, Elisha told her, “Go, borrow empty vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.” God caused all the empty vessels to be filled with oil, which the woman sold to pay her creditors and cater for her family (2 Kings 4). We, too, must present ourselves as large empty vessels to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
Lastly, water symbolises the Word of God, which gives life. Ephesians 5:25-26 (KJV) says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
God’s Word is the water that cleanses our heart from impure thoughts and unhealthy emotions. Jesus emphasised this cleansing power of the Word, when He told His disciples in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”Our world is filled with sights and sounds that have the tendency to defile our hearts and imaginations. Daily, we are bombarded with images and ideologies that are unwholesome for our spiritual growth and development. However, as we daily study and meditate on God’s Word, our hearts are constantly purified and preserved from all corrupting infiltrations.