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Digging Wells and Building Altars


My parents live in the mountains of North Carolina, and the water supply at their house is provided by a well. The benefits of this are two-fold: first, the natural mountain spring water is good quality and tastes great; second, they don't have a water bill. The downside, however, is that the well has a limited capacity. And so when their children and grandchildren all show up, baths and showers and dishwashing have to be rationed. Additionally, the supply of well-water is water-table influenced: when there is a drought, when it doesn't rain enough, the well levels go down, and they have to ration water.

Living in dry places was a constant theme for Isaac in Genesis 26. In addition to the weather, he had the pesky problem of being pushed around by people trying to deprive access to wells he inherited. But facing bad weather and bad neighbours, Isaac persisted, eventually digging a well that was uncontested. There, at Beersheba, Isaac followed in the footsteps of his father Abraham and built an alter and worshipped the Lord.

Following Jesus involves learning how to dig wells and build altars. Wells represent the covenant promises God has made with us in Christ. For example, 1 John 1:9 says that 'if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness'. And so for a believer, living forgiven and clean should be a normal experience. Like the wells Isaac inherited, this well of forgiveness can get covered up and filled in through neglect, believing it's not true and available, or believing its unnecessary. Accessing these wells of life - these covenantal promises God has made with us through Christ - this is an important part of how we follow Jesus.

Additionally, building altars - time and places of focus and worship on God are central to our faith. The covenantal promise of God's presence was spoken to Abraham and repeated to Isaac, and it's ours in Christ. Jesus promised, 'I will never leave you or forsake you'. The pattern of regular worship with God's people and personal prayer and Bible-reading cultivate a heart of faith so that we can experience God's presence.

Living in God's promises and enjoying his presence - digging wells and building altars - this is how we follow Jesus. The enemy of your soul works overtime to knock you off God's provision. Don't let him do it: God brought you into his covenant so you could enjoy its benefits.