Saturday, February 5, 2011

Water of Contentment

For the not like the land of Egypt from which you came,
where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot
like a vegetable garden.
But the land which you are about to cross to possess it,
a land of hills and valleys,
drinks water from the rain of heaven,
a land for which the LORD your God cares;
the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it,
from the beginning even to the end of the year.
Deut. 11:10-12

     The great ancient civilizations of the world, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese all grew up around rivers, rivers with alluvial plains.  The steady reliability of the yearly Nile Inundation affected all of Egyptian culture, their myths and Pharaohs, art and architecture.  The ancient 12 month calendar was structured around the three seasons of the Nile, the Inundation, the growing season and the dry or harvest season.  Year in and year out Nile farmers depended not only on the waters, but on the silt carried down river and laid out on their fields by the floods.  The waters and rich soils were carried over 4000 miles, winding through lands that today belong to nine countries.  Monsoon rains in the Ethiopian Highlands flooded Lake Tana, overflowing out into the Blue Nile.  The White Nile flowed out of Lake Victoria in Uganda, the largest African lake, down into the Sudd in Southern Sudan.  Here the waters slowed, meandering through swamps, lagoons and channels, flooded grasslands, past gazelles and birds and over the fins of fish.  Past modern day Khartoum series of hard rocks block the river creating rushing cataracts that kept ancient sailors from sailing up the Nile.  Every year from June to September Egypt was flooded, creating a narrow strip of well watered garden and Life grew and flourished around the gift.  Canaan, on the other hand, the land of hills and valleys, waited for the rains from heaven, the favor of God to give the gift of life.  At times God withheld His favor, as a means of calling their hearts back to Himself (I Kings 17:1; Jer. 3:2-3), calling them back to the Giver of Life.
"Now God thought this to be a better land for his people than Egypt, and this is given as one reason among others, that the Lord looked upon it as more suitable to the state of his people than Egypt, who were to live by faith, that they should be continually depending upon Heaven, upon himself, and not have a constant settled way in the creature for their outward dependence.  We find by experience that when those who are godly live in the greatest dependence upon God, and have not a settled income from the creature, they exercise faith more, and are in a better condition for their souls than before."  
     I live in Canaan.  We live far from family.  We move away from friends and make new ones, over and over again.  There is no thirty settled years with one company for this career man; the number of retirement accounts is growing.  We've moved when we thought we would stay, and stayed when we wanted to pack up and leave.  Once we moved on two weeks notice, another year we were moving but didn't know where and the job offer came when the keys were literally in our hands.  We've birthed babies wondering if it was the right time, and cradled new life at the "wrong" times.  We've wondered how to buy and sell houses, how to put food on the table, how to buy a new car, and how to trim the budget.  We have often been dependent on God, often in prayer, often exercising faith.  And in all this uncertainty I have said, over and over again, "I've prayed through it and I will be happy with either answer from the Lord, but I just need to know."  As if my spiritual victory is in the answer and not in the waiting, the dependence, itself.
"There is another reasoning that some have and it is this: 'Oh, I could bear much affliction in some other way, but this is very grievous to me, the unsettledness of my condition.  Even if my condition were low, yet if it were in a settled way, I could be content, but it is so unconstant, and so unsettled, that I never knew what to trust to, but am tossed up and down in the world in an unsettled condition, and this is hard to be content with."
      God is calling me to Canaan.  He knows the unsettled, unconstant, unreliable is suitable for my soul.  He calls me to contentment in the unknown.  To contentment in waiting.  To contentment in dependence.

And you will be like a well watered garden, 
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:11

*Quotes taken from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs, pgs. 199-200

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