TEXT: Psalm 107:4-9; John 4:7-14
Last week we began the series “My Story, My Song” using Psalm 107 to look at how God faithfully shows up in human lives and situations. We began with the opening verses about God’s goodness and faithfulness. Today we start into the first of a number of paragraphs that describe different situations into which God has shown up and been faithful. We’ll see that God’s was not just faithful and involved way back in Old Testament times; Jesus taught and demonstrated those same traits. That God is the same yesterday, today, and forever holds out hope that we, too, may know what it’s like to experience God showing up on OUR human lives and situations with that same goodness and faithfulness.
Hunger, Thirst, and Need (Psalm 107:4-9)
The first stanza of the Psalm is contained in verses 4-9. The theme is hunger, thirst, and need. The Psalm is likely recalling real events in the life and history of Israel just after they were first removed from the land as a result of the Exile. This was the consequence of generations of disobedience and turning away from God. And it was like a physical, emotional, and spiritual return to the desert. Remember, God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Now, because of unfaithfulness all this was seemingly lost again.
You can hear some of their situation and desperation in a number of the verses of this stanza.
v.4 They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
v.5 They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
It would take several generations to get back home again. Verse 6 begins with ‘then’ – but that ‘then’ was many generations. But eventually God’s people rediscovered their dependence on God, crying out from the desert and foreign lands for God to restore what was lost.
v.6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
Listen to how God delivered them.
v.7 He led them also by a straight way,
To go to an inhabited city.
Verse 7 answers the need in verse 4. They were wandering and lost in the desert. God led them and brought them out of the wilderness. And then down in verse 9:
v.9 For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.
This answers the need in verse 5. The wanderers were hungry and thirsty, soul fainting within. And God has satisfied their hunger and thirst, filling their souls with what is good.
For all this, the people are urged to give thanks to God in verse 8, repeating the refrain of the opening verses from last week.
v.8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Again, it is God’s faithful love (hesed) at work in the lives of human beings. God is worthy of thanks and praise!
Jesus the Living Water (John 4:7-14)
It would be sufficient to only have these verses about God’s faithfulness in the Old Testament. It is just as much God’s Word for us as the New Testament. But it is striking to me to think of the times Jesus speaks and acts on this same theme. One such time is the encounter described in our first scripture reading from John 4. He is traveling outside Israel in Samaria (interesting parallel to God finding his people wandering away from their home!). Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman who has come to draw water in the heat of the day. I won’t go fully into the details of that story again, but will just note his words to her in John 4:10.
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
She questions him about this “living water” and he elaborates,
“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (v.14)
As Jesus revealed in the conversation, the woman was wandering in her own emotional and social desert. She was needy, hungry and thirsty for something she probably could not have put her finger on. And yet she also knew of God’s promises, specifically about the Messiah. And like the Lord describe in Psalm 107, Jesus offered and then satisfied her thirsty, hungry soul and filled her with hope.
Last week I spoke of parallel redemption… the earthly, historical redemption of Israel and the spiritual, eternal redemption of humanity from sin. Today, too, we see God satisfy the hunger and thirst of earthly need for Israel, but also Jesus providing spiritual and eternal hope to the Samaritan woman. At first she thought he meant physical thirst, but it soon became clear that Jesus meant much more, and she brought the whole town to come out and see the Messiah.
Water for the Thirsty Soul
And so that brings us to us. The thesis of this series is that the good and faithfully compassionate God continues to be involved in the lives of human beings, in your life and my life… that we, too, have a story and a song like the ancient Israelites and like the people of Jesus’ day.
Today’s scriptures highlight times when people were lost and in need, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Have you ever been in that situation? Are you in that situation now?
I know COVID has disoriented most of us. On top of that many folks are stretched thin emotionally and perhaps spiritually. Things that are normally stressful, like sickness, aging, finances, and depression, are amplified to an almost unbearable point. You or someone you know well may truly know what it is to wander in a wilderness of these circumstances, to hunger and thirst for something you don’t have (but maybe used to have).
Do these scriptures promise a ‘fix’ to this? No, but they do declare that God is good and faithfully compassionate, that God sees and hears you and your situation. And I do want to clarify that just because the Exiles experienced what they did because of unfaithfulness, it does not mean that all suffering, all wilderness, is a result of unfaithfulness. Sometimes life just happens. The abiding truth is God’s character and involvement. That was one of the surprising revelations to the Exiles and to the woman at the well: God is with you here!
Do take a cue from the Psalm and cry out to God. Pray and make known your needs and wants. And do give thanks to God for who He is. It may or may not be that God solves your earthly situation, but His faithfulness has been perfectly demonstrated in Jesus Christ, through whom your spiritual needs are met. Jesus himself is the living water that satisfies your soul. Jesus did not ‘fix’ the woman’s social situation, but he did offer her something eternal which no doubt re-framed and perhaps changed the rest. She in fact would need to keep drinking earthly water to live, but he offered her something which would eternally satisfy her soul.
The bottom line is that God still offers us the most important thing that our souls need. We often discount that or perhaps only turn to God to solve our earthly situations. Sometimes God does; sometimes God allows or does something else. But God ALWAYS offers us living water and bread from Heaven, two ways Jesus identified himself. And that re-frames everything.
If you have a story about God satisfying your hunger or thirst, or guiding you in a wilderness, I’d love to hear it. Would you shoot me a note or be willing to share the story with the congregation? I think it would be an encouragement for folks who are still feeling a little lost or needing God’s help!
I’m grateful for God who is eternally good. I’m grateful for God who is eternally faithful. Amen.
“My Story, My Song” Testimony and Song – Karla Katibah
Some Music Used
- My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone
- All in All
- Blessed be the Name
- Yes and Amen
- All Who are Thirsty
- Enough (feat. Karla Katibah)
- I Need Thee Every Hour