Remember, Lord , what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace. Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows. We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price. Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest. We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment. Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands. -Lamentations 5:1-8
This is the last water-related passage in the book of Lamentations. I confess I approached Lamentations with low expectations about finding “hidden wells“, but once again I have been surprised. This passage in particular contains some very deep water to be sure.
The passage begins with a pleading of sorts about the situation that the people find themselves in at this point in their history. The people see themselves as having become “fatherless”. I thought this was an interesting way to view their predicament. From their perspective it was God who did the leaving and from God’s perspective is was the people of Israel that did a slow fade away from Him. They moved not Him.
The end result of this estrangement is the the people feel as if they have to “buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price”. The conclusion the people have reached is that they must fend for themselves. They are unwilling or unable to depend on God for their “water”. I think the meaning of the term water here is much more than H2O. The people are alluding to a conscious decision to depend on themselves to feed their souls and navigate their lives. They are rejecting the Living Water that God has offered them.
The act of buying water implies that the people do not really trust God to provide their water supply. As I have chewed on this, and reflected on my experience in countries like Haiti and Ghana where people often buy water, it occurs to me that there are three main reasons people purchases water 1) the supply that they have access to is contaminated; 2) the amount of water available is not sufficient to meet their needs; and 3) They are too far from the source to effectively access water. If we think of these reasons to purchase water in a metaphorical spiritual sense it reveals some interesting insights into the posture and perspective of the people at this time and place their history.
Water contamination occurs when human or animal waste gets into the water supply. In a spiritual sense this is what the people of Israel have allowed to happen to their souls. They have become contaminated with foreign ideas and perspectives. To put it rather bluntly, the Living Water provided by God has been mixed with earthly excrement.
The people also seem to feel that the amount of “water” being provided by God is not sufficient. They feel the need to add traditions and rules to make themselves feel close to God — like barnacles encrusting an anchor. Their souls are separated from God, their true water source. What appear to be harmless human traditions to bring them closer to God actually have the opposite effect.
The last reason to buy water is that the water supply is too distant to provide the water needed. This remoteness from the “spring” is because to the people have not “planted themselves” near the One River (God). Their roots are not accessing the kind of water they need to remain close to God.
Prayer: God You are our water supply. Help us to draw deeply from the water you provide and trust that what You provide will be sufficient.