Most kids are curious, and I was no different. When I asked my father why a certain pasture which we passed almost every Sunday had a small fenced-off area serving no apparent purpose, he explained what could not be discerned at a distance. A spring of water was being protected from cattle which in the past had blocked up the water’s flow with their trampling hooves.
Isaac was confronted by a similar situation (recorded in Genesis chapter 26). There was a famine in the land, and Isaac was living in Philistine territory by permission. Despite the famine, Isaac’s herds increased, and his planted crops yielded bountifully. The Philistines, envious of his wealth, filled in all the wells his father Abraham had dug there in the hope of limiting Isaac’s power. Then they demanded that Isaac vacate the area.
Isaac moved, but first he reopened the Abraham-dug wells in the Gerar Valley (which had also been plugged by the Philistines), and even dug new ones which yielded water–a precious find on the edge of the Sinai desert.
Some of the new wells were contested by the locals, and Isaac gave them appropriate names: Esek (‘Argument’ Well) and Sitnah (‘Opposition’ Well). He also dug one over which there was no dispute and named it Rehoboth (‘Plenty of Room’ Well).
It was obvious to all that God was blessing Isaac in his endeavors, just as He had promised.
The lesson for us today is not about unblocking springs or digging wells of the physical type. It’s about keeping open those blessed spiritual wells—Truth Well, Salvation Well, Gospel Well, etc.—in which are found the free waters of Life.
This is the stuff of true reformation!
We remember that Jesus identified Himself as “living water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4) and invited thirsty sinners to come to Him and drink (John 7:37). We are also told that His Jewish enemies were envious of Him, and that the world hated Him. They killed Jesus and made it their mission to plug up those wells which afford forgiveness, life, and every spiritual blessing through our Lord’s obedience, death, and resurrection.
As with Isaac, so for us—the task is clear. Grab the shovels and keep those precious wells of God’s Word and its sacred doctrines open!
In this respect every day is Reformation Day. When the ‘True God of Israel Well’ was in danger of being lost because idolaters had stuffed it with the dung of Baal, the prophet Elijah took decisive action and cleaned it out. When fourth century Christendom was confronted with Arius–a Philistine type who sought to muddy up the ‘Jesus Well’—Athanasius and others took to the task of vindicating and confessing in clear and unambiguous terms the true deity of Christ and His relationship with the Father.
When Dr. Martin Luther discerned that the wells of the fathers had been virtually trampled and plugged with the dirt of ‘justification by human works,’ the Reformer grabbed his shovel. And today we yet drink of the pure, scriptural water of ‘salvation by God’s grace alone, received by faith alone, based on God’s inspired Word alone, in and through and by Christ Jesus alone.’ Today, conscientious Lutheran Christians still drink rightly at the gracious wells of the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
When some erring Lutherans sought to muddy and hence block up the ‘Election’ Well—arguing that salvation was based not on God’s eternal grace, but on man’s faith or other causes—Dr. C. F. W. Walther and others got out the shovels and dug. When the ‘Fellowship Well’ was in danger of becoming polluted among us–our own CLC fathers responded: ‘To the shovels, men, to the shovels!’ (One blessed result was the confessional document Concerning Church Fellowship, which we do well to dig through, striving ever to live our faith according to God’s Word and before a watching world.)
Do we have picks and shovels still in hand? True and continuous reformation demands it. For nothing is more important in this dreary desert world than drinking from those precious wells of pure living water upon which our Christian faith and our eternal salvation depend.
The devil and his Philistine slaves will try to plug and even fence off this holy ground against us. But with the shovel of the Holy Spirit (the Bible) in our hands, even those fences and gates of hell will not prevail.
Are we ready to use those shovels? Should we? Jesus said, “Keep on searching the Scriptures…for these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The apostle Jude exhorted that we “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints…” (v. 3).
For ourselves, for our children, for God’s very Church, may He bless our continual searching and reformation digging. The gracious reward for the faithful is blessed and glorious–drinking from an eternal ‘Plenty of Room Well.’
“And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1).