Water is life in Israel, a desert land with limited rainfall. In ancient times, during the dry season the people survived on stagnant water stored in cisterns. During times of drought they longed for fresh, clean rain to drink and with which to water their crops, and they cried out to God for maim chaim.
Maim chaim (pronounced “mi-eem hi-eem”) is Hebrew for “living water.” Living water is free flowing water that comes directly from God such as rain or a spring. Maim chaim has not been stored in a manmade vessel, like a cistern, or pooled into a place from which nothing flows out, like the Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea. Because God is the source of living water, maim chaim is associated with God’s presence.
Ein Gedi is a surprising oasis in the midst of the Judean Wilderness on the Dead Sea. A spring arises in this wadi, bringing life to the barren desert. Lush green shrubs stand in stark contrast to the tanned and arid earth from which they grow, signaling the thirsty wanderer that water, and thus life, is near. Today Ein Gedi is a nature reserve, but for thousands of years both men and animals, including David, sought rest in the cool shade of this canyon and refreshment from the living water flowing through it.
While in Israel last year, we hiked up to a waterfall at Ein Gedi where we took a long drink of living water from the Word.
“My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13.
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands….They will dwell in the parched places of the desert in a salt land where no one lives.” Jeremiah 17:5-6.
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’” John 7:37.
As we sipped up the Scriptures, our leader helped us see that in the wilderness of this life, God is our Ein Gedi and Jesus is our living water. Just as the Jews could not get living water in the desert from a cistern or a toxic source like the Salt Sea, so too our thirst for wisdom, love, hope, grace, and mercy will not be quenched by anything or anybody on earth – ourselves, family, friends, careers, finances, fame or addictions.
These broken cisterns cannot heal our burnt and blistered hearts. Anything that we trust in or turn to instead of God to provide shade and shelter in the desert places of life is simply a mirage. Only the living water of the Word of God will satisfy our soul thirst. We must long for it like the Israelites longed for maim chaim in the desert. As David prayed, so must we:
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1
We who know Christ as Lord and Savior have found living water. But we can’t stay at Ein Gedi. God has called us to take the living water of the Word of God to the lost, dry and weary souls of this parched earth. Once we have rested and been renewed by the Word, we need to refresh others with it, helping them find the way to the Oasis so that they, too, may drink and be saved.
Let’s not settle for a shot of living water on Sunday mornings and call it good. Let’s be all in, crying out, “Maim Chaim!” People are dying of thirst for living water. May we keep drinking and share our water with the world.