When I come out and slip on my walking shoes, Chloe, always waiting expectantly under the porch, bounces out and sits impatiently on the steps, her ears tall and her eyes never leaving me. “Just a minute,” I tell her, and she seems to have grown to recognize those sounds. She knows I will indeed be outside shortly, but I wonder if her doggy brain wonders about people having to put on their feet before they come outside? Sometimes she cannot abide the wait, especially if I have to do more than put on my shoes—like spot Keith as he lifts weights on the other end of the porch—so she gives just a tiny little whine, so anxious she shimmies across the boards on her rear end.
As soon as I open the door she is halfway through it. We cannot go anywhere or do anything until she gets a pat on the head. Then I say, “Let’s go walk,” and she heads toward the morning sun peeking through the woods, dappling the ground where we walk. Often she has to stop and wait for me to catch up, but as soon as I round that first corner she is off again, inspecting every mound of dirt, every dew-heavy hanging shrub, every disturbed pile of leaves at the fence bottom.
Occasionally she will stop and stare through the fence to the property on the other side, heavily wooded, vines snaking up and through the oaks, pines, maples, and wild cherries. Just over the fence lies the run. We thought it was a creek when we first moved here, a shallow one but water always sat in the bottom, slowly draining to the south. Then we went through the drought of the nineties and learned differently. It’s a run. Whenever rain comes through, the land on all sides of us for at least a half mile in every direction, runs into that narrow, deep channel and heads for the swamp a mile to the south. After a typical summer afternoon downpour the water will rush loudly, white water at the bends and at every drop, carrying with it leaves and limbs shed by the overhanging branches.
You do not realize how powerful water moving downhill can be until you see the aftermath. We came out one morning to find the trash can washed up against the south fence, the run itself clear of all debris, and the pigs in the southeastern pigpen a pinky white they hadn’t been since they were born. Only a small circle in the center of their backs remained black and muddy. Good thing they managed to find a high spot so they could get their noses up out of the rushing water that had gushed through the fence and cut the southeast corner. We had no idea the water could rise that high.
The power of water is a constant theme in the Bible. We completely misunderstand 1 Pet 3:20,21, especially when we read the newer translations that make water not something that saves, but something to be saved from. Leave your new version a moment and look at the old ASV translation: …the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism… The waters of the flood saved Noah by bringing him and his family safely out of a world of sin, into a new world, one that was washed pure and clean. Baptism does the same for us. It saves us from the world of sin we live in, raising us to a new life free from sin—a chance to start over, this time with help from above. It also washes away the detritus of our old lives, if we let it, if we are willing to let go of the baggage and surrender all to the Lord.
Water had saved the Israelites in a similar way. They were “baptized” in the cloud and in the sea, walls of water on the side, a roof of vapor overhead. And then with a whoosh of water, God destroyed their enemies and set them in a new world, one where He and they were to enjoy a covenant relationship, 1 Cor 10:1ff.
Amos uses water to symbolize the power found in justice and righteousness. Israel thought that multiplying sacrifices and feasts and other religious observances was all that mattered. God would be pleased, especially if the prescribed rites were even more elaborate than commanded. Then their lives during the rest of the week wouldn’t count against them. The prophet told them differently, “Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream,” 5:24.
That is just a small sample of the passages using water as a symbol. Spend some time today, as I did on my walk with Chloe, meditating on the simplest drink known to man.
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Jehovah, even Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah…Isa 12:2-4