Does anyone actually enjoy digging? Maybe it depends on where you’re working. I remember being assigned a digging job shortly after moving back up to New Hampshire, and my first shovel thrust bounced off the ground like it was concrete. Welcome back to the Granite State. I suddenly realized that this job was going to take a lot longer than I had anticipated. Others of you who live in different parts of the country, or those equipped with earthmoving machines might feel differently. I suppose in those cases, digging might actually be fun.
I suspect that in the ancient world, digging was rarely enjoyable. Genesis 26, for example, gives a remarkable amount of description to the laborious process of digging, re-digging, naming, and fighting over various wells in the land of Canaan. But then we recall that this was a land where water was sometimes terribly scarce, and the flocks and herds were numerous. A single clean well could mean the difference between prosperity and total disaster.
In the Biblical account, things had fallen into disrepair after the death of Abraham, and some of the wells had been filled in by the nefarious Philistines. It fell to the next generation, namely Isaac, to either accept the status quo or to take action to counter the entropy. Isaac does not generally come across in Scripture as a man of action, but in this case something changed. “Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father.” (Genesis 26:18).
Such an act entailed a lot of work, and it also invited hostility from the neighboring peoples who wanted the territory and water for themselves. In short, there was a significant cost, but Isaac had a vision of restoration, and he persevered until the job was done. Something valuable had been given him, it had been damaged, and he was not willing to sit idly by as the forces of decay eroded that heritage, and “stopped up” the life-giving flow of water. I can imagine Isaac’s delight when the muddy filth was cleared away and the clear, cold water began once again to fill the ancient well.
So how does this relate to the Sabbath? I would suggest that keeping the seventh day of each week as a day of rest is one of the life-giving wells handed down to us by the previous generation. Some of you may be first-generation Sabbath keepers, so in a sense you have “dug the wells” yourself. Whatever the case, we all know how easy it is for life to start pushing in, for busy-ness to overwhelm us, and before we know it, the day of peace and rest that God intended has become clogged with other pursuits.
I would encourage each of us to examine with fresh eyes the “well” of Sabbath keeping. There is so much life in refusing to engage in work or even normal buying and selling on this day. Both our bodies and spirits were designed to rest every seven days, and when we ignore that design, we begin to languish. Is our individual “well” becoming crowded with worldly debris? Has the water become fouled and muddy? If so, let’s learn the lesson of Isaac, and take the time to clear our schedules, rethink our priorities, and dig this well afresh.
In a world desperately seeking for the latest novelty, sometimes the best and most life-giving practices are right in front of us. They still offer God’s peace and rest to those who are willing and able to defend and practice them. And if things have fallen into disrepair, we seek restoration and renewal. God will honor the spirit that seeks to honor His Day.
Let’s be willing to “dig again” the age-old practice of Sabbath keeping, so that we might enjoy all the abundant living water that God intended by giving us this day of rest.
In faith for clear wells,