The Bible sits on one of my mom’s bookshelves. It’s red, normal looking. Doesn’t have an interesting design on the cover. Doesn’t even have a name imprinted on the lower corner.
I was ten when he died. My great-grandpa on my mom’s side. She asked to have this particular Bible after his death. Inside the cover is a pamphlet from when he and my great-grandma drove her to college for the first time. It may be non-special to look at, this red book, but it’s very special to her.
Blue pen marks mar the otherwise pristine thin pages. They tell a story, that shaky script, of demons fought, of spiritual battles won, of a love affair between a sinner turned saint and the graciousness and goodness of God. It’s incredibly personal, this normal looking Bible, with an anything but ordinary story.
I don’t know much about my great-grandpa, but I do know he wasn’t always the upright, godly man we all knew later in his life. As the story goes, my great-grandma once hit him over the head with a frozen fish and fled into the night with her daughters after he had come home drunk. This is not the man my mom knew. This is not the man I knew. And yet, hidden in-between Old Testament books is one of those old-school church revival pamphlets “I will abstain.” I think he kept it there, in his most prized possession, as a reminder. He was all too familiar with who he had been, and the grace of God was all the more sweeter for what he was saved from – himself.
During the time of the patriarch’s, water was a coveted resource – water was life. There’s a story tucked in Genesis that describes literal feuds over the water sources. Abraham dug wells in the Valley of Gerar that sustained his family and all the livestock God granted to his possession, however; after his death, the Philistines came through and filled up the wells.
Years passed, the wells sat empty – yielding no water. Then one day, God brings Issac to the same wells where his father once sweated over as he dug. Digging a well was no small feat. In ancient days there was a great cost associated with establishing a well, not to mention the hard labor required to physically dig and maintain it. When Issac sees his father’s wells, he decides to return them to their former glory. He decides to dig.
Flipping through the pages of my great-grandfather’s Bible is like stumbling across his well. The underlines and scribbles reveal this was where he found refuge. As he sweated and dug into God’s word, this is where he asked the hard questions. This was where he found the one thing that truly mattered. The one thing that actually satisfies. This was where he met Jesus face-to-face.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus tells his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, for they will be filled.
Hunger and thirst are two vital aspects to human survival. They are physical needs that must be met. This was why the Philistines fought with Issac over the wells he re-dug. They wanted to possess and control the water-source. When Jesus says hunger for righteousness, he is saying seek with eager desire, crave ardently. He is telling us to continuously and actively seek him. Jesus and the spiritual blessings he bestows give life – all else lead to dehydration, starvation, and ultimately death.
I love how the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown commentary breaks down this verse:
‘They shall be saturated’ he says; ‘they shall not only have what they so highly value and long to possess, but they shall have their fill of it.’
In Proverbs, Solomon describes the wisdom his father passed down to him. King David tells him to hold fast to God’s words, to incline his ear to God and ponder the path of his feet so his ways will be established.
Essentially, he tells him don’t let your love for Jesus go away. Hunger after him. Thirst for him. Take hold of the words he’s given and grasp them like a lifeline that will hold you together. Weigh all course of action and purpose in your heart to walk in the way of the godly men who have come before you.
Solomon doesn’t always live up to his father’s words. But in Ecclesiastes, he discovers his dad was right – it is only heaven’s happiness that will fill the soul.
Psalms tells us that God will satisfy the longing soul and the hungry soul will be filled with good things. In Hebrew, the word long creates an image of someone rushing out, running to and fro full of eagerness. It makes me think of the father who longed for his lost son’s return and lifted up his robe to run to him completely and fully undignified with joy when he finally came home.
The word fill is the same word found to describe the magnitude of the overflowing river in Joshua 3 when the Israelites crossed the Jordon. During harvest season the river, which was fed with the snow and rain that gathered on the ancient hills surrounding it, would be at its greatest height. This is significant because the Israelites had to cross it. The Jordon was dubbed “The Descender” due to its rapids and cascades. To try to cross would surely mean death. So God does a miracle. He sends the priests with the Ark to the water’s edge and the people cross on dry ground.
Longing for Jesus is like running up and down and along the water’s edge – running to and fro eager for the glass of fresh, living water he so freely offers. As he settles our hearts and stills our minds, he says, I will fill you – all your banks, just like the Jordon during harvest, full to the brim. So full, that it would take a literal miracle to stop them.
When we seek after his righteousness, we will be saturated. We will be soaked. Drenched from the hair on our head to the tip of our toes. Our harvest hearts get the fullness of the rushing waters. We get a double-harvest, a double blessing, an overflowing well of living water, a river of spiritual blessings that cannot be quenched.
I don’t know if my great-grandfather ever thought his great-granddaughter would pull out that red, ordinary looking book and attempt to decipher his handwriting when he was penning the words inside the margins with that blue ink pen. I don’t know if he ever realized all the spiritual blessings his faithfulness produced. I do know that he was a new man, changed into the likeness of Christ. I do know that he inspired my mom and helped mentor my grandfather in the ways of God. I do know that he was married to my great-grandmother for 66 years before his death. I do know they raised two daughters, one of which is my grandmother who has been married to my grandfather for 60 years.
There’s something incredibly special about that simple looking Bible of his. There’s no pretense. He wasn’t worried about perfect spelling or beautiful penmanship when he authored the notes in the empty margins. He was a simple man who was faithful in the small things. He knew what really mattered. And here I am three generations later a product of his spiritual heritage.
If I’ve learned anything from my great-grandparents it is this – be faithful in the small. Be faithful in the ordinary. Be faithful in the mundane. Be faithful when you may not see any fruit. You never know who is going to come after you that may be counting on the wells that you are faithfully digging in the day-to-day aspects of life. You may never know the spiritual blessings and legacy you will leave behind. Keep the faith – because it matters.