During the middle of the 1970s, whilst living in Saldanha, Jenny and I visited our friends’ parents in Clamwilliam. This is a town situated in the Olifants River Valley in the Western Cape, some 200 kilometers north of the City of Cape Town. She is also the seat of the Cederberg Local Municipality.
They were simple people living a simple, hardworking life. Their home was situated on the border of the town and was built as most homes were in those days … corrugated zinc with a high ‘V’-shaped pitched roof with a loft. All the widows were wooden ones, with the top and bottom sliding up and down.
All windows had shutters on the outside. During the hot summer weather, they would keep the shutters closed, the windows open about ten centimeters top and bottom and the curtains closed. All doors were closed. Because of this simple strategy, all rooms were extremely cool even though it was over 30 degrees Celsius outside.
They used wood fires for most meals, boiled water once a day and put it into flasks. Candles were the norm for lighting. The ground was very large and our friends’ parents had a huge vegetable garden under cultivation. They had every type of vegetable you could think of.
The town has a canal irrigation system called “lei water” that anyone can pay towards and have water channeled to his or her small holding twice a week for about 40 minutes. The water comes from the Bulshoek Dam about 24 kilometers North of Clanwilliam. What is fascinating is this canal system is over 83 kilometers long and serves some 9,330 hectare of land. Swimming in that dam was an experience as the water is so soft and floating so easy. These people had the best vegetables you will ever see–the sort of first grade export quality–because they used the channeled water to their advantage. At their land where the canal passed was a “gate” that, when opened, channeled water their way. On their land, to every veggie bed, they had a canal, also with gates. During this 40-minute period, they would irrigate their entire land wonderfully and profitably.
Psalm 1 provides us with this type of picture.
Ps 1:1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The “streams of water” in verse 3 refers to the mode of irrigation in some eastern countries. They would dig canals in different directions to irrigate their vast lands for improved vegetation.
As an example, Egypt was one such place, covered with canals, channeling water from the Nile River to all parts of the valley through which the river ran. In the Eastern Gardens, they would run water in such a way that every tree would be watered. Over the years, different models of transporting water were used. An example is that of huge wheel secured with supports on either side in a river. On this wheel were containers. As men or oxen turned the wheel, so the containers would be filled with water when at the bottom of the wheel and when at the top the water would be offloaded into a canal at the cliff top. Another method was to use a pole pivoted something like a seesaw with a weight on the one side and a container on the other. The container was dropped into the river and filled with water, then lifted (the weight being lowered), then swiveled onto the river banks and offloaded into containers or a canal. Today we have sophisticated methods of channeling water to cities, suburbs, townships, farms and rural areas.
The Psalmist uses the imagery of “streams of water” as he saw water channeled to various points in the vineyard with an intentional believer in mind. He says in verse 3, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Naturally, he is using “water” as a metaphor! Immediately we think of the Lord Jesus’ words that have a similar meaning:
Jn 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Water means life … the lack thereof means death! Before the Spirit comes upon a person, that person is spiritually dead. Yet when a person believes the Gospel and confesses sin, receiving Jesus as Lord and turning in repentance to follow Jesus as Lord and King, the Spirit comes and dwells in that heart. But there is more! Such a person needs to water the spiritual seed planted through regular, daily watering by the Word of God and sustaining that watering through prayer leading to obedience. It is then that the Spirit becomes like “streams of living water” flowing from within. It is a spiritual thing … it is joy and happiness followed by obedience that leads to Christlikeness in character, culture and conduct. The reason for this is that through being “watered” by the Word of God, spiritual growth and maturity evidences an internal, personal experience of God’s indwelling presence that cannot be explained or articulated … this is a personal experience and an evidence of God’s hand upon the believer.
Dear God, only the one who knows You personally knows the glorious experience of having those streams of living water flowing through his or her life, growing, maturing and shaping us for life and heaven because of Jesus. Amen.