For thousands of years, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers come together in what is not southern Iraq, a group of people have lived who are now referred to as the "Marsh Arabs". Some trace their roots back to the ancient Sumerians. Indeed, some folks think this is the sight of the Garden of Eden. These folks have built their houses from reeds on slightly raise ground, fished, kept water buffalos, and lived because the flow of the rivers continually renewed their marshlands, an area about the size of Massachusetts. In the 1990‟s they backed an uprising against Saddam Hussein. In retaliation, Saddam set out to destroy them and their way of life. He built massive levies which channeled the waters of the rivers and caused them to rush right by the marshes. As a result, the marshes dried up, the reeds died, the fish and other wildlife left, and eventually so did the Marsh Arabs.
With the overthrow of Saddam, the opportunity to try to reverse this disaster. Some people took the initiative to tear holes in the levies on their own, but there have also been organized efforts to dismantle the drainage system and restore the flow of water to the marshes. The question was, would life return with the water.
To a degree that astounded the scientists studying it, the marshes sprang back to life as the water flowed again. The reeds which formed the foundation of the way of life grew from the dry ground. Birds and fish returned. And with them, many of the Marsh Arabs. There are still great challenges because now, among other problems, other nations upstream are diverting the water, but life has returned where it looked like it had died out.
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. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39
When l heard about this situation in the Iraqi marches, the above words of Jesus came back to me. The marches are a dramatic demonstration of how life dries up when the flow of „living‟ water is shut off. Not only do we dry up personally, but there is no flow to others to spread life abroad.
I was also struck by the strategy of an enemy to choke off life. Saddam couldn’t stop the river, but he walled it off from flowing into the marches. Satan can’t stop the river of God, either, but if he can keep us from thirsting, coming to Jesus, and drinking, then the living water does not flow into us to bring refreshment and life — and there is none to flow out of us for others.
We are now in a time of seeking the Lord for revival of the life of His Spirit among us. The key, as always, is in returning to the Lord. Even if we feel dried up and things seem to have shriveled all around us, when the living water flows again because we are thirsting, coming, drinking, life will return, quickly and abundantly.
In this Advent season when we are praying for the Lord’s coming, let’s open our lives afresh to the flow of His Spirit. Pray for a greater thirst. Look for opportunities to come to Jesus and drink throughout or day. And let’s expect that the Spirit will flow through us to others to bring them the Lord’s Kingdom life, as well. It may be a word of encouragement, a chance to pray for healing, an opportunity to share your story and to listen to theirs, or an occasion to bless someone.
The more living water is in our marsh, the more life we will have and the more life will flow from us to those around us.