Springs in the Desert

Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.” – Psalm 87:7 (NRSV)

The Bible needs to be read with desert eyes. Only if we remember that much of it was written by people who lived where the average yearly rainfall is less than 8 inches can we understand how they experienced God’s presence, especially through the gift of water.

Thanksgiving for that gift echoes throughout the biblical texts – from the 23rd Psalm’s affirmation that God leads us by still waters to Revelation’s proclamation, “Let the one who is thirsty come, let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (22:17). Water is not only the source of all life; it is also the source of cleansing, healing, and new life.

Small wonder then that the pilgrimage song, Psalm 87, ends with the joyous affirmation, “All my springs are in you.” The psalm would have been sung as people from Israel, Syria, North Africa, and other desert regions journeyed to Jerusalem, the Mount of Zion. The vision of the holy city as the source of all water, all springs, sustained them as they walked through hot, arid lands.

However, as the Jewish Study Bible states, Psalm 87 presents “numerous textual difficulties.” It is a patchwork of material from other sources, “damaged and disarranged” according to the Oxford Edition of the NRSV. Consequently, it’s not clear if the “you” of verse 7 – “All my springs are in you” – refers to Jerusalem, the end of the pilgrim’s journey, or to the pilgrimage itself.

The ambiguity is good, I think, for it reminds us that God’s life-giving, cleansing, healing water not only awaits us at the end of our dusty and dry journeys, but it springs up all along the way.

Thank you, God, for the springs we find in the deserts of our lives. Amen.

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