The Upper Springs and the Nether Springs
Judges 1:12-15
And Caleb said, He that smites Kirjathsepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.…

What is told us about Caleb's daughter is an illustration of the life of the soul.

1. Every earnest Christian, realising the seriousness of life, the meaning of his profession, the destiny which is before him, ought to ask of God a field; that is, a vocation. God individualises His servants. He has endowed each one in His own wise way, and He expects each one to exercise His own particular endowment for the glory of the Master and Lord. At the same time it is also true that He allows us a great deal of liberty in adapting our vocations to our lives, or perhaps one should rather say, adapting our lives to our vocations. One who believes himself called to the ministry may not take up any other profession, yet may without sin choose whether he will devote himself to mission work or minister as opportunity may present itself in parish life. In like manner the less marked commonplace vocations of everyday Christian life are largely shaped by the earnest disciple himself following the bent of his own enthusiasm, though it must be always in deference to the will of God, when that is in any way specially manifested. Even in cases where there seems to be no possibility of individual choosing, where one's way seems marked out by circumstances, and there is nothing to do but to go on in it, there should still be conscious recognition of the opportunity of a willingly accepted vocation; there should be the asking for a field on the part of the loyal soul; that is, the asking for grace to do a true and useful work for God in the circumstances He has prepared for us.

2. It does not take us long to discover that our fields are in the land of the south — arid, hard to cultivate, lacking moisture. All true vocations are hard and trying. The purpose of the existence of the kingdom of heaven upon earth is the conquest and overthrow of the kingdom of evil; that means that all who will serve in the Master's service have to fight. It often happens that, because vocations are found to be very hard, the disciple comes to the conclusion that what he thought to be his calling is not truly so, that he has made a mistake.

3. What then? The undaunted soul betakes itself to prayer. The vocation is hard, almost unendurable; never mind, light down from off the ass and pray for a blessing. There is here no thought of surrendering one's calling; of saying, "This is too hard a thing for me; take it away, and give me an easier lot in Thy service." Caleb's daughter did not ask her father to exchange the arid field for a fruitful and better situated one; she asked him to give her something besides it, however. God loves to have us develop our vocations by prayer. We must have especial and particular times of prayer set apart for that purpose, wherein we light down, as it were, from our daily duties and make our petitions to the Most High.

4. Did Caleb respond to his daughter's petition? Aye, surely, but no more surely than God responds to the prayers of His children who are striving to live loyally in the vocations He has assigned them. She asked for springs of water, for with springs of water to irrigate it the south land might be made most fertile and profitable for every sort of good fruit. It is said significantly that he gave to her both the upper springs and the nether springs. For the lower springs, that is the wells, supplement the waters of the upper springs. These last coming down abundantly in torrents from the mountains, guided by the hand of man through the fields, make them exceeding fertile, and then the superabundance of their waters is stored, according to nature's wise provision, in the lower wells, which do not dry up with the long-continued heat of the summer, but remain an ever reliable and constant supply. If God has given to His children hard and arid fields of labour, in which they are to find their several vocations, we are not to forget that to those who seek His help in prayer He grants abundantly the upper and the nether springs.

5. What, then, are these upper springs, the fresh, cooling waters from the hills, flowing down in copious streams, for man's use and profit, that the dry ground may be refreshed by them, and made to blossom as the rose and to be fruitful with all manner of good things? Evidently these upper springs of God's gift are the waters of supernatural, sacramental grace; the waters that flow down from the delectable mountains, the heavenly provision in overflowing abundance for earthly spiritual drought. We were never meant to fulfil our vocations without the help of grace. We think so much of our own energy, gifts, work, money, as if these things earnestly and heartily applied were to make the arid south land of God's calling for us fertile. They are all very well, but do not anything more valuable than dig the irrigating trenches which shall carry the sparkling waters of the upper springs down through the dry land, and make it productive.

6. And the nether springs, the lower wells, what are they in the Christian life? They are those blessed reservoirs of the sacramental grace which has been drawn in and assimilated by the correspondence of earnest disciples, ready for use in the times when the upper springs do not seem to flow freely, and to make fertile the field of the soul's labour. They are living fountains of God-given water, staying us when the special help from on high seems for the time withdrawn.

(1) There is the nether spring of love. As the wells in the lowlands are filled from the upper springs, so love of God, fed by sacramental grace, becomes a living fountain of perennial freshness in the soul.

(2) The sacramental life teaches one patience; the graces which flow from Holy Communion fill up this deep fountain, so that it never runs dry.

(3) There is yet another fine nether spring of precious value in the devout Christian life — the spring of confident expectation, the spring which combines faith and hope in one great wealth of unshaken trust. This too is filled by the upper springs of sacramental grace. One learns by his experience in confessing his sins how true and real is the pardon that comes through the precious blood. One learns, as the result of his communions, how mighty is the transforming power of the Christ-life so lovingly imparted to us. Thus he becomes sublimely sure, magnificently confident, with a sureness and a confidence that are not inconsistent with genuine humility.

(Arthur Ritchie.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

WEB: Caleb said, "He who strikes Kiriath Sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife."

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