38. An Outflow

Short Meditations in John 7:  38.  An Outflow

Jn 7:38  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

It’s hot, it’s the middle of the ceremonies of the last day of the Feast and the priest has just poured out the water that reminds them of the provision of God in the Exodus, and Jesus snatches the focus away from the priest by crying out “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.”

There would be a pause and perhaps a moment of silence before chattering and then Jesus continues with these words above. As we said yesterday, some might have wondered was Jesus a water carrier, had he skins full of water with him – but no, he stands there uncluttered. They look and they wonder. What did he say? The Scriptures?

The unknowing look confused, the knowledgeable run their minds through the Scrolls they know.  “The words of the mouth are deep waters,  but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.” (Prov 18:4) That doesn’t seem to fit. How about the river flowing out of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision? (Ezek 47) There are the streams of water in Psa 1:3, there is the deer panting for streams of water analogy in Psa 42:1 and then there is, There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” (Psa 46:1) and there is the Exodus reference in psalms, “he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.” (Psa 78:16,20). There is Isaiah’s promise (?of the end time) streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill.” (Isa 30:25) and “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isa 35:6) and “I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isa 43:19) and so it goes on and on.

Yet none of them exactly fit what Jesus is saying.  The Old Testament was full of these many references to God’s provision of water, of streams (plenty of water!) but now Jesus is declaring something completely new. These streams of God’s abundant provision will come FROM WITHIN YOU! How can that be? Is this for special people? Who  does this apply to?

Whoever believes in me.  Whoever? Anyone? Any believer? You just have to believe and you’ll have this abundant supply from God? Believe what? Believe in Jesus, that he is who he said he was and is – the Son of God come to save the world. And the fruit of his work? I can have this abundant supply of God, this supply of life, flowing up from within me, not just a sip but a stream! Wow! Hallelujah!

13. The Water Dispenser (2)

Meditating on Great Themes in John:   13. The Water Dispenser (2)

John 7:37-39  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.

Back in chapter 4 we were presented by Jesus with the idea of living water – water that brings life, transforming water. We are about to see it again but this time in very significant circumstances that emphasise its importance even more.

Following his talk about his disciples needing to ‘eat him’ a number drew back. Their depth of commitment was not enough to support their lack of understanding. Indeed unbelief was common even around Jesus because when we move into chapter 7 we find Jesus’ brothers trying to encourage Jesus to go up to Jerusalem to the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:2-4) and John concludes their comments with, For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (v.5) So here we have this amazing state of affairs where Jesus performs incredible miracles and still, even some of those close to him don’t believe. Yet he goes to the Feast quietly and then part way through the Feast starts teaching and causing opposition. He is now clearly in the public eye.

And so let’s consider the Feast, one of the three big Feasts of Judaism (the others being Passover and Pentecost) when any Jewish male living within twenty miles was required to attend, and others further afield might go anyway. This Feast required everyone to construct and live in small booths (like tents or ‘tabernacles’) to remind them of the time in Israel’s history when they had wandered in tents in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (see Lev 23:33-43 & Num 29:12-39). It was to be a period of great feasting and celebration. But it was also harvest thanksgiving (Lev 23:39,40) once the harvest had been gathered, a great time of thankfulness, therefore, for God’s provision in the wilderness and in providing now.

Part of the ceremony each day required the worshippers to bring palm and willow cuttings to the Temple to form a kind of screen or roof while they marched around the great altar. At the same time a priest took a golden pitcher and went down to the Pool of Siloam and filled it with water which was carried up through the Water Gate while the people recited, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isa 12:3) The water was carried up to the Temple and poured out on the altar as an offering accompanied by other chants from the psalms. This was a means of thanksgiving for God’s provision of water which gave life to the land and enabled the harvest to come about, as well as historically remembering the water that had flowed from the rock during their time in the wilderness.

And so the Feast draws near an end and we find, almost certainly as the water pouring over the altar ritual was reaching its climax, “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.” (v.37,38)  Suddenly the big emphasis that is being acted out before them is focused on Jesus. It is as if he is saying, “This water will never completely slake your thirst but if you are spiritually thirsty then come to me and drink of what I have to give and you will be satisfied because, just as the Scriptures say, streams of living water will flow from within you.”

Some have suggested this refers to “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail,” (Isa 58:11) and others, “A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias.” (Joel 3:18) There are no verses to specifically tie to these words of Jesus but the idea of water (life) flowing from God is certainly there in the Old Testament.

John provides his own commentary: “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.” (v.39) In other words Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit welling up within the believer when he comes to Christ and is born again, a fountain of life from within.

Now to pick up on the various things said above, we may summarise Jesus’ challenge as follows:

  1. In the same way as God provided miraculous water supply in the desert, so I provide for you a miraculous supply that does not rely on natural means.
  2. In the same way as this feast (highlighted by the pouring out of water at the climax) reminds of God’s provision both in the wilderness and as a means of bringing a harvest today, so my provision will keep you in the dry places and enable you to be fruitful.
  3. This provision is conditional upon you believing in me (Jesus).
  4. This provision is not one-off but a life-long supply.
  5. This provision des not come by some outward activity or source, but from inside you, from my supply, from my Holy Spirit.

These are the things at the heart of this amazing challenge at this crucial time in Israel’s life. A big theme? Absolutely!