Read John 7:37-39.
The Feast Of Tabernacles
It’s the last day of the feast of tabernacles. On this day, as they did the previous seven days, the people celebrated by camping out in lean-to’s. In this setting, parents would tell their kids how God provided for the Israelites during the wandering in the wilderness. They’d talk about the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud leading them. They’d talk about how God provided manna from heaven.
And they’d talk about how God provided water from the rock.
Water From The Rock
One time during the wandering in the wilderness, the people were camped at Rephidim, but they ran out of water. And they began a protest, against Moses.
They went to him and voiced their anger: We want water! They said.
Why are you angry with me? Moses said. And why do you test the Lord?
But the people continued to protest: Let us ask you something, Moses. Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us with thirst?
So Moses cried out to the Lord. He prayed: What should I do? These people are almost ready to stone me.
God said to Moses: Take your staff and strike the rock at Horeb, and water will come out of it.
So that’s what Moses did. He struck the rock as God instructed, and water flowed from from the rock. (Exodus 17:1-7)
Celebrating The Water From The Rock
The water from the rock was celebrated when each day during the feast of tabernacles, for the first seven days, the priests drew water from the pool of Siloam with pitchers. And each day, for the first seven days, they would walk in a procession from the pool of Siloam to the temple where they would pour out the water at the base of the altar.
But on the eighth day of the feast, no water was drawn from the pool. Some say that on the eighth day, the last day of the feast, the priests symbolically poured out empty vessels while at the same time, Isaiah 44:3 was read aloud.
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3b)
Another scripture included in the public reading during the feast was Ezekiel 47 which speaks of water flowing from below the threshold of the temple. Jewish teachings say, that the water flowed from the foundation stone of the temple.
So that sets the scene for what happens next, on this last day of the feast, the day the priests marched from the pool of Siloam with empty vessels. (The name Siloam means “to send.”)
Imagine with me how Jesus disrupts this last day of the ceremony. After the priests symbolically pour out their empty vessels from the pool of Siloam, the name of which means to send, “him who he has sent” makes his declaration. After the priests read aloud about the water flowing from the foundation stone in Ezekiel 47, “the cornerstone, of a sure foundation” addresses the people. After, or maybe even during, the celebration of the water from the rock, the Rock that would be struck for our transgressions, God’s Rock, speaks.
So out of the middle of the ceremony that cries out the name of Jesus, Jesus stands up and cries out to the crowd:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart [or inner most being] will flow rivers of living water.'”
I Feel Like Something’s Missing
Do you ever feel like there’s something missing in your life? Do you have food, water, shelter, and clothes? Maybe you also have a car, high speed internet, a smart phone, and a Netflix subscription. Maybe you’re even a believer, but still there’s that feeling. You can’t shake that feeling. The feeling that there’s something more. It’s almost a longing sometimes. Even an aching in your soul. There’s some kind of hole in your life that needs filling. You’re thirsty for something.
If that’s you, Jesus invites you to come to him and drink.
The “Water” That Can Make Such A Difference In Your Life
The explanation of what Jesus meant by “living water” is found in the last verse of our text: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . .”
“The Spirit,” the Holy Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit has been such a difference maker for me personally. I was a believer in Jesus but distracted by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I really took notice of Jesus’ words from Luke chapter 11. In the context of a discussion about prayer Jesus says, What father would give his son a snake if he asked for some fish to eat? Or who would give his son a scorpion if he asked for some eggs? If you then, who are evil and are sinners, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
I understood this passage to be in conjunction with Jesus’ teaching about the persistent widow. She kept bringing her case before a judge, an unrighteous judge. She came to him regularly, consistently, continually until finally he said to himself: I’ll give her justice so she won’t beat me down with her persistence. Jesus said, if the unrighteous judge responded to the persistent widow, how much more readily will God, who is perfectly righteous, respond to His children when they’re persistent. Luke 18: 1 says that Jesus’ purpose in sharing this parable was because we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
So after decades as a distracted Christian I finally started to persistently pray in earnest for God to give me His Holy Spirit. And when I did, the longing, the feeling that something was missing, the thirst: it was gone.
My life changed. My life changed when I became a believer, but it changed again when I began praying this way.
Your life can change too.
Accept Jesus’ invitation to come to him and drink.
Start asking for God’s Holy Spirit.
Ask persistently like the widow.
The Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
[You might also like The Holy Spirit: How to Know if You Have Him]
References and Resources:
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Image via Andrew_Writer – Creative Commons