“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”- John 7:38
Are you thirsting for something more? Are you dry spiritually? We take water for granted. We can simply turn on the faucet in our kitchens accessing a refreshing flow of water. Or we can go to the super market and purchase water in various bottle sizes. In Biblical times water was not as conveniently available. You had to draw water from a well. Sometimes wells ran dry. At other times a well couldn’t be found. Next to air, water is our greatest physical necessity.
But there is a human need that surpasses even our physical need for air and water. That need is the eternal life giving Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we wander aimlessly through a worldly wilderness searching and thirsting for spiritual water. There’s a spiritual application in the Bible’s depiction of our need for water.
Usually you don’t appreciate your need for water until it isn’t there. When you’re parched and dried out for lack of water, when you do find some, it’s a big deal. When God’s people were travelling through the wilderness to the Promised Land they experienced times of thirst. God provided water for them. To remind them of His provision God instituted the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus used the ceremony of the Feast to communicate a greater truth that applies to our spiritual thirsts.
The Feast of Tabernacles was an eight day festival. This was one of three Feasts that men of Israel were required to attend in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:16). It’s estimated that there were millions of people in Jerusalem during the Feast. This ritual Feast was a reminder of how God provided water from the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:8-11; Psalm 78:15-16). It also spoke to the coming days of Messiah’s reign (Zechariah 14:8, 16-19). This Feast was an expression of thanks to God and call for Him to provide rains for the crops in the coming year.
The high priest on every day of the Feast would lead a huge joyous procession of thousands of people to the Pool of Siloam located just below the City of David to the south where he would get water for the ceremony. Flutes and other instruments were played and Isaiah 12:2-3 would be sung while pitchers was being filled – “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’ Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” It was said of the Feast ceremony – “Anyone who has not seen this water ceremony has never seen rejoicing in his life.” This was a time of great continuous celebration to the Lord for the entire Feast.
Why the Pool of Siloam? Siloam means sent One. The Pool of Siloam had living water or a flow of water that was not stagnant but clean. Water taken from this Pool was a prophetic picture of the Messiah who would one day come to provide the refreshing waters of life they needed.
There were two pitchers used in this ceremony. The high priest had a gold pitcher which stands for royalty. He would draw the “living water” (Heb. mayim chayim) from the Pool with the gold pitcher. His assistant had a silver pitcher filled with wine. Silver is a symbol of redemption. Wine is a symbol for blood. So in this ceremony we have living water and blood represented.
The high priest would take the filled pitcher of water and lead the procession back to the Temple through the Water Gate to the Court of the Priests. As the priest entered through the gate there would be three trumpet blasts. He would approach the altar where there were two silver basins, one on either side of the altar. Then as a drink offering the priest would pour out the water from the gold pitcher into one silver basin. As he did so Isaiah 44:3 would be sung – “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” His assistant would pour out the wine into the other silver basin. So symbols of blood and water were poured out on the altar as part of this ceremony each day of the Feast. You can’t have the refreshing water of the Spirit without the blood of atoning sacrifice.
The Feast would climax on the eighth day referred to as “the Great Day” (Leviticus 23:36). During the eighth day of celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles there would be a solemn procession from the Temple Mount to the Pool of Siloam. This Great Day was the day that Jesus made His proclamation: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).
On this last Great Day of the Feast at one point the priest would hold up the emptied pitchers as an expression of the prophetic hope that Messiah would one day come and fill them up. It was at this moment that Jesus stood and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Do you see the significance of Jesus’ words? Jesus is announcing that He is the “Sent One.” Jesus is the One who would fulfill the thirst of the people. Out of His side would flow the “blood and water” needed to redeem the sinner and open the floodgates of the living water of the Spirit (John 19:34). Are you thirsty? Come to Jesus.
John clarifies very specifically the connection of the words of Isaiah – “I will pour My Spirit on your descendants” and Jesus’ words – “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John states, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” This was all about the Holy Spirit! How so? Let’s see.
Before we go any further we need to see something very important in the words of Jesus. Jesus is not speaking here about the born again indwelling of a believer with the Holy Spirit. Here Jesus is speaking of an outpouring of the Spirit until He overflows from the believer to others. He is talking about the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let me explain why this is so.
On the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead, when His atoning sacrificial mission was fulfilled and he had been “glorified,” He met with the disciples. Jesus showed them His pierced hands and side verifying it was He, Jesus, the resurrected Lord. Then He commissioned them saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:19-21). Then it states, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22). It was at this point that the disciples were born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. But this is only the first aspect of the work of the Spirit in the heart of a believer.
John alone mentions this receiving of the Holy Spirit by the disciples at this point. Perhaps, writing a few decades after the two volume set of Luke’s Gospel and Acts John was seeking to clarify the work of the Spirit in the lives of disciples. What John refers to in His gospel (John 20:22) is not the baptism with the Holy Spirit that in Luke Jesus instructs the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem for (Luke 24:48-49). We don’t know why the Spirit inspired Matthew and Mark to write those gospels in a way that didn’t mention Jesus’ instruction to tarry in Jerusalem for the Promise of the Father; the baptism with the Holy Spirit. What we do know is that Luke does refer to Jesus instruction to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for empowering by the Spirit. And we know that John made sure to indicate that the disciples had been born again prior to Pentecost.
When in John’s gospel Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” the verb “receive” is grammatically an Imperative Mood demanding an immediate responsive action to a command. It is in the Aorist Tense which conveys action (i.e. Punctiliar). And it is in the Active Voice which conveys the idea it was an action the disciples themselves had to take or receive. Couple this with Jesus breathing on them at the moment He said this to them and the best conclusion is that receiving the Holy Spirit was something the disciples did at the moment their risen Master commanded them to do it. This was the first time they received the Spirit. This was their born again experience. And it happened before Pentecost.
If the disciples received the Holy Spirit at the end of John’s gospel before Pentecost then we reasonably see what Luke mentions in his gospel and Acts as something additional and subsequent to this initial receiving of the Holy Spirit. In Acts Jesus references “the Promise of the Father” as being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist referred to as being provided by Jesus. It is distinguished from the baptism with water (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16). Now we are learning the details of this baptism with the Spirit connected to Jesus.
Jesus further describes this “baptism” as, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This Promise of the Father for which 120 waited obediently in the upper room came upon them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The events of Acts take place subsequent to the Gospel of John. What happens in Acts happens to believers. You may have received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you may have been born again, have you been empowered by the Holy Spirit? The Book of Acts is the inspired historical account of the work of the Holy Spirit through the disciples He empowered. This second work of God’s grace is something provided by Jesus (Acts 2:32-33) and administered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) and received by faith (Acts 15:8-9).
We can’t reduce the working of the Spirit to a formula. At Pentecost we see the empowering baptism with the Spirit happening in the disciples as a subsequent work. A further pattern of the baptism with the Spirit as a subsequent work is seen in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) and Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7). However at Cornelius’ house and what is often referred to as the Gentile Pentecost we see the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit coming concurrently or at the same time as their born again experience (Acts 10). Some people receive the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit all at once. Some people are born again and it takes time for them to receive the Spirit’s empowering. The important thing is that whether concurrently or subsequently, you receive the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit. We need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit if we are to serve our Lord Jesus optimally for His glory.
Much of the church and many believers are as dry and empty as the pitchers held up by the Jewish priests on the Great Day of the Feast of Tabernacles. What’s the problem? The problem is much of the church and many believers have forgotten or gotten away from a reliance on the Holy Spirit. We need to be refreshed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Only He can satisfy our spiritual thirst.
John connects what Jesus said at the climax of the Great Day of the feast with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So the question we need to ask is “Was there anything that happened in the wilderness setting this feast refers to that speaks to us about our relationship with the Holy Spirit?” And the answer is yes. There is an illustration of the process of Spirit filled life provided for us in the Old Testament connected with this Feast of Tabernacles. Remember, the Feast of Tabernacles was designed to help the people remember how God provided for them in the wilderness. Are you dry and parched spiritually? Jesus has the water you need. He can quench your spiritual thirst with the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The New Testament is our best commentary on the meaning of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we are told that God provided water for His people from a rock in the wilderness. In the New Testament we are told that the Rock in the wilderness represents Jesus. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). “Water” in scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit as alluded to in John 7:39. The rock in the wilderness and how water was received from it speaks to us of Jesus provision of the Holy Spirit.
Come to the Rock Jesus for the regenerating living waters of new life in Him. In Exodus 17 the thirsty people received water from a rock that Moses struck. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. Similarly, on the cross Jesus was struck. When He was struck on the cross, out of His side flowed blood and water (John 19:34). The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins. The water represents the indwelling Holy Spirit. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Blood and cleansing must precede the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6).
The first step in experiencing the outpouring and overflowing of the Holy Spirit in our life is to come to the Rock Jesus and be saved from our sins. You can’t experience all Jesus has for you and the fullness of the Holy Spirit unless you have repented (turned from your sins) and placed your faith in Jesus. You must first be born again. His completed work of the cross is the just basis for God to forgive your sins. Come to Jesus!
Speak to the Rock Jesus and request by faith the empowering of the Holy Spirit. To get water from the rock the first time Moses was instructed by God to strike the rock. But after that when the people thirsted for water Moses was instructed by God to “speak to the rock” (Numbers 20:8). This is because Jesus was struck on the cross once and only once. Jesus died once for all for the sins of the world. He does not have to die over and over again (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; cf. also Romans 6:10). Moses, however, in disobedient anger struck the rock again and again. He was punished for this not only because he obscured a typology of God about His Son Jesus, but also because he misrepresented God as angry with His people for thirsting. God wasn’t angry. God wants to pour water on him who is thirsty.
We don’t have to strike the rock again and again to receive the refreshing water of the Spirit. We only have to speak to the Rock Jesus in faith and the water of the Spirit will flow. We don’t have to do spiritual gymnastics or work ourselves up emotionally to receive the outpouring of the Spirit in our lives. We simply have to speak to Jesus in faith. Just ask Him to open the flood gates of heaven to release the Holy Spirit in our lives. Seek and ask Jesus in faith for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. God knows what we need and is eager and willing to provide the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). Speak to Jesus!
Worship and receive. There is one more point depicted in the Rock of the Old Testament. In Numbers 21 God’s people needed more water as they moved on through the wilderness. But as they moved they moved further and further from the rock. The question that then needed to be asked and answered was, “If our water comes from this rock, what happens when we move on from here away from the rock?” In 1 Corinthians we are told that “that spiritual Rock . . . followed them, and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Jesus was following them to provide thirst quenching water. Jesus follows us; walks with us; is attentive to us; watches over us and provides for us. Jesus is here. Just come to Him and ask when you need to be refreshed in the Spirit.
But notice something here. As the people moved on through the wilderness it states, “From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together, and I will give them water” (Numbers 21:16). This was a different place. This was a different time. How would they get the water? “Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it . . . .” (Numbers 21:17). As they sang water sprang up from where they were. Their worship released the flow of water. The worshipped and received the refreshing waters.
Do you see the practical picture here for us? The New Testament speaks of being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). We are exhorted to being continually filled with the Holy Spirit. How can we experience this in our lives? It’s no accident that Paul goes on to say, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20). What is a means to be continually filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit? How do we open the faucet to let the Holy Spirit overflow us? Worship and receive. Are you dry spiritually? Feel weak spiritually? Enter into worship of the Lord. Take a step of faith and give a worship offering to the Lord. Then receive the cleansing flow of the Spirit by that faith (Acts 15:8-9). Look up and over your life obstacles and WORSHIP JESUS! Worship and receive the refreshing overflowing torrents of living water of the Holy Spirit promised to you by the Father (Acts 1:4-5), provided by Jesus (Acts 2:32-33), and administered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; Rom. 5:5). Worship Jesus and receive the empowering of the Spirit!
Are you spiritually parched? Have you been born again of the Spirit? Do you lack the power of the Spirit? Are you filled but not overflowing in the Spirit? The Father has promised to provide the power we need to effectively minister in His Name. We need to come to Jesus in full surrender and by faith receive that empowerment. This is God’s promise. God is faithful. Come in Jesus’ name. Worship and receive.