How should Christians affect the communities in which they live? Are we to be like a desert salt lake that receives water but does little or nothing to give life, or are we to be like a flowing stream that brings life to all who are near?
I want to show how Christians are to be like flowing water.
We will examine Jesus instructions on the last great day of the festival regarding rivers of living waters.
The Last & Greatest Day
In John 7:37 we read of Jesus standing up to speak loudly on the last and greatest day of the festival. That describes the final eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, an autumn festival commemorated with small booths made from leafy boughs and observed since the Exodus from Egypt. Traditionally, each morning the High Priest and a procession went from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam and filled a container with water. They re-entered the Temple through the Water Gate. Another priest carried wine for a drink offering. They poured their offerings out at the base of the altar. The water, symbolizing the Holy Spirit poured out upon men, flowed down the Temple steps into the outer courts. This Jewish feast tradition was used by Jesus to illustrate the Holy Spirit’s working as rivers of living water.
Jesus said let anyone who is thirsty come and drink (John 7:37). Thirst often means earnest desire. Deceptive advertising promotes popular sugar-laden drinks, but the greedy food industry lines its pockets and our thirst is not satisfied. Just as the benefits of water far outweigh artificial drinks, so do the benefits of true religion outweigh counterfeits. According to WebMD, water keeps us slimmer, boosts energy and lowers stress due to dehydration, builds muscle tone and prevents cramps, reduces wrinkles from the inside, aids regularity and reduces kidney stones. It truly satisfies. In a parched land, thirst was well-known. God promised Israel living water (Proverbs 18:4; Isaiah 58:11), like water for a thirsty land (Isaiah 44:3), water without price (Isaiah 55:1), a powerful symbol of life. Physical water truly satisfies physically. Belief in Jesus satisfies forever.
In desert survival a rule of thumb is not to drink from pools of stagnant water, but to look for a source of running water, sometimes called “living water” (John 7:38). Drinking from the living water that Jesus gives, satisfies our thirst permanently. The only requirement is belief in Jesus. The Holy Spirit flows from God to us and out of us to others. When we have salvation we are satisfied. Christianity is not meant to be a selfish religion practiced in isolation from others. The context seems to indicate that what we have received from God ought not to stay within us, but should flow out of us like living water, rather than staying still and becoming stagnant. Does this mean that faith not shared with others becomes stagnant? Is there a difference between stagnant and living faith?
Rivers of Living Water
To understand Jesus’ prophecy of the Holy Spirit flowing like rivers of living water from within (John 7:38) we view two similar Old Testament passages. Psalm 1 praises the law, a shadow of the cross, given on Pentecost. Those who delight in God’s law are like trees planted by rivers of water. Ezekiel 47:1-12 describes water flowing from the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem and making the desert to the south productive. An allegorical interpretation of such Old Testament passages, such as that used by the Apostles, might lead us to an understanding of the Holy Spirit flowing from heavenly Jerusalem into and out of Christians as a blessing to others around them. Do we touch others’ lives in such a way as to bless them? Do we love our neighbor enough to quench their spiritual thirst?
What is top of the list of the Holy Spirit’s gifts? In all the hype and divisiveness caused by different views of what the Bible means by speaking in tongues in the church, a very important gift of the Holy Spirit is overlooked. Jesus prophesied that the Holy Spirit would flow like rivers of living water from within (John 7:38-39). Proverbs 18:4 speaks of the mouth being deep waters and it is not tongues but another gift of the Holy Spirit that is emphasized, “the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.” It is in wisdom that the Gospel must be preached and in wisdom that Christians will gently lead their non-Christian neighbors to the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives an untold number of gifts to believers, and top of the list in 1 Corinthians 12 is wisdom.
How do we affect the communities in which we live? Are we like monks living aloof from the world, like a desert salt lake that receives water but does little or nothing to give life? Or, are we to be like a flowing stream filled with life and bringing life to all who are near?