On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. – John 7:37-39 ESV
Every year, in the fall, the Jews would celebrate the Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths), a commemoration of the 40 years their ancestors had spent living in the wilderness on their way to the promised land. On the seventh day of the feast, the people would carry lit torches in a procession around the temple. The priests would draw water from the well of Siloam and pour it into a silver basin beside the altar, calling on the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their crops. During the drawing of the water, the people would recite Isaiah 55:1 and 12:3. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
The eighth and final day of Sukkot, called Shmeni Atzeret, was a day when a prayer for rain was recited. It was during this feast and on the last day that Jesus uttered the words found in the verses above. He offered all those within His hearing access to a different kind of water – living water. He offered them water from the wells of salvation. But John makes it clear that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would be given to all those who believed in Him as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. This invitation from Jesus fell on deaf ears. While there were those who were hoping that Jesus might be the long-awaited Messiah, they were looking for a different kind of Savior and a salvation that was physical in nature, not spiritual. They wanted release from the oppression of Roman rule. They longed for a return to the glory days of King David and Solomon, when the Jewish people were powerful, well-respected and independent.
But Jesus was offering them something far more significant. He was inviting them to experience a form of spiritual refreshment that was unlike anything they had ever known. He was inviting them to believe in Him as their Savior or Messiah, and to enjoy the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit within their lives. Rather than having to seek for external sources of refreshment, they would have the Spirit of God within them producing a quenching of their spiritual thirst as well as fruitfulness. When Jesus had His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 ESV). The woman was confused by Jesus statement and asked Him how He intended to draw water from the well without any means to do so. And Jesus responded, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 ESV). She remained stuck on a physical plane, finding it difficult to understand the spiritual nature of Jesus’ offer. She asked for some of this “living water,” but failed to recognize that what Jesus was offering was not available from any well or spring. It was of divine origin.
Sometimes we fail to recognize the significance of what we have received from God as a result of our faith in Jesus. Not only have we been extended forgiveness for all our sins – past, present and future – we have been given the righteousness of Christ. We have also received an unwavering assurance of our future glorification. On top of that, we have been given the gift of God’s Spirit, to live in us, guide us and empower us. Paul described the Spirit as a kind of down-payment or security deposit, assuring us that what God has promised regarding the future is true. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ESV).
The Holy Spirit is a source of refreshment, nourishment, and spiritual empowerment. He lives with us, but should also flow out of us. It is the Spirit who produces fruit in us. In Galatians 5, Paul lists the “fruit” of the Spirit. They include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are not self-manufactured, but Spirit-produced. It is the Spirit within us that allows fruit to flow from us. And it begins with a change in our heart. He renews us from within. And it is from this divinely renewed heart that our fruitfulness flows. The Spirit within us flows from us, impacting the lives of those around us.
But too often we fail to experience the soul-satisfying, thirst-quenching power of the Spirit who lives within us. We continue to try and produce fruit in our own power. We keep trying to satisfy our spiritual thirst through other sources. But our satisfaction and fruitfulness must flow from the Spirit, who Jesus sent to live in us and remain with us to the end. Out of our hearts should flow rivers of living water. Our lives should be living proof of the Spirit’s presence within us. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He will guide us and empower us all the days of our life on this earth and see to it that we make it to our final destination.