Living Waters

“He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” —Revelation 22:1

WATER was critically important to the Israelites for their crops, their animals, and especially for themselves. It required planning and work to provide enough water to meet their needs. Because of the peculiar composition of the soil in the Holy Land, rainwater simply ran off without penetrating the ground. To catch and store this water, people dug cisterns in the rock.

On rare occasions someone would find evidence of water underneath the ground, and would dig a well. What a prize the fresh, pure well-water would be, particularly when compared to the stale and often polluted water in the cisterns. Because of the cherished nature of wells and springs, they became a favorite resting place for pilgrims. If the water supply of a well permitted, towns would be established and irrigation would make possible the raising of crops all around the year.

Because water was such an important part of the life of His people, we can see why God used it to illustrate and symbolize truth. He even pictures himself as the fountain of all truth. “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”—Jer. 2:13

God portrays himself as a fountain pouring forth waters of truth to his holy people. But because of their stiff necks and hard hearts, they refused his arrangements. They turned to their own devices, here represented by ‘cisterns’ which can, at best, hold only stale and stagnant water. When God spoke this condemnation through Jeremiah, Israel’s manmade arrangements were so poorly constructed they could hold no water at all. And so it is whenever man substitutes his own ‘cisterns’ for God’s bountiful provisions.

The Laver

In the Tabernacle of Israel, God established a large copper bowl containing water, called a laver, at which the priests—and only the priests—were to wash. This was so important that when Moses conducted the consecration ceremony of Aaron and his sons, it began at this laver. “Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” (Lev. 8:6) In all the subsequent ceremonies the priests had to wash at the laver under penalty of death. “When [Aaron and his sons] go into the Tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water that they die not.”—Exod. 30:20

The Tabernacle and its arrangements are types or illustrations of God’s relationship with spiritual Israel today. The water within the laver shows the cleansing power of the truth. All who are dedicated to the service of the Lord must be cleansed by the truth to be acceptable to him. “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of the water by the Word.”—Eph. 5:25,26

It is not just the water of truth that cleanses and sanctifies the church. It is also the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, operating in conjunction with the truth. “God saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration [“laver of regeneration,” Ferrar Fenton’s Translation] and renewal in the Holy Spirit which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”—Titus 3:5,6, RSV

The Greek word translated “save” (“God saved us”) means ‘to heal’, ‘preserve’, ‘be made whole’. So washing at this laver conveys the thought of justification, of obtaining a standing with God. The Greek word translated “renewal” (“renewal in the Holy Spirit”) means ‘to restore to life, to vigor, and activity’. It is a word Paul used in his letter to the Romans: “Be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2) The truth, operating in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, is represented in the Scriptures by ‘living waters’. It brings activity, purity, and eventually life, just as waters gushing from a spring.

The Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well

Once when Jesus was returning to Galilee, he passed through Samaria. He stopped near the outskirts of a little town to rest at Jacob’s well, which is quite large, averaging eight feet in width and nearly 100 feet deep. Digging such a well by hand must have been a major accomplishment in his day.

Soon a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. Jesus asked for a drink. She expressed surprised that he, a Jew, would want to have any contact with a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”—John 4:10,13,14

The Samaritan lady probably did not understand what Jesus was talking about! But we can see how Jesus used water as a symbol. Those with a spiritual thirst and who desire truth must turn to the Word of God to quence their thirst. In verse twenty-three of this account, Jesus said: “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

The living water Jesus said he would supply resembles the Holy Spirit operating in conjunction with the truth. The truth cleanses and refreshes—and the Holy Spirit makes it possible for our human minds to comprehend something of God, seeing from a spiritual point of view how we must serve him.

Jesus indicated that the privilege to serve God is by individual invitation. The Father seeks those who are willing to forget their own will and to worship him in Spirit and in truth. Only those comprising the church during this Gospel Age have received this living water. And each who has been blessed by it should in turn be a conduit to supply the fresh and living ‘water’ to others who are seeking after God.

A Bride for Isaac

The special selection of the church was illustrated in the selection of a bride for Isaac. Abraham sent his trusted steward to Mesopotamia, to his home country, to find a suitable bride for his son. The servant stopped at the well in the little town of Nahor. Because he did not know whom to select, he asked God to help him by sending someone who would offer drink to him and his camels. Rebekah, as we remember, arrived at the well, and did exactly that. See Genesis, chapter twenty-four.

When Abraham’s representative had returned home with Rebekah, they met Isaac at the well called Lahai-roi, which name meant: “well of the Living One that seeth me.” This seems to show that at the uniting of Jesus—typified by Isaac—and his church—typified by Rebekah—they will enter the presence of Jehovah, the Ever-living One.

The Feast of Tabernacles

During the Feast of Tabernacles, or booths, Jerusalem was teeming with people from far and near. On the last day of this feast a priest marched to the well of Siloam, filled a pitcher with water, and brought it back to the Temple. There it was poured on the burnt offering to the accompaniment of great shouts of rejoicing. It was traditional that certain psalms be recited. At the end of every phrase, the people would respond with “Hallelujah!” to praise the Lord.

It seems evident that it was during the Feast of Tabernacles, and at the end of this recitation of praise, that the events of John 7:37,38 took place. “Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

This has been a troublesome text, because there is no Old Testament scripture that even implies that out of a believer’s belly will flow rivers of living water! True, in their future work, the church will participate with their Lord to send the “river of life” (Rev. 22:1) to the world. But that is future—not at this time!

In fact, Jesus was not talking about believers; he was talking about himself. The separation of verses and punctuation supplied by the translators conceal the true meaning, in this instance, of the Master’s words. The Jerusalem Bible renders the Greek more correctly: “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me! Let the man come and drink who believes in me! As scripture says: From his [Messiah’s] breast shall flow fountains of living water.” In a footnote associated with this verse, the Jerusalem Bible says: “Life-giving water for Zion was a theme of the readings from scripture on the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:8; Ezek. 47:12); the liturgy included prayers for rain and the commemoration of the miracle of Moses and the water, Exod. 17.”

The Lord’s appeal, then and now, is to those who thirst. Receiving his truth and his Spirit—drinking the living waters that flow from him—is the only way such can satisfy their thirst.

Ezekiel 47 describes waters coming forth from the house of the Lord, from the Temple. Wherever the water went, it brought vitality, refreshment, healing, life! This prefigures the grace of God during the Millennial Age, issuing forth from the church, which is the temple of God, to all the families of the earth, bringing healing and restoring them to human perfection.

This is the same river described in Revelation 22:1: “He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life which bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

The opportunity to participate in this great future work to bring “water” to a thirsty world will be given to all who completely fill themselves now with the spiritual waters provided by our Lord. Let us make the most of our opportunities and drink deeply of these “living waters.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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