“In the last day, that great day of the feast, 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. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” John 7:37-39
We think little of the importance and need for water. We just turn on the faucet and water flows. It wasn’t so in the Bible days and especially in the arid regions of the Middle East. Water was a precious commodity, and obtaining all the water needed was a continual task and concern.
Think of the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 17). They had no water to drink and thirsted. They complained against Moses, accusing him of bringing them out into the wilderness to die of thirst. And God commanded Moses to strike the rock with his rod, and water gushed forth, meeting the needs of God’s people. And the Bible tells us that God provided water for the people from the rock on more than one occasion (cf. Num. 20:8ff.; Deut. 8:15).
Now, it was the feast of tabernacles, the last day of that great feast in which the people dwelt in tabernacles to remind them of their living in tents in the wilderness for 40 years. On each day of the feast, the priests drew out a vessel of water from the Pool of Siloam and the people sang psalms as they returned to the temple to pour out the water into a basin there on the side of the altar – a reminder that God had given them water from the rock in the wilderness.
Then, on the last day of the feast, Jesus cried out in the temple, “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.”
That rock in the wilderness pointed to Christ Jesus. As God satisfied the thirst of His people in the wilderness with water from the rock, so Christ offers to meet the spiritual thirst of God’s people — their greatest need — with living water, water which continues to flow and meet all our needs and to quench the thirst of those around us as we point them to Christ, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world by his sacrifice upon the cross (John 1:29).
As Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4:10,13-14), so here He offers it to all who had come to the temple in search of God’s mercy and blessing. And, He offers it to you and to me, as well!
How does Jesus quench our thirst? He offers and gives us pardon and forgiveness for all our sins when we come to Him in faith, trusting that He indeed is God’s Son and our Savior and that He has satisfied the demands of God’s law for us and suffered the full and just punishment for all our sins (cf. Eph. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 3:21-26).
And, as John explained, when we trust in Jesus, He gives to us His Holy Spirit, who continually works through God’s Word and Sacraments to keep us in the true and saving faith. He convicts us of our sinfulness with God’s Law and comforts us with God’s pardon and forgiveness through the message of the Gospel, the good news of His mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. Isa. 55:1ff.; 12:1ff.; Matt. 11:28ff.; Acts 2:36-39; Phil. 1:6).
We are living in a spiritual wilderness. True spiritual water is scarce – we can’t find it on our own. But God has provided it for us in His Son – the Rock which follows us in this wilderness of sin and death (cf. 1 Cor. 10:4; Psalm 36:9). And in Jesus, our thirst is quenched. Our greatest need – forgiveness of sins and fellowship with God our Maker – is met. And when we come to Jesus in faith, which is in itself of the gracious working of God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 1:12; John 6:44,63), the Holy Spirit will be given to us and our spiritual thirst will be continually quenched as He sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior (Rev. 22:17)!
We come to You, O Jesus, to quench our thirsting souls. Forgive our sins and keep us within Your flock and fold. And grant to us Your Spirit, and may the rivers flow, that others, too, may hear us, their Savior come to know. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]