"Rivers of Living Water"

"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink. He that believes on Me, as the scripture has 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).

"Rivers of living water!" We cannot lightly pass this by, for it is one of the most arresting and magnificent proposals that God has made to men. He does not speak of a river, but of RIVERS, and "rivers of LIVING WATER!" not flowing in only, but flowing out — flowing out into a barren, polluted, wretched, sin-burdened, and devil-oppressed world, and healing, comforting, uplifting, fertilizing wherever they flow. Flowing abundantly and continuously wherever the one is in whom they are, whether in the mansions of Mayfair or the slums of Shoreditch, among the peaceful hills and dales of favoured Briton, or the battle-torn fields of Flanders and France, in the far-off and demon-ridden lands where faithful souls labour to bring the heathen to the feet of Christ, and amid the pollutions of the flesh and empty world-attractions of the towns and cities of civilization; in the home, the office, the factory, the field and at sea; amid peace or war; in the gospel service and Sunday-school class, in life and testimony, day by day, and hour by hour — RIVERS OF LIVING WATER.

And to whom is the invitation given and the proposal made? TO ANY MAN WHO THIRSTS. To the one who feels that the world is bad and sighs for that which is good; to the one who has discovered that the church has failed both God and man and longs for that that faileth not; to the one who keenly feels that he is the greatest wreck of all, whose folly and failure and feebleness for good weigh upon him like an unbearable load that makes his soul cry out in agony. To such the invitation is given, they all may come with their parched and fevered souls, and be transformed by coming into vessels overflowing with blessing to others.

The unconverted man who has tasted nothing as yet but the brackish waters of the world's foul streams may come. The believer who has merely sipped at the living water, but has not drawn near to enter the fullness of joy that Christ gives may come. The backslider — most miserable of all men — who has known the joyful sound and lost its music in his wanderings amid the world's wild babel, to whom the sweet waters of life eternal are but a memory, and who lashes himself in secret for his treachery to Christ, and sighs for the brightness of those former days, may come. The discouraged servant, toiling all night fruitlessly, with heart depressed, life barren, and countenance sad, may come. The only qualification is thirst, and "IF ANY MAN THIRST," said the Son of God, "LET HIM COME UNTO ME AND DRINK."

COME UNTO ME. Search no longer in the depths of your own heart for the goodness that satisfies. Come to Me. Cease to look to men for help. Come to Me. Abandon for ever your hopes in the power and amiability of democracy. Come to Me. Turn not to churches or religious ceremonies. Come to Me. Depend not on famous evangelists, pastors and teachers. Come to Me. Rest not in hearty meetings, Bible conferences, sound scriptural literature, or a correct ecclesiastical position. Come to Me — UNTO ME — ME.

Are we tired of self and self-efforts? Are we sick at heart as "change and decay in all around we see"? Are our eyes weary with seeking good beneath the sun? Have our hopes been blighted and our best aspirations withered? Do we groan and sigh at the failure of our pitiful efforts to bless others? Have we come to our wits' end, and do we cry, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, FOR THE LIVING GOD: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say to me, WHERE IS THY GOD?"

Where is He? He is there, a lowly stranger in the midst of Israel's multitudes, on that last great day of the feast, crying, "Come to Me" to every needy, thirsty soul — a stranger with gracious mien and outstretched hands and tear-filled eyes — a Nazarene, acquainted with grief, despised of the people, and yet —

"God manifest, God seen and heard,
  The heaven's beloved One."

Behold Him as He uplifts His voice! He reads their misery in the faces of the multitude, He measures the boundless needs of their thirsty souls; He counts their tears, hears their sighs, and knows their disappointments, their heart-aches, and their sins. Their sorrows had made Him the man of sorrows, for He knew the cause of them, their sins would nail Him as a bleeding sacrifice to Calvary's tree. He sighs for them, weeps for them, and would die for them. They had forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and had hewn out for themselves cisterns — broken cisterns, that could hold no water — but He pities them, yearns for them, loves them and calls to them "COME UNTO ME AND DRINK."

Do we see what is involved in these words, which are more than an invitation. They were a call to those who heard them, and a call to us also, to forsake every fleshly hope, to smash every cherished idol, to lay all the glory of man in the dust where it properly belongs, to turn from it as being utterly void of profit, and to acknowledge that He alone can satisfy the cravings of the soul, and that He only has the right to do it, for HE IS GOD, He is THE WORD, the Revealer of the infinite blessedness of the Triune God, and His words are the divine invitation to sin-burdened and thirst-stricken wanderers from God — an invitation throbbing with a boundless compassion. But they are more than an invitation, they are a challenge also, a challenge to the creature to put the Creator to the test at last, and to prove that He, revealed in the fullness and blessedness of His nature in the person of His Only-Begotten, is infinitely better than the best he had known, and to discover at His feet that he might exchange His evil and misery for God's overflowing goodness.

But these words were more than an invitation and a challenge to men, they were the bursting forth of God's desires for men. Before His all-seeing eye all men, and all generations of men, appeared. He saw them, created as they had been to be filled into God's fullness, yet restless, thirsting, blind, and lost; wanderers in an arid desert without God and without hope; deceived by the devil and rebellious against God's holy will; hating Him in spite of His love and pressing on to an everlasting doom. No temporal or material mercies, no matter how vast their multitude, could meet their need; they could only be saved from their present miseries and their future woe by the fullness of God reaching them in grace. And that this fullness might flow out to all men God sent His Son into the world, and He is the Fountain of the water of life; but that those waters might still flow forth in rivers He requires vessels, vessels that should first be filled with that fullness and then overflow in rivers to others.

This could only be as God Himself dwelt in the vessels and filled them with a constant satisfaction, and nothing short of this is the proposal. Consider the words afresh — "He that believes on Me, as the scripture has 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."

It is well to lay emphasis upon the fact that the fulfilment of this great word was dependent upon Jesus being glorified. He was to be taken up, as the man alive from the dead, to His Father's throne, to be there the life-giving Head, and this could not be until the great work of redemption was accomplished on the cross. At that cross the old life that could yield nothing either for God or man met its condemnation, for God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). He has now taken up life in resurrection, and He imparts this life to all who come to Him. But not this alone; He gives to them the Holy Spirit. All who come to Him and drink are thereby put into contact with eternal power and eternal blessing, for they receive the Spirit of God who is the Eternal Spirit.

Oh, that the greatness of this might lay hold of us. In order that the life-giving rivers of grace might reach men God has put His own Spirit in those who believe in Jesus, and God dwells in them for the blessing of His unhappy and rebellious creatures. And this means that God's thoughts and compassions should find expression through them, that streams of "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" should flow from them; that they should go about doing good as Jesus did, for God, who was with Him, is with them; that they should be witnesses to men, not only that Christ, the risen Man, is glorified in heaven, but that those who have come to Him have come to the fountain of the water of life and are fully satisfied, and in consequence think no longer of themselves but live for the blessing of others.

"But this spake He of the Spirit that they that believe on Him should receive." Have we believed on Him? And if so are the rivers flowing forth from our satisfied souls — RIVERS OF LIVING WATER? Have we been transformed from thirsting, grasping, selfish, complaining sinners into sons of God, vessels overflowing with His goodness and blessing, meet for the Master's use in saving others?

God has need of such vessels as these, and that He might have them Jesus came and died and rose again and was glorified; and the world needs them, THE WORLD THAT GOD SO LOVED NEEDS THEM. Behold its sorrows and its sins, consider its wretchedness and bondage, think upon the darkness of its doom! Who can bless it but the God it knows not? From whence shall light and relief and deliverance and joy come to it but from God? It is the mission and responsibility and high and marvellous honour of the vessels in whom God dwells to carry God to it, and to be in the midst of it as RIVERS OF LIVING WATER. Are we this? And, if not, why? WHY?

It was on the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus made this great proclamation. The first seven days of that feast foreshadowed worldwide peace and prosperity for men under His beneficent dominance as the Sun of Righteousness. Of this period of blessing many glowing and soul-stirring prophecies had been spoken, but He could not at that time fulfil these sure words, for though He was ready the people were not. They did not want the blessing in God's way, and they would not have God's Son, though He was the only One through whom it could come to them. They hated Him and were seeking to kill Him, so that He was going back again to His Father who sent Him (v. 33), and that day of blessing for the earth was in consequence to be postponed.

Now there were those who had followed Him expecting that He would immediately fulfil His ancient promises to Israel and the earth, and were they to be disappointed? Were the hopes that had been raised in their breasts to be shattered? No. He proposed to give them something better.

The last great day of the feast was the eighth day, and that eighth day was a Sabbath. It foreshadowed God's eternal rest, when heaven should come down to earth, and when the two should no longer be separated but united in the joy of the manifestation of the fullness of God. It was on that day that Jesus lifted up His voice, and that which He offered to any man that thirsted exceeded the highest expectations of those who had followed Him. Earthly blessings are great, if He gives them, but this is greater: it is not earthly but heavenly, not material but spiritual, not temporal but eternal. And so the rejection of Him by Israel which seemed to be an overwhelming calamity was turned into a triumph of divine goodness. And the eighth day of the feast which stood outside man's sin and its consequences became the platform from which He announced God's intention to put those who believed in Jesus into living contact with heavenly and eternal fullness and power, whilst earthly blessing was withheld because of Israel's rejection of Christ.

The blessing announced was of an entirely new order, having its source and centre in a risen Christ, exalted in heaven above every principality and power. From Him in the heavenly and eternal throne, that can know neither change nor decay, there was to come into this changing and storm-tossed world the heavenly and eternal Spirit to dwell in every one who should believe in Jesus, and He would bring the power and blessing of eternity into their lives and make them vessels overflowing with the goodness of God in a world of thirsting men. And this has come to pass; THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLS NOW IN ALL WHO HAVE BELIEVED UPON THE GLORIFIED CHRIST. How wonderful is this thought! How intimate is the contact into which it puts us with God! No earthly relationship can illustrate it, for none of us can impart his spirit to another no matter how dearly loved. But this is what God has done, and just as a man's spirit controls him and expresses itself in his looks and words and works, so God by His Spirit would control us and express His thoughts for man's blessing actively through us. The believer is in the world for this purpose, He is to be the channel of God's goodness and grace to men, the divinely, given description of this most blessed presence is, "Out of his belly shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER." He is to be satisfied himself first, to find every desire of his soul met in Christ and then to overflow for others.

We must not dismiss this proposal as a magnificent impossibility, as we would the unsubstantial product of an ecstatic brain, for the Speaker is THE WORD, the Omnipotent Creator, made flesh in order to bring the fullness of God to men, and every word of His lips is the pure gold of absolute truth. And He is able to fulfil His own word. We may not have realized this flowing out of blessing from hearts fully satisfied ourselves; we may not have seen these waters flowing out of any other whom we know — dwell not on that, past-failure in ourselves and failure in our fellows does not and cannot alter the truth of this great word. There it stands for us in its stupendous simplicity, describing for us the results of contact with Christ glorified in heaven, and challenging us to put it to the test. It lies within the reach of all, and we may take the words to the Speaker of them, and tell Him that we have not realized the truth of them yet, but that we believe He means us to do so, and then seek out the hindrances to their fulfilment in our lives.

We are turned back to the Scriptures, by these words of the Lord, for help as to their meaning, for He said, "AS THE SCRIPTURE HATH SAID." But we shall not find what part of the Scripture says this by looking up the marginal references in our Bible or by consulting a concordance; indeed, the exact words are not to be found in the Old Testament at all, but many scriptures contain the thought, and if we put some of these together we shall surely discover the true and blessed meaning of the Lord's words.

We will take three scriptures which shall speak to us: (1) of the transforming our own lives; (2) of the outflow from those lives which have been made fit for the Spirit indwelling; (3) of how the waters may be kept flowing continuously in spite of all external conditions. These scriptures have in view first of all earthly and material refreshment and blessing, but they contain in them the deeper and spiritual thought, and with this we will occupy ourselves.

Isaiah 35 tells us that "in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert and the parched ground shall become a pool and the thirsty land springs of water." We learn from this beautiful chapter that "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing." But how shall this great result be brought about, and what is the cause of this blessing and fruitfulness? One sentence supplies the answer, "THEY SHALL SEE THE GLORY OF THE LORD, AND THE EXCELLENCY OF OUR GOD." Now mark well that the outflowing waters of the Lord's promise in John 7 are connected with His glory; and do we see His glory? "WE SEE JESUS, WHO WAS MADE A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS FOR THE SUFFERING OF DEATH, CROWNED WITH GLORY AND HONOUR" (Heb. 2:9). "BUT WE ALL, LOOKING ON THE GLORY OF THE LORD WITH UNVEILED FACE, ARE TRANSFORMED ACCORDING TO THE SAME IMAGE FROM GLORY TO GLORY, EVEN AS BY THE LORD THE SPIRIT" (2 Cor. 3:18, N.Tr.). Here is the first great secret of these outflowing waters. As we are by the Spirit beholding the glory of the Lord: where He is we become like Him where He is not. Our barren lives change their character and become fresh and fruitful, according to the transforming power of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. And we must be transformed ourselves first if we are to have any part in transforming others.

EZEKIEL 47 tells of a wonderful river, that, flowing in ever-increasing volume, carries healing and fertility into barren regions. But from whence does the river come and wherein lies its power for good? It comes from the sanctuary, from the temple of God, and that is the secret of its virtue. That we can understand, for if God is the blessed God that which flows from His temple must be blessing. Yes, that must be so. But, "KNOW YE NOT THAT YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF SOD, AND THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLETH IN YOU" (1 Cor. 3:16). The prayerful consideration of that statement will impress us as no comments on it can with the practical holiness that becomes all of whom it is true; of the great responsibility that rests upon them as being God's vessels in the world, His dwelling, and yet of the all-sufficiency of the Holy Spirit within to preserve them according to God's own thought.

ZECHARIAH 14:8-9, tells of living waters going out from Jerusalem, in summer and in winter. These waters are not dried by summer heat or bound by winter frosts, they are superior to all external conditions and flow out unrestrained and continuously. But what is it that gives them the character of independence of all creature circumstances, and from whence do they flow? Their source is the City where the kingship of the One Lord is owned, the city where His throne is, and here lies the secret of the continuous outflowing. JESUS IS LORD! And this must not be with us in profession only but in reality. There must be obedience to His will. This is the outcome of and is coupled with believing in Him. We cannot contribute to others except we believe in Him and are in obedience to His commandments.

We need only quote the Lord's own words in order to give point and emphasis to this.

"He that has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves Me: and he that loves Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him … Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him" (John 14:21, 23). "If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken to you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:10-12). "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he that keeps His commandments dwells in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us" (1 John 3:22-24).
It is by the Spirit's power that we behold the glory of the Lord.
It is by the Spirit's presence that we are the temple of God.
It is by the Spirit's promptings that we call Jesus Lord.

And because of the Spirit that dwells in us we are to be in the world as RIVERS OF LIVING WATER. This is the normal condition of believers in the world, and if it is not our condition, we have either never entered into the true power of Christianity or else we have fallen from it, and in either case deep exercise of soul before God and searchings of heart should be ours until we discover the cause.