The Spirit Who Gives Life

37 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. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 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

All of the events covered in chapter seven have occurred during the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem. Now, after having informed His audience about His coming departure, Jesus returns to the temple grounds in order to make a statement regarding the coming of the Holy Spirit. John describes this scene as taking place on the last day of the feast, “the great day.” According to Deuteronomy 16:13, the Feast of Booths lasted seven days. But the day following the feast, which always fell on the Sabbath, was to be a special day as well.

On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.– Leviticus 23:36 ESV

It is impossible to know whether Jesus made His announcement about the coming Holy Spirit on the seventh or eighth day. By designating it as “the great day,” John could have been referencing the final day of the feast itself, the seventh day. Or he could have been referring to the eighth day, which was considered by most Jews to be just as much a part of the feast as the previous seven days. It was on that day, a Sabbath day, that a final holy convocation was held to celebrate God’s gracious provision for the needs of His chosen people during the 40 years they had spent in the wilderness.

During the 1st-Century AD, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Booths with a series of man-made rites or rituals that were not outlined in the Mosaic law. One of these was the daily water libation. The details surrounding this daily ritual are essential to understanding the nature of Jesus’ comments.

The third daily ceremony was the rite of the water libation. On the first morning of Sukkot a procession of priests went down to the pool of Siloam to bring up to the Temple a golden container of water sufficient to last throughout the seven days of the feast. The water was brought up with great ceremony. The shofar was blown and the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the feast waved their lulavs as the priests carried the water around the altar. The great Hallel (Psalms 113-118) were recited. Then the priest on duty poured out the contents of two silver bowls: one held water and the other held wine. This was an act of prayer and an expression of dependence upon God to pour out his blessing of rain upon the earth.

On the last or “great” day of the feast, the water libation rite reached its climax. The priests circled the altar seven times and then poured out the water with great pomp and ceremony. This was Hoshana Rabbah, the great “HOSHIANA,” (which translated is “save now”). – © Jews for Jesus USA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The water from the Pool of Siloam was poured out along with the daily drink offering of wine. The pouring out of the water was intended to represent God’s gracious provision of life-sustaining water for His people during their days in the wilderness. The water was representative of His saving grace, as described in the book of Isaiah.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.– Isaiah 12:2-3 ESV

The pouring out of the wine was meant to represent God’s promise to pour out His Spirit upon His people.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” – Isaiah 44:3 ESV

It is believed that as the water and wine were poured out, the people would chant Isaiah 12:3 as well as Isaiah 55:1: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

With all this as background, the words of Jesus take on a whole new significance. And whether He spoke those words on the seventh or eighth day becomes immaterial. The point is that Jesus used the context of the daily pouring out of the water and the wine to offer His promise of the coming Spirit of God. John describes Jesus as standing up and crying out. There is an intensity to the scene. Jesus is shouting at the top of His lungs, passionately inviting the people to receive what God is about to offer.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. – John 7:37 ESV

With that statement, Jesus made Himself the focal point of the entire festival. He purposely took the Isaiah 55:1 passage and made it about Himself. None of this would have escaped His Jewish audience. And the religious leaders would have been appalled at His audacity and apparent blasphemy. But Jesus was far from done. He quickly added:

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:38 ESV

This statement presents a problem. There is no Old Testament passage that seems to correspond with Jesus’ words. So, it would seem that Jesus was summarizing and interpreting a variety of Old Testament passages that were intended to point toward the future advent of the Holy Spirit. These would have included the following:

“And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 39:29 ESV

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.” – Isaiah 44:3 ESV

Jesus was linking these promises to Himself. The pouring out of the Spirit of God was tied directly to belief in Him as the Son of God. In a sense, Jesus was making belief in Him a mandatory condition for experiencing the outpouring of the Spirit. And this bold claim would have been highly offensive to His audience, especially to the Jewish religious leaders.

But everything Jesus said mirrored the words He had spoken to the Samaritan woman He had encountered at Jacob’s well. He had told her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 ESV). And then He had added, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 ESV).

He had offered this woman a source of living water that would result in eternal life. But He was the key to receiving this incredible resource. It would be through faith in Jesus that the promise of the outpouring of God’s Spirit would come.

When Jesus had described Himself as the bread that came down from heaven, He had disclosed that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53 ESV). In doing so, He had presented Himself as the sole source of eternal life. Through belief in Him as the Son of God, sin-stained men and women could find cleansing and complete purification. They would be able to enter into God’s presence unashamed and fully accepted as righteous in His eyes. But Jesus had added an important factor that would make this promise possible.

“Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” – John 6:62-63 ESV

Jesus had been revealing all along that He was going to have to die so that eternal life could be made available. He would have to offer His life as a ransom for sinful mankind. And His death would be followed by His resurrection and ascension. But when He had ascended, the Holy Spirit would come, providing all those who placed their faith in Him with abundant life now and eternal life to come.

And John provides an important point of clarification when he adds: “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 7:39 ESV).

John includes this point of explanation for the benefit of his readers. He realized that they would have found the words of Jesus just as difficult to understand as the Jews who heard them on “the great day” of the feast. As John will make clear, Jesus’ invitation was met with mixed reviews. They didn’t know what to make of His words. They were perplexed by His offer of rivers of living water. And it was because they had no idea that Jesus was about to lay down His life for their sins. He was going to offer Himself as a substitute, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Bread of Life would be broken. His blood would be poured out. His life would be given as an atonement for the sins of men. And His death, resurrection, and ascension would make possible the pouring out of “the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Gift of God

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” – John 4:7-15 ESV

It is interesting that John makes special note that Jesus stopped in “a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph” (John 4:5 ESV). This reference to Joseph has special significance because of the role he played as Israel’s “savior” hundreds of years earlier. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and he ended up in Egypt. But through a series of divinely orchestrated events, Joseph eventually became the second-highest-ranking official in all of Egypt. Years later, when a famine struck the land of Canaan, Jacob sent his remaining sons to Egypt to seek food. But what they discovered was their long-lost brother. And to their surprise, rather than use his position and power to punish them for their past treatment of him, Joseph showed them mercy and grace. He provided them with forgiveness for their sins against him as well as well-watered land for their flocks. So the Israelites, just 70 members strong at that time, settled in Egypt. And, in response to his brothers’ concern that he might seek to harm them, Joseph told them:

Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” – Genesis 50:20 ESV

Jacob and Joseph would both die in Egypt. But, years later, when the sons Jacob returned to the land of Canaan, they brought the bones of Joseph and buried them in Shechem (Sychar), near the spot where Jesus had chosen to take His midday rest stop.

John mentions, almost in passing, that Jesus was weary from His journey. This rather oblique reference is intended to remind the reader that Jesus, while fully God, was also fully human. And in His humanity, Jesus experienced the same physical attributes as any other man, including hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain. In this little scenario, Jesus would have looked like any other travel-worn Jew making his way through the region of Samaria. So, when the Samaritan woman appeared on the scene, she would have taken very little interest in this unknown Jewish man – until He spoke to her.

John indicates that Jesus was the first to speak, saying to the woman, “Give me a drink” (John 4:7 ESV). While this scene may appear somewhat innocuous to us, for the original readers of John’s gospel, this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman would have been shocking. Here was Jesus, a Jewish male, daring to strike up a conversation with a Samaritan woman. This kind of thing wasn’t done in Israel. First of all, Jesus broke social protocol by speaking to a woman in public. And to make matters worse, the woman to whom He spoke was a lowly Samaritan. She would have been considered idolatrous and, therefore, unclean. Yet, shockingly, Jesus chose to speak to her. 

Even the woman reveals her surprise that this Jewish man would dare to address her.

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” – John 4:9 ESV

Just so his audience understands the gravity of the moment, John adds an important aside: “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9 ESV). This entire encounter was out of bounds and unexpected. Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, was smack-dab in the middle of Samaria, in the middle of the day, and speaking to an unclean Samaritan woman. Not only that, but He was also asking her to serve Him water from the vessel she used to draw from the well. What Jesus was about to do would render Him ceremonially unclean and in need of purification.

But Jesus shows no concern for His own spiritual well-being. Instead, He seems focused on the plight of the woman and replies to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 ESV). 

In a sense, Jesus was informing the woman of His true identity. He was much more than an unidentified Jewish man asking for a drink of water. He was someone who had the power and authority to offer her “the gift of God,” a source of “living water.”

Confused by Jesus’ words, the woman responded, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:11 ESV). At this point in the exchange, the reader should recall the earlier conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, the highly orthodox member of the Pharisees. He too had been perplexed by the words of Jesus concerning the new birth from above and had quizzically replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4 ESV). 

Don’t miss the contrast: A well-educated Jewish Pharisee and an idolatrous Samaritan woman. Both found themselves in a conversation with Jesus, the Son of God. But their minds were stuck on a horizontal plane, and incapable of understanding the spiritual nature of Jesus’ words. The woman, well-acquainted with the task of drawing her daily water from the well, could not understand what Jesus meant by His reference to “living water.” In her mind, Jesus was offering her a source of free-flowing water, like that found in a mountain stream. It stood in stark contrast to the well water to which she was accustomed. Access to water from a stream would mean she would no longer have to go through the arduous task of drawing stagnant water from a well. But as far as she could see, Jesus had no means of providing the “the gift” of which He spoke.

The woman not only found Jesus’ words confusing, but also a bit off-putting. Who was He to denigrate the water from Jacob’s well? Was it not good enough for Him? It had served to meet the needs of Jacob, so it was good enough for her. But Jesus pointed out the limitations inherent in Jacob’s well and the water it provided.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again…” – John 4:13 ESV

Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6 ESV). Jesus was trying to get Nicodemus to understand that there was a physical and a spiritual dimension to life. Being born into the family of Israel was not going to be enough to earn Nicodemus entrance into the kingdom of God. And drinking water from the well of Jacob was not going to satisfy the Samaritan woman’s spiritual thirst. Both of these individuals had a need that could only be met through Jesus. He was the light of life and the source of living water.

And Jesus informed the woman that the gift He was offering her was far greater than any water she might draw from a well.

“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14 ESV

At this point in the story, we know nothing about this woman, other than her status as a Samaritan. Her very presence at the well reveals her need for and dependence upon water in order to survive. But Jesus knew there was a much greater need in this woman’s life. Her thirst was far more than physical. Just as Nicodemus was going to need a different kind of birth if he wanted to enter God’s kingdom, the Samaritan woman was going to need a different kind of water if she ever wanted to have her deep spiritual thirst satisfied. But the woman’s response to Jesus reveals just how blind she was to her own neediness.

“Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” – John 4:15 ESV

She was intrigued by the thought of a source of free-flowing water. And if this unknown Jewish man could tell her where to find it, she was all ears. The thought of never having to draw water from the well again was appealing to her. But like Nicodemus, she was missing the point. She was neglecting to see her real need. Nicodemus had seen himself as fully righteous and fully deserving of entrance into God’s kingdom. But he had been wrong. Just like everyone else, he required a birth from above. And this woman was never going to satisfy her real spiritual need with water from a well. Her sins, like those of Nicodemus, were great. Yes, they may have been of a different sort, but they were sins nonetheless. And she, like Nicodemus, stood before the Son of God, condemned by her sin and in need of a Savior.

Which brings us back to the story of Joseph and his brothers. The day came when they found themselves standing in front of the brother they had sold into slavery and left for dead. They were guilty and deserving of judgment. But Joseph showed them mercy. He extended grace. He used his power and authority to reward rather than punish them.

And like the brother’s of Joseph, this unidentified woman was going to discover the joy of having her sins forgiven. Jesus was about to let her know that God “brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). And she would be graciously and unexpectedly included among the saved.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Mind of the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. – Galatians 5:16-18 ESV

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. – Romans 8:5-10 ESV

Living water. That’s how Jesus described the ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer. He told His disciples that whoever believed in Him would have “rivers of living water” flow from his heart. And John makes it clear that this rather obscure reference was to the coming Holy Spirit. 

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 7:39 ESV

Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus spent a great deal of time attempting to prepare His disciples for His eventual departure. On numerous ocassions He warned them that He was going to Jerusalem where He would be put to death. His disciples had a difficult time accepting these dire predictions because they didn’t fit their understanding of the Messiah’s role. At one point, Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying such things, telling Him, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:23 ESV). 

Peter didn’t understand the significance of Jesus’ death. The idea of Jesus being the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world had escaped Peter and his companions. And, while Jesus had repeatedly spoken of His death and His resurrection, the disciples remained fixated on the idea of Jesus setting up His earthly kingdom in their lifetimes. They were eagerly waiting for Him to enter Jerusalem and present Himself as the long-awaited Messiah and King of the Jews. But Jesus continually pointed them to the necessity of His death, resurrection, and ascension. He even told them that they would be better off without Him.

“I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” – John 16:7 ESV

Whether they understood it or not, and regardless of whether they liked it or not, Jesus was going to leave them. But He assured then that He would not abandon them. He would send them a helper or advocate. The Greek word is paraklētos, and it refers to one who comes alongside to provide aid. And Jesus assured His disciples that this helper, intercessor, or advocate would not only come alongside them, but dwell within them.

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17 ESV

And Jesus wanted His followers to know that the Spirit was going to be a gift from the Father. His role would be to give testify through their lives as to the veracity of who Jesus was and what He had done on their behalf. In other words, the Spirit was going to be a witness to the reality of the gospel message.

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” – John 15:26 ESV

His presence within the life of the believer would provide tangible proof that the salvation message offered by Jesus was reliable. When Jesus had said that He came to provide abundant life, He had meant it, and the Spirit would prove it. The disciples would discover that the key to them living in Christ’s absence would be the reality of the Spirit’s presence. The Spirit would be a game-changer, providing them with power beyond anything they had ever seen or experienced before. And while the disciples had already experienced the thrill of performing miracles and casting out demons, they had something even greater in store for them. Jesus had even told the disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14 ESV).

Think about that. Consider carefully what Jesus said to the disciples. He told them that they would do greater works than He had done. That had to have blown them away. But it probably left them a little bit excited as they thought about the prospects of all that it might mean. But it’s important to keep these words within their context, because immediately after making this promise, Jesus told them: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 ESV). 

The Spirit was going to be the key to their success. He would be the source of those “greater works.” And just so we don’t overlook the obvious, one of the greatest works the Holy Spirit makes possible is the miraculous transformation of a sinner into a saint. He provides the power for those who were once slaves to sin to live in freedom, fully capable of living in obedience to the will of God. That is Paul’s primary point in Galatians 5 and Romans 8. The believer can walk or live his life by the Spirit, and by doing so, no longer live in captivity to his old sin nature. And the reason the believer can live differently is because the Spirit equips him to think differently.

Paul describes two options. The first is to set the mind on the flesh. The other is to set the mind on the Spirit. One leads to death, while the other leads to life and peace. But what does he mean by “to set the mind on”? He used the Greek word, phronēma, which refers to one’s thoughts and purposes. It has to do with a person’s mindset or way of thinking about things. So, Paul is saying we can be flesh-minded or Spirit-minded. We can view life through our own natural, sin-contaminated disposition or we can have a godly perspective made possible through the presence of God’s Spirit.

To live according to our flesh is to live as we used to – in open hostility toward God. When we set our minds on ourselves, thinking we can somehow live righteous lives in our own strength, we end up living in opposition to God, not in reliance upon Him. We live with the mistaken impression that we can somehow earn a right standing with God through our own efforts. And when we do so, we devalue the sacrifice of Christ. We make the sufficiency of His death null and void, an unnecessary expenditure of life. If we can make ourselves righteous, Jesus didn’t need to die.

But Paul would have us remember that “no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20 NLT). Law keeping is not wrong or sinful, but it can become so if we think it can lead to a right standing with God. Paul emphasized that point to the believers in Galatia.

…we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. – Galatians 2:16 NLT

We have been made right with God through the efforts of Jesus Christ. His work on the cross made possible God’s declaration that we are righteous in His eyes. And it is His Spirit within us that makes possible our ability to live righteously in this life. The Spirit’s presence within us makes Christ’s righteousness available to us. We can think as Christ did. We can live as He did. All because the Spirit of God lives within us.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Come!

1 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
    a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
    and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has glorified you.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:1-13 ESV

This chapter is an open invitation from God Almighty. In light of all that He has said He will do and the work His servant will accomplish on His behalf, God calls the people of Judah to return to Him. Five times in the first three verses, God invites them to “come!” And if they accept His invitation, they will experience the many benefits that accompany a restored relationship with Him. They will satisfy their thirst. And God is not talking about man’s physical need for water. As Jesus told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 ESV).

Like His Son, God the Father is offering a permanent solution to the spiritual drought that has plagued mankind since the fall. But this was not the first time God had offered to quench the thirst of His people. In fact, He had been a source of living water to the descendants of Abraham from the very beginning of His relationship with them. Yet, they had decided to seek substitute sources for that which God offered. And in the book of Jeremiah, we have God’s indictment against their actions.

“…my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

Now, in Isaiah 55, we see God responding to the stubbornness of His people with yet another invitation to come and drink. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” What exactly are these waters of which God speaks? Where are they? In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes seeing the New Jerusalem, and in it, what he says was “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city” (Revelation 22:1 ESV). And growing along the banks of this river, John saw the tree of life – not one, but many – and these trees will yield 12 different kinds of fruit, and their leaves will bring healing to the nations.

The closing chapters of John’s apocryphal book describe the final days of the Tribulation, which will end with the return of Christ and the establishment of His Kingdom. And John records a message from the victorious Christ that offers one more promise to permanently quench mankind’s thirst for free.

“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6 ESV

What God the Father and His Son are offering is absolutely free. It comes at no cost to those who are willing to accept it for what it is: A gracious gift. But it is not that the gift is without value. As the apostle Peter makes quite clear, it came at a high price.

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. – 1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV

And the apostle Paul further clarifies the value of this gift when he states, “God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT). The gift God offers has great value, but it costs the recipient absolutely nothing. And yet, the people of Judah were guilty of building cisterns, man-made religious systems, in a vain attempt to replicate what only God can offer. But their cisterns proved to be cracked and worthless. Here was God offering them the real thing for free, and they were busy wasting time, money and energy pursuing poor substitutes. And, exposing the absurdity of their actions, God asks, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2 ESV). He offers them everything they need, at no cost, but they seem intent on throwing their money away on that which cannot satisfy.

So, He invites them again to come to Him. He even offers to make with them a new covenant, an everlasting covenant. The prophet Jeremiah wrote about this new covenant.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” – Jeremiah 31:31 ESV

And God describes the unique nature of this future covenant with His people.

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33 ESV

This new covenant will reflect the kind of love God had for David. He prospered David and made him king over a great nation. And just as David conquered many nations and ruled over them, so will the people of Judah. This promise is particularly significant when you consider the current state of affairs in Judah when Isaiah penned these words. They were in a bad spot. They were surrounded by enemies. They were threatened with destruction and powerless to do anything about it. But, here was God promising, “You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey” (Isaiah 55:5 NLT). And it will all be the work of God.

But Isaiah warns the people to act. He calls them to take advantage of God’s gracious invitation.

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. – Isaiah 55:6-7 NLT

And, knowing that the people of Judah were going to find His offer hard to believe, God reminds them that He operates according to a different standard. His way of doing things was going to be alien to them. His methods were going to appear more like madness to them. But they needed to believe that His word, like the rain He sends from heaven, always accomplishes all that He intends. They may not understand or even like His methods, but they could not argue with the results. And God assures them that His word, like rain from heaven, “shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).

And God describes a future scene marked by great joy and celebration. These images picture a time of rejuvenation and restoration. And this is not the first time Isaiah has described this as-yet-unfulfilled day.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days.
    The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.
Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers
    and singing and joy!
The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon,
    as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon.
There the Lord will display his glory,
    the splendor of our God. – Isaiah 35:1-2 NLT

I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.
    I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
I will fill the desert with pools of water.
    Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.
I will plant trees in the barren desert—
    cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. – Isaiah 45:18-19 NLT

For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
    and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
    and my blessing on your children. – Isaiah 44:3 NLT

God is inviting His rebellious people to accept His gracious invitation to return to Him so that they might one day enjoy the pleasures of both literal and living water. He wants them to experience the joy that will be found in the future kingdom He has planned, a place of abundant fruitfulness and unending fellowship with He and His Son.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

He Has Done Great Things.

1 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.

“Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.

“Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” – Isaiah 12:1-6 ESV

Isaiah has been talking about a future period of time, one he refers to as “that day.” This is a prophetic designation, describing a day in the future when God would accomplish great things on behalf of His chosen people, the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah. Out of the once-great tree of the Davidic dynasty, relegated to a stump of its former glory because of the judgments of God, will come a shoot. That seemingly insignificant byproduct of the “root of Jesse” will be Jesus, the Messiah. He will appear on the scene, sent by God the Father, to be born of a virgin, and into the house of David. He will be the legal heir to David’s throne and the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise made to David.

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16 ESV

There is a certain sense in which Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He took on human flesh in His incarnation. But when Jesus came the first time, while He was born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:2), He was not recognized or accepted as king by His own people.

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. – John 1:10-11 NLT

They rejected Him as their king. In fact, they demanded that the Romans crucify Him, accusing Him of blasphemy for His claims to be the Son of God. When Pilate had attempted to release Jesus to the Jews, seeing no fault in Him worthy of death, he had said, “Look, here is your king!” (John 19:14 NLT). But the people scoffed at the idea of Jesus being their king.

“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!” “What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. – John 19:15 NLT

So, when Isaiah announces the arrival of the Messiah or king of Israel, he is talking about another event that has yet to happen. Jesus will appear a second time, at the end of the age, and He will set up His kingdom on earth. He will rule and reign from the throne of David in Jerusalem. And He will restore the people of Israel to power and prominence. Isaiah describes exactly what He will do.

He will…assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
    from the ends of the earth.
– Isaiah 11:12 NLT

All of this will happen “in that day.” It is a day that lies in the future, as yet unfulfilled. But it will be. And in that day, the people of Israel and Judah will recognize the hand of God. They will know that He has shown them mercy and grace.

In that day you will sing:
    “I will praise you, O Lord!
You were angry with me, but not any more.
    Now you comfort me.” – Isaiah 12:1 NLT

It will be a day of rejoicing and gladness because they will recognize that God has redeemed and restored them. Not because of them, but in spite of them. They will know what it is like to trust God fully. They will experience His peace and rest in His protection. And Isaiah tells his audience that, when the day comes, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3 ESV). 

It’s impossible to read this statement and not recall another time in the lives of the people of Israel when water played a significant role in their relationship with God. It’s recorded in the book of Exodus. They had escaped captivity in Egypt and were on their way to the land of promise, when the arrived at a place called Rephidim. The only problem was, there was no water there. “So the people contended with Moses, and they said, ‘Give us water to drink!’” (Exodus 17:2 NLT). The text describes them as being “very thirsty” and they let Moses know about it.

“Why in the world did you bring us up out of Egypt—to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” – Exodus 17:3 NLT

Moses, sensing that the people were ready to stone him, feared for his life. But God gave Moses a solution.

“Go over before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go. I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.” – Exodus 17:5-6 NLT

God was going to be there. He would be on top of the very rock Moses was commanded to strike. And from that rock would flow life-giving water. Paul would later describe that rock as Jesus Himself.

All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. – 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 NLT

And Jesus, the source of that physical water, would also be the sole source of spiritual refreshment. In His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus told her:

“Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” – John 4:13-14 NLT

Isaiah predicts a day when the people of Israel will enjoy the water of life – Jesus Himself. Not only will they enjoy salvation in the form of their restoration to the land, but they will experience a renewal of their hearts.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

“And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God.” – Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT

God is going to do something for the people of Israel that is far greater than supplying them with clean drinking water. It will be far more valuable than their return to the land. It will be of much greater significance than their restoration to a place of prominence on the world scene. They will have new hearts and a new capacity to serve God faithfully. They will be obedient. They will trust Him fully. No more false gods. No more falling away in apathy and apostasy. In that day, they will be His people and He will be their God.

And in that day, they will give God all the glory, because it will all be His doing.

“Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
    Make known his praise around the world.
Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy!
    For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.” – Isaiah 12:5-6 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Why Have I Found Favor?

Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” Then she said, “I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.” – Ruth 2:8-13 ESV

When Boaz had arrived on the scene, he immediately noticed the young woman following behind his reapers in the field. He didn’t recognize her, so he asked his foreman who she was. He replied, “She’s the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the region of Moab” (Ruth 2:6 NLT). He explained to Boaz how she had shown up and asked for permission to follow the harvesters and gather up any grain left on the grown. According to the foreman, Ruth had worked long and hard. “Since she arrived she has been working hard from this morning until now—except for sitting in the resting hut a short time” (Ruth 2:7 NLT). Whatever business had brought Boaz to the field that day suddenly took a back seat as he became intrigued with this young Moabite woman. There is no sense of sexual attraction or love at first sight in the passage. Boaz had simply heard the stories about his young lady and was fascinated to find her gleaning in his field. He had obviously been positively impacted by what he had heard about her loss and her commitment to accompany Naomi all the way back to Bethlehem. And now, here she was gathering grain in order to feed her mother-in-law. He later told Ruth:

“I have been given a full report of all that you have done for your mother-in-law following the death of your husband—how you left your father and your mother, as well as your homeland, and came to live among people you did not know previously. May the Lord reward your efforts! May your acts of kindness be repaid fully by the Lord God of Israel, from whom you have sought protection!” – Ruth 2:11-12 NLT

When Boaz first spoke to Ruth, he called her “daughter,” using the Hebrew term bath, which is a term of endearment. We know from Ruth 3:10 that Boaz was probably older than Ruth and so his use of this term makes sense. It was a common form of greeting used by older men to younger women. At this point in the story, it seems that Boaz’s interest in Ruth is purely platonic and he simply wants to show her compassion and do what he can to lighten the load she taken on of caring for her widowed mother-in-law. He gives her free reign to glean anywhere in his field and a guarantee of his personal protection.

The actions of Boaz leave Ruth a bit surprised. She is amazed at the incredible kindness and favor of Boaz. And yet, that very morning she had asked permission of Naomi, saying, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor” (Ruth 2:2 ESV). The Hebrew word she used was chen and it refers to grace, favor or acceptance. And yet, when Boaz treated her the way he did, she fell on her face before him and asked, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10 ESV). She used the same Hebrew word again. She had left that morning hoping to experience grace and favor, but she was surprised when she experienced it. It caught her off guard. After all, she was a foreigner. She was a widow. She was poor. Evidently, back in the land of Moab, the kind of response she had received from Boaz would have been rare or simply non-existent. The very fact that Boaz, a well-to-do Jew, would even acknowledge her presence, let alone show her favor, was mind-boggling to Ruth.

This story is reminiscent of another encounter between a Jewish man and a foreign woman. When Jesus was traveling through Samaria, He encountered a Samaritan woman drawing water at a well. He struck up a conversation with her, asking her for water. She too, was shocked that this Jewish man would notice her, let alone speak to her. She replied to Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans)” (John 4:9 ESV). Jews not only viewed Samaritans as foreigners, but as the lowest of the low. They despised them. And yet, here was Jesus, a Jew, asking a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. And just like Boaz, Jesus would go on to show this woman unexpected and undeserved favor, offering her “living water.” Jesus told her, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14 ESV). That woman’s life was radically and permanently changed that day. She became a believer in Jesus Christ and discovered the living water that would remove her unquenchable spiritual thirst once and for all.

Ruth too, was about to have her life changed. She was just beginning to experience what grace and favor look and feel like. She was a foreigner. She was poor and had nothing to offer Boaz by way of payment for his kindness. Not only that, Ruth was a Moabite, and as such, she was looked down upon and despised by the Jews. She was even forbidden to enter the assembly to worship the God of the Jews. This poor woman was destitute, defenseless, despised and in desperate need of mercy. And she would find it in Boaz.

As this story unfolds, we will see many similarities between the kindness, grace, and mercy of Boaz and that which we have received from Christ. In fact, Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians, that we were once in a very similar state as that of Ruth.

Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:11-13 NLT

The undeserved favor of God. Those of us who know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior have experienced it firsthand. And it is partially the result of Boaz showing favor to Ruth that our Savior was eventually born in Bethlehem, the city of David, as a descendant of Ruth and Boaz. As Boaz showed favor to Ruth, he was actually extending the favor of God to all mankind, paving the way for the arrival of the Messiah and His offer of living water.

Double Iniquity.

Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters. The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us.”

From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.

Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10:7-12 ESV

Over in the book of Jeremiah, God accused the nations of Judah of having done something even the pagan nations would have never considered. “Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit” (Jeremiah 2:11 ESV). Even the idol-worshiping pagan nations would have never dreamed of abandoning their false god for another one. And yet, the people of Judah had forsaken the one true God for a plethora of false gods. And God went on to say, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 ESV). They had turned their backs on God, the source of all life, hope, blessing and fruitfulness. Like a source of clear water in the desert, God was to have been vital to their very existence. But instead of relying on His life-giving sustenance, they turned to man-made sources of help and hope that could never deliver. Like cracked cisterns that could not hold water, their idols would prove to be incapable of meeting the expectations of the people of Judah. They had left God and replaced Him with false gods.

The people of northern nation of Israel were guilty of the very same thing. Which is why God warned them that they would be “bound up for their double iniquity” (Hosea 10:10 ESV). Their destruction was coming at the hands of the Assyrians. Their guilt was long-standing, going all the way back to the events surrounding Gibeah. It was there that the concubine of a visiting Levite was brutally raped and murdered by the men of the town who were actually desirous of having sexual relationships with the Levite. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, this town had become highly immoral and completely corrupt. And God accused the entire nation of having followed the example of Gibeah. Immorality, corruption, idolatry, and moral decay had spread throughout the nation. Now God was going to discipline them for their unfaithfulness.

The king and his capital city of Samaria would be destroyed. The high places where the Israelites worshiped their false gods would be abandoned and overgrown with weeds. The city of Bethel, which meant “house of God” would become known as Beth-aven (house of wickedness or vanity). They had abandoned God and now they would discover what it was like to have God abandon them. They would find out what it was like to no longer have His hand protecting them or providing for them.

God compared Israel to a young heifer used for threshing grain. In the early days of His relationship with the nation of Israel, they had enjoyed a unique and relatively easy relationship with Him. Threshing involved a cow or ox walking over the recently harvested wheat in order to separate the edible grain from the chaff. The cow was unmuzzled and free to eat the grain as it worked. It was rewarded for its labor. But now Israel was going to learn what it was like to be under the yoke of oppression, laboring under the hand of its new master, the Assyrians. Rather than threshing grain for God, they would plow for their oppressors. But God told them it was not too late. Even in their captivity, they could seek Him. So He encouraged them, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12 NLT). While living in exile in Assyria, they could seek God. They could choose to do His will. As they endured God’s loving discipline, they could respond in repentance, turning from their idolatry and renewing their commitment to and dependence upon Him.

They had committed two sins: They had forsaken God and then tried to replace Him with gods of their own making. And while God, because of His holiness and justice, was required to punish them for their sins, He was also willing to forgive and restore them. But they must willingly return to Him. They must forsake their false gods and return to the fountain of living water. It was Jesus who said, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (John 7:37 NLT). He told the woman at the well, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NLT). God is all about restoration and renewal. He wants to redeem the lost and restore the wandering. So He calls. He invites. 

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.” – Isaiah 55:1-3 NLT

Living Water.

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.

Day 75 – John 7:2, 11-52

Don’t Stay Thirsty, My Friend.

John 7:2, 11-52

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” – John 7:37-38 NLT

It was the Feast of Tabernacles, or booths. This was an annual celebration that took place in Israel, commemorating God’s atoning work in their lives. The booths were temporary shelters erected in the streets that were a visual reminder of God’s providential care for His people during their wilderness wandering days after the Exodus. The festival took place from the fifteenth to the twenty-first or twenty-second day of the seventh month, which would place it some time during the month of October. There were daily sacrifices made, and thanks was expressed to God for the harvest. But it culminated in the ceremony of the outpouring of water, drawn from Siloam, in commemoration of the water that God had miraculously provided from the rock at Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7). It was also a reminder that God had future blessings reserved both for Israel and for the world. It was likely at this point in the celebration activities that Jesus made His statement to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! (John 7:37-38 NLT). All throughout the days of the festival, people had been arguing and debating as to who Jesus was. John tells us, “There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds” (John 7:12 NLT). Some were saying that He was a good man. Others claimed Him to be a fraud. None of them could figure out how He seemed to know so much when He was obviously uneducated. When Jesus claimed to be speaking on behalf of God and accused the crowd of trying to kill Him, they simply wrote it off to demon possession. The people were confused by Jesus. They simply saw Him as a nobody from Galilee. They had no idea that He had actually been born in Bethlehem and was a descendant of David, making Him the lawful and rightful heir to David’s throne. None of this mattered to the religious leaders. They simply wanted Him out of the way, and were seeking to arrest Him. The sad reality was that very few, if any, believed in Him.

And while they would gladly drink the water from Siloam as part of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, they would refuse to drink from the one Source that could satisfy their spiritual thirst completely and eternally. He is offering them the very same thing He offered to the Samaritan woman at the well. “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NLT). Living water. A permanent quenching of spiritual thirst – once and for all. But it required belief. It required coming to Jesus and accepting who He claimed to be. It required believing that He actually did come from God and spoke on His behalf, and what He spoke was truth. He was the Messiah. He did offer hope. He made available a way to restore men to a right relationship with God the Father. But they had to believe. They had to come. And they refused. Their thirst remained unquenched, their sins unforgiven, their relationship with God unrestored. All because they refused to believe.

Father, so many still refuse to believe today. They reject the fountain of living water for poor replacements that can never satisfy. But the sad truth is, many believers refuse to believe in Jesus today. They refuse to drink daily from that same fountain, turning to other sources to satisfy their needs. Keep us coming back to You. Keep us believing in You. Only You can satisfy our ongoing thirst. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 15 – Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14; John 4:1-42

The Spread of the Good News.

Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14; John 4:1-42

“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” – Mark 1:14 NIV

Things were already beginning to heat up around Jesus. His arrival on the scene hear Jerusalem had not been without controversy. His cleansing of the Temple had not earned Him any friends among the religious leadership of the day. When news of John’s arrest reached Jesus, He took His disciples and left the region around Jerusalem and headed toward Galilee in the north. He would end up in Capernaum, near the Sea of Galilee. But His journey would also take Him through Samaria, a region most Jews usually avoided at all costs due to their hatred for the Samaritan people. Jews considered Samaritans half-breeds. They were Hebrews who had intermarried with foreigners after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria. To Jews in Jesus’ day, Samaritans were a mixed race, and therefore impure. During the time of the split between the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel, the people in the north had set up their own center of worship on Mount Gerizim. They developed their own priesthood and no longer traveled to Jerusalem to make sacrifices to Yahweh. All of these historical facts had created a deep hatred between Jews and Samaritans that still existed in Jesus’ day. And yet, Jesus plans His trip right through this very region. Yes, it was a shortcut, but I think there was more to Jesus’ decision than merely cutting a few days off His travel plans.

Jesus’ and His disciples stop at the well of Jacob, now the sight of a Samaritan village. Here Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who is drawing water in the heat of the middle of the day, not the normal time this kind of work was done. Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy food, so Jesus and this woman are the only ones at the well. To her surprise, there is someone at the well when she arrives, and not only that, it is a Jewish man. Then Jesus shocks her even further by speaking to her – an uncommon practice in those days. The ensuing conversation is enlightening. Jesus reveals a level of awareness about this woman that catches her off guard. He knows things about her that she would rather not be known. And yet, with what He knows about her, Jesus is not only willing to talk to her, He offers her something of infinite value. “If only you know the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). Here is this woman, an outcast from the standpoint of the Jews and a moral reject from the perspective of her own people, being offered a gift from God. In this exchange, very early on in His ministry, Jesus reveals that the good news of God He is bringing is for all mankind, not just the Jews. It is for all people, not just the seemingly righteous. Jesus offers this woman what she really needs, release from her spiritual thirstiness. He offers to quench and satisfy her thirst for acceptance, love, forgiveness, and worthiness. And while initially she does not comprehend what Jesus is offering, eventually the reality of His words sink in and she runs back to her village shouting, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 NLT). As a result of Jesus’ conversation with this woman and His offer of the gift of God, “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus” (John 4:39 NLT).

Much to the chagrin of the disciples, Jesus would remain several more days in this Samaritan village sharing the good news of God. Many more would come to believe in Jesus and reach the conclusion that He was the Savior of the world. While the religious leaders in Jerusalem were rejecting Jesus and His message, an entire village of Samaritans were eagerly embracing it. The Messiah had come. Salvation from God had arrived in the form of this seemingly ordinary Jewish man. But He was more than He appeared to be. He had a job to do and He was well aware of what it was that God had sent Him to accomplish. “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work” (John 4:34 NLT). The Good News was off to a great start.

Father, I am so grateful that the Good News was available to all, including me. Thank You for sending Your Son to all mankind and making His offer of salvation available to anyone who would believe, regardless of their background, ethnicity, economic status, or moral goodness. Thank You Jesus for willingly and obediently doing the will of Your Father and accomplishing His redemptive work, in spite of the cost to Yourself. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org