Rivers of Living Water

living-water.jpg

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39, NKJV)

Verse 37 begins, “on the last day, that great day of the feast.” Chapter 7 describes a series of interactions Jesus had with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Verse 2 tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Old Covenant instructed the Jews to celebrate several festivals throughout the year. The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths, Shelters) was the third of the three major yearly festivals (the first was Passover and Unleavened Bread, the second was Pentecost). It was called the Feast of Tabernacles because on the first day of the feast every household constructed a very simple shelter from tree branches which they lived in for the rest of the eight-day festival.[1]

The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles was a Sabbath day and no secular work was permitted. Every day a series of sacrifices was required including bulls, rams, lambs, and goats, as well as grain and drink offerings. Also, by New Testament times, a tradition developed where each of the seven days of the Feast a priest led a parade of people making joyful music to the Pool of Siloam, where he drew water using a golden pitcher and brought it back to the temple.[2]

On the eighth day, a Sabbath day, each household took down its shelter and there was a great community feast, but the priest didn’t go down to the Pool of Siloam. This is the day and the great feast when Jesus stood up and said, “He who believes in Me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

So on the eighth day, the priest stopped going to get water at the Pool of Siloam. And on the eighth day, Jesus stood up and claimed to offer Living Water. John tells us plainly in verse 39 that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. So here, Jesus used the symbolism of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and the water from the Pool of Siloam to share the promise of the Holy Spirit for all who believe with everyone at the Feast.

But the timing of Jesus’ statement about himself being the source of Living Water—the Holy Spirit—has additional significance. The Feast of Tabernacles was instructed as a festival of remembrance for the time the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness.

It might seem like the shelters were a form of fasting—depriving them of the comforts of living in their own homes. And in a literal sense they were, but spiritually, something else was going on. The shelters were a physical reminder of how God delivered the Hebrew people from bondage in the house of Egypt and into freedom that comes through trusting God for everything they need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having food and the LORD provided Bread from Heaven for their daily sustenance. In Exodus 17, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having any water and we see how the LORD provides water for Israel. Water that flows from the rock, the rock which was stricken, in the wilderness, so that the Israelites might live. That rock is a picture of Jesus Christ, and the water is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob in John 4, he said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles—the Jewish festival that celebrates God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness—Jesus stood up, quoted Isaiah 55:1, and proclaimed, “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Christ is the Rock of our salvation. And for all who are willing to come to him and ask, He gives us eternal life. But God didn’t intend for our eternal inheritance to be characterized by a dry, arid wasteland of legalistic intellectualism. Nor did He intend it to be a wild-eyed, unrestrained exhibition of unbridled emotionalism. God intends for his gift of eternal life to be characterized by the outpouring and overflowing of His life-giving Spirit, Who nourishes us daily, fill us with God’s love, grace and mercy, leads us in all truth, empowers us to serve His Kingdom, and comforts and strengthens us even in our darkest times of grief, frustration, and heartache.

But such a vibrant life in the Spirit has one recurring condition. We can’t do it on our own power and He won’t force it on us. To experience the life-transforming power of the Spirit in our lives, day-by-day and moment-by-moment, we have to humble ourselves and draw near to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures say, we must go to Him to drink.

[1] R. K. Harrison, “Booths, Feast of,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 535. Logos Bible Software.

[2] Merrill F. Unger, “Festivals,” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ed. R.K. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). Logos Bible Software.

God Our Good Shepherd

Good-Shepherd-Thomas-Aquinas-2-Christ-with-lambs-1.jpg

“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 34:11–15, NLT)

Earlier in the chapter, Ezekiel prophesies against the leaders of Israel, whom the LORD rebukes for being “bad shepherds.” These bad shepherds are guilty of (1) feeding themselves instead of their flocks, (2) taking the best food and clothing while the people starve, (3) forsaking the weak, sick, and wounded, (4) ignoring the wayward and lost, and (5) ruling harshly with cruelty. This is a picture of Israel’s political and religious leaders. But when we look long and hard at what’s going on in our country and in the world, I think maybe we can relate.

Anyway, Israel’s leaders bore a significant amount of the blame for Israel’s sinful ways. Israel’s kings, queens, prophets, and priests, for the most part, instead of leading the people in worshipping the LORD, led the people in worshipping idols. And instead of turning to the LORD in times of need, like invasion of foreign armies or famine, they turned to foreign nations, especially Egypt and Babylon, and many others. This is in addition to all of the previous ways we mentioned about how they amassed their own wealth while exploiting the people.

But at the end of the day, that’s what we do. We’re all sinful. Even as believers, while we wait to receive our eternal bodies and heavenly abode, we wrestle with our sinful flesh and it’s ugly selfishness. That’s why it’s so important for us to seek the LORD daily, dying to ourselves moment-by-moment, so He can live through us, especially those of us who are leaders, in our church, in our workplaces, in our homes.

We are like sheep, easily distracted, not very smart, and biting, kicking, screaming, when we don’t get our own way. When that doesn’t work, we run aimlessly to the world. That’s what Israel did. And that’s what we do, too.

But the LORD is a good shepherd. He is not like Israel’s leaders or our world leaders today. He is holy, righteous, and true. He is always good, whether in dispensing justice or mercy. When we run, He comes after us. When we bite and kick and scream, he lets us throw our fit, then He sets us right again. Sometimes he bops us with His rod, other times He holds us down until we listen. And always He’s calling to us, gently beckoning us to come back to Him.

In these verses, the LORD promises Israel that He will bring them back to their land, make them prosper in the land, and give them peace. These are special promises for God’s chosen nation Israel. Not because Israel deserved it. The entire Old Testament shows us that they didn’t. But because Yahweh chose them.

The land promise was specific to Israel, but our Lord Jesus Christ makes us a similar promise about our eternal inheritance. In John 10, Jesus says,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:14–16)

And in John 14, Jesus says,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1–4, NKJV)

We are those other sheep, not of Israel’s sheepfold, but of the same spiritual flock, following the same Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And though Israel’s land promise, may not be for us, the LORD promises us eternal life abiding with Him, if we will only trust in Him.

So, when your life is going great, trust the LORD. Don’t be like Israel’s bad shepherds, hoarding your wealth, ignoring those who are suffering, and exploiting those around you. Instead, generously share whatever blessings the LORD has given you with those around you. And when your life seems like it couldn’t get worse, know that if you’re trusting in Jesus Christ, this world is the closest to hell you’ll ever get. Because we have a Good Shepherd who promises us a future of eternal glory abiding with Him.

Love Has Come

Love Has Come is a modern Christmas worship song about how Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Light of the World, condescended into the world as a man to dwell among us and, through his death, bring salvation to the world.

Song Resources

Love Has Come – Chord Sheet – B
Love Has Come – Lead Sheet – B
Love Has Come – Stems – B

God Our Mighty One

Beautiful-wide-river-between-mountains-hd-wallpaper-506261-1920x1080.jpg

Though the LORD is very great and lives in heaven,
he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness.
In that day he will be your sure foundation,
providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.
The fear of the LORD will be your treasure. (Isaiah 33:5–6, NLT)

The LORD will be our Mighty One.
He will be like a wide river of protection
that no enemy can cross,
that no enemy ship can sail upon.
For the LORD is our judge,
our lawgiver, and our king.
He will care for us and save us. (Isaiah 33:21–22, NLT)

These verses emphasize God’s transcendence. Transcendence is a fancy word that refers to God’s greatness compared to the natural world. God transcends time and space—He is not bound by the natural laws of the universe. He has no beginning, no end. He has always existed, always does, always will. He is Spirit. He is not composed of matter and is not restrained by physical dimensions. He exists everywhere, at every time, always in full measure of Himself.

For us to know God, or to know anything about God, we need Him to reveal Himself to us. We cannot fully understand who He is, but He has revealed much of Himself to us, and His revelation is to us our wisdom, our knowledge, and our salvation. He has revealed enough for us to acknowledge that He is greater than anything we can imagine. And this idea should fill us with awe, wonder, humility, and reverence at the mere thought of Him.

These verses emphasize God’s immanence. Immanence is a fancy word that refers to God’s presence in the world and nearness to His people. He is not a dictator who ruthlessly governs us from afar. He is a loving shepherd who compassionately meets us where we are and invites us into a personal relationship with Him. He transcends time and space, He enters the physical world and works to win the hearts of wayward souls and welcome believers into His family of faith.

God is our king, sovereign and just. Anything true and righteous is found in Him. But He is a loving king who cares. He knows our limitations, our hurts, our weaknesses, and our desperate need to be delivered from our slavery to sin and death. He has always known these things, which is why even before He created the universe He made a plan to come and rescue us and to abide in our hearts to comfort us and lead us in His ways.

Verses 6 and 22 both mention how the Lord is our salvation, that He saves us. In context, God gave this message to Israel through the prophet Isaiah. Prior to chapter 33, God told Israel that He would send them into exile for their wickedness. But in this chapter, God describes how he would go with them and how he would one day deliver Israel from her oppressors restore her as a nation.

When we look at Israel, we are reminded of ourselves. Israel was wicked and God called them to account. Similarly, we are sinful people and God calls us to account. But God knows we’re slaves to sin and He knows we need a deliverer to rescue us. Jesus—God the Son—came to do just that. He became a man and died the death that we deserved to deliver us from our sinful fate. Now he gives us the choice to trust Him with our lives.

As believers, every day is a new day to walk with Him. Every day we can choose whether or not to trust and follow Him. So often we’re like Peter walking on the water, who, when he saw the storm raging around him, began to sink. Life’s storms capture our full attention so easily that we can forget about Jesus. But like with Peter, Jesus is right beside us, holding out his hand, inviting us to look to Him, let go of the world, and follow Him.

 

God Our Refuge

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.
(Psalm 62:5–8, NLT)

Psalm 62 is a psalm of confidence, with a central focus on placing trust in the LORD. David wrote Psalm 62 from the perspective of being in mortal danger from his enemies (v3). He felt outnumbered, worn-down, betrayed (v4). Some of the people around him, people he was supposed to be able to trust, were guilty of extortion, stealing, and selfishly hoarding wealth (v10).

The world we live in is cruel. At work, if you’re not crushing people on your way to the top, you’re the one being crushed by someone else. We read and watch news reports about how we’re not safe even in our own homes, whether from outsiders trying to harm us or steal from us, or, God-forbid, even from within, where our own sinful hearts ever tempt us to demand our own way and tear down our spouses, our children, and anyone else who gets in our way.

So where can we go? What can we do? Is there any hope to overcome this cruel world? Is there anywhere, or anyone, where we can turn for strength and refuge?

David says “yes.” Even facing death, we have hope. In our weakest moments, we have strength. In our darkest moments of despair, we have a fortress of refuge. But our refuge isn’t an underground, bat-infested cave, an ice palace in a frozen tundra, or a flying mobile super-fortress. When we are broken, surrounded by enemies, and filled with rage or despair, our refuge is Almighty God.

In verse 5, David says to himself, “let all that I am wait quietly before God.” If you’re like me, you want to see fireworks and explosions. We want to see God working, and we want to see it now. But remember how the LORD spoke to Elijah on Sinai—God wasn’t in the mighty windstorm, or the earthquake, or the great fire. He spoke in the gentle whisper to Elijah, only when Elijah was ready to listen (1 Kings 19:11–13).

David describes God as his rock 3 times; his victory, salvation, fortress, and refuge each 2 times; and hope and honor each 1 time. Victory, salvation, hope, and honor look ahead to the end-result, how God will prevail in all circumstances, and no matter what happens in life, whether by death or rapture, we will all triumph eternally with Him.

Rock, fortress, and refuge capture the never-changing, ever-enduring nature of our God who, in the midst of even the worst circumstances, holds us in his hands, sheltering our souls from the barrage of our enemies. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38–39:

[N]othing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And this is how David concludes Psalm 62—reflecting on God’s unfailing love. Power and unfailing love belong to the LORD. Therefore, He will surely deliver justice. But not in our timing. In His own, perfect timing.

David began Psalm 62 with a bold proclamation about His confidence in the LORD. But only a few verses later, he had to remind himself to hope in the LORD. So when your life circumstances seem like they can’t get any worse, and when your enemies surround you trying to keep you down, and even your own sinful heart turns against you and everyone you love, turn to the LORD. He is our only hope. He is our only refuge. And His unfailing love is so strong that nothing—not even our own stubborn hearts—can separate us from Him. And where we fail, He will overcome.

Jesus in Psalm 1

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (NLT)

Psalm 1 is a tale of two people: the righteous person and the ungodly person. It employs parallelism to compare the behaviors, influences, consequences, and spiritual destinies of each person while holding up a mirror in front of us, inviting us to see how we align with these characters in our own lives.

Much of the Psalm focuses on the righteous person. The righteous person is like a healthy tree growing by a river. The tree receives ample nourishment from the river so it grows, bears fruit, and thrives instead of withering and dying. Likewise, the righteous person receives ample nourishment from the Lord, both in Word and Spirit, growing spiritually, living as a blessing to others, and finding success in living for the Lord as the Lord bestows special favor on the righteous person, helping them to find their happiness in Him.

But the ungodly person is like chaff. Chaff is the outer husk that grows on grain stalks. It is dead and worthless, having no nutritional or economic value. In the ancient world, grain was harvested by tossing it into the air. The wind would blow the lighter chaff away while the heavier seeds would fall to the ground. Similarly, the ungodly person is spiritually dead, living for self, oscillating among influences of ungodly counsel, and impeding God’s work. The Lord withholds special favor from the ungodly person, who does not find happiness in the Lord.

Clearly, Psalm 1 speaks to the dual nature of humanity and the natural consequences that the Lord has ordained for our sources of counsel and lifelong pursuits. But in application, I suggest to you that Psalm 1 is also about Jesus.

Who is this person who always delights in God’s law? Jesus.
Who is this person who never takes counsel from the ungodly? Jesus.
Who is this person who always prospers in everything he does? Jesus.

And in at least three ways, Jesus is the prototype of righteousness living as well as our example for how to find true happiness in the Lord.

1. Jesus is always and only about the Lord’s work. As Jesus replied to the religious leaders of his day John 5:30, 36, “I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. … But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.”

2. Jesus is our example for living and loving. Just prior to the transfiguration, Jesus told his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). And after washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room, he told them, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.” (John 13:15–16).

3. Jesus enables and empowers us to live for God. As Peter explains, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Pet 2:21–24).

So by way of application, Jesus is the righteous person. And each of us, apart from Christ, is the ungodly person:

  • We were powerless to save ourselves.
  • But Jesus, God the Son, became a man and died in our place to save us.
  • And now, through the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit, we can live for God.

The LORD wants to bless us. He wants to find happiness in Him. But that only happens when we listen to His voice and live for Him. Let’s listen to the Word, and live by the Spirit, and find happiness in Him.

The Deity of Christ

In my last post, I offered five evidences showing how the Bible teaches that Jesus is human. The humanity of Jesus is not all that controversial. It is generally accepted by most faith systems and even in mainstream secularism.

In this post, I want to offer Biblical evidences for Jesus’ identity as God the Son. The deity of Christ is a much more controversial issue. Even some groups who self-identify as Christian do not ascribe to the orthodox view that Jesus Christ is fully-God.

As I’ve asserted before, the Bible should be permitted to speak for itself. And when read plainly, it teaches that Jesus Christ is fully-God. He is God the Son, the second member of the triune God. Here are five evidences that show how the Bible teaches that Jesus is God.

1. Jesus had divine origins. While Jesus’ fetal development and growth into adulthood were typically human, his conception was not. The Scriptures claim that He was concieved in the womb of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, clearly evidencing his divine origins (Luke 1). Also, as the eternal Word, he exists eternally, having neither beginning nor end, in fellowship with God (John 1).

2. Jesus performed miracles. Over and over again the gospels portray Jesus as healing the sick, exorcizing demons, commanding non-human nature, and even reviving the deceased. No mere mortal can calm a storm with a rebuke (Matt 8), cast out a legion of demons (Mark 5), or revive a man deceased for four days (John 11). The Bible provides these as evidence that Jesus is God.

3. Jesus claimed equality with God. Many people believe that the Bible never says Jesus claimed to be God. But Jesus identified himself as the Jewish Messiah (John 4), claimed oneness with the Father (John 10:30), and identified himself as the Son of God (Luke 22:70). In Judaism, these are claims of deity. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, would have known this, yet he made such claims anyway, equating himself to God.

4. Jesus ascribed names of God to himself. Jesus not only claimed equality with God, but claimed names of God for himself. Two well-known Jewish titles for the God of Israel are “I Am” (Ex 3:14) and “the First and the Last” (Isa 44:6). Jesus elevated himself above Abraham, claiming the title “I Am” (John 8:58). And having died and risen to life, he also claimed to be “the First and the Last” (Rev 1:17–18, 2:8).

5. Jesus shares the essence of God. John 1:1 not only identifies the eternal Word as being with God, but also as having the nature of God. In the Greek, the anarthorous predicate nominative is not an indefinite noun (“a god”). It emphasizes the nature of the Word.[1] Thus, the Word has the same nature as God. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 echo this idea, stating that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ.

Does this solve all of the interpretive difficulties involved with understanding the person of Jesus Christ? Certainly not. But we need not solve every puzzle to observe what the Bible plainly teaches. The clear witness of the Scriptures is that Jesus is fully-God. He is God the Son—distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, but sharing the very same divine nature as a member of the Godhead. He exists co-equally and co-eternally distinct from, but in in perfect union with, the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 45.