Whose Hope Is the LORD

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Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer 17:5-8, NKJV)

Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah before the Babylonian exile. His ministry began when he was a young man, from around 626 BC during the reign of king Josiah, to around 587 BC when Judah fell to Babylon. Jeremiah 17 is part of God’s prophecy about the destruction of Judah. The people of Judah were living in sin, worshipping the gods of other nations, a direct violation of the commandments God gave Israel. So, God prophesied against Judah, that they would be invaded and taken into exile, for their refusal to repent and turn back to God.

In Jeremiah 17:5, God describes one of the major issues that has plagued humanity since Adam and Eve: willful rejection of God’s ways and our selfish ambition to live by our own rules. God says, “cursed is the man who trusts in man.” When God says the person is cursed, God is not revealing some kind of new wrath against humanity. God is repeating the same message He has been warning us about since Adam and Eve: whoever chooses to go their own way and live apart from God lives under the condition of a spiritual curse.

What does this cursed lifestyle look like? God explains, “he makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.” Very clear, very simple. If you trust in human strength, wisdom, or power—your own, other people, the government, academia, or whatever—instead of God, you are choosing to live under the spiritual curse.What does the curse look like? In verse 6, God explains, “he shall be like a shrub in the desert.” I lived in Yuma, Arizona for three years. Desert shrubs are dry, brittle, and prickly. They have almost no fruit, they give almost no shade, they’re constantly struggling to survive and their growth is stunted. If you turn your back on God, that’s what your spiritual life looks like. Everything may look and feel great on the outside, but your soul is spiritually parched, barely surviving in our dry, cruel world.

In Jeremiah 17:7, God describes how He created us to live in relationship with Him. God says, “blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD.” When God made Adam and Eve, He gave them one rule: do not eat from a specific tree. Why did he give them that rule? To test them, yes. But in that test, they had to trust God and not rely on their own understanding. That’s where the serpent got them to doubt God. That’s where the Enemy attacks us. And that’s how humanity broke the world through sin.

What does trusting God look like? God explains, “whose hope is the LORD.” Now, biblical hope is not like our modern idea of hope. When we say we hope for something, it’s a wish, “oh, I hope I get that new job or that new car.” There’s no confidence, no security. The biblical idea of hope is different. The person whose hope is God is actively trusting in God, relying on God daily, confident that God will stay true to His promises and secure in God as a refuge from life’s troubles. Biblical hope is confident expectation based on the character of our always loving, never failing, all-powerful God.

In verse 8, God explains what the blessing looks like, “he shall be like a tree planted by the waters.” In the desert, trees grow by the water. If you see trees, you know there’s some kind of water source nearby. A fork of the Colorado River runs through one side of Yuma. And by the river there’s a beautiful park with all kinds of beautiful wooded areas. When the summer heat comes, these trees survive because they have the water source. The trees are fruitful, providing shade, and thriving. When you trust in God, that’s what your spiritual life looks like. Even though the whole world is falling apart around you, The river of life—the Holy Spirit—is flowing through you, nourishing and growing you in the midst of our dry, cruel world.

In John 7, Jesus was in Jerusalem for Passover. Verse 37 begins,

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.

Jesus is not the Living Water. He is the Rock, stricken for our sins. But when Jesus ascended to heaven, he sent the Living Water, the Holy Spirit, to live in us in a special way according to the New Covenant, comforting us, nourishing us, and making us more like Jesus. Let’s remember and embrace these truths, looking to our Lord Jesus, that we might actively receive the spiritual blessings that the Spirit works in our lives.

Trust in the LORD

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Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm. (Psalm 37:3–8, NKJV)

Psalm 37 is another Psalm of David. We don’t know the particular circumstances around the writing of the Poison, but the  theme of Psalm 37 is a comparison between the Righteous person, who trusts in the LORD, and the Wicked person, who despises God’s ways.

In verses 3–4, David explains that trusting in the LORD begins with delighting in Him. The idea here is for us to take great pleasure in the LORD. His value is beyond measure. So just as we might cherish a precious jewel, we cherish our fellowship with Him above all else. He is our source of joy and self-worth. He names us and calls us His own. So when David writes, “He shall give you the desires of your heart,” there’s two things going on. First, when we delight in the LORD, fellowship with the LORD is our greatest desire and as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. Second, as we delight in Him and draw near to Him, His ways and His goals become our own. By humbling our hearts and entering His presence, we allow Him to fill us with joy, renew our hearts and minds making us more like Jesus, and guide our way according to His plans instead of our own.

In verses 5–6, David explains trusting the LORD in terms of a commitment to His ways. We know that the world systems are under the sway of the Enemy and all of creation is under the curse of sin. We also know, from the Word and from our own experience that in our hearts we want to live for Jesus, but these bodies of flesh carry our baggage of sin, always enticing us to turn against God’s ways. In our day-to-day lives, the only thing standing between a believer and sin is a commitment to the ways of the LORD. But we have to surrender to two truths. Trusting the LORD doesn’t start with commitment, it starts with delighting in Him, as David mentioned in verses 3–4. Second, commitment is an act of our will, but we are powerless to carry it out on our own strength. As David writes, “He shall bring forth our righteousness.” Indeed, the light in us is not our own, it is Jesus Christ, the light of all men, who covers us with His righteousness and who leads and strengthens us according to His ways.

In verses 7–8, David depicts our trusting in the LORD as resting in Him. Our English word “rest” has different meanings. David isn’t talking about taking a nap or taking a day off to watch Netflix. Now there’s nothing wrong with those things, per se. But the idea here isn’t physical rest, it’s spiritual. “Be still and know that I am God” says the LORD (Ps 46:10). And as David explains here, “Do not fret, … cease from anger, … forsake wrath.” It’s easy to look around us and see the hypocrisy of the world and the flaws in our brothers and sisters in Christ. But God doesn’t want you to change them. That’s His job and we partner with Him in that work primarily through prayer and gracious encouragement. No, God wants each of us to surrender our own hearts to Him so He can change each of us Himself. And He does this by filling us with His Holy Spirit who dwells within us and ministers to our hearts. When we’re sad, He’s with us, comforting us, if we’ll let Him. And when we’re angry, He’s with us, cooling our tempers and speaking His truth to us, if we’ll let Him.

In John 15, Jesus, at His last Passover meal with the Twelve, said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing.” Jesus was talking in spiritual terms. In this world, without Christ, we can walk around and do this or that, helping people or taking advantage of them or whatever. But it all amounts to nothing apart from Christ. Eternity is real and the LORD wants us to enjoy it with Him. But at the same time, Hell is a very real place of torment created for Satan, the demons, and the fallen angels. If you don’t want to be with Jesus, He won’t make you be with Him. But the only other option is Hell. The beauty of the Cross is that enjoying Christ for Eternity is a gift that Jesus purchased for us and offers to us freely. Salvation cost Jesus an agonizing death by means of crucifixion. But salvation costs us nothing except to trust in Him. And that’s why we celebrate communion, to remember the price He paid at Calvary so that anyone and everyone who trusts in Him can enjoy His presence for Eternity.

Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

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But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.
The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
It cannot be purchased for gold, nor can silver be weighed for its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.
Neither gold nor crystal can equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.

“From where then does wisdom come? and where is the place of understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
God understands its way, and He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure.
When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:12–28, NKJV)

Job was a man whose heart was fully devoted to God. But Satan was wholly devoted to turning Job’s heart against God. So God, knowing full well who Job was and what Job was about, let Satan take everything from Job except his life, his wife, and his so-called friends. In this passage, Job responds to the criticisms from his so-called friends and reflects on wisdom’s value and source.

First, Job asks the question, “where can wisdom be found?” He answers his own question: it’s not of human origin, nor found in all of creation. It cannot be bought with currency or bartered for precious stones. It’s value is immeasurable, but it cannot be found anywhere in nature.

Second, Job concedes that wisdom is “hidden from the eyes of all the living.” Animals don’t possess wisdom and even Death has only heard rumors about it. True wisdom is found only in God. Job explains that the God who looks upon the whole universe, exercising authority over all the elements including wind, water, and storms, envisioned wisdom and spoke it into existence. God is the measure of what wisdom is, and all true wisdom begins and ends in Him. Thus, Job concludes with a thought echoed throughout the Proverbs, “Wisdom is found in the fear of the LORD.”

We can fill our heads with information—that’s called knowledge. And over the course of life we amass innumerable experiences that hopefully we learn from, that’s called maturity. But God is the source of true wisdom. That’s why James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Not because God is hoarding wisdom and we need to beg Him to give us a little taste. But because God is the author and source of all true wisdom, so there’s no greater, truer source of wisdom than God Himself. And the more time we spend in God’s presence through prayer and Scripture, the more opportunity we give to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to guide us into all truth and help us grow in the wisdom of the LORD (John 16:13).

In John 16, Jesus explains that if he did not die, resurrect from death, and ascend to heaven, then He could not send the Holy Spirit to do this great work in our lives. But the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit is one of the beautiful blessings of the New Covenant under which we live. God says in Jeremiah 31:33–34, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me.” And in Ezekiel 11:19–20, God promises, “I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

These promises of a New Covenant have been made available to all believers through the blood of Christ. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:4–6, “We have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” And finally, as Jesus Himself said of the cup that he shared with His disciples at the Last Supper, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt 26:28). So then, through the blood of Christ we belong to the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit lives within us. And the Cross is the wisdom of our of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, offering eternal life for all who believe in Him.

God Our Rock

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“For You are my lamp, O LORD; The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

“For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me; So my feet did not slip. (2 Sam 22:29–37, NKJV)

These words, sung by King David, are part of a song that David composed toward the end of his life. The song is quite lengthy, beginning in 2 Samuel 22:2 and continuing through verse 51. It is a kind of memoir of David’s life, an ode to the LORD, with its primary theme being how the LORD was David’s light, his strength, and his deliverer.

David describes how the LORD is like a lamp in his own life: He brings light to David’s darkness, which, in context, probably refers to how the LORD delivered David time and time again from death at the hands of the Philistines, Saul, Absalom, and everyone else who tried to kill him. The LORD illuminated David’s mind and heart, giving him wisdom on the battlefield and to overcome even the most challenging obstacles in his life.

We, too, have a lamp in the LORD our God. We were in a state of spiritual darkness. But when we surrendered to Christ and trusted in Him, the Light of the World became the Light in our lives, delivering us from the power of darkness and delivering us into the marvelous light of His eternal kingdom (1 Col 1:13).

In the second stanza David shifts his analogy to the idea of the LORD as his rock. The LORD made David into a man of war and used him to lead Israel in subduing the surrounding nations and expanding the borders of ancient Israel. So I think its interesting that David first speaks of the LORD as his rock, strength and power regarding his feet. But a warrior is only as effective as his foundation. And David’s foundation was the LORD God Almighty. There is no surer foundation than the LORD. And with the LORD as our champion, leading us into battle and teaching us the art of spiritual warfare, we need not fear the Enemy. We need only to trust and follow the LORD.

Similarly, our hope for eternal life rests on our foundation in Jesus Christ. He is both the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), a faith based on the sacrificial love of our Savior who died the death we deserved and payed the ransom for our sins with his death on the cross. A faith secured by a proclamation on the cross, “it is finished.” A faith that was proven true when Christ conquered sin and death and rose victoriously from the grave on the third day.

In both verses 31 and 36, David describes the LORD as a shield—first, as a shield for all who trust Him, and second, as a shield of salvation. With David’s many run-ins with near-death experiences, both as a shepherd (with wild animals) and as King (from enemies trying to kill him), David surely knew first-hand about the saving power of the LORD, Who, as we’ve already mentioned, rescued David from death numerous times throughout his life.

As David surrendered his heart to the LORD Who delivered him from death many times, so we, too, receive the “shield” of the LORD’s salvation when we surrender our hearts to the LORD and trust Him with our eternal destiny. Then, as we learn to trust the LORD daily in our lives, His shield grows from a tiny buckler, barely big enough to protect our souls, to a giant Roman shield capable of deflecting the Enemy’s arrows and inflicting incredible damage when we use it properly in spiritual combat.

So, the LORD is our light, our rock, and our shield. All of these speak to God’s immense power to guide, strengthen, and protect us. And yet, David confesses, it is the gentleness of the LORD that raised him up. There are some who think that God is some kind of sinister overlord, actively checking a naughty list ready to zap us if we get out of line. Well, it is certainly true that God is righteous and just, punishing evil and wickedness. But God’s righteousness and justice flow from His love.

God’s love is so great that He decided to share it. So He created an entire universe and populated it with living creatures to share His love with them. Then, when  we humans rebelled against Him, we received the just penalty of death for our rebellion. But the LORD, not willing to condemn us without a means of deliverance, gave us a promise of salvation, and made good on that promise by sending His One and Only Son to live the sinless life we never could, die the death that we all deserved, and usher in a new era of salvation for everyone willing to trust in the name of the Son–Jesus Christ.

He Goes With You

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Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. (Deut 31:1–6, NKJV)

In Numbers 13, we read that the LORD brought the children of Israel to the Wilderness of Paran, on the southern border of the Promised Land. From here, Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan, 10 of whom feared the inhabitants and instigated the Israelites’ refusal to enter Canaan. Moses interceded for the people and the LORD forgive Israel’s sinful disobedience, but as a consequence, none of that adult generation were permitted to enter the Land except Caleb and Joshua, the other two spies who brought back a good report. Even Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the Land because of their unfaithful representation of the LORD at Kadesh (Numbers 20). Our passage today begins Moses’ farewell speech to the second generation of Israel before Moses’ death and Israel entered the Land.

The children of Israel, including Moses and Aaron, suffered severe consequences for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. However, while God prevented the adult generation from entering the Land, He did not forsake His promise to Israel as a nation. The LORD raised up Joshua to lead the second generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. God always keeps His promises. We may not always understand the terms, and we often forsake many potential blessings because of our sins of unfaithfulness and unbelief, but God is always faithful.

I want to you notice two details about this promise that Moses recounted to the second generation of Israelites. First, notice that God promised that the children of Israel would go to war. The Canaanite tribes were strong, numerous, and many would not leave the land willingly. But because of their sinfulness, which included ritual human child sacrifice to the gods Baal and Molech, God dispossessed the Canaanites and promised the land to the children of Israel (Deut 12:29–31, c.f., Jer 32:25). But Israel would have to take possession of the Land by force.

But notice also how God promised to go with the children of Israel. Not just to go with them passively, watching the battle from the sidelines. But actively going before Israel, weakening the hearts of the Canaanites, as well as going behind Israel, protecting the rear ranks which included noncombatants—women, children, and livestock—the weaker, defenseless ranks. Thus, the LORD tells the Israelites not to fear, because the all-powerful presence of Almighty God is among them, fighting for them and protecting them in and through the war.

For me, the daily grind of life is filled with uncountable battles with mixed results—many failures, a few victories, and many stalemates promising to revisit us again in the near future. But, in a similar way that the LORD promised to go with Israel through the war, fighting for her and protecting her, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ makes us a similar promise in our war against sin and death. Food was one of my battlefronts. But praise be to God who has given me the victory over gluttony and enabled me to better lead and care for my family in the way I eat, exercise, and prepare meals for our household.

Christ goes before us in our salvation experience and in the daily struggles throughout our lives. Indeed, Christ went before us in death (1 Pet 3:18–20); He went before us in resurrection (1 Cor 15); and He has gone before us into heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:1–4). So then, we do not fear the final judgment, nor its servants—sin, flesh, and Satan—because the live of Christ has rescued us from the fear of judgment by delivering us from death and giving us eternal life (1 John 4:17–19).

Immanuel, God With Us

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This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matt 1:18–23, NLT)

I don’t know about you, but for me, the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s is a bit awkward. It’s kind of a twilight zone, sandwiched between the excitement and stress of the Christmas season and the anticipation and trepidation of the New Year with all of the hopes, dreams, and possibilities that go along with turning the page from one year to the next.

For me, Christmas is a time to look back on the previous year, asking the Lord to show me when and how He was working in my life. It brings to a close the season of thanksgiving that for many of us began on that fourth Thursday in November. New Year’s is a time when I look forward, asking the Lord for direction and wisdom to show me when and how He wants me to follow Him. It sets in motion many of the experiences I will have throughout the new year, or at least, through the first three-to-six weeks. But this in-between week is a bit of a let-down. There’s leftovers and gifts to enjoy but it’s time to take down the decorations, go back to work, and settle back into the daily grind of life.

Matthew records how the angel told Joseph that the child’s name is Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). As we look back at the last year, let’s not miss all that God’s done for us. In fact, let’s look back a little further, say, nearly 2000 years. Let’s look back and remember how God the Son added a human nature to Himself, became a human baby named Jesus, and entered the world with all the pomp and circumstance of a poor, humble peasant child. And let’s remember that world-changing, earth-shattering, veil-tearing moment 33 years later when Jesus the Son fulfilled his eternal calling by taking the sins of all people, who ever did and ever would live, as his own, enduring the excruciating pain of crucifixion, and the even more agonizing wrath of the Father toward sin, so that His blood sacrifice could provide an eternal, once-for-all sin-offering for everyone who trusts in Him. And let’s not forget that moment in our own lives, maybe only a few days or weeks or years in recent past, when the joy of His salvation entered our hearts for the first time in that moment we trusted in Him as Savior and Lord.

Matthew also tells us that Jesus’ birth fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, that this babe is called “Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matt 1:23). It doesn’t say, “God who was with us.” It says, “God with us.” Salvation isn’t a one-time event. Jesus doesn’t say, “hey, trust me just this once, now here’s your get-into-heaven-free card.” Salvation has a moment of beginning but it has everlasting results. Think about it—salvation from what? From sin, from death, from hell. But I’m still a sinner! And I’m still gonna die! Exactly! Which means salvation isn’t complete this side of heaven. It’s not complete until we escape the final judgment and enter the eternal state, abiding in the presence of our triune God.

As we look forward to a New Year, I want to encourage you with this: The Father is looking forward to spending more time with you this New Year. The Father is looking forward to wrapping his arms around you, just like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son did when his wayward child returned home. The Father is looking forward to answering your prayers, changing your heart, and transforming your mind. The Father is calling to you, inviting you to fellowship with Him. But, you say, “I’m a sinner, a wretch, a nobody, how can this happen?” It happens when we, covered by the blood of Christ, carried by the power of the Spirit, receive the invitation of God Almighty to commune with Him in prayer. It happens when we abide in His eternal presence. And when we mess up, we go to Him, humble ourselves, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and let our loving heavenly Father restore us back to full fellowship with Himself.

Christmas has come and gone this year. A New Year begins tonight. Whatever your goals, hopes, dreams, and resolutions, the Father is calling to You—to all of us—inviting us to dwell in His presence, ask Him for guidance, confess our hurts and fears and pains, and even vent our frustrations to Him. Our loving heavenly Father is continually inviting us to live every moment with Him. So, in this New Year, let’s embrace our spiritual adoption as children of the Almighty God and draw near to our loving Father, carried by the power of the Spirit, and entering His presence through Jesus the Son—God with us.

Rivers of Living Water

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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.