The past few days, I have had an old song in my head that I used to sing back in Bible College. It’s called “I’ve Got a River of Life.” It was one of those songs that had extra motions and words to it, so you have more fun - a silly song. I realized how powerful the lyrics were and God began to stir that truth in me from John 7. We are going to take a deeper look into this text to see what Jesus wants to say to us today.
I. God is our faithful provider
John 7:1-2: After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters
Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the last of the seven feasts called the Feast of the Shelters (or Booths or Tabernacles). It was also known as the Feast of Harvest or Pentecost. This was the most joyous of all the feasts to celebrate. The purpose of the feast was to remember how God provided for them while they were in the desert before entering into the Promised Land. They would set up shelters and stay in them during the seven-day feast.
Another key part of the festivities was the daily drawing of water from the pool of Siloam. A priest would fill a golden pitcher with water and would return to the temple with a procession of people and musicians. On returning to the temple, he was welcomed with three blasts from a trumpet, and, going to the west side of the great altar, he poured the water from the golden pitcher into a silver basin, which had holes in the bottom through which the water was carried off. This ceremony was accompanied with songs and shouts from the people and the sound of trumpets. This water would symbolize coming from the rock in the wilderness.
Here is another interesting thing that I learned: they called the temple during this time The House of the Outpouring. This has significance for what Jesus declares later in the text.
II. The battle over whether Jesus was truly the Messiah
John 7:14-17: Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. The people were surprised when they heard him. “How does he know so much when he hasn’t been trained?” they asked. So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.
Jesus came to the festival in secret because they were trying to kill him, but now He is at the temple teaching them. They were amazed by how He taught and how much He knew. Jesus tells them that He was speaking only what the Father was telling Him to speak.
John 7:25-34: Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? But here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him. Could our leaders possibly believe that he is the Messiah? But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.” While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I’m not here on my own. The one who sent me is true, and you don’t know him. But I know him because I come from him, and he sent me to you.” Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus. But Jesus told them, “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. 34 You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.”
There were mixed opinions in the crowd as to whether Jesus was the Messiah. Some were convinced He is the Messiah because of the all the miracles that He performed and the authority through which He taught.
Others did not believe He is the Messiah because they knew where He came from and didn’t believe the Messiah would come out of Nazareth.
This debate still goes on today. Are we convinced that Jesus is the Messiah? Is God even real?
III. Rivers of living water
John 7:37-39: 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.’ ” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
Jesus was all about setting up His message in order to bring greater understanding to His message. He waits for the climax of the festival as they are pouring out water on the altar. Remember this was symbolic of God providing water from the rock in the wilderness.
He invites those who are thirsty to come to Him. He is saying I am going to satisfy your thirst.
Only those who believe in Jesus can drink. If we are going to walk in the fullness of God, we have to fully trust and believe in Jesus. We have to be convinced that Jesus is who He says He is.
We can come to church and sing songs about God’s faithfulness, and we can hear incredible messages about His faithfulness, but there has to come a point that we actually know God is faithful. We know that God is faithful because by faith we come to Jesus and drink. When you drink, it means you experience.
Jesus’ declaration and invitation was spoken throughout scripture. Lets look at some of the powerful promises.
Isaiah 43:20: The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed.
Isaiah 44:3-5: 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. They will thrive like watered grass, like willows on a riverbank. Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the Lord.’ Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’ Some will write the Lord’s name on their hands and will take the name of Israel as their own.”
Isaiah 55:1-3: “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.
There is life in Jesus and when we drink of Him, it says that rivers of living water will flow from the depths of our heart.
Rivers of living water flowing out of the believer refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I mentioned earlier that this festival was also called The Feast of Harvest or Pentecost. I also mentioned that the temple was called the House of Outpouring.
This refers to what happened in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out. They began to do the same things that Jesus did and this rivers of living water began to bring live from Jesus to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. God has empowered us by His Spirit so that we can bring in the harvest.
That invitation still stands today. If you are thirsty, come to Jesus and He will fill you with rivers of living water. God is inviting all of us to know Him as our faithful provider. Let’s not just sing about it, but let’s experience it because we are to come to Jesus in faith and drink of His Spirit.