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WATER TO BURN
Blessing from Persistence
John 7:37-38 with 4:14
Now it is to be admitted that there are questions about this title. It could be said that it is a case of mixed metaphor to the point of no return. It could be said, however, that it is oxymoron and that this is so obvious that one should turn to that so much neglected faculty of the human mind, intelligence, and find out what is meant.
Let us take the second alternative. It would then mean that in this symbol of water, there is signified something, IN THIS CASE, so intensely liberal, so amazingly super-sufficient that the normal idiom, applicable to just such things, is used in its opposite context to shock the observer into an awareness of this fact. In other words, whatever it is that water HERE signifies, it is showing its grace of provision, its availability to be so much beyond question that it DOES NOT EVEN ENTER INTO CONSIDERATION AT ALL!
This is in fact the sense in view. We are on this occasion examining John 4:14, but with an eye to John 7:37-38.
What IS John 4:14 ? This:
This then is our ground of exploration.
Why ? This is the fascinating point.
We shall see
But where do we find in the Old Testament this which Christ affirms ?
Let us then to that task. By
following the trail, we shall undoubtedly be enlivened both in life and
in understanding, if we do it by faith. The Saviour does not at all speak
to no effect!
"AS THE SCRIPTURE HAS SAID, OUT
OF HIS HEART..."
(MIDST, INNERMOST BEING)
John 4:14 gives us the first key. Here we see that any one who ONCE drinks of the water HE gives will NEVER thirst again. It is not the present tense, suggesting an ongoing process, but the aorist, suggesting simple completed action: just that it happened.
That of course is the context. Come to the well, draw water, day after day, on it goes, in the hot sun... That is the woman's point of view, and manner of life.
Christ, who had asked this Samaritan for a drink as she was at the well drawing water by her own powers from the well, caused a stir. WHY should a JEW ask a Samaritan (woman!) for water ? Is this not a matter for avoidance or negotiation, preferably the former, for the Samaritans were a people placed by Assyria, long before, from other places INTO Israel (northern division) when it carried off the 10 tribes and replaced them. New customs, ways and race! Not good enough. There was a barrier between Judah in the South and this ... repopulated place.
And that! It is not to mention the FALSE and IDOLATROUS religion involving calves as objects of worship in a return to Egyptian mythology thrust which was utterly graceless and ungrateful, and which had characterised the northern division of Israel, long before it had its ruin, and this after much divine patience, accorded to it. TWO counts! Indeed three ? Not just one! And here was Christ asking one of THEM for a drink by her EFFORTS from a well. Unthinkable.
Christ replied to this expostulation of the woman at the well (largely like an ice-berg, hidden, but still clear for all that) by telling her that if SHE asked HIM, then HE could give her water such that it would not be dead, lifeless, still, in the bottom of the well, but living, active, from its source, pure and delightful in other words, by comparison. But even that was not the major thrust. It would be LIVING, but it would ALSO be such that ONCE you had drunk this, it would be WITHIN YOU a SPRING rising up, and you would NEVER THIRST AGAIN. (It is the precise parallel of John 6:51 where the same tense is employed.)
What a complete contrast to her perhaps diurnal dealings, toilsome and repetitive, at the well!
Now of course the narration continues, but our present interest has an especially significant point, apart from the fact that, as John 7:37 reminds us, it is really the Spirit which is intended here (as so often in the Bible - Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 32, 44 and so on, of which He is speaking, the Spirit of God). The picture we need for the moment, most to retain is this, that there would be a spring within. It would assuredly not be a psychic spring, since it had to be given, and COULD not fail. It would be a spiritual spring from God Himself personally, by the express act of God the Word, Jesus Christ. Expressing God, He would even implant and imprint in your heart (as in Jeremiah 31:31ff.) the things of God in a living way, and it would involve the personal activity of God the Spirit.
But let us turn to our quarry in John 7:37. Here it is, then, that expressly the reference is indexed to the Spirit and to the Scriptures. WHERE, just where did the OLD TESTAMENT say what Christ went on to say, at this somewhat later date, that the one believing in Him would have a stream of water - and we are TOLD this meant the Spirit in this context - proceeding from his innermost being. WHERE!
As noted at the outset, many have sought this quarry, and we join in their labours. But let us seek for ourselves.
shall look at Ezekiel 47, Isaiah 12:3, 43:20, 44:3-4, 55:1ff., 32:15,17,
59:21, Exodus 17:6, Numbers 21:17, Psalm 43:3, Zephaniah 3:5, Proverbs
18:4 and Psalm 36. Then we shall find!
THE QUARRY PURSUED
Isaiah 44 shows us that the Spirit of God is going to be poured, at some date future to the episode of the time when Isaiah wrote, and poured out on the people who receive Him, in such a measure that it will constitute
43:20 shows us that "rivers
in the desert" are in view, and this in relation
to the fact that
"This people have I formed for Myself;
They shall declare My praise."
Isaiah 12 shows that there is to be JOY in the process, and that it may also be seen in another aspect: that waters may be understood as drawn out of the wells of salvation. This of course is not to contradict what is given elsewhere, but to add another feature. You can drive a car, but you still have to put your foot on the brake, even though you do not need to invent the engine or the braking system in order to go at all! It is however an image indicative of a multitude of people, of a customary way, of a place, of a site, and hence of a locational liberality, and that of course, as in Isaiah 53 "Who have believed our report..." of the crucifixion of the Lord when in the flesh, is so. It is a plan of salvation and Jerusalem HAD to be the ONE place for the sacrifices because it was symbolic (as in Hebrews 8-10 cf. SMR pp. 822ff.) of the salvation of Christ, which is wrought by ONE person in ONE place, a person SENT by the Father and whose work would be applied by the Spirit. In Him, is much to be obtained (Ephesians 3:8).
Isaiah 55 expands things for us, showing the great emphasis on total LIBERTY, that there is no charge of ANY kind (as in Romans 5:15 - the GIFT is a gift, but it is BY GRACE, surrounded with liberality and NON-earning as in Romans 3:23ff.). It is a gift in thought, application and entirety. Cursed be the man who contrives to alter this gospel (Galatians 1): that is the biblical emphasis on this feature!
WHY spend you money on what does not support! Take freely of the water of salvation, not buying it, as it were, from a water carrier who in that day, would hawk his watery wares!
Isaiah 32:17 reveals the peace which this sort of donated righteousness will bring (as in Isaiah 55:4-6,10-11), its effects in this liberality being "quietness and assurance for ever".
In other words, there is an eternity of realisation of this gift: it never fails, it never departs, it is eternal as Christ said, "He who believes in Me has eternal life" - John 6:47 cf. 6:51,40, 5:24, 10:9,27-28, 11:25.
will moreover (Isaiah 32:15) be associated with FRUITFULNESS as a consequence
(good trees bear good fruit, Christ indicated in the Sermon on the Mount
- Matthew 5-7). The fruit is from the fact that the tree is planted by
the Lord (as in Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 15:13). It remains (John 15:16 cf.
John 10:9,28-29, for the one who once eats of this bread has eternal life
- John 6:51). Their fruit is derivative of salvation; and indeed other
trees will be uprooted, as Christ expressly affirmed!
Isaiah 59:21 exposes a new feature. Now we find that
Not only, then, the Spirit in this liberality, but the
word in its purity will continue. GOD will be at work; His mind will be
stated; His will known, His words will be divulged and kept so. None will
be able to remove them. We are reminded of II Timothy 2:2, where Paul is
enjoining Timothy to have faithful men teach what has been received from
Paul, and so transmit it onwards - like, one might in contemporary terms
conceive, pylons passing on the power with precision, down the wires, from
grasping buttressed outreached steel arm, with its 'muscles' of bundles
on it, to the next.
Ezekiel 47 is a vast and delightful super-market with a sale on so liberal, that payment is EXCLUDED in tenor, as in Isaiah 55, in word! Look it up if you will in Biblical Blessings Ch. 5.
Suffice for our present purpose, this. In this chapter, the prophet shows the altar, that place of sacrifice, blood, coverage by imputation through faith, as in Deuteronomy 29, to be the source. Thus Galatians 6:14 exhorts us not to glory EXCEPT in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by which, let us add since the text does, we who are HIS, are crucified to the world and the world to us. Pause, reader, for a moment to ask yourself this question. You are a Christian ?
Good, and you are THEREFORE in this condition which 6:14 describes ? You are a Christian ? Good, and you are THEREFORE in this condition that 6:14 describes ? If there is hindrance, seek the Lord and His face and ensure that you are aptly alerted (cf. Psalm 27:8). If however you are simply in this place, rejoice the more, for then you are abiding.
But let us pursue the visionary picture in Ezekiel 47. The waters come from the altar and are of such huge amount, like a flood, yet a beneficial and beneficent flood, that they swell and mount. At first the prophet finds himself covered to the ankles, then higher and higher, till he must swim. Then he is borne very much as the prophets of old were borne (II Peter 1:21) when the wrote the scriptures, which are not of any private explanation, BECAUSE this is the case.
That is, Peter here states that SINCE the scriptures were given by an operation of the Holy Spirit of a driving character, so that He was bearing the prophets along (the word used of the storm tossing the ship before it, when Paul was in the Mediterranean), THEREFORE these same scriptures are of no private explanation. How COULD they be, if GOD provided them with power and impulsion of this heavenly and majestic kind! They are, as stated from GOD, the men moved by His Holy Spirit, so that any other explanation of their existence is blind, unempirical folly!
Paul amplifies even this in I Corinthians 2:9-13. When God wants to speak, He secures His desire and declares to man what His thoughts are (Amos 4).
Any theory which sites them in the individual lives of the writers is asinine, astray, impervious to reality, simply wrong.
The scriptures, then, are not EXPLICABLE in terms of the individuals concerned, BECAUSE GOD is their source! That is the teaching in Peter. Here in Ezekiel 47 is its dynamic counterpart in the vision of the prophet, himself immersed increasingly by stages in the impulsion of the waters, till he must swim, being borne along.
This strong, bearing or impelling quality of the Holy Spirit is felt by Ezekiel as indicated in his vision, as a flood. Yet it is not a violent one, nor a resistible one either, and while it forces him to swim, it also surges on to the places which it refreshes (like the flushing we have in our tiny little Torrens 'River' in Adelaide, when large volumes of water are released from the reservoir to cleanse it); and in this visionary stream are the fishes. Fisherman fish for them! That is of course a primary source of Christ's word: "Follow Me, and I shall make you fishers of men!" (Matthew 4:19). Thus the Lord is at work in the world with His Spirit with the content of that Cross reality which bears the Gospel. Marshy places (Ezekiel 47:11 - like sects which distort the word of God, Titus 3:10) are left.
then we see further into the water imagery in Ezekiel, for the work of
the Spirit of God. It is HIGHLY personal and it can make its impact felt
in a mounting series of challenges which can force one quite off one's
feet, and yet into a flow which is both sourced in wonder and therapeutic
C. EXODUS and NUMBERS
We now pursue our quest for the location in the Old Testament of the concept imparted by Christ, of waters flowing from the believer's very innermost being.
Exodus 17:6 shows us, in simple historical terms, Moses
striking the rock, so that the discontented multitude were able to have
their needs readily met from the abundance of water coming from the rock.
Now in I Corinthians 10 we see explicitly that "that rock was Christ". This is the nature of the symbolism. The rock is stricken (as in Micah 5:1-3's prophecy of the smiting of Christ on the face cf. Isaiah 50, where we find likewise that even His beard was torn out).
From this rock of Exodus 17, there then proceeds water as in John 7:38 precisely, where we find that it was ONLY WHEN Christ was finished with His atoning work on earth, that the Spirit in this liberality and immediacy would be given. In other words, when Christ at last (Galatians 4:4) in the appointed time (Daniel 9:24-27, SMR pp. 886ff., 943ff.), had done His work, THEN the avenues without intervention of priests (as in Hebrews 2-4, 8-10) would proceed, and the new totality of entry with all boldness would be wonderful (as in Hebrews 4).
Numbers 21:17 shows an event again with water problems in the desert (not really surprising, but what is far more instructive is this: they never FAILED even for ALL those people in that HARSH situation, though they often grumbled instead of believing - as in I Cor. 10!). Here in Numbers they find a place where the Lord assured them of water, and they dug only to find what their song evidently commemorates, that there was a well springing up!
"Spring up, O well! All of you sing to it -
The well the leaders sank.
Dug by the nation's nobles,
By the lawgiver, with their staves."
Here specifically is the sense of SPRINGING UP, of a certain mobility, an upward mobility, an abundance of force yet in beauty of leaping, that is yet not dangerous and is most sufficient. It is where one would not expect, is by the word of the lawgiver, and is found where it is cited! So he who drinks of the water that I shall give, will never thirst again! said Christ. It is ALWAYS available because the Lord always supplies it ANYWHERE on the journey of one's pilgrimage in life, under the LORD (cf. II Peter 1:3, Ephesians 1:17-19); and it is always as in Ezekiel ultimately available from one source for all the redeemed!
Our next exhibit awaits us, in this ‘minor’ prophet with such major wonders to divulge.
Here it is found that the LORD IS IN YOUR MIDST. "The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst." The same rejoicing as in Numbers is observed, but here the component that we seek is this, that it is the LORD Himself who, by His Spirit, is in their midst.
LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing" - Zephaniah 3:17.
He has already been indicating that -
LORD is righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light:
He never fails.
But the unjust knows no shame."
the Lord is coming as King (as in Isaiah 11, Psalm 72); but here we see
the Lord in their midst even before that, in Zephaniah 2:5, and this is
of course by His Spirit. The tenderness of His ministrations (as symbolised
in the Song of Solomon - see The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.
11) is seen in this eloquent beauty like a sapphire ring, and its lights
twinkle with a grace and elegance which is yet touching and moving. Hence
we find in this that the Lord by His Spirit is also tenderly addressing
His people, dressing their wounds and covering their guilt, imputing righteousness
and dowering virtue with vigour. This too is wrought by His Spirit, bathing
and refreshing, bringing that enduement that restores in His presence,
which itself is always glorious. It relates closely to Isaiah 32:15,17.
Now we come to Psalm 36. With the same tender mercies evident as in Zephaniah (Psalm 36:10, 7), we find this additional aspect.
"For with You is the fountain of life;Once again, there is the fountain, like the spring, the river flowing from under the altar. There is liberality, abundance, life, vitality, and exuberance. Is however this fountain to be conceived as external in the sense that one approaches a tap, or internal as in other cases such as Isaiah 59 ?
In Your light we see light."
We turn for instruction to the parallel in the manner of the Psalms, the doublet if you will: "In Your light we see light."
does this mean that one is seeing a shaft of light, and saying, See
that light. In that light, I see light!
One might reply, So one might expect. In seeing light, you do indeed see light! There might however be a momentary tension in the conversation. It tends to sound patronising, does it not ? It is because the phenomenon of light, when seen, involves the seeing of light. It tends to be repetitive, to say no more.
If however the writer is saying something rather different, this is not the case. The case in point is this. if one means, See that light IN WHICH I AM CURRENTLY BATHING ? THIS LIGHT IS A SOURCE OF LIGHT TO MY PATH AS I LOOK OUT WITH IT AND IN IT!
In this case, one is within the light, and the light is within oneself, and in this light, one is gifted like a miner with a head-lamp, in being able to say, In your light I see light.
Hence we are moving into the domain of the strictly inward, which yet opens outward, so that the light that is within is a light that shines without. Undoubtedly, we are much nearer than sometimes, to the concept of an inward working going outward.
That, you will recall, is what is involved in John 7:37-38.
we have a further step yet.
Proverbs 18:4 contributes vitally now.
Here we find that a man of wisdom takes of that wisdom and it proceeds out from him, its deep waters a resource: it wells up, and it flows out, indeed it streams "like a flowing brook". The verse actually states that the words of a man's mouth are deep waters, the wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook.
Thus depicted, in imagery is this situation: here is a man in his integrity, abiding in the Lord. Deep are the waters therefore, unlike the case of a fool whose much speech is mere drivel. This resembles I Corinthians 2:13ff., where not only is it taught that spiritual things seem foolishness to the unconverted, but that the spiritual man, alive in the Lord, is so involved in HIM that for a man to attempt to judge him (that is, assess him totally in his being and meaning and point and purposes) is useless. You are then judging His boss with him.
If however we turn from the foolish practice of unsophisticated judgment, as so often found in the intemperate slanders which afflict some congregations and are exhibited in type in II Corinthians 12, backbitings and whisperings, to the case of godliness, then we find something new about this deep well of wisdom to which a man's words when he abides in wisdom have resemblance. Now it is seen that such words of a man's mouth are deep waters, and the springing up is likewise a springing out, for the waters are abounding outward and moving into this world.
In this context, they are neither disembodied waters, nor is the case diffuse, but one of wisdom. They are expressly related to deep waters and then their course is one of outflowing. Thus the waters within are seen as becoming the flow outward. And to what is the content of these waters referred ? It is to wisdom. And what is the biblical beginning of wisdom if not the fear of the Lord ? and of whom is it said that there is no safety or counsel ? (Proverbs 21:30, It is of the Lord.
Thus it is the Spirit of God who, ultimately, provides the background and meaning for the outflowing waters of wisdom as from a deep well. It is to this that Jesus refers, drawing not only here, but from all the associated references which give depth and meaning, now here, now in that aspect. Thus is this aspect of the use of water for Spirit exhibited, in line with such usage as that of Isaiah 44:3, where the Lord will "pour water on him who is thirsty", an action then defined in termed of His Spirit being so poured. Thus surrounded by water, growing in its medium, and with it within them, as is the way of plants, they will spring up.
Such is the message of Isaiah which with Proverbs covers the case of John 4, the rest being as usual in scripture, such an assemblage of cognate conceptions and applications as to make the whole like a gleaming jewel. And the gleaming jewel, is it not like one drop of water, illuminated by light, breaking up the different wave lengths into a kaleidoscope of beauty, reminding one in turn, of the crown of righteousness of II Timothy on the one hand, and of the diadem of beauty of Isaiah 28:5 read with Malachi 3:17 , on the other.
To the pith, now, in this expansion, we return.
So does the one who believes, as the scriptures have said (Old Testament) have flowing from his innermost being, streams of living water.
Thus in the contexts we have construed, we found:
spiritual liberality, given
in that profound wisdom of God
which brings justice, tenderness, wonder and vitality,
provided in that ministration from a source and centre in the Cross which the temple sacrifices of yore pointed;
and we find the one thus met with the Lord,
and so inheriting His judgments and wisdom,
to be tender to the scriptures which continue on with him,
as does the Spirit of God - Isaiah 59.
Now in Proverbs in this spiritual environment, we find specifically that there is a wellspring within, and that it flows out like a stream.
Thus is our quest ended; but HE, He does not end. The just Lord in the midst of His people, and in fact in the heart of any one of them (John 14:21-23, 6:51ff.), will indeed well up by His Spirit, and there is such an abundance that the savour and the perfume, the refreshing and the saltiness, the wonder and the truth from His word, flow out with something more than the merely psychic: it is godly and governed and enabled by God with all the gifts apt to the purpose, with wisdom sitting in splendour (cf. I Cor. 1:31), the very wisdom of God, by which those with a good understanding KEEP His commandments (Psalm 111:10) , and STRIVE with those who depart from the law of God (Proverbs 28:4).
This we find from the Old Testament survey, and what more ?
These are to PASS on the truth, being vitalised and enabled both personally and vocationally, to be upright and effective in the work of the Lord.
For look! the fields are already white to harvest! Pray the Lord that He should send forth workers, equipped with His Spirit, governed by His word, who do NOT say, LORD! LORD! and yet not do what He says (Luke 6:46); but rather proceed in the highway of holiness, as spiritual people with spiritual unction to function in grace, dowered abundantly in the gladness of His joy, which is their strength (Nehmiah 8:10).
This on harvests, incidentally, is NOT an addition in our New Testament site chosen. These words about harvests are actually found, to a substantial degree, right after the revelation to the woman of Samaria, in the record of John 4, in fact, in verses 34-38; and also in Matthew 9:38. That occurred when the disciples were actually BEING SENT!
look at Isaiah, that treasure trove, and find in 32:20, this:
"Blessed are you who sow beside all waters,
Who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey."
As to this, you do not sow WITH all waters, but by them. There is nothing too hard for the Lord!
Thus do we see the truth of II Timothy 3:16 illustrated: ALL scripture if inspired of God and profitable for instruction in righteousness. Things old and new alike, are composed in beauty!