Address 24 The Promise of the Spirit

John 7:37-39

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

In these verses our Lord was directing the minds of His listeners on to a new dispensation. He came, as we know, under the law. He came in exact accordance with all Old Testament prophetic Scripture. He came to magnify the law and to make it honorable. But throughout His glorious ministry, while pointing out the failures of the people under the law, He spoke constantly of that grace and truth which He came to make known.

We have already considered His various interviews in the temple, and now we come to something that took place on the last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles. It had been customary on the last day to have a special service called “the pouring out of the water.” On that day a company of white-robed priests went down to the Pool of Siloam. They filled their jars with water from the pool, and then walked back to the temple and poured out the water in the presence of the people. This was to call to their minds the marvelous provision that God had made for Israel during the days of their wandering in the wilderness.

When they came murmuring to Moses, he cried to God. And He said, “Thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thy hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it” (Exod. 17:5-6). Moses did so. As the rock was cleft the water gushed out, and the people had all they needed. On a later occasion, shortly before they entered into the land, when again they were in distress because of lack of water, God said, “Take the rod [Aaron’s rod], and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water” (Num. 20:8). But Moses smote the rock twice. The water came out abundantly, but Moses had not followed God’s directions. He was a bit troubled and irritated, and he made a great blunder. Sometimes, you know, God’s servants do get troubled and upset.

Moses actually lost his temper on this occasion. As a result he spoiled God’s lovely type. The smiting of the rock in obedience to God in Exodus 17 was a beautiful type of the smiting of Christ with the rod of judgment. When Moses lifted the rod up over the Red Sea, the waters parted asunder and the people went through on dry ground, so it was perfectly proper that he should use the same rod on the rock. That rock was Christ. Christ had to be smitten in judgment on Calvary’s cross, and when the wrath of God that was our due fell upon Him and He bowed His head beneath that rod—when the Rock of Ages was cleft for us—the living water flowed forth for the refreshment of a famished world. But you know He was only smitten once in judgment. Having died for our sins, He is never to die again and will never have to know the smiting of the rod of judgment again. That question has been settled once for all.

God commanded Moses on the second occasion to take Aaron’s rod and go out and speak to the rock, and it should give forth its water. That is, he was to take the rod of priesthood, reminding us that our Savior is now ministering in the presence of God as our great High Priest. He does not need to be smitten again to sustain our life. But we read in Numbers 20, “Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice” (v. 11), after he had said to the people, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” (v. 10). And so he spoiled the type of God’s lovely picture of the present work of His Son.

But—oh, the grace of God!—in spite of the failure of the servant the water gushed out. God still, in His infinite grace, meets people’s need far beyond their understanding. But read what happened to Moses. God said, “Now because you did not sanctify Me in the eyes of the people—you smote the rock and were angry—you will not go into the land but will die in the wilderness” (v. 12, author’s paraphrase). And oh, how Moses pleaded and prayed that he might go in, but the Lord at last said, “Speak to Me no more of these matters. You will not go in, but you can go up and see the land.” So Moses’ prayer, in that instance, could not be answered. Afterward, of course, fifteen hundred years afterward, God did allow him to enter the land. When the disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration, they looked up and saw the Lord Jesus Christ, and with Him were Moses and Elias. God let him go in, but it was when he could be there as the companion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But now going back to the memorial of the smiting of the rock. The priests, in the observance of the feast of tabernacles, brought the water from the Pool of Siloam (which means “Sent”), and they poured that water out before the Lord in the presence of the people. And on the last day Jesus stepped forward and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). And today He stands crying the same wonderful words: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”

Note the universality of the message. Is there any man who does not thirst and who does not know what it is to yearn and long for that which is eternal? And Jesus says, “If any man thirst”—not just select cases, and He does not even indicate the nature of the thirst. He might have said, as He did once, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). He might have said, “If any man thirst after goodness, after purity, after holiness, let him come unto me, and drink.” But He makes it far wider than that. He says, “If any man thirst.” That is for every one of us.

You may say, “Yes, I am thirsting for pleasure. I want to find more joy and delight in living.” Well, my dear friends, if any man thirst after real pleasure and lasting joy, Jesus says, “Let him come unto me, and drink.” It is written, “At Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11). What Jesus said concerning the water of that well in Samaria is just as true of all that earth has to offer—”Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13). You may try all of the different pleasures of earth, they will never quench your thirst. We grant that there is a measure of pleasure in sin, but you know Scripture says that “Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24). That is all, they last only a little while. They are like some of these sweet drinks that you take in the summer, and every time you drink you become only the more thirsty. So it is with all that the world has to offer. But Jesus says to those who try the world but are thirsty still, “Come to Me and drink, and you will never thirst again.”

Someone says, “Well I am not concerned about pleasure, but I thirst for wealth—for the means to make things comfortable for my family and myself.” Yes, but the wealth of this world passes away. But if you want pleasure that will last forever and the wealth that will abide, come to Jesus and heed His gracious invitation, and you will be wealthy forevermore.

Perhaps you thirst for the good opinion of others—to be well thought of. Oh, dear friends, there is nothing like having the good opinion of God Himself, and you get that when you trust His blessed Son, when you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your own Savior. Then God Himself guarantees that you shall participate with Him in glory—that shall last forever.

Jesus says of His own, “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). We often sing that “Glory” song, and one verse goes,

When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me!

Some object to that phrase and say they would rather sing, “That will be glory for Him.” Well, of course, that will be glory for Him, but on the other hand it will be glory for me to gaze on His blessed face and be with Him for all eternity. How perfectly satisfied we shall be in that day! Yes, “if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”

And then He adds, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (7:38). To come unto Him and drink is to believe Him and the message He has given, to put your trust in Him. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Now where has the Scripture said this? Well, there may not be any exact verse of Scripture that says in so many words that he that believes on Jesus from within him shall flow rivers of living water, but I take it that the Lord is referring to the general tenor of Scripture. The living water flowing forth from the smitten rock—Scripture after Scripture indicates that truth. In Isaiah 41:17-18 is a glorious promise that really refers to the very same thing as that of which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks. Refreshment and blessing spiritually is for those who put their trust in this Savior that God has provided. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

Then in 43:19-20 of the same book, that of the prophet Isaiah, it is written, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.”

And then again in Isaiah 44:3, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”

One other quotation from the same prophet, “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (58:11). The heart of the believer is pictured there. The very inward being of the believer is as a watered garden with streams flowing out for the blessing of others.

Jeremiah uses the same figure in 31:12, “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.”

And then in that lovely book, the Canticles, the holy of holies of the Old Testament, we have the believer typified by the bride, and pictured as one whose heart is a garden from which the water flows forth: “A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed… A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon” (Song 4:12, 15). It is living water flowing out from the garden for the blessing of others.

And one other Old Testament Scripture: “Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets” (Prov. 5:15-16).

And so in all of these passages, to which many more might be added, we have the thought of the Spirit of God dwelling within the child of God as living water and flowing out in blessing to others.

This refers to the work of the Spirit of God in this present age as well as in the glorious kingdom age. This is clearly indicated in verse 39 of our text, “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The Lord Jesus Christ was pointing on to a time when He was going back to the Father, after being smitten on the cross, when the Holy Spirit was to come in a new sense to take possession of and dwell within all believers, in order that they, by their testimony, might carry refreshment and joy to others. And, dear Christian, how concerned you and I ought to be as to whether we are allowing anything in our lives that is hindering the outflow of living waters. Just as a stream flowing out from a garden might become choked and hindered by stones and rubbish, so may unholy things in our lives choke and hinder the flow of blessing. I am afraid we Christians hinder the outflow by selfishness, by worldliness, by careless behavior, by unjudged sin, etc. All of these things hinder the outflow of the living water. If we have come to Christ, if we are living in the enjoyment of His love, and are not allowing anything to hinder our communion with Him, then indeed we shall be channels of blessing from and through whom the living water shall flow forth constantly.