We are continuing our study through this Fourth Gospel that was primarily written for the purpose of bringing men to faith in Christ:
but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB
When someone is interested in spiritual things they are often told from those within the Church to read the Fourth Gospel because its purpose is to reveal Yeshua as the Christ.
We are currently in chapter 7 of the Fourth Gospel. Let me ask you a few questions to set the context here. The events of chapter 7 take place where? The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. What is happening at the Temple? It is the seven day Feast of Tabernacles.
So the context, the setting of John 7 and 8 is Yeshua's visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Understanding some of the rituals of the Feast of Tabernacles in Yeshua's time gives us important background material for understanding our text.
The Jews had held the Feast of Tabernacles in special esteem for almost a thousand years when the events of our text took place. In 1 Kings 8:2 we see that the dedication of Solomon's Temple (approximately 960 B.C.) took place in conjunction with the Feast of the Tabernacles. For that reason the Jews, even in Yeshua's time, saw a special connection between the Temple and the Feast of Tabernacles.
Zechariah 14:17 warns that rain will be withheld if Tabernacles is not properly celebrated:
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. Zechariah 14:16-17 NASB
Here we see that Tabernacles, the King, and rain are all connected. In a land where water was scarce, a very dry land, water was a great commodity to express the work of salvation. The Tanakh uses "living water" as a metaphor for Yahweh.
Tabernacles is the seventh feast on the seventh month, and it was to last for seven days. The number "seven" is the Biblical number of completion. This is the grand finale in God's plan of redemption; which is Yahweh dwelling with His people.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the most joyful and festive of all Israel's feasts. It is also the most important and prominent feast, which is mentioned more often in Scripture than any of the other feasts. It was referred to simply as "the holiday" by the ancient rabbis.
Each morning during the Feast of Tabernacles a water libation (sacrificial pouring out water) was offered to Yahweh. The pouring out of water represented God's provision of water in the wilderness in the past: the water from the Rock, and His provision of refreshment and cleansing in the Messianic Age. The Jews regarded God's provision of water in the wilderness, and rain in the land, as harbingers of His great blessings on the nation under Messiah's reign. Thus the water rite in the Feast of Tabernacles had strong Messianic connotations. This ritual was a symbolic, prophetic prayer for the coming of the Messiah who would be the source of God's blessings.
Shortly after dawn each morning, while the many sacrifices were being prepared, the high priest was accompanied by a joyous procession of music and worshipers down to the Pool of Siloam. The high priest carried a golden pitcher capable of holding a little more than a quart of water. He carefully dipped the pitcher into the pool and brought it back to the Temple Mount (Mishnah: Sukkah, 4:9B). This was intended to represent the water from the rock that flowed when Moses struck it as they were passing through the wilderness.
The Siloam Pool is fed by the Gihon Spring, which is the only source of water for the entire city of Jerusalem. Does the name "Gihon" ring a bell? It is the name of one of the rivers that flowed out of Eden to nourish the earth (Genesis 2:13).
At the same time, another procession went down to a nearby location south of Jerusalem, known as Motza, where willows of the brook grew in great abundance. They gathered the long, thin willows and brought them back to the Temple. At the Temple, the willows were placed on the sides of the altar so that their tops formed a canopy of drooping branches over the altar. Meanwhile the high priest with the water from the Pool of Siloam had reached the southern gate of the Temple. It was known as the WATER GATE because of this ceremony. As he entered, three blasts of the silver trumpets sounded outside the Temple, and the priests with one voice repeated the words of Isaiah:
Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation. Isaiah 12:3 NASB
The word "salvation" here is the Hebrew word yeshua. The high priest slowly proceeded then to the stone altar in the Inner Court of the Temple and ascended the right side of the ramp. At the peak, he turned to the left where there were two silver basins which drained to the base of the altar. One was reserved for the regular drink offerings (libations of wine), and one for the water libations during this feast. As the high priest raised the golden pitcher to pour out the water offering, the people shouted, "Raise your hand!" In response, the high priest lifted his hand higher and poured, allowing the people to verify his action.
As the high priest poured out the water libation before Yahweh, a drink offering of wine was simultaneously poured into the other basin. Three blasts of the silver trumpets immediately followed the pouring and signaled the start of the Temple music.
On the seventh and final day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Temple services reached a climax. The anticipation of rain was at its annual high. Jewish tradition held that it was on this day that God declared whether there would be rain for the coming year's crops. Consequently, on this final day of the Feast, the Temple water-pouring ritual took on great importance. Water was the foremost thought on every one's mind.
Water was a symbol of this feast in memory of the water miracles that manifested God's protection and care in the wilderness: the parting of the Red Sea; the life-giving water that came from the Rock(Exodus 17, Numbers 20) in the desert wilderness journey; the miraculous water from the "Rock" that saved the people and their flocks of animals for 40 years. It was part of the oral tradition of the Israelites that the "Rock" followed them on their journey to salvation in the Promised Land.
What does Paul teach us about the Rock that gave life-sustaining water during the desert wandering of the children of Israel?
and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 NASB
Christ is the Rock that physically nourished the children of Israel with life-giving water!
Many passages from the Tanakh about water were read during the liturgical ceremonies of the week long feast in association with the "Celebration of Water Libation"(in Hebrew, Simchat Bet Hasho'ayva), which according to the Mishnah: Sukkah 4.1C was a part of the liturgical service on seven days of the festival.
It is in this setting of Messianic expectation that Yeshua makes His declaration: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink."
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Yeshua stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:37-38 NASB
"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast"—scholars debate whether Lazarus is writing about day 7 or day 8. Jewish scholars in the 1st century A.D. as well as modern scholars have always identified day 7 as the most important day of the feast. The 8th day, which is a Sacred Assembly of the covenant people is more a day of rest. According to Mishnah Sukkah 4.1 the ceremonies with water and lights did not continue after the seventh day.
As the rituals of the 7th day, the great day began, water, the gift necessary for life, was the most important thought on the minds of the worshipers. During the past 6 days the trumpets gave three blasts to announce the beginning of the ceremony, but today they would give three sets of seven blasts. During the past 6 days the priests made only one circuit around the great altar, but on this day the priests will make 7 circuits. Why? To commemorate the march around the city of Jericho because that spelled the end of the wilderness wandering.
Then all the people would join the Levitical Choir in singing the Hallel, Psalms 118. If we could some how be transported back to this feast, knowing what we know, and hear the people singing these last verses of Psalm 118, verses 22-29, that would cause a chill to run through your spine as the assembly sang the very significantly prophetic phrase:
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalms 118:22-29 NASB
It is at this moment the crowd of worshipers becomes aware of the young Rabbi from the Galilee when He stands up and shouts: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"
Normally rabbis sat when they taught. Therefore His standing position, as well as His shouting, ("cried out" here is krazo a strong word for yelling at the top of his voice)
stressed the importance of what He said. He was claiming to be the fulfillment of all that the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated. He announced that He was the One who could provide Messianic blessing, that He was the Messiah. He was saying in effect, "All of these things that you celebrate in the Feast of Tabernacles find their fulfillment in me." "If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me and drink"—who does Yeshua invite to come to Him and drink? Does He say, "Everyone come to me and drink." No, this call is for the thirsty. "If anyone is thirsty" is a third class condition. It suggests that some may not thirst. What is thirst? It's a feeling or needing or wanting to drink something. So those who have a need or desire to drink are to come to Yeshua and drink.
Who are the thirsty? Hint: remember the context, what did we learn in chapter 6?:
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 NASB
We could put it this way: "No one can come to Me and drink unless the Father who sent Me gives him a thirst." The thirsty are those that chapter 6 says are: "given of the Father," those "drawn by the Father," those who are the "called" and "chosen." How thirsty are dead men? Thirst is a sign of life and life comes from Yahweh. "Thirst," is the knowledge of a problem. And those who realize the problem are to:
"Come to Me and drink"—what does it mean to come to Yeshua and drink? Well again, as He did in the 6th chapter, He defines His coming. It is believing, So to come to Him is to believe in Him. To believe in Him is to come to Him. Coming and drinking Yeshua is what happens when we believe. It's what believe means. That's what drinking of Yeshua means, as the parallel comment in verse 38 makes clear: "He who believes in Me …."
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:38 NASB
What is Yeshua claiming to be here? He's claiming to be the true Rock of the wilderness wondering. As you read through this Fourth Gospel you see over and over that Yeshua claims to be the fulfillment of the Old Covenant things and events. In chapter 2 He claimed to be the True Temple. In chapter 3 He claimed to be the True Brazen Serpent. In chapter 6 He claimed to be the True Bread from Heaven, or the True Manna. In chapter 7 here He claims to be the True Rock. In chapter 8 the Light of the World, He claims to be theTtrue Light giving cloud by which Israel was guided through the wilderness. Yeshua is the "true" culmination of the Old Covenant institutions, objects, ceremonies, and events which foreshadowed Him.
Verse 38 has been the subject of debate and discussion among scholars for centuries. There are two basic problems: what passage of Scripture is cited since Yeshua says: "as the Scripture says." The second problem is Who is the source of the water? Is the source Yeshua or the believer?
"As the Scripture said"—to which Biblical passage is Yeshua referring when He says, "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water"? The problem is that these words do not exactly quote any one particular passage in either the Hebrew Tanakh or in the Greek Septuagint translation. Yeshua may have phrased it this way because He wanted us to think of several different passages that are relevant which reference flowing streams of spiritual water. The Bible speaks many times of spiritual life giving water. It's like we might say, "The Bible says that we're justified not by the works that we do, but by faith in the Lord Yeshua." Well those precise words may not be found, but that's the teaching of the Word of God.
"From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water"—who is the antecedent of "his innermost being"? Scholars are divided on this, but it is probably the believer rather than Yeshua. This does not mean that Yeshua was saying that the believer was the source of the living water. The "living water" is a reference to the Holy Spirit elsewhere in this Gospel, and it is Yeshua Who pours out the Spirit as living water:
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." John 4:14 NASB
Yeshua also speaks here of the living water "springing up within" the believer.
When we come to the Lord Yeshua and believe in Him we are united to Him. Paul will develop this teaching about the union of the believer with Christ. And we learn from this that when we come to Him and we are united to Him the life of Christ flows out through us, and so we do become the source of rivers of living water as the channels of the Lord Yeshua Himself. And so from our "innermost being will flow rivers of living water." The living water is the divine gift, but it is channeled through the believers to the world.
"Living water"—the word "living" is from the Greek word zoe, which means: "life or to live." The "living water" that Yeshua promised has two meanings. Literally, it refers to flowing water in contrast to stagnant water. Metaphorically, it refers to the cleansing grace that the Holy Spirit brings. Just as in His encounter with Nicodemus, Yeshua uses common words and expressions to express a deeper teaching.
The Tanakh used "water" to symbolize teaching or doctrine, and "living water" as a metaphor for Yahweh:
"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 NASB
They have rejected the fresh, running supply of God's faithful goodness, choosing instead the stagnant waters of cisterns they themselves prepared:
O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. Jeremiah 17:13 NASB
Both of these verses refer to Yahweh as "living water." Zechariah 14:8 speaks of living waters flowing out of Jerusalem in the day of the Messiah. Ezekiel 47 speaks of water flowing out of the Temple that brought life in the desert:
"It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 NASB
The Greek phrase, "living water," might also be translated: "water of living," or "water of life." Yeshua is speaking of "living water," which here is "spiritual life" given by the Spirit.
The water in Ezekiel 47 which would flow from beneath the Temple would now flow from Yeshua, the New Temple. From now on the center and source of the world's life was no longer the Temple of Jerusalem, but Yeshua Himself, the New Temple. In both the Ezekiel passage and in Revelation the river is flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb which is, of course, the Temple. As we are told in Revelation, the Temple of the New Jerusalem is in fact God and Christ the Lamb! The inexhaustible Mosaic supply of life-giving water in the wilderness could now be found in Yeshua, the Rock.
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:39 NASB
"But this He spoke of the Spirit"—in other words, "Rivers of Living Water" is a reference to the ministries of the Holy Spirit.
"Whom those who believed in Him were to receive"—they were to receive the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost at the birth of the Church. This includes all subsequent believers of the Church Age, in addition to the believers on the Day of Pentecost.
"For the Spirit was not yet given"—the King James Version and the New American Standard Version both place "given" in italics indicating that it was not original to the text. The oldest and best manuscripts do not contain the word "given." They literally say, "The Holy Spirit was not yet." This is expressed from a human standpoint and has nothing to do with the preexistence of the Third Person of the Godhead. As early as Genesis 1:2 we meet the Holy Spirit, moving over the waters in creation.
"The Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified"—the New Covenant ministry of the Spirit in dwelling believers began at Pentecost after Christ was glorified.
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John 16:7 NASB
On the Day of Pentecost, they all were baptized with the Spirit who came on them with power:
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Acts 1:4-5 NASB
There are people, as you know, who teach that a person does not receive the Holy Spirit when he believes. He receives the forgiveness of sins, but later on at a moment of self-surrender, a moment of praying through, he receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace. But Lazarus says here that, "this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive." This tells us very plainly that when a man believes in the Lord Yeshua he receives the Holy Spirit. Paul said:
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. Romans 8:9 NASB
If you don't have the Holy Spirit, you are not a believer. All believers are baptized in the Spirit:
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NASB
So since Pentecost everyone who trusts in Christ receives the Holy Spirit. All believers have rivers of Living Water flowing from the innermost being. Is it evident in you?
Now Lazarus gives us the response of the people:
Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, "This certainly is the Prophet." John 7:40 NASB
This is referring to the Prophet that Moses had written about in Deuteronomy 18:
"The LORD said to me, 'They have spoken well. 'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 'It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. Deuteronomy 18:17-19 NASB
So if they thought he was the Prophet they better be listening to his words:
Others were saying, "This is the Christ." Still others were saying, "Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" John 7:41-42 NASB
So some of the people believe that He was the promised Messiah. Remember this is why this book was written, "that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."
Others were saying, This can't be the Christ. The people knew the prophecy that the Messiah will come from King David's lineage and they knew Micah's prophecy of the Messiah's birth in Bethlehem and so they are confused about His origins. He is supposed to be a Judean not a Galilean.
Verse 42 could be another illustration of Lazarus' irony, because Yeshua was born in Bethlehem. The very passage that convinced His critics that He could not be the Messiah was one of the strongest to prove that He was. Maybe theyt should have asked Yeshua where He was born:
So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. John 7:43 NASB
When Yeshua was born, the old man Simeon said to his mother:
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— Luke 2:34 NASB
And Yeshua confirmed this destiny when He said:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 NASB
And He meant just what we are seeing in this text. It was true then and it's true today Yeshua divides people. It's what we believe about Yeshua that causes division. The truth always divides.
Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. John 7:44 NASB
This is the third time in this chapter they wanted to seize Him, or arrest Him, but they can't. It's in verse 30, "They wanted to seize Him." It's in verse 32, "They sent officers to seize Him." They can't do it because it isn't time yet for Him to go. They wanted to arrest Him but no one did. Because God didn't want them to and God's wants trumps your want every time.
The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, "Why did you not bring Him?" John 7:45 NASB
The Temple Police were sent to arrest Yeshua, and they returned empty handed. Remember this return of the Temple Guard is on the last day of the feast (verse 37). Verse 32 indicates they were sent out in the middle of the feast, at least three days earlier. The Temple Guards had been sent to arrest Yeshua, but had spent some time listening to Him, and had returned empty handed. It seems that the Temple Guards were so "taken" by Yeshua's teaching that they just forgot to arrest Him:
The officers answered, "Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks." John 7:46 NASB
The officers replied that no man (Gr. anthropos, emphatic in the Greek text) had ever spoken as Yeshua did. And that is because Yeshua is not merely a human being, but the Incarnate Word (1:14).
These guards were really taken by what Yeshua said. They didn't even try to hide it. They readily admit that they had failed in their mission. But remember these were not hardened Roman soldiers who carried out their orders as automatons. They were Levites whose interests were mainly religious. Their statement is another witness to the true identity of Yeshua:
The Pharisees then answered them, "You have not also been led astray, have you? "No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? John 7:47-48 NASB
They implied that all the leaders without exception believed that Yeshua was a deceiver, but that was not true. Nicodemus had already privately voiced his belief that Yeshua was a teacher who had come from God (3:2).
This is another example of what is called Johannine irony. The statement might have been true at the historical point of this conversation. However, the readers of this Gospel would surely know that several rulers and Pharisees had come to believe in Yeshua after "His glorification." Paul, the Pharisee, is the example best known to us. However, Acts 6:7 and 15:5 also speak of priests and Pharisees who believed.
"But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed." John 7:49 NASB
There is considerable evidence that the Pharisees considered themselves superior to the common people who could not and did not devote their lives to study of the Law. They called these common people, "the people of the land" (am ha-aretz in Hebrew). Among the rabbis "the people of the land" always refers to the people who do not know the Law, i.e. the Law of Moses both as it is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and as it was thought to be preserved in oral tradition.
Rabbi Meir said, "If anyone has learned the Scripture and the Mishnah but has not served as a student of the Learned he is one of the people of the land." Even the more liberally-minded Rabbi Hillel, a generation before Christ, insisted, "A brutish man does not fear sin, and no people of the land ['am h're?] is pious" (Pirke Aboth 2:6).
These self righteous hypocrites looked down on and despised the people they were supposed to be shepherding. If someone calls you a Pharisee it's not a complement.
The Gospels imply that Yeshua directed much of His ministry to the am ha-aretz and that the Scribes and Pharisees were infuriated by it.
Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, "Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?" John 7:50-51 NASB
It's ironic that Nicodemus' question reflects the command of Yeshua in John 7:24 not to judge by appearance but by a righteous standard. If they would have just asked Yeshua where He was born it could have cleared up some things for them. Their judgment was based upon their jealousy, not on the Scripture.
The rabbis taught, "Unless a mortal hears the pleas that a man can put forward, he is not able to give judgment" (Exodus Rabbah 21:3).
They answered him, "You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee." John 7:52 NASB
Unable to refute the logic of Nicodemus' argument, they attacked his person—an old debating tactic designed to win an argument, but not necessarily to arrive at the truth. The Pharisees contemptuously charge Nicodemus with being a Galilean—a major insult for a Judean. So they mock one of their own, one of their own elite Sanhedrin members. They mock him. These guys are sick.
"Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee"—this is not true! Jonah had been from Gathhepher, in Galilee (2 Kings 14:25). Also Hosea, Nahum, possibly also Elijah, Elisha, and Amos were from Galilee. So they may have been saying that "the prophet" does not come from Galilee. Or in the heat of anger the members of the Sanhedrin overlooked the facts. Or the Sanhedrin didn't know Scripture as well as they thought!
The Babylonian Talmud later stated, "There was not a tribe in Israel from which there did not come prophets"(B. Sukkah 27b).
They made two errors. Jonah was from Galilee. And secondly, Yeshua was not. He was from Bethlehem of Judea. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh. He was the Messianic King as prophesied by the Tanakh, but they were so disinterested because they'd already made up their minds that they never even bothered to ask Him, "Where were you born?"
Notice how our author Lazarus closes the Revelation:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:17 NASB
This is a call to salvation! Would you agree with that? But this is Revelation 22 which speaks about the New Heavens and the New Earth. Dispensationalism teaches that the New Heavens and the New Earth are the eternal state. If that is true, why is the invitation to salvation still going out? The invitation is still going out because the New Heaven and Earth is the New Covenant, which is the Church. And from the Church goes forth the "Water of Life" for the healing of the nations.
We are now living in the New Heaven and Earth. We are the New Jerusalem, which is the body of Christ. Yeshua and His Father are among us, and we need no Temple; we need none of the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Heaven and the Old Earth. We are in God's presence now and forevermore. And from our "innermost being flows rivers of living water." I pray that the work of the Spirit in our lives is obvious to any who come in contact with us.