Do you like waterfalls? I enjoy the sound and vision of water rushing over the top of a dam, whether it’s small, like one at our nearby river, or massive, like Niagara or Victoria Falls. A waterfall generates precisely the opposite feeling as water overflowing from a stopped-up sink or, worse, a toilet. But we can shut off the water in our houses, to stop the water from flowing. And waterfalls can dry up when there is no rain, or when the rain, is filling upstream lakes rather than the catchment area. It’s the same with wells, which fill up when water overflows into them from underground streams. But many wells eventually dry up, particularly shallow ones. The difference between waterfalls and wells is the quality of the water. We don’t care about the quality of the water falling over a ledge, only about its visual and audible beauty. Well water, however, is potable, even if it requires boiling. When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, he used the better well water as a bridge to his greater provision and the blessing of trusting in him. (John 4:7-15) “The woman said to him, ‘Sir…Where do you get that living water?’…Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.'” (John 4:11, 13-15) Jesus offered her “living water,” which never dries up and blesses those who have it overflowing in them.
Holy Spirit, Living Water
The living water of Jesus Christ is the blessed Holy Spirit who is given to us without limit when we are redeemed by his grace. “While we sometimes speak of grace as an inherent quality, it is in reality the active communication of divine blessings by the inworking of the Holy Spirit, out of the fulness of Him who is ‘full of grace and truth’…The word ‘grace’ is [sometimes] used to designate the favour of God as it is manifested in the application of the work of redemption by the Holy Spirit…It is not a mere passive quality, but also an active force, a power, something that labors. In this sense of the word it is something like a synonym for the Holy Spirit, so that there is little difference between ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘full of grace and power’ in Acts 6:5 and 8. The Holy Spirit is called ‘the Spirit of grace’ in Heb. 10:29.” (1) We also learn about the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Old Testament. “And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11) In this context, “God reaffirms his readiness to bless his obedient people…The ruins of Jerusalem in the sixth century BC symbolized the deeper spiritual ruins of long-standing human failure.” (2) Our heavenly Father blesses us through his sovereign choosing of us to know Christ. Jesus blesses us through his atoning sacrifice and victory over death and sin through his resurrection. He continues to bless us by interceding for us, primarily through the work of the blessed Holy Spirit. We are ruins transformed into springs of waters that do not fail. The Holy Spirit graciously provides these rivers of living water from believers’ hearts. We are designed to enjoy and expect the Spirit’s provision of grace to overflow from us to others.
Blessed Omnipresent Spirit
After being redeemed, one of the first psalms I memorized is Psalms 139. There are times when I wish God’s gaze weren’t on me, and perhaps David felt the same way. But usually, the psalm offers us the comfort of knowing that God, being a Spirit, will be with us, wherever we are. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalms 139:7-12) Have you any children who are afraid of darkness? What do they want more than anything when they become frightened? They want you—to know you are there with them to protect and reassure them, to feel your presence. You bless them with your love and concern. Just so, we are blessed by the Spirit’s presence with us when we regret our past failures, become anxious about present trials, or fear future challenges. Most significantly, we want the Spirit’s comfort when we face the deepest darkness of death one day. To know that he is not like the threatening ocean or devastating flood, but a beautiful river or waterfall blesses us with gospel peace. Knowing that the Holy Spirit provides rivers of living water from our hearts motivates us to enjoy his provision of grace to satisfy our longings.
The Spirit’s Overflow From Us to Others
In John 7, at the conclusion of the Feast of Booths, “vessels full of water are carried to be poured out in the temple courts, commemorating God’s quenching Israel’s thirst in the wilderness with water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13).” (3) “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit…” (John 7:37-39) “It is not the fact that we will be satisfied that Christ mentions. It is rather that we will become the means by which others, in addition to ourselves, will be satisfied. This means that to be Christ-centered is not to be self-centered. It is to be others-centered. It is to be made a blessing…no vessel was ever overflowing until it had first been filled…To hear most Christians talk you would think that the sole purpose of Christ’s coming was to save them and to satisfy them…That kind of Christianity—when not balanced by the truth we are considering—produces a shallow, experience-centered, introverted, and eventually selfish approach to life and to those around us. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make you precisely as Christ was in this world. And that means getting outside yourself, getting interested in others, and becoming useful. What would happen if we were each—each one who knows Jesus as his Savior—to become such a blessing? Spurgeon spoke of it back in the nineteenth century, comparing it to the incoming tides on the Thames that lifted the great river barges. When the tide was out nothing could move those barges as they lay in the mud of the river’s bottom. A team of men could not move them. Machinery could never get them moved out to the sea. But then the tide would come, and soon they would be floating. When the tide returned, even a child could move them by his hand.” (4)
“The sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Spirit…flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. There is a fullness in Christ, of grace for grace. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water. (5) The Holy Spirit graciously provides rivers of living water from believers’s hearts, grace to overflow from us to others. Is the waterfall of God’s grace through the blessed Holy Spirit spilling onto others around you, a waterfall of eternal, pure, thirst-quenching love? The blessed Spirit shares his blessings with us to generously share with others. “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart; Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move. Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, And make me love Thee as I ought to love.” (6).
Related Scripture: Psalms 104:30; Proverbs 4:23; Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Luke 1:35; John 4:24; 14:17, 15:26; 16:13-14; 26-27; Romans 8:11, 26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:17-18; Hebrews 2:4; 9:13-14; 2 Peter 1:21.
- Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, pp. 427-8, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 58:10b-12, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- The Reformation Study Bible, John 7:37-38, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” John 7:37-39, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, John 7:37-39, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/john-7.html
- Croly, George, “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart” (Hymn), 1854.
January 27, 2022