Bible Study Series: Holy Spirit - Roles, Types and Imagery
Holy Spirit: Fruitfulness through the living water
by I Gordon
Do you like water? I'm sure you do because you have been hording it for those rainless days now haven't you? Before you say 'Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Willis?' I'm talking about your body. That's right, around 60% of your body is H2O. So if I say that you and camels share some things in common please don't be offended. And from what the scientists tell us you may be hording a good amount in that brain of yours for it is made up of 75% water. (Sometimes I feel like mine is 95% water but that's another matter!) Just as we saw in the previous message that wind is essential for the functioning of this planet, so is water to the body. One site said that it 'regulates the temperature of the human body, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, protects organs and tissues, and removes wastes.' You can live over a month without food but only a week without water. In fact every cell in your body, all 37.2 trillion of them at the last count, require water to operate properly. And get this - because of the water life cycle with evaporation, condensation, precipitation (and a few other 'ations' ) you could be drinking the same water Jesus did 2000 years ago. Simply put, water is essential for all life - human, animal and vegetable. It is essential for all growth and fruitfulness.
So... why talk about water? It is because water and especially flowing water like a river, is a picture of the Holy Spirit. As essential as water is for the human body to operate naturally, so the Holy Spirit is for the believer to operate spiritually. Jesus said so.
So what are we doing today? Well, we are going to explore the following:
- We'll start with how Jesus linked the water, the living water, with the Holy Spirit.
- We'll explore the types of the river of life from the first book of the Bible, to the last... and every book in between. Well, maybe not every book. But at least two. I know you are a very busy person!
- We'll finally zero in on a passage in Jeremiah about the fruitfulness that comes when our roots have access to this river of life.
So let's begin with what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit and the river of living waters.
Joh 7:37-39 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. (38) "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (39) But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Jesus stood and cried out on the last day of the feast. So what feast was that and why did he speak of rivers of living water on this day? Is there a connection between the day He said this and what He said? You know there is!
The Jews had a ceremony of carrying water from the Pool of Siloam and pouring it into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering for each of the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day, this was not done, which made Christ's offer of the water of eternal life even more startling. The Jewish people had gone through this religious observance, and yet their hearts were not satisfied because they had not truly understood the deep meaning of the feast. Just before they departed for their homes, on the last day, that great day of the feast Jesus stood and cried out to them. He invited them to come to Him for spiritual satisfaction.
William MacDonald, The Believers Bible Commentary
As the Priests poured out the water the crowds would yell out from Psalm 118: 'O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!' (Psa 118:25) The rabbis at the time knew and taught that the pouring out of water during this feast was symbolic of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which will come upon Israel in the last days. And this is true for the feast of tabernacles1 points to the coming day in the Messianic Kingdom when Jesus dwells (tabernacles) with His people, from Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit is poured out without measure. It was into this dramatic scene that Jesus rose and spoke to the crowds. Jesus knew that the living water would soon be available for all who desired to drink. Let's just briefly comment on what Jesus said:
- If anyone is thirsty - Jesus contrasted our natural need for water with our spiritual thirst. Everyone get thirsty naturally and there should be a spiritual thirst within us as well for reality, truth and purpose that is found only in Jesus. As Blaise Pascal famously said 'There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.' The invitation here is given to 'anyone' but they must see their need. There must first be a thirst or desire for spiritual reality that needs to be quenched.
- Let him come to Me and drink - Spiritual thirst can only be truly quenched in Jesus. All other religions and spiritual paths leaves one still empty. All must come to Jesus Himself. Not rules. Not religion. Not some church programs. Jesus said come to Me and drink. This applies to the believer as well as the unbeliever. Sometimes as believers we get back into the routine of 'Churchianity' with its services and programs and forget that it is coming to Jesus that is the most important. In the day of Jeremiah God rebuked his people saying 'My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.' (Jer 2:13) In other words they had replaced the reality with the ritual and their relationship with God with religion. They were trying to get their water from a broken cistern when God Himself offered springs of living water!
- From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water - For those that believed and accepted Jesus, there would be a living source of this water that would come from within. This obviously pictures the Holy Spirit that would dwell within the believer giving that person a inner source of strength and peace that was unseen to those looking on. And because God's nature is always to give, the overflowing of this inner spiritual water would proceed outward to help others.
Pictures of the river of living water
Now what Jesus said as a reality was pictured and prophesied about in various passages in the Bible. Let's have a look at a few of the more prominent cases where a river pictured the flow of living waters that Jesus mentioned. Do you know what the first mention of a river in scripture is? We have to go right back to the beginning.
First mention of a river - It watered Eden from within
Gen 2:8-14 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. (9) And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (10) A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. (11) The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.2 (12) (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) (13) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. (14) The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The first mention of a river is associated with the garden of Eden itself - the garden that God planted in all it's perfection. An interesting point is that the river actually flowed out from within Eden. The word Eden means 'pleasure / delight' and its source of beauty and fruitfulness was this river from deep within. John MacArthur writes on this:
That is to say "the source," which likely refers to some great spring gushing up inside the garden from a subterranean reservoir. There was no rain at that time.
I hope you can see how this pictures the Holy Spirit who was to be living waters within the believer as Jesus said. Just as this flowing river provided all that Eden required for beauty and fruitfulness, so does the flowing of the Spirit from deep within the believer today. There was a hidden spring of water within Eden just as there is within the believer in this age. Now the river split into four (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and the Euphrates) and a couple of the names are of note. According to Dr. Hitchcock's book on Bible Names Gihon means 'valley of grace' and Euphrates means 'fruitfulness'. Certainly as Adam and Eve lived in this perfect environment, with the grace, provision and presence of God, there was fruitfulness and complete peace. Eden, and man, was a pleasure and delight.
The garden contained the Tree of Life which, if Adam and Eve had partaken of it, they would have lived forever. This tree pictured the Lord Jesus Himself who is the way, the truth and the life. And all who partake of Him will gain eternal life! And as we have seen the fruitfulness and beauty of this garden was due to a river that watered this garden keeping it well hydrated. All was well... until they decided to eat of that other tree - instead of life they chose to go there own way following the serpents promise that they would be like God if they only ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The effects of that decision affect us all still today... and every day! So for now just note that this first river that flowed out of Eden, which had its source within Eden and watered the garden of Eden, pictures the life giving water of the Holy Spirit within the believer today who is our only source of life, beauty and fruitfulness. We'll see this theme more as we carry on... including at the very end of the last book in the Bible where the gold and gems, the Tree of life, and the river of God are all seen and experienced again!
Water from the Rock
Another famous and important passage concerning the rivers of flowing water comes in the Exodus. No doubt you remember the story:
Exo 17:1-6 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.,, Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." (5) The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. (6) I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Lucky Moses aye? Everyone is moaning at him. You see there is no water and having seen how our whole body requires water, it's a moan from necessity! So the Lord instructs Moses to do something odd. Strike the rock, the Lord says and water will come out for the people to drink. Now in case you have in your mind a picture of a little water dribbling out of a little rock, firstly remember that there were over 600,000 men that came out in the exodus (Ex 21:37) and also consider what the Psalms say about the water that came out of this rock:
Psa 78:15-16 He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; (16) he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
Psa 105:41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert.
As a side but important note, this rock has been found and it is incredible. It is huge!3 Rivers of water flowed from it, even smoothing the surrounding rocky areas (as seen in the video) to satisfy the needs of all the people. Now when God gets someone to do something odd, you can be sure that there is always a reason! And this incident is an amazing picture and type of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and you and I. Remember that Paul tells us that 'they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.' (1 Cor 10:4 )
- The rock - This pictures the true Rock, the Lord Jesus who was struck for you and I.4
- Moses - Moses is a picture of you are I for we all struck the true Rock. We all played a part in nailing Him to a tree for He died for all our our sins. He was struck by us and for us.
- The water - This pictures the Holy Spirit, the living water, that poured forth into the hearts of believers after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Just as this water reinvigorated and quenched the thirst of the Israelites so the Holy Spirit does the same for believers from within.
Prophetic rivers still to come!
Now the river of God, picturing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is also to be seen in unique ways in the coming age. Firstly we read of what will happen in the days of the King - when Messiah Jesus rules over planet Earth from Jerusalem. We read in the great prophecy:
Zec 14:8-9 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. (9) The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
Zechariah spoke of a coming day when living water would flow from Jerusalem. As Gaebelein states about this living water:
This must be interpreted as a literal fact, and likewise as a symbol of the great spiritual blessings.
A.C Gaebelein, Annotated Bible
The amazing thing is that day is close! And we can never forget that the last chapter in the Bible starts with the ultimate fulfilment of what was first seen at the start of Genesis. The tree of life and the river of life are seen and available once again.
Rev 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (2) down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
I love how it speaks of the river of the water of life being as clear as crystal, flowing straight from the throne of God! What image does water as clear as crystal give? It speaks of utter purity without any containments. Just crystal clear goodness. That is a picture of the Holy Spirit again. Pure and holy. Utter goodness. No mixture.
As an illustration, many of you will know that I live in New Zealand. For the last 20 years of so we've had had a marketing/advertising slogan for our country of '100% Pure New Zealand'. It is used for tourism and emphasizes the beauty of our mountains, glaciers, rivers, forests and beaches etc. And this is a beautiful country... no doubt. If you have seen the Lord of the Rings movies then you will know what I mean. And no, I'm not talking about the orcs. Nor do we all look like hobbits here. Let me say quite clearly that that is false rumour. Some of us do, but definitely not all. Anyway, the fact is that though they call it 100% Pure New Zealand we can't live up to it! We have a lot of sheep, dairy and beef farms in New Zealand and the run off from fertilizers, nitrogen and well, cows doing cow business, into the rivers and waterways has caused quite a pollution issue in rural areas. Not sure if it would be as effective but maybe we should change our slogan to 40% Pure New Zealand!
In contrast, the river of life in the age to come will be the real McCoy! It's not 100% Pure New Zealand. It's 100% Pure New Jerusalem. It's 100% Pure New Heaven. It's 100% Pure New Earth. And it's 100% Pure Holy Spirit goodness in every way that is coming for believers. For the weary soul tired of living in a corrupted world in a corrupted body, with desires for good... yet with mixed results... this is certain hope in uncertain times!
Application - Fruitfulness & the hidden waters
So we have seen from both Genesis and Revelation that the river of life is related to fruitfulness, beauty and life. Eden was a pleasure and a delight because it was watered by an underground spring outflowing to a river. Revelation gives us a glimpse of the age to come where the river of life will feed the tree of life and this will produce fruit, both literal and spiritual, every month of the year. These waters are directly related to fruit. But what about today? Didn't we start with Jesus saying that believers would receive the Holy Spirit and that from their 'innermost being will flow rivers of living water'? Yes we did. Christians all want to be fruitful but how? The Holy Spirit was given so that we may have life and fruitfulness once again. There is one last passage in the Old Testament that I'd like to look at for it shows the difference between being barren and being fruitful - even in difficult conditions.
Jer 17:5-8 Thus says the Lord: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. (6) For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. (7) "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. (8) For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
This passage contrasts two men.
- The first trusts in himself and fellow men for the answers and tries to reach his goal from his own human strength and resources. This leads to a curse with the result looking something like a dry bush in the desert. This one has much to fear.
- The second doesn't trust in himself or his own resources. He trusts in the Lord and places his hope in God. The leads to a blessing with the result looking like a tree planted by the waters. This one will not fear even when the dry times of drought come. He will continue to yield fruit through this hidden, unseen, source of supply.
For the one who trusts the Lord, there is a hidden source of life giving water inwardly available, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, even when times of drought come outwardly. In the language of the New Testament this is 'abiding in the vine'. It is being fed through the life of the vine. You will remember that Jesus said that we will be fruitful as long as we abide in Him and without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). But our hearts like to deceive us and think that we can do it. When you start your Christian life you realise that you are but a babe in Christ and that you need Him 100%. Then as you learn and grow you start to think that you can handle things. Your heart starts to tell you that you can do lots of things now on your own... that you've got this Christian life sussed and can produce the goods. Maybe you start to think that you only really need the Lord 20% of the time now, just in the tough times. It reminds me of Corrie Ten Boom's quote that says a lot (in a few words) about dependence upon God. She asks "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?" In other words is it something that you daily rely on for direction or just keep locked away for emergencies? While we wouldn't verbalize it like this, maybe you start to wonder if your maturity is at such a level that you are totally fine now by yourself. You're older... you can handle everything that comes your way. Is that a sign of Christian maturity? Is that a good heart that will produce fruit? Or does that sound more like the first man in the passage above that ended up looking like a dry bush in dry ground? Look at the next verse of our passage in Jeremiah:
Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (10) I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
The heart deceives because it tells us we can be something... without God. That is obviously the lie right from the beginning. It tells us that when Jesus said we can do nothing without Him, well... that can't be right! And so the Lord tests the heart and mind. Why test a deceitful heart you say? What is He hoping to find in such a heart? Well there is something that He looks for and is still critical. He looks for a heart that realizes that without Him I am nothing and one that knows that fruit only comes through being linked to Him. Paul wrote:
Rom 7:4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
I've said it before and I'll say it again... We are called to a person. Not a religion. Not legalism. We are called and committed to Him... Jesus, and to all that He has for us specifically in order that we might bear fruit to God. It is the only way to bear fruit. And what will that fruit look like? Well, like the gifts of the Spirit there is both common and specific fruit. Fruit that is common to all is the fruit of the Holy Spirit manifesting through your life. The Bible lists this as 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.' But there will also be specific fruit that God has planned for your life.5 And this will generally involve giving to others for God's heart is always for people. Just as the living water is flowing water, so the Spirit inputs into our life so that it can flow through us towards others. So stay in fellowship with the Lord. Enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and thank God for the gift of His Spirit. Realise that no tree can produce anything from 'trying harder'. A plum tree doesn't have to strain to produce a plum. It does it normally and naturally as long as it's roots have good access to food and water. And, as we have seen above, the tree that is planted by the waters will produce even when the heat comes.
This week my Mum and I went to see an old friend who is dying of cancer and had previously, five months ago, been given only two months to live. The cancer is taking its toll and she is currently only 36 kg. Before going I wasn't sure how she would be. Would she be bed ridden? Would she be In pain like she had been? Would she have hope and peace in the Lord? What could I say that could encourage her? I thought about these things before leaving. Let me just say I came away from seeing her amazed. I didn't need to encourage her (though I tried anyway) because she encouraged me! The Lord is totally upholding her even in the midst of the greatest test of her life. There are hidden rivers within of living water that she has access to that are sustaining her in the most difficult of days.
I came away so thankful to the Lord. This is not to say there haven't been, and won't be, trying times. The heat is definitely on... but there was no fear. The drought has come, but the leaf remains green. She is letting everyone know that comes into her home what the source of her strength is! She is such a great witness to the difference that Jesus and the precious Holy Spirit make even in the worst of times! She even reminded me of an experience she had when she first became a Christian where the Lord spoke clearly to her saying 'do not be afraid Christine'. That was around 30 years ago and she is still living that out now even in the midst of this hideous sickness. I always liked this because everyone knows her as Chris. Only her parents call her Christine so it is fitting that her Heavenly Father used that name! Christine means 'follower of Christ'. Do not be afraid follower of Christ. That is a message to all of us. The world doesn't have access to this river of life within, but believers do. And that makes the difference if we would but trust.
We have focused on several passages that speak of the river of living water in scripture. We've seen that the garden of Eden in Genesis was abundant because it was watered from an inner spring - and Christians are the same. We saw that there was a river of water which came from the struck rock in Exodus - picturing the giving of the Holy Spirit after Christ was struck for us. We've seen that in the very last chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the river of life is seen again and shall be a reality for believers in the age to come. All through scripture points to this living water that produces life and fruit. It produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It produces fruit that will abide for all eternity. And how? Well we saw that our trust has to be in the Lord. Our roots must go down into the living waters. In and of ourselves we don't have what it takes to produce lasting spiritual fruit... but never forget that God is a master at it and as we abide in Him we shall bear lasting fruit.