Times are tough and refreshing is scarce. Our world is in deep trouble, and we feel the blows and losses. My parents knew worse, but for this generation we might say the ice under foot has never been thinner.
One thing is for sure, if we slog our way through this life with the resources of this world only, we will sink in the mire of despair, anger, resentment, and horrible fear. But we don’t have to.
A few weeks ago, I was reading John’s gospel and found that I was unable to move past the words of Jesus in 7:37 — “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Even now, they call me to the well.
“Jesus”, I prayed, “how do I do this?”
Annual Feasts in the Old Testament helped God’s people remember important events of their history and take to heart their significance. Celebrations had elements and practices designed to turn their thoughts back to God who had saved in the past and would save again, who had promised and would fulfill the promise.
I’ll insert this now: practices that lead us into God’s presence are important. I know and you know that it is impossible to journey through this life in HOPE if we draw our sustenance from this world alone.
One of the celebrations observed annually was the Feast of Tabernacles. Several days were spent remembering the long journey through a literal wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. In that arid place, where they suffered from thirst, God miraculously provided water, sparing their lives.
On each morning of the Feast came the ceremony of the pouring of water, the singing of Psalms and shaking of palm branches in triumph. The visual and the songs were a powerful reminder of what God had done. In John’s gospel we discover what he would do next.
John 7:37-39 takes us to the last and greatest day of this Feast observance. Jesus stands up and in a loud voice he says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
He is turning a page, fulfilling the promise, and giving an extraordinary invitation!
There’s a longing and a vital need in every human being that only God can satisfy. Jesus came to fill that longing to overflowing.
He continues, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” To make sure we understand, John explains: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
The passion of Christ, all the way to his ascension, signals a new opportunity for a new life and a new way to live in an old world. Something extraordinary is now possible for people all over the world — regeneration, the new birth, where God re-creates the inner fallen nature through the gracious action of the Holy Spirit.
Come and drink, says Jesus. How can we respond to his invitation? The key seems to be in a phrase that is often repeated in John: believe and receive.
We’ve become rather good at believing. Our world operates on the increase of knowledge and information. World religions argue their position on doctrine and beliefs. But is it all about the head?
I don’t want to live solely with a set of important beliefs in my back pocket. I want a vibrant relationship with God, and a life nurtured and cared for by the streams of living water that Jesus talks about. I have more than a curious mind. I have a thirsty heart!
An important aspect of discipleship is to receive in the heart what the mind finally believes about God and his wonderful kingdom. This requires attentiveness to the Word and Spirit of God. Unfortunately, this world does not dispose us to do this well. Much of life is doing and doing and doing more. Our daily rhythm is rarely conducive to attentiveness. Yet, it is in this simple practice that we are nourished by God’s Word and strengthened for the long journey.
Here is a place to begin. Let’s fix this simple truth in our minds: We are created with the capacity to receive from God. In this age of increased knowledge, we can be caught up in the accumulation of facts and information. But knowledge and facts are not enough; we need practices that help us believe and receive, practices that satisfy the inner thirst.
A simple first step is to take time regularly through the week to sit quietly with the Word of God and read a short portion of Scripture that we can quietly ponder through the day as we go about our busy lives. That’s very different from reading to gather information. Let’s call this our R&R — Reading to Receive.
In many places of the New Testament, the Word of God is presented as seed. The image speaks volumes. Think about it: a seed that is planted will bear much more fruit than its humble appearance would suggest. Jesus says it can bear fruit up to a hundred times what was sown. The simple practice of sitting with God’s Word to receive, plants that life-giving seed in the soil of our hearts, the place of our believing.
Approaching the biblical text in this way helps us connect with the great Someone of the Bible, not simply discover something in the Bible. Studying is important and has its place, but we will forget information and facts. What we receive in our hearts will naturally speak to us for a long time.
The process of receiving is gentle and humble. Here, the main thing is to listen and yield to the Voice of God in Scripture. Remember that the soil receives the seed, it does not analyse the seed. When we receive the Word, we find that we carry it in our hearts all day long and that God speaks to us through it as we encounter people and events.
June 5th is Pentecost Sunday. We will remember the giving of God’s Spirit promised in John 7 and reflect on its significance. As it was with the Feasts of the Old Testament, this day of commemoration is a great opportunity to pause from our business and turn our thoughts to God, even think about our troubles and waiting hopes in light of the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives. Yes? Yes!
In this dry and weary land, as David wrote in Psalm 63, my soul thirst for the streams of living water that nourish the new life that God gives. Perhaps one of the very good things we can do for ourselves on this long pilgrimage to the Eternal Dwelling, is to be often with Jesus and his Word simply to believe it and receive it inwardly.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” He stood among the throng of pilgrims to be seen. He spoke in a loud voice to be heard. Are we listening? And what of the multitudes? This word is for them too. They need what we need. When I read these words of Jesus, I’m signing up because I’m thirsty. I also remember that the multitudes around me need to hear about Jesus and his offer of Life. Let’s go to Jesus often to receive from him.
Let’s go to others regularly to tell them about Jesus and what he offers. Yes? Yes!