(1) We begin with the context of Jesus' great invitation -
(a) the Feast of Tabernacles;
(b) the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures.
(a) The Feast of Tabernacles
(i) Its historical significance
It reminded the people of Israel that they had been wanderers in the desert, dependent on the grace and mercy of God to provide for them in their need.
(ii) Its agricultural significance
It was a Harvest Thanksgiving.
A priest took a golden pitcher, which held about two pints. He filled it with water from the Pool of Siloam. He carried it through the Water Gate, to the altar of the Temple, where it was poured out as an offering to God.
This was a vivid thanksgiving for God's good gift of rain.
It was an enacted prayer for rain.
It was a memorial of the water which sprang from the rock, while God's people were travelling through the wilderness.
It was in this context that Jesus spoke His tremendous words concerning Himself as the Giver of Living Water.
Perhaps, Jesus intervened at the very moment that the water was being poured out at the altar.
The people were thinking of the water which refreshes the body. Jesus directed their thoughts to the water that refreshes the soul. As the people were being reminded that they could not live, physically, without water, Jesus declared to them that they could not live, spiritually, without Him. This is still true today.
(b) the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures
The worshippers knew the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. They knew the promises which God had given to His people through His prophets. They awaited the fulfilment of God's promises.
(i) "With joy, you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day, 'Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His Name; make known His deeds among the nations, proclaim that His Name is exalted'" (Isaiah 12:3-4).
This promise of God was known among the people who eagerly awaited the coming of the Saviour. Now, Jesus was proclaiming that the dawn of its fulfilment had come in His coming. The fullness of blessing was to come through His death and resurrection and exaltation. It is because Jesus has died for us, been raised for us and is now exalted for us that the Holy Spirit is offered to us and given to us.
(ii) "For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry round, I will pour My Spirit upon their descendants and My blessing on your offspring" (Isaiah 44:3).
Here, we have a marvellous promise of God concerning the great outpouring of His Spirit. Christ has died. Christ has been raised. Christ is now exalted. Withe work of salvation completed, God pours out His Spirit upon all who trust Christ.
(iii) "On that day, living waters will flow from Jerusalem" (Zechariah 14:8).
Christ died at Jerusalem. Christ was raised again at Jerusalem. The Spirit was, first, given, in the fullness of Christ's salvation, at Jerusalem.In view of the fulfilment of this promise in Christ, we rejoice in Him, for "living waters flow from Christ", who "is not a dry and worn-out cistern, but an inexhaustible fountain, which largely and abundantly supplies all who will come to drink" (John Calvin).
After all the years of Israel's waiting, Jesus proclaimed that the time of fulfilment had come. We note the effect of Jesus' words - "there was a division among the people over Him" (John 7:43). There was also a division among the Pharisees (John 7:50-52). Some believed, while others did not believe (John 7:40). Do you believe?
(2) Now, we look at the challenge of Jesus' great invitation.
Jesus is still the great divider of people, Some believe in Him. others do not believe in Him.
There is a new quality of life, a new satisfaction to be found in Christ. This life must be received by faith. This call to faith places before us a decision concerning in Christ.
as we think about Jesus' great invitation, let's think about the Christian's spiritual autobiography.
(a) Thirsting - the pre-conversion experience;
(b) Coming or believing - the conversion experience;
(c) Drinking and flowing - the post-conversion experience.
Jesus' teaches spiritual truth in homely terms that everyone of us understand - thirst. He speaks of physical thirst. he teaches us about spiritual thirst.
To the worshippers at the Feast of tabernacles, Jesus said, "The water of the feast cannot quench your spiritual thirst. I alone can do that for you."
To us,Jesus says, "I still quench spiritual thirst. I can do this for you."
Have we become so familiar with Jesus that we fail to embrace Him with joyful faith and receive abundant life?
The worshippers, who knew their "hymn book" (the book of Psalms), would be familiar with the Psalmist's words concerning spiritual thirst: "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Psalm 42:2). "O God, Thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for Thee, as in a dry land, my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh faints for Thee, as in a parched land" (Psalm 143:6).
We, also, have the great hymns concerning the quenching of spiritual thirst.
"See! the streams of living waters, Springing from eternal love, well supply Thy sons and daughters, And all fear of want remove. Who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst to assuage - Grace, which, like the Lord, the Giver, never fails from age to age."
"I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live': I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him."
Some of the worshippers at the Feast of Tabernacles sang the words of the Psalms, yet they refused to come to Jesus for the quenching of their spiritual thirst. What about you? You sing the words of the great Gospel hymns. Have you come to Christ for the quenching of your spiritual thirst?
(b) Coming (or believing)
To come to Christ is to believe in Him. To come to Christ in faith is to "embrace Him as He is held out to us in the Gospel" (John Calvin).
The way in which we are brought to Christ is most wonderful. Many people do not know that they are thirsty. They do not what they are thirsty for. All the time, the Spirit is creating thirst. Then, the gracious Word of God begins to reach them and their eyes and hearts begin to focus on Jesus. They find him to be the Answer to their deep thirst and their deep longing for real life. What about you? Have you come to Christ? Have you found life in Christ? Can you say, 'Christ has found me'? If not, why not make today your day for coming to Christ and beginning a new life?
(c) Drinking and flowing
This is to be the Christian's ongoing experience - drinking in the "living water" of Christ, letting the "living water" of Christ flow through us.
The "living water" must flow to us before it can flow through us to others.
If the "living water" does not flow through us, we must ask ourselves seriously the disturbing question: Has the "living water" flowed into my life?
"No one can possess or be indwelt by the Spirit of God and keep that Spirit to himself. Where the Spirit is, He flows forth. If there is no flowing forth, He is not there" (William Temple).
"My heart overflows with a goodly theme. I will address my verses to the King. My heart overflows with praise to my God. I'll give him the love of my heart." - An overflow of praise to God.
"As we share, and as we live,as we receive, and as we give, we will build up each other till we all attain the fullness of the stature of Christ" - An overflow of blessing to others.
Drinking and flowing - Do not ask God to bless you without also asking Him to make you a blessing to others.
(3) The comfort of Jesus' great invitation (John 7:39)
"From His fullness, have we all received grace upon grace" (John 1:16).
Jesus described the Spirit as the Comforter. We must draw great comfort from the knowledge that Jesus gives His supreme gift, the Holy Spirit, to all who believe in Him.
(a) We are not left alone in our weakness. The Spirit brings to us all that Christ died to provide for us. This is why Jesus emphasized that He had to be glorified. and, then, the gift of the Spirit would follow. the Spirit brings us into a living experience of the benefits of Christ's death for us.
(b) We are not left to our own changeableness.
There is a permanence about God's gift of the Holy Spirit. We are so changeable. Our circumstances change. So do our moods. The Spirit of God does not change. Receiving the Spirit is not a "one-off." It is the beginning of an ongoing life of blessing. Water relieves thirst, and provides for the continuation of life and fruitfulness. The Spirit brings with Him more than forgiveness for the past. He also brings power to live for Christ now.
(c) We are not left to our own insignificance.
The promise of "rivers of living waters" is given to every believer. With the promise comes responsibility. we are called to be more than believers. We are called to be servants, soldiers, prophets and apostles.