Christian Living

Spiritual Life


Beneath the temple mountain in Jerusalem were at least 37 great water cisterns, one of which held between two and three million gallons of water. These cisterns kept people alive in the hot, parched summer months.

In biblical Israel, water became a symbol of life, a metaphor that any person living or traveling in the area could readily understand. The prophet Jeremiah used the metaphor of water to describe God. But rather than referring to God as a cistern of living water, Jeremiah called Him a spring of living water:

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)

The prophet, of course, was thinking of spiritual, not physical, water and thirst. God, Jeremiah was saying, is a natural, free-flowing, drink-all-you-want spring of spiritual life.

Through Jeremiah, God rebuked Israel’s idolatry by using water and cisterns as a picture they would readily understand. Not only had God’s people forsaken their free-flowing spring of spiritual life; they had built cracked, broken cisterns of their own that leaked the water and ran dry as fast as they were filled. Their cisterns? Idols. Trying to get spiritual life from an idol was like pouring water into a cracked cistern — the more effort they poured in, the more futile and wasteful their spiritual quest became.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus clarified this concept. He stood up at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and said that streams of living water could flow from the people if they would believe in Him:

“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)

To the devout Jews who were listening, Jesus’ words would have amounted to blasphemy; living water could flow only from God Himself, as Jeremiah had said. But they may also have remembered Isaiah 58:8-11, where God had told their forefathers that those who believe and obey Him would be “like a spring whose waters never fail” (v. 11, NIV).

Standing on a mountain honeycombed with cisterns, Jesus’ words divided Jerusalem like a cracked cistern (John 7:43).

What Jesus didn’t tell them, but John tells us (John 7:39), was that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit. His offer still stands for us today: Believe in Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit, and become a source of living water, of spiritual life.

If you are spiritually thirsty, you need never go through a dry season again. Let His living water flow from within you today.

An exercise for the thirsty or weary: Read and meditate on Psalm 42. Then consider Jesus’ promise of John 7:37-38 (above) and run to Him today.

Copyright © 2019 Ken Boa, used with permission.

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