All Who Thirst
"Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." Psalm 107:8-9 (NIV)
Rivers of Living Water (John 7)
To the ancient Jews, “living water”—fresh, clean, flowing water—was an important symbol of the life God offers.
Since the Israelites’ story began in the desert, they knew the importance of water—and the perils of having none. During their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness of Sinai, God miraculously provided water for the entire community.
On one occasion, He purified a bitter spring, effectively turning “dead water” into “living water” (Exodus 15:22-26). Two other times, He caused water to spring from a rock (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13). Without these interventions, the Israelites would likely have perished in the desert.
Later generations commemorated their ancestors’ journey by observing Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot was one of three pilgrimage festivals during which Israelites would travel to Jerusalem. Families would live in temporary shelters for a week, in remembrance of the tents in which their ancestors dwelled for 40 years.
Each day of Sukkot, priests would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and carry it back to the temple, passing through the Water Gate. They would walk around the altar as the choir chanted psalms, then pour out the water as an offering to God. An even more elaborate version of this ceremony took place on the last day of the festival, when the priests would process around the altar seven times.
It was at this moment—the high point of the festival—that Jesus shouted His invitation to come and drink living water from Him. This scene is the capstone to all the other scenes involving water in John’s gospel—the water turned to wine, the water from the well, the waters of Bethesda, and the stormy waters of Galilee. Each story is another step toward the big revelation at Sukkot: namely, that Jesus is the Giver of new life. The river that brought life to the garden in Genesis 2:10-14, the river that flows through the eternal city of God in Revelation 22:1-2—that river is Jesus, bringing life and hope to all.
Water That Revives
Pastor Andoni Phiri travels between communities in southern Zambia, repeating Jesus’ invitation to come and drink the water of eternal life. For Andoni, preaching about living water and providing access to safe drinking water go hand in hand.
In addition to reducing waterborne illness, each borehole drilled by World Vision means people no longer have to spend hours each day fetching dirty water from distant sources. Instead, they are free to nurture their families, pursue economic opportunities, go to school, and more. Some choose to spend part of this redeemed time in one of the many churches under Andoni’s care.
Pastor Andoni does not hesitate to share his motivation for helping people gain access to clean water and other necessities. “We say, ‘In this gift, there is Jesus Christ,’” he explains. “We remind them how God has given us the gift of Jesus.”
Serving the poor in Christ’s name is having an eternal impact in southern Zambia. “More people are coming to church,” Andoni says. In many cases, children—who are the focus of Andoni’s evangelistic outreach and World Vision’s community development efforts—are leading their parents to faith.
“Parents say, ‘You have changed my child so much. I want to see what they have learned here!’ Then they come to our church,” Andoni says with a smile.
Pastor Andoni recalls three women who recently put their faith in Christ. “It came about because of a child who began to talk to his parents at home.” Curious, the father visited one of Andoni’s churches, along with his two wives. (Polygamy is still practiced in some parts of southern Zambia.)
“[One of the wives] stood up and started sobbing,” Andoni recounts. “She said, ‘I have wasted so much time … .’” Through a child’s influence, the mother embraced Jesus and was baptized.
“Three days later,” Andoni continues, “she brought her two friends!” They too wanted to taste the living water.
When a community is free to flourish—no longer hindered by the ill effects of having no clean water— then it can truly experience the life Jesus offers: life in all its fullness. The gift of clean water is opening hearts to the eternal gift of living water.
Spend time by yourself or with your small group reflecting on this week’s content, using the following discussion questions:
- Jesus not only knew how to make an invitation; He knew when to make it, choosing the most opportune moment of the festival to announce His offer of living water. How are sensitivity and timing important in our efforts to communicate the gospel?
- How might people have responded to Pastor Andoni’s evangelistic efforts if their immediate needs had not been met first?
- Do you openly share your motivation for serving others? Do you find it difficult to talk about your faith? What can we learn from Pastor Andoni’s example?
- Do you know anyone (perhaps even yourself) who came to faith because someone served them without condition? Take a moment to share the story with your group.
Take a few moments each day to meditate on the following Scripture passages:
Monday: Isaiah 44:1-5
This passage, which may have been the inspiration for Jesus’ statement in John 7:37-38, predicts that God will pour out His Spirit like water.
Tuesday: Isaiah 58:6-11
God offers to make His people like springs “whose waters never fail” when they serve those in need.
Wednesday: Joel 2:28-29
God promises to send the Holy Spirit, the event to which Jesus refers in John 7 when He invites people to receive living water.
Thursday: Acts 2:1-12
The event promised by Jesus in John 7 finally takes place, as God pours out His Spirit at Pentecost.
Friday: Revelation 22:16-17
At the end of the story, Jesus repeats His invitation to come and drink “the free gift of the water of life.”
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