In this final piece in this series I am going to look at the place of Living Water and how it connects to worship, intercession, and silence. Jesus introduces the idea of Living Water in John’s gospel.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:10-14 (NKJV)
38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38 (NKJV)
First, why did Jesus refer to living water rather than just water? To understand that we need to dig a bit into the Judaism of Jesus day. Our modern baptismal tanks, whether or not we are aware of it, are modeled on the Hebrew Mikveh. A Mikveh was a bath that was regularly used for purification, the Hebrew forerunner of the baptismal tank. There was an important component in the design and an important component in use. In design the Mikveh was built to accommodate living water. It had to have both an inflow and an outflow. In use it was used for purification not cleansing. Users often bathed before getting in the Mikveh. This helps make sense of Jesus cry at the feast. The Holy Spirit flowing in and through us purifies our heart and mind.
The woman at the well would have understood Jesus reference to cleansing and purification in connection to living water. A well was not flowing so was not considered living water. As well Jesus hears on the feast day would have understood His reference to the purifying and cleansing role of living water. The idea of the Mikveh and living water was so important that the requirement in Orthodox Judaism is that a Mikveh must be constructed before the synagogue is built.
The first use of the word Mikveh is in Genesis 1.
10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:10 (NKJV)
In the verse above it is the word ‘gathering’ that is the source of Mikveh (this is the phonetic pronunciation and English spelling, hence the slightly different Hebrew spelling below). The word refers not to water but to the gathering or assembling of it.
מִקְוֶה miqweh, noun, collection
Miqweh means “a congregation,” “gathering together.” Water is “gathered” into large bodies such as seas (Gen. 1:10), streams, rivers and pools (Exo. 7:19), or in a fountain or pit (Lev. 11:36). The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Kaph-Mem.
Something of great significance tied to the use of the Mikveh was the connection to being ‘born again’ and the role of witnesses (for further study http://www.haydid.org/ronimmer.htm).When someone converted to Judaism in Jesus day they had to be circumcised and baptized in the Mikveh. When they came up out of the water it was said they had been ‘born again.’ The same process took place when one became a Rabbi, which Nicodemus was. Hence his confusion in John 3. Jesus was essentially telling him he needed to be converted rather than converting others, and Jesus was by inference telling him he needed to become a true Rabbi. This dialogue turned Nicodemus world upside down!
The Mikveh baptism was for the removal of defilement, the results of sin, while the blood sacrifice paid the price for sins. Hence the importance of Christian baptism, it is connected to cleansing rather than salvation. In Jewish practice they also named the key witnesses to the act and said they were immersed in the Mikveh in the name of the key witnesses present and spoke their names. Hence Jesus said we were to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because they were the key witnesses!
It is also very interesting that the core meaning of Mikveh is ‘gathering together.’ When we truly embrace Jesus and fully surrender to His ways there is a ‘gathering together,’ a unifying that takes place in our spirit, soul, and body, as is pictured in baptism. This is further reflected in Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians that their spirit, soul, and body would be preserved blameless (1 Thess. 5:23).
Now back to what Jesus said about living water. Jesus was referring to those who came to Him and were His followers. Is it our experience that we are aware of a fountain of water within us that is ‘springing up into everlasting life’ or conscious that from our heart there is a flow of ‘rivers of living water?’ If not does that mean we are not truly believers, are simply not aware of what is happening, or have we stopped up this well within us?
In addition to sin being able to plug the well I know from my own experience that busyness and lack of focus also seem to stop the flow. I know that when I begin to sit before Him in the morning I first ‘gather’ myself. I focus on His presence. Have you ever been outside on a cloudy day and aware of the change on your body when a cloud passes and the sun is again revealed? For me that is what it is like when I ‘gather’ myself and sit before the Father, Son, and Spirit. This begins in silence and I physically experience being baptized in His presence. When I do this prior to worship or intercession my heart is more engaged and I am able to quickly enter in. A failure to do this often leads to a struggle. My experience is that worship and intercession are enlivened and supported by focused silence in His presence. It is this focused attention on Him that lets the river flow.
At the end of the day Jesus desire is that the river we see pictured in Revelation is an image of the river flowing in and through us.
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2 (NKJV)
Notice that the river proceeds both from the throne and from ‘the Lamb.’ The water flows from Jesus. As His body upon the earth we are called to drink deeply of this living water and release it to the nations in the pattern Jesus taught.
8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
Through drinking deeply of the Holy Spirit we are to take His life to our Judea (local community), our Samaria (those different from us in the surrounding culture) and to the end of the earth (anyone in need).
Are we immersing ourselves in the living water of His presence each day and during the day when we need it?