There's a pure liquid better than any energy-spiking, caffeine-laced, sweet-tasting beverage. Health experts recommend guzzling at least 9 to 13 cups each day. Drink it, and your energy will be increased, muscles refreshed, toxins flushed, skin moisturized – and that's just the beginning. You know what they say: water is life.
Ancient Jewish people knew the importance of water. Not only did it grow crops – it cleansed. Before worshiping or coming into the presence of God, they were immersed in a pool containing flowing water gathered from a river or stream. Once submerged and raised, people were prepared for a renewed relationship with God, restored to life and given “new eyes” to see the people around them. All of this from living water.
A Jew Himself, Jesus surely knew of these cleansing pools. And He knew there was more life, more promise. This God-made-flesh-and-dwelled-among-us promised living water so full and satisfying that those who drink it will never again suffer from thirst.
What a promise, friends. Yet time and time again, we (if you and I have anything in common) are like the Israelites:
Leaky and undependable, cisterns collected dirty water from roofs and rain. Broken ones couldn’t even save a drop. Whatever runoff fell in would seep out, leaving the container always filling but never full.
How many times have we haphazardly fashioned cisterns, only to step back and see a cracked pot dripping disappointment? Like the Israelites, we forget Who leads through the desert and sends manna from heaven and never speaks a promise that will fail or be forgotten.
Yet we try to do it on our own, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (C.S. Lewis). We look for life in all the wrong places, and in doing so, we elevate good things above their rightful positions. Our souls are panting for living streams, but we don’t often seek beyond swampy gutters, left wanting and dry. Our failing cisterns are costly because they demand more and more but never return.
My own cisterns have cracked. Though they seemed strong, time and life have proved otherwise. Things I've thought trustworthy have buckled; other things have failed to satisfy. You, too? Thank God for fresh streams.
Living water, compared to a cistern’s contents, is clean, dependable, life-giving, and fresh. If you're eager for this water, or maybe if you’ve tasted it but have forgotten its sweetness – open wide your mouth, and God will fill it.
On the last day of a festal celebration, Jesus stood in the temple and cried out with deep emotion: “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”
His desire is to satisfy us with the Spirit, to give water that wells to true life. Life that does not die because it flows from His victorious life. Life that means knowing and trusting and following the Shepherd who gives us Himself, who guides us to this life-giving spring. Life that is a fresh, continuous stream so we may overflow to others who are parched and withering.
Do we live? Do we thirst? Water's never more refreshing than when we're acutely aware of want. When we have an an eager longing for things that fortify and revive the soul, will anything lesser satisfy?
Because of mercy that freely gives satisfying water, our problems and failed attempts are turned into opportunity, a universal call:
“Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live” (Isaiah 55:1-3b).
When we search for water, desperate for a drop lest we die, He will answer us by forging rivers atop plateaus and erupting fountains in valleys. If we will only long and seek and ask for this gift of God... Just whet our appetite by a splash from His fountain bursting with hope and promise... He will give us living water that is His Spirit. We are living in the days ensuing Pentecost: the Spirit poured out on humanity, the Comforter and Guide now in us, the gift given. As we toss aside our busted dirty cisterns, this endless, pure, and cleansing stream will rise to overflow – only to brim again and again. We will be filled and fully alive!