Living in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, I'm accustomed to seeing dry riverbeds. Most of the year, these desert washes have no water running in them.
However, as the snow melts in the mountains, or during summer monsoon rains, these dry river washes begin to flow with life-giving water for the desert. What's not observable is that underneath the surface of most of these river washes is water that is running. In fact, one could say the "river is always running."
Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all of humanity. Whether we observe the "river of God's presence" or not, God is always moving, always "running." The Holy Spirit is actively at work in and through those who believe in Jesus!
It may sound cliché, but Christians have a "river of life flowing out of them!" Let's discuss this more, beginning with the words of Jesus in John's Gospel.
The Holy Spirit Promised
"On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39, NKJV).
Jesus was in Jerusalem, worshipping with other Jews at the Feast of Tabernacles. The feast was a celebration of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and God's care of them during the 40 years of wilderness wandering. The feast also looked forward to the promised kingdom of the Messiah.
During the feast, the Jews lived in booths made of branches to remind them of God's providential care of the nation for nearly 40 years (Lev. 23:33-44).
Following the Feast of Trumpets and the solemn Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles was a festive time for the people. The temple area was illumined by large candlesticks that reminded the people of the guiding pillar of fire that led them in the wilderness.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a joyous celebration where each day the priests took a golden pitcher to the pool of Siloam. They would draw water from the pool, and bring this water to the temple pouring it out on the altar as an offering to God, while the people shouted and sang from Isaiah 12:3, "Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."
The ceremony was symbolic of drawing water from the rock in Exodus 17:1-7
In the Exodus story, the people complain because there is no water to drink. They contend with Moses, but really, they are contending with God. In Exodus 17:4 Moses cries out to God, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!"
God instructs Moses to take the rod he used to strike the Nile River, and strike a rock in Horeb. In front of the elders and people, he strikes the rock and water gushes forth. God provides, despite the people complaining!
The people stop trusting God and look to the man Moses as their source and provider. Our trust is in the Lord; He is the giver and sustainer of life!
While in Haiti as a missionary in the early 1990s, the truth of God as our source became painfully clear to me one day. We were a young missionary family that needed about $2,000 a month minimum to live and serve there. At the time, our pledged missionary support was about $600 a month; we were struggling, praying and looking for solutions.
I approached the director of the mission's organization we were a part of and explained our situation. While it seemed appropriate to me, my heart motive was to complain and seek a "human" solution to our financial needs.
After sharing, for a few minutes, the director turned to me and said, "Let's get one thing straight. You work for me, but you get your paycheck from God! I suggest you spend more time with the Lord in prayer and learn to trust Him more!"
To say I was shocked is an understatement. But I also knew that he had just spoken truth to me. This experience began to create within me a greater understanding of God as provider.
"Believe in Me, and out of your innermost being, rivers of living water will flow!"
Foremost, this living water flows from God! Jesus is the rock from which the river of God flows, Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 10:4: "and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."
We also get a picture of this in Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22, which speaks of God's river flowing forth from Him, from His temple, to the barren places. This River waters the trees along its bank, and they become fruitful. While prophetically these passages speak of God's presence and His heavenly temple, I also believe these scriptures are a veiled reference to the Holy Spirit Jesus spoke of in John 7:37-39 flowing from the hearts of His followers!
God's desire is that we, who have become His "temples," become conduits for the Holy Spirit to flow through to impact our world! God intends for us to partner with the Holy Spirit, who is living water, to flow through us and bring life to others!
Bob Sawvelle is the founding and senior leader of Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona. Passion Church is a vibrant, kingdom-minded church in the heart of Tucson that values God's love and presence. He is a Doctor of Ministry doctoral mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars cohort at United Theological Seminary (UTS), an adjunct professor teaching master's-level classes in evangelism, discipleship and church planting with the Global Awakening Theological Seminary (GATS), and an online course facilitator for Global Awakening's Christian Healing Certification Program (CHCP) and Christian Prophetic Certification Program (CPCP).
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