Free to Receive {#31 Days}

When you’re dry and weary, never underestimate the rejuvenating powers of water.

As a Gentile, it’s easy for me to skip past the rich meaning embedded by the author of the Jewish where, when, and what of the gospel retellings. So, if you’re like me, you may need a little review of the Feast of Tabernacles mentioned in John 7. {This is a very brief review–there’s not space here to unpack all of this…but if you’re curious, you should go spelunking….it’s really interesting.}

In a nutshell, The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated one time of year in the city of Jerusalem to commemorate God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness. It was to last for seven plus one day. During the seven days, the people would live in small tents made of branches (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23-40). The celebration was to be for all the residents of Israel–even the women {gasp} and slaves. Everyone was invited to this party (Deuteronomy 16:13). And a party it was! There was worship, there was dancing, and there was singing. Light and water are two prominent symbols associated with this feast. Light–as a reminder of the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through the wilderness. Water as a reminder that God provides the most basic of needs. Water was so essential to the celebration of this feast that the prophet Zechariah tells us that drought is promised to those who forsake its celebration (Zechariah 14:16-19).

It was tradition on each day, except for the last, for a priest to draw water from the Pool of Siloam and bring it by joyous procession to the altar. This was a thanksgiving for the water God had provided and a prayer for next year’s rain. (Leon Morris) These people understood that without rain, they could not live.

John 7 has Jesus showing up at the feast in the Temple–the place of God’s dwelling. He does some teaching, He gets accused. Nearly arrested. Confusion surrounds him. Typical day for Jesus in Jerusalem. In the midst of this, on the Great Day–the last day of celebration, Jesus stands in the Temple and declares:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37-38)

And maybe we miss the power of this statement because we don’t know what it is to really thirst. I’m not just talking about physical thirst, although that is true too. Instead, I doubt we, on this side of the Messiah’s arrival, really understand the desperation of the Jewish people as they waited for a spiritual river to once again run through their hearts with hope and rescue–with salvation (Neh. 9:20; Ps. 42:1-4; Is. 12:3; 44:3; 55:1; Ez. 36:25-27; Jl. 2:28). Jesus stands in the middle of this sobering corporate need and boldly declares, “I am the water for which you thirst. I will be your source of life.”

Maybe we miss our own desperation because we so accustomed to trying to save ourselves. Maybe we’re not as convinced that without God’s provision, there will be no life. We can get by too easily without his rain.

Some of us have held our buckets out looking for spiritual rain to fall into our buckets. With all the spiritual muscles we can flex, we draw up water and dance out rain to soak our dry and cracking hearts. Church on Sunday and Wednesday and Thursday. Maybe next week, twice on Sunday. Serving in the nursery. Feeding the homeless. Reading the Bible. We fill that hole-riddled bucket with all kinds of activity. We leave dry, with fears of drought.

Maybe like the people in John 7 we’ve become so caught up in the celebration we’ve missed the meaning of it, especially when he shows up right in the middle of it. Instead, we’re just prisoners trapped inside all kinds of exhausting traditions.

Jesus offers something better. He says, “Come to me. That’s all that you need to do. Just come. I will place a river of life, My very Spirit,  in the garden of your heart. Yes, a River of Life will run through it. You will be like a well-watered tree, yielding fruit in season. You will not wither. My life will prosper in you. You will never thirst because My Spirit will continually refresh and sustain you. Yes, just come to the river. Receive the water I give and live.” Just receive and be refreshed.  

Those who refuse to admit their thirst will leave captive to their despair. Instead, be free to cup your hands and receive his water. Drink and let the Spirit refresh you. Receive like your very life depends upon it…because it does.

Receive and be free indeed!

This month I’m participating with The Nester in her 31 Day challenge to write every day on a topic of choice. I’m writing this month on how Jesus make us free. Because without him, we’re just a hot mess of a captive.

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