“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” – John 4:14
The second Sunday in December is set aside in the church calendar as Bible Sunday. This is good, especially in this day. The Bible is found in the home of almost every Christian and unless he has more than one Bible, he is very loath to lend it, even though he may seldom read it. It is God’s Word to us and the means of His presence. Isaiah writes, “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.” To the woman at Jacob’s well, which represents the Word, the Lord spoke of it as living water.
Much of the earth is water. Vegetation – the forests and grass and flowers that clothe the fields and hills – depends upon the rain and streams. Take away the streams and the land would become a desert and human life would also disappear. A river went forth to water the Garden of Eden, and in the Holy City there is a river. The Psalmist writes, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.”
We know that the physical world without is a reflection of the mental world within, and when we look out and see how much of the life and beauty of the world depends upon water, our interest is awakened to look within and discover the corresponding element in spiritual life. We are not mere physical beings. There are other demands than those of the body. Even if we have an abundance of natural things, life may be barren. It may be unproductive. Life may seem to be at a standstill and unsatisfying. New life is needed, new inspiration, new knowledge of the possibilities which are before us and how to realize them. And this encouragement, this instruction in what it is possible and right to do, we draw directly or indirectly from the Bible.
The water that does these things for us is the practical truth concerning how to live revealed by the Lord to men in His Word. We read of Samuel after he became the Judge and the prophet of the Lord: “And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the Lord.” Samuel’s circuit, judging Israel in several towns, suggests the need of ordering the whole life in obedience to the Lord, carrying the sense of duty to Him and the test of His truth into all the various states and relations of life. Judging in the hill towns of Ramah, Bethel, and Mizpeh suggests the duty of making right, with the Lord’s help, the things of interior thought and motive; judging in Gilgal, in the plain of Jordan, suggests the duty of ordering the outward life by the precepts of the Lord’s Word. The river Jordan is the emblem of the Divine cleansing truth of the Word. In the Old Testament we read of Naaman, how he was healed of leprosy and his flesh came again as the flesh of a little child when he washed in Jordan seven times. This is a striking picture: the haughty Syrian conquering his pride and washing, at the prophet’s command, in the stream which he had despised in comparison with the Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus. But, as we read, the picture fades away. The Jordan is gone, and we see in its stead the Holy Bible. The Syrian is gone, and we see instead modern men of the world, proud of their learning and intellectual strength but conscious of their inward needs, now with humbled spirit turning from their philosophy and science in which they boasted, to learn from the Lord’s Word how to live, and finding there the power to make life pure and genuine as that of a little child.
One of the uses of truth is to cleanse the mind and heart from falsity and evil. But this is not its only use. Just as water gives life to the fields and gardens, so truth causes things to grow in the soul. We read, “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden,” the garden in which grew every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food. It is a beautiful picture, and its beauty is increased when we see that it describes not outward conditions but the spiritual state of the people in the childhood of the human race, a state which is in some degree repeated in every childlike heart. “A river went out of Eden to water the garden.” We think of the Lord’s truth about how to live revealed to those innocent people in ways adapted to their state. And we think of children in their innocence listening to the sacred lessons of the Bible, while its life-giving power flows gently into their souls.
Then, turning from the first pages of the Bible to the last, we find in the description of the Holy City the same “pure river of water of life… proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb,” watering the tree of life which grew on either bank. Coming at the end of the Bible, this describes the ripened character which has reached the innocence of wisdom. And now and forever, for all continuing ages, this same Word teaches how to live, and gives life its beauty and fruitfulness. The Holy City is also a picture of the world advanced to a happy state rich in goodness and wisdom. The Word was, is, and ever will be the source of the world’s life and progress.
In Ezekiel we find the same picture of waters issuing from the temple and descending into the plain, everywhere giving life, and with the tree of life on its banks. It is still the Lord’s truth about how to live. It is the Word descending from heaven and the Lord into the plain of this world’s activities, everywhere giving life.
These pictures speak of fruitful trees growing by the river. Trees are emblems of intelligence of many kinds. Fruit trees are intelligence in regard to the doing of good uses. The fruitful trees upon the river’s bank picture the quickened intelligence of the world in every line of knowledge and of practical good use when men come to reverence the Bible as the Word of God and learn from it what to think and how to live. The psalm says of the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in His law, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” And again in the prophet, “The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought… and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” And in Jeremiah, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” This is a lovely picture of a stately palm raising its head above the scorching sands because its roots have found water that never fails. But its real beauty lies in its being a picture of one who has found the deep sources of life in the Lord’s Holy Word; who takes it with him in his heart into the conflict and turmoil of the world; who clings the closer to it when the hot winds of adversity and temptation blow. “He is not careful in the year of drought, neither shall he cease from yielding fruit.”
In gratitude to the Lord for the gift of His Holy Word, bringing us bright thoughts of heaven, and teaching us how to live pure lives on earth, we should be able to say with the Psalmist, “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving… who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the moutains.” “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water.”
The Bible is the water of life for all. Its truths lift our thoughts above this world to heaven and the Lord and enable us to see the true meaning and purpose of our life here.
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”