Summary: Explores context and content of Jesus’ invitation: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
An Invitation to Fulfillment
Fortifying the Foundations # 18
Turn with me this morning to Lev 23:39-43
39 "’So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month,
(that is about this time of the year—in fact, today is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles or Succoth as it is referred to by Jews today. It is probable that the Thanksgiving celebration by the pilgrims was patterned after this celebration) after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’" NIV
In those verses God established for Israel the great harvest celebration known as The Feast of Tabernacles. It was a seven-day event with a Sabbath day added as the eighth day, known as the Shemini Atzeres or Solemn Assembly. During this feast the Israelites dwelt in little temporary booths or huts made from tree limbs. There is an entire volume in the Talmud directing how these booths were to be erected. The dimensions are minutely described. But the purpose was to remind Israel of God’s faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt into the Promise Land.
This is the festival going on in Jerusalem at the time of our text in John 7. As you recall last week we talked about Jesus’ teaching and interaction with the Jews in the middle of this great celebration—perhaps on the fourth day. Our text this morning opens on the seventh day. It is the last and greatest day of the Feast. Everything came to a great climax of joy on this day.
To grasp the full significance of Jesus’ invitation in verses 37-39 of John 7 we need to know
I. the Jewish CONTEXT in which he spoke.
At the break of day the worshippers leave their booths to take part in the services.
They are all dressed in festive array. Each worshipper carries in his right hand what is called the “Lulabh” or palm branch. It is actually a myrtle and a willow branch tied together with a palm branch in between.
In each left hand is a citrus fruit called “Ethrog” thought to be the Paradise-apple.
The crowd would divide into 3 groups. Some would remain at the temple. Another group would go in procession to Maza (which some think is the Emmaus Road) and gather willow-branches to adorn the altar with a leafy canopy.
The third group is of particular importance to our text. As music sounded they would follow a Priest in procession from the temple down the Tyropoeon Valley to where it merges with the Kedron Valley through the Fountain Gate to the Pool of Siloam. The Pool of Siloam was fed by the Rogel Spring of water further up the Kedron Valley. When the procession reached the Pool of Siloam (which overflowed to another pool) the Priest would fill a golden pitcher from the waters of the Siloam.
They then went back—timing their journey so that they reached the Temple just as the morning sacrifice was being laid on the Brazen Altar. A 3-fold t trumpet blast welcomed the Priest as he entered through the Watergate. As the Priest ascended ‘the rise’ of the altar he is joined by another Priest carrying wine for the drink offering.
(I hope you sense the awesome pageantry of all this.) The saying in the Jewish writing is, “He who has not seen the Rejoicing of the Place of Water-drawing has never in his life witnessed a real celebration.”
These two priests come to two silver funnels leading down to the base of the altar.
Into the eastern funnel the wine is poured. At the same time the water is poured into the western funnel. (Both the wine and the water represent the Holy Spirit in scripture.) As the priest pours the water the people are shouting for him to raise his hand.
Immediately after the water is poured the great ‘Hallel’ is chanted to the accompaniment of the flute. The ‘Hallel’ is Psalms 113 to 118. As the Levites chant the first line of the Psalm, the people repeat it; while to each of the other lines they respond by Hallelu Yah (Praise the Lord). In Psalms 118 the people not only repeat the first line (O give thanks to the Lord) but also these (O then, work now salvation, Jehovah, O Lord now send prosperity) and again at the close of the Psalm, “O give thanks to the Lord.”