Summary: Healing, nourishment and power for those who come to Jesus.
As the water was poured out on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus lifted up His voice in an impassioned appeal for His hearers to come to Him (John 7:37). He alone can supply spiritual water for the spiritually thirsty, and He holds it forth as a free gift (Isaiah 55:1). This is the living water which He referred to in His conversation with the woman at the well (John 4:10). What, or rather Who, He is offering is none other than the Holy Spirit (John 7:39).
We first met with the Holy Spirit in the Creation account, and there He is already associated with the symbol of water (Genesis 1:2). There was a river which went out of Eden, out of the Holy Spirit’s immediate presence, to water the garden into which God placed man (Genesis 2:10). When man was banished from the garden, that river would manifest itself from time to time in man’s journey from Paradise lost to Paradise regained.
At least twice during Israel’s forty year circuit of the wilderness, there were complaints about the lack of water. On the first occasion Moses was instructed by the LORD to smite a rock with his rod, and when he obeyed water sprang forth (Exodus 17:6). On the second occasion Moses was told to speak to the rock, but chose rather to strike it again. The water flowed abundantly, but Moses lost his right to lead the children of Israel into the holy land (Numbers 20:8; Numbers 20:11).
The Apostle Paul identifies the Rock with Jesus, following, he says, the children of Israel in their wilderness journeys (1 Corinthians 10:4). It is evident by analogy that Jesus is a smitten Rock, out of whose side flowed blood and water (John 19:34). The piercing of the crucified Saviour was a fulfilment of prophecy (Zechariah 12:10).
The promised living water (John 7:38), the Holy Spirit (John 7:39), does not come from within ourselves, but as a gift from Jesus (John 4:14 cf. John 14:16). The gift is His to give (John 1:33), and ours to receive (John 3:5). The free offer of the water of life is held out to the spiritually thirsty until the very last page of the Bible (Revelation 22:17).
The prophet Zechariah foresaw the living waters flowing out from Jerusalem after Jesus’ appearance, or eschatological re-appearance, upon the mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:8). In Ezekiel’s vision the waters are seen to emanate from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1). It is true that the Gospel has already flowed out from Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit’s ministry has spread from the Temple worldwide, but there are probably other layers of application.
There is a healing motif (Ezekiel 47:9; Ezekiel 47:12), which is repeated in the Apocalypse. The Apostle John saw a pure river of waters of life proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2). This is quite evidently a vision of heaven.
So we have traced the river from the primeval Eden to the Apocalyptic heaven. On the way we have heard the call to the spiritually thirsty to come and drink from the fountain of life, Jesus (John 7:37). This is the promise of the Holy Spirit for those who believe on Jesus (John 7:38-39), bringing with Him healing and nourishment, and power (Acts 1:8).