Summary: The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn The Promise of the Holy Spirit, part 1 John 7:37-39
The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, Relearn
The Promise of the Holy Spirit, part 1
January 8, 2016
Today we start a new series, The Holy Spirit: Learn, Unlearn, and Relearn. The goal is to learn about the person and the work of the Holy Spirit, to unlearn wrong views about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and relearn biblical views of the person and work of the Spirit. The Spirit is often misunderstood, not understood, and incorrectly understood.
It is the feast of the Tabernacles or Booths (7:2), one of Israel’s three big feasts besides Passover and Pentecost. It is the most joyous feast and was said that if you never attended the feast, you did not know what joy was. The feast was associated with both God’s provision in the harvest and his provision in the wilderness. During the feast, most of the Jews in Jerusalem would set up and live in booths, tents essentially, for seven days as a reminder that they were pilgrims before they entered the promised land. Then on the eighth day, they would take down the booths and celebrate that they were no longer pilgrims. The high point was the high priest filling a gold pitcher with water from the pool of Siloam and leading a procession of musicians and singers into the temple and pouring that water into a bowl next to altar, thanking God for his provision of the harvest. Rabbi’s added an additional tradition about two hundred years before Christ that the pouring out of the water was an expectation that God would pour out his Spirit in the last days.
John tells us that it was the last day of the feast when things were winding down. People were taking down their booths and packing up when Jesus stands up in the temple and makes this claim, “If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink (37).” On their minds is God’s miraculous provision of bread from heaven and water from the rock that sustained them in the wilderness and their looking forward to a coming Messianic Deliverer. Then he explains what he means by coming and drinking with “whoever believes in me (38).” Believing in Jesus is coming to him to meet deepest need of the human heart, reconciliation with God. Believing also is a drinking or receiving what Jesus offers. So believing is a trusting in or banking your hope on him. It is to embrace him and his word, to stake your life on him. The result of believing is that out of your heart will flow rivers of living water.
This promise is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, “as the Scripture says, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water (38).” The water he promises and gives not only quenches human thirst but wells up from within that person so that they are completely transformed. Jesus used similar language in his encounter with the woman at the well (4:13-14). Water in a desert climate is critical for life and survival. Jesus is alluding to many Old Testament texts that speak of a coming promise of water giving life. But one I want us to look at one particular passage, Nehemiah 9. This text also is during the Feast of Tabernacles and Ezra is reminding the people how God miraculously delivered them in the Exodus through Red Sea and led them in the wilderness (9-12), gave them the law and miraculously provided bread and water in the wilderness (13-15). And when they rebelled against God he did not forsake them because of his great mercy (16-19) but gave his good Spirit to instruct them, while not withholding his miraculous bread and water to sustain them for forty years in the wilderness (20-21). Jesus is saying that he is the ultimate fulfillment of the bread (John 6:35) and the water (7:39) that God provided. But this water does more than just quench your thirst, it transforms everything about those who believe.
Then John tells us that “this living water is about the Spirit, whom those who believed in the past were to receive in the future for the Spirit not yet given (39).” With the coming of Jesus, comes the expanded and intensified work of the Spirit. Here is another Old Testament promise that he is alluding to that is fulfilled in Jesus, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness's, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek 36:25-27).” This life giving water that transforms us when we believe is the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God who applies the work of the cross to us. This transformation is the work of the Spirit who calls us, convicts us, converts us, and ultimately conforms us. Ezekiel describes it as God giving us a new heart, replacing our stone hearts with flesh ones, putting his spirit in us and causing us to obey him.