Rivers of Living Water

Pouring into Yosemite Valley are huge waterfalls that make lots of noise. In the Philippines I saw a roaring stream of brown water cascading over a waterfall and in Papua New Guinea are the most beautiful rivers that I have ever seen, as clear as crystal. The Bible describes you and me as being rivers. Some of us are fast flowing, some of us may be polluted and some of us may be quiet streams, beautiful and clear as crystal, but we all are described as rivers of water.

“Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people chided with Moses and said, ‘Give us water that we may drink.’ … And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord,’ and the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, ‘Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ ” Exodus 17:1–3 NKJV. The people were in a state of unbelief, though God had never forsaken them; He had always taken care of them throughout their journey.

“So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me?’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ ” Verses 4–7 NJKV.

This was the first time that God brought water out of a rock. Moses was instructed to strike the rock to start the flow of water. The second time water was brought out of a rock is recorded in Numbers 20. Moses was irritated with the people and instead of speaking to it as he was instructed and glorifying the Lord, he struck it twice. As a result, he was not allowed to go into the land of Canaan.

David wrote, “He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.” Psalm 78:15, 16.

Isaiah wrote, “Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And they thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; He clave [split] the rock also, and the waters gushed out.” Isaiah 48:20.

David again wrote about the miracle at Horeb in Psalm 105:41: “He opened the rock, and waters gushed out; they ran in the dry places like a river.” This time it says that water ran in the wilderness like a river.

Paul also makes mention of the wilderness wanderings saying, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” I Corinthians 10:1–4.

While God was present upon Mount Horeb about to speak the Ten Commandments to the people, they began to contend with Moses, accusing him of bringing them out into the wilderness to kill them with thirst.

God gave Moses instruction to take his rod, go to the rock and strike it. The rock that Moses was instructed to strike was symbolic of Christ. Isaiah 53 says, “… yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions.” Isaiah 53:4, 5. From that rock in the wilderness came water, gushing water. Christ had rained down manna (Exodus 16), and because they complained about that, He gave them quail to eat. Millions had been fed by the manna that had rained down to sustain them and still they questioned, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” Exodus 17:7, last part.

They were guilty of unbelief and human nature is not any different today. Any time a complaint comes out of our lips we are asking, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” Complaining is unbelief.

Ellen White wrote, “The smitten rock was a figure of Christ, and through this symbol the most precious spiritual truths are taught.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 411.

It was not long before the children of Israel began complaining again saying, “Why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?” Numbers 20:4.

Exasperated at the continual complaining, instead of speaking to the rock as he had been instructed, Moses struck the rock twice. This act was not a representation of Christ, Who died once for all (Hebrew 9:28). Christ was not to be smitten twice and Moses did not give an accurate portrayal of what was going to happen to Him Who died once for the sins of the entire world.

Isaiah 12:3 says, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” Zechariah 13:1 says, “In that day [when Christ would be pierced] there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced … .” Zechariah 12:10.

In John 19:28, last part, Jesus said, “I thirst.” We all need to thirst for those wells of salvation, thirst to draw from that fountain for sin and uncleanness. In verse 30, Jesus said, “It is finished!” He bowed His head and He gave up the Spirit. When the soldiers told Pilate that He was already dead He was surprised that a man could be dead after only six hours on the cross. In verse 34, it says, “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” When the rock at Mt. Horeb was struck, water flowed.

Christ’s blood was for cleansing from sin. In the Old Testament sanctuary, when the lamb was killed it took the penalty for the sin that the people had committed. The lamb had not done anything wrong. It was innocent, but a sacrifice had been made and the blood provided a means to atone for the person who had sinned against God and incurred the penalty of death, allowing him or her to live.

When Jesus, while on the cross, said He was thirsty, dehydration had set in and His tongue had swollen to such a proportion that He could hardly talk. When that soldier pierced His side, he pierced His heart. The pericardium that surrounds the heart contains serous, a water-like substance to keep the heart lubricated. When it was pierced, the serous fluid within flowed out. In The Desire of Ages, 722, it says, “But it was not the spear thrust, it was not the pain of the cross, that caused the death of Jesus. That cry, uttered ‘with a loud voice’ (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46) at the moment of death, the stream of blood and water that flowed from His side, declared that He died of a broken heart.” It wasn’t the cross, it wasn’t the nails, it wasn’t the thorns on His brow that killed Him, but it was our sins that crushed out His life. The guilt that pressed upon Christ’s mind, paying the penalty for the sins of every single person in this world broke His heart and extinguished His life.

“No matter what may have been our sins and shortcomings, there is a fountain open in the house of David for all sin and uncleanness.” The Signs of the Times, April 2, 1894. We can draw from that fountain for sin and uncleanness today and be cleansed. The fountain has been opened.

Isaiah 44:3–5 says, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses.” The water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 16:7, 8, “Nevertheless … it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [Holy Spirit] will not come unto you. … And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

Our hearts, according to the Bible, are desperately wicked, like clods. When I lived in Wichita, Kansas, I remember walking out into a field looking at the ground that gets so hard and dry there were cracks about two inches wide. When it rains the water closes them right back up.

“His heart is as hard as stone, even as hard as the lower millstone.” Job 41:24, NKJV. If our hearts are like clods, hard and beaten down, we need some refreshing. We need some water upon the dry grounds. This is what Christ offers us.

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit.)” John 7:37–39, first part. The feast here spoken of is the Feast of Tabernacles that went back to that story at Horeb, reminding the people of the water that gushed out of the rock. Jesus is the living water, a fountain that is opened up for the one who thirsts. Only those who want it will be satisfied.

When the Holy Spirit is received into our lives, we will become rivers of life. In my travels around the world, I have always noticed that ancient cities are built upon river ways. Water brings life and you can become a well of water. This is not for the unbeliever but for those who believe. The Bible says, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14.

Think of yourself as a river today and ask yourself, What kind of river am I? Am I a muddy one, polluted, or a clear one? There are some that are quiet and beautiful, not making any noise, and there are big, gushy ones that make lots of noise. What kind of river are you?

John 4 records Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman at the well, even though it would have been taboo for a Jew to talk to a Samaritan. She had come to draw water and did not even notice Him except that He was a Jew. Thus there was no reason to try to engage Him. He arrested her attention by asking her for something to drink and began to engage in a conversation with her. Amazed at what she had heard, she left her pot and went back to the city to invite her friends to come and see this Man. Jesus was the gushing well of water and told the woman of Samaria that if she knew the One Who was asking her for a drink, she would have asked Him for living water.

Jesus makes it very clear that receiving the water that He gives, you will never thirst again but will be filled. The Bible goes on to say that the woman was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, whole-heartedly. Racing back into the city she told the people of the city of Samaria, “I found the Messiah.” I have found Him and He told me everything that I’ve ever done. He could read my heart.

The whole city came out. She became a flowing river. “She proved herself a more effective missionary than His own disciples.” The Desire of Ages, 195. Jesus said right there, the harvest is ripe. Why do you wait four months until the harvest? The harvest is ripe right now.

“Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver.” Ibid. When there is no outlet for water to flow through, it stagnates. There are a lot of stagnant Christians. They are not wells or rivers, but stagnant ponds. To become rivers of water we need to receive more of God’s Holy Spirit and then give to others what we have received. We are not to be stagnant; the receiver becomes a giver. “The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all, and making those who are ready to perish eager to drink of the water of life.” Ibid. We need an experience that people will recognize and desire. Only then will we have something to give them because we have drunk deeply of the wells of salvation ourselves.

One of the signs of the end is found in Amos 8:11–14, which says, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.” This describes a day of spiritual famine when the word of God will not be found.

The solution to this problem is that you and I need to become wells of water, springing up into everlasting life, to go out and refresh the thirsty souls that are hungry and thirsty for the righteousness of God and do not know where to find it. If they see professed believers living in sin, talking and acting like the world, they will not want to come and drink from some polluted stream. They want to see a clear-flowing, crystal river.

In II Kings 2:19–21, it says that Elisha threw salt into the polluted water to purify it. Salt is a preserver. Jesus said, “Have salt in yourself.” Mark 9:50.

It is said of false teachers, those that claim to be Christians but bring damnable heresies into the church, “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with a man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” II Peter 2:15, 16.

Notice verse 17: “These are wells without water … .” These are people who have nothing to give. They are not wells of water springing up into everlasting life, but everlasting death because you cannot live at a dry well for very long.

God offers something to Israel. He says, come and drink of My waters from My well, My spiritual drink from the well of salvation. They were drinking from the rivers of Egypt, the rivers of Babylon, which is spiritualism and confusion. He says, “For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13.

“Unless His grace transforms them into the image of Christ’s likeness, His Spirit will leave them as water leaves a leaky vessel.” Christ will leave us just like a leaky vessel, unless we have a Christlike character. “Their only hope is to seek God with all their mind, heart, and soul. Then they will lawfully strive for the mastery. Satan will steal the imagination and affections if you give him a chance.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 102.

“Unless the people of God watch and pray, spirituality will go out of the heart as water out of a leaky vessel.” The Review and Herald, July 3, 1888. We do not want to be like Israel of old, and drink from the wrong stream when there is this Fountain opened before us. Are we hewing cisterns for ourselves?

“The mind is occupied with worldly interests, and as soon as they leave the church door, the impression is lost; for as water flows from a leaky vessel, so the truth leaks from the heart. The more preaching they have, the less they do to carry out the truth in practical godliness. They are glutted with sermons, and the truth fails to arouse them to a sense of their condition.” The Review and Herald, March 7, 1893.

Jesus has a fountain flowing for us today. This fountain flows into our hearts through the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Christ was smitten at Horeb. He opened up a fountain of His blood to cover our sin and uncleanness. The water is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. This is what Christ wants to make us into, wells with water gushing out of us, rivers of living water. This will happen when we have gone to the fountain, to the Source, with all of our defects, our short-comings and our problems.

We are no longer to be leaky vessels. Even a slow leak, be it one drop at a time, will eventually result in an empty vessel. Watch and pray with an intense earnestness as never before to know God’s will and strive for the mastery to develop a Christlike character. Thank God for the cleansing stream that is still flowing to wash away our sins and uncleanness.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the King James Version.)

Mike Bauler was ordained into the ministry in 2005 and serves as pastor of the Historic Message Church in Portland, Oregon. Prior to locating in Portland, Pastor Bauler served as a Bible worker for Steps to Life Ministries. His goal is to help give the gospel to the greater Portland area with an emphasis in helping his Bible students discover the truths in Bible prophecy, which are so often neglected today. His wife, Amanda, a family nurse practitioner, and their daughters assist him in his ministry.