With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)
At sundown on 06 October 2022, Jews all over the world began the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, known as Sukkot.
Sukkot was one of the three pilgrimage festivals, the others being Passover and the Feast of Weeks/ Pentecost. During these feasts, up to AD70 when the Temple was destroyed, Jews from all over Israel and lands beyond, would gather in Jerusalem to worship God.
Sukkot commemorates the 40 years the children of Israel spent wandering in the desert after leaving slavery in Egypt. It’s an eight-day festival that begins at sundown on the first day of the feast and it’s all about giving thanks for the autumn harvest. On one such Sukkot celebration, on the eighth day of the feast, Jesus stood up and proclaimed these words:
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ (John 7:37-39)
To non- Jewish ears, this sounds a strange statement, but to Jews it was astonishing.
In Israel, where rain only falls on average about sixty days during the rainy season, people were keenly aware of water sources and water quality. Springs and rivers that ran all the year were few. They relied on cisterns to catch and store the winter rains and wells to tap underground tables.
In Jewish culture the water that was stored in wells or cisterns was called ‘dead water’ whereas water that flowed in rivers or springs, and rainfall, was ‘living water’. Since it came directly from God it was precious and it was this ‘living water’ that was used for ritual washing.
This ‘living water’ was also used during the feast of Sukkot on the first seven days of the feast. Early in the morning, followed by thousands of people, the priests would make their way down to the Pool of Siloam which was fed by the Gihon spring, a source of living water. Interestingly, several rabbinic traditions identified the Pool of Siloam as the Messiah’s Pool.
A priest would draw water from this pool of living water each morning and, in procession, carry it up to the altar in the Temple and pour it out on the altar in front of all the people. However, on the last day of the feast, this water drawing ceremony did not take place. It was on that day that Jesus stepped forward and beckoned to anyone who was thirsty to come to Him for living water. Although not fully comprehending how He could do this, a sense of longing and anticipation must have risen up in many a weary soul; a true heartfelt longing for what this man from Galilee had to offer. That same proclamation made by Jesus on the last great day of the feast of Sukkot, comes down to you and me today. Spurgeon once said:
“I will give to him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely,” is an invitation to drink, and it will be wise on our parts to accept it at once, and drink to the full.”
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