Saturday, June 04, 2005

Living Water

This topic came up this week in one of the books I’m reading, Rabbi Jesus by Bruce Chilton, and on a website I was perusing, Follow the Rabbi. The Jews believed “living water” came down from God in the form of rain or out of the ground as a flowing stream, so they would capture this watershed in pools near the Temple. The immersion pools, or milqvaoth, were meant to cleanse those who would enter the Temple. Bruce Chilton explains:

Everyone entering the Temple needed to bathe by immersion.
entire southern slope up to the Temple entrance was
developed with a system of canals, channels, and cisterns
(visible today as a result of excavation), so that all Temple-
goers might make themselves clean during this final ascent
into the presence of the Holy One of Israel (Rabbi Jesus, p. 27).

Against the backdrop of the Temple, the Good Shepherd promises to give living water to anyone who is thirsty and believes in him (John 7:37-38). The Jews around the Temple mount at the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth) would have understood this to symbolize ritual cleansing.

An article, titled “Joy of Living Water” at Follow the Rabbi, makes this point:

There was another special element to the celebration of Sukkot,
and it involved living water. Sukkot took place at the end of the
dry season. The rains needed to begin immediately to ensure a
harvest the following year. Thus the celebration of God's
harvest was coupled with fervent prayer for next year's rains.
It would seem from this perspective that Jesus was not only promising to cleanse, but that he was also promising water for regeneration, as in the rebirth of the crops. The online article goes on to say, “The importance of the Jewish background to Jesus' work cannot be exaggerated. It gave him the context he needed to make his teachings relevant, powerful, and practical.”

Relevant, powerful and practical both then and now.

Thank you Lord for the streams of living water making me grow like a tree and helping to produce fruit in season (Psalm 1:3).

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