by Laurie-Ann Copple.
Given in Kissy (suburb of Freetown, Sierra Leone) April 2010
Talks in Africa series
(Props: Need glass of water, jug of water)
(Hold up a glass or a jug of water)
I prayed for what the Lord would say to you today through the Word of God and my teaching, and I kept getting pictures of the living water of God. Look at this glass of water, it is something that we as people cannot do without, we need to drink and we get thirsty.
(THIRST) My friends, I know that we are a thirsty people both physically and in our souls. We were made by the Lord to love him and be loved by him. Throughout the Bible, the Spirit of God is talked about as living water, a river, rain, a deep well and other pictures of water. This makes sense because as people, we are made up of 70 per cent water and I have been told that we need to drink lots of water to stay healthy. So while we are seeking the Lord for spiritual health, we are going to discover a few of those water images that are in the Bible.
We long to be loved, we long to be satisfied with what we do, and in our relationship with God. In Isaiah 55, we are given an invitation to come drink at the waters, and even the poor with no money are invited to come and buy wine and milk without cost. The Lord invites us in to listen to Him, to eat what is good for your soul and you will delight in the richest of fare (Isa 55:1-2). I am not talking about food for the stomach here, as much as I really like rice. I am talking about spiritual food for your souls and the living water that completely satisfies the thirst you have inside you. This thirst is our longing to sense that God is here with us and will give us a deep peace that we can find nowhere else. This gives us a feeling of being deeply loved so we know that even when we have troubles, God will care for us and give help in handling what we need to do.
(RIVER) In Ezekiel 47, the prophet is given a vision and sees a river of living water coming out from under the Temple in Jerusalem and flowing east. Imagine that the Sierra Leone river connects with this heavenly river. All you need to do is to walk into it.
You probably don’t swim in the Sierra Leone river right now, do you? But imagine that it’s God’s river, right here in Kissy, here in Freetown. This river is clean, and full of the life that God gives. It’s like God has breathed life into the river.
In Ezekiel 47, the prophet walks to the east, and an angel measures the depth of the river water. The depth of the river gets deeper from ankle-deep, to knee-deep, to waist-deep to a depth where he could only swim and no longer walk across the river.
Along the shores of the river there used to be a lifeless desert, but because the river was full of life, all the land along the shores were now as beautiful and full of life as a garden in spring. This river of God is full of life. There is a song that we sing in some Canadian churches called ‘The River of God.’ Some of its words go like this: “The River of God, is teeming (or really full) with life, and all who touch it can be revived, and those who linger on this river’s shore, will come back thirsting for more of the Lord.” This is a song full of laughter and joy, which is what the Holy Spirit of God fill us with as we delight in Him. Psalm 34:8 gives us the promise to “Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are those who trust in Him.” This happiness is not something like laughing at a funny story or a joke, but a deep contentment that stays with you even on difficult days and reminds you that God never leaves you. When the song talks about the river giving life, being revived, and wanting more, what do you think of? It sounds like healing, it sounds like being full of God’s presence, and it sounds like fun!
It is this same river of life that is mentioned in the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible. This river is in Heaven, but also in a spiritual way, the Holy Spirit fills us with that river as we submit to Jesus. It is this river that Jesus talks about in John 7: 37-39. At one time Jesus came to the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. During this celebration, the priest would pour out water from a jug (like the one I now have) into a trough. He did this to act out what Ezekiel had written about in the Bible concerning the life-giving river coming from the Temple of God. While the priest was pouring out the water for that year’s Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus was there. He cried out to the crowd, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the [Holy] Spirit, whom all those who believed in him were later to receive.
Do you also remember the Samaritan Woman at the well in the Gospel of John? When Jesus asked for some water, she was shocked because she was not Jewish like he was, and she was like the lowest class of people and a woman as well! She was very surprised he had noticed her. It would have been like a rich person noticing someone who lives on the streets. In Canada we have some people who are poor and live on the streets – others in the same city may walk by them and not notice them. They may pretend the street people are not there, so these needy people become invisible. This lady likely felt invisible and we find out later that she was considered an outcast. But Jesus spoke to her.
He tells her about the living water and she responds with a thirst and curiosity that grows as she begins to find out who Jesus really is. Jesus says to her in John 4: 13 – “Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is eternal life, with springs of water where you are satisfied. My friends, does that make you feel thirsty for more??
So my friends, I’m going to invite the Holy Spirit to come in a deeper way. And while I do this, I am going to pour out water from a jug, just like that priest did in the book of John. “Heavenly Father, I ask for you to become more real to us today, come and fill this place with your Holy Spirit as we lift up Jesus. When I begin to pour the water from the jug, we ask for your living water, your living river to flow to and through this place. And as part of your bride, we say along with the Holy Spirit, from Revelation 22:17, “Let whoever who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, come! And whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.”
(Pour the water from the jug into a bowl and pray as the Holy Spirit leads…)
Blessings and happy swimming in the river!
(An earlier version of this talk was given in Lahore, Pakistan in December 2007)