I want to lead you to the Word of God, first in the Gospel according to St. John, in the seventh chapter, the thirty-seventh verse: “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, 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, which they that had believed on Him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
It was the Feast of Tabernacles; and on the last day, the great day of the feast, the priests, accompanied by a festal throng of people, descended the temple steps to the Siloam brook, filled a pitcher with water and brought it amid much joy into the temple area, and there poured forth its contents, splashing and flashing in the sunlight, upon the pavement. That pitcher so filled, and the water so spilt, were emblematic of the river which had followed the host of Israel in their desert wanderings. And as our Lord saw its contents poured from the pitcher carried brimming from the brook of Siloam — which meant sent — and which afterwards He used as an emblem of Himself, it seems to have suggested to Him the thought that instead of being a pitcher whose contents would be very soon exhausted, He was Himself the river of God, which was full of water, fed from the everlasting hills of the Divine nature, and pouring down to make glad the city of God.
And He “cried”: I think there is the great urgency of Christ. And after the same manner, in every gathering, He stands and cries. There is no indistinct articulation; there is no doubt or hesitancy; but to thee, O soul of man, Jesus Christ stands and “cries.”
And you will notice that this humblest and meekest of men not only professes that His bosom is broad enough for every weary soul to lie on — “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest” — but He professes to be able, out of His nature, to take away thirst, all thirst whatsoever. I may be addressing many thirsty hearts, and I want to assure them, if their thirst is for love, for society, for company, for all that is needed by them for life and godliness, though they have a thirst which no thing or person in the world could quench, something peculiar to themselves, if they come to Jesus Christ, the moment they come to Him He will meet it.
You do not try to feel that water satisfies you: you drink, and pursue your way, and you are satisfied. Similarly, in dealing with Christ, open your nature to Him, and say: I take Thee to fill this void, to meet this thirst, to quench this desire. Wait before Him, and then rise from your knees and go forth and dare to reckon with Jesus Christ, as doing what He said He would, as satisfying, as quenching. And as you dare to trust Him, according to your faith it will be done. He stood and cried; He said in effect: “I am a river.” And, you know, in a river you have to stoop to drink.
When I began teaching, I thought that God’s gifts were on the top shelves for the strong and tall. I find now that all His best gifts are on low shelves for babes and children. The river always falls to the lowest. The river is an exquisite emblem of humility, for if there is one place lower than another, the river will seek it and lie in deep pools there, so that the infirm, the aged, the children, the cattle may go thither and drink. And Jesus Christ, leaping downward, comes into the low level of your life, and, if you are at your lowest, He is nearest to you. Stoop and drink and go your way, for Christ is very near to you as you read.
He stood, and cried, and said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” And may I tell you what I think is the inner thought of Christ, because, if I am correct, it is almost superlatively beautiful to consider that connection? He looked down the ages, He saw His children, you and me and the rest of us, and He said: What is true of My power to meet the need of men, shall be true also of all who belong to Me. They shall not drink for their own supply only, but through them I will pour rivers which shall meet the thirst of the world.
So that, first Christ contemplates Himself as the river at which we drink, and then He transforms our lives into rivers of which other people drink. Therefore, we may pass on, in our life, to others, what we get from Him, as He got from God the Father. Just as I have seen a river, springing from the melting snows of the uplands, pour itself down into some great lagoon or lake, whose pellucid waters have reflected the blue sky by day, and the stars by night, and out of which rivers have emanated that have carried to the lowland valleys all the glorious force of water which had descended from the hills — so Jesus Christ is the great lake into which the Godhead pours itself, and out of which we, as rivers, united with Him by a living faith, may drain His stores without exhausting them. Through us, God may do for others what we have found Jesus Christ to do for ourselves. “Out of them shall flow rivers.” You drink at a river, and then out of you pour the rivers.
Up till now you have been content with being a pitcher dipped into a river, and poured out and soon exhausted. Attending a yearly Convention has, perhaps, been your dip into the river, and thence you have been carried, dripping a drop here and there on the way, to India or China, or Africa, or England, and you have been put on end and poured out, and you have said, presently: “I must go back to the old spot to get filled up again.” You have been a pitcher all the time. Thank God for that, but from to-day you may be a channel-bed, through which not one river but half-a-dozen may flow, and you will not need, therefore, to be replenished at certain intervals, because you will command all the fulness of Christ.
Now just notice these points about a river. I can only note them. The first is its effortlessness. There is no effort in a river. You sit beside it, it flows, and it will flow on in its inexhaustible abundance. There is no thud, no pulse, no engine, no black column of smoke. It is effortless. What a strain there is in the lives of most of us! We are always pumping up, from unknown depths, our information from others, pumping out from commentaries, and there is a strain. You say, “I have got three sermons to make, lessons to prepare, letters to write to enquirers; I am so tired, my head and heart are overstrained, I never can get through it.” Strain! But Christ says: My life is effortless. And your life may be effortless, and through you may go the power of the living God, without strain to yourself and without the sense of strain that worries other people; for I am quite sure that our congregations are often more tired by seeing we are tired ourselves, than they are in listening to our words.
Then, secondly, of course, abundance. The word “abundance” is the Latin words ab unda (wave upon wave). I am told the Congo pours out of its mighty mouth a million tons of water a minute, and that its influence is discerned in discolouring the ocean two hundred miles from its mouth. Such is the Congo in the abundance of its waters. My friend, a man in a little village church, you a deaconess in some obscure… parish, do you realise that if you could link yourself in a certain manner with Christ there might pour out of you, day by day, an influence upon that little church, that neighbourhood that parish, which would be comparable to the Congo pouring out a million tons of water a minute ? If God can do that in a river, what cannot He do through you? I like that word rivers, as, though the Congo, and the Mississippi, and the Amazon, and the Ganges, and a dozen big rivers would alone satisfy the thought of Jesus for every one of His beloved.
You say this is hyperbolical. May the man who is addressing you say that years ago he knelt down before God, and put his finger upon this text, and claimed it, and that ever since then, through the channel-bed, there has been coming more and more of this river influence? And I dare to say here to any one who will get alone with God in some secluded spot, and put your finger upon this verse, and say: My God, I take Thee at Thy word; I dare to claim that Thy fulness should pass through my life — according to your faith it will be to you.
Then there is the constancy of the river. The man who wakes at night hears it murmuring past his house; it is there night and day, in the drought of summer and in the frost of winter, always, unintermittently pouring forth.
It is good to know, also, that it deepens in its flow. “As the Scripture hath said.” Our Lord was, without doubt, referring to Ezekiel chapter 47, where the water got deeper at every fresh measurement of a thousand cubits. I may be speaking to men who are getting grey. The general drift of the Church at present is to put the older men aside for younger men. Indeed, old men everywhere in the world are getting a hard time of it just now; they are pushed out of everything, and they begin to think they deserve it, too. They lose heart. A man begins to say to himself: “Well, I am getting past fifty, getting past sixty, and onward, and I suppose I shall have to give up my influence to others.” And according to his unbelief, so it is to him. He begins to dwindle into a marsh.
But let such a man dare to take God’s Word, and remember Ezekiel chapter 47, that the river gets deeper all along, and broadens, and intensifies in its life-giving power. So that there is no reason why your power of blessing men should get less as the body gets weaker, but rather, because the veil gets thinner, the eternal light may pour forth with more effulgence.
And it is life-giving. Wherever the waters come, there is life. Is your life like that? I hear the music of the waves of that river; they seem beating and throbbing outside the dam which we have raised by our unbelief. I can only ask God to-day that they may rise to such a torrent force as to sweep the dam away before them. I can only hope that every person who reads these words may be submerged in that eternal life. What a verse is that, “Jordan overfloweth its banks at the time of harvest!” May this be the time of harvest when the retaining banks shall be submerged beneath the flow of that mighty river, and when every one of us shall know what it is to be hidden under the wealth of God’s goodness passing over us.
Of course, when there is not much water you see plenty of bank, and when there is plenty of water you cannot see the banks at all. And when there is not much of God’s life in us, men see a good many of our limitations, and a good many bare patches in the midst of the stream. But when a man is right with God, God pours over him; you do not think about the man, you think about the river in the man.
It may seem hyperbolical to speak thus. You are saying, Yes, this is very well for the writer, and other men like him, who have been specially called out for God’s work, but it is not for us. I knew you would say that. Will you turn to the thirty-eighth verse? “He that believeth on Me”; and it goes on to say, “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him were to receive.” The pronoun “they” might perhaps have been too vague, and, therefore, the Lord specialises it and says, “He that believeth on Me, out of Him.” There is the singular, the particular, the definite. And the Greek word is very beautiful. “He that believeth in to me” — the Greek in with the accusative is always significant of motion towards — that is, he whose nature is always approximating towards Mine, he whose nature is always drawing closer and closer into intimate fellowship with Me.
What is belief? Belief is not so much intellectual as spiritual. It is receiving. He that believeth is he that receiveth. He that receiveth from Me, out of him shall flow rivers. There must be nothing between; there must be perfect openness between you and Jesus; there must be the quiet waiting on Him in prayer, until He shall pour through you His life. That is where you have made the mistake. You have been doing things for Him. Now let Jesus do His things through you.
I shall never forget a meeting held near Chicago, where about one hundred and fifty of God’s servants met Dr. Wilbur Chapman and myself in an old wood, on an Indian mound, where they buried their dead in the old time. One Friday afternoon, beneath those overshadowing trees, these ministers gathered and asked many questions about the orthodoxy and theology of our position. And when they had sufficed, I turned to my companion and asked him to give his experience.
He said that one Monday morning he was very sad and out of heart; it seemed as if his work was a failure; and he took up a New York paper, in which an address was published, which said that everything in life depended upon whether a man worked for God, or whether he let God work through him. He said: “I saw in a minute that I had been working for God, until I had worn the very flesh off my bones, and I was worried to death. And I knelt down and said: ‘My God, I will no longer work for Thee, but here is my manhood; pour Thyself through me to men.’ That altered my life.” Then we all knelt in prayer, and, audibly, one after another, we said: “Not henceforth for Thee, O God, but Thou through me.” The whole meeting was broken down as men are bowed now and again beneath the touch of the Spirit of God.
And, brothers and sisters will you open your hearts to this to-day? Do not read, do not glance through these lines as though I were talking about things that are ideal and far away. But understand that Jesus speaks to each one of you, as if there were no one but yourself to hear and receive His word, and if you will link yourself to Him in a faith that does not simply pray but appropriates, a faith which allows God a chance, a faith that waits still before Him until He achieves His purpose through your life; and if you will stand up in your pulpit, or in the open air, or in your class, and just believe that God is pouring through your thought, word, and act, His own fulness — the whole of your live, which has been so full of effort and strain and difficulty, will be altered, and the river of God, which is full of water, will pour through your life.
But you say your faith is small. It does not matter whether your faith is small or great. It is not the amount of your faith, but the object of your faith that helps you. A man says, My faith is so weak! My friend, if you will give a river time enough, it will find its way through the narrowest passage possible, and though your faith be but a very narrow channel to-day, if you give God time enough, He will pour His whole nature through it. It is not the faith, it is the object of the faith. You say you are so sterile! It is not surprising to hear you say that. But listen! “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land” — and you are dry enough! — “springs of water.”
“But this spake He of the Spirit.” We should hear more of Him. “The Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified.” You can easily understand that. The nature of Jesus Christ was enlarged by His ascension in order to take in the fulness of the Pentecostal gift, that He might bestow it on men. Before His death, Christ could receive the Spirit for Himself. But he needed to wait until He had received the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, and His human nature had been transfigured and enlarged — then it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness of the Holy Ghost dwell.
And what was true in the great macrocosm, is true in the microcosm; what is true in God’s dispensational dealing is true in His dealing with the individual. There must be an ascension in your heart before there can be a Pentecost. Have you glorified Jesus Christ? Have you made Him the King of your heart, of your life? Have you enthroned Him? Have you put Him where God the Father has put Him, as the Monarch, the only Ruler? If not, let there be an ascension to-day. Let Him lead captivity captive, let Him go up on high, let Him take the throne of your heart, let Him sit supreme Governor over every thought and emotion and purpose and desire of your soul. When Jesus is glorified, and when you have opened your whole nature to Him receptively, claimingly, then He will shed the Holy Spirit through you, and rivers of water will flow through your life.
“For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar of, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him.” “That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
This page Copyright © 1999 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/.
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