Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 13 2013 - John 7:32-52 – Rivers of living water

The Feast of Tabernacles was designed to remind the Israelites of the way in which God had cared for them when they lived for 40 years in a dry and thirsty wilderness. God had kept them alive by providing them with food and with water. On two occasions God had miraculously provided them with water from a rock.

On the last day of the feast Jesus declared to the crowds, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Anyone who believes in me will have rivers of living water flowing out from his heart, just as the Scriptures said.” This is not the first time that Jesus has spoken of himself as the source of living water (cf. 4:10-14; 6:35), but here he speaks of this water flowing like a river from those who believe in him.

But the most puzzling element in Jesus’ words is his statement that this had been prophesied in Scripture. What Scripture is Jesus referring to? It may be that Jesus has no particular Scripture in mind but is speaking generally of the way in which his coming fulfils all that was written beforehand (cf. 5:39) – the way in which Israel was provided with water in the wilderness was just a foretaste of the provision of life-giving water in and through Jesus. Nevertheless, I like to think that one of the Scriptures that Jesus had in mind was the remarkable prophecy regarding God’s renewal of life to his covenant people that we find in the latter chapters of Ezekiel.

In particular, in Ezekiel 47:1-12 we have a striking picture of water flowing from the temple in Jerusalem. The remarkable thing about this water is that the water gets deeper as it flows further from its source, yet it has no other tributaries feeding it along the way! Streaming from the temple this river gives life to whatever it touches. There are trees flourishing on its banks bearing fruit for food and leaves for healing. The waters flow on to revive stagnant swamps and turn the salt sea fresh so that it teems with life, providing food to all who fish there. This stream of life flows from the temple, it proceeds from the presence of God with his people.

Jesus is the one in whom this Scripture finds its fulfilment – the one in whom God has returned to his temple and has come to dwell among us. The river of the water of life flows from him.

John tells us that Jesus was speaking of the Spirit which had not yet been poured out because Jesus had not yet been glorified. For John, Jesus’ glorification is tied up with the cross. In his death the age of death is brought to judgment – the wilderness is at an end. In his resurrection a new age has dawned, a new creation has sprung into life. With his ascension the Spirit is poured out bringing life to all who believe in him – the cross becomes the Tree of Life from which we may now take and eat and live for ever. But more than that, we too then become the source of life – rivers of living water flow from us into a dry and dusty world, bringing life and healing.

Shine, Jesus, shine
Fill this land with the Father's glory
Blaze, Spirit, blaze, Set our hearts on fire
Flow, river, flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth Your Word, Lord And let there be light

Lord Jesus, fill me with your living water, and may it then flow from me to bring your life and healing to those living in a dry and thirsty world. Help me to scour out of my life anything that would prevent the living water from flowing freely.

May 13 2019 - 2 Samuel 18 – The death of Absalom

David had been forced to flee from Jerusalem before of the rebellion of his son Absalom. He escaped to the city of Mahanaim, a place near the Jabbok, beyond the Jordan, where angels had met Jacob as he returned from Paddan Aram to meet with his brother Esau (see Genesis 32:1). Meanwhile, Absalom has put together an army to pursue David and his supporters. David has to prepare his men for a battle. How tragic that lives must now be lost in a battle between David and his own son to see which of them can secure the kingdom for himself.

David divided his troops into three bands: one under Joab the commander of his army; one under Abishai, Joab's brother; one under Ittai the Gittite who had sworn allegiance to David. They left the city to face battle refusing to allow David to go with them because they wanted to make sure that the king was not captured. David's last words to the three commanders as they left the city were, "Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake" (v. 5). David loved his wayward and rebellious son, even though Absalom seemed intent not only on seizing his throne but on taking his life.

The story of Absalom's death is well known. This young man with flowing locks of hair was riding his mule through the woods where the battle was being fought when he came across David's men. As Absalom turned to flee his hair got caught in the overhanging branch of a great oak tree. Absalom's mule went on its way leaving its owner hanging in the air. One of Joab's men told him that he had seen Absalom hanging there. Joab asked why the man had not killed him. The soldier reminded Joab of David's final instructions, but Joab would have none of it. Joab went to where Absalom was hanging and thrust three javelins into him, one piercing his heart. The battle was over; the Israelites fled back to their homes while Joab and his men buried Absalom in the forest.

Joab had proved himself a wise commander of David's army. No doubt he had argued that if Absalom was spared and lived it would not have been long before he started another rebellion. Nevertheless, he had disobeyed the king's explicit instructions and taken no notice of David's deep love for his rebellious son.

When the news of Absalom's defeat and death reaches David, he finds no joy in his victory and that of his men but only deep sorrow and mourning that his son is dead. David "went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!’" (v.33).

David had failed to be the godly king the Lord had called him to be. He had been weak and sinful, had set a bad example to his sons and had failed to discipline them or to work at reconciliation with them. We have a king over us, David's greater son, who is quite different. He is the very best of kings, the perfect example of what it means to live the life God requires. Nevertheless, we, by nature are rebels against him. Given the gracious and loving character of Jesus' rule, we are rebels without a cause.

King Jesus has waged war not on us but upon the prince of our rebellion – on Satan himself. David's mourning over his son, "O my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you", was a mark of his helpless love for his son. King Jesus loved us in all our rebellion against him and did die instead of us. He died in our place and, defeating all the powers of sin and death, rose victorious from the grave. By the power of his risen life and his outpoured Spirit he is reconciling rebels to himself. In grace he has embraced us and brought us home into his kingdom.

Father God, we thank you for King Jesus who gave himself for us that we might be brought back into the embrace of your family. Help us to celebrate Christ's victory, rejoice in his great love for us and to invite those still in rebellion to come to him and discover the delights of his grace.

Peter Misselbrook