To The Withered Heart, Jesus Says

Title: To The Withered Heart, Jesus Says

Bible Book: John 7 : 37

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Invitation of Jesus; Thirst, Spiritual



For some time now, we have been studying on Sunday mornings some of the Invitations of Christ, and especially those that are marked by the usage of the word “Come.” In the course of this series, we have considered seven distinctive calls that Christ extended, including one where Jesus said in John 21:12, “Come And Dine.” This morning, we’re looking at a portion of scripture where Jesus invites the withered and parched heart, “Come unto me and drink.”

And certainly, when someone comes to Jesus, He is able to satisfy their spiritual hunger and thirst. He said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” He also said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

When He encountered the woman of Samaria at the well in John 4:13-14, “Jesus answered and  said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the  water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

This is a rather familiar invitation in the scripture. The Bible says in Isaiah 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…” In Revelation 22:17, the Bible says that “the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that thirst is “One of the most powerful natural appetites, the craving for water or other drink. Besides its natural significance, thirst is figuratively used of strong spiritual desire. The soul thirsts for God (Psalms 42:2; 63:1). Jesus meets the soul’s thirst with water of life (John 4:13 ff; 6:35; 7:37). It is said of the heavenly bliss, ‘They shall hunger no more; neither thirst any more’ (Revelation 7:16-17).”

It is noteworthy that the One who promised to satisfy our spiritual thirst, said as He hung upon the cross, “I thirst” (John 19:28). The songwriter Bev Lowry observed this paradox and wrote these words…

He said, “I thirst,” yet He made the rivers. He said, “I thirst,” yet He made the sea. “I thirst,” said the King of the Ages. In His great thirst, He brought water to me.

There is so much in this world that cannot satisfy our spiritual thirst. To use the words of Chuck Colson, these things are “like saltwater; the more you drink the thirstier you get.” (From his book, “Kingdoms In Conflict”)

We should note that not everyone will have a spiritual thirst, for Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Some people are spiritually dehydrated, and they aren’t concerned about it. There was a quote in the September 1990 issue of “Pulpit Helps” that said, “When there is no thirst for righteousness, the sermons will always seem dry.”

I read about a little boy who said he was thirsty one night after he had already gone to bed, “Mom, may I have a glass of water?” the little boy called from his bed. “Honey, you had a drink just before I tucked you in,” the mom reminded him. “But I’m still thirsty, “the boy pleaded. Mom complied, hoping that after one more glass of water the child would drift off to sleep. Fifteen minutes later, a small voice sounded through the house again, “May I have another glass of water please?” Mom yelled back in frustration, “If you ask for one more glass of water you’re going to get a spanking.” For a few minutes, there was silence, but then the boy called out again, “Mom, when you come to give me a spanking, will you bring me a glass of water?”

This invitation is an invitation to salvation. And Jesus extended it on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. John 7:2). The Bible says…

(John 7:37-38) In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. {38} He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Now as we think about this invitation, in order to better understand it, we need to realize that…

I. The Timing Is An Important Element In This Invitation

There are three time indicators in this chapter that tell us the chapter is taking place during the Feast Of Tabernacles…

(John 7:2) Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.

(John 7:14) Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.

(John 7:37) In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

Keith Smith gives a brief summary of what was taking place in the Feast of Tabernacles…

There were three great annual national “feasts” in the Jewish religious calendar. The first was the Feast of the Passover; the second was known as the Feast of Pentecost; and the third was known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Now we know from (John 7) verse 2 that Jesus was speaking here  during the Feast of Tabernacles. This was a high, happy, holy day in the life of the Jew. … During that feast, (a priest) would go to the Pool of Siloam, take a golden pitcher, dip it into that pool, and carry it back to the temple. There he would pour that water out on the altar of sacrifice. At that moment the Levites would blow the trumpets, and the great crowd would cry out, “With joy you will draw water  from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). There would be leaping, and dancing, and shouting, and singing, and great hallelujahs would fill the air. It was right at this climax of this great holiday that the Lord Jesus stood up in that crowd, and with that royal voice, cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (v.37b). You see, Jesus realized that these people were drinking from the river of ritual … that after this day was over they would go back to the same old fears, the same old faults,  the same old failures, the same old frustrations. (

A. Let’s Consider The Details Of The Week During The Feast Of Tabernacles

The Feast began on the 15th day of the month of Tishri, which corresponds to our late September to late October.

1. These Events Were Based Upon Texts That Were Drawn From The Old Testament

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says…

The following are the principal passages in the Pentateuch which refer to this festival: Exodus 23:16, where it is spoken of as the Feast of Ingathering, and is brought into connection with the other festivals under their agricultural designations, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Harvest; Leviticus 23:34-36,39-43, where it is mentioned as commemorating the passage of the Israelites through the desert; Deuteronomy 16:13-15, in which there is no notice of the eighth day, and it is treated as a thanksgiving for the harvest; Numbers 29:12-38, where there is an enumeration of the sacrifices which belong to the festival; Deuteronomy 31:10-13, where the injunction is given for the public reading of the law in the Sabbatical year, at the Feast of Tabernacles. In Nehemiah 8 there is an account of the observance of the feast by Ezra, from which several additional particulars respecting it may be gathered.

2. These Events Were Based Upon Traditions That Developed Over Time

In his book, “Manners & Customs of the Bible,” James M. Freeman writes…

In addition to the ceremonies originally prescribed at the institution of the Feast of Tabernacles, were several others of a later date. Among these was the daily drawing of water from the pool of Siloam.

Every daybreak of the seven days of the feast, a priest went to the pool of Siloam and filled with water a golden pitcher, containing about two and one-half pints. He was accompanied by a procession of the people and musicians. On returning to the temple, he was welcomed with three blasts from a trumpet, and, going to the west side of the great altar, he poured the water from the golden pitcher into a silver basin, which had holes in the bottom through which the water was carried off.

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia goes on to say…

The Talmud maintains that the ceremony of the drawing of water is anterior (forward) to the Babylonian captivity, and that Isaiah 12:3 refers to it. Indeed, it is only on this supposition that the imagery in Isaiah 12:3 obtains its full force and- significance.

(Isaiah 12:3) Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

B. Let’s Consider The Drawing Of The Water During The Feast Of Tabernacles

1. This Was A Daily Ritual During This Feast

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia gives one of the most thorough explanations of what was taking place in the Feast of Tabernacles…

At daybreak of the first day of the festival a priest, accompanied by a jubilant procession and by a band of music, descended with a golden pitcher holding (about two and a half pints) to the pool of Siloam, and, having filled it with water from the brook, he endeavored to reach the Temple in time to join his brother priests who carried the morning sacrifice to the altar. Following in their steps, he entered from the south through the water-gate into the inner court. On reaching the water-gate, he was welcomed by three blasts of the trumpet. He then ascended the steps of the altar with another priest who carried a pitcher of wine for the drink-offering. The two priests turned to the left of the altar where two silver basins were fixed with holes at the bottom; the basin for the water was to the west and had a narrower hole, while the one for the wine was to the east and had a wider hole, so that both might get empty at the same time. Into these respective basins they simultaneously and slowly poured the water and the wine in such a manner that both were emptied at the same time upon the base of the altar.

Each of the pilgrims held in his right, hand the luláb, or palm, to which were tied the twigs of myrtle and willow as described above, and the ethrôg, or citron, in his left, while these psalms were chanted; and, during the chanting of Psalms 118, the pilgrims shook their palms three times —viz. at the singing of …

(Psalms 118:1) O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalms 118:25) Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

(Psalms 118:29 – last verse) O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

When the Musâph chant was finished the priests in procession went round the altar once, exclaiming: Hosanna, O Jehovah; give us help, O Jehovah, give prosperity! (Psalms 118:25). Thereupon the solemn benediction was pronounced by the priests and the people dispersed, amid the repeated exclamations, “How beautiful art thou, O altar!” or “To Jehovah and thee, O altar, we give thanks!”

The seventh day, which was denominated the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, was especially distinguished in the following manner from the other six days. After the … special festival sacrifice of the day, the priests in procession made seven circuits round the altar, whereas on the preceding days of the festival only one circuit was made. The willows which surrounded the altar were then so thoroughly shaken by the people that the leaves lay thickly on the ground. The people also fetched palm-branches and beat them to pieces at the side of the altar. It is from this fact that the last day of the festival obtained the names of the Day of Willows, the Great Hosanna Day, and the Branch-

thrashing Day. … (This) may have been to symbolize that after the last verdure of the year had served for the adornment of the altar the trees might now go on to cast off their leaves.

It was A. T. Robertson who said…

On each of the seven … days water was drawn in a golden pitcher from the pool of Siloam and carried in procession to the temple and offered by the priests as the singers chanted Isaiah 12:3: “With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

2. This Was A Definite Reminder During This Feast

In his book, “Manners & Customs of the Bible,” James M. Freeman writes…

This ceremony was accompanied with songs and shouts from the people and the sound of  trumpets. It is supposed to have been designed to represent three distinct things: 1. A memorial of the water provided for their fathers in the desert [Exodus 17:1-7]. 2. A symbol of the forthcoming “latter rain” [of Joel 2:23 that usually came at the time of harvest]. 3. A representation of the outpouring of  the Holy Spirit at the coming of the Messiah. To this last, reference is made in verses 38 and 39, and it’s to this pouring out of water, or the Holy Spirit, that Jesus no doubt refers to in our text-verse.

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia further says…

It is upon this explanation that our Savior’s remark is based (John 7:37-39) in allusion to this ceremony on this last day of the festival when it was performed for the last time.

Warren Wiersbe said…

The last day of the feast would be the seventh day, a very special day on which the priests would march seven times around the altar, chanting Psalms 118:25. It would be the last time they would draw the water and pour it out. No doubt just as they were pouring out the water, symbolic of the water Moses drew from the rock, Jesus stood and shouted His great invitation to thirsty sinners.

The Jewish New Testament Commentary says…

It was in the midst of this water pouring, trumpet blasting, palm waving, psalm chanting and ecstatic joy on the part of people seeking forgiveness – and in the presence of all 24 divisions of the priesthood – that Yeshua (Jesus) cried out in the Temple courts, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever trusts in me, as the Tanakh says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!”

II. The Terminology Is An Important Element In This Invitation

(John 7:37) In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

A. Notice The Terms Associated With His Actions

1. He Was Visible – “He Stood”

stood – Greek NT:2476. heisteékei; absolutely; to stand by, stand near (in a place already mentioned, so that the reader readily understands where). (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament says that the word “stood” is actually the imperfect tense, “was standing.”

But though He ‘was standing’ with the crowd, He now ‘stood out’ among the crowd because He lifted His voice.

2. He Was Verbal – “He Cried”

cried – Greek 2896. krazo; to “croak” (as a raven) or scream, i.e. to call aloud (shriek, exclaim, intreat):--cry (out).

cried – Greek NT:2896. ekraxen; to cry i. e. call out aloud, speak with a loud voice. (It is used) ?of those who utter or teach a thing publicly and solemnly, followed by direct discourse. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that “Jesus stood (probably in some elevated position), and cried – as if making proclamation in the audience of all the people.”

Matthew Henry said, “Jesus stood and cried, which denotes His great earnestness and importunity. His heart was upon it, to bring poor souls in to himself.”

B. Notice The Terms Associated With His Announcement

(John 7:37) In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

1. Consider The Terms That Summarize The Situation

man – Greek NT:5100. tis; an indefinite pronoun meaning a certain, a certain one; used of persons and things concerning which the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

thirst – Greek NT:1372. dipsao; absolutely, to suffer thirst; suffer from thirst; figuratively, those are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

2. Consider The Terms That Specify The Solution

come – Greek NT:2064. erchésthoo; to come; properly, of persons; universally, to come from one place into another (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

unto – Greek NT:4314. pros; with the accusative, to, toward, denoting direction toward a thing, or position and state looking toward a thing; of the goal or limit toward which a movement is directed properly, after verbs of going, departing, running, coming, etc. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

me – Jesus refers to Himself.

drink – Greek NT:4095. pinetoo; literally it means to imbibe or drink; ?figuratively, it means to receive into the soul what serves to refresh, strengthen, nourish it unto life eternal. (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

III. The Transformation Is An Important Element In This Invitation

(John 7:38) He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

Marvin Vincent said…

The scripture hath said. There is no exactly corresponding passage, but the quotation harmonizes with the general tenor of several passages, as Isaiah 55:1; 58:11; Zechariah 13:1; 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1; Joel 3:18. (From Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament)

A. There Is A Faith Involved In This Transformation

1, Notice The Operation Of This Believing

believeth – Greek 4100. pisteuo, pist-yoo'-o; from G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):-- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that the word means “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in.”

2. Notice The Object Of This Believing

Adam Clarke said…

[He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said] He who receives me as the Messiah, according to what the Scripture has said concerning me; my person, birth, conduct, preaching, and miracles, being compared with what is written there, as ascertaining the true Messiah.

B. There Is A Flow Involved In This Transformation

(John 7:38) He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

We are given the explanation of Jesus’ statement in the next verse…

(John 7:39) (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

1. Notice The Direction Of The Flowing Water

The Barnes’ Notes Commentary says of this phrase “out of his belly,” that it means, “Out of his  midst, or out of his heart. The word “belly” is often put for the midst of a thing, the center, and the heart. It means here that from the man shall flow; that is, his piety shall be of such a nature that it will extend its blessings to others.”

We read from A. T. Robertson, “The believer … not only quenches in Christ his own thirst, but becomes a source of new streams for others.”

2. Notice The Description Of The Flowing Water

living – Greek NT:2198. zoontos; Metaphorically, the word is used of inanimate things; (specifically here it refers to) living water, i.e. bubbling up, gushing forth, flowing, with the suggested idea of refreshment and (health and well-being; invigorating) (opposed to the water of cisterns and pools; it is like our spring water). The phrase is used figuratively of the spirit and truth of God as satisfying the needs and desires of the soul; having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul.  (From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the children of Israel in the wilderness “drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” The Pulpit Commentary adds another possible application when it says, “Each soul will be a rock smitten in the thirsty land, from which crystal rivers of life-giving grace shall flow.”

One writer commenting on this vivid picture said…

“Water.” Refreshment and purification are presented to us in this figure. “Living water.” Not stagnant, much less putrescent. Life belongs to the Christian; and this life he must seek to impart to others. “Rivers of living water.” Here are presented to us ideas of depth, copiousness, perpetuity. Eternal life in believers is not to be scant, or shallow. A joyous and abounding river, it is to flow with waters exuberant and vivifying to all around. They are “flowing waters.” “Out of Him shall flow rivers.” The Spirit which God has given is not to be restrained. (M. Brock from The Biblical Illustrator)


In her book, “Journey Into Narnia,” Kathryn Ann Lindskoog writes…

In the Narnia books no passage is more famous than the one in The Silver Chair in which Jill meets Aslan for the first time. Very thirsty, she has come to a stream, but finds a talking Lion lying in her way.

Here is the passage from C. S. Lewis’ book…

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” … For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” … [she] realized that it was the lion speaking. … [T]he voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion. “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

What a wonderful picture of the living water that Christ offers! In 1969, Max and David Sapp published a song that said…

There is a river that flows from deep within. There is a fountain that frees the soul from sin. Come to these waters, there is a vast supply. There is a river that never shall run dry.

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