Chapter 5 – The Living Water

“And all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10: 4. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10: 19-22.

There is no emblem of the Holy Spirit more frequently used in the Scriptures than water. Naturally suggestive of cleansing, refreshing, and fullness, it expresses most perfectly the most important offices of the Holy Ghost. It is not possible for us to refer to all the passages
and incidents which are based upon this figure; but we shall call attention to four remarkable passages which unfold in logical and chronological order the work of the Holy Spirit in our redemption and complete salvation.

1. The first of these passages, quoted above, refers to the first three of these unfoldings of the Holy Spirit. They are all connected with incidents in the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. The first is the smiting of the rock in Horeb, of which we read in the seventeenth chapter of Exodus. They had come to the fountain at Meribah, but found it dry; and, as usual, instead of trusting and praying, they began to murmur and complain. Then God commanded Moses to lead them to the rock in Horeb, and to smite it with the rod wherewith he had divided the Red Sea and performed the miracles of judgment in Egypt. The cleft rock gave forth a flood of water, and the people drank abundantly, and their cattle.

The smiting of the rock in Horeb was, of course, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ and the stroke of the Father’s judgment on Calvary by which our guilt was expiated and the fountain of mercy was opened for sinful men. But the water which flowed from that rock was also a type of the Holy Spirit, purchased for us as the most precious gift of His redemption. Water is always a type of the Holy Ghost. Jesus, Himself, has explained the symbol in John 7:38-39, where, after speaking of the living water which was to flow from the believer, he added, “This He spake of the Holy Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.”

The water from the rock in Horeb was the type of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, in consequence of Christ’s accomplished redemption. This is its dispensational meaning. So far as the successive eras of our Christian life are concerned, it prefigures our first experiences of the Holy Spirit after our conversion. There is a very real sense in which the Spirit of God is given to the believer as soon as he accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. There is a deeper fullness which follows at a later stage. But let not that discredit nor displace the other real experience in which He comes to the believer, in so far as the heart is open to receive Him. This was the first promise to the infant church and the youngest believers of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord, our God, shall call.” This is the only security for the establishing and standing of any believer; and no convert should be left until he has definitely received the Holy Spirit, and been sealed unto the day of redemption by the indwelling power and the presence of God.

2. In the twentieth chapter of Numbers we have a second incident very similar to the first and yet essentially different. Again the people come to the place of extremity. They are without water and ready to perish from thirst. Once again, God interposes for their deliverance. Once again, He leads them to the rock and the waters flow in abundance for the supply of all their need, “and the people drink, and their cattle,” and they are refreshed and satisfied. All this seems exactly like the other miracle, but when we look a little closer we find important differences. In the first place, it is forty years later in their history. The first miracle was at the beginning of their wilderness life. This is near its close, and is intended, therefore, to mark some advanced stage in their experience. It is at a different place — Kadesh. The word “Kadesh” means holiness, and we know that Kadesh was the gate to the Promised Land. This, therefore, would suggest that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit here set forth has reference to the more advanced stages of our Christian life.

There is an era in every complete Christian life; there is a Kadesh where God brings us into His holiness and gives to us the Spirit to dwell within us, and causes us to walk in His statutes and keep His judgments and do them; there is a promised land whose gateway lies at Kadesh, into which we enter by receiving the Holy Ghost in His fullness. There is a place where we either pass out of the wilderness into the “rest that remaineth for the people of God,” or where we pass on to the ceaseless round of failure and disappointment in which so many are living.

There is an infinite difference between this reception of the Holy Spirit and His coming to us at our conversion. There He comes to witness to our acceptance and forgiveness; here He comes to accept our perfect offering of ourselves to Him, and to possess us fully for Himself, bringing us into personal union with Jesus, and keeping us henceforth in obedience and victory.

Again, it will be noticed that the manner of the miracle was entirely different. In the first instance, the rock was to be struck by the rod of the lawgiver, but in this case it was not to be struck. Moses was simply to speak to it, and its would give forth its waters at the quiet voice of faith and prayer. Moses disobeyed this command and vehemently struck the rock repeatedly. “Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch water out of the rock?” God, displeased with his haste and unbelief, severely punished him by excluding him from the Promised Land; yet He honored His own promise by giving the water to the people, notwithstanding the failure of Moses.

All this action is exceedingly significant. The rock was not to be struck again, because it was already smitten and opened, and the waters were already flowing freely. All that was needed was to receive by faith what had already been secured by the great sacrifice. And so for us, the Holy Ghost is given, the sacrifice is finished, the price is paid, the conditions are fulfilled, the heavens are opened, and the Holy Ghost has come. Let us not crucify Christ afresh, or ignore the value of His death by trying to bring down the Spirit again from heaven. All we have to do is to simply receive Him and make room for His entrance. Our part is not to strike but to speak to the Rock, and, as we come in the simplicity of trust, quietly, expectantly claim His entering in; more willingly than a father would give good gifts to his children, will the Father on high bestow the Holy Spirit on them that ask Him. Not like the priests of Baal, with noisy clamor and unbelieving repetitions are we to ask for Him, but in unhesitating confidence and full assurance of faith are we to come and receive what He is waiting to bestow.

The bells within the innermost shrine of God’s holy dwelling-place are very delicately hung, and a rude touch will jar the exquisite wires and break the delicate mechanism. All you need is the lightest touch. In the days of your childhood, you got access to a building by pounding on the door with a rude knocker; but now you come and softly touch a little button, and the electric current signals to the highest storey your approach. God’s bells all move in answer to electric wires, and your rude, clumsy blows only hinder your petition.

The Holy Ghost is very sensitive, as love always is. You can conquer a wild beast by blows and chains, but you cannot conquer a woman’s heart that way, or win the love of a sensitive nature. That must be wooed by the delicate touches of trust and affection. So the Holy Ghost has to be taken by a faith as delicate and sensitive as the gentle heart with whom it is coming in touch. One thought of unbelief, one expression of impatient distrust or fear, will instantly check the perfect freedom of His operations as much as a breath of frost would wither the petals of the most sensitive rose or lily.

Speak to the Rock, do not strike it. Believe in the Holy Ghost and treat Him with the tenderest confidence and the most unwavering trust, and He will meet you with instant response and equal confidence. Beloved, have you come to the rock in Kadesh? Have you opened all your being to the fullness of the Spirit? And then, with the confidence of the child to the mother, the bride to the husband, the flower to the sunshine, have you received by faith? And are you drinking of the fullness and dwelling in the innermost center of His blessed life?

3. We come to the third stage in the following chapter, Numbers 21. We have a very striking little picture: “And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it; The princes dug the well, the nobles of the people dug it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah.”

At first sight the meaning is a little obscure, but as we look more closely, we see a very striking picture. The people have passed on from Kadesh, and again the parched desert is all around them. There are no oases, rills, or flowing streams in sight, and they are famishing with thirst. Then comes the divine command: “Gather the people that I may give them water.” “Where shall they be gathered? Gathered to the well of Beer. Oh! there is no well in sight.” “Never mind, gather them all the same. Right there in the desert sand, bring them together.”

Now the command is given to the nobles to bring out their pilgrim staves and to dig the well in the desert sand; and while they dig, the people are gathered around and are commanded to sing. And so they dig and sing, and sing and dig, and their song is given us in this simple refrain: “Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it.”As they sang, the waters burst forth from the depths, and overflowed and ran like a river through the camp; and the people drank and sang and wondered.

This is the explanation of that strange expression in the text, “They drank of that rock that followed them.” This is the way it followed them. The rock did not travel through the desert behind the camp, nor was it carried about with them in their caravan, like some fetish or car of Juggernaut; but the water of the rock followed them. It ran under the desert sands, a subterranean stream. They could not see it on the surface, but it was there all the same. All they needed to do was to gather above it, and with their staves dig the well and sing the song of faith and prayer, and lo! the waters flowed abundantly.

What a beautiful picture of the abiding life in the Spirit, and of the continuous sources of our spiritual life! When we receive the fullness of the Spirit, the same blessed promise of life and salvation continues to follow us through all our wilderness journey. Not always will we see the water, or be able to trace the channel of the river; but it is there beneath our feet, even under the fiery sun and burning sands of the hottest desert, and all we need to do is to dig the well of need with the staff of promise, then sing the song of trust, and the Holy Spirit will be found springing up, as ever, in His infinite supply for all our need.

Every promise in the Bible has some fitness to some need in our life. As we use the promise faithfully and meet its simple conditions, we shall find that the waters will spring and our wants will be supplied from the Fountain of Life. To dig is not always very pleasant work. There is a good deal of excavation, and room has to be made by scooping out the sand; and so the promises of God have their sharp edges as well as their gracious fullness. They empty us as well as fill us; but as we meet the conditions, we shall always find them faithful and full, “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

This striking figure of the desert well teaches us the secret of abiding in the Spirit. Our deeper life in Christ is not always apparent even to ourselves, for it is hid with Christ in God; but the fountain is always there, and we may ever drink from its hidden depths and find the supply of every need in Him.

4. There is another figure of the Holy Spirit suggested by the passage quoted from the Hebrews. There we see the worshiper entering into the Holy of Holies with his body washed with pure water. This suggests the ancient laver which stood at the entrance of the tabernacle, and was intended for the use of the priests who went within to wash their faces and their hands and cleanse their robes from every spot and stain whenever they entered the holy precincts. It was made out of the looking-glasses of the women of Israel, and it is probable that externally it was a great polished mirror in which they could see themselves and their defilements, Then in the water they could cleanse away the stains.

This laver was the type of the Holy Spirit as our fountain of cleansing and our way of approach to the holy place of Christ’s immediate presence. Only as we are cleansed in that laver can we enter in as the priests of God and feed upon the Living Bread, dwelling in the light of the golden lamps, and breathing the sweet odor of the incense that fills the presence chamber with the atmosphere of heaven. At once it reveals and removes the defilements of our hearts and lives. There is a sense in which, once for all, the Holy Spirit cleanses us. This was what our Master meant when He said, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.”

But there is a constant liability to contract at least the stains of earth, if not the taint of sin. The very atmosphere we breathe is so laden with the breath of evil that it is almost impossible to escape its touch and taint; but the blessed Holy Spirit stands ministering within the sacred temple of the heart, and is ready every moment to wash away the faintest touch of earth or evil, and to keep us spotless, undefiled, and perfectly accepted in His sight.

“If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” The laver speaks to us of the permanent and unceasing operations of the Holy Spirit. The rock in Horeb and Kadesh, and even the well in the wilderness, were but the transient types of these spiritual verities. But the laver was God’s abiding symbol, and continued in the tabernacle through all their future national life. It speaks to us of that continual provision which He has made for our abiding life. Let us, therefore, receive Him and abide in Him; let us wait in the Holy Place; let us not only come for cleansing, but let us keep coming; and let us so dwell under the continual influences and in the very atmosphere of His love that we shall never be out of communion, and that we shall be kept cleansed from all sin.

We read, in the description of the tabernacle, not only of the laver but also of its foot. What was the intention of the foot of the laver? Perhaps it was a little outlet through which the waters could more easily flow within the reach of one who sought cleansing. The laver itself was too high to be easily reached, at least at its brim; but through this little pipe, which probably could be opened by a simple mechanism, the waters flowed to the ground and were always within the reach of even the littlest child, had it needed to come.

How truly this illustrates the blessed nearness of the Holy Ghost! Not in the highest heaven do we need to seek Him, not afar off do we have to cry to Him; but He is our Paraclete, One by our side, One very near and ever near to help in time of need. He is to us the presence of the Holy God, already given and ever present in the heart of His Church. He is as ready to enter the yielded and trusting heart as light is to flow into the open window and sunshine to meet the petals of the opening flower. Let us send up to Him the simple, whole-hearted prayer,

Blessed Holy Spirit
Welcome to my breast;
In my heart forever
Be my Holy Guest.