Throne of God and Water of Life – what are they?

Did Jesus declare his deity when he claimed he could quench thirst on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles? We read the following:

Jn. 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

First of all, we find the institution of the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) in Leviticus:

Lev. 23:33 And the LORD said to Moses, 34 “Say to the people of Israel, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the feast of booths to the LORD. 35 On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. 36 Seven days you shall present offerings by fire to the LORD; on the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is a solemn assembly; you shall do no laborious work.

37 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD offerings by fire, burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day; 38 besides the sabbaths of the LORD, and besides your gifts, and besides all your votive offerings, and besides all your freewill offerings, which you give to the LORD.

39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; you shall keep it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are native in Israel shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

No pouring of water is mentioned for a reason. Let us continue with reading the following about the pouring of water (water libation) from a Jewish website:

“The Water Libations

Every sacrifice brought in the Temple was accompanied by a flour offering and the pouring of a prescribed measure of wine on the altar. During the seven days of the Festival of Sukkot a libation of water was added to that of wine together with each of the daily morning offerings. This water libation is not explicitly mentioned in Torah but it is a law revealed to Moshe on Sinai to which the Sages have found allusions in the Torah.

The Water Libation was performed with intense joy. Accompanying the Water Libation were festivities entitled Simchas Beis HaShoavah, or happiness of the house of the water-drawing) refering to the waters, which were drawn from the pool of Shiloach (which is referred to as the waters of salvation). The festivities were held in the Ezrat Nashim, which was the courtyard of the outer Temple. Though a relatively small area, miracously, many thousands of happy people were able to crowd in. There was dancing and singing in celebration of the drawing of the water.

Our sages said, “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Simchas Beis Hashoavah, has never seen rejoicing in his life.”

Why was the Water Libation such a happy occasion? It is as if G-d says to Israel, “All your offerings are precious to Me, but this offering of the water which you pour on the altar during the festival is especially precious. Water requires neither planting nor reaping or pressing no purifying. Let it be joined with the wine libation, which requires all sorts of preparations. In my eyes, your wine and water are equal, those that require great effort and those that don’t, so long as you rejoice in me without any mixture of foreign thoughts or ulterior motives.” Through the water libation, the Jewish people knew that all their exertion in the service of G-d throughout the year rises to be accepted by him.”

http://www.ou.org/chagim/sukkot/libations.htm

And again,

“The nature of the water libation was based on the famous verse from Isaiah (12:3), “Ush’avtem mayim b’soson, mima-ai-nay ha’yeshoh” (“You shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation”). Sukkot is the most joyous offestivals, and the most intense joy centered around the nisuch ha’mayim (pouring of the water). On chol ha’moed (intermediate days), with the exception of Shabbat, these festivities called Simchat Beit ha’Shoavah (happiness of the place of water-drawing), were accompanied with great public celebrations, replete with musical instruments and song.”

http://www.ou.org/shabbat/recipes/chayeisara62.htm

The water for the libation ceremony was drawn from the pool of Shiloah (meaning ‘salvation’) in the City of David. So let us keep these in mind as we further deal with the subject.

The water of life and living water are used interchangeably. The living water is simply free flowing water, such as a well, a stream or a river, but not still water.

Song 4:15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

Jer 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake thee shall be put to shame; those who turn away from thee shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

Wow! Didn’t Jesus say similar things? Isn’t he also the fountain of living water?

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, `Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. 38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really the prophet.”

Ops! So all those who believe in him become fountains themselves! It appears being the fountain is not equivalent to being God! So how do we interpret this?

In Judaism living water is related to the law of God. Remember that obedience brought blessings, prosperity and life, and disobedience brought curse, desolation and death. In the same way, when Moses in the wilderness struck the rock, the water gushing out of it also meant life to the Jewish people. The Feast of Tabernacles is about the wandering in the wilderness. Though the pouring of water is not instituted in the law, it might have been derived from the story of Moses striking the rock.

When we look at John 7:39 we have further evidence that the living water is related to the law of God. It says, Jesus referred to the Spirit. What do we learn from the Tanakh about the purpose of giving the Spirit?

Ezek 36:27 “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”

Is it about being happy-clappy? Or is it about obedience becoming one’s very nature? Having the Spirit is synonymous with having the law in the heart. It leads to complete obedience.

Jer. 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

So what is the result of receiving the law into the heart by the Spirit? That obeying the law of God becomes one’s very nature.

Jesus had the Spirit. What was his life like? He taught others how to live right, how to correctly obey God. This is what living water is about. Those who believe in him, and having the Spirit walk as he walked, should do the same.

It is often claimed that in Jn. 7:39-40 Jesus chose the moment of highest celebration to publicly declare his deity. But the people thought something different:

John 7:40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This is really THE prophet.”

Read it again to make sure you didn’t miss the word. They thought he was THE PROPHET. Not God. The prophet like Moses who would teach the children of Israel righteousness, initiate the new exodus and deliver them from their enemies. These are some of the tasks of the Messiah. If Jesus wanted to tell them he was God, he utterly failed. He could have chosen different words. However, neither the people, nor the gospel writer make such a claim – only evangelical theology.

We find in Matthew that the King Messiah was also believed to be a prophet:

Matt 21:9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 21 And when he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 21 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matt 21:44 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 45 But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.

What did Jesus say about himself?

Mark 6:2 And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”

Luke 13:31 At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, `Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

How about Peter? What did he say about Jesus?

Acts 3:21 whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. 22 Moses said, `The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul that does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’

Indeed, Jesus did what prophets always did. Tried to turn the children of Israel back to God by warning them about their sins and teaching them righteousness, and warned them about the coming judgment.

Let us now consider some passages in Revelation concerning the throne of God (and of the Lamb) and the living water. Traditional theology often identify the Lamb with the water of life. However, we read,

Rev 7:17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

If the Lamb is the guide to wells of living water, then the Lamb himself cannot be the living water. Let us try to gain further insights.

Rev. 3:21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Wow! So the privilege Jesus received, to sit down with God on His throne, was his reward because he also conquered. Just what throne is in view? What is the throne of God in relation to the Messiah?

1Chron. 29:23 Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father; and he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.

The throne of God is the throne of Israel. It is most often referred to as the throne of David. Jesus earning the privilege to sit on the throne of God simply means he earned the right to rule Israel (and the world) in the coming Kingdom. In the larger context the throne of God is Jerusalem because that is where the King will rule the world from:

Jer 3:15 “`And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again. 17 At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.

Another passage gives us further hints about the future Kingdom:

Mic 4:2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Now, I think enough is said, understanding the following passage should not be a problem:

Rev 22:1 Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him

What is this passage talking about? It is about the Messiah ruling the world from Jerusalem in the Kingdom, from where the law and the related blessings go forth. There will be no more disobedience (no more curse) and therefore people will produce good works (trees with leaves and fruit).

Perhaps you should also notice the author’s careful distinction between God and the Lamb.

The subject requires some further comments.

John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.

We have seen in the earlier post that the water in Judaism relates to the law of God. Well, that was a brave statement to give but gave little evidence to support it. Perhaps it is time that support is given.

Jesus preaches what is known as the sermon on the mount. Among others he says this:

Matt 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The children of the Kingdom are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus reflects on what the prophet Isaiah said:

Isa. 55:1 “Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Clarke, I think, is spot on in his commentary:

“”Water,” says Kimchi, “is a metaphor for the law and wisdom: as the world cannot subsist without water, so it is impossible that it can subsist without wisdom. The law is also compared to wine and milk: to wine because wine rejoiceth the heart, as it is written: ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart,’ Ps 19:8. It is compared also to milk, because milk is the subsistence of the child; so are the words of the law the nourishment of his soul who walks in the Divine teaching, and grows up under it.”

Commentary

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