By R. Govett.



In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and shouted saying, ‘If any thirst, let him come to Me and drink!  He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture said, ‘Rivers of living water shall flow out of His belly.’”  Now this said He concerning the Spirit, which they who believed were about to receive; for as yet no Holy Spirit was, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’


The last day of Tabernacles - the eighth, was typically the great day.  On that day they left their booths to go into their houses.  So, after the millennium, the temporary glory shall be succeeded by the entry on the new heavens and earth; .and the eternal - the great, day - begins.  Then, too, all servile labour ends.  Work shall be done, but that of priests and kings.


The last day of Tabernacles was the great day; it was the eighth day, the day which tells of resurrection.  It was a Sabbath of rest too.  But there was no rest in Jerusalem.  For Israel had now more and more cast off Christ. The nation was blind, as Isaiah foretold.


It is said that during the seven days of this feast, a priest, after the sacrifice, went to the well of Siloam, drew water thence in a golden pitcher, and with a joyous procession brought it to the temple; standing on the altar, and pouring it, mixed with wine, on the altar.  This they said, represented Moses striking the rock; and some of the Rabbis said that it referred to the giving of the gifts of the Spirit in the days of Messiah.  Isaiah 12: 3 was the passage whereby they sought to justify the ceremony.


This ceremony was not repeated on the eighth day.  Jesus, then, fills up the gap Himself.  He was the true Shiloh sent to them by God; and now He presents Himself as about to be, in resurrection, the fulfiller of that act of grace and power which Moses had of old shown to Israel.


The temple had no fount of its own.  This marked the insufficiency of the legal services.  And the introduction of the water from the fount of Siloam [‘sent], showed that the defects of the old services must be met by the Spirit of Christ the Sent One.  Then would be joy indeed!


On that occasion the multitude saw only water drawn and poured out.  It was not drunk, and it was poured away.  Jesus, then, discovers the superiority of the water of which He speaks.  Drunk at first, it quenches thirst. Then it becomes, in the believer, an ever-flowing river to bless others.  To these waters of Siloam Isaiah refers, and says that they would be refused; and, as a consequence, the water-floods of the Great River would overflow the land (Isaiah 7: 6-8).  So the true Christ of God’s grace rejected, the false Christ, instrument of His vengeance, will come.


The ceremony was one of their own devising, and Jesus notes its emptiness.  They refused the Lord of the feast, Who alone could give the true joy, and the powers of the age to come (Jeremiah 2: 11-13).


The Saviour tacitly points to the history of Israel, as given in Exodus 17. and Numbers 20., presenting Himself as the antitype.  Let us consider the passages.  Messiah, the greater than Moses, was come.  But He suits not the heart of Israel.  They are hoping for Messiah in His glory.  But Jesus does not please them.  They murmur against Christ, as Israel did against Moses of old.  They thirst, and are not satisfied.  They seem to accuse our Lord as responsible for their thirst, and bound to supply it.  They were almost ready to stone Christ, as was the case with Moses of old.  Jesus here takes the place of Moses, of Jehovah, and of the Rock.  Moses knows not what to do, and will give the supply.  Moses, accompanied by some of the elders of Israel, and with his rod in his hand, was to pass over to the rock of Horeb – [the dry land].  On that rock Jehovah who spoke would take His stand; and after the rock was smitten, water should flow out that Israel might drink.*


[* See ‘The Danger of an Exasperated Spirit]


Jesus, then, tacitly affirms that Israel’s land was no longer a land of water and of brooks, but the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8.); for they knew not Him, the fount of living waters.  It was not then the time, the true time of the feast; for Tabernacles was to be celebrated only when the wilderness was past, and the land of rest and fertility reached.  Jehovah would take His stand on the Rock, and its nature would change.  Jesus, then, is Jehovah, the Giver of waters.  But He is also ‘the Rock,’ the Son of the living God in human nature; and as such He was to be smitten.  The rod was to be the rod of Moses, servant of the Law, which had already exerted its powers of the curse in turning the sweet waters of the Nile into blood, which could not be drunk.  Now the same rod, in God’s grace, was to strike the Rock for His [redeemed] people’s good, and out of it should come the full supply for their need.  Jesus, that is, must endure the stroke and curse of the Law for our sakes, dying in our stead in weakness; but proving Himself in resurrection to be the Rock which none can shake or destroy. Some of the elders of Israel were to be present at the smiting under Moses; even as some of them were then plotting His death; and would be present and looking on, during His smiting to death on the cross.


I will stand upon the rock in Horeb.’  Jesus stood* and shouted.’  He was the Rock of Israel - the Rock of Moses’ song, Jehovah; and Moses all through the song speaks of the Rock as Jehovah; contrasting Him with the faithless and perverse generation (Deuteronomy 32: 14, 15, 30, 31) which lightly esteemed ‘the Rock of Salvation.’  The Saviour, then, takes the place of Jehovah.  Who but He could offer to quench the thirst of every one who came to Him?  This was making Himself the fount of living waters.’  He, in effect, took the stand of Isaiah 54: 17; 55: 1-6.  For a mere man to take such a place were the highest presumption; and for any to accept His words were to put himself under the curse of the prophet – ‘Cursed is the man that putteth his trust in man and in his heart goeth from the Lord.’


[* Ordinarily, He sat as the Teacher. This made the matter more conspicuous.]


The Saviour is presenting Himself on different occasions, as the antitype of the various glories and boasts of Israel.  He was the true Temple.  He was the lifted Serpent of healing in the wilderness - the true Manna - the real Lamb of the Passover; and now the true Rock, soon to be smitten by Law and its curse, unto death.


The water that was to come out of the smitten rock was, as John tells us, the Spirit.  Until the glorification of Jesus as the bearer and putter away of sin in resurrection, the Spirit as promised could not come, as John says.  Jesus then would call to Himself the few who would accept Him.  He knew their thirst, and earth could not quench it; as we see by the attempts of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes.  Let them come to Him and drink of His fulness!


After the supply of water, and the notice of how Israel’s chiding and strife displeased God, and gave their name to the spot, we read of Amalek coming and fighting.  The battle was a difficult one, and, but for the mediator’s prayers, this first of the nations would have worsted the hosts of God come out of slavery.  So after Jesus rejected, came Rome’s armies, as they feared.  But Christ would not intercede for their victory, and they were defeated.  For they did not support His hands, but stretched them out all the day long in crucifixion.  It is also observable, as making for the same point, that it is not said in Exodus 17: 6 that the people drank, but only that Moses did as he was bidden, in order that the people might drink.


But now it is not Israel alone for whom the Rock is to be smitten.  It is, ‘If any thirst.’  For Jesus while in the flesh on earth was the Righteous Jew, standing apart from sinners and Gentiles.  He was the living grain of wheat that must abide alone.  But stricken to death for sin and risen, He would prove Himself the Son of God, open to sinners of every class.  On this Rock I will build My church.’


But there is another picture, yea, two other pictures, of the supply of Israel’s need in the wilderness, which lend fresh light to the matter.  In Numbers 11. the people grow weary of the manna, and murmur; just as in the previous chapter we see that Jesus offered Himself to them as the true manna from heaven, but was refused as too light and unsubstantial.  Their heart turned back to Egypt, and coveted flesh; just as Israel in that day desired the earthly blessings of Messiah’s day of glory, without the spiritual ones.  Moses was displeased, and complained to the Lord that the burthen of such a murmuring, ungrateful people was too great for him.  The Lord then promised to raise him up as helpers, elders who should partake of the Spirit of God, who was upon him (verse 17).  Moses’ faith, too, in God’s promise fails (verse 21).  But Christ is Jehovah, and He does not complain, in spite of the many provocations of Israel and the attempts on His life.  Here again He takes the place of Jehovah; promising, not to the elders of Israel alone, but to every [obedient (Acts 5: 32)] believer, some of the Spirit that was on Himself without measure.  Moses’ faith in Jehovah’s promises failed; but let not ours in the promises of Christ’s Spirit here given, fail!  It was the Lord who came down in the cloud, and poured on the seventy elders some of the Spirit that was on Moses; and they prophesied.  Joshua envied the prophesying in the camp; but Moses would welcome the day when all of the Lord’s people should be prophets. Here the Saviour’s promise of the Spirit that was on Him should suffice not for seventy elders alone, but for all who should believe.


In Numbers 20. there is again another scene of trial, because there is no water; and again the rebellious spirit of Israel breaks out against the leaders, as though they were in fault.  Moses and Aaron, sensible of their own emptiness, went away from the assembly to seek wisdom, and a supply from the Lord (verse 6).  Then the glory of Jehovah appears to them, and Moses is directed to gather the assembly with the rod in his hand, and to speak to the rock, and it would give forth its water.  Here Moses fails.  Instead of speaking to the Rock (‘cliff,’ a new word, more exalted than before), speaks to them, and calls them ‘rebels,’ and arrogates to himself and Aaron the bringing water out of the rock.  Moreover, he smites the rock instead of speaking to it.  The water comes out abundantly, and they and their beasts drink.  But, because of this failure of grace and of faith, Moses and Aaron are shut out from the land.  The immediate lesson is clear and strong.  The Law is not of faith or of grace, and by it none can enter the coming glory.  Before the water comes, Moses and Aaron see the glory (Numbers 20: 6): but Jesus is Himself to be glorified.  Now if Moses was sentenced and cut off by God, because he said- ‘Must we?’ how much more must Jesus have been struck to death, or kept evermore in the tomb by a God jealous of the glory of His God-head, had He been a mere man, impiously taking to Himself the attributes and the worship of Jehovah?


Jesus alone had power over the spiritual and higher element of baptism.  The Spirit came down to dwell on Himself fully, and without cause of disquiet.  But not till Jesus had atoned, and been exalted over all, was the [Holy] Spirit at His intercession sent down to bestow gifts on men, and to dwell in them.


The thirsty are to come to Christ for a spiritual supply.  This answers to the first coming to Christ of the soul that has in vain attempted to find satisfaction in the things of the world.  Poor soul!  You have hewn yourself cisterns and they have broken, and mocked your thirst.  Now Christ invites you to Himself.  Drink, and be at rest!


But after the first implied promise comes a second word to him who takes his stand with Christ as a believer.  Out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water.’  John expounds this for us.  It was spoken of the Holy Spirit, which was about to be bestowed on believers after the Saviour’s resurrection and ascension.


But there are two difficulties attendant on this word.


1.  Where did the Scripture make such a promise?


2. How is it true that there was ‘no Holy Spirit’ then, because Jesus was not glorified.  Given’ is inserted by the translators.


(1.) Where the Scripture makes such a promise I cannot say, and others seem as greatly puzzled.  Some point to Zechariah 14: 8.  But that speaks of living waters going out from Jerusalem, and not from the believer’s bowels.  That promises it also of a day to come, and tells us into what seas the waters shall flow.  Isaiah 32: 1, 2, seems nearer.  But they apply to Christ in person.  Isaiah 35: 6 – ‘For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert’ - if taken spiritually, comes nearer, and it has been already pointed at by Christ, as fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 11: 4-6).


(2.) The second difficulty is easily explained; forcible as seems the passage when adduced as a proof against the Divinity of the Holy Ghost.  By rendering the same Greek word ‘Spirit’ in the first part of the verse and ‘Holy Ghost’ in the second, the translators have imported this difficulty into the passage.  For by ‘the Holy Ghost’ we mean always the third Person of the Godhead.  But if they had rendered it ‘Spirit’ in the second occurrence, as in the first, they needed not to insert ‘given in italics in order to prevent so, grievous a misunderstanding.


John then is speaking of the supernatural gifts, which are in several places called ‘spirits.’  The spirit of prophecy.’  Inasmuch as ye are desirous of spirits, seek that ye may abound (in these gifts) to the edifying of the church’ (1 Corinthians 14.).  The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.’  The Holy Ghost then in person did not descend till after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  The words before us mean then – ‘No abiding gift of the Spirit was ever bestowed till on and after Pentecost.’  The prophets of the Old Testament were visited at times by the Spirit of prophecy; but it was not a gift at their disposal.  The Holy Ghost could not descend to dwell in the heart as now, till Jesus had risen and was accepted on high.  But beside and beyond that there was a bestowal of miraculous gift, both of deed and of word, on those who believed.  This was announced with the extent to which the promise of the Spirit should apply, at Pentecost (Acts 2: 38, 39).  They were gifts suited to the coming feast of glory; designed first for Israel and their descendants, and then for God’s elect of the Gentiles during this dispensation.  This Jesus promised as the baptism of the Spirit, the complement of the baptism of water, in Acts 1: 5, ‘For John truly baptized in water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Ghost not many days hence.’  This gift (Peter says) meant - as shown by Joel, and by the event - prophecy, visions, tongues etc.  Such was, as we have seen, the meaning in Numbers, when God took of the Spirit that was on Moses, and poured it on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied.”  Such was the fulfilment also of the like promise of our Lord at Samaria.


Acts 8. tells us, that the Holy Ghost fell on the believers there by means of apostles’ hands.  This Paul declares to be the essential superiority of the Gospel over the Law (Galatians 3: 14).


The believer possessed of the Spirit’s gifts became himself in Christ, the Rock, a stone, from the midst of which the waters flowed, as of yore in the desert.  This is, in an inferior sense, true still, wherever the Holy Spirit acts vividly.  The abundant waters from within the Cliff should pour forth for the thirsty world.  There shall come forth water out of it, that the people may drink.’  That promise was now to be spiritually, and in a more blessed sense, carried out to staunch a sorer thirst.


These two promises of Christ are thus to be distinguished.  (1) We come at first to drink of Christ.  The Spirit quells, by His Holy, indwelling, thirst for worldly good.


(2) But is the second now fulfilled in every believer?  Most notoriously not!  The promise is of spontaneous, perpetual supply of refreshment to others, proceeding from each believer.  This was true of the believers of old, for all were then gifted, unless by their own fault excluded.  Then, without study, without the Scriptures, without education - believers, whether slaves or free-men, young or old - spoke by inspiration, and acted in miracle for blessing and edification to all around.  Is it so now?


Some may indeed say- ‘But do not some believers, by the ministry of the word, refresh others; and cheer and strengthen them, just as cool waters supply strength and comfort in a thirsty wilderness?’


And I answer, ‘Blessed be God, yes!’  But observe: (1) The promise, here, is made universally to believers; and the fulfilment, supposed attaches to but few.  (2) Moreover, this supply is not spontaneous and perpetual.


If any servant of Christ has been enabled to cheer and edify some as with cool waters, this has taken place as the result of study, prayer, and effort.  It has not been the sudden up-springing and constant overflow of a supernatural power, the result of faith, and in a moment communicated.  Those who now minister the Word, are, like the Samaritan woman with rope and bucket, going to the well, and with toil procuring a weekly supply.  Now, Jesus promised there, and promises here, something welling up without effort of its own accord, and constantly.  No need of preparation, of books and effort!  It is quite false to pretend to any such power now.  The gifts are ours in title still, for we are believers in Jesus; but where are the gifts of the Spirit?  The Brethren who originally laid claim to inspiration of the Spirit when they were met in the assembly, have now given it up.  And it was only a delusion; grieving the Spirit while it was maintained, as I am a witness; having often been to their meetings, when they were as dry, and dead, and unedifying as well could be.


The varied thoughts of the people concerning Jesus, are now given.  There were those who were expecting the fulfilment of Deuteronomy 18: 15, and thought they saw in Jesus the fulfilment of the same.  Was He not a prophet?  Was He not one of their brethren?  Did He not prove His Mission by signs?’  Others thought Him the Christ.  But an objection arose. ‘Was the Christ to come out of Galilee?  Was He not to be born in Judea, and at Bethlehem? Did not Micah say so?’


Strange, is it not?  But a true picture of multitudes now.


How many take up with the first theory in religion they find, and are stopped by the first objection, weak as it may be.  Let us not marvel, if, in our day, opinions about the Christ differ as they did then!  The Son of God, as Luke’s Gospel tells us, was set to draw out men’s thoughts, and so discover them.


We see where they failed.  It is a very common failure indeed.  (1) They made one truth to fight against another.  Those truths really agree at bottom; but we, looking from the top, do not see it.


It was true that Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea.  The prophets had said so.  But it was true, also, that in Zebulon and Nepthali, in the country of Galilee, a great light was to spring up.  Another of the prophets had said so.  Both were true. (2) A very little search would have shown them so. ‘Why did they not further enquire?  Did they never know that a man is sometimes born in one country, lives in another, and dies in a third?  Had they enquired, they had found that what they alleged against our Lord’s mission, was really a proof in His favour.  Why not enquire of our Lord Himself?  Master, where wast Thou born?’  If a great estate had depended on it, they would have made diligent enquiry.  But in this, the chief of questions, they had not interest enough to push their enquiries.


Whether they distinguished between ‘the Prophet’ of Moses, and ‘the Christ’ of other Scriptures, we are not told.  We know, indeed, that both terms belong to the same person.  But they knew not, as we see by their question to the Baptist at the beginning of this Gospel.  But if so, Jesus while not ‘the Christ,’ might have been ‘the prophet’ foretold.  Let us not be content with the current opinions of our day, but rest all our religious views on the Scripture!


But if Jesus were born at Bethlehem, why did He not say so?  Why did not John tell us that that was His birthplace?  Some perverse commentators have said, ‘It was because John, the apostle, himself knew not.’  They go upon the human idea, that a biographer must tell all he knows about his hero.  If he does not mention everything, it is a proof it is not true.  But that is not God’s plan.  John spoke of Jesus as the Son of God, rather than the Son of David.  John took Jesus’ mother to dwell with him; did not Mary know where her Son was born?  So foolish are the learned when they begin to reason against God!


By this diversity of opinion God tied the hands of the Saviour’s foes.  His enemies and His friends were so at variance, that unity of action was stopped.  There arose a schism in the multitude because of Him.’  This shows us then what a ‘schism’ is.  Here was a schism in the multitude.  There was a division of opinions concerning Jesus, and founded thereon there was a separation of feelings and heart.  It is commonly supposed, that by ‘schism’ is meant ‘the setting up of another (church or table of the Lord), in consequence of displeasure wrongly entertained against a former communion.’  But schism begins to the Lord’s eye long ere that overt act takes place.


The apostle Paul speaks of schism ‘in the church’; in the same body.  The church is the body of Christ.  As in the natural body of man there is an entire sympathy of the parts, and free motion, while the body is in health, each member contributing to the united action of the whole, so ought there to be unity of feeling, heart, judgment, and co-operation in the body of Christ.  But the flesh, with its evil and selfish feelings, comes in to mar this oneness of spirit.  Diversities of plan, of doctrine, and consequently of harmony and love, come in, unless kept out by the Spirit of God, and these divide in spirit and in feeling the members of Christ.  Then comes party, and out of party comes the last act of schism - the setting up of another communion, not recognizing the former one.  Of course, the first enquiry must be, whether the body from which the separatists secede was a church (or assembly of Christ) or not.  If the Great System which calls itself ‘the Church of England,’ be the Church of Christ, it is wrong to leave it because of corruptions found in it.  But if it be no ‘church’ at all, but the world of England, claimed for Christ by virtue of the sprinkling of unbelieving infants, then it is not wrong to sever ourselves from it.   Every Church of Christ is an assembly of believers as such.  For believers to come out from an assembly of all the parish is quite right.


But what concerning other ecclesiastical bodies?  The Church of Rome is the mother of bodies like the Church of England, and is as little a church as she is.


They are not a church who do not assemble as [regenerate] believers.  The Wesleyans assemble - it is the boast of their founder – ‘as those desirous to flee from the wrath to come.’  But believers have already fled for refuge, and are met in safety beneath the blood-sprinkled house (Heb. 6: 18).


Independents, and Baptists, and ‘Brethren’ assemble as believers; and so are Churches of Christ.  Would to God that we could all meet together, as one in Him!  But we are divided, not in doctrine alone, but in feelings also; and these divisions have risen so high as that separate tables proclaim the division.  Let us who believe cultivate an un-sectarian spirit; owning all whom we can; going as far with them as conscience and Scripture will allow us!  There may be union of forms, with intense opposition of feeling, and a different Gospel taught by each party.  On the other hand, there may be oneness of spirit and affection between those who sit down at different tables, and are of diverse judgments about many things.  To return.


There were those who wished to carry out the design of their masters.  Why not seize on Jesus at once, and still all this controversy?’  But God would not let them.  The officers themselves who had gone out to seize our Lord were not agreed.  An awe of God was upon their souls.  Till the time of the Most High is come, the thing cannot be done.  Persecutors must have leave of God, whether they ask it, or no.


It is so in our day.  The Ritualists and those of like sentiments would gladly put down dissent by force.  There are canons and laws of England which are on the side of persecution.  In days gone by the rulers imprisoned, fined, beat, and slew dissenters.  They would gladly do so again.  Their spirit is that of the Law.  They are right, and all others are to be put down.’  Had they their will, these dissenting tares should be rooted out of the world.  But as yet God allows it not.  It will come about however.  Let us ask to be ‘accounted worthy to escape’ that sore crisis!


The servants then of the Sanhedrim return without the intended prisoner, to the assembly of His foes.  These enquire in displeasure, ‘Why have ye not brought Him?’ They say, Him.’ All knew who was meant, without further description.  The officers could not reply, as ordinarily in such cases, that He had hid Himself or fled. Yet they brought Him not.  Why not?


Remarkable was the reply, ‘Never spake man so as this man!’  They saw He was aware of their plots.  He spake with authority.  There was a majesty and force attending His words which they had never encountered elsewhere.  They had met many specimens of men.  But one so unlike others had never before crossed their path.  This was the witness of those disposed to be His foes.  As Jesus’ words are unlike the words of men, so to them we are to yield an attention and an obedience beyond those of men.  He is Lord; all others then are servants.  He is from heaven, and His words are devoid of all stain of earth, and of the flesh.


But this reply does not stay the leaders of Israel.  It was wonderful, that those desirous to please them should not have carried out their will; that they should have been checked by an unarmed man.  But so it was.


This might have taught these learned Rabbis to pause, and reconsider their ideas of Christ.  The check came from God, but they see in it man alone.  The exhibition of evidence in favour of the accused oft goes for nothing.  It does not turn the proud and perverse.  They will go on.  But it does greatly increase their sin


See again.  How many are partially wrought upon by the truth; whom, nevertheless, it does not save!  These officers are staggered by the words of this most extraordinary Man; but they are not led to join the ranks of His disciples.  They know enough to condemn; but accept no more, and perish in their ignorance.







We know the path wherein our feet should pass,

Across our hearts are written Thy decrees;

Yet now, O Lord, be merciful to bless with steel, to stroke the blow

Grant us the will to fashion as we feel,

Grand us the strength to labour as we know,

Grant us the purpose, ribb’d and edged with steel, to strike the blow.

Knowledge we ask not – knowledge Thou hast lent,

But, Lord, the will – there lies our bitter need;

Give us to build, above the deep intent,

The deed, the deed!