Archive of Pastor Darby's Sermon Notes, transcribed from his original typewritten documents

John 7:37-39

An exposition of John 7:37-39.

Sep 22, 1950

“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. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this speak 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.”

Let me speak first to you of this feast. It was the feast of tabernacles, and came in the fall of the year, about our October period the Jews were an agricultural people, and the harvest was now gathered, and a time of rest and recreation and gladness had come.

The men were required to go up to Jerusalem at this feast, which commemorated the time, 1500 years before, when their ancestors, not yet welded into a nation, were journeying in the wilderness, and dwelling temporarily in tabernacles or tents on their way to Canaan. While the men only were required to go up, yet many brought their women with them, their wives and children, to partake of the social and religious festivities of the time. There were no locomotives in those days, no trolley cars, no stagecoaches nor buses, no farm wagons and carryalls, and the people walked. The older and the feebler might ride donkeys, but for the most part they walked, no matter how long the journey nor how much time it took.

Picture the happy scene.  From every hamlet, village and town, the people are gathering out into the great highway leading to Mount Zion. They have not met before for months or perhaps a year. The men are discussing politics and the crops, the women are enjoying their neighborly gossip, the children are romping in the way, the young men and maidens are making love, and God looks down upon it all in gracious favor, for he has planned at all, and desires his people to be happy, only that they be happy in him.

The feast lasts a week- a week of eight days- and during this whole time that people are living in the open. They are dwelling in booths made of boughs and branches of the trees. They are having a social time, and yet it is a religious time. The temple is the great center of attraction. The priests and the Levites are continually occupied in presenting the people’s offerings and in the public worship of God. The singing of glad songs and the sweet sounds of the instruments of music filled the air.

But the great day of the feast is the last day. A unique ceremony takes place on this day. It takes place, perhaps, on each day, but there are special features connected with it on this day. The priests and Levites form in grand procession, “the former carrying golden vessels in their hands and chanting the psalms of Zion and playing on the instruments of music,” and march to the historical pool of Siloam. There they fill the vessels with its sacred water, and return in the same manner to the temple court. And now, at a given signal, the contents of the vessels are poured out upon the brazen altar, to the accompaniment of such a shot of exultation as at no other time and no other place was ever heard.

But what is the significance of this transaction, or what meaning does it bear? We must go back 700 years to the prophet Isaiah to find out. The people were iniquitous and living in disobedience to God, experiencing all the suffering and sorrow incident to such a course. But God had graciously promised them a revival, saying by the prophet:

“I will pour out water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; And another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel” (Isaiah 44:3-5).

The people were in such a case in Jesus’ day. Indeed, they were almost always in such a case. And the transaction just referred to was in some aspects an emblem of their condition. They were supposed in that transaction to confess their need to God, to plead their thirst, and to appeal to him for the fulfillment of the promise of his spirit.

Jesus seizes upon this moment, for he is present at the feast. He stands and cries. He takes his position on some exalted place and, lifting his voice as it is not said he did at any other time, they hear him say: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink!”

Jesus is the very God, or else he is the greatest blasphemer and impostor who ever lived. This invitation on his part proves him to be either the one or the other. Who hath power to pour out the Holy Spirit, save God only? Is this not his prerogative alone?  And yet Jesus in this instance claims it as his own. Are not his countrymen here professing to be athirst? Are they not apparently seeking the Holy Spirit? And does he not say: “I am he who is able and willing to supply your need”? What other application can be given to the words: “If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink”?

But how can a man drink of Jesus? What is the meaning of that word “drink”? Let Jesus himself explain when in the next sentence he says:

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

To come to Jesus and to drink of Jesus is to believe on Jesus. And if one asks what it is to believe on Jesus, the answer is to commit yourself to Jesus, to commit yourself to him as your savior to be saved and as your Lord you would serve.

On one occasion in Jesus’ ministry, earlier than this, there were many who believed on him when they saw the miracles he did. But it is added that Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men. We know what commit means in this case. We know that he did not trust himself to these men, that he did not put himself in their hands or give himself away to them. But this word “commit” is in the Greek the same as our word “believe,” and it might be rendered, Jesus did not believe himself unto them, for he knew what was in man. If then, to commit is to believe, to believe is to commit; And the man who commits himself to Jesus, who trusts himself, who gives himself away to Jesus as his savior and his Lord, that man comes to Jesus and drinks of Jesus and is blessed.

But what is the blessing he receives? It is not only a blessing for himself, but a blessing for others through himself- “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” He himself shall be filled with blessing and shall overflow in blessing. By “his belly” is figuratively meant the source or fountain of his inner being. And by “the living water” is meant that supply of spiritual and eternal life which he possesses, and which he shall minister to all about.

Let us name some of these rivers of living water:

  1. There is the river of a Christian character. I once heard of a church where a certain man, past middle age, presented himself for membership on confession of his faith. The church committee was surprised, for they had known this man these many years as a scoffer at Christianity and an absentee from church. What had brought about this change, they asked? Watching the life of his neighbor, he replied. His neighbor was a Christian and a member of this church who had lived in his proximity a long while. He had observed him going in and out, he had studied him in his home and in his business, until at length he was convinced that his religion was a religion he required, and his neighbor’s God should be his God.
  2. There is the river of Christian testimony. A woman I have heard of was addicted to a certain habit injurious to her health, and detrimental to her spiritual life. One day she had a guest who had been similarly addicted, and who testified to a baptism of the Holy Ghost, as she described it, which had set her free. Her Hostess listened without reply. But after she had bowed her visitor from the door, she turned, and, leaning her head upon the newel post of the flight of stairs leading to her room, she simply said: “Oh God, thou knowest I had rather have the Holy Ghost then longer to retain this habit. Fill me with Thy spirit and set me free.” It is now many years since, but from that moment she has been free.
  3. There is the river of Christian service. In a beautiful town in western Pennsylvania, there dwells a man, the father of a family, who for years was a village “bum,” a “ne'er do well” who spent his time and what little money he could earn in the saloon. He came to Jesus, and he “drank of that life giving stream,” and began at once to minister salvation to other souls. He took his Bible into the saloons, and getting permission, read its contents to some who were gathered there, and talked with them, and sometimes prayed with them, and has led, and is still leading, many other souls to the savior he has found.
  4. There is the river of Christian intercession. Edward Judson, son of Adoniram Judson, of missionary fame, tells the story of a revival he was conducting in a fashionable Church of which he was a pastor. He said he was depending for results, not on the machinery of his organization, not on the money he had to spend, but on the prayers of a washerwoman living down under the hill, at whose house he and a few others were in the habit of meeting daily.

But what is the philosophy of the situation? How can it be explained that such a one becomes a blessing? The answer is given in the text, for John affirms that these things were spoken by Jesus of the Holy Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive. The Holy Spirit was not then given unto men as now he can be given, because that Jesus was not then glorified.

But Jesus now is glorified. He died, and rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And it is part of the reward of his obedience as the God man that he sheds forth the Holy Ghost upon them that believe on him (Acts 2:32,33).  It is the Holy Ghost, then, dwelling in a man, filling the man, overflowing the man, that makes that man a channel of spiritual blessing to all around him, in his life, his testimony, his service, his intercession, and a score of ways as rivers of living water.

My appeal is, first of all, to the Christian heart. You believe on Jesus Christ; You have come to him: and you say you have drunk at his fountain of salvation. But I ask, are you yourself a fountain? Are rivers of living water flowing forth from you? Do they refresh and bless your home, your church, your neighborhood, your social sphere, your business circle? Is there power in your Christian character and testimony? Are you serving the Lord Christ and are you winning souls to him? Have you unction and access in supplication, and do you know how to bring down blessings from heaven for your life and the lives of others upon earth? If your reply is in the informative, I congratulate you and thank God for you.

But if your reply is in the negative, I appeal to you to come to Jesus and drink of him. I appeal to you to believe on him again in a newer and a deeper sense. I appeal to you to commit yourself to him as a St as once you committed yourself to him as a Sinner. You have received the Holy Spirit, or you could not have believed on him, but it is one thing to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and another thing to have him filling you.

But the appeal to the unsaved or unconverted is practically the same. The comprehending grace of that expression, “If any man thirst” - any man!

There's the rub! It is the condition, and only one- a thirst! There are some people who have little thirst, physical thirst, I mean just now. I may be one of them. We are told that we are to drink so many glasses of water each day. I rarely drink other than at meal time. I should drink more water. I grow alarmed, and say: this cannot be right, this cannot be helpful, for hygienic reasons I ought to drink more water. But how can one be brought to drink who is not thirsty? I find the answer in a change of diet. There are certain things you feed upon that awaken thirst.

It is very much the same in the spiritual realm. The bargain counter, and the card party, and the playhouse, and the dance hall, the storybook and Sunday paper- these things do not create soul-thirst nor lead men to desire Jesus Christ. The word of God does this- that word alone.

Do you know what is meant by "eating" the word of God? Do you know what is meant by feeding on the heavenly manna? As you have listened to these words of Christ, have they created any thirst for him? Do you desire this living water that he has to give? Would you be more holy? Would you have more power? Would you produce more fruit? Would you come to the secret of prevailing prayer? Then come to Jesus, and drink of him. Believe on him today. Commit yourself to him today, and let him fill you with the Holy Spirit.

I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to feed yourself of the things of God this coming Sunday. Bring your children to Sunday school. Attend church. You cannot expect God's blessing upon you unless you seek him in his house on his day. Go to God's house and feed your soul upon eternal things. If you have no church home, I would like to invite you to come worship with the people of the First Baptist Church of Clifton. Our Sunday school is at 9:45, and our church services are at 11:00 o'clock Sunday morning. If you cannot come of the morning, be sure to come out in the evening. Our Youth Service is at 6:30 and our evening worship is at 7:30. The First Baptist Church is just one block east of the highway in lower Clifton.

I want to give thanks to station KCLF for allowing me to speak to you this week, and thanks to you for listening.