This week, join us as we trace the theme of water throughout the Bible and see how it points to Jesus as the true water of life.
This week’s Small Group Study will focus on the theme of water of life. We’ll look at moments where God meets his people in the desert, where all of life’s comforts and securities have been stripped away. These times are scary, but they also hold immense potential for our lives and our values to be transformed by God’s generosity and grace.
In the beginning of the Bible, God transforms a desolate wilderness into a garden through a stream that waters the ground and brings life wherever it goes. Water of Life develops throughout the biblical story as wells, cisterns, rain, and rivers.
In the beginning of the Bible, God transforms a desolate wilderness into a garden through a stream that waters the ground (Genesis 2:4-6). The clay created by the water becomes the origin place of humans (Genesis 2:7), trees (Genesis 2:9), and animals (Genesis 2:19), creating the ideal heaven-on-earth place called “the garden of delight” (“Eden” means “delight” in Hebrew). God provides these waters from “the deep” that he contained and ordered under the dry land in Genesis 1.
There is a crucially important part of the Eden story in Genesis 2:10-14, which describes a river that comes out from the garden. After flowing out of Eden, it separates and flows into four regions of the land. This is an image of God’s living water that brought life to Eden, going out to bring that same life to the different parts of the dry land. God’s water of life is what supplies our world with abundance, food, and sustenance.
Jeremiah accuses the Israelites of trusting in false gods and false sources of life, depicted as broken cisterns that don’t hold water and ultimately can’t give them what they need.
After the humans foolishly rebel and find themselves exiled from the garden, life outside the garden is not easy (Genesis 3:17-19). But throughout the biblical story, there are many key moments where people are rescued or their needs are met at places of water. People find the surprise of living water at wells (like Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob in Genesis 21:22-33, 26:18-25, or 29:1-11), springs in the desert (like Hagar in Genesis 16:7 and 21:15-21), or oases in the wilderness (Exodus 15:22-27). All of these stories about the water of life show how God wants to gives his people the gift of his own creative power and life, but their many failures and selfish decisions keep landing them in deserted places.
This theme is brought to a crisis point in the story of Israel’s exile, which the prophet Ezekiel depicts as a valley of dry bones that can only be saved through God’s water of life and the power of his Spirit (Ezekiel 36:22-30 and 37:1-14).
In the past, God delivered his people by the Exodus through the sea and then provided water in the wilderness. The “new thing” God will do to deliver his people is to provide a better water in the wilderness—his own Spirit—which will grow a new garden of Eden people who will flourish.
This is the hope that is carried forward in the story of Jesus, who was himself empowered by God’s Spirit as he was immersed in the waters of the Jordan River (Mark 1:9-13). He then went about Israel offering the life of God’s Kingdom, which he often likened to an abundant garden (Matthew 13). And he even spoke of himself as the one bringing the water of God’s life into the world (John 4:7-14 and 7:37-39). This helps us to understand the fascinating scene of Jesus’ crucifixion when he is stabbed by the spear of a Roman soldier (John 19:34) and both blood and water come flowing out of Jesus. The dying body of Jesus becomes the source of life that will spread into God’s new creation that began with the resurrection of Jesus, in a garden no less! (John 19:41 and 20:11-17).
Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that the well water gives short-term life that cannot ultimately quench our thirst. He is offering water that never runs dry and generates eternal life. In John 7, we find out that this water is the Spirit.
This helps us understand why the images of the tree of life and the water of life are combined in John’s description of the renewed creation (Revelation 22:1-2). They are both images of God’s own life and love made available to his creation. And so the story of the Bible ends the way it begins, but in the new creation, the water of life is emerging “from the throne of God from the lamb” (Revelation 22:1). Jesus is the source and conduit of God’s own life, which he’s made available to a world of thirsty people.