“The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:10)
There’s a wonderful line in the writing of Pablo Neruda: “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” The meaning –for me at least– is that no matter what conditions look like on the outside, the inner resource is strong, powerful and rich. The reservoir of goodness will never dry up.
In the Bible, the “young lion” is an emblem of power and self-resource. Other versions substitute the phrase “the rich.” But both words make the same point: even those who consider themselves cushioned against the problems that life throws at them sometimes find themselves in a hard place. Troubles come to all of us, irrespective of how rich or powerful we are. Even young lions get hungry!
But those who seek the Lord are those who have discovered the promise of Spring in the midst of the worst winter imaginable. It is a real and powerful antidote to “wintry thoughts” to know that Spring is unstoppable.
And so is the loving provision of a good God.
It’s absolutely unstoppable.
I have a friend on Facebook –Criss Jami – who writes the most amazing things. Reflect on this today:
“Easily mistaken, it is not about a love for adversity, it is about knowing a strength and a faith so great that adversity, in all its adverse manifestations, hardly even exists.”
I like that. Adversity “hardly even exists” in comparison with the unstoppable spring in my step.
Jesus took it one step further. “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ “(John 7:38) Who is that discovers the unstoppable spring? It’s those who seek the Lord, those who thirst for Him, those who believe in Him.
Only the hungry get filled. It’s the only precondition required.
And more, in the words of the old commentator Ellicott: “Everyone in living communion with Christ becomes himself the centre of spiritual influence. There is in him a power of life which, when quickened by faith, flows forth as a river, carrying life and refreshment to others. No spirit grasps a great truth which satisfies its own yearnings as the waters of the fountain slake physical thirst, without longing to send it forth to others who are seeking what he himself had sought. There is in him a river whose waters no barrier can confine.”
It is helpful to consider that little clause in the words of Jesus, “As Scripture has said.” When Jesus spoke of “rivers of living water” flowing from the lives of believers, to which Bible verse was He referring?
There have been many suggestions, though none are exact. He may have been referring to the prophecies of Isaiah: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3) And think of the wonderful summons in Isaiah 55:1: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.”
The prophecy of Ezekiel (in chapter 47) may also have been in view. The chapter begins: “I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple towards the east.” Jesus referred to Himself as a temple, and -by extension- we are too. And the “water” flows out from us, forming a mighty river. The metaphor goes on in v9: “It will support all kinds of living creatures that will thrive abundantly wherever the river flows. There will be a great many fish, because this water will flow there and turn the salt water fresh. As a result, everything will live wherever the river flows.”
Everything will live where the river flows!
This is certainly an unstoppable spring, is it not? These “rivers of living water” change the character of the surrounding land in the most profound way imaginable.
But Jesus was also -almost certainly- referring to Zechariah 14:8: “Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem:” The reason for that “almost certainty” is that this very chapter was read in public, as the Haphtara [the portion selected for the Lesson], on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, in which John 7 is set.
And Jesus spoke on the last day of the feast, when large jars of water were carried from the fountain of Siloam through the city to the sanctuary, and poured out down the steps…
Imagine that. Think of the symbolism of the poured out water to a people whose upbringing was enriched by the reading of all those Scriptures to which I’ve referred. And Jesus boldly put Himself centre-stage, claiming to be the life-giver, the source and the course of the river of the Spirit of God.
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”
And to be part of that unstoppable spring, we have only to be thirsty, or hungry. We have only to seek, for “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
We have only to believe.
And according to Psalm 34, our “unstoppable spring” will be characterised by praise, by community, by radiance and by provision. Does it sound too good to be true? Here’s our mandate:
“I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips…. PRAISE!
Glorify the Lord with me:
let us exalt his name together…. COMMUNITY!
Those who look to him are radiant… RADIANCE!
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.” PROVISION!
What should you do in response to Jesus’ promise here? First, be honest about the degree to which “rivers of living water flowing from your innermost being” describes you.
If it doesn’t describe you at all, then come to Jesus and drink!
If it’s more like a trickle, then make it your priority to be acknowledge your thirst, and to be satisfied daily with the riches of Christ. Ask Him to fill you and keep filling you.
Then get your focus off yourself and onto those you can bless. Pray that your normal experience would be that from your “innermost being rivers of living water” would flow to a thirsty world.
We certainly need you out here.