As you will recall, God delivered the Jews from their bondage in Egypt with a mighty display of power. Despite God's faithfulness, Israel had a stubborn tendency of rebellion, complaining and distrust toward God. Instead of trusting in the faithfulness of God, somehow they would come to resent the mercies of God and long for their days of slavery in Egypt. It came to the point that Moses would actually fear for his life.
Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.”
So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”
And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” -- Exodus 17:1-7
God instructed Moses to strike the rock once, and water came gushing out of it -- water that would provide life for the people of Israel. We see a familiar foreshadow here -- once again, in the same way that the people grumbled and complained before Moses, they grumbled and complained against Christ, even as provision was being made for them.
Now let's take a look at what the Apostle Paul said about this same passage.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. -- 1 Corinthians 10:1-4Here we learn that the rock Moses struck was another picture of Christ. When Moses struck the rock and water came gushing out, it was a picture of Christ's sacrificial death that gives life. Christ was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities -- in His death we have life. This theme of living water that Christ provides by His death is a frequent refrain in Scripture, both Old and New Testament. Here is a sample:
He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers. -- Psalms 78:15-16
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. -- Jeremiah 2:12-13
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. -- Isaiah 12:3
"Come, everyone 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. -- Isaiah 55:1
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. -- Isaiah 58:11
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 4:10
And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. -- Revelation 21:6
That brings us to our text this week in John 7.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" -- John 7:37-38Even as officers stood ready to arrest Him, Jesus made a public spectacle of Himself with a loud and earnest cry for the thirsty to come and drink. No doubt, some stopped and listened, and some became angry, while others glibly passed by with complete indifference. The same is true today. The words of Christ have continued to ring in our ears for over two-thousand years, and they still elicit the same reaction.
Jesus made this proclamation during the Feast of Tabernacles in which water played a central role. This is how John MacArthur describes this event:
A tradition grew up in the few centuries before Jesus that on the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles, a golden container filled with water from the pool of Siloam was carried in procession by the High-Priest back to the temple. As the procession came to the Watergate on the S side of the inner temple court, 3 trumpet blasts were made to mark the joy of the occasion and the people recited Is. 12:3, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." At the temple, while onlookers watched, the priests would march around the altar with the water container while the temple choir sang the Hallel (Pss. 113–118). The water was offered in sacrifice to God at the time of the morning sacrifice. The use of the water symbolized the blessing of adequate rainfall for crops. Jesus used this event as an object lesson and opportunity to make a very public invitation on the last day of the feast for His people to accept Him as the living water...What an amazing picture of how Christ beautifully fulfills the types and shadows in Scripture. I will close with one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It is a beautiful picture of a new heaven and a new earth, and the water of life that flows from God's throne. -- Selah
The significance of Jesus’ invitation centers in the fact that He was the fulfillment of all the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated, i.e., He was the One who provided the living water that gives eternal life to man.*
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 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. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. -- Revelation 22:1-2
*The MacArthur Study Bible