The Preacher and His Belly
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 spake 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.) John 7:37-39
The preacher reminded me of a dry brook. You could see the evidence of the life that had once been there. Traces of water still lay in puddles here and there. The water that once flowed, I would guess rather freely, had worn a path through the dirt and stone. But now, ants built small hills in the dust where the trickle once ran. Any water that remained from the old stream huddled in stagnant puddles, where bugs danced freely on the surface. The thirsty soul probably wasnâ€™t thirsty enough to drink that.
We find the symbolism of rivers of living water throughout the Bible. In Ezekiel 47, the angel of the Lord showed the prophet a trickle of water coming out from beneath the threshold of the templeâ€™s door. The trickle moved eastward. The prophet followed his guide to the city gate, that faced eastward, and there they saw that same trickle of water.
Ezekielâ€™s guide measured one thousand cubits from the gate, and directed Ezekiel into that stream. The water was about ankle deep. They measured another one thousand cubits. When the prophet waded into the water, he found the stream about knee deep. One thousand cubits later, Ezekiel waded in up to his waste. And one thousand cubits further, that trickle flowing from the Templeâ€™s threshold became a river. That river was water to swim in, too deep for Ezekiel to cross over. In just over a mile, that trickle from beneath the temple turned into a mighty river.
There, alongside this mighty river, stood Ezekiel and his guide. Trees lined the river on both sides, standing thick and strong along the banks. But where did the river go from there? The guide told Ezekiel that the river flowed down into the wilderness, and into the Dead Sea. And the water of that river was so pure that it would heal the Dead Sea.
Now, the Dead Sea is much like our Salt Lake. Nothing lives in it. Nothing. Nil. Notta thing. Well, that is, unless you count the brine shrimp. If you find a fish, something exported it. The Salt Lake really is dead. A dead sea. And so is THE Dead Sea. The angel told Ezekiel that when this river, the river that started as a mere trickle, flowed into the Dead Sea, the water would be healed, and there would be many fish. In fact, the guide said that wherever the river came, everything would live. Everything, that is, except for the miry places and the marshes. Apparently there are some places that love the stench and filth of their sin too much to be healed.
But along that crystal river, that healing river, will grow every type of fruit treeâ€¦
And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
Wherever the living water flows, there will be life â€“ abundant life. John 7:37-39 brings us back to that same temple, the Temple at Jerusalem on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel celebrated the harvest, and lived in tents to commemorate their years in the wilderness. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the priest would take a large golden pitcher to the pool of Siloam, fill the pitcher with water from the pool and bring it back to the altar, where he would pour it over the altar. The water from the pool of Siloam would run down that altar, and out of the temple and into the city.
It was there at the Temple that Jesus cried out to all the observers 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. And John tells us that he was speaking of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told the woman at the well that whoever drinks of the water that he gives will never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. But what about dry preachers? Are you dry? That fountain has not run dry! God calls for everyone that thirsts to come drink without money and without price. Just as the trickle from the templeâ€™s threshold flows into the scum of the Dead Sea and changes it to a living sea, so the living water from the hills of God flow into you, preacher. The river of life didnâ€™t flow in once, and stop flowing ever since. It is a continual stream. It continually flows. And Christ said that if you will believe on Him, out of your belly will flow rivers of living water.
This is important for all Christians in all places. This is important for all who would teach or preach. But this is essential for the preachers of the gospel. Here we see a living sea, its source, and the effect it has.
The abundant life
Abundant life comes when the water of life reaches the stagnant water of our heart. As those healing waters flow in, they heal that stagnant water, and then enable it to support life. That life will first be evident inside you. You must have life, and that life must be in you. You have been quickened, but are you alive? Would we need to stomp on your toe to find out? We have all endured messages where we felt the preacher needed someone to wake him up. Preacher, are you alive in all your duties? Some are alive during the football game, but dead during prayer time. If you have a dead bone in your body, it must be quickened or it will kill you. Some are alive at church, but dead at home. Your family needs you to be alive there too. Some would shock their families if they ever jumped up from the couch, turned off the TV, and did something with their wife and kids.
You must have life, and that life must be an abundant life (John 10:10). This warm, overflowing life ought to be evident in every part of your life. Tired? That should be more cause for rejoicing. The people to whom you preach should see the evidence of abundant life. Your children should see this abundant life. Some wonder how they could ever live without a TV or how they could ever cut out of their life those things that deter from God. An abundant life needs no crutch.
Soon, that living sea supports all sorts of life, both in the water and on the shore. That living water produces fruits of love and joy and peace. Ezekiel said that though they were eaten, the fruit from those trees along the river were never consumed, but were new every month. The fruit was for meat and the leaf for medicine. And that sea, once dead, also supports a multitude of fish.
But before we look any further, we need to seeâ€¦
The source of the abundant life
The abundant life comes from the Holy Spirit. It is this Crystal Fountain that must fill us, and we must be filled. Remember, that Crystal Fountain fills the thirsty soul. If one would be filled, one must drink. Do you thirst for the fountain?
Christ said that it was the words that he spake that are spirit, and are life. God told Ezekiel to eat the roll. So then, the source of this abundant life comes through an abundance of Bible reading. It really is as simple as that. Fill your mind with the Word. Fill your days with prayer and with Bible-reading. Let it saturate you. Soak in it.
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.
What do you want to have flowing from your mouth? Do you want your words to have an effect? Then fill your mind with Godâ€™s Word. Pray until you feel sure that you have spoken to God. Read until you feel sure that God has spoken to you.
Do you have a lesson to teach? A message to preach? How will you get that across to your people? Soak in the lesson. Read it, study it, be sure you understand what the words mean, what the main points are. But then just soak in it until it fills you. And when you come across those difficult passages, the parts that you donâ€™t understand, open it before God, and ask Him to explain it. Verse by verse. Look up what you need to look up, but then lay in the Word, roll in it, fill your mind with it, and let it soak in. Let the Spirit of God fill you through Godâ€™s Word. And let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.
When that pure stream of living water healed you, it didnâ€™t divert itself to another place. Once it starts, that stream continually flows to the same heart. You drank it once for your salvation, now drink it every day for that abundant life.
You wonâ€™t drink until you believe, so believe that you need the water of life. Believe that this water will work effectively in you. Believe that this water of life will also bless many.
The overflow of the abundant life
The abundant life is like one of those fountains where the water flows out and fills the basin until it overflows into the next, and then into the next. Let the living water fill you, and you wonâ€™t be able to stop the overflow. This is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. He fills you, then uses you to fill others. But all flows from him.
Notice first the overflow of life in you. There will be within you a well of water springing up into eternal life. As Ezekiel 47 tells us, there will be many trees, whose fruit will serve for meat, and whose leaves will be for medicine to heal others. And there will be multitudes of fishes.
Notice also the overflow of life from you. Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water. Not a river, but rivers will flow.
â€¦in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
They will be rivers of living water. And they will do for others what they have done for us.
One final thing should provoke us to be filled to overflowing. We will affect many when our heart overflows. When we open our mouths to preach, and out of our belly flows rivers of living water, many will be blessed. Your church family will be blessed, but not them only. Your own family will be blessed. The families in your church will be blessed. Your city will be blessed. And you will be fulfilling your purpose.
The stream canâ€™t be stopped, so when we flood our place of service, those rivers of living water will need to go somewhere. Think of the missions that could be started across the globe. But donâ€™t look too far ahead yet. The future distracts us too much from the present. Instead, look at today. Today is where this is needed.
For many, these rivers of living water arenâ€™t overflowing from us yet. If they arenâ€™t, it isnâ€™t because somebody stopped up the rivers that they canâ€™t overflow. If they arenâ€™t overflowing, we arenâ€™t filled to overflowing. So, get in the Word. I canâ€™t imagine a preacher who doesnâ€™t read his Bible. You that donâ€™t read your Bible or pray, repent and start now. You that do, do more. Soak in it. Fill your mind with it.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
I wonder what that dry preacher believes inâ€¦