“But this spake He of the Spirit,
which they that believed on Him
should receive: for the Holy
Spirit was not yet given; because
that Jesus was not yet given.”
It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus spoke to the multitudes. The Feast of Tabernacles was the third of the great annual feasts that the Jews celebrated. The other two feasts were Passover and Pentecost. The origin of the Feast of Tabernacles may be discovered by returning to the monumental events surrounding the Exodus (Ex. 23:16; Lev. 23:34-36, 39-43; Deut. 16:13-15; 31:10-13; Neh. 8). When the nation of Israel marched out of the land of bondage, they first rested at a place called Succoth. That night the Jews slept in booths for the last time before they entered the desert.
It was a night to remember. The night air was cool. The dark sky above became a velvet backcloth to display the star-studded diamonds of heavenly lights. God was on His throne. Freedom was just ahead. The future was full of excitement. But neither God nor Moses wanted the people to forget their past. So it was that the people were instructed after they settled into the land, to make booths or tents one time a year and lived in them for one week or seven days. By dwelling in the tensts there would be a historical reminder of the tender, fatherly care and protection of the Lord God Jehovah, while Israel was traveling from Egypt to Canaan (Deut. 8:9).
The appointed time to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles was established. It was to begin on the 15th day of Tisri, which was the seventh month, five days before the Day of Atonement. Seven days later, this Feast would end (Deut. 16:13; Lev. 23:36; Ezek. 45:25). With the passing of the centuries an 8th day was added (Neh. 8:18). This day was observed with a Sabbath rest.
Detailed rituals accompanied the Feast of Tabernacles. Moses prescribed some, others were merely added. According to Moses the following events were to take place.
On the first day of the Feast, booths (tents) were to be constructed of fresh branches of fruit and palm trees thick with leaves. The booths were not considered as places of hardship, but as structures of Divine protection, preservation, and shelter from heat, storm, and wind (Psa. 27:5; 31:20; Isa. 4:6).
The branches were to be in courts, streets, public squares, and on housetops (Lev. 23:40; Neh. 8:15).
The first day was to be considered a Sabbath, or a day of rest. No secular work was to be done, but all able-bodied male members of the congregation were to gather in a holy convocation before the Lord.
In addition to the building of booths and the holy convocation, sacrifices were to be made according to the following requirements.
Feast of Tabernacles
BULLOCKS RAMS LAMBS GOATS
FIRST DAY 13 2 14 1
SECOND DAY 12 2 14 1
THIRD DAY 11 2 14 1
FOURTH DAY 10 2 14 1
FIFTH DAY 9 2 14 1
SIXTH DAY 8 2 14 1
SEVENTH DAY 7 2 14 1
TOTAL SEVEN DAYS
70 14 98 7
EIGHTH DAY 1 1 7 1
Each bullock, ram, and lamb were to be offered with prescribed meat and drink offering. The sacrifices were made after the regular morning sacrifice (Num. 29:12-34).
Every sabbatical year the Law was to be read publicly in the sanctuary on the first day of the festival (Deut. 31:10-13).
In addition to the ceremonies originally set forth at the institution of the Feast of Tabernacles were several others that were added by tradition. Among the new rituals was the daily drawing of water from the pool of Siloam.
The pool of Siloam refers to a conduit on the SE side of Jerusalem, which brought water from the spring Gihon to a pool within the city. There was a reservoir, 58 feet long, 18 feet broad and 19 feet deep, built of masonry.
Every morning of the seven-day feast, at daybreak a priest went to the pool of Siloam and filled with water a golden pitcher containing about 2 1/2 pints.
On returning to the people with the living water, the priest was welcomed with three blasts from a trumpet.
A procession of the people, and a band of music accompanied the priest.
Going to the West Side of the great altar, the priest poured the water from the golden pitcher into a silver basin which had holes in the bottom through which the water was carried off.
This ceremony was accompanied with songs and shouts from the people, and with the sound of trumpets.
For the Jews, this ritual of tradition represented three great truths.
In matchless grace, God had provided water for His people for forty years in the desert.
God had promised through the prophets there would be “later rains” of spiritual and material blessings upon the nation.
When the Messiah came there would be a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
And the Messiah had come. The Bible says in John 7:37 that Jesus stood, or better, Jesus was standing amid His people. The Lord was watching the ceremonies that were all about Him! Suddenly the Lord could be silent no more. He stepped foreword, lifted up His voice and cried out for the vast multitude to hear.
“If any man thirst, let him
come unto me and drink.”
In a land where water is not always readily available, and the heat can create discomfort, water becomes a proper symbol of salvation. Without water, people soon perish. Without spiritual water, people eternally perish. It is to spiritual water Jesus refers when He says, “If any man thirst.”
In one sense all men are thirsty. By nature, all men lack the water of life. But not all are acutely aware of their spiritual thirst. Satan offers to quench the spiritual thirst of people with other liquids besides that of the Living Waters. In Revelation 17:6 we read of those who are drunken with the blood of the saints. King Herod was drunk with the wine of sensuality as he watched Herodias dance before Himself and others (Matt. 14:6). But there are others, like the woman of Samaria, who will plead with Christ,
“Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not…”
The familiar hymn states,
“I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
The Living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink, and live.
I came to Jesus, and I drank,
Of that life-giving stream!
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him!
For all that drink of Christ there is a wonderful promise,
“He that believeth on me”
“As the Scripture hath said,
Out of his belly shall flow
Rivers of living [running] water.”
There is no exactly corresponding passage that can be identified as the Scripture that Jesus had in mind, but the quotation does harmonize with the general message of several passages. It may be that the Lord had in His heart one of the following verses: Isaiah 55:1; 58:11; Zechariah 8:14; 13:1; 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1; Joel 3:18. The general idea of the passage is very clear. From the inner most heart of the believer [called here the belly] pours forth spiritual refreshment to others. A.W. Pink comments:
“A vessel will not overflow until it is full, and to be full it has to be filled!
How simple, and yet how searching! The order of Christ in the Scripture before us has never changed. I must first come to Him and ‘drink’ before the rivers of living water will flow forth from my satisfied soul.
When my own “belly” has been filled, that is, when my own needy heart has been satisfied by Christ, then no effort will be required, but out from me shall flow “rivers of living waters.”
The principle of John 7:38 becomes clear:
“The blessed one becomes, by God’s sovereign grace, a channel of abundant blessings to others. The church proclaims the message of salvation to the world, so that the elect from every clime and nation are gathered in.” ~William Hendricksen
The Divine ability to be a source of blessing is through the power and presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit that Jesus spoke of as rivers of Living Water was not yet. The word “given” is in italics which means the word was added by the translators. So is the term HOLY [Spirit] Ghost. The best Greek manuscripts have this startling statement. “For as yet there was no spirit.” What is the meaning of that? Dr. William Barclay explains.
“Think of it this way. A great power can exist for years, and even centuries without men being able to tap it. To take a very relevant example—there has always been atomic power in this world; men did not invent it. But only in our own time have men tapped it and used it.
The Holy Spirit has always existed; but men never really enjoyed His full power until after Pentecost. It was only when men had known Jesus that they really knew the Spirit. Before that the Spirit had been a power, but now He is a person, for He has become to us nothing other than the presence of the risen Christ always with us.”
It took the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to open the floodgates for the Holy Spirit to become real and powerful to all men. When our passage says that the Spirit was not yet, the meaning is that the Spirit was not yet manifested as he would be after Christ was glorified by the Father. Once Christ was glorified the Spirit came in power. He filled the men and women who prayed in the upper room so that they in turn preached Christ. Out of their innermost being flowed rivers of living water. Three thousand souls drank and were satisfied.