Come to the Waters

Welcome to this series in which we will be reflecting on the sparkling refreshment that the waters of life bring, as well as on some of the ways by which the Lord invites us to quench our thirst, and to meditate on the River of Life, which is both a glorious physical reality in Heaven, and a picture of the work of the Holy Spirit flowing through our lives.

 

 

Come to the Waters Soundcloud Playlist

Ho everyone who is thirsty – Come to the Waters

Featuring uplifting music for harp by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, that is wonderfully played for us by Fontane Liang, the title of the piece, La Vida Breve, reminds us that life is short – and that we are to respond to the Lord’s invitation to come and take the free gift of the water of life.

Music: Manuel de Falla: Vida Breve
Performed by Fontane Liang

Father, at this time, when many people are feeling the lack of things, and the pressures of life are increasing, we want to respond to Your invitation to come to the waters of life and drink freely.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” . . . To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life . . . Yes, let the one who is thirsty come and take the free gift of the water of life. (Rev. 21:6, 22:17)

Do you remember the cry of Isaiah, Israel’s great prophet to the nations, announcing, “Ho everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters!”?

We don’t say ‘Ho’ anymore, but it’s a really strong word in Hebrew – rather like God saying ‘Hoy’ to us, or like Jesus saying ‘Verily, verily.’ Most modern versions simply say ’Come,’ while the ultra-modern ones use some such expression as ‘Hey! Or ‘You there!’ It’s a call to take heed and listen.

And what a warm and welcoming word ‘come’ is! And what it is we are being invited to come to do? To buy, and drink! In places where water is scare, we wouldn’t be in the least surprised to hear vendors crying out, ‘Drinking Water: come and get it!” But then we would expect to hear a hefty price tag attached: ‘Thirty shekels a hin!’

But not here. Here, we are invited to come without price – to receive and to drink. We’re talking about the river of life which Jesus promised would flow within the hearts of believers (John 7:37). All our springs are meant to be in Him, (Ps. 87:7) and we’re praying today that You will release more of the flow of Your Spirit directly into any areas of our heart where the water level has become cloudy, silted, damned up, or receded – just as water companies open the sluice gates and release additional reserves of water when it is required.

Thank You, Jesus, that there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, that holy place where the Most High dwells. (Ps. 46:4)

I love the Hebrew word that is used here for ‘come:’ haw-lak or lə·ḵū. Forgive the pronunciation, but the lovely thing about it is that, depending on the context, it embraces both an invitation to come and a directive to go. In other words, it covers all eventualities. We are meant to come to the Lord to drink so that we can go out in the power of the Spirit. It is the direction of travel in our life that is the most important thing of all.

And there are times when our thirst is quenched and we can be perfectly at peace and at rest in You – but Jesus, we’re sorry that so often, we come to You for a brief drink and then, as if satisfied that we have done our duty and had our weekly dose, before just carrying on again with our own concerns.

Did You not tell us that it is the Spirit alone who gives life, and that the flesh counts for nothing? (John 6:63 NIV) We’re eager to enter into the fullness of that life, into Your vitality that revives our dull and self-satisfied souls.

Why spend our efforts on that which cannot satisfy?

The theme of the Lord’s invitation to us continues, this time accompanied by the lapping waters of the River Vltava, (which means ‘Wild Water,’ and is widely known by its German name, the Moldau) as depicted by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. Exquisitely performed for us by Fontane Liang, the music beautifully captures the sound of the river as it gathers strength and momentum from its source in the Bohemian mountains, wending its way through a landscape of forests and meadows. It tumbles through the St John’s Rapids before widening out again to pass through Prague on its way to the mighty River Elbe.

It is music that is iridescent with Smetana’s love for his homeland, just as we are illumined by the joy of our eternal home as the Holy Spirit flows through our lives. How we need His water of life sparkling within us! At the scent of water, even that which is drooping and failing springs back to life. Why spend our money and direct all our labour to that which cannot satisfy, when He invites us to receive so much more by His Spirit?

Music: Moldau from Má Vlast (My Fatherland) by Bedřich Smetana
Musician: Fontane Liang

From the earliest verses in Genesis, right through to the very end of the Scriptures, we see the great benefits and blessings of water, both physically and spiritually. There are more than seven hundred references to it in the Scriptures – far more occasions than words such as faith or prayer or worship.

Thank You Lord that You use water to bring healing, as Naaman discovered when he obeyed the prophet and was healed of his leprosy in the River Jordan, and the blind man likewise, when Jesus enabled him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Thank You that You brought about great deliverance for the people of Israel, first when they crossed the Red Sea and later, the River Jordan at a time when it was in spate. (2 Kings 5:1-14, John 9:1-7; Exodus 14:1-15, 21; Josh. 3:13-17)

Rather as protective waters surrounded us in the womb, thank You, Lord, that water symbolises our own deliverance when we were baptised, dying to our old life, and being raised to our new life in Christ. Shepherd of our souls, lead Your people to still waters; give them water to drink even in desert places.

How we need the water of life for our bodies and spirit alike! At the scent of water, even that which is drooping and failing springs back to life.

Why spend our money and direct all our labour to that which cannot satisfy, when You invite us to receive Your Spirit? We want to listen carefully to You, and to eat what is good, so that our souls can delight in the richest of food, and You can have the joy of seeing a people who are hungering for Your presence, who really are looking for You all the time.

So here we are Lord, coming with all our failings and contradictions to receive this soul-replenishing water; coming to buy the wine that gladdens our hearts, and the milk that nourishes our bones. We come to You, leaning in to hear You, listening closely, so that our soul may live. (Is. 55:1-3 BSB)

With joy we draw water from the well of salvation

Water, and rivers, play a vital part in the history of humankind and it is good to celebrate them, but it is even more important to respond to the Lord’s invitation to come to Him and drink of the eternal water of life. In this second part of Smetana’s depiction of the Moldau river, you will love the rippling effects of the water that Fontane captures so beautifully. May you be refreshed in the depths of your spirit as you receive the sparkling water of life from the Lord’s own hands.

Music: Moldau from Má Vlast (My Fatherland) by Bedřich Smetana continued.
Performed by Fontane Liang

It is no coincidence that two thirds of the earth’s surface is given over to the oceans, nor that a similar percentage of our bodies consists of water, a figure that rises to 85% when it comes to our brains. Rivers have long been the hub of communities, both as a source of pleasure and of commerce. A river flowing safely within its banks is a beauty to behold, and a powerful force for good, bringing fertility and blessing.

But rivers can also be dangerous. When flood water pours over the surrounding countryside, it saturates where it shouldn’t and causes great damage and even loss of life amongst the very people it had previously sustained.

Lord, You intended that the rivers that sprang from Eden should water the Earth – and you desire that we should be life-giving too – neither full of froth and bubbles, nor surging into places we should not go, polluting and contaminating. Breathe Your quality of life into us now, as we come to the waters, and fill us afresh we pray with sparkling, refreshing life.

Lord Jesus, long before there was any separation between land and sea, before there were any rivers or even rain, You were present. You are the Wisdom of God. Now, the wisdom the sages of our generation purvey appears tremendously attractive and even profound, but at heart, so much of it is overlaid with syncretistic and decidedly woke-ist tendencies. Without You, how can any of these things bring us the authentic blessings of eternal life?

As Jeremiah challenged His people at a time when they, like so many today, were committing the cardinal mistake of forsaking Him, the spring of living water, and were busy digging their own broken cisterns and systems. ‘Why go to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? What will you gain by doing so? Or by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates? These are bitter waters and your backsliding will find us out.’ (Jer. 2:13, 18-19)

We’re so grateful that You are the Way, the Truth and the Life, Lord Jesus. It is in You alone that we find all that nourishes and enriches both us and the whole of Creation – and You are inviting us to come to You and drink from the water of Life. Why would we look anywhere else, or hold any part of our lives back from You? Help us to share every part of our lives with You, and to remember to look and to consult You about everything. May we be like those prophets of old, who drank deeply of Your words, and allowed them to penetrate to the depths of their being. Like them, may we draw up water with joy from the deep wells of salvation: (Jer. 15:16; Is.12:3) waters that become lifegiving streams and rivers in their own right.

Yes Lord, we are thirsty, and we come to receive the water of life from Your hands, from Your fountain of life right now.

There is such vitality and healing in the river of God

The Scriptures speak of a wonderful river of life in Heaven that is brim full of vitality and healing. This is an invitation to contemplate the river, and to picture it in our minds and spirits. It is set to beautiful music from Torelli’s Etienne Concerto, and the improvisation that follows it.

Music: Torelli: Trumpet Concerto in D – ‘Etienne’ 2nd movt
Musicians: Philippa Barton, Helen Rees, Julian Chan, Jo Garcia, James Horsfall

The closer we get to God the more we discover that there is nothing but life and vitality in Him. It is impossible to express either in words or on paper, the full sense of vitality His close presence brings, or how utterly strong and beautiful His angels are, so full of light and spiritual vim, uncorrupted as they are by the least trace of sin or death.

Fill us and all Your people with this sense of vitality, Lord, just as each river brings life to the towns and settlements that spring up around it, its whole length long. May many be touched by those who are endued with the true anointing of Your Spirit, because they have taken time and delight to feast on the abundance of Your house, and to drink from Your river of delights. (Ps. 36:8)

Most rivers reach their journey’s end when they flow into the sea, of course, but in Heaven the river of life flows continually on, full of life and vitality. This is the river of the water of life that the angel showed John, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, right down the middle of the main street of the city, where His servants serve Him and reign with Him for ever. And it is there that John sees the Tree of Life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month, whose leaves never wither, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit never fails and is used for food, just as their leaves are for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:1-2; Ez. 47:9,12)

Wherever the river flows, there will be swarms of living creatures and a great number of fish, because it flows there and makes the waters fresh; so wherever the river flows, everything lives and flourishes. Let’s picture this river in our hearts, and how it will be, and come to the Lord of this river for healing and refreshment.

Ponder the river flow

Set to gentle music by Linda Entwistle, here is an opportunity to ponder the river of God, and the spiritual flow we bring to others, even as rivers bring so many vital nutrients to the regions they pass through, and serve as vital hubs of communication. Where might the river of God’s Spirit be leading you?

Music: Linda Louisa: Just Passing Through

The more profoundly rooted we are in Jesus, the more our spiritual lives are likely to impact others – and the fuller we are of His Spirit the more our lives will overflow with good things.

But failing to seek and honour the Lord in all we do, and to respect the boundaries of Love – or, indeed, rejecting them altogether – cannot fail to introduce a very mixed spirit into the flow of our waters. The more we rely on our own experience and the wisdom of our own age, the greater the likelihood that we will end up sowing error and confusion – just as the spiritually naïve and ambitious stray beyond what is written, imagining themselves called to be and to do certain things that in reality God has neither called them to do nor equipped them to be. As for the spiritually lazy, they are content just to suppose that it does not matter much what they say or how they behave.

Sooner or later, what is in our hearts heart becomes clear, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that our mouth speaks, whether for good and for ill. (Luke 6:45)

Life is many layered, and many of us are involved in many ways with working out God’s will and purposes in our lives. Ponder for a moment the people, churches, streams, movements and ideas that have come your way, and which have played their part in contributing to making your river flow in the way that it does today.

The water Jesus gives us becomes a spring of water welling up to eternal life – a river that allows no obstacle to block its onward progress. (John 4:13-14)

My spirit is never more alive than when I am writing, whether free flow creating or in-depth editing. (John 5:17) I am doing what God has called and created me to do and I can feel the surge of the water of His life flowing through me as I do so. How about you? Where is your main flow? Where is the river of God taking you? Are there specific projects and concerns that you especially need to be in the flow of God’s spirit for?

The Distributary River

Jane Horsfall’s exuberant piece, Adonai Elohai, provides the setting for this delightful opportunity to reflect on how God increases the flow and significance of His ‘river’ in our hearts, and the ways in which He distributes His gifts to us, and then enables us in turn to share what He has given us with others.

Music: Jane Horsfall: Adonai Elohai
Musicians: Jane and James Horsfall, Helen Rees, Philippa Barton, Julian Chan, Jo Garcia, Mike Halliday, Anthony Thompson

The source of our own spiritual river may well have been small at the outset – may well still seem so to this day; but is that not how all great rivers begin, before going on to reach a greater breadth and depth, and a stronger flow and greater momentum as their journey progresses?

We have not been accumulating wisdom and knowledge through the years just to satisfy ourselves, or to impress others, let alone to compete with them, but to enrich and add to their flow. Praise God for all the ways in which we have contributed to promote a godly flow in certain other people’s lives.

This is the work of a distributary river. A distributary is the opposite of a tributary, for instead of waters pouring in to become one with the main stream, now streams – and even rivers – branch off to flow into other channels. The river has reached a point where it is mature enough to distribute all the good things it has picked up along the way, and the natural terrain is such as to accommodate and make this possible.

I love that word, ‘distributary!’ The Scriptures are full of pictures of the good things of God – land and food and spiritual gifts – being gathered and then divided and distributed with wisdom and generosity, or the tongues of fire being distributed on the disciples at Pentecost, and other gifts of the Holy Spirit being distributed amongst the Church. (Jn. 6:11; Acts 2:3; Heb. 2:4 (cf 1 Cor. 12:11))

Think of Paul reminding Timothy to ‘instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be conceited but to be generous and ready to share, treasuring up for themselves a firm foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’ The writer to the Hebrews likewise reminds us ‘not to forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’ (1 Tim. 6:18, Heb. 13:16)

Jesus, You blessed the loaves, and put them into the disciples’ hands, and then You instructed them to distribute them to all the vast crowd that had gathered to hear Your words and to see the signs Your Father did through You. And right there and then, the loaves were multiplied to feed all who were there and still there were leftovers to be gathered.

We want to ‘ponder anew what the Almighty can do when with His love, He doth befriend’ us.

As rivers gather up not only water but vital soils and sediments before distributing them, it’s good to think back to some of the things You have enabled us to gather and to distribute – and to ask You to keep on doing such things through us, in such a way as to empower and bless others.

You are always about this work in our lives, Lord, distributing the gifts of Your love and presence through us in ways we may not even be aware of.

At any point the power of God can break through

In our labours to extend the Kingdom of God, there are challenging times when it appears as though our best efforts are bearing little or no fruit, while others seem to spring up before our eyes and bear a mighty harvest. It is a wonderful and reassuring thought that, at any time, the Lord can intervene to water the seeds we sow and bring about a great blessing and release. Let us not give up on sowing, just because we cannot see any green shoots.

Music: Colin Owen: Ayre
Musicians: Julia, Thomas and Susanne Herzog, Peter Richards

Some years ago, a friend told Robert how he had picked up a hitchhiker who he discovered was a Christian. When Robert’s friend asked his passenger how he had come to know the Lord, he was surprised to hear that a certain Robert Weston had given him a lift years before, and had witnessed to him . . . Robert had forgotten all about it, but the Lord hadn’t; He had gone on watering and nurturing the seed and now here it was bearing its own fruit. Praise God for the great life there is in the seeds that we sow.

In Your resurrection body, Jesus, You gave Your friends and disciples a glimpse of the life-flow that belongs to Your children in the Heavenly Kingdom. And You instructed them in the way of the Kingdom, preparing them for their great mission. You meet with us, too, and send us out on many, many missions, many works and errands of mercy too.

Thank You that even in these difficult times there is no cap or quota to the number of prayers that You are willing to respond to, no dam that brings the waters to a full-stop, because You answer when we call.

I wonder if there are any obstacles and boulders, prejudices and unforgiveness that have been blocking the water flow in your life? God is a very present help in any kind of trouble – but we must keep pressing in and seeking Him. At any point the power of Heaven can intervene and break through.

Let the Water of Life flow freely through our hearts

As we invite the Lord into the deep places of our heart in this meditation, we are accompanied by a traditional tune called ‘To danton me.’ ‘Danton’ (or daunton or daunten) is an old Scots word meaning ‘to frighten, subdue, discourage or cast down in spirit.’ How blessed we are to be able to ask for the waters that Jesus gives us, for they spring up to eternal life, whatever our inward temperament, flowing over and around challenging outward circumstances even as mighty waters either wear rocks to pieces or flow around them.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why the unease within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him,
my Saviour and my God. (Ps. 42:5,11)

Music: Barsanti: To danton me
Musicians: Francis Cummings, Catherine Muncey, Natalie Halliday, James Horsfall

Father, come deep into the recesses of our heart. Come into those places that rarely, if ever, see the light of love, the places that we try to enclose and enfold in as if we could hide them from Your sight. We say, let Your light, the lamplight of Your Holy Spirit search where He needs, refine as He will and cause there to be a purer water, Lord.

We want mineral water flowing through our hearts, Lord. Qualities that heal, a touch that refreshes. We are asking You to come upon each one now as we listen, as we ponder.
We are so grateful that You don’t turn the tap off against us, but bid us to come. And we ask that You will expand our capacity to live in the flow of this life-imparting Spirit. Father, let the precious water that You give us will become a well of water within us, springing up into everlasting life to bless others as we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (John 4:14, Tit. 2:13,)

You already see that moment, Lord, that moment when You will return to Earth. You see the moment when You will draw us up to Heaven. Lord, You see, as it were, with double sight: as things are now and as things will be then. And time is telescoped and time is one with You. Thank You, Lord. Take us onto Your wavelength. Let the water of life flow freely through our hearts, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Banner Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash
Ho everyone who is thirsty – Come to the waters – Photo by Anderson Rian on Unsplash
Why spend our efforts on that which cannot satisfy? Photo by Barb Canale on Unsplash
With joy we draw water from the well of Salvation  -Photo by Jaime Dantas on Unsplash
There is such vitality and healing in the River of God – Photo by Sasha Kaunas on Unsplash
Ponder the River Flow – Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash
The Distributory River – Photo by Alex Diaz on Unsplash
At any point the power of God can break through – Photo by Daniel Salcius on Unsplash
Let the Water of Life flow freely through our hearts – Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash