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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Identity of the Holy Spirit

Don Stewart :: Why Is the Holy Spirit Compared to Water?

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Why Is the Holy Spirit Compared to Water?

The Identity of the Holy Spirit – Question 24

In the ancient world water was a precious commodity. The lack of rain in certain areas made the catching and saving of rainwater something which was of the utmost importance. In Scripture we find water is used as a symbol of the Spirit of God. The following are examples of this use.

1. Water Symbolizes the Reception of the Holy Spirit

Water signifies the reception of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel compared the Spirit of God with the cleansing of the heart.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV).

Water is seen as symbol of the Spirit of God coming into a person’s life and cleansing their heart from sin.

2. The Pouring of Water at the Feast of Tabernacles

At the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, the priest would pour water next to the altar as the final ritual of this feast. This event looked forward to the time the Messiah would come. Zechariah wrote of that great day when Messiah would come.

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16 NIV).

Thus, the water symbolized the day of the Messiah, the Deliverer. We find this same truth taught in the New Testament. It is in this context, at the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths, that Jesus spoke of “living water.” We read of the following event in the life of Jesus.

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory (John 7:37-39 CEV).

Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the Messianic hope of the people. The Holy Spirit would be the evidence in the lives of believers that His claims were true. Out of their innermost being would come rivers or torrents of living or life-giving water. This was Jesus’ prediction of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus Gives Life-giving Water to Those Who Believe

Jesus told a woman in Samaria that He is the One who gives living water to those who have a spiritual thirst. We read.

But those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14 TNIV).

Water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit here represents eternal life.

4. He Gives the Water of Life

The Bible speaks of the water of life.

Then 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 water as a gift from the spring of the water of life (Revelation 21:6 NRSV).

This water brings life. John also wrote.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Everyone who hears this should say, “Come!” If you are thirsty, come! If you want life-giving water, come and take it. It’s free! (Revelation 22:17 CEV).

Jesus offers the water of life. Again, the Holy Spirit represents that life-giving water that quenches our spiritual thirst.

5. Water Is Symbolic of Satisfaction and Prosperity

In the Bible, we find that water signifies such things as satisfaction and prosperity. The psalmist wrote.

May his reign be as refreshing as the springtime rains—like the showers that water the earth (Psalm 72:6 NLT).

Since the rains were absolutely necessary for the survival of those people, they represented prosperity and satisfaction. Indeed, without the rains the people would have neither.

In the same manner, without the Spirit of God none of us can have spiritual satisfaction.

Isaiah the prophet records the Lord saying of how He will bring water to the barren places of the desert.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs (Isaiah 41:18 NIV).

This again testifies to the value of water. The Lord also said.

I am creating something new. There it is! Do you see it? I have put roads in deserts, streams in thirsty lands Isaiah 43:19 CEV).

Water is thus a fitting symbol for the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For only with Him, can one achieve satisfaction and prosperity in this life. Therefore from Scripture we find that water has a number of important symbolic meanings for the believer. Indeed, it is a wonderful symbol of the work of the Spirit of God in the lives of His people.

Summary – Question 24
Why Is the Holy Spirit Compared to Water?

In the dry and desert world of the Bible, water was an extremely important commodity. Consequently, we find that the Bible uses water as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We note that there are a number of essential truths we learn from this comparison.

In the Book of Ezekiel water symbolizes the reception of the Holy Spirit. It represents the cleansing which takes place when a person puts their trust in the God of Scripture.

We find the same thing in the New Testament. Jesus said that He would give life-giving water to those who have believed in Him. This was referring to the Holy Spirit. The reception of the Holy Spirit would be the evidence that a person had truly believed in the Lord.

The Bible also uses water as a symbol of satisfaction and prosperity. This fits well with the Holy Spirit who satisfies and prospers those who believe in the Lord. Indeed, spiritual prosperity is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the person. On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding someone, they will truly prosper.

In sum, water is a fitting symbol of the work of the Holy Spirit. Only the God of the Bible can solve the problem of our spiritual thirst.

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