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A thirsty island

On the last day of the feast [the Feast of Tabernacles AD 32 Jerusalem], the great day [Greek – megas], 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.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.         John 7: 37-39


Have a good day! Have a great day! Have a mega day! Last weekend was the Notting Hill Carnival. Thankfully it passed without rioting. But it was, for London, a mega day.


Jersey’s mega day each year is Liberation Day – May 9. But in nearby Brittany the mega day each year (apart from Bastille day) is the Fete de Blé (Feast of Wheat/ Feast of Corn). The Feast of Tabernacles (see bold above) is much closer to Harvest Festival than to Liberation Day. It’s held at harvest time each year and lasts a whole week.


How does “Harvest” connect with “Tabernacles”? Well, that does go back to “liberation” matters. In about BC 1350 the descendants of a man named Israel (all 1.5 million of them slaves in Egypt) were liberated from slavery and escaped from that country. They were heading towards Canaan – the Promised Land. It took them 40 years to arrive and during all that time they lived in tabernacles – in booths made of wood and natural coverings, branches, thatch and so on.


Food was in short supply. Harvests were unavailable to itinerant strangers. Water was absolutely essential and precious.


After that, during the annual Feast of Tabernacles everyone left their homes and lived in booths so as not to forget their desert wanderings and God’s provision for them then. Back to basics. The mega day was the last day of that week when water was the main theme – God-supplied water.


Everyone who heard Jesus that day in AD 32 knew that he wasn’t speaking about “water” when he loudly stated the above words and linked them with BC 1350 and the archived writings of their nation, Israel.


Everyone knew that the “thirst” about which Jesus said “let him come to me and drink” was not thirst for water but another deeper thirst.


Jersey folk are thirsty too – in AD 2011. I have a dear friend who is an alcoholic. He is terribly thirsty – thirsty to the death, actually. He knows that drink satisfies. (He also knows that drink is rapidly killing him but he thirsts so as to be satisfied, albeit temporarily.) “If any thirst ... come ...”


I have another contact who is anxious to provide for himself and wife and young family. Much is expected of him. His thirst is so strong for clothes and good looks and standing that it leads him into unconscionable business paths. Those paths are rationalised as being conscionable in all the circumstances. “If any thirst ... come ...”


Another friend is heavily in debt and, in the midst of it, has purchased an expensive vehicle on the drip. His thirst is to be strong and successful. The best he can do to assuage that thirst is to contrive to appear to be so. “If any thirst ... come ...”


Yet another is a grandmother. She thirsts because she is lonely. She no longer speaks to her brother. Her daughters are at loggerheads with one another. They have adopted the unforgiving family spirit. She is unhappy and lonely. If any thirst ... come ...”


A further acquaintance is the son of a very wealthy father who watches while that father abuses his mother and makes her desperately unhappy. The son thirsts to do his mother good – but there’s his own inheritance to think of. He daren’t cross his father. “If any thirst ... come ...”


Are these the kind of “thirsts” that Jesus was speaking about with such definiteness and with such an amazing offer – he invited all to come? The offer, for all the thirsty that would come, was that ‘Out of his/her heart will flow rivers of living water’. Yes, living water. Yes, rivers of it.


Not only will the thirsty be satisfied but also the thirsty will be so fully satisfied that they will be channels of living water themselves – to others.

 ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give/ The living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live!”' (H Bonar)
‘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.’ (Horatius Bonar, Minister and Writer, 1808-1889)
Richard Syvret

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