Chapter 9

As a Symbol of Life

Because of the literal relationship of water to life, water has stood figuratively as a symbol of life throughout recorded history. And in the Bible, this life symbolism is made even more significant when it represents the salvation that leads to eternal life. This is first mentioned by Israel’s prophet Isaiah:

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; “for YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.” Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isa. 12:2-3).

Since the people of Israel did not remain faithful to their God, they were reminded of their faithlessness by the prophet Jeremiah, whose entire career was spent admonishing his people to repent:

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns—broken cisterns that cannot hold water. . . . O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water (Jer. 2:13; 17:13 NIV).

God is a God of grace and mercy, however. He constantly offers His people a way back to Him. One of the last of the Old Testament prophets foretold the glorious end when Israel finally repents in the last days:

In that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur (Zech. 14:8).

It’s fitting that Jesus, the author of the New Covenant, would pick up where the prophet of the Old Covenant left off— announcing to a lone Samaritan woman God’s grandest offer to mankind:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:10-14).

One of the fascinating facts of the biblical message of salvation for all people is that it was so often communicated first to the lowliest of humanity. The Jews, who received the original written revelation of God, were scorned by the Romans and other conquerors as worthless rabble. The Jews themselves looked down on the Samaritans as one of the lowest castes of human beings. But Jesus revealed His desire and ability to save a lost and sin-ravaged humanity to a Samaritan woman.

Not too long after making His dramatic offer, Jesus made the supreme sacrifice, allowing His life’s blood to be poured out on the ground beneath His cross of crucifixion— history’s greatest act of self-sacrifice, and one that assured forgiveness for sinful mankind. The imagery of shed blood providing sin-healing, life-giving water has been elegantly stated in William Cowper’s hymn There Is A Fountain. The hymn is taken from another water metaphor used by Zechariah: “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).

There is a fountain
filled with blood
drawn from
Immanuel’s veins,
and sinners plunged
beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief
rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day,
and there may I,
though vile as he,
wash all my sins away.

 Dear dying Lamb,
Thy precious blood
shall never lose its power,
till all the ransomed
church of God
be saved, to sin no more.

 E’er since, by faith,
I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
redeeming love
has been my theme
and shall be till I die.

The confirmation of Jesus’ ability to provide the water of life came shortly after His crucifixion, when He arose from the grave. Then, after showing Himself alive to His disciples, He ascended into heaven where He waits until the appointed moment of His promised return. The apostle John wrote the account of Jesus’ offer of “living water” to the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4). Many years later he received a visionary revelation from Jesus, who said:

It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts (Rev. 21:6).

John went on to declare that Jesus “showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). John was actually given a glimpse into the future fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. The apostle also said that Jesus had expanded His generous offer to the Samaritan woman to all of us—the very last invitation of salvation in the Bible:

Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).

Water becomes the bookends of the Bible. It appears in the beginning as the source and substance of all temporal life, and it appears again at the end as the great symbol for eternal life.

So water becomes the bookends of the Bible. It appears in the beginning as the source and substance of all temporal life, and it appears again at the end as the great symbol for eternal life.

What a wonder water is! Humanity—all of life— would not exist without it. And everlasting life would not be ours without that miraculous water represented in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Have you responded to Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life? If not, now would be a wonderful time to go to the Source of all water, and forgiveness, and eternal life. Accept and trust the One who is the real wonder of water (Jn. 1:1-14).