By Wayne Greeson
Water is truly an amazing substance, yet it is so common, so abundant that we take it for granted. Its chemical composition is the bonding of two gases, hydrogen and oxygen and it is identified in a chemist’s notation as H2O. We are familiar with its various forms from the gaseous, steam; to the liquid; to the solid, ice and snow. We drink it, bathe in it, swim in it, float over it, generate electricity with it, soak the grass with it, buy special clothes for it when it falls from the sky and on and on we could go about all the uses we make of the common and remarkable substance called water given to us by God.
God has given us water not simply as an element of our physical life, but also as an object lesson to teach us spiritual truths. Water is so much a part of our lives and covers so much of this planet that it can be said that it “day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where (its) voice is not heard. (Its) line has gone out through all the earth, and (its) words to the end of the world” (Psa. 19:2-4). Listen and learn the lessons water can teach us.
Out in the hot sun all day working hard, your throat begins to dry out and your tongue feels parched. You try to lick your lips and only end up feeling like you ran sandpaper across them. As the sweat drips from your brow, a picture comes to your mind of a tall clear glass of ice water, the ice cubes tinkling invitingly against the inside of the glass and beadlets of water sparkling on the outside of the glass. You almost tumble over your own feet in your rush inside for a drink of water to refresh your throat, body and mind from the thirst the heat and work has whipped into you.
How refreshing water can be. David on one occasion desired to be refreshed with water from a certain well and said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate” (2 Sam. 23:15). Three mighty men broke into the camp of the Philistines just to obtain the water that would refresh David. Jesus praised those who refreshed little ones with “only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple” (Matt. 10:42). Jesus knew how precious it was to have a refreshing drink of water as in his agony on the cross he cried out, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28).
God uses our physical thirst for water, our longing for refreshment to teach us the need for spiritual thirst. David expressed the thirst of a soul longing to be refreshed in the presence of his God. “O God, you are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psa. 63:1). As if in response to David’s plea for his soul to be quenched, God promised to provide the water that would satisfy and refresh every thirsty soul, “For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isa. 35:6-7).
Jesus told the woman of Samaria that he was the source of the refreshing living water promised by God. “[W]hoever 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 eternal life” (Jn. 4:13-14). Immediately the woman desired to drink of the water Jesus offered.
The apostles of Jesus later explained how thirsty souls might be refreshed by God’s living water. One must repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins, “so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Souls that are as eager as David to be refreshed in the presence of God will submit to the command of baptism in water and they will indeed receive the forgiveness of their sins and the refreshing living water of God.
After a hard day of back-breaking work, nothing feels quite as good as a long hot shower or bath. To soak up the water and scrub off the sweat and grime not only cleans the body, but makes one feel like a new person. We use gallons of water every day to clean our bodies, our clothes, our dishes, our cars, our pets, and anything else that we can reach with a bucket and a scrub brush.
Under the Law of Moses, cleansing with water was a frequent requirement. The frequency of cleansing with water for the priests required a bronze laver of water to be placed in the tabernacle courtyard between the altar and the door of the tabernacle. Moses was commanded concerning the laver, “You shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, least they die” (Exod. 30:19-20).
Again the Lord has given us the physical quality of water and its use in cleansing to teach us a lesson concerning spiritual cleansing. Just as dirt will make our body filthy and require water for cleansing, so also sin will make our soul filthy and require water for cleansing. David frequently prayed to be cleansed of his sins, “Wash me throughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psa. 51:2,7). The Lord promised in the Old Testament a means of cleansing, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).
Under the New Testament, the Lord kept his promise and sent his son, Jesus Christ, to open up the way to the fountain whereby those who love God might be washed, cleansed, purified, and purged of their sins. God has ordained that, for one to be cleansed of his sins, he must in faith submit to baptism in water, “the washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5). Saul was commanded by God thorough Ananias, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). One must be baptized not to remove the filth of the flesh, but to give the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21). Only those who have had their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and their “bodies washed with pure water” can “draw near (to God) with a true heart and in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).
Essential to Life
Water is essential for life to exist on this planet. All creatures require water to live. The human body is three quarters water and uses water for digestion, circulation, respiration, temperature control, waste removal and many more functions. While one can live without food for three weeks, one cannot live more than three days without water. Hagar and Ishmael would have died in the wilderness without water when their skin of water was used up, if the Lord had not opened Hagar’s eyes to find a well of water (Gen. 21:14-15).
Throughout the ages God has made water not only a requirement for physical life but also for spiritual life. During the Patriarchal age, water became the means through which God saved Noah and his family. “God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was prepared, in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20). Later, God saved the nation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt through the water of the Red Sea. Under the Law of Moses, God required that the priests wash themselves with water before entering the tabernacle in service to God and failure to do so mean death (Exod. 30:18-20).
Just as God requires water for our physical life and as he used water as a means to save those under the Patriarchal and Mosaical dispensations, God now requires water as an essential element for salvation under the dispensation of his dear Son. Jesus laid down the need of water for spiritual life to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Before Jesus ascended into heaven he told his apostles, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). Because of God’s requirement of baptism in water and its essentiality to our spiritual life, Peter wrote that as Noah and his family were saved through water, “There is an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism” (1 Pet. 3:21).
What is truly amazing about water is that the very element which we desperately need and use so much, God has blessed us with in exceeding abundance in the form of dew, rain, ponds, lakes, creeks, streams, rivers, seas and oceans. Just as so very few need to die physically for lack of water, no one needs to continue in spiritual death for lack of baptism in water in obedience to Jesus. “See here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 14, pp. 426-427
July 20, 1989