Sunday, July 1, 2007

Water from the Rock

Texts: Exodus 17:1-7; John 7:37-44

HOW MANY OF YOU HERE came to Vacation Bible School last week?

This message is for you. But we’ll let the grownups listen in, won’t we?

It was a wet week, wasn’t it? You explored the "Great Bible Reef"!

On Monday, you learned about how the mother of Baby Moses put him in a basket in the Nile River so he wouldn’t be killed, and how he was rescued by the daughter of King Pharaoh.

On Tuesday, you heard how General Naaman was sick with a terrible skin disease, and how God healed him when he plunged seven times into the Jordan River.

On Wednesday, you discovered how Jesus sat in a fishing boat and taught the people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And how afterwards, He told the fishermen to let down their nets to fish. And how an enormous catch of fish came up, so the fishermen were really scared, and Jesus said, "Don’t be afraid, but come with Me, and I’ll teach you how to catch people!"

On Thursday, you saw how Jesus healed a blind man by putting mud on his eyes and having him wash it off in the Pool of Siloam.

And on Friday, you found out how if you build on sand, the floods will come and wash your house away. But if you lay your foundation all the way down to rock, your house will stand firm. Was Jesus just talking about houses to live in? No, He was teaching us how to live. That if you listen to God and do what He says, even if you do have trouble, He will make sure everything comes out all right for you. But if you don’t, the bad things that happen in life will crash down like a terrible storm and your life will be ruined.

So what is that? Two rivers, one lake or sea, one pool, and one terrible flood. That’s a lot of water! And you had one rescue, two healings, one calling of disciples, and one lesson on how to listen to God and live. That’s a lot of things happening with water!

But do you ever think about what it would be like to go without water? I mean, to have no water at all?

You might say, "I’d drink Coke or Pepsi instead!" But what if there was no water to make Coke or Pepsi? What if there was no water, so the cows all died and there wasn’t any milk? What if the trees all dried up, so there was no orange juice or lemonade?

That would be horrible, wouldn’t it? You’d be so, so thirsty! And if you didn’t get something to drink, you’d die, too!

Well, a long, long time ago, God’s people Israel were really thirsty. They were afraid they were going to die. I’ll tell you how it happened:

Remember Baby Moses in the Nile River in Egypt? The Egyptians were really mean to God’s people. The Israelites had to work as slaves all day in the hot sun. They didn’t get to rest and their Egyptian masters whipped and beat them and treated them cruelly!

When Moses grew up, God told him to go tell King Pharaoh to let God’s people go free. Moses foster-mother Pharaoh’s daughter was dead, and her father the old Pharaoh was dead, and the new Pharaoh didn’t want to listen to Moses and he didn’t want to listen to God. But God did all sorts of awesome and marvellous miracles and He showed the Egyptians He meant business! So Moses led God’s people Israel out of Egypt.

God promised that He would bring them to a new country were they would be free and have everything they needed. But first, they had to go through the desert. A great, dry, terrible desert. The Israelites couldn’t find water anywhere. No water for themselves, or their children, or for their cattle or their sheep.

So they complained. And griped. And moaned. They said, "Moses, why did you bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and our livestock die of thirst?" They were so mad, they wanted to kill Moses!

Would you have complained, too? Would you have been mad because you were thirsty? That would have been very foolish! All those people knew what God can do! He defeated the Egyptians, and the Egyptians were the strongest people in the world back then! If God can do that, He surely can get His people a drink of water!

And He did. He told Moses to walk ahead and take some of the elders with him. Do we have any elders here today? Raise your hands! Moses took people like that with him. God said, "Go to the big rock at Mount Horeb, and I’ll be standing there in front of you. Strike that rock with your leader’s staff, and water will come out of it for the people to drink."

Moses obeyed, and that’s what happened. Enough water came out of that rock for everyone to drink as much as they wanted, and their sheep and cows drank all they wanted, too.

God told Moses, "Every Fall, I command the people to celebrate a special holiday. It will be called the Feast of Tabernacles ("tabernacle" is another word for "tent"), because I had My people live in tents in the desert." God wanted His people to remember how He’d taken care of them in the desert.

So God’s people came into their own Land, and every year they would get together in Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This holiday lasted eight days. On the last day, the priests at the Temple in Jerusalem would pour out a great big jar of water, all down the front steps of the Temple. The people would see the running water and be happy and joyful. They would remember how God gave them water out of that rock in the desert. They would thank God for giving them rain in the Promised Land, so they could grow food and eat. They praised Him because He gave them water so they could have life.

Do you ever remember to thank God for the gift of running water? You can just turn on a faucet, and there it is! But if God doesn’t send the rain and the snow, there wouldn’t be any water in the pipes! We should always thank God for giving us water, so we can drink and live.

But God has another kind of water for us, too. He gives us water for our spirits, so our spirits can live. He calls it "living water." Do you know how to get living water? Listen, and I’ll tell you how.

One year at the Feast of Tabernacles, something very exciting and different happened. Jesus the great Teacher was there, teaching at the feast. Now, those people didn’t really know who Jesus was. They didn’t know He was the Son of God. They didn’t know He was going to die for their sins, because He hadn’t done it yet. But they knew He was special, and the people liked to listen to Him tell them about God.

Well. On the last day of the feast, the priests were about to pour the water down the front stairs, to celebrate the water coming out of the rock in the desert. And Jesus stood up and called out really loud, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!"

Jesus was telling everybody, "I’m like that rock at Mount Horeb that Moses hit and the water came out for everyone to drink! Come to Me, and you’ll have water for your souls!"

You’re young now, and maybe you don’t know yet what it’s like to be dry and thirsty in your soul. It’s like you want something, but you don’t know what. Nothing can make you happy. You’re sad a lot. You work and work, but nothing seems to matter and nothing seems to do any good.

Everybody gets dry and thirsty in their souls, and only spiritual water can make that thirst go away.

And Jesus is the only one who can give you spiritual water. "Come to Me and drink!" He says.
Do you know how to come to Jesus? You say to Jesus, "Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God. I believe You died to take the punishment for my sins. I trust You to love me and take care of me all the rest of my life. I believe that someday You will bring me to live with You in heaven, no matter what happens to me here on earth." Jesus is like that great Rock in the desert, that Moses hit and the water came out of. He will give you His living water, so your soul feels like you’ve just had a long drink of cold, clear water.

But Jesus promises you more than that! He also said, "Whoever believes in me, . . . streams of living water will flow from within him!" Jesus’ disciple John (he wrote our Gospel lesson today) says Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the living water we need for our souls. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us when our hearts are thirsty and dry and the Spirit gives us life. He’s like a cold drink of water on a hot summer afternoon.

And what do you think? When the Spirit gives us Himself to drink, is there only enough for us, or is there plenty of the Holy Spirit left over?

There’s plenty left over, of course, because the Holy Spirit is God and you can never run out of God. Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me, streams of living water-- [that is, the Holy Spirit]-- will flow out of him." You get the living water Holy Spirit from Jesus, and the Spirit flows out of your heart and helps other people, too. He gives you His love and peace, and then you can tell other people about His love and peace, too.

God reminded His people Israel at the Feast of Tabernacles how He’d taken away their thirst in the desert. Can you think of two ways God uses something wet to remind us of what He has done by sending His Son Jesus to die for us?

Yes, He gave us the water of baptism, to show how Jesus washed away our sins and to remind us that He has given us the living water of the Holy Spirit.

And He gave us the wine of the Lord’s Supper. We drink it and we know that Jesus takes away the thirst in our souls. He is the living Rock that gives us the living water of the Holy Spirit, so we can believe in Him and live.

I’m glad God gives us ordinary water, aren’t you? But I’m even more glad that He gives us the living water of the Holy Spirit. Believe in Jesus. Drink the water He gives, and your soul will never have to be thirsty again.

(Preached on Vacation Bible School Assembly Sunday)



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