My last twenty plus years of working in the nonprofit sector has always made me work at giving people water to drink. In my current job, I am responsible for ensuring access to water for millions of people in East Africa. The Bible and water are very much connected. Water is mentioned 722 times in the scriptures. That is less than God, Jesus, heaven or love, but many more times than faith, hope, prayer or even worship. When I found that out I thought it very interesting and wanted to learn more from the Bible and water.
I work daily with water issues and as I Christian I wanted to learn more about water in the Bible.
The first mention of water in scripture is found in Genesis 1:2 and the last mention is found in Revelation 22:17. In between those two books water flows right through the pages of scripture. This should teach us that there is a great spiritual significance to it.
Water speaks of physical (or natural) birth
In Genesis 1:20, we read of the first mention of life, and this life comes from water, “…Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life…”. This thought is again repeated in the New Testament in John 3 when Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews is asking questions of Jesus. In verse 5 we read, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Notice here, the water birth (physical) comes before the Spirit birth (spiritual). We see the reality of this when a woman is in labour and the baby is about to be born. We wait for the ‘waters to break’ which surround the baby until birth. We cannot be spiritually re-born until we have first been naturally born.
Water speaks to us of the word of God
In Ephesians 5:26, concerning the church we read, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” The Psalmist in Psalm 119:9 writes “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
Reading the Bible has a cleansing effect on the reader. Christians would do well to sit and read, study and meditate together on the word of God. In the Tabernacle in the Old Testament, we read in Exodus 30:18 that Moses was to make a laver of brass and put water in it. This was to be situated between the Tabernacle and the altar. The priests were to wash their hands and feet in this when they went into the Tabernacle “that they die not”. They needed to be purified. The Lord was telling them that they constantly needed to have their feet cleaned. We see a picture of this in John 13. The Lord Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. They were already washed, but needed their feet washing.
Consider the words of verses 9-10 “Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”
Note that Lord (v14) then tells the disciples that they ought also to wash each other’s feet, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” It seems to me that this is a future instruction, as at this point their feet were clean. Surely, spiritually speaking, we wash each other’s feet through reading the word of God. That’s why the Lord said in John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.” In the Christian life, we all need to be purified from the filth of this world, we all need our feet cleaned
Water speaks to us of the purification of the Christian
This is really linked to the previous consideration, but the following verses are interesting to ponder on. Concerning the nation of Israel in a future day, the following words are recorded in Ezekiel 36:25- Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
As is a promise from God for a time when Israel returns to Him (see vs 24-38). However, there is also clearly an application here for the sinner who comes to Christ when we compare this verse with Hebrews 10:22 – Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Water speaks to us of spiritual life
In Genesis 2 we read of the perfect conditions of the Garden of Eden. This garden was watered by a river (v10). Without water, the garden would have died, as plants, animals and humans cannot survive without water. It seems to me that this river is a beautiful picture of the life that Christ gives to His children through the Spirit of God. Consider the following verses that speak of this:
Exodus 17:6 – Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it that the people may drink. And Moses do so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
Isaiah 12:2-3- Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation?
Isaiah 55:1 – HO, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Jeremiah 2:13- For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
John 4:14- But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life
John 7:38 -39 – He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
This water is the everlasting life that we enjoy now in Christ. That’s why the scripture says in 1 John 5:12 “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Without water there cannot be life: Without the Lord Jesus Christ there cannot be eternal life. It’s interesting to me that the greatest expanse of water in the world today is the sea. The sea in scripture is a fascinating subject, and one we can’t go into here. However, I would encourage you to look at the references and you will see that the sea often speaks to us of restlessness and tribulation (See Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:47-52, John 6:15-21).
Note, in all of these passages, the seas were calmed by the Lord Jesus. When we follow these thoughts through, we read those lovely words in Revelation 21:1.
Revelation 21:1 AND I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
No more sea in Heaven, no more restlessness, no more tribulation, all calmed by the Lord Jesus Christ forever. However, although there will be no more sea in Heaven, there will be water, eternal water that flows forever.
Revelation 22:1-2 AND he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There may be other spiritual types for water that I haven’t considered, but the above are the ones that spring to mind. I’ll leave you with the final reference to water in the Bible found in Revelation 22:17:
Revelation 21:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Adapted from – Jonathan Hewett