Symbols of the Holy Spirit 5: Water

Symbols of the Holy Spirit 5:


River flowing over stones.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 ESVUK

On the last day of the feast, the great day, 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 this he said 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

Life can sometimes be like a desert, but the Holy Spirit is always like a river. – Anon.

A story.

Living water was a common idea. Everybody knew what it was, cool, bubbling along, fresh from the stream, everybody longs to drink lovely, bright, delicious, living water. But this was Samaria, all there was was a well. The depth of the well kept the water below from the worst of the heat, but the last thing you would call well water was delicious. It was usually just called ‘brown’.

Here she came, during the heat of the day when most people of the city were either busy elsewhere or, if they had any sense, avoiding the mid-day sun. Siesta is fine for those who can afford the luxury. She came at this time because the well would not be deserted, she needed someone to draw the water, but it would be a stranger, someone who didn’t know her.

When I saw her a little later she was running through the streets, not her usual skulking. And no water. She was saying she had met someone who had told her everything about her as if it was something good, we knew it wasn’t, not people like her. She was … well … notorious, if you know what I mean.

But she had changed, not just the running instead of hiding in the shadows, but she was speaking to people on the street, even decent people like me who she would normally avoid, and we would likewise avoid her. Whatever this man had given her, I bet she has a headache when it wears off, has she been on the mushrooms again.


When Jesus talked about water and the Holy Spirit it could be either be a simile, like the conversation at the well in Samaria where he compared the Holy Spirit to living water, or a contrast, like when Jesus told Nicodemus that he has to be born by water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Here water refers to natural birth when your mother’s waters break and Spirit to being born again of God.

In the next chapter, at the Samaritan well, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as water, water that cleanses, quenches, refreshes, and gives life. We are told to be continually filled with this Spirit continually.*

That we need constant filling with the Holy Spirit is because this world dries us out. We get spiritually tired and drained, we have responsibilities that must be done and needs that are not being met, so our prayer life wanes, and we end up unwittingly or deliberately wandering into spiritually dry places, we get thirsty, a thirst that can only be met by the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is how the conversation at the Samarian well ended:

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13–14

Ask Jesus to give you his Holy Spirit, or if you already have the Holy Spirit, ask him to fill every part of you with his Holy Spirit. Be refreshed by the vibrant water of the Holy Spirit, not by the stagnant, brown water of the world which does not quench.

*bad grammar I know, but that we continually need to be filled continually cannot be stressed enough.

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