In the verse just quoted, Solomon (picturing Jesus) stated that the believer is like a fountain... like streams... like a well of living waters. What exactly does this mean? If we go to the New Testament book of John, we will see two passages that reveal the meaning of this and other similar Old Testament references:
John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 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.
Salvation through faith in Christ, everlasting life - a well of water springing up from the believer's soul. When we place our complete confidence in Christ, our faith in Him alone for salvation, He quenches that thirst deep inside us that only He could ever fill. This thirst to know the True and Living God will be quenched when we come to the Saviour and receive Him through repentance and faith. According to John 4:14, the true believer will NEVER thirst again in the way they did before coming to Jesus Christ. The word used in the Greek for never is a double emphatic, and means "No Never!" "The Lord Jesus Christ is saying that when we come to Him for salvation, He will completely fill that void inside us and we will never, ever thirst again!" He is THE Fountain of Living Waters.
But the phrase is also used in reference to the well of water flowing up within the believer himself - ie. spiritual water flowing within and out of the believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in fellowship with his Lord:
John 7:37-39 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 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.)
The Lord Jesus Christ promised here that the Holy Spirit - who would indwell all believers after Christ resurrected from the dead and ascended into Heaven - would give power to the life that is submitted to Him. He would create a spiritual fountain within each child of God that not only would quench their own thirst but would be able to flow out to others - a source of life and refreshment.
Barnes makes the following comment on rivers in verse 38: "This word is used to express abundance, or a full supply. It means here that those who are Christians shall diffuse large, and liberal, and constant blessings on their fellow-men; or, as Jesus immediately explains it, that they shall be the instruments by which the Holy Spirit shall be poured down on the world."
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say this about rivers of living water: "It refers primarily to the copiousness, but indirectly also to the diffusiveness, of this living water to the good of others." Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines copious as: "Abundant; plentiful; in great quantities; full; ample; furnishing full supplies"; and diffuse as: "To spread; to send out or extend in all directions; to disperse."
Living water is flowing water. If you look at the Hebrew words underlying the phrase "running water" (in Leviticus 14:5-6; 50-52; 15:13 and Numbers 19:17), you will notice that it means "living water"; ie. water that is always flowing, running freely, springing or gushing up, not stopped up or stagnant. Consider the Dead Sea - water is continually flowing into that Sea, but nothing ever flows out, and there is no life in that Sea!
The Lord wants the water of His Holy Spirit to be flowing through us daily as we serve Him! To be filled with His Spirit means to be controlled or influenced by Him, to be guided by His Word and led by His Spirit in our lives. When we are not quick to obey His prompting, we grieve or quench His work in us and through us and we become like a garden inclosed... a spring shut up, a fountain sealed (see Song of Solomon 4:12 - Is Your Armour On?), where the water is not flowing forth, but is drying up.
John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
I find it interesting that Jesus referred to the Old Testament Scriptures as testifying to what He was proclaiming on that great feast day. What may seem a little confusing is the fact that Jesus is not quoting one specific passage, but making a general summation. When we start to dig into the Old Testament a little further, we will find that this theme of living water (and other related terms) runs throughout various books.
As we have seen from the opening verse in this study, the Song of Solomon refers to a well of living waters. There are also various references throughout other OT books, but especially the book of Isaiah.
I remember going through a "dry period" last fall, after I came back from my Mom's memorial, I felt so drained spiritually, so dry inside - but I made a choice to keep my focus on the Lord and I can remember crying out to Him and pleading with Him to quench that thirst inside, that dryness that situations in my life had just made almost unbearable. Then I picked up my Bible and started reading the very next chapter from where I was currently reading, and came across these verses in answer to my prayer:
Isaiah 41:17-18 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
It was not a coincidence that the Holy Spirit led me to keep reading! As I meditated on what was presented in that passage, the thirst was quenched when I realized that the Lord was with me and still fulfilling His promises in His Word. He quenched that thirst by reminding me that my complete fulfillment and satisfaction in life was found only in Him. In our time of sweet fellowship, my Heavenly Father made my wilderness into a pool of water - He made a fountain in the midst of the valley of Baca (weeping) I was going through. Praise Him for His gentleness and compassion on this poor and needy soul - praise Him for providing that spiritual water when my soul was seeking it! Though I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me! (See Psalm 40:17)
Webster's gives this as one of his definitions of spring: "A source; that from which supplies are drawn. The real Christian has in his own breast a perpetual and inexhaustible spring of joy."
These spiritual fountains, springs, wells, watered gardens, etc. all picture the satisfaction we have when we are walking with Christ: joy, peace of mind, contentment, comfort, rest, refreshment.
Family Bible Notes states this in regards to John 4:13: "Earthly blessings, however numerous and great, cannot satisfy the desires of men. But the blessings of the Holy Spirit, which Christ gives to those who ask him, furnish and secure to them satisfying and eternal joys."
In commenting on John 4:13-14, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown make the following observations: "The contrast here is fundamental and all comprehensive. 'This water' plainly means 'this natural water and all satisfactions of a like earthly and perishable nature.' Coming to us from without, and reaching only the superficial parts of our nature, they are soon spent, and need to be anew supplied as much as if we had never experienced them before, while the deeper wants of our being are not reached by them at all; whereas the 'water' that Christ gives -- spiritual life -- is struck out of the very depths of our being, making the soul not a cistern, for holding water poured into it from without, but a fountain... springing, gushing, bubbling up and flowing forth within us, ever fresh, ever living. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of Christ is the secret of this life with all its enduring energies and satisfactions, as is expressly said (John 7:37-39). 'Never thirsting,' then, means simply that such souls have the supplies at home."
Since then I have noticed other passages on the same theme. I will not quote the various references to Moses striking the rock and water flowing forth, though obviously that was a type of the fountains of living waters that would flow forth from believers (they are also a type of Christ - see The Rock Of Horeb).
Psalm 107:35 He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
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 35:5-7 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Isaiah 43:19-20 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
Isaiah 44:3-4 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
Isaiah 58:11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Jeremiah 31:12, 14 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.
In verse 14, we see that the Lord will satisfy His people with Himself, with His goodness. The Hebrew word used here for satiate means: "to slake the thirst." Our Heavenly Father promises to slake His people's thirst - He will completely fill that spiritual thirst inside our souls with Himself!
Genesis 2:8-10 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
Just like a river went out of Eden (which means "Delight") to water the Garden that God had planted, even so those who walk in right fellowship with the Lord will spiritually be as a watered garden, with rivers of living water flowing within and out of them to others. In the passage above, we see the first reference in the Bible to a river and to the Garden of Delight it watered - this river was the source of the fruitfulness of the garden. Is your garden well-watered? Is it producing much fruit for the Lord?
As the Garden of Eden was created to be a paradise for man to delight in as he walked in fellowship with the Lord, having all his needs and (godly) desires met - all our delight is to be in the Lord, and He will meet all our needs! When we delight ourselves in Him first and foremost, our desires are fulfilled and satisfied, because they will be the desires He Himself gave us, and they will be according to His will. (See Proverbs 37:3-6)
There is an interesting contrast presented in the following passages - obviously it goes beyond their physical condition and also deals with their spiritual condition:
Isaiah 48:21-22 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.
Those believers walking with the Lord Jesus Christ are no longer thirsting. They have drunk of the living waters of salvation, and Christ is fulfilling and satisfying their souls with His peace, joy, etc. However, the lost cannot find this peace - because they are trying to do so without the Prince of Peace! No peace with God will leave men with no peace within their hearts and minds.
Isaiah 57:18-21 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Without peace with God and the rivers of living water flowing within, mankind is left as a troubled sea. The difference is profound: springs of living water that are flowing are not clogged with mire and dirt, but are flowing, running freely, unhindered and refreshing - however, a life that is filled with sin and rebellion is like a sea that has no rest, but is continually tossing and turning, churning within, continually casting up the muck and mire of sin, leaving the sinner without inward peace or spiritual rest.
Consider the following passages in regards to backsliders or those walking in rebellion to the Lord - when men are not right with God, they cannot find lasting satisfaction, their waters dry up, and they are left dry, barren, lifeless, empty.
Isaiah 1:30 For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
Psalm 107:33-34 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
Isaiah 42:15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools.
Notice the following passage is not spoken of in the past tense (though it is an indirect reference to the first plague of Egypt, it obviously goes far beyond that) - but as something God will still do:
Isaiah 50:2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.
Hosea 2:3 Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.
Hosea 13:15 Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
The Scriptures give us a choice: abundant life in Christ or a dry, barren, empty life without Him as our Saviour. (See John 10:10) Are you drinking water from the Rock, satisfying yourself with the fountains of living waters that are found in the Saviour and in the victorious life He provides as you walk in fellowship with Him? Is the well springing up in your life?
Numbers 21:16-18 And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it: The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah.
Hm, this last passage is interesting! I would say it is a type. The people dug the well according to the direction of God's Word, and the water sprung up. Then they went to Mattanah - which means: "a present; specifically (in a good sense), a sacrificial offering." When the Lord has satisfied the longings in your heart and soul, do you give yourself back to Him as a sacrificial offering, a living sacrifice? (See Romans 12:1)
Psalms 36:8-9 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
For a list of studies that use the Song of Solomon as the springboard:
Song Of Solomon