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The Outpouring

“Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand…. 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” (John 7:2,37).

The Feast of Tabernacles was divinely established as a seven-day commemoration followed by a one-day “convocation” or Sabbath (Leviticus 23:34,36). One of the most intriguing acts of worship witnessed by the assembled masses was an outpouring of water at the Temple. The water libation was of such significance that the Feast of Tabernacles was termed the “House of Outpouring.” In addition to the element of thanksgiving and expectation of rain for the harvest, the Jerusalem Talmud ascribes special significance to the ceremony, and explains its meaning in this way: “Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: ‘With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation’” (Isaiah 12:3).

A priest was dispatched daily to lead a procession from the Temple to the pool of Siloam. He carried a golden pitcher and walked to the accompaniment of music until he reached the pool and there filled the vessel with water. The return to the Temple was timed to correspond with the placing of the burnt-offering on the altar. Priests trumpeted his arrival and entrance through the Water Gate into the Court of the Priests. There he was met by another priest, one who was designated to carry the wine (drink) offering. Together they walked up the rise to the altar. Water and wine were poured into two silver funnels.

When the ceremony had been completed, the singing of the Hallel began. Priests chanted lines from the Psalms, as the people lifted up voices in responsive phrases. Flutes accentuated the swelling Hallelu-Yahs (praise ye the Lord) raised by the multitude at specific intervals. Upon reaching the closing lines of Psalm 118, worshipers joined the euphonious entreaty that marked the grand climax of the service. “Save now … O Lord! O Lord, send now prosperity!” This exclamation was followed by the words “Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” and “O give thanks unto the Lord” (Psalm 118:26,29).

Sounds of the exultant refrains slowly died in the Temple courts and the valleys of Jerusalem, and a momentary hush descended upon the Sanctuary. This, it is believed, was the precise moment when “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 [heart] shall flow rivers of living water.”

Priests and pilgrims alike were frozen by the words ringing through the chambers and echoing off the facade of the Holy Place. Jesus stood before them, with words of affirmation flowing from His lips. Jehovah had remembered His promises; the Lord would “save now”; this was, in a way never before realized, “the house of outpouring”—the Messiah of Israel had appeared, and the Spirit would soon be poured out; the hour had come for them to drink of His living water.

—Condensed from The Outpouring by Elwood McQuaid, (c) 1990 by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

Christ thirsted on the cross, and there removed the stone from the well of living water so that today everyone who will, may stoop, and drink, and live.—A. Van Ryn