Water as a symbol of Christ

Week Fifty-Two: Christmas

During our reading of the Old Testament, we have looked at the teachings of prophets as they taught their people about the future coming of the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ. They often did this through symbols that were a major, everyday part of their life. The symbol of the Savior as Living Water is used throughout all scripture because He is the source of our earthly spiritual survival.

Water is essential to all life on this earth, including plants, animals, and humans. A person’s body weight is composed of 60-75% water. A loss of just 4% of total body water leads to dehydration and a loss of 15% can be fatal. Likewise, a person could survive a month without food but would not survive three days without water.[i]

In the Middle East, water has been and continues to be a major concern for people as a problem threatening their very existence. Frequent droughts, declining rainfall, and quick evaporation because of the high temperatures in the area, combined with poor water management, has caused issues of water to be a major crisis for the people of this region.[ii] Future pressures of population and economic growth and climate change are expected to increase water stress. The prediction is that this will increase competition for water resources that are shared across borders, and, in turn, heighten political tensions.[iii]

In most households in the United States, we turn on a faucet and water magically flows out. We don’t have to walk to a well or river to draw water in the morning, carrying it back to supply our family with water. Because of modern plumbing and water management, we may take the resource of water for granted. But given the current world concerns about water, the importance of the symbol of water should be as relevant to us today as water was to the people living during Old Testament times.

This year, we have read stories that illustrate the issues the Israelites had with drought and with a lack of water resources. As the Israelites faced certain death from the lack of water, they humbled themselves and sought the Lord to give them rain or fix their water problems. During the time of Elijah and King Ahab, the Lord used drought to remind the Israelites that the Lord was their only true and living God. Sometimes, the Israelites had to leave their promised land because of drought, as in the story of Joseph and his family’s relocation to Egypt and the story of Ruth’s husband’s family who traveled to Moab in search of fertile ground. The Israelites would return to their Promised Land as they humbled themselves and returned to their God.

The Lord separated the waters for the children of Israel in the parting of the Red Sea. The children of Israel were saved from being destroyed by Pharaoh and his legion of soldiers through this water miracle. After crossing the Red Sea, Israel murmured for want of water to drink, already forgetting how the Lord had spared their lives. The miracle at Horeb was to remind the Israelites of their Savior. Moses used the same rod at Horeb that he had used to part the Red Sea. The rod represented the Lord’s priesthood. Moses smote a rock, which represented the Savior as Israel’s foundation. The water flowing from the rock symbolized the Savior as the living water from which the Israelites should always drink. Moses performed the Lord’s miracle in the sight of all the elders of Israel as a testimony to them that Jehovah was their God.[iv]

At Meribah, Israel threatened to rebel again because of the lack of water and their thirst. The Lord told Moses to do a similar miracle of water pouring from a rock to remind the children of Israel that Jehovah was their God and that He would care for them if they worshipped only Him. In this instance, Moses and Aaron did not use this teaching moment to stress the power of the Lord. Instead, they said, “Hear now, ye revels; must we fetch you water out of this rock.”[v] Because Moses and Aaron did not acknowledge that this miracle was from the Lord and instead attributed it to themselves, the Lord said: “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”[vi] We can learn from this that we, too, must acknowledge the miracles that happen in our lives as coming from God rather than because of our own strength or because of a coincidence.

Water cleanses us. We take a bath in water, we wash our dishes with water, and we wash our homes with water. Water is the most universal solvent in washing away impurities. The waters of baptism and the partaking of the sacrament cleanse us spiritually from the impurities of the world. In the Pearl of Great Price, we clearly learn that the Old Testament prophets taught the same gospel principles of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, repentance through the Atonement, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. Before the flood, which washed the earth clean from wickedness, Noah preached to the people, “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you; nevertheless, they hearkened not.”[vii] Hopefully we can learn from these scriptures the importance of hearkening to the Lord and being true to our baptismal covenants.

During Christ’s earthly ministry, the Savior asked a Samaritan woman for a drink as she was drawing water from a well. Her response was: “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” Jesus’ answer was for all people, as illustrated by the fact that He taught this to a Samaritan, a hated people by the Jews, and to a woman, rather than a man: “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him and he would have given thee living water…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.” This is the Savior’s invitation to all the world.

Later, during the Feast of the Tabernacles at the temple in Jerusalem, the Savior proclaimed to all Israel: “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.”[viii] As we partake of the living water of the Savior, our own wells will be filled, and we can share this living water with others by teaching them about the Savior and His restored gospel. The ordinance of baptism and the subsequent weekly partaking of the sacrament reminds us of the living water that washes us clean and our covenant to share this message with others.

The Prophet Joseph Smith described the Lord’s voice “as the sound of the rushing of great waters.”[ix] In a prophecy about the Second Coming of the Lord, Joseph Smith described that glorious day in which water would spread over the world, “…in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land.”[x]

Yet Zechariah warned that those who do not worship their King and come unto Him will continue to experience no rain, even after the Savior’s Coming.[xi] Jeremiah also warned: “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.”[xii]

As we prepared to study the Old Testament in January of this year, I invited you to find Christ in every page of the Old Testament. I hope you succeeded in finding the Savior throughout your study of this wonderful book and were able to focus on the symbols of Him who saves.

The blessing of worshipping our Savior is that we can look to Him for the healing of our parched lands and of our parched souls. We can join Jeremiah’s prayer: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed, save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.[xiii]

May we find joy in the Lord this week as we worship Him who is our well of living water.


[i] Molly Sargen, “Biological Roles of Water: Why is water necessary for life?” Harvard University, Science in the news.

[ii] Katy Scott, CNN, “Can the Middle East Solve its Water Problem?” March 22, 2019.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Exodus 17:1-7

[v] Numbers 20:10

[vi] Numbers 20:12

[vii] Moses 8:24

[viii] John 7:

[ix] Doctrine and Covenants 110:3 ; 133:22

[x] Doctrine and Covenants 133:29

[xi] Zechariah 14:16-19

[xii] Jeremiah 17:13

[xiii] Jeremiah 17:14

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