“And let him that is athirst come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17

“As the heart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God!”

There, water and streams of living water are used figuratively to denote that blessed condition that is expressed by Asaph: To be near unto God! And blessed man is pictured in agony because he must be without that blessed water for a season.

Ever since sin entered into this world, man ceased to be “near unto God”. Yet he did not thirst. And the reason is clear: his life-element changed from God to the devil. With the latter he made a very careful covenant.

But when regenerating grace enters the heart of man, the consciousness of loneliness is awakened: I am away, I am apart from God! And that consciousness is the reason why the first experiences of the Christian’s life are not reasons for joy, but rather for sadness and unspeakable loneliness. That sense of loneliness, longing for God, is expressed as “thirst” in the Word of God. And that same Word holds out to the thirsty ones the water of life.

And so we have it in our text: God comes to the “thirsty” and says to them: And let him that is athirst; come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely!

A wonderful invitation!


Yes, but only those who are willing.

And thereby hangs a wonderful story.

We will meditate on that story for a little while.

Let him that is athirst come!

And whosoever will let him come and take the water of life freely!

Who are called? Judging from the two statements above, they are those who are athirst, and those who are willing to come and take the water of life freely.

Well, dear reader, there are some common notions about this beautiful text.

There are so-called messengers of the Gospel, bringing the good tidings, who err grievously with regard to this and like texts.

They picture the abundance of grace: there is enough for all. And addressing all at all times and at all places, they say: All may come! Everybody is welcome with the Godhead! God wants all men to be saved! There are even some otherwise orthodox churches they dare say: As far as God is concerned everybody may come! No, they go ever further: As far as God is concerned, He seriously, solemnly and well-meaningly desires the conversion of everyone who ever lived, now lives, and who shall live hereafter.

It seems as though the present day church has a very big heart indeed. Even bigger than the heart of God.

For God has never taught us anything like this.

But the church of today certainly extends the invitation! They love to dwell on words such as “whosoever, all, everyone, every, etc.”

And when men, certain men do not come to take the water of life freely, they dare say: Man can thwart the counsel of God with regard to themselves.

And so they say with regard to our text under consideration: Do you not see? Whosoever will let him take the water of life!

And they certainly want to imply that man, mere man, has a free will to choose to take eternal life unto himself. They ascribe power to man to lift himself from death unto life eternal. For, so they say, the first impulse to come and take must be with man. Horrible doctrine!

And they also teach with regard to the text, that all men are thirsty for this water. When Jesus calls the thirsty ones then the very limits of the world of man is the limit of the Gospel call unto the water of life. And we would admit that the Gospel preaching is universal, but we will maintain with Scripture that man by nature does not thirst for God!

Let him that is athirst come!

That does not mean everyone!

Man, by nature, will not come, and cannot will to come to procure salvation. Man does not want the bread and the water of life. He cannot desire it, and he does not thirst and hunger for it.

And my evil and perverse nature of sin and iniquity will never manifest itself clearer than when brought into contact with the water and the bread of life, and that is Jesus. Then my nature rears itself in wicked pride and godless hatred against God, and then I crucify Jesus afresh. Such is my nature, and such is the nature of all men, without one exception.

When God preaches to men: I command you to listen to Me, and to convert yourself, and to walk on the way of truth and righteousness to My glory! Then man says: Never!

Whosoever will let him come! and man says: I will not come and take the water of life!

And the outcome is that his debt is greater before God when you preach the Gospel to him, his heart becomes harder, for the Gospel is also a savour of death unto death, his condemnation becomes more terrible, for he has neglected so great salvation, and God is justified when He judges.

Whosoever is willing let him come!

And the result will be, if nothing more is said, that no one will come to God, and heaven will be empty of men.

Let him that is athirst come!

That is the effectual call.

God never calls promiscuously. He does not wish everyone to come. He never called Pharaoh, Judas, Bileam, etc.

God calls His sheep only, and they come.

That truth you will find on a thousand pages of the Holy Bible; that is, if you have eyes to see the truth.

It is unworthy of God when we should present it otherwise than that only the sheep are called to the fold. Jesus told us very plainly: I give My life for My sheep. And: My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me!

Unworthy of God! As though He is ever thwarted in His counsel! The very thought is blasphemy. Imagine if you can, God standing with abundant grace in His holy hands and millions that refuse to be “graced”.

No, throughout the Word of God He calls His own by name.

I hear the call to the weary, the hungry, the thirsty, the heavy laden, the willing ones, those that believe, those that follow, etc.

He discerns the state of the heart and calls that state by name. He knows all our hearts and the secrets within. He knows the hearts of His sheep for He gave them that heart which is forever longing for Him and His communion.

And it is also God who takes care of it that every one of those calls is heeded. He says to those eternally blessed human beings: Seek My Face! And every one of them answers: Thy Face, Lord, I will seek!

And only then may you begin to emphasize those words that speak of universality: everyone, yes, but only everyone that thirsteth. All, oh yes, all, but all who believe. Yes, it is for whosoever, but whosoever that is willing.

Is it not plain that all those words are carefully restricted by a condition?

Here is the water that must be drunk unto life eternal.

But it is for the thirsty only.

Here is Christ Jesus the Lord who is the fountain of living waters.

But He is for those that are willing followers only.

What is thirst, even the thirst of my beautiful text?

It is a need of something.

But the character of the figure used implies that an extreme longing is meant. Thirst is really the greatest longing of physical man. If no water is forthcoming, the lips grow dry and ever drier, the mouth is parched, the throat is burned, the roof of the mouth will crack, and when prolonged, all the juices of the body are dried up, including the blood, and death, a horrible death follows.

That is thirst.

There pants the hart for living streams of water.

Very expressive figure in the Word of God.

Apply this picture if you will.

The child of God is regenerated.

And that means that the love of God is spread abroad in his heart through the Holy Ghost that is given unto him. Rom. 5.

And that life of the love of God is God’s own covenant life which He lives in blessed harmony in the Triune Godhead.

Christian is a child of God.

When, however, through some cause or other that life ceases to flow smoothly from God, through Christ and His Spirit into the soul and heart and mind of the child of God, then he grows thirsty, hungry, weary, heavy laden.

And then he sings Psalm 42: O God I thirst for Thee, for Thee my heart is yearning! When shall I come Thy gracious Face to see?

There is no more poignant longing anywhere than in the heart of the child of God.

And when God tarries, he dries up in agony and cries with David: My flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is! Attend to the naive child of God. Naive in the innocence of the childhood that is born of the Spirit. See: Psalm 44.

I thirst for Thee!

The willing ones are invited to take the water of life freely.

On the surface of it, it still sounds as though man shall be the determining factor in this drinking of the water of life.

Yes, it seems as if God will have to wait patiently for man to make up his mind and will to come and to take. The Lord will have to wait in bestowing His grace until mere man decides he will receive it.

Does the text say that it is for those that are willing?

Yes, but we must find out what the will of man wills, and, secondly, how the Lord acts with regard to that will.

The will of man is set on the earth, men, and sin. And his will is definitely set against God and His law. Read Rom. 8:7.

And God does wonders with that will of man. If God wants a certain man to listen to Him, and to take the water of life freely, He regenerates that man and makes him tractable. And then he becomes willing to listen. Note Philipp. 2 where we read that it is God that works in us the to will and the to do according to His goodpleasure.

Wonderful operation of God!

And when that is done by God, He bids us “come” and “take”!

Oh yes, God did not choose little machines. The Christians that are called unto life eternal are moral and rational creatures. God works it in us, but then He begins to play upon the strings of our heart and will and mind.

He bids us come. He calls us to take.

And that is your part, my brother. That is your privilege, my sister.

That is your Christian life on earth.

You must come and you must take.

And blessed be God, they come and they take. Such is the history of the church from the time that

Adam and Eve appeared before the face of God out of the concealment of sin.

And God supplies the spiritual power to come and to take. It is all of God, through God, and to God. He has all the glory.

Come and drink, take the water of life!

What is it?

And again we hear figurative language. Water is a picture, imagery for something else, something spiritual, something beautiful beyond compare.

We shall have to determine the meaning thereof.

The time and the space is lacking to quote all the texts that speak of water and water of life, but I bid you read: John 7:37, 39; Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10 and Matthew 5:6.

Taking the Word of God in its entirety, in the places quoted and other places, we may sum up and say that water, and water of life means the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ the Lord such as it is imparted to us by His Holy Ghost, that is, the Holy Ghost as it was poured into the church on Pentecost.

And still I would like to ask: what is it? What does it mean that the righteousness of God is given unto me?

My brother, it is the most wonderful thing in the whole universe.

It is this: if you have the righteousness of God in Christ, you do not have to worry about the terrible question: How shall I be able to stand before the searching eyes of God in the judgment day. Righteousness that will clothe us like a garment is that Jesus is your Saviour and Redeemer. That He wiped away all your sins and that He give you the positive side of His death in that it will seem as though you have done all that God asked of you. Righteousness means good conduct in thought and word and act. When you stand before the judgment seat it will seem as though you in your own person have fulfilled the whole law of God.

Justified before God. That is your state if you have drunk of the water of life.

Then God smiles on you for ever and ever.


It means that my whole life is such that when the only norm of goodness is laid alongside of me and my life, that I answer to that norm in wondrous perfection.

That water is the Lord our righteousness.

Shall we then not come and drink? Oh yes, and we receive it free, gratis, freely. That is the test of sweet humility that is taught you by Jesus!

Oh, let us come then and drink! It spells eternal life!