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What Does Living Water Mean in the Bible?

  • April Motl Contributor
  • Updated Nov 08, 2023
What Does Living Water Mean in the Bible?
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Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10).

Living Water Meaning

By this living water, Jesus means eternal life. And through communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit, we receive the living water of everlasting life. Under this comparison, the blessing of the Messiah had been promised in the Old Testament. The graces of the Spirit and His comforts satisfy the thirsting soul that knows its own nature and necessity. What Jesus spoke figuratively, she took literally. Christ shows that the water of Jacob's well yielded a very short satisfaction. Of whatever waters of comfort we drink, we shall thirst again. But whoever partakes of the Spirit of grace and the comforts of the gospel shall never want that which will abundantly satisfy his soul.

Bible Story of the Living Water

Throughout Scripture, the Lord has a habit of revealing His character qualities with a name and a personal encounter with that part of His personality. In the Old Testament, we see the Lord tenderly meet Hagar and she calls Him the “God who sees me…” (Genesis 16:13).

In the New Testament, Jesus carries on with this same pattern of revealing a piece of His character with a name and an experience. This time, He has an appointment with one particular woman. The exchange comes out of John 4.

The “woman by the well,” as we have come to know her, is fetching water around noon, at the hottest time of the day. Historians tell us that women gathered at the town well to collect water in the morning and sunset hours, not in the middle of the day.

Between this interesting tidbit that is noted in John, and the fact that Jesus mentions she’s had five husbands and is now living with a man who is not (a fact, at the time, that would have definitely not been a cultural norm) we may conclude that she avoids the other townspeople by gathering her water at the most miserable time of the day.

Another important part of the story is that she is surprised that Jesus, an Israelite man, is speaking to her, a Samaritan woman. Jews and Samaritans were not friends during these times. When I read the text, I can almost hear her surprise at His address, and then she goes so far as to tack on the obvious fact that she is not only a Samaritan but a woman to boot!

Culturally speaking, this lady was pretty close to the bottom of the totem pole. She’d presumably racked up a less than desirable reputation within her own community, her ethnicity was often counted against her, and if that wasn’t enough, her gender sealed the deal. But there Jesus was, going out of His way to connect with her need and reveal Himself to her — and thus to us, as well.

He could see the ache in her heart. He could see the parched places of her soul she tried unsuccessfully to quiet. He could see her trying to fill her “heart bucket” with the well water her world offered — men, love, approval, etc.

As Jesus delves into the details of her life, she dodges with some interesting talk of worship. It’s as if she senses this is all going someplace spiritual but can’t quite make the commitment to “go there” with Jesus.

Most of us can probably relate. Graciously, He understands yet gently presses on with the conversation. She then says, “I know one day the Messiah will come.” He tells her, “I am He.” She immediately drops her water jug to go gather the town to Jesus, telling them, “There’s a man who told me everything I’ve ever done!” And they all came. They all hear Jesus, and many put their trust in Him that day.

I love this story! I love that this woman was given a new reputation and purpose in the very midst of a mundane moment. I love that God met a woman who has been all of us in one way or another. And I love the tiny, often overlooked piece of the story that she left her water jug there at the well.

As if, at that very moment her soul had indeed been so filled with Living Water, she didn’t need that water pot anymore! I wonder how many times we have thrown our “water jugs” into “wells” of success, love, better-this-more-of-that, only to stumble away all the more weakened from the dryness of our souls.

Living Water Is Jesus Himself

Psalm 145:16 tells us: “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

Psalm 16:11 says: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

The key to accessing the Living Water and the satisfaction of the soul that the Lord has designed for us is to be near Him, in His presence. You can’t “get” the satisfaction in His hand without being close enough to hold that hand.

From this section of Scripture, some of the ways we draw near to God include:

1. Being in the truth about ourselves. The woman at the well knew she needed saving and the forgiveness of her sins. God is near to the humble, so being truthful with ourselves and God about all that we lack is the first step to drawing near to Him so we can access the Living Water.

2. Being in the truth about who God is. The woman at the well agreed with God as He revealed Himself to her. Sometimes we challenge the Lord’s Word, sometimes we even disagree and disregard it. When we reject His Word, we reject the truth that functions as a pipe for that Living Water to get into our hearts.

3. Remaining in the truth. The woman at the well didn’t pick up her water jug and go home to her old life unchanged. She acted on the truth she now held in her heart and we see her life take a significant turn. Such a turn, that the townspeople whom she did so much to avoid, she now ran to gather and, also, they all believed her and followed her — something had possibly changed, even physically in her countenance, that they could all see!

Sometimes, we let a spiritual truth sit out in front of us but don’t take it in. She took it. She drank the Living Water. Scripture sits at our fingertips, and we are challenged daily to take it up and drink it in.

What Does This Mean?

I hope and pray that the Lord will meet you at your “well” today. That you would be filled with the truth about who God is and who you are to Him in such a profound, personal way that you would leave your water jug there and go tell the others.

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/thenata

April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April at and on Amazon.

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