Posted by: rcottrill | June 6, 2014

Never Thirst Again

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Words: May Agnew Stephens (b. ____, 1865; d. Mar. 19, 1935)
Music: May Agnew Stephens

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: May Agnew began Christian ministry with the Salvation Army. Then after her marriage she became associated with Albert Simpson’s Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. She and her husband founded Parkdale Alliance Tabernacle, in Toronto, Canada. She served in an effective leadership role there, particularly in the area of music.

This gospel song, published in 1903, sometimes uses the first line of the chorus as a title, making it a question: What, Never Thirst Again? The Wordwise Hymns link gives you a picture of Jacob’s well, which is still providing water today. Tourists can drink some of the cold clear water from its spring-fed depths, nearly 4,000 years after Jacob dug the well.

The song is inspired by the words of the Lord Jesus, when He spoke with a Samaritan woman one day (Jn. 4:5-14). He had stopped on the outskirts of a Samaritan city called Sychar, and paused to rest at a well dug by the patriarch Jacob, many centuries before (vs. 5-6). When a woman came by to draw water, He asked her for a drink (vs. 6-7).

The request startled her, because “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (vs. 9). The Lord, however, bypasses any argument over this prejudice, and immediately makes a spiritual comparison to the water of life.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (vs. 10-14).

Water is used here as a symbol of the life-giving, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. That’s made clearer by a later incident.

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn. 7:37-39).

CH-1) There flows from Calvary a stream
For every sinner’s pain,
And he that drinketh, Jesus said,
Shall never thirst again.

What! never thirst again?
No, never thirst again;
What! never thirst again?
No, never thirst again,
For he that drinketh, Jesus said,
Shall never, never thirst again.

The second stanza seems to make use of a story about a demigod named Tantalus in Greek mythology. He is famous for the form of eternal punishment said to have been inflicted on him. Tantalus was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink. Mrs. Stephens compares this to the fleeting pleasures of the world.

The book of Jeremiah also uses imagery suggesting a frustrated and unsatisfied thirst. There, God says, “For people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). This latter text is used more explicitly in the gospel song None but Christ Can Satisfy.

CH-2) Earth’s fountains fair but mock our souls,
Like desert phantoms lure,
And they that drink, the fainter grow,
The keener thirst endure.

In contrast, the gospel of grace offers living, life-giving water. So, sinners are invited to avail themselves of God’s grace.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

CH-3) This stream from Calvary still flows,
To bless and cleanse and heal,
And he that drinketh, Jesus said,
New life and rest shall feel.

CH-4) Oh, blessèd stream of pure delight!
Oh, balm for every pain!
To thee I haste, for Jesus said,
I’ll never thirst again.

1) What is it about physical water that makes it a good picture of the work of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm?

2) What other pictures are found in Scripture to help us understand the work of the Spirit, and of the gospel?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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