The last day of Succoth is Hoshana Rabba (“the Great Salvation”). The week-long feast commemorated the care of God during Israel’s time in the wilderness, when they dwelt in temporary dwellings. John chapter 7 is about Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Succoth.
To understand culturally how the people would be thinking, think about the special days they just celebrated: Rosh Hashanah is the final days leading to God’s making a decision of judgement; ten days later was Yom Kippur, when judgement was sealed by God; and the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles was when judgement was delivered. The ceremony at the Temple would have included a recitation of these verses:
“Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” (Psalms 118:25-26)
On this final day, there was a special ceremony called the “Water Libation Ceremony.” This was a time of great joy where water was brought up from the “Shiloach Spring” at the lower part of Jerusalem to the Temple and poured on the alter. The ceremony was linked to asking for God’s blessing of rainfall for the coming year which would be a blessing to the agrarian based economy.
While all this is going on, and the blessing of water is the focus:
“Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-39)
Jesus is essentially answering their prayers by revealing that He is the fulfillment of their spiritual thirst. John later explains that:
“Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39)
The work of God in the lives of those who come to Him is in filling them with living water that becomes a “source” within their own hearts.
It is interesting to note that when Jesus, about a few months later enters Jerusalem, a week before Passover:
“And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’
Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:8-9)
But the timing was off, and the people were not ready to really receive Him. Just one week later, as Jesus has taught all week in the temple, He knows that He is already being rejected by them. That is when He weeps over the city, knowing the suffering this will bring.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (Matt. 23:37-39)
On the final day of Succoth, known as Hoshana Rabba, or “The Great Salvation,” can we one day expect the fulfillment of seeing our Lord again as the people recite the prayer of Psalms 118, and again say:
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!”