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Mayim Chayim: The Living Waters

From the Messianic Foundations series by Kevin Williams. A look at the life-changing reality of Messiah, the Living Water, who indwells every believer.

Imagine a cold, icy winter, the kind that seeps into the marrow and makes the body shiver. Walking along the streets, you exhale, and your breath freezes in the air; you inhale, and draw the frigid reality into your lungs. Head down, arms wrapped tightly across your chest, you barrel forward, feet crunching on the ice beneath, each step draining the warmth from your already numb toes. But soon this atmosphere is exchanged for another, as you walk down steps into a warm, refreshing pool, life flowing back into your icy joints as you join in the ancient rite of your people. This observance, which stretches back to Mount Sinai, is the mikveh, and you have stepped into the Mayim Chayim, the Living Waters. The chill is almost gone now, swept away by the warm, inviting waters. You submerge, drowning out all the sounds and sensations of the arctic world, and enter into the muffled quiet of the reservoir, the womb-like environment from which you entered into the world.

Would not that kind of daily refreshing be worth looking forward to? It would be a welcome relief in a harsh environment, a physical reminder of the spiritual promises of God.

In the world of Orthodox Judaism, this event is called the mikveh, the immersion. It is the root and origin of the Christian practice known as Baptism. Some believe John the Baptist invented baptism, but ritual purification by water is nearly as old as time itself.

Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water, a pool of sorts, which has gathered by God’s design. That is to say, there was no human intervention, no one dug a hole, no one collected water in jars to fill the pool. This collection of waters might be a river or a sea. The water source came about as part of the Almighty’s plan, which gives it the nomenclature: Living Water.

Genesis 1:9 speaks of the waters being “gathered together.” The Hebrew term used here is mikveh, a source for Living Water. In Genesis chapter 7, we have the account of Noah’s Flood, when the Most High chose Living Water as the vehicle to cleanse the earth. In Genesis 35:2, Jacob commands his household to destroy their idols and to “purify themselves.” The Jewish sages understand this purification as none other than the mikveh.

Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water which has gathered by God’s design.

Virtually from the very beginning, this concept of the mikveh and Mayim Chayim plays and important role, a role which carries over into the rest of the Torah—the five books of Moses. In what parallels the “born again” experience of the modern Christian, Jewish theologians look at the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 14, as a mikveh. Certainly the sea qualifies as a pool of Living Waters, and the crossing of the Hebrews demonstrated not only God’s immense provision, but likewise, a separation from that which defiled them, Egypt, and that which gave the nation of Israel new life, the crossing through the midst of the waters. Today, we are not far from that event ourselves. In 1 Cor. 10:1-3 we read, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (emphasis mine). Our immersion places us on the same shores as those Hebrews in Exodus 14. They were a redeemed people, now able to rest from slavery to Pharaoh. Soon, they would have God’s instructions at Mt. Sinai. And then, they would be on their journey to the Promised Land. If this was true for them, then how much more so for us through the redemption of our High Priest, Yeshua the Messiah? We have been redeemed, washed clean, brought into rest from bondage, we are learning about God and His ways, and we are enroute to the eternal Promised Land!

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 1999

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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