Monday, November 18, 2013

The River of Life

Today is the first day in our 46th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:

  •  Ezekiel 46-48; John 16
  •  Daniel 1-3; John 17; Psalm 88
  •  Dan 4-6; John 18
  •  Dan 7-9; John 19; Psalm 91
  •  Dan 10-12; John 20
I've always been a river kind of person.  I grew up canoeing down the South Anna and North Anna rivers in Hanover County, Virginia.  When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to ride a couple of times on Joe Ayers' batteau Minnie Lee down the James River and Kanawha Canal.  Along with a group from school, we made a study of rivers in art, literature, history, ecology, and just about every other aspect of river life that you can think of.  Give me a gentle river over a crashing beach any day!  With a river, you know which direction you're headed.  Give me a river over a stagnant pond--with a river there is life!

In Ezekiel 47:1-12 (ESV), we see a river flowing from beneath the prophet's visionary temple of God.  

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

When Jesus told the woman at the well that He could give her living water, He was talking about this river (John 4:13-15).  It was also this water that He referred to when He said:

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 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 7:37-39 ESV).

And, of course, the book of Revelation echoes this theme of Ezekiel's river of life flowing from the temple of God:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2 ESV).

In verses 3-5 of today's Ezekiel passage, we find that the blessings of God just keep flowing more and more.  And God asks us to go deeper into them.  Deeper into intimacy with God.  Deeper in our trust for Jesus.  Deeper in our relationship with the Holy Spirit.  And the deeper you go with God, the more you find that you can neither fathom His depths nor navigate the breadth of His love.

Ezekiel shows that the river of God works miracles, turning even the saltiest seas into fresh water.  God turns even the most unpleasant heart into something life-giving.  Yet God does not force His miracles on anyone, allowing our free will to choose to reject Him if that's our inclination.  Ezekiel symbolizes this by leaving some marshes and swamps salty.  Shallow hearts that choose to remain poisoned can never sustain life, even though God gushes upon them with His love.

Yet, for those who choose His healing, the river of life restores and brings abundance.  God makes people who receive His life into fruitful trees, producing beyond our imagination and healing broken people.

God wants to pour His living water on you.  You're going to get wet--you have no choice in that.  The only thing you choose is whether you allow it to give you life, or whether you reject His gift and become the salty swamp.  Either way, His waters will flow.  But I hope you let Him refresh your heart.

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