LIVING WATER – A NEVER ENDING RIVER
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Since April 1 of this year, I’ve been reading various passages in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel with the help of a devotional commentary. I say “reading” – perhaps I should say: “slogging” at times. The commentary has certainly helped! I trust you’ll ‘slog” with me for the next few paragraphs.
First, some words of overview – Ezekiel was a young priest whom God called to be a prophet when he was dragged off to Babylon during the second of four deportations of the people of Israel (commonly referred to as the exile). Like Jeremiah, an older contemporary, his message was one of God’s judgement on Israel’s idolatry and failure to rely on Him, the fall of Jerusalem, and the removal of God’s glory from the temple. However, his prophesies also included God’s future restoration of the nation. More than any other prophet, he used symbolism to relay God’s message. These were in the form of spectacular visions. Perhaps you’ll recall the “wheel within a wheel”, or the “valley of dry bones”.
Toward the end of the book, God’s love and commitment to His people prevails. He promises a return to the land and the rebuilding of the temple where He will dwell. As in other books, some of Ezekiel’s prophesies have been fulfilled, while others will be in the future. Key to these future prophesies are the wonderful promises of full restoration of His covenant people. Leaving aside the intricacies of interpretation of these visions of the future, it was the last one that spoke to me. Ezekiel is transported to a high mountain near Jerusalem to view the details of the rebuilding of the temple and the awesome (literally!) return of God’s glory. Ezekiel is on his face!
But, then he notices a trickle of water flowing from under the threshold of the temple and growing into a river deep enough to swim in. And then, in Chapter 47:9, this intriguing phrase pops out: “…where the river flows everything will live.” The commentary was clear: “This statement, pregnant with potential, and the descriptions that accompany it, speak powerfully of the life-giving impact of God on all He touches.” (Fran Beckett) The source of the river, of course, is God’s presence in the temple. He releases His life-giving healing and fruitfulness far beyond the boundaries of the land to a wider world. The biblical imagery is unmistakable. This river, this water, is seen in the first chapters of Genesis, in the Psalms (46), and in other prophets. We find it in the ceremony of the Feast of the Tabernacles, in Jesus as the source of ”living water” (the women at the well), in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and finally, in Revelation in the river as part of the city of God for all the redeemed!
On an important physical level, water is a necessity for life, whether for agriculture, animals, or human beings. Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source. Unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation together contribute to about 88% of deaths from diarrheal diseases. An estimated 801,000 children younger than 5 years of age perish from diarrhea each year. (CDC) Thankfully, there are organizations and the people that support them that are fulfilling the command to “love your neighbor” by providing adequate and potable water where it is desperately needed. Similarly, the statistics reflected by our present pandemic are disturbing, both in the health area and in the economic sector. We are grateful for those on the front lines and those that support them. They deserve our continual prayers.
On a spiritual level, this river, this water, is the ultimate necessity for our eternal life, both now and after we leave this earth. It originates with God and His love, it flows into all the world, it washes clean all who will turn in repentance to Christ and receive by faith His sacrificial work on the cross. This river buoys us up by His Spirit, sometimes simply by floating and at other times, like now, keeping us afloat while we are stroking and kicking. Most important, it will carry us from this life to the next where we will forever join all the redeemed in praise and worship of our God. I trust you’ll find encouragement and hope if you are already swimming in this river. If you are not, please respond to that prompting to jump in. It is God, by His Spirit, who is inviting you.
I have a relatively broad taste in music styles. Periodically, I will listen to gospel quartets. A song on an album we have of the Gaither Vocal Band immediately came to mind as I read the verses in Ezekiel. It is available on the internet in various versions. May you renew your confidence and hope in our sovereign God when you listen.
There came a sound from Heaven
Like a rushing wind
It filled their hearts with singing
And gave them peace within
The prophet gave this promise
He said, the Spirit will descend
And from your inner being
A river with no end!
There is a river, that flows from deep within
There is a fountain, that frees the soul from sin
Come to these waters; there is a vast supply
There is a river, that never shall run dry.