Rivers feature often in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Let's start at the beginning...
2:8 The LORD God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man he had formed. 2:9 The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good for food. (Now the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were in the middle of the orchard.)
2:10 Now a river flows from Eden to water the orchard, and from there it divides into four headstreams. 2:11 The name of the first is Pishon; it runs through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 2:12 (The gold of that land is pure; pearls and lapis lazuli are also there). 2:13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it runs through the entire land of Cush. 2:14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it runs along the east side of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.
Adam – represented by the 'I' – created in the image of 'I AM' – was placed in the centre of the garden. We know that Adam messed up and God had to send Jesus (the last Adam) into this world to sort things out. Jesus made a rather different decision from Adam in another garden - 'He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."' (Mark 14:36).
Pontius Pilate said some remarkable things about Jesus. Despite being presented with only negative evidence, he said “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” (Luke 23:4). He had a plaque made that read “Jesus the Nazarene, king of the Jews” (John 19:19) - 'INRI' – of which when he was asked to change it he said “What I have written, I have written” (John 19:22). That Jesus was known as the Nazarene is one example of the remarkable ways in which he made himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:6-7) – remember Nathanael saying “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).
When he presented Jesus in the robe and crown of thorns to the crowd he said “Behold the man” (“Ecce homo” in Latin). Jesus had indeed become man – the one man who really showed the image of God faithfully.
From a human perspective, the cross looked like a dismal end to Jesus's ministry, but there is a reality outside the box of human understanding...
God's reality brought revival – new life for Jesus and for us – then with the coming of the Holy Spirit this abundant life is made available to all.
Remember the river flowing out of Eden with its life giving properties? There are other places we could go, but let's now look at Ezekiel 47:1-12...
47:1 Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple. I noticed that water was flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from under the right side of the temple, from south of the altar. 47:2 He led me out by way of the north gate and brought me around the outside of the outer gate that faces toward the east; I noticed that the water was trickling out from the south side.
47:3 When the man went out toward the east with a measuring line in his hand, he measured 1,750 feet, and then he led me through water, which was ankle deep. 47:4 Again he measured 1,750 feet and led me through the water, which was now knee deep. Once more he measured 1,750 feet and led me through the water, which was waist deep. 47:5 Again he measured 1,750 feet and it was a river I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. 47:6 He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 47:7 When I had returned, I noticed a vast number of trees on the banks of the river, on both sides. 47:8 He said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and flow down into the Arabah; when they enter the Dead Sea, where the sea is stagnant, the waters become fresh. 47:9 Every living creature which swarms where the river flows will live; there will be many fish, for these waters flow there. It will become fresh and everything will live where the river flows. 47:10 Fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to En-eglaim they will spread nets. They will catch many kinds of fish, like the fish of the Great Sea. 47:11 But its swamps and its marshes will not become fresh; they will remain salty. 47:12 On both sides of the river’s banks, every kind of tree will grow for food. Their leaves will not wither nor will their fruit fail, but they will bear fruit every month, because their water source flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel's temple has not been built, but we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and living water flows out of us, as Jesus said in John 7:37-39:
7:37 On the last day of the feast, the greatest day, Jesus stood up and shouted out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me, and 7:38 let the one who believes in me drink. Just as the scripture says, ‘From within him will flow rivers of living water.’” 7:39 (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Now let us turn to Revelation 22:1-2 and 22:17:
22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life - water as clear as crystal - pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 22:2 flowing down the middle of the city's main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.
22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.
So here we see the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb in this picture of the culmination of God's purposes. Revelation 22:1-2 strongly recalls Ezekiel 47:1-12. How does this fit with John 7:37-39? Revelation 22:17 recalls Jesus' invitation to come to him and drink. Also note that the river of life flows from God's throne, so perhaps the river of life in some sense flows from us when God is enthroned in our lives.
1. In what ways might we as individuals or corporately be a partial or complete fulfilment of Ezekiel's vision of the temple?
2. In what ways should we expect rivers of living water flowing from us to impact others?
George Chauvet - 2014