Summary: Examination of the river vision from Ezekiel 47
THE RIVER OF HEALING
Rivers have always been places of interest to me. Recently, I heard the Chalmette (LA) ferry horn blow and I realized how much I missed living two blocks from the Mississippi River. I used to take long walks along the levee watching the ships come in and out, see the ferry carrying people from east to west and back again. The wildlife along the river, while somewhat hidden, is numerous and plentiful. I’ve seen many objects washed up on the river’s shore. From trash to treasures, from dead fish to live snakes, I’ve seen it all. I’ve even seen driftwood gnawed by a beaver’s sharp teeth.
Rivers are places that teem with life and draw all manner of life to them. The Bible is filled with River stories. From the River Jordan to the Euphrates to the Jabbok to the Nile , rivers have always been central in human history as places where living creatures gather to drink and feed and be washed clean.
No wonder then that God used a river in Ezekiel’s vision to communicate a great message for all people.
As with any river the one in Ezekiel’s vision have many characteristics and attributes. I want us to see three in particular this morning as they have to do with the central meaning of the vision.
I) The Further it Goes the Wider and Deeper it Gets (v 5)
Then he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to cross without swimming.
The river begins in the room known to the people of Israel as the Holy of Holies. Where else would the Good News of God’s love for all the world begin but in the place where God’s presence was thought to have resided. It was from the heart of God that the River of God began.
In the original language there is a word picture created here by the author. The water began as a trickle, like water being poured from the neck of a small flask or bottle. It flows out of the temple it issued from the right side of the altar, the right side, the anointed side, the side of power and strength. As it runs from under the Temple threshold the trickle became a stream, then the stream became a creek, then the creek became a river then the river became a torrent, a mighty flow of water to deep and strong to wade across.
The river represents the Gospel. Not the Gospel of the New Testament, represented by four books recorded by human beings for God, but rather the whole scope of the Gospel, in the New Testament it’s called euaggelion, the Good News, the message of God’s love to all people offered through His Son Jesus Christ.
The Good News was, from before its inception, intended to draw all humanity unto God. Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God, the culmination of the Good News, in terms of something that grows and spreads and attracts and cultivates life. Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches.” (Matthew 5:31-32)
He also said: He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough.” (Luke 13:20)
When we read these words of Christ we begin to get the feeling that the Kingdom of God, brought about by the coming of the Good News, is much larger and more inclusive than most of us have ever considered.
Notice, if you will how the river flowing from the Temple gets wider and deeper the farther away from the Temple it gets. We might be tempted to think the Gospel needs to be preserved and guarded by the church so it remains pure and unspoiled. We might be tempted to hold it close so only those who are a part of our group or a member of our particular fellowship will be able to experience the Gospel’s deepest message.
But that is not the image we receive from Ezekiel’s vision. As the river moves and flows away from the Temple, it gets wider and deeper. How can that be? Isn’t the church supposed to be the vehicle by which the Gospel is spread? Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples, “But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”? (Acts 1:8)