Everything Will Live Where the River Goes1
We will now read from one of Ezekiel’s most interesting and instructive visions.
1bThe hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me to the city. 2In visions of God he brought me to the land of Israel, and set me down on a very high mountain, on which was a structure like a city to the south. 3When he brought me there, behold, there was a man whose appearance was like bronze, with a linen cord, and a measuring reed in his hand. And he was standing in the gateway. 4And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes, and hear with your ears, and set your heart upon all that I shall show you, for you were brought here in order that I might show it to you. Declare all that you see to the house of Israel.”
1Then 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. 2Then 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. (We see here “the river of the water of life,”2 the divine outpouring of the Holy Spirit when the gospel is preached. The river begins at the altar of sacrifice.)
3Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits (about 500 yards), and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5Again 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.
The power and influence of the life-giving gospel grows each day. The streams in Palestine frequently decrease as they run, but the river of grace becomes deeper and wider. The grain of mustard grows into a tree. The drops that trickled from beneath the altar deepened and widened into an overwhelming flood.
6And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.
Fruitful results come from grace. Wherever the gospel goes, blessings spring up like fruitful trees.
8And 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. (The repulsive Dead Sea is almost within sight of Jerusalem. The foul waters continually increase and now cover the ruins of the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is a sad reminder that sin leads to death. In Ezekiel’s prophecy, the living water flowed into this horrible lake of death and made it so sweet and clear that it swarmed with fish. This a beautiful picture of the way that the worst parts of the earth are rescued by the gospel, when it comes in the power of the Spirit of God.)
9“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. 10Fishermen 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. 11But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. (To some the gospel does not have the aroma of life. They reject the truth and so miss its healing power. Their wills are decided on evil and they are given over to a unprincipled mindset. They may not always seem like the worst of persons; they are not found in the foul deepness of the Dead Sea, but only in the swamps and marshes. Perhaps their imagined excellence prevents them from humbly accepting the grace that brings salvation.)
12 “And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for good. 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.”
So Ezekiel’s vision melts into that of John in the Revelation and we are made to rejoice in the ever fresh, varied, satisfying, and soul-delighting blessings of the covenant of grace. May we all drink of this water and never thirst again.
1 Ezekiel 47:9
2 Revelation 22:1