Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 3 2019 - Ezekiel 47:1-12 – The river of life

In Ezekiel's continuing vision of the new temple, he sees a stream of water that appears to originate from the altar and flow out from the temple. But it’s a stream like none you have seen before. It is a supernatural stream that, without any other source, gets deeper as it flows on further and spreads out wider. It’s a stream of water that brings life where previously there was only death. The waters flow into the Arabah, i.e. into the Jordan valley and then down to the Dead Sea. Its streams are teaming with life and the banks of the river are populated by trees that bear fruit that is good to eat and is available all year round. The leaves of these trees are also good for healing. The once dead sea is now full of fish and fishermen ply their trade upon it as they did in Lake Galilee.

This is Paradise restored and the earth renewed, with its streams of living water flowing out into the surrounding regions, with its swarms of living creatures, with its trees laden with fruit and all hurts healed. It is a picture that is again picked up at the end of the book of Revelation where John writes:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.  (Revelation 22:1-5)

In John's vision the picture of blessing brought by this river has expanded beyond the confines of Israel; "the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Here is the fulfilment of the promise made long ago to Abraham that "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 

And all of this find's its fulfilment in Jesus who spoke of himself as the source of living water. During the festival of Tabernacles, water from the pool of Siloam was poured out in the temple, celebrating God's provision in the wilderness but also anticipating the abundant gift of living water that would flow from the temple and from Jerusalem when the kingdom of God would come. Against this background Jesus addressed the crowd saying:

"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7:37-39)

Jesus is the new temple that Ezekiel saw in a vision. His atoning death, of which the temple altar was a symbol, is the source of our life. His cross has become the Tree of Life from which we may now take and eat and live for ever. He is the one who was given for the healing of the nations. It is in him that all nations on earth shall be blessed for it is from him that streams of grace flow out to bring life to the world. Ascended into heaven, he is the one who has poured out his life-giving Spirit on a dying world.

But Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." The life-giving streams flow not only to those who believe in him; Jesus' mission to bring life to a dying world is accomplished through them. This, then, is also is our calling. We are to flood the world with the transforming life and power of Jesus. We are to capture the vision and to be the people into whom, through whom and from whom the blessing of God pours into a needy world.

Living God, we praise you for the life that flows to us through our Saviour's death and resurrection. By your Spirit fill us with that overflowing life and empower us to be disciples who bring your life and healing to a sick and dying world. May we be used of you to flood the nations with your grace and mercy, bringing in your kingdom and making all things new.

Peter Misselbrook