by Pastor Mark Hudson
In Ezekiel 47, the angel is continuing to show Ezekiel around this vision of the temple. Below the threshold of the temple, a trickle of water was coming out of the south side. The water is flowing out from the temple. The angel takes him eastward the same direction the glory of God left the temple earlier in the book and the very same direction God’s glory entered the temple in chapter 43. The angle is leading Ezekiel through a mile long walk. First, we see a trickle of water leaving the temple. Then the water is ankle-deep (v. 3), then measuring the same distance of 1000 cubits (500 meters or 1640 feet) the water is up to his knees. The angel measures again in 1000 cubits and the water is waist-deep. Finally the angel measures again, and Ezekiel realizes he can’t make it through such a deep and fast flowing river.
From the middle of this river, the angel leads Ezekiel to the bank of the river. There he seems many trees on both sides of the river. But this water is doing something no fresh water can ever do. As this river flows into the Dead or Salt Sea, the water in the Salt Sea becomes fresh. Now when has that ever happened in the history of mankind? Not only that but this river exudes life. Verse 9 says, “And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish.”
As the angel continues to describe this miraculous river, he says, “. . . everything will live where the river goes.” Fishermen will prosper due to all the various kinds of fish, even as many fish as the Mediterranean Sea (v. 10). Imagine a sea of salt teaming with as many fish as a part of the ocean. The only salt water will be the swamps and marshes, presumably brackish water in those regions.
The trees are no mere trees either. There will be all kinds of trees for food. They will always have green leaves and bear fresh fruit every month due to the water in this river. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (vs. 12-3). Then the next section describes the equal, just, and orderly allocation of the land like a second Moses. This is a type of theological geography says Allen in his commentary on Ezekiel. But this river is especially intriguing.
Christopher J.H. Wright provides a quick tour of water in the Bible and the possible connections with Ezekiel’s description of this river and how other Biblical writers relate to this water. Water cleanses. This water especially cleanses and with the abominations the Jews perpetuated for so long, the land needed to be cleansed. Instead of curses and death, God is bringing blessings and life, food and health which is what God intended from the beginning. Not only are we affected negatively by sin but also God’s creation (Rom. 8:18-28). “The redemption of humanity will conversely lead to the lifting of that curse and the restoration of God’s creation to its original God-intended goodness (p. 357).
Second, the most important fact about the river is its source. There is nothing natural about this river. Rather, this comes from the presence of God in His temple. God is giving life to areas of death and curse via this river. This flow out of the temple to remind us that God is an overflowing fountain of life and blessings. He sends life out from Himself. His people come to the temple to worship Him but He does not hoard or selfishly relish the blessing all to himself. He give His life, blessing, and goodness to others. David in II Chr. 29:14-16 proclaims, “Everything comes from You . . . and all of it (the abundance they were giving to build the temple) belongs to You.”
Going forward, in the New Testament, John portrays Jesus as the temple. Jesus claims He is the source of living water to all who believe in Him (John 7:37-9). The pouring of water during the Feast of Tabernacles related to the Lord’s provision in the desert and the outpouring of the Spirit in the messianic age. But the book a regular reader of the N.T. may expect to be mentioned is Revelation. As Wright points out, “The clearest recycling of Ezekiel’s graphic vision comes in the book of Revelation, where the river of life forms part of the city of God. Here there is no temple or alter but a river that runs from the throne of God. In heaven there will be no curse. There is no temple or alter in heaven but a great river flows from the throne of God straight down the high street of the city. The first two verses of Rev. 22 sounds just like Ezekiel 47. In Rev. 22 the true is for the healing of the nations.
God intended to choose Israel as a conduit or pipeline to bless the nations (Gen 12:3). What Ezekiel saw in a vison John also saw in his vision. How happy Ezekiel in heaven must have been when he witnessed what John wrote. How much God wants to give to His people and how He longs to see His people grow and expand. God is an eternal, over-flowing, life-giving fountain of joy and blessedness. He wants to spread joy to as many as possible because He is the great Lover. How deeply He love and longs for joy to well up in us.
Dear heavenly Father, You are the great Giver of life, joy, mercy, and grace. All You do and every word You say is perfect. Praise You for sharing Yourself with us and Your life – Your eternal life with us. You generously provide Your gift of healing to rebels like us. You allow us to drink from living water and through Your Son, You welcome us into an eternal dwelling actually prepared for us. We can say or read these words, but we need Your Spirit to assist our spiritual eyes to see what that actually means. The eternal, just and holy God of creation is preparing a place for us in His heaven. We will never tire of reflecting on what the gospel means when we are in heaven. May the gospel be weighty to our eternal souls. May Your powerful grace reminds us to obey You when we are tempted. We pray for that life-giving water to drench us and fill our dry and thirsty souls with the grace of Christ. Amen.