Influence; March 11, 2018

Ezekiel 47:8 He said to me, “This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh.”

This whole vision of the water flowing from the temple has inspired multiple songs and even the name of an indigenous Japanese denomination. Many people have connected it to the “living water” that Jesus spoke of to the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:13-14) Much can be said and has been said about it, but this one detail strikes me just now. Usually when a river flows into the sea it quickly becomes brackish (salty) even when current can still be detected, completely overwhelmed by the difference in volume. The few natural exceptions are the greatest rivers in the world, most notably the Amazon. The volume of water there is so great that fresh water can be drawn from the surface of the ocean even out of sight of land. However, that is quite an exception. This verse is all the more dramatic because the “Sea” in question is the Dead Sea, which has such a concentration of salt that it is famously impossible to sink in it. This verse is obviously talking about something quite different from simple dilution. The point is that this water is completely dominant, influencing rather than being influenced, and therein lies the lesson. God intends for His children to transform the world, when all too often they are indistinguishable from the world. Rather than influencing we are influenced, and that is sad indeed. Paul famously talked about this in Romans 12. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) The water in Ezekiel’s vision didn’t “conform” to the water of the Dead Sea, it transformed it. That’s how Christ’s disciples are to be to the society in which we live.

This of course applies to me as much as it does to anyone. I have the natural impulse to fit in, to be “one of the crowd,” and I’ve got to be on my guard. In a sense it is an advantage that I grew up as an American in Japan, never completely fitting in anywhere, because that was training in nonconformity. However, that experience generated if anything a sharper desire to fit in, which can be dangerous. I’m not to be different simply for the sake of being different, but certainly not conform for the sake of conforming. That can be a difficult line to walk! The key is to be so full of the Holy Spirit that He overwhelms the spirit of the world around me, just as the waters of the Amazon do for hundreds of miles from shore. I am to recognize that I am a carrier of living water, just as Jesus said. (John 7:38-39) I am not to be proud, but grateful, allowing all who so desire to drink, so that they too may be born again.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I see so much brackish and salty water all around me. Rather than focusing on that, help me so focus on You that the pure water of Your Spirit may flow through me unhindered, not only for my sake but for the sake of all I encounter, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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