The River of God; July 3, 2020


Ezekiel 47:12 “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

This vision of the river flowing from the temple is dearly loved, and has been the basis of several songs. It is so closely linked to Psalm 1:1-3 that the Psalm can serve as a commentary on the vision. From the Psalm we know that these abundantly-bearing fruit trees are people who absorb the Word of the Lord, which cannot be separated from the Spirit of God. Jesus of course said that the Holy Spirit would be “streams of living water” flowing out from those who believe in Him. (John 7:38-39) Various parts of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement have laid claim to this, which is one reason so many songs have been made from Ezekiel’s vision. All of that said, there are several things we need to realize about this. In the first place, God’s temple is in our heart, (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) so as Jesus said, the flow is from within us to the world. The metaphor flips, but as Psalm 1 says, we are the trees that absorb and live by the flow of the Spirit, the Word of the Lord. Those who live like that are consistently fruitful, nourishing and healing those who come to them. It is significant that in Ezekiel’s vision there were multiple trees, which points up the fact that no one has a monopoly on either the Word or the Spirit of God. Jesus used the plural in talking about what would flow from the inner being of believers, even though there is one Spirit of the one God. That fits in with John mentioning “the seven spirits of God” in Revelation 3:1. Seven is the number of perfection, of completion. It’s not that Christian faith is in any way polytheistic, it’s that God is so complete, so wonderful, that the limits of language and physics and geometry can’t contain Him. That’s one reason it’s important to recognize that Ezekiel’s vision includes “all kinds” of fruit trees. We aren’t supposed to be the same, not only because that would be boring but because none of us by ourselves can fully express the magnificence of God.

I had wondered what I was supposed to preach on Sunday! This might be a bit deep for some of my hearers (and yes, there’s a joke in there, but I can’t help it) but I have to trust the Holy Spirit to give each one as much as they can absorb. My concern is to remain in the flow myself, so that what comes from me may be clean and pure and effective. I have seen groups that acted like they had a monopoly on the River of God, but that is an aberration that comes from human pride. In the stained glass windows at the front of this church there is the cross superimposed on the red ball of the Japanese flag, signifying Christ in Japan, but the background to it all is a swirling blue, signifying the living water of the Spirit of God. I need to live and minister in such a way that God can use me to make the vision of those windows an active reality, for His glory.

Father, I’m somewhat blown out of the water by this. Help me not only assimilate and act on it, but also effectively communicate it to the believers so that they too may grasp the vision and run with it, destroying the barriers that have existed in this city and this nation for so long and bringing Your kingdom, Your rule and reign, 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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