Sunday, May 06, 2007
River of life
Truth be told, I am quite daunted by prophetic books. But if I can choose which I am more attracted to, it could be Ezekiel. Rev Christopher Rao spoke from Ezekiel 47:1-12 today and I thought it would be exciting to learn from this passage. SH too was looking forward as he noted that this will be our first time listening to a sermon from Ezekiel.
The book of Ezekiel is about the judgement of God on Israel, which was deep in sin and idolatry. The first 23 chapters contain testimonies from God against Israel in general, and against Jerusalem in particular. Then it was the surrounding nations who are judged. In the beginning of chapter 33, the prophet resumes to subject of Israel, announcing their restoration as well as their judgement. Finally from chapter 40 to the end, the prophet describes the temple and the division of land.
Ezekiel 47:1-12 is about the temple with water flowing out from its threshold bringing life to wherever it flows. It is a very engaging passage:
Ezekiel 47:1-12 (ESV)
1 Then 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.
2 Then 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.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.
4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.
5 Again 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.
6 And he said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he led me back to the bank of the river.
7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.
8 And 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.
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.
10 Fishermen 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.
11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.
12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. 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."
The reason why life would grow is not because of what we do or who we are. It is because of the river that flows from the temple of God. Life begins from God. The encounter of the presence of God in his temple is critical for us to have life flow into us and to the others around us.
This reminded me of what Paul said in 1 Cor 6:19-20: Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. The "body" that Paul refers to here is the body of Christ, the church and not our individual bodies, as we would usually refer to. We, the church of Christ, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit must flow within making us grow in God. The Spirit will also flow to those outside the body, to draw them into the body.
However, there may be still areas in our lives that need healing. Like the metaphor Ezekiel used: the salty water becoming fresh at the outflow of the Spirit. We need to be transformed to be what God wants us to be: his children, his imitators, living out the Spirit in our lives and bearing fruits for him, bring his healing to the others as well.
This reminds me of the other way the "salt" metaphor is being used in Mat 5:13: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. It will be interesting to try to integrate the 2 usages. I will try to do that one day.
There are therefore 3 things to do in order for the river to flow in our church, into our lives and into the lives of others around us:
1. Prayer: we must give ourselves into the discipline of prayer so that doors can be opened for God to work in us. When we pray, we are opening up our lives for God to move in us.
2. Holiness: we must devote ourselves to holy living. When our lives are sanctified, we make room for the Spirit to work in us.
3. Unity: we are one body, one church. God himself is a community of three but one. In the same way, we exist in one community, we must live as one body of Christ, loving and uplifting one another.
Life will only come through the work of the Spirit. So, pray, live a holy life and live in unity.
Picture by Grozlykos