Chapter 47:1-12 (ESV) - 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 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. 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. 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. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 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.”
Question to consider: What does the fresh water signify?
In yesterday’s passage, I compared the sons and servants to those chosen from the twelve tribes and the great multitudes in white robes before the throne of God in Revelation 7. The angel in John’s vision declared the following of them, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17) This spring of living water is the subject of today’s passage in Ezekiel.
The “Lamb in the midst of the throne” can be compared with the prince in Ezekiel’s vision, and as I’ve mentioned previously, the declaration that He would be the shepherd corresponds to God’s declaration in Ezekiel 34:15, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God,” and points to the prince as being the eternal Son of God and true Son of Man.
This river of life is described as flowing from the threshold of the temple and past the south side of the altar. It trickled out of the temple on the south side of the East gate and got progressively wider and deeper as it went out into the world.
In my study of Exodus, we learned what it meant when something became most holy. Not only was it holy in itself, but whatever it touched became holy as well. Jesus demonstrated that He was most holy when He touched a leper and made the leper clean instead of being defiled by his disease. The river that came out of the temple turned the salty seas fresh and gave life to everything it touched.
The apostle John wrote of an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a well in which Jesus said, “...whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) In some commentaries I’ve read, it’s been suggested that to look at this river in Ezekiel's visioin in any way other than a physical river is poor exegesis. However, that seemed to be the way Jesus spoke about it to this woman. He never gave her some kind of flask of living water to keep from coming to the well, and yet John made sure to point out that, “...the woman left her water jar and went away into town…” (John 4:28).
John also wrote of a soldier who pierced the side of Jesus after He died on Calvary, “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:33-34) I would look at the cross on Calvary as the earthly image of the heavenly altar, and the blood and water from Jesus’ side as the river of life that flowed next to that altar.
John declared that the piercing of Jesus’ side was the fulfillment of Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” I believe this river of life in Ezekiel’s vision should be compared to the pouring out of God’s grace and mercy on the world.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for richly pouring out Your grace and mercy on us even though we were completely undeserving of it. May it well up in us and overflow to those You have put in our path. Amen.