“Where the river flows, everything will live.” Ezekiel 47
We need a vision for spiritual growth that leads us deeper into the healing power of God than singing songs and sermons on a Sunday. Deep change and soul formation requires more than a daily Bible verse and personal quiet time. These are great things, by the way—but we can go deeper.
Many of us were taught that we are saved by grace and not by effort. But when it comes to our theory of spiritual growth and change, most of us revert to “Try harder, pray more, read deeper, attend more frequently,” etc. We preach a gospel of grace, but we are still trying to muster up more willpower to grow to maturity. Many of us, like Sisyphus, are tired of pushing the boulder up the hill, but we’re afraid to stop and rest lest it all comes crashing back down on us.
We need a better image for the long and winding process of spiritual growth. Ezekiel 47:1-12 provides us with a vision I have found intoxicatingly beautiful and compelling. Let your imagination paint the scene in all its vivid detail and spiritual symbolism:
47 The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Mortal, do you see this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah desert, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows….where the river flows everything will live…12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river…Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Instead of pushing a boulder up a hill, what if spiritual growth was more like stepping into a river and being gradually swept along by God’s life-giving current? What if the deeper we waded into the waters, the deeper we experienced God’s healing and transforming power?
The picture is as simple as it is profound. The river represents God’s presence and power flowing out from His Heavenly Temple. Wherever the river flows, dead things are revived. Barren things now bear fruit. The leaves of the fruit bring healing. And first place the river flows is to the driest desert and the deadest sea—“When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.”
Wouldn’t you like that river to flow into your family life, your work life, your marriage, your personal health and your secret inner world? Follow Ezekiel’s lead and come stand on the bank and have a closer look. Next time we’ll dip our toes in the water and begin to explore what “going deeper” might entail.
Enjoy the sights and sounds of a river.