“Parables That Pack a Punch” Sermon Series Sermon # 7
Ezekiel 47:1-12 “Streams of Living Water” March 30, 2014
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Is anyone here discouraged because your life seems to be crumbling before your eyes?
Anyone here struggling with disappointment or grief? Anyone feeling like your soul is dead?
Anyone wondering if the gospel really has the power to transform your loved ones?
If so, then the Lord has just what you need: to drink from the streams of Living Water!
Consider the setting: The Lord gave Ezekiel this prophecy after he and most of the Jews had already been captured by the invading Babylonian army and sent into exile. By the time Ezekiel is given this vision in Chapter 47, the temple in Jerusalem has already been reduced to ruins by the Babylonians. All hope has been shattered. The people are in shock; they are in distress and deep sorrow; and they may have given up.
But God is not finished with them. He gives them, through Ezekiel, an amazing vision of a supernatural river that would bring them healing, fruitfulness, and life! So let’s jump in!
I. The Picture of This Life-Giving River
A. The Source of this River (vv. 1-2)
“The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.”
Explorers have always been driven to find the headwater, the source, of a great river. Here the source of this amazing river is clear: it is the Temple of the Lord. It begins with the presence of the Lord God Almighty, who dwells in the temple. More specifically, this miraculous river begins at the altar within the temple, which is the place where God and man are reconciled and our sins are atoned for, through the shedding of blood and the substitutionary sacrifices.
In New Testament terms we could say that the source of this life-giving river is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Immanuel, God with us. More specifically, we can say that the headwater of this life-transforming river is the blood sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who offered Himself in our place on the cross, to atone for our sins and to take the wrath and punishment we deserved!
Just as every power in this vision that flows from this life-giving river can ultimately be traced back to the temple of the Lord (His presence) and the altar of atonement, so too we know that every blessing we are given comes ultimately from the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ is the source of all blessings, all healing, all fruitfulness and all revival! Is He that for you?
B. The Size of this River (vv. 3-6a)
“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, “Son of man, do you see this?”
I once spent a day with a man whose job it was to measure the flow of rivers. With certain measuring devices, we recorded the cubic feet per second of tiny streams, as well as a good-sized river, that came up to our chests.
But we never encountered a river like the one that Ezekiel was sent out to measure! Here is a tiny flow of water that starts at the temple in Jerusalem, and without any tributaries joining it, without any rainfall adding to its volume, soon has its volume increasing exponentially!
Consider: Ezekiel is led by a companion (sent from the Lord) to measure off the size of this flow of water. After about a third of a mile, he measures the water and it is ankle deep, about 4 inches. He follows the creek another third of a mile, and when he measures the flow, it’s now up to his knees – about 20 inches. Then he walks along this stream another third of a mile, and this time the water is up to his waist, about 40 inches. Finally, after walking another third of a mile, the water is deep enough to swim in, probably over his head, perhaps 6 feet deep!
How can this be? How can a tiny trickle of water turn into a mighty river in just over a mile, when no other streams have fed into it? Especially in a hot, desert region?
Matthew Henry comments: “the further it goes, the fuller it grows.” “These waters signify the gospel of Christ, which went forth from Jerusalem, and spread itself into the countries about, and the gifts and powers of the Holy Ghost which accompanied it, and by virtue of which it spread far and produced many blessed effects.”
The salvation that the Messiah ushered in was at first small in appearance, but later it unfolded itself in ever-fuller glory and riches.
Examples: in Iran, in China. But the church increases not by sword or by political advantage. No. The church grows supernaturally. Let us pray that we see such grow in our country!
II. The Power of This Life-Giving River
A. It Brings Life to the Dead (6b-9)
“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, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.”
Not only is this river ever-increasing in size; it is also powerfully transforming everything in comes in contact with, and bringing what is dead to life!
Notice two things here:
First is the language of the Garden of Eden and the original creation: “great number of trees” “Swarms of living creatures” and “the river flowing” through the land. This vision is pointing us to a new creation, and that becomes clear when we read the same words in Rev. 22!
The Second is the theme of the resurrection, of that which was dead coming alive. V. 8 “When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh.” Literally, it “becomes healed.”
Think about what is happening to the Dead Sea in this vision. This is the saltiest body of water in the world, and here it becomes filled with an abundance of life! If you think ocean water is salty, try getting a little Dead Sea water on your lips! (about 8-9 times saltier, and very nasty. Containing magnesium, bromides, and other noxious things!) Clearly this speaks of the wonderful renewing power of this “river of the water of life.” So here you have this “chemical dump” some 300 square miles, and as this river empties into it, the whole thing becomes fresh water! It comes back to life! The Grace of Christ flows to those who are dead and degraded!
Matthew Henry: “When children of wrath become children of love, and those that were dead in trespasses and sins were made alive, then this prophecy is fulfilled.”
So we pray, “Lord, bring those who are dead in sin to life in You. Turn the “salt water” of their hearts to a living “fresh water.”
B. It Brings Food to the Hungry (10, 12)
10 “Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea….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…”
Believe me, you won’t find one fishermen on the shores of the Dead Sea today… but here is Ezekiel’s vision, the fishermen are lining up all along the shore, as if the sea had just been stocked with hungry trout on the first day of fishing season! What a transformation! Imagine all the hungry people who could now be fed with this amazing catch of fish every day.
And in addition, all the fruit trees that line the banks of the river will bear their fruit every month of the year! (And this in an area that is largely desert and barren, with almost no trees to speak of.) So there will be an abundance of fruit and of fish to eat, all year around! God will bring food to the hungry… and indeed, Jesus fulfills this prophecy when we enables His weary disciples to catch a tremendous number of fish in Luke 5:1-11; when He multiplies a few fish to feed thousands of hungry listeners; and when He tells his disciples that they will catch men in the same way! E. W. Hengstenberg comments: “Jesus told his disciples that He would make them fishers of men (Mt. 4:18-19), and Jesus provided miraculous catches of fish for his disciples (Luke 5 and John 21). So at the beginning and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see the symbolism of Ezek. 47 demonstrated.
Lord, we pray that you would allow us to be such fishers of men, for you, today!
C. It Brings Healing to the Hurting (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.”
The river gives life to these remarkable trees… trees of life… and their leaves are medicinal; they are for healing! The trees’ leaves renew those who eat them. What a remarkable rejuvenation!
T. Desmond Alexander, in his book, From Eden to the New Jerusalem, writes “No one will grow frail by becoming old in the New Jerusalem. Citizens of the new earth will experience and enjoy both wholeness of body and longevity of life. They will have a quality of life unrestricted by disease or disability. To live in the New Jerusalem is to experience life in all its fullness and vitality. It is to live as one who has never lived before. It is to be in the prime of life, for the whole of one’s life.” Anyone want to live that way?
So in a place where there had been no fresh water, no fish to catch, and no trees to provide shade or fruit, now you have an abundance of fresh water, fish, fruit, and shade, and even healing medicines! What a life-giving transformation! What a river of life!
What is The Meaning of this Life-Giving River?
The Lord is giving us a parable, a picture that packs a punch, of His fantastic and ever-increasing life-giving grace, a grace that begins at the dwelling place of God with man, the Lord Jesus, Immanuel, and this grace flows to all the nations, bringing life, true food, and healing.
Listen to how the former slave trader, John Newton, interpreted this passage in his great hymn about the church: “See, the streams of living water, springing from eternal love; well supply thy sons and daughters, and all fear of want remove; who can faint while such a river ever flows their thirst to assuage? Grace which, like the Lord, the giver, never fails from age to age.” (#345)
Alexander MacLaren makes the observation that “Unlike most great cities, Jerusalem was not situated on a great river. So, many of the prophets, who looked forward to the better times to come, laid their finger upon that one defect, and prophesied that it should be cured.”
God situates His holy city in a place without a river… perhaps so that the image of a life-giving river will seem even more amazing and glorious!
Praise God from whom all blessings FLOW!
What an encouragement to those whose lives are fruitless and dead!
What a challenge to those who believe this life-giving gospel and preach it to a wretched society! What an incentive to pray for this kind of revival!
What an encouragement for missions and evangelism!
And what a taste of heaven!