Friday, June 6, 2014

The River of God

There is a river, known as the River of Life and the River of God.  According to King David the Psalmist, "There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High." (Psa 46:4). It's a supernatural river, because its streams make the City of God glad.  It has supernatural qualities unlike any other river.  I'd like to explore that river with you in God's Word today.

God has always had a river
In the beginning, Paradise was on earth, which was a garden in Eden, as we read in Genesis.

"The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates." (Gen 2:8-14)

This passage teaches us that a river flowed out of Eden to water the Garden of Eden (Paradise).  So all the way back the beginning , God has always had a river.

The Lord is the River Source
It's important to note that The Lord is the River Source.  That's what He told the woman at the well.

"There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.' For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, 'How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink," you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.' She said to Him, 'Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?' Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'" (Joh 4:7-14)

Only Jesus can give you living water, because He is the Well Spring.  That is the same living water that flows through the River of Life in heaven.  Whoever drinks this water shall never thirst again.  The water that Jesus gives will become in you a well of water springing up to eternal life.  I know from first hand experience that there is no other drink that will quench your thirst or satisfy your soul like the living water.

Although this passage in John's gospel may seem like a new revelation, the Lord had identified Himself centuries beforehand as the Fountain of Living Water to His people Israel.

"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water." (Jer 2:13)

"A glorious throne on high from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary. O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD." (Jer 17:12-13)

God's people today have done much the same as the Israelites did back then. Many have forsaken the Fountain of Living Water, even the Lord, because they do not trust in Him. Instead, they trust in themselves, so they hew for themselves cisterns.  The problem is that their cisterns are broken and leaking, so they cannot hold water.

We never thirst when we depend on Him.  If you trust in the Lord, He will always provide you with water, as He did for the Israelites in the wilderness. One of those instances was at Kadesh:

Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there. There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! "Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? "Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." Those were the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel contended with the LORD, and He proved Himself holy among them.  (Num 20:1-13)

Another instance where God provided the Israelites with water in the wilderness was at a place called Beer:

From there they continued to Beer, that is the well where the LORD said to Moses, "Assemble the people, that I may give them water." Then Israel sang this song: "Spring up, O well! Sing to it! "The well, which the leaders sank, Which the nobles of the people dug, With the scepter and with their staffs." And from the wilderness they continued to Mattanah, (Num 21:16-18)

In these instances, the Lord was the source or spring of these waters.  Likewise, the Lord revealed to Ezekiel a river that flowed from the Temple, which is still future.  I believe it will be fulfilled in the future Millenial reign of Christ.  And from the very presence of God this river will flow.

Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded. He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then he said to me, "These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. "It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. "And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. "But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. "By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing."  (Eze 47:1-12)

The Millennial Temple will face east, and the River will flow eastward from the south side of temple.  What makes the temple so special is that the Lord Himself, the God of Israel will enter that place and His glory will dwell there.  The Prince will enter through the East gate, which is why Ezekiel was not allowed to use east gate, as only the prince was allowed to do so.  Therefore, the very presence of the Lord will be in the temple, and from His presence will flow this river.

We are led gradually deeper into the river
Ezekiel was led gradually deeper into the river. At a distance of 1000 cubits (1500 ft) from the temple, it was ankle deep.  At 2000 cubits (3000 ft) from the temple, it was knee deep.  At 3000 cubits (4500 ft) from the temple, it was waist deep.  At 4000 cubits (6000 ft) from the temple, it was deep enough to swim in.

Just as God led Ezekiel into the River gradually, so are we led gradually deeper into the river.  Most people want to stay close to the temple where their feet touch the bottom and they are not too far from home base.  Comfort zone.  They are still mostly in control.

The Lord gives each of us an invitation to wade out a measure further away into His River.  It may seem scary venturing off into the unknown where we’ve never been before.  Deeper waters.  But if we say, “Yes, Lord,” we will not be disappointed. We find ourselves in a place we never thought we could go.  We look back and realize the Lord took us there and it’s wonderful. But each time after we obey the Lord to go further and then make the adjustment to the new place in God, we realize we can trust Him.

When we get to the place where we are waist deep, we realize we are much less in control than ever before and the current is swift. But we are still safe.  Then the Lord beckons us deeper in Him, and we wonder if the water will overwhelm us if we go to the place He calls us to.  But if we will trust Him, we will find ourselves in a place in Him where we are out of control.  We cannot touch the bottom.  We can’t control the way things go anymore. We can’t maneuver around like we want to, and it’s unfamiliar to live like this. At this point, many people fight the current.

Professionally trained rescuers say that when people fall into the river, the mistake they make is thinking that the current will pull them under.  They say that people try to swim against the current out of fear and ignorance.  No one, not even a trained rescuer, is any match for that current.  This is how people drown. But they say the best thing is to let yourself flow with the current and even swim downstream, diagonally across the river to the other side.  If the current pulls you under, just be patient and you will pop back up to the surface again.

All we can do when we are in this place in God is to flow with the Lord.  Just rest in Him and trust Him.  Don’t fight against Him.  Go with the flow of His River.  Let it carry you deeper.  Swim in it.  Allow Him to have complete control.  You may be a mile away from the temple, and it is very unfamiliar to you.  There are many unknowns, but you are still in God’s River.  It’s exhilarating and refreshing.  You find He is still with you and you are still safe.

Wherever the River of God goes, it brings life
This river is a literal one!  And wherever the River of God goes, it brings life. As we read earlier, it makes glad the city of God (Ps 46:4). It has many amazing qualities like this.  All kinds of living creatures are found wherever the water flows.  Salt water becomes fresh. The desert springs up like a garden filled with greenery. Many trees line both banks of the river. Fruit is on the trees for food. The leaves never wither and they bring healing. Compare this river that Ezekiel saw in a vision to the River of Life in heaven.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. "He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."  (Rev 21:1-8)

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. (Rev 22:1-6)

I have read accounts of those who have experienced heaven, and they say that you can swim in this river, and you can even breath under the water.  It is the Spirit of God.  When you come out of the water, your clothing is not even wet. It’s the same one that Ezekiel saw flowing here on earth during the future Millennium. It's crystal pure.  It flows from the throne of God in heaven, spirals through the Holy City, and then down to earth in the invisible form of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding in Christ and drinking from this river are keys to a victorious, fruit-bearing life.  Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, discovered this great spiritual secret.  In the biography, called Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, he quoted a poet named Tersteegen, who once wrote:

He told me of a River bright
That flows from Him to me;
That I might be for His delight
A fair and fruitful tree.

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (Rev 22:17)

Isn't that a wonderful invitation?  If God were to charge for this water of life, nobody would be able to afford even one glass of it.  All the money in the world could not buy you even a mouthful of it.  And yet God is so generous, He invites everyone to come and take the water of life without cost.  But this is only for those who believe in Jesus.  Anyone that does not believe in the Lord Jesus and follow Him, all the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

It’s the River of His delights.  As King David said:

Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. (Psa 36:5-9)

When you come to know Jesus, you can drink your fill of the abundance of God's house. He gives you to drink of the River of His delights.  He alone is the Fountain of Life.

Jesus also spoke of spiritual streams of living water.  He did so at the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot.  There was a ceremony at this feast, in which the priests poured out a golden pitcher of water from the top of some steps that flowed down the steps.  And it was at this feast that Jesus wanted everyone to know He was the fulfillment of that symbolic ritual.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Joh 7:37-39)

According to John J. Parsons of Hebrew for Christians:

"During the seven days of Sukkot a sacrificial pouring out of water (called a 'water libation') was performed at the Temple (Sukkah 51a-b). In a ceremony called nisuch ha-mayim, the High Priest would lead a procession to the pool of Shiloach (Siloam) where he would fill a golden pitcher with water and then return to the courtyard of the Temple. When the High priest would pour out the water, the great crowd of people would wave their lulavot and sing out:"
אָנָּא יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא
אָנָּא יְהוָה הַצְלִיחָה נָּא
בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה
בֵּרַכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָה

an·na  Adonai  ho·shi·ah  na,
an·na  Adonai  hatz·li·chah  na
ba·rukh  hab·bah  be·shem  Adonai
be·rakh·nu·khem  mi·beit  Adonai

"Save us, we pray, O LORD!
O LORD, we pray, let us thrive!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD."
(Psalm 118:25-26)

My friend, everyone who believes in Jesus will have rivers of living water flowing from his innermost being.  Glory to God!  That's the Spirit of God, which Jesus was speaking about.  At the time He said this, the Spirit was not yet given.  For it was not until the Day of Pentecost that the Spirit was poured out (Ac 2:4).  If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Jesus Christ and drink.

Putting it All Together
God has always had a river and He always will.  The Lord Himself is the Source of that River.

The Bible begins and ends in Paradise where the River of God flows. Sin interrupted the flow of that River to man in the pages between Gen 2 and Rev 21. Likewise, sin interrupts the flow of the River of God in our lives. When we forsake the Lord, we choose for ourselves cracked cisterns that hold no water.

Dick Eastman wrote a book called Love on It’s Knees.  He says that we will learn the lessons God wants to teach us either on our knees in prayer or through intense pain and suffering. I want to learn of the Lord on my knees in prayer.  How about you?

The Lord beckons each of us deeper in Him. Will you choose to stick close to home base where you can get your feet wet, but still be in control? Or will you wade out deeper in God to the place where he is leading you? Will you let Him have more control? Will you flow with His Spirit? You won’t be disappointed. Pretty soon you will find yourself deeper than you ever thought you could go.

He won’t just throw you into the deep end of the river.  He will take you there gradually over time. Each time you obey and flow with Him you’ll be freer in Him. Then when you get to the part that’s deep enough to swim in, you will participate with Him in seeing the Life of God brought to people and places wherever you go, because wherever the river flows is where you go, and wherever the River of God goes, it brings life.

I have a friend name Bill, who is a pastor.  One day he was preaching, and he realized he had slurred speech.  Within a couple weeks, he was undergoing brain surgery to remove a brain tumor.  He said later that his wife’s prayer life became much deeper through this experience.  That was one of those times of intense suffering, when love is on its knees, like Dick Eastman was referring to.

If the Lord is calling you deeper in Him, will you obey Him and wade out deeper? I invite you to do that today.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Living Waters" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note: Please see Opportunities to Serve the Body of Christ.  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog, such as Baptized with the Spirit, Holy Fire Baptism, and Led by the Spirit. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.