The Stream Flowing
1 The man took me back to the temple, where I saw a stream flowing from under the entrance. It began in the south part of the temple, where it ran past the altar and continued east through the courtyard.
2We walked out of the temple area through the north gate and went around to the east gate. I saw the small stream of water flowing east from the south side of the gate.
3The man walked east, then took out his measuring stick and measured 500 meters downstream. He told me to wade through the stream there, and the water came up to my ankles. 4Then he measured another 500 meters downstream, and told me to wade through it there. The water came up to my knees. Another 500 meters downstream the water came up to my waist. 5Another 500 meters downstream, the stream had become a river that could be crossed only by swimming. 6The man said, “Ezekiel, son of man, pay attention to what you've seen.”
We walked to the riverbank, 7where I saw dozens of trees on each side. 8The man said:
This water flows eastward to the Jordan River valley and empties into the Dead Sea, where it turns the salt water into fresh water. 9Wherever this water flows, there will be all kinds of animals and fish, because it will bring life and fresh water to the Dead Sea. 10From En-Gedi to Eneglaim, people will fish in the sea and dry their nets along the coast. There will be as many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea as there are in the Mediterranean Sea. 11But the marshes along the shore will remain salty, so that people can use the salt from them.
12 Fruit trees will grow all along this river and produce fresh fruit every month. The leaves will never dry out, because they will always have water from the stream that flows from the temple, and they will be used for healing people.
The image of a river is one of those archetypal metaphors in the world’s literature, ancient and modern. It appears in one of Jesus’ best known sayings, “Whoever believes in me … rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38). In the Psalms, the people of God worshiping together are likened to a flowing river. Even when Jerusalem is besieged by enemy forces, the presence of God among his people becomes a life giving stream that makes the city glad (Psalm 46:4).
However, the focus of this part of Ezekiel’s vision is not on the city, but on the wilderness of Judah. For the river flows from the Temple in ever greater volume over a distance of 15 miles, transforming dried up stream beds and even ultimately making the Dead Sea free of salt.
The huge volume of water flowing from the sanctuary (vv 3–5) echoes psalms which rejoice in feasting on the abundance of God’s house and drinking from the Lord’s “river of delights” (Psalm 46:4). A great forest of trees springs up on each side of the river (v 7), bearing fruit not just once or twice a year, but every month (v 12, see also Revelation 22:1,2).
The imagery now echoes and expands the well known metaphor of the first psalm, highlighting the benefits of meditating on the Law (teaching) of the Lord (Psalm 1:2,3). Reflect on Ezekiel’s pictures of abundant blessing flowing from the sanctuary before you go to church next Sunday. Sunday worship is much more than simple attendance. It’s a feast! God has promised to bless us super abundantly when we worship him with others. Are we ready to receive what he will offer? Are we prepared to give what he will demand?
Father, thank you for your abundant blessings. Teach me to worship you. Teach me to listen to you and respond to you in ways that bring glory to your name. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, April – June 2015, written by Fergus Macdonald, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.