1 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. 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, “Son of man, 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, 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. 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. 11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 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 Book of Ezekiel is one of the most interesting books in the Bible. One of the features of the Book of Ezekiel is that it is primarily composed of visions the Prophet Ezekiel receives from God. Throughout the book Ezekiel reveals and shares theses visions with his readers. As we learned previously, divine vision is the unfolding and revealing of God’s plan and purpose for the people of God.
In chapter 47 we read about one of the visions Ezekiel received from God. In this particular vision the prophet describes, using symbols and imagery, his experience as he is taken on a divine journey. Wherever Ezekiel was, he was brought back to the temple. While at the temple Ezekiel made two observations, first he noticed that the temple faced east and second he saw water coming down from the altar. As we consider the significance of Ezekiel’s observations we must ask ourselves what happens in the east, and what happens at the altar? We know that the sun rises in the east. Without the sun all living things would eventually die. Likewise, John 3:16 reminds us that God gave His S O N so that all who believe in Him might not die, but find everlasting life. Another interesting feature about the sun is the light it provides. The Apostle John points out that the S O N of God, Jesus, is the light that shines out of darkness. It is virtually impossible to start or complete any journey in the dark. We need some light so that we can see where we are going.
What about the altar? In the Jewish temple the altar was the place where offerings were given, sacrifices were made, guilt was acknowledged, and atonement and pardons were received. I love to travel. This was not always the case, for almost 20 years I did not go any place. Part of the reason I did not go any place was because I thought I was too busy to take time out to go anywhere. I also felt guilty about enjoying myself. Then one day someone pointed out to me that in order to get anything out of life you have to be willing to give up some stuff. In other words I had to be willing to make sacrifices so that I could find release and receive some fulfillment. I had to be awakened to the fact that my approach to life was unhealthy and that there was a better way. Jesus invites us to come to the altar. It is at the altar that we give up our way and approach to life, acknowledge that our way has not yielded the best results. It is at the altar we offer ourselves to Christ, because we believe His way is better for us and will yield better results. It is at the altar that Christ says before you can begin the journey we need to let go of all of the guilt, remorse, anger, resentment, and anything else that has been holding us back. It is at the altar Christ declares us free to begin the journey. It is also at the altar that Christ gives us our guide for the journey, the Holy Spirit. That is what the water represents in this text. Notice Ezekiel’s led by the man but he is also guided by the flowing of the water. If Christ has something for you and I, then only Christ can lead us to whatever He has for your and I. Every time you and I come face to face with the S O N, He reconnects us with our guide the Holy Spirit, because the busyness of life has a way of separating us from our guide. The altar is where we meet or reconnect with our guide. Have you ever noticed in big aircraft there are always two pilots in the cockpit, a pilot and a co-pilot? The pilot is responsible for charting the course, and the co-pilot is responsible for helping to navigate the course. Jesus charts our course, and the Holy Spirit helps us to navigate the course.
Having his pilot and co-pilot in place, Ezekiel begins his journey. It should be pointed out that Ezekiel’s journey was taking him eastward toward the sun (S O N), but it was also taking him deeper. There were four points along Ezekiel’s journey and each point was deeper than the previous point. The first point was ankle-deep, the next point was knee-deep, then up to the waist, and finally deep enough to swim in. A few years ago I went to Jamaica and while there I climbed Dunn’s River Falls. The falls are about 600ft. or 200 yards high. Imagine climbing the length of two football fields with steps made of stone. I can remember once I started the journey up the falls I immediately thought it was a bad idea and wanted to turn back. By the time I reached the halfway point I was winded, fatigued, and ready to have a nervous breakdown because I thought the journey would never end. Ultimately, I completed the journey and now live to share my experience. After completing that journey something happened to me that day, I felt not only a sense of accomplishment but I also felt like I could conquer anything. Every journey that you and I go on will offer some challenges, and the purpose of challenges is to help us grow. I learned that day that the deeper you go the more you will grow. I also learned that growth is not an automatic thing, but rather growth is tied to our level of commitment. How committed are we to seeing something through or to its completion? One of the blessings of that experience is that while I wanted to turn back, my guide would not let me turn back. I wanted to give up, but my guide would not let me give up. In fact, my guide demanded that I put my all into it so that I could get the maximum benefit out of it. The truth is that we can be in something and still not get anything out of it. A student can be in school, but never really learn anything. They can be in the school building, but if they do not go into the classroom and pay attention they will not acquire the information they need to get to where they need to go. A spouse or parent can be in the home, but not in the relationship. We can be physically present, but emotionally distant. An employee can be on the job, but not doing their job. Doing our job requires more than just showing up. If we want to get the most out of anything we do, we have to be invested in what we are doing. If we want to grow then we have to be willing to go, and how much we grow will be determined by how far or deep we go.
One of the things about journeys is that at different points along the journey we will experience different outcomes. The initial portion of Ezekiel’s journey offered him varying degrees of challenge as he attempted to cross the river. However, at another point along his journey, Ezekiel experienced something different. He saw the water feeding and transforming the environment. The journey had taken Ezekiel to a different place and put him in a different position. Previously Ezekiel was in a place of struggle. He was struggling to make it across the river, because he stayed on the journey he was taken to a better place and put in a better position. Place and position are important. Several years ago I used to work in the building trades. I was a building superintendent. I started out in maintenance because I needed a job and the guy who took my under his wing encouraged me to make it a career. So I gave it the old college try. I was so good that everything I touched I broke, and everything I tried to fix did not work after I got through with it. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that perhaps I should try another profession. I thought my problem was I was not cut out to work with my hands. A few years later I entered the helping professions and they gave me a computer and after awhile I was able to build and create, and develop and design using the computer. I realized that the reason I stunk in the building trades was because I was in the wrong place and the wrong position. Some times we have to spend some time in the wrong place before we discover that we are out of position to achieve our outcomes. However, when we find our place we will also find:
• Life-giving energy or New Life – when we come to the realization this is where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing, we come alive. When we are out of place everything seems like a struggle and a hardship, and we never see things getting any better. When we are in the right place there is a burst of energy that permeates every fiber of being. We look forward to going to work, we look forward to coming home, we look forward to coming to church, because we are in the right place.
• Abundance – abundance simply means having more than enough. Abundance is not always easy to recognize and some times we miss our abundance because we are not aware of all the resources at our disposal. It takes perception and perspective, seeing what we have and knowing how to use it, to recognize abundance. My mother could take leftovers and create an entirely different meal. I saw leftovers, but my mother saw abundance. When we have something leftover it is an indication we have abundance. My grandmother was the queen of stretch. She could take a meal made for four people and feed eight to ten people. I thought I was being deprived, but my grandmother thought we had enough to go around. When there is enough to go around and everyone is fed it is an indication we have abundance. The administrators at the college asked me what subject I wanted to teach. Some people saw it as upsetting the apple cart, but I saw it as having choices. When we have choices and options it is an indication we have abundance.
• Power – power is using energy to get things done. When we have been led to the right place, we are in position to use our energy and the resources made available to us to get things done. When we realize our power we can use our energy to make an impact and bring about transformation. When we realize we have the power, we will use our energy to transform lives, relationships, the environment around us, and our world.
Ezekiel started out on a journey, and he was led to a place of fulfillment. Ezekiel had to overcome some challenges, some issues, and some obstacles, but because he persevered he was rewarded in the end. Through this text, Jesus is issuing a call to one and all, come experience the transformative power of Christ in our lives. It is a call to join the journey led by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a call to a fresh start, a life filled with abundance, and a life imbued with the power to do, become