If our waters are polluted
it is not because God is exercising some tyrannical power over us;
it is because we foul our own streams.
—David L. Barr (Tales of the End)
On my holidays in Bancroft, I picked up a copy of Joe Kane’s book, “Running the Amazon”. The book details the first complete descent of one of the world’s longest rivers. When I started looking at the maps, I was a little startled to realize that the Amazon River begins as a stream in the Peruvian Andes, just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.
By the time the Amazon River approaches the Atlantic, it swells gigantic proportions. With over 1,000 tributaries like the Rio Negro feeding its volume, it becomes 6 kilometres wide in places.
Verses 3-6 is a river expedition of sorts. The person who measured out the Temple for Ezekiel to record now wades with him down this river that started out as a gurgling trickle from under the threshold of the Temple.
. . .
The guide splashed down the creek about half a kilometer from the Temple, and the water level had increased from a gurgle to ankle-deep. Another half kilometer later, the water was knee-deep. Another half kilometer and the water was waist deep. Still another half kilometer and the creek-turned-stream-turned-river was too wide to cross, and deep enough to swim in. That’s an impressive gain for a couple of kilometres!
And that’s precisely the point. God’s living water comes out of his community, and increases exponentially as it encounters the world. No tributaries required—this river has one source.
It’s easy to assume that the water comes from God alone to restore the land, but the narrative tells us something different. The water comes from the Temple: the place where heaven interlocks with earth (thanks Mr. Wright), the place where God lives with his people. Jesus was the ultimate temple (God living with his community), then the church took that role (the Spirit of Jesus living in his community).
. . .
Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. (John 4:14, NRSV)
We—the spirit-animated church—are now the source of that living water. We (plural, never singular; all believers, not every believer) are the place where heaven and earth interlock. The Spirit of Jesus animates his many-member body and draws living water out of us.
Ezekiel was stunned at the vision. The guide with the measuring rod called out, “you’ve been staring, mortal”! Such is the magnitude of the promise.
Next week we’ll look at the purpose of the river.
. . .
Lord God, thank you for allowing me a taste of your living water. Now help me to allow it to flow out of me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.