As we commemorate the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we not only remember that the Spirit was given to us. We also remember that the Spirit is given through us. The Spirit flows out from us to heal all of the sick places.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
In Ezekiel’s vision, he is brought to the door of the temple where waters issue forth, run down by the side of the altar, and flow east (v. 1). The man with Ezekiel took him a thousand cubits east and this river was to the ankles, another thousand and the water was to the knees, another thousand and the water was up to his loins, and after another thousand it was deep enough to swim (v. 3-5).
On both banks of this river were many trees (v. 6). The man told Ezekiel that the river flowed down to the desert and eventually would reach the sea, resulting in the sea being healed (v. 8). This river would give life. There would be so many fish that fishermen would spread their nets and catch boatloads of various kinds (v. 9-10). While the river will bring healing and blessing, there are some marsh places that will remain unhealed (v. 11). Because the waters from the sanctuary feed the trees, they won’t die. They will produce new fruit for food and leaves that will heal like medicine (v. 12).
EZEKIEL’S TEMPLE THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
The temple Ezekiel sees is the Christian Church and the river flowing from that temple is the Holy Spirit. This becomes clear by considering two other texts closely associated with our sermon text.
In Revelation 22, right after John beholds “the bride, the Lamb’s wife . . . the holy Jerusalem,” he sees the river of life as Ezekiel did. It proceeds out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. On either side of the river, there is the tree of life, bearing fruit every month with leaves that were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:1-2).
The second text is John 7:37-39 where Jesus cried out on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, calling those who were thirsty to come to Him and drink. Christ said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). John adds, ” But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
EAST OF EDEN?
A great amount of confusion comes because we do not know where we are. Many Christians think that they are still east of Eden. But God has said that in the day He cleanses His people, “they shall say, ‘This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden'” (Ezekiel 36:35). Ezekiel’s temple vision—a vision of the Christian Church remember—was full of Edenic imagery (cherubims and palm trees). After the fall, God set His cherubims at the east of Eden so that we could not get back to the tree of life. But Ezekiel saw the glory of God come from the east and enter into this New Eden (Ezekiel 43:2).
A RIVER OF LIFE
We may not be east of Eden. But there are some still out there in those desert places to which the river flows. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that the muck of the marshes will climb their way up to the temple of God and pollute it. But water flows downhill after all. We have believed in Christ and just what He promised has come to pass. The Holy Spirit—the river of living water—flows out of our hearts to the world bringing fruit and healing with it.
FROM THE SANCTUARY
Knowing where we are is foundational. Knowing that the river is flowing is essential. But we must progress to see how this particular operation works. Christ is the source of this Living Water. We are not the headwaters. Christian living is diametrically opposed to the way one lives without Christ. Apart from Christ, all you have is the flesh. But Christians walk by the Spirit. We come to Christ and drink. Doing so, we find that water has welled up in us and flows from our hearts.
“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come . . . Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).