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God’s River of Life
I’d like to start our study by going back and taking a look at a remarkable passage found in the book of Job.
“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground.” (Job 14:7-8 NKJV)
There are those whose lives are like this tree, especially today in this current climate of disease and violence. They feel as if they’ve been cut down. Their dreams and hopes have been broken and shattered with the pieces being scattered with seemingly no hope of ever be reassembled. Disease, illness, financial set back, violence, or a loss of a loved one has taken its toll and a sort of deadness has settled inside of them.
This tree also isn’t some sapling, but has stood strong for many years. Its weathered the storms and seasons, and its roots go down deep into the soil, but drought and the woodman’s ax has felled it.
Job likens the tree’s present condition to his life. Everything he had hoped for and dreamed about is gone. It’s dead to him. He’s as barren as this tree, and in his mind this tree has a better chance of coming back to life than he does in his present situation.
Many of us can relate. We’ve stood strong for years, but all of life’s disappointments has done their damage and has made us into a dead stump.
But we don’t have to remain in this condition. Now, I know how easy it is to stay in this condition, but we don’t have to. There’s hope for a new beginning, a renewal of our life, ministry and most importantly in our relationship with the Lord. There’s hope for our sprouting up again as a tender shoot. The question is how?
Job goes on to explain.
“Yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant.” (Job 14:9 NLKV)
Notice it’s at the scent, the smell of moisture, not the moisture itself, mind you, but just the smell of moisture that will revive what was once thought dead. It’s a deep down knowledge and assurance that the life giving and sustaining properties of water is on its way.
It’s this scent of water that I want to leave us with today. It’s kind of like the smell right before it rains. We sniff the air and we just know that rain is on its way.
What I’d like for us to do in our time together and afterwards is to be able to sniff the air of the spirit and know that the rain of the Holy Spirit is on its way. And like that tree stump, begin to open up our hearts, minds, and spirits and begin to branch out to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s life giving and sustaining waters.
And when we do we’ll begin to blossom with new life, with new and renewed hopes and dreams.
And so, my desire today is to give to all of us this scent of water, the scent of the Holy Spirit, this scent of hope, to renew, invigorate, and revive our souls and spirits.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5 NKJV)
There are several key elements to this New Jerusalem where the Lord will reign forever with all those who have come to belief in Jesus Christ, and who are written in His, that is, in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Within the courtyard there’s a tree that straddles the river of the waters of life. The tree is the Tree of Life. This is the same tree God planted in the Garden of Eden. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned by eating the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil, God cast them out of the Garden. The reason was because if they ate of the Tree of Life with the sin nature residing within them, they would be forever lost in their sin and thus lost to God, because God cannot condone evil and sin in His presence.
God then transplanted the tree in the heavenly Jerusalem where today it awaits its return to this earth.
In our description it also says that there’s no more curse.
Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin, the earth has been cursed, cursed to aging, corruption, deterioration, death, decay, and disasters. Yet in the new heaven and earth this curse has been wiped out and there is freedom from evil and death, in that both evil and death are tossed into the Lake of Fire.
Now, we come to the part that I’d like for us to pay attention to. It’s that scent of water we talked about. Notice the throne and who is present: God the Father and the Lamb, that is, Jesus Christ. But where’s the Holy Spirit?
If we look real hard we’ll see the presence of the Holy Spirit, for He’s none other than that pure river of the water of life that flows from the throne.
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Revelation 22:1 NKJV)
And so are you starting to catch that scent of water, the scent of the Holy Spirit?
Turn to Ezekiel 47
The reason I would like you to turn back to this Old Testament prophet is because Ezekiel sees a similar river in his vision of the millennial reign.
“The man brought me back to the entrance to 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. 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 trickling from the south side. 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. 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. 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. He asked me, ‘Son of man, do you see this?’ Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, ‘This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 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.’” (Ezekiel 47:1-9 NKJV)
Again we see flowing from the temple a mighty river. It’s about two and a half miles across. Why so large? Because it’s going from Jerusalem through the desert and flows into the Dead Sea and it’ll change the whole complexion of the desert as well as the Dead Sea.
These are healing waters bringing life and health to everything it touches. It will heal the Dead Sea. Waters that were once dead and deadly to drink will be healed and will teem with life. And trees will grow by the river’s bank, trees whose leaves will never whither and that will continually bring fruits year round.
Seeing how Ezekiel’s vision is of the millennial reign, the river will flow from the millennial temple where Jesus is sitting as King. Knowing this, why am I bringing it up since it will be destroyed with the entire universe as outlined in Revelation chapter 20?
The answer is found in what the writer of Hebrews says.
“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” (Hebrews 9:24 NKJV)
The earthly temple is a copy of the temple in heaven that will be coming down with the New Jerusalem. Just as we see the Father and Son sitting on the throne in the fullness of their glory, the river of the water of life that flows from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit
Notice what the prophet records of us
“Where the river flows everything will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9 NIV)
In the John’s Gospel Jesus uses the same phrase as he does in our passage in Revelation, “The water of life,” and refers to it as none other than the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” (John 7:37-39a NKJV)
This river of water that flows from the Throne of God; that flows from the Father and Son, that brings healing and renewal to all it touches, is the same river promised by Jesus that will flow into and out of all who believe in Him, and it is the Holy Spirit.
Jesus will release a river, that is, the Holy Spirit that’ll flow not only into us, but out from us that will bring both healing and renewal. Again, “Where the river flows everything will live.”
Are you getting that scent of water yet?
The Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NKJV)
Inside each and every one of us who comes to faith in Jesus Christ resides the Temple of the Living God, and within this temple resides the Holy of Holies where Jesus Christ sits as king. And from under His throne then flows this same river of the waters of life, a river as we have seen that brings both healing and renewal, and according to Jesus, this river is no one less than the Holy Spirit.
The question becomes, “How much of this river, how much of the Holy Spirit do we want flowing from us?” Do we want a small stream, or a mighty river? And even more, “Can we determine the flow?”
The answer is yes, but it’s tied up in Jesus’s trip to His hometown of Nazareth. Jesus desired to do great works there, healings and miracles, but the people of Nazareth were offended by Him. Let’s take a look at the results.
“Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6 a NKJV)
In Nazareth there was what we might call a power shortage, a measurable degree of God’s power was missing. Notice it doesn’t say that Jesus choose not to do a mighty work, nor does it say He didn’t want to, because clearly it was His intent to do so. What it does says is that He couldn’t because of the people’s unbelief.
Maybe to say it another way, Jesus couldn’t get enough of the river flowing in the lives of these people to bring a mighty healing to their lives. But there was a trickle, for it says that some were healed, but there was no mighty flow.
A measurable amount of the river needs to flow in order for it to make it all the way through the wilderness and to the deadness of the seas of our lives to bring healing and life and to produce that miracle, to bring new life and revival to our souls.
The Apostle Paul makes this declaration.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)
Paul is saying that God wants to super-abound in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the power that works inside every believer.
So, if this is true, which it is, why aren’t we experiencing the fullness of everything God would have for us?
What we need to understand is that the problem isn’t with the power source that is, with God, but it’s with the place where that power is being distributed from, that is, with us.
So is the Holy Spirit flowing out from us as a mighty river or a trickling brook?
What I found interesting about the river of life in Ezekiel’s account is that there are degrees of depth within this river. You have waters coming up ankle height, then to the knees, to the waist, and finally over a person’s head.
So how deep are we willing to go? Know this that the deeper we go, the mightier the flow, that is, the more healing and renewal there is.
I need for you to catch this picture. By the time he got to the middle of the river, the water was over his head. And it says that the river could not be crossed, and the reason I believe is that the current of the Holy Spirit is so great that once we give ourselves fully to Him, He’ll take us further than we ever expected and into greater ministry, taking us into spiritual healing and health.
Our problem is that we live in a world that is instant everything, from fast foods to get rich quick schemes. This instant everything is even prevalent in the church. It’s where we expect God to move according to our timetable rather than moving in accordance with His. But know this, God isn’t in the quick fix, rather, He’s into long term healing.
Renewal and revival is birthed through prayer asking God to release the flow of the river of the waters of life, to release the power of the Holy Spirit. And again, it is from Jesus Christ that this river of the waters of life flows from.
The Apostle James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NKJV)
Now, the effectiveness of our prayers in not based upon our own righteousness, because as the Bible says, there is no one who is righteous, rather the effectiveness of our prayers is based upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who sits upon the throne of our hearts.
Therefore, it’s through our heartfelt and continued prayers that the power of this river of the waters of life is released for this healing and renewal to begin in our lives and the lives of those we’re praying for, and this is nothing less than the power of the Holy Spirit that is being released in us and through us.
And this is exactly what we see happening when the church was formed on the Day of Pentecost. Following Jesus’s instruction, the disciples waited in prayer for the release of the Holy Spirit, and this is exactly what happened as the Holy Spirit descended upon them with the sound of a rushing mighty wind, and where individual tongues of fire burned above their heads, and they were then baptized in the Holy Spirit, and their lives and the life of this world was forever changed.
Are we getting that scent of water?
Maybe we’re seeking God for a particular area of our lives, like a healing, finances, or for a spiritual renewal. To accomplish this, we need to pray for a release of the flow of the Holy Spirit, because as God’s word makes it clear, everything will live where the river of the Holy Spirit flows.
Jesus ends this chapter in Revelation with these words, “Surely I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:20 NKJV)
Jesus is coming again, and it can be at any time. Are we prepared? How far out into the river have we ventured? Are we still on the banks afraid to take that step, afraid to go deeper, or have we ventured out only to our ankles, knees, and waist? We need to go all the way in and allow the Holy Spirit to overflow our lives.
Please know, the deeper we go, the mightier the flow, and the mightier the Holy Spirit will work in us and through us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study