Shall We Gather at the River?

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 47:1, 12
1 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. 
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 fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

Reflection: Shall We Gather at the River?
By Erin Newton

Ezekiel’s vision of the new Temple is confusing. Scholars have spent years researching the final chapters of Ezekiel. Truly, the reality of the Temple is a research rabbit trail for another day.

Some of the features of the Temple reveal a deeper meaning of the text. One of these features is the river that flows from the Temple threshold. The prophet follows the streams as they flow deeper and deeper across the land.

On its banks are trees of all kinds. They bear fruit year-round. The leaves are a source of medicine. Where the river meets the salt water, it transforms into a fresh habitat for schools of fish. It is paradise once again.

The river flows from the place of God’s presence, the Temple. This same place where the blood of sacrificial goats, lambs, and bulls had flowed in a meager attempt to reconcile a broken relationship. Blood had often flowed across the threshold, signaling the death of a sacrificial animal. But now, the thresholds drip with life-giving water.

The river holds numerous fish of various kinds. Once, the Nile River was plagued and turned into blood, uninhabitable for any living creature. It became a place of death and brought devastation upon the people. But now, this river teems with life and fishermen will spread their nets from the shore.

The river is lined with all kinds of fruit trees that never cease to provide fruit. There was once a tree in the Garden that caused the downfall of humanity. The fruit that brought death. Fruit that broke the relationship between humanity and God, as well as humanity with itself. But now, this river feeds life-giving water to the trees that never go out of season. It is always spring, and never winter.

And when the land is divided, everyone is included. This Paradise, fed from the fruit and water of life, is divided among twelve tribes. More importantly, the foreigners are allotted land on equal footing as the chosen people. Paradise is open to all of God’s people.

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod;
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river…

Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling;
That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness; and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God. — Psalm 43.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 47(Listen 4:08)
2 Timothy 2(Listen 3:17)

Read more about Christ our Temple, River, and City
Christ himself is our temple. He is the gate, the doorway, through which we enter to worship.

Read more about Hope Among the Traumatized
The living water Jesus and Ezekiel described should flow from us…a river that brings to life…

Hope Among the Traumatized

Scripture Focus: Ezekiel 47.8-9
8 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. 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.

Reflection: Hope Among the Traumatized
By John Tillman

Ezekiel is unique as an exiled, suffering prophet without power or political influence. When Ezekiel speaks of his home it is with longing and sadness, as a place that he knows he will never see again except in his visions.

Ezekiel is processing his own trauma and ministering to the traumatized. Many prophets bore warnings of future catastrophe. Ezekiel ministered to those for whom, catastrophe was past and present. He often spoke of the future but much of his ministry was making sense of the past. 

Ezekiel’s audience was traumatized by the consequences of their own actions. He spoke to people suffering under judgment, those who had been unfaithful. He lived among and served rebels who lost a war and oppressors who became oppressed. 

With all of Ezekiel’s baggage, (traumatized, suffering, living among the corrupt, dominated by an evil empire) we might expect to find him embittered, angry, and insufferably judgmental. Wouldn’t we be? Yet, Ezekiel is, more often than not, a prophet of hope. 

Ezekiel did teach hard truths and deliver sharp and biting critiques. He pulled no prophetic punches, yet he still, with kid-gloves, delivers God’s messages of hope, love, and restoration.

Ezekiel has unique prophetic experiences. Ezekiel is often transported physically across distances to witness events that happen in Jerusalem and in the transcendent future. Ezekiel, in his visions, sees both the surface reality and the deeper spiritual activity. Rather than a separate spiritual plane, Ezekiel experienced an integrated physical and spiritual world.

Ezekiel gives us one of the strangest, most otherworldly images of God. Ezekiel describes a God so other, holy, powerful, and perfect that we can hardly imagine that he should care for us or that we are somehow expected to be images of him.

In one of Ezekiel’s final visions, water trickles from the Temple into the land, becoming a river. This river of living water from the Temple changes the entire environment, bringing life even to the Dead Sea. Jesus identified himself as this spring, this source, of living water. (John 7.37-39

We are, each of us, a temple of the Holy Spirit and the living water Jesus and Ezekiel described should flow from us. Traumatized rebels live all around us in a Dead Sea of failures and sins. From our lives may there flow trickles of hope, which combine into a river that brings to life the Dead Sea and brings healing to the nations.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. — Psalm 46.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 47  (Listen – 4:08)
Psalm 103 (Listen – 2:07)

Read more about A Temple for Exiles
God is measuring out a temple of living stones which rest upon the chief cornerstone of Christ.

Read more about Model of an Exile
Ezekiel didn’t preach attempting to prevent the judgment of God—he already lived under it. Ezekiel is an exile. We have this in common with him.