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December 31, 2017

River of Life

Have you been to the River of Life? Have you taken the plunge? Listen for your New Year resolution.

Mike Gerhardt, 12-31-17, The River of Life, Ezekiel 47:1-12. In this last day, many of us are reviewing the year. We can be reminded of King Solomon’s pessimistic statement in Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. Though governments, economies, and technologies are ever changing it seems that some things somehow stay the same. The concept of new isn’t really new. Every month is a new month. Every week is a new week. Every day is a new day. Gods’ compassion is new every day. Lamentations 3:19-23: Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. It is good for children of God to look with expectation and hope. Philippians 3:13-14. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Isaiah 43:18-21: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! … I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Steams in the desert may be what we need. What does new have to do with Ezekiel 47?  It mentioned fruit for food and leaves for healing new every month. This passage could be referring to both literal fruit and leaves or spiritual fruit and leaves. Let's look to understand the spiritual context.
I. The river of life comes from God. Water is necessary for life. We can survive about three days without water. While a 5 percent loss of body water debilitates, a 15 to 20 percent loss is fatal. The water came from under the threshold of the Temples’ front entrance. The Temple was built upon the highest part of a mountain. No natural running water was there. King Solomon built aqueducts which piped water into the temple, so the laver could be filled for the priests to perform the ceremonial washings. This miraculous water, however, came from underneath the temple from within the mountain. The temple was THE place to worship, where this river begins. Before there is a river of life there is worship.
II. The river symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to water that brings life. John 7:37-39 Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this, he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. III. The river becomes deeper. (vv. 3- 5) Some try to keep the Holy Spirit contained. Some want to limit the Spirits’ influence so that things don’t get out of control. Our lives need the Spirit to cleansed, sanctified and empowered us. The intent is for the Holy Spirit to flow in and out of our lives like a river so the barren soil of a lost and dying world can be refreshed. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we must allow it to flow and to take control. It was July 22, 2006, when on the Penobscot River in Northern Maine; I was forced out of my raft by a wall of water. Let’s watch (play video 1min40sec). I was under the influence of that river. The current took me where it wanted. I bounced off the bottom several times before securing a breath and then it dragged me under again and again. Think about being submerged in the River of Life, the Holy Spirit, being controlled by his will and his power. Do you want to go deeper? You may lose control of your life. You may be led to do things you’ve never done before. Care like you’ve never cared before? Give like never before? Testify about Jesus as your Savior to people who are closest to you or who are complete strangers? Are you ready?
IV. The river brings life. It reached the Dead Sea, turned it into fresh water and gave life wherever it flowed (v. 8-10). Zechariah 14:8 states: On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea (the Dead Sea) and half to the western sea (the Mediterranean Sea), in summer and in winter. The Dead Sea, six times saltier than the ocean, will become salt-free: a miracle of God! This now-lifeless body of water will then support life so that where the river flows, everything will live. We allow the Holy Spirit to flow out of our lives to bring life to those that are dead in their sin. V. The river can be limited. Some will not receive the Spirit (v.11). Some will miss it. It can stop flowing if we allow sin in our lives. Psalm 107:33-34 He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. If the River stops flowing, there can be no new life. VI. The river causes fruitfulness (v.7, v.12). Along the banks of both sides were a great number and variety of fruit trees. There would be no shriveled, no wilting fruit - the word means "to fall away, fail, faint; become foolish or (morally) wicked." The trees which receive water from the sanctuary will not fail. Jeremiah 17:7-8 declares “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” These trees will continually bear fruit for nourishment and leaves for healing. Revelation 22:1-2 reveals the New Jerusalem, the New Heaven where I believe the trees, the fruit, the leaves and the River of Life are literally there as will be the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden. It says 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. There is a promise given in Psalm 1:1-3: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does, prospers.

What will it be for us? Will our lives this year be like barren desert or a fruitless tree? Or will we allow the river of life, the Holy Spirit to flow out of our lives and produce trees with an abundance of fruit for nourishment and healing along its bank with an abundance of fish in its waters? When will you take the plunge? Go ahead, if you must: Resolve to lose those pesky holiday pounds, exercise daily, and obey the speed limits. But I hope you’ll also have at least one resolution on your list: to offer yourself as a living sacrifice to transform the world around you for Jesus Christ and be filled to overflowing with the power and peace of the Holy Spirit like a river of life refreshing those around you.