“. . . water from the sanctuary flows to them.” (Ezekiel 47:12)

Pastor Ino

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We have been learning about the book of Ezekiel for some time, and today’s sermon is the last one in this series. Today’s theme is the water of life, which flows from the sanctuary. In this passage Ezekiel has a vision of water flowing from the threshold of the temple of God. This is just a part of Ezekiel’s longer vision of the temple.

Ezekiel chapters 40 to 48 record the vision of the temple. God had chosen the people of Israel to become a holy people, a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). The vision we read about confirms that this is still God’s plan for Israel. The first important thing about this vision is “the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Ezekiel 43:5). Though the Israelites were judged and punished by God, his glory will return to them. They will begin a journey of being restored and blessed.

Let’s look at what was shown in the vision overall. It showed a temple with an outer court and inner court; there was an altar in the middle of the inner court. Facing the altar was the main building, which contained the sanctuary and a room called the Holy of Holies. That was the general structure of the temple. There were other rooms as well, such as the priests’ rooms and the kitchens. For Ezekiel, who desired to serve God as a priest, this temple was perfect. So, when the people of Israel returned from captivity, did they rebuild their temple according to this vision? Unfortunately, no. The purpose of the vision, was not so much to provide a blueprint for building but, perhaps, to remind Ezekiel of his priestly mission. Furthermore, through this vision, Ezekiel encouraged people who had lost hope while in captivity, to rebuild the temple which was the center of their faith. That could also be the purpose behind this vision.

So, firstly, the vision showed the return of God’s glory to his people. Secondly, the vision showed an altar in the middle of the temple. This is significantly connected to ideas in the New Testament. It foreshadows that worship will center on redemption by a Savior on the Cross. Indeed, the center of our faith is redemption at the Cross. Let’s ask ourselves again if this is true. Are we saved and walking in new life based on faith in Jesus? Through Jesus, we are saved from our sins and able to live in new relationship with God. Jesus on the Cross is the core of our faith. If we accept this redemption through the Cross, we receive forgiveness of sins and are saved. Ezekiel’s vision pointed to this redemption becoming the center of our faith.

Chapters 40 to 46 describe the structure of the temple and the ministries carried out there, while chapter 47 describes a stream that flows out from the temple. Jesus once compared himself to the temple in Jerusalem and said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). His disciple John explains that Jesus was referring to his own body. Jesus is the temple in which God dwells, rebuilt through his resurrection. Those who believe in Jesus will be added to his new temple and receive abundant blessings.

The stream flowing out of the temple points to the Holy Spirit which will fill those who believe in Jesus. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel: “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Furthermore, Jesus says in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” In verse 39, John explains, “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” Looking at Ezekiel from the perspective of the New Testament, we can interpret the stream in Ezekiel 47 as the blessings of the Spirit. With that, let us read through Ezekiel 47 more closely.

Ezekiel 47:1: “The man [that is, the angel] 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.” The water was flowing towards the Dead Sea in the east. The Dead Sea is a lake with extremely high levels of salt; as a result, creatures like fish and shellfish cannot survive in it. It is literally a dead sea. A friend of mine who visited the Dead Sea once floated on the lake, on his back, while reading a book. Because the lake contains 6 times more salt than the ocean, it’s difficult to swim; you simply float. But even in a dead sea, God can work miracles. In this passage, the man (or the angel) brings Ezekiel to see the flow of the stream from the temple. One thousand cubits from the gate, or about 450 meters, the water was up to Ezekiel’s ankles; at 2,000 cubits (900 meters), it was up to his knees; and at 3,000 cubits, the water reached his waist, according to verse 4. Then verse 5 says, “He measured off another thousand [cubits], 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.” The trickling stream had become an uncrossable river. In other words, a mighty river. In the same way, God’s blessings overflow from the temple. The vision shows God’s abundant grace that grows deeper and overflows from the temple to its surrounding areas.

Verses 6 and 7: “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.” The river watered many trees; it gave birth to so much life. Verse 8, the second half, says, “When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.” This is talking about the Dead Sea. Verse 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.” Water from the temple turns wasteland into green pasture. And there, life will grow abundantly. But unfortunately, there are places where the water will not flow, as verse 11 says: “But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.” The blessings of the temple will extend to some places but not to others. Likewise, when we decide to live apart from Christ, we choose to live apart from God’s blessings; and I think we should take this as a warning.

Verse 12 goes on to say, “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.” How does the river produce so much life? It is because the water comes from the sanctuary. In the sanctuary, God is present. (See Revelation 22:1: “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.”) Where God is present, life overflows and produces new fruit.

In summary, Ezekiel saw blessings overflow from a place where God is worshipped. Blessings that overflow with life. In the same way, we too can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Earlier I quoted Jesus’ words, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The Holy Spirit brings us many blessings, such as joy that never ceases, healing for those who are weary, and the overflow of new life. As believers, we can ask for the Holy Spirit to help us experience this.

How about you, brothers and sisters? Do you believe that we can be blessed by our worship of God and by fellowship with other believers in the church, which is also God’s temple? May each of us discover the joy of worship, and may great hope and joy flow to those surrounding us.

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