How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. – Numbers 24:5-8
Rivers can be dynamic and dangerous places, but they can also be some of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth. God is like this…the lion and the lamb. When we plant ourselves by the River that is the living water of God we should be prepared for both freedom and floods.
I have had the good fortune to work on, or near, rivers for about the last 20 years. I have seen beavers slap their tails at my approach; gone for a refreshing swim after eating my lunch; floated through rapids on my back; been thrown from a raft in whitewater, snapped an oar while navigating a rapid, and I have been charged by a crazed salmon ready to spawn. In my wandering along the river banks I have often felt like the Mole in the book Wind in the Willows:“The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”
I love the imagery of the gardens by a river in this passage. I picture lush vegetation not lacking for anything it needs, sending out deep roots to drink in the water. I think God wants us to be like this with Him — planted by the river, sending our spiritual roots deep into his spirit for nourishment. The description of water flowing from Israels’ buckets is one of miraculous abundance, perhaps a foreshadowing of the fish and the loaves Jesus provided to his followers.
God leaves the Israelites with a promise that their seed will be in many waters. I picture the seeds of a cottonwood tree that spread and disperse widely floating on the river. As a follower of Christ I am in a sense one of the products of these “seeds”. Jesus calls on us to in turn spread the “seed” of the Gospel.
Prayer: God help me to remember your promise to provide the water that my soul needs to thrive and produce lush vegetation and fruit, sinking my spiritual roots deeply in your Spirit.SDG