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. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 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. – Ezekiel 47:7-12
In many ways this passage is an extension of the passage from yesterday about a river that no one can cross. This passage is about how “the river” impacts its surroundings and helps those that are close to it to thrive. This passage contains an implicit tension between the separation which was represented by the river in yesterday’s passage and the profound provision that can be found for those that are close to the “River“.
The water in the river being described here is fresh, meaning it is not salty. In this desert environment fresh water has special value and meaning. The effect of this fresh water flowing into a larger body of salty water is to freshen it, or make it less salty. In this case, the river is apparently flowing into the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest water bodies on earth.
All along the river there is abundant life, “where the river flows everything will live”. There is also abundant life where that river meets the sea as this fresher water is a place where many fish can survive. Areas that are isolated from the flowing fresh water source, like the swamps and marshes, are dead and have no use. There is a very real sense that the only way to survive in this harsh desert environment is to be close to the river, sinking roots deep into the fresh waters of the river. Only then are animals and plants able to thrive and bear fruit. Disconnected from this water source things wither and die.
Now to attempt to plumb this passage for deeper meaning. The obvious application that occurs to me is that we are to locate and place ourselves close to “river” so that we can thrive and bear fruit here in the desert-like land of Oblivion. I think in this case the river symbolically represents God and His Spirit.
So, as we learned yesterday, we have to accept that there is a “river” we cannot cross, but we also have to place ourselves close to the river and the nourishing Living Water that God provides as we are trying to work out what it means to trust God and “ford the river” with His help. I am not sure I have made much sense of this deep water, but I will push on down the river and perhaps it will become more clear upon retrospection. Only a few more passages in Ezekiel and I hope to make it through this reach of the bible before Christmas :).
Prayer: God help us to place ourselves close the nourishing living water Your Spirit provides.