I posted a status on Facebook this week with a question to challenge thought. I want you to take a moment and read Psalm 46. The verse I want you to really consider is verse 4. The question I have posed is “What is the river whose streams make glad the City of God?” The chapter itself does little to reference this imagery. I have received back some really good thoughts and insights from my friends on Facebook. I have also done some commentary and Scripture study.
Why do I share this? This is how you grow and learn from the Scriptures. Don’t just spend time with the easy stuff. Spend some time looking up something that you don’t get. This is not for a sermon. Nor did I start out with the goal of a blog entry. I posed the question because it came from my personal time in the Word with the Lord the other morning. So I thought I would just share a little how your pastor (or if you are not from Fellowship, a person you have for some reason chosen to read the blog of) grows from the challenge of digging into the Scriptures in his personal walk with the Lord.
So, what I have heard. I have heard how this refers to the River of Life, the Holy Spirit, and the gladness those cause within us. Really good answers and are true. I have also been referred to Ezekial by two men with Biblical degrees. The passage in Ezekiel is 47:1-12. In my reading (in commentaries) this passage could refer to anything from an army that chose not to destroy Jerusalem to the praise in our lives.
It is very interesting to study passages that cause different opinions and thoughts because it clearly shows the complexity of the truths we must grapple with if we desire to have an understanding of an incomparable God and His Kingdom. The challenge is, however, not to know the facts about the river that makes glad the City of God but to know how it applies to our lives so that we might experience the wonders of that river. (Way too many Christians today have filled their minds with the knowledge of such passages but their lives are completely void of such truth.)
So in my study and thought, I have come to this conclusion to share. The river whose streams make glad the city of God starts with God. That is an interesting contrast to the norm in how a river would make glad a city. A city is usually made glad and refreshed by a river that brings water into it instead of a river that comes from within. That is the difference between us and God. In my study this morning in Psalm 50 I was reminded that sacrifices were never intended to satisfy some hunger or need for God. He never needed any thing. He has never lacked anything. Sacrifices were for our benefit in the worship of God.
So the River does speak of the Holy Spirit and the River of Life. It is indeed the life giving flow that comes from God. This river that makes glad the City of God flows from God himself. In Ezekiel the power of this water makes fresh the salt waters of the oceans and brings abundant life in the waters of the world. You can keep thinking on that imagery but it is a wonderful picture of what the River of Life does when it flows freely in our lives and the world around us.
In further thought though, I do believe the streams are an important word in this verse. Streams mean canals or tributaries. These canals were purposeful in a city. Ancient cities did not have pipes as you and I are used to but canals that brought fresh water into the city and areas of it. These canals would bring water in and take water out. They make glad the city. They are a blessing to the people of it.
I believe that we are the streams. I believe we must become the vessels and tributaries by which the River of Life (The Holy Spirit) flows. We should be what makes glad the city of God because we have found our ability to make glad and bless God because we have received into our lives his life-giving and life-changing grace.
The deep truth to this passage and thought is echoed in the Psalm 50 passage I referenced earlier. God has never been in need of anything we have to offer. We have always been in need of what God has to offer. However, God has always found delight in what we have to offer when we respond to what he has offered. (You might need to read that one twice.)
God “inhabits the praises of His people” yet it is God that causes us the ability to speak his praises. (See Isaiah’s praise in Isaiah 6:1-8) Isaiah could not bring the word or praise of God anywhere until the grace of God had touched his own life. It is the River that flows from God that changes us and it is that river that runs through us that makes glad the City of God.
You might stop and think “how in the world would the average person ever tie all that together?” It is not as hard as it looks, it just takes time. All of that is not the result of a seminary education or a title at a church. Learning from the Word of God is the result of learning from the Word of God. I could not do that when I first started like I can today, but the reason I can today is because this morning I still asked the Spirit of the Living God I love to show me something new and to make me something new. It is a life-long process, journey, and joy. Seek after the Lord in his Word and respond by doing it (not just learning it) and you will indeed be a stream that makes glad the City of God.
Actually if you have received the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ you are already that stream. And the Bible says that out of the “overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” So get in His Word so that you might get into Him and allow the stream banks to overflow and bring gladness in the City of God.
So what do you do with this that you hear? Answer these questions and strive to see those answers change.
1. What is damming up the flow of the River of Life in your life? What stresses, distractions, or priorities are preventing you from fully receiving into your life the River of Life?
2. Are you offering to God what you have to give him or what he has given you?
3. When was the last time you said “here I am send me” without qualifications or limitations to what that meant to God?
4. When was the last time you stopped and simply allowed the grace God has given you in your life bring joy to his life?