18 December 2007Ezekiel 47:1-12
"Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes." (v.9)
Ezekiel was a priest and prophet, living more than 500 years
before Jesus' time. He was among the Jews exiled to Babylon by
Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC. Today's reading comes from towards the
end of his writings, in a section presenting an optimistic vision
of new life. Perhaps this was partly inspired by witnessing the
fall of Jerusalem during his lifetime, and his longing for future
Chapter 47 has a recurrent theme of water, and its potential life-giving properties. Several times recently I've flown over Egypt and seen the Nile snaking through the desert. Apart from the river itself, one can't help noticing the narrow bands of fertile ground on each side - bright green, in stark contrast to the hundreds of miles of brown sand stretching to the horizon in every direction.
So there's no doubt about the potential of water - but what does Ezekiel's metaphor of water represent? Is it healing, life-nurturing? Whatever it is, it is there in abundance. Other prophets sometimes use water as an image of God's presence flowing in and around the world.
In New Testament terms, the central role of water in baptism - cleansing, renewing in God's name - is perhaps a logical development of this thinking.
Does the image of flowing water say something to you about God's presence in your life?
Think of all the ways in which you will use water today. Which of them would be essential if, like so many in the world, you didn't have an abundant supply of clean water?