18 December 2007

Ezekiel 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 change.

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.

To Ponder

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?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Byass

Peter is a Methodist minister who spends a large part of his time working on the global health scene, from his working base as professor of Global Health at the University of Umeå (in Sweden) and on frequent field visits. Until recently he also chaired the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF).