These were a frustrating couple of weeks in Ezekiel for me. Frankly, I didn’t understand what I was reading. I don’t know why the measuring of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision is so detailed and takes up so much time and space. I don’t know why Ezekiel is given instructions for service in a temple that he only has access to in a vision.
But my frustration doesn’t really come from not understanding.
It comes from thinking I ought to be able to. I believe these visions were given, recorded, and passed down to us for a reason. I don’t want to dismiss them as irrelevant and move on. I don’t want to miss out. But trying to see what I’m supposed to see makes me feel stupid and small. Grrr.
I just don’t feel like I get it.
I have my leanings, but I don’t have any kind of well-developed millennial view or eschatological timeline. Detailed dispensational timelines and symbolic amillennial interpretations seem equally arrogant and often unfounded to me.
Maybe that’s because those aren’t the kind of things I’m supposed to be looking for. Maybe I need to back up from the details and just try to hear the message.
Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then he said to me, “These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh ; they will be left for salt. By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 37:6-12
And again, in Revelation:
“Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month ; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse ; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” Rev 22:1-4
The vision is given to two very different prophets, separated by hundreds of intervening years, but in both cases, this is a part of God’s offer of hope to a people ravaged by sin, death, judgment, and destruction.
And what is offered?
Well, things that have always been good and lovely and desirable to people. Rivers and fishing, trees and fruit, beauty and creativity, life and relationships, intimacy with God. Glory.
He offers the things every human heart has longed for—things he made for us, and things he made us for.
He already gave them to us, but they have been corrupted by the curse of sin and death. We experience them now as a shadow of what is intended for us.
Nature is beautiful, unfathomably creative, glorious, and intricate. But it’s a shadow of the garden, landscape, and wildlife of the vision.
With our God-given creativity, we can make some pretty cool stuff. But it’s a shadow of the art and architecture God describes.
We love and are loved, but we don’t even have a frame of reference for what it will be like to have open, secure, unafraid, and unhindered relationships with each other and with God.
Yet, that is what is offered.
Even though I’m sure I don’t understand all that is being communicated, I can’t help but notice that God’s picture of his plan for us looks like the fulfillment of universal human longings and desires—in a very literal way.
This was important enough for him to repeat. If he meant something else, couldn’t he have said so? And isn’t it most likely that he would have?
In any case, I thought this would be a good excuse to share some of our favorite shadow of glory moments from this last year. Enjoy.