This morning I talked about this incredible vision God has for the church, our church. In Ezekiel 47 we see the temple of God, filled with his glory, with water flowing from it giving abundant life to the Dead Sea. This is a symbol of the grace giving life that God can give through our church.
Water is an incredible symbol of life and grace throughout the Bible.
Consider the flood of Noah, in which the chaotic flood waters enveloped the earth to rid the world of its evil and making way for the new creation- the world renewed after judgment and the preservation of the righteous.
When Moses emancipated the Hebrews from Egypt they had to cross through the Red Sea, which God miraculously divided, to begin their trek into the Holy Land. As the seas closed in behind them there was a sense of no turning back. While in the desert the Israelites made extensive use of springs such as the one at Kadesh Barnea. At one point God used Moses to bring water from a rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites.
When Joshua took over Moses’s job he led the Israelites through the flooded Jordan River, with God once again dividing the waters, signifying that there were leaving the nomadic desert life to settling a land that God had given them.
Namaan, a senior army official in Israel had leprosy and the prophet told him to go dip in the sea seven times. He refused because he thought it was stupid. But the leprosy persisted so he swallowed his pride and obeyed the Lord. After dipping seven times he was healed.
In the New Testament we see water as a symbol of grace and life many times. At the beginning of his ministry one of the first activities Jesus did was to be baptized by John the Baptist. Then a little later on we see Jesus bring up water to Nicodemus, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the water and the Spirit.” Then, later on, towards the end of his ministry, Jesus says “living water” will come from him (which John explains is the Holy Spirit).
Then in the book of Acts we see baptism being used to signify a new beginning in the Christians life as well. In Peter’s first sermon we see him calling on the listeners to repent and be baptized as a symbol that they are now followers of Jesus Christ. 3000 people were baptized that day. In his epistle Peter even goes as far to compare baptism with Noah’s flood.
Then in Revelation we see associating Jesus himself with water. When John hears Christ speak his voice sounds like “many waters.” The simile suggests the mighty roar of confluent streams with a profound resolution being suggested. Christ’s divine word flows like a river. Again and again in scripture, word and water are held in tension, with God’s divine word taming the water. Just as the waters are tamed by Christ we see them flowing from the throne of God, from the temple, out of the New Jerusalem as a resource of eternal life and grace.
Water plays a significant role in the life of the Christian in meaning and in practice. God’s grace is no kiddie pool though. It is an ocean. As Paul prayed, my wish is for you to know how wide, how long, how deep, and how high God’s grace is for you.