What does the phrase ‘The River of Life’ mean?
Water is essential for life and so there is something fundamental about the sound of water running, which appeals to our senses. It has a relaxing effect. Trees and shrubs are often more abundant around riverbanks. They thrive near a water source, providing shade and relief from the sun. People gather by and on riverbanks, to walk or to sit, to socialise and relax. It is a good place to be, but ‘The River of Life’ is the place to be!
In the reflection on Lydia of Thyatira, I comment that she went to the river on the Sabbath. Possibly she was just there to socialise with other women. But, it was there at the river, that she found the ‘River of Life.’ It is a phrase and imagery frequently used in the Bible, in the Old and the New Testament. So what does it represent in scripture?
The use of the river as imagery in the Bible
The Bible starts with a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden and finishes with a river in the New Jerusalem, flowing from the Throne of God. What was lost in Creation due to sin, God fully redeems and restores in the New Creation.
The river represents the never-ending flow of God’s grace. This is personalised by the Holy Spirit, flowing from God, as He is the source, and gifted through Jesus’ work of salvation. The Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus’ work of salvation was complete.
Lifesaving, life sustaining, and life-empowering grace flow from the river to those who accept and believe in Jesus:
- Lifesaving – By grace we receive God’s love which restores our broken relationship with Him.
- Life Sustaining – The Word of God, by grace, provides spiritual food, the comfort and the strength for each day.
- Life Empowering – We are enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, which brings spiritual growth, and yields fruit in a life that flourishes!
Scriptures relating to the water of life
The Old Testament prophets and writers looked ahead to this day:
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”Isaiah 12:3
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”Isaiah 44:3
And Jesus announced this day, knowing that in Him and through Him it would come to fulfilment:
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”John 7:37-39
The last book of the Bible ends with an invitation and a message of hope:
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the gift of the water of life.”Revelation 22:17
Let us turn to the source, to receive from a God, a fresh revelation of His grace, to enable us to flourish in Him today, for His glory. Amen!