OVERFLOWING RIVER OF LIFE
“This Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”
When Jesus began his public ministry, He went to his hometown of Nazareth. The townspeople only knew Jesus as the carpenter’s son who fixed their doors. They were shocked when Jesus went into the temple on the Sabbath to read the Bible; they had only seen Him listening to the priests in the synagogue, but they had never seen Him teach in front. Jesus opened the scroll and read the writings of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Many people saw this and wondered, “What is He doing all of a sudden?” Jesus then responded with, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). The people of Nazareth were probably astonished to hear this. They were “wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips” (Luke 4:22). This means they were probably thinking, “It’s unfitting for the son of a carpenter to be speaking.” However, when He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” let us believe that this prophecy that Isaiah had written was fulfilled 700 years later through Jesus Christ.
I must die to receive this Word.
Apostle Paul confessed, “I die daily.” We hope that, as long as we live according to God’s will, our spouses, children, and businesses will prosper. But does this actually happen? The things of this world enter us through our eyes, ears and thoughts, and they settle and reside inside of us, which prevent prosperity and peace from happening in our lives. Envy, jealousy, pretense and hypocrisy all live within us. Paul “died daily” for he feared that these things would enter him, which would prevent God’s Word from entering. The world has been crucified to Paul, and Paul to the world (Gal 6:14); to Paul, everything is dead and cannot affect him. Within all this, he experienced the new Word of God daily with thanksgiving. Each time he prayed, God showed him the mysterious spiritual world as well as the Gentiles coming to the Word. Thus, he received the calling to become an apostle for the Gentiles and realized his life’s purpose on earth.
My beloved saints, please kill your temper. Please kill the “self.” Then God’s Word can enter us, and we can understand it, live by it, and act according to it.
The most terrifying battle in the world
The Bible states that the most terrifying and hardest fight in this world is the battle against the self. This is the hardest and most tenacious battle. We may think we are winning, but we find ourselves losing. It is very hard to kill the self. We continue to endure until we can’t, and then we burst with anger. Even Apostle Paul, who prayed and received many answers, would grow weary and tired. Imagine how terrifying the fight must be when placed in a situation where attacking the “self” and surrendering must be done on a daily basis. There is a British proverb that says, “Man has not a greater enemy than himself.” Wang Yang-ming, a Confucian scholar of the Ming Dynasty, once said, “It is easy to catch the bandit hiding in the mountains, but it is difficult to grab the thief inside the mind.” The worst person in this world is the self. Plato also said, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself.”
The first and greatest enemy within our hearts is greed. This is the most detestable and abominable existence. At any given moment our hearts could be stirred by greed for power and status or an attractive person.
The second enemy is pride. This is when you act conceited and fool yourself into thinking that everything is fine when it actually is not. Solomon once said that pride goes before destruction. God defeats the proud, and gives grace to the humble. He detests the proud, but is joyful by the prayer of the humble.
The third evemy is hot-bloodedness. This is when you lose your temper easily. You believe that you are always right and others are all wrong. You believe that all your actions are correct while others’ actions are wrong.
The fourth enemy is jealousy. Jealousy will cause your household to fall apart. Jealousy is murder. It causes you to hate, envy, and lie without reason. We tear each other down by saying things like, “He/she went to some poor school in the middle of nowhere.”
The fifth enemy is laziness. Will a lazy person pray, read the Bible, care for the church that is the body of Christ, or care for his/her district members? The lazy only wander back and forth like a dead person. The lazy are mentally ill. Poverty comes upon the lazy one like a robber. A lazy person will have a spoon in his hand, yet will be too bothered to bring it to his mouth because he wants someone else to do for him. Apostle Paul told the Roman church to not be lazy, but to be diligent and zealous while serving the Lord (Rom 12:11).
The sixth enemy is resentment. If all goes well, it is because of me; if it doesn’t go well, it is because of others. We grow resentful when we think of that one time when we listened to someone we did not want to listen to, or go somewhere that told us to go, but we really did not want to. The 603,548 people who were resentful in the wilderness all died in the 38th year, before crossing the brook Zered. Only Joshua and Caleb, who weren’t resentful, lived. Even Moses died just two months before the entrance into Canaan, and Aaron, who succumbed to idle chatter, died eight months before.
The Word of God must occupy the hearts of all the pastors and elders here today. Because we fail to do this, we cannot understand the Word, no matter how many times it is given to us. The Philistines only pretended to believe but in actuality they were neither here nor there. Jesus said that they were like snakes and a brood of vipers (Matt 23:33). He said that they were not able to enter Heaven, and also closed the doors to the other members.
Today’s Word will surely be fulfilled.
My beloved saints, think of the Word that testifies of the scene of the record-breaking works in God’s kingdom and firmly believe that this Word will be fulfilled. Today’s title, “The Overflowing River of Life” is not a saying of the past. We must drink the life-giving water from the overflowing river of life, eat the food farmed from this water, and believe that this river of life will not stop flowing within us until the day we enter the Kingdom of God. This river is one that cannot be forded (Eze 47:5). The water flows from the threshold of the sanctuary and reaches the ankles, knees, loins, and eventually overflows the bank. It becomes so deep that you have to swim to cross it. Prophet Ezekiel confessed that we cannot cross this river upon seeing this. I sincerely hope we will realize that this historical Word will be fulfilled when we proclaim this secret.
What kind of person was Ezekiel?
The name “Ezekiel” means “God gives strength” and “God strengthens me.” I pray in the name of Jesus that we will become spiritual Ezekiels today. Ezekiel was the son of the priest Buzi, who lived during a harrowing period of darkness. This was a time of hardship and tragedy when it felt as if one was sitting on a bed of nails, or being pierced from all four sides when standing. He carried the grief of exile and was taken into captivity to Babylon alongside King Jehoiachin in 597 BC. Moreover, he was called to become a prophet five years after the exile (593 BC) at the age of 30.
On the tenth day of the tenth month in 588 BC, Ezekiel’s wife died according to what God had spoken. Ezekiel was commanded, “You shall not mourn,” and he could not even hold a funeral for his beloved wife (Eze 24:15-24). Think of the prophet Ezekiel who was not able to prepare a funeral, yet carried out his mission. His wife symbolizes Jerusalem, and her sudden death symbolizes the fall of Jerusalem. Furthermore, on the tenth day of the tenth month in 588 BC, Jerusalem was besieged (Eze 24:1-2). Even still Ezekiel was prohibited from mourning, for the defeated become servants to the victor. He had to use his whole body to foretell the misery of the day of the fall of Jerusalem. He was a patriotic person who loved the suffering nation and its people. When he prayed for them, he was able to receive comfort by believing that his dead wife was among them. He played the role of a sincere mediator between God and the Israelites (Eze 9:8; 11:13).
He was someone who experienced the fervent love of God. Just as a couple experiences their passionate love for each other on their first night, the prophet Ezekiel personally experienced this burning love (Eze 34:11-16). He was a priest who was very sensitive to God’s holiness. His life itself was holiness. As a prophet who prophesied to the Israelites, he was sincere and faithful to the Word of God that was given to him. He was without falsehood. He did not act conceited from knowing what would happen in the future. As the shepherd of the people, he was an empathetic prophet who was keenly aware of the Israelite’s tragedy because of sin, yet still fervently loved them! He always feared and loved God, and passionately loved both the nation and people. Was there ever a prophet like this after him?
The river of life that Ezekiel witnessed
In today’s scripture, the event occurred 25 years after Ezekiel was taken into captivity in the year 573 BC. This was fourteen years after Jerusalem was completely captured by the Babylonian army. At this time, he saw the revelation of the temple and was sure that it would be fulfilled in this world after the coming of the Messiah before the end times. Therefore, the symbolic prophecy of the time of the glorious church is contained in our scripture, Ezekiel 47. In order to understand this content, please read from Ezekiel 40:1 to 48:35. Today’s scripture of chapter 47 contains the passage of the “river of blessing.”
First, this river was one that flowed from the temple (Eze 47:1-2). The body of the temple is Jesus (Jn 2:20-21). Therefore, the temple contains the testimony of His precious blood. The Israelites treated Jesus like a madman when he said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They scoffed at him while saying, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” Even the disciples did not believe Jesus’ word and only realized that the temple was Jesus Himself after He resurrected in three days.
The river flowed from the threshold of the temple and poured into the altar. After passing the temple doors, it reaches the ankle, knee, loins and finally becomes a river that could be crossed by swimming. The temple of Jerusalem is not by the riverside, but at the desert and stone field. Yet the living water came from such a place and took over the whole world. How wonderful is this Word? To the prophet Ezekiel, who was troubled for his inability to understand what this meant, God said that this water was the river of life, on which either side will grow trees that bear twelve fruits (a fruit each month) and whose leaves will be for healing. Revelations 21 and 22 says that the Tree of Life will bear twelve kinds of fruits. God once again spoke of the fact that “this water flows from the sanctuary” in Ezekiel 47:12. In case anyone were to carelessly claim that the water flowed from elsewhere instead of the sanctuary, Jesus repeated this Word once more.
The river reaching up to the ankles represent the first-time believers. Adults reside in the deep end while the children paddle in the water that only reach up to their ankles near the gravel. The water that reaches the knees represents the saints who pray. They are better than the first-time believers for they have faith that is able to kneel. Reaching up to the loins represent those who wear the belt of truth and the belt of grace. We must wear belts to utilize our strength. Weightlifters wear thick, wide belts to lift heavy weights. The faith of the water reaching the loins is no ordinary faith, but there are still trials to face. They complain that no one acknowledges them. But once it becomes a river that can not be forded, one has to swim. In order to avoid death, we must swim across to our final destination using our internal organs, our five sensory organs and our whole self. Who will be able to survive in the last days? A person is really remarkable if they are able to swim across a river that cannot be crossed. That person is one who is able to accomplish God’s will at the end.
It is against common sense that clear water comes from the threshold of a temple in the desert. But doesn’t God make it possible? The court is filled with water. Water springs from every corner of our church, Pyungkang Cheil Church. May we believe that it is a blessed and precious church. As Jesus Himself is a temple, the saint is also a temple (1 Cor 6:19-20). God bought His sons with His Son’s blood as a price. We are a bloodstained temple. Jesus is the temple, and the spring water is the blood. There is a hymn with the lyrics, “blood-like spring water”. Whether in agony or joy, we must boast and be proud of the blood of Jesus’ cross.
The river of life flows out everywhere.
When Jesus passed through Samaria and met a woman of Sychar, He said, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14). I believe that this river that flowed to Samaria will be flowing, not only throughout Korea, but throughout the whole world. Jesus said that from the innermost being of those who believe in Jesus will flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). If we receive the words of living water, we will not thirst. Couples quarrel because there is a thirst between couples. It is because of this thirst that people regret having children. It’s a thirsty life when the wealthy suddenly go bankrupt. If one used to be in a high place but falls, that person’s entire household seems to be in mourning. The woman of Sychar also had this thirst for men. She already had five husbands and was with another husband at the time she met Jesus. But no one could give her true satisfaction. To this woman, Jesus gave the living water that forever quenched that thirst.
Living waters brings forth life everywhere it goes. I pray in the name of the Lord that we live sanctuary-centered lives to experience the power of the surging living waters. God commanded us to revere His sanctuary. If a sanctuary were nothing but a building made of woods, stones, dirt, and steels, how can it be a subject of reverence? The sanctuary is Jesus. Its leaves are for the healing, so all illnesses will vanish when we look toward Jesus. There is no thirst for those who follow the Lamb (Rev 7:16-17). They will always be satisified without any anxiety. So, please take to heart the Word of God from now on. God already proclaimed His Word through His prophets what will become of the world. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will stand forever.
Look at the widow of Zarephath. When she obeyed the Word and gave a handful of flour to the man of God Elijah, the widow’s family enjoyed abundance despite the three years and six months of famine. The disease fled away, and the dead son of the mistress of the house revived. When you give water to trees and flowers that are dying, they suddenly revive. I hope that we all believe that each and every one of us can also experience this in our life. Wherever the river of life flows, it will wash away all that is dirty, absurd and smelly. There will never be a famine in your household, and you will only prosper. You will feel true contentment when you look at your spouse and your children.
Finally, the overflowing living water will divide into many branches and go everywhere (Ezek 47:8-9). The living water will flow to your eldest son, eldest daughter-in-law, your younger son, younger daughter-in-law, eldest daughter, eldest son-in-law, and your cousins. Water is bound to flow everywhere. Likewise, the Word of Jesus is bound to flow freely. The Word flows as an ambassador of harmony to the quarreling couples. It flows wherever hatred resides. The Word will flow to stop someone from committing suicide. There is abundance in the living water. It is full of grace, blessing and abundance. Imagine a presidential parade, where every traffic light will turn green so that the parade will never come to a halt. Likewise, nothing can stop the flow of the living water. However, this river of life is slow because it stops by every house of the poor, the sick, and the ones on the verge of suicide. It will not flow while just overlooking others. This is why it has been flowing until today.
We must cross this river by holding onto the hand of God.
God is our shepherd and leader. He allows us to cross the river (Eze 47:3, 4). How do we cross the water? We must hold onto God’s hand. We must cross the same way a child crosses a bridge by holding onto the mother’s hand. John the Baptist was the line to Jesus. This line was the sound, word, reed and Bible. In today’s scripture Ezekiel 47:3, it begins with, “When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand.” The Word is the line. If the Israelites listened to John the Baptist they would’ve been able to hold onto Jesus. The voice of one crying in the wilderness was the line. Psalm 19:4 also states, “Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world.” The Bible wrote the word “utterances” for “line.” Revelations 11:1 states, “measuring rod like a staff,” which is also a line. This is a “line” that measures. There is no measurable line outside of the New and Old Testaments. Please believe that the Word is the line. They say that you must stand in the right line to succeed in this world. We will be outcasted if this line breaks. However, as long as we hold onto the Word, then we are holding onto the line of God.
If the water grows to become an overflowing river at the end, you have no choice but to swim. Hebrews 8:10-11 is a record of when “a world filled with the Word” is fulfilled. This is a time when we do not need to say, “know the Lord.” This is because we will all enter the river of life. Though it might have been possible through human efforts up until now, please believe that the Word itself will work during the end times. Jeremiah has also prophesied that there will be a time when the knowledge of knowing God will be full. At the end, God will work with authority. Despite sending missionaries to various nations for six thousand years, not everyone was able to be evangelized. Please believe that the will of God will be accomplished at the end times just like the days of Noah, when the Word flows from the temple floor and performs the works of spreading and filling the world. Is there anything more precious than this?
In conclusion, the Word must move us (Jer 31:12; Psa 36:8; Psa 46:4; Rev 22:1; Rev 7:16-17; 1 Cor 4:20; 1 Cor 2:4-5; 1 Cor 1:24; 2 Pet 1:3, 16; 1 Pet 1:5). Once the water surpasses our height, then it will move us.
When will the prophecies be fulfilled? (Heb 8:1-13; Heb 10:1-25; Jer 31:31-34; Rom 11:25-27; 2 Cor 3:3-5; Isa 54:13-15; Jn 6:45; 1 Jn 2:27). In John 6:45, Jesus said that everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Him.
The sea refers to the world (Rev 17:15). By the sea becoming fresh, all the fish and all of creation will be given the blessing of renewal. This represents the saints receiving the salvation of a resurrected life in this world of death, through the church that is the body of Christ. The fishermen catching fish in Ezekiel 47:10 represent the numerous servants of God and workers of the gospel that will come through Christ. I pray in the name of the Lord that we will all become fishermen catching various fishes.
We should not become swamps and marshes.
Ezekiel 47:11 says that even if the river of life flows to swamps and marshes, they will not become fresh but will be left for salt. The Common Translation Bible says, “The water in pits and puddles will not become sweet but will remain as salty.” I pray in the name of the Lord that when this river seizes the world, we do not become pits and puddles but become plains for God’s will and be loyal before God, drink the living water and even swim in the living water.
This is the conclusion of the conclusion. The river that the prophet Ezekiel witnessed foreshadows salvation through the church, which is the body of Jesus Christ. Please believe that the Holy Spirit brings wonderful blessings that will renew us, arouse our faith and repentance, make us God’s children, call God our Father, and accomplish holy sanctification (Eph 6:17; John 20; John 3:39). The Lord is the living water of the precious blood that gushes out. We must proceed on by hanging onto the measuring line which is the Bible. Please believe that if you carry the Bible wherever you go and read the Bible even for five minutes while waiting somewhere, you have already entered the world of abundant grace. The living water flows out from the threshold of the temple, so please believe that it is a blessing just to step on the threshold of the church. Do not frown after going back home from church. No matter how upset you may be, if you have stepped on the threshold of the church, believe that you have received the river of life.
Even though the world may howl and roar for survival, I pray in the name of the Lord that the saints of Pyungkang Cheil Church will swim across the deep ocean of grace, always enjoying full satisfaction and contentment. May we realize that we are sojourners in this world, and firmly believe that our city, our home country, is God’s kingdom, the holy mount Zion, and Jerusalem. I pray this blessing upon you in the name of the Lord.
Huisun Rev. Abraham Park’s sermon on June 4, 2004 during a special assembly at Chungpyeong Retreat Center
*This post can also be read in 'Champyungan'. (http://champyungan.com/en/)