We are quickly reaching the end of our time in Ezekiel, with just one more devotion to come after today. But the text before us this morning (47:1–12)confronts us with Ezekiel’s vision of the water flowing from the temple.
Ezekiel’s tour of the temple compound is complete as we turn the page to this chapter. His attention will soon turn to the division of the land (47:13–48:29) and then close with reference to the city gates (48:30–35), but first his attention is arrested by a trickle of water preceding from the temple, which grows into a raging river the further it moves away. As he follows this stream of water, he discovers that it produces flourishing everywhere it touches. It is truly a transforming river of life. The vision is aptly summarised in v. 9: “Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live.” The river, which flows from the temple, leaves flourishing in its wake.
The idea of human flourishing is prominent in the age in which we live. People have all sorts of ideas of the best ways to maximise human flourishing. Ezekiel’s vision teaches us that, as flourishing resulted from the stream, which proceeded from the temple, flourishing must proceed from a temple-centred—that is, a God-centred, worship-centred—life. God-centredness, in other words, is the key to human flourishing.
This message runs counter to the messages from popular culture that litter Instagram feeds and make headlines. The message of popular culture is that we must look within to find true flourishing. “Nothing destroys self-worth, self-acceptance and self-love faster than denying what you feel,” states one Instagram meme. Another counsels, “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows, you, or makes you happy.” These are profoundly self-focused messages, which will never lead to the flourishing that God intends.
God knows what is best for us and knows what will lead to our flourishing. We do well to follow his design for humanity if we will flourish as we should. Human flourishing might involve any number of things, but when one thinks of a river that produces flourishing fruit, one cannot help but think of Psalm 1, which offers at least two important principles for human flourishing, and shows several results of those who observe these two principles.
First, we flourish when we keep ourselves from evil. The psalmist writes of “the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, not stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers” (v. 1). The one who flourishes is one who walks in integrity, humility, and dependence on God. He separates from sin and from fools who might lead him into sin. He understands the importance of surrounding himself with godly influences.
Second, we flourish when we pursue God’s truth. The psalmist continues to write of “the man … whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates both day and night” (v. 2). As the man separates from evil, he gives himself to pursuing God’s truth. He loves God’s word. He spends time in the word—reading it, meditating on it, studying it, praying it. He follows it as his guide for life and, through it, seeks divine wisdom.
This is a God-centred, worship-centred life, which leads to true flourishing. The result of keeping ourselves from evil and pursuing God’s truth is that we experience God’s blessing (v. 1), favour (v. 3), strength (v. 3), and protection (v. 6). The person who lives in this way “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3). He is a fruitful person—one who flourishes as God intends.
As we walk through a world that encourages all sorts of methods to pursue human flourishing, therefore, we must remember that true flourishing comes only through God-centredness, which requires us to keep ourselves from evil as we pursue God’s truth. This leads to a life of real fruitfulness—of real flourishing.
As you meditate on Ezekiel 47:1–12 this morning, ask God for the grace to pursue true flourishing by keeping him as the centre of your life as you keep yourself from evil and pursue truth.