Creation; Tree of Life
1 Chronicles 15:1–16; Genesis 2
Samuel Lesson #140
July 31, 2018
“Father, what an honor and privilege it is that we can come together as a body of believers. A unique body in this Church Age. All believers united together in the body of Christ Who is our head. This is the foundation for our spiritual life in our service to You.
“Father, we live in a time when so often Christians have lost the sense of what it means to worship You and to focus upon You. As it has been throughout ages often the result of corruption and distortion.
“Father, we pray that as we study, we might come to a greater understanding of the principles that are laid out from Genesis to Revelation that relate to our understanding of Your Majesty, the fact that You are the Creator of the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them.
“We cannot even imagine how to create from nothing a simple molecule. We have people today talking about artificial intelligence and we can’t even figure out or re-create the functioning of the brain of a gnat. And yet we blow ourselves up into thinking that we can somehow duplicate human intellection.
“Father we pray that you would challenge us as we study through Your Word tonight. In Christ’s name, amen.”
After the last couple of weeks, I’ve had several comments from people that are just a little bit overwhelmed with all of the material that we’ve covered, which is a good thing. I don’t know that you realize it, but there are times when, it as a result of my study and reading, that I get overwhelmed with what I am putting together, and trying to teach it and trying to assimilate it.
As I told one person I said, “I’m only a couple of footsteps ahead of the hounds on this.” So, it’s fun and it’s exciting to dig through the Scriptures and come to think through some of these things.
What we’re studying here is on worship at the very beginning, focusing on what it was like in the Garden of Eden. We’re doing that because many of the things that we see in the Garden of Eden are thematically restated throughout the Scripture until we come to the end, until we come to Revelation.
And that is a view that is not typically taught or understood. It’s important to understand this for a couple of reasons. So tonight we’re going to look a lot at what I covered last week. But we’re going to drill down a little more into some of it, or think about it a little more.
Last time I wanted to get the sort of “A-to-Z” down so that we could see what the structure was. Then talk about that a little bit more in the Bible class tonight so we can start to see how these things fit.
Eventually, and as we’ll see some tonight, you’re going to see how this sets a pattern: that the foundation of these patterns comes in the Garden of Eden.
Starting after the Fall, we’re going to see the introduction of sacrifice. We’re going to see the introduction of corporate worship by the end of Genesis chapter 3. We’re going to see the development of certain themes in worship that come to play through Noah and Abraham and Moses.
Then the whole full-blown expression of corporate worship in the Mosaic Law. Then we’ll get into some other developments. Each time we go through this, we’re trying to draw it out so that it’s not just talking about what happened in the Old Testament, but how that lays the foundation for what continues, and how those principles are laid out even in the Church Age.
We’re talking about what it means to worship God.
We’ve got a working definition here that biblical worship is the celebration of having eternal fellowship with the sovereign and holy triune God. I really want to emphasize this is biblical worship. What we’re doing is we’re developing a theology as we walk through the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
It’s biblical. It’s not traditional. We don’t want to do things simply because it’s tradition. I read a pamphlet years ago called “The Seven Last Words of the Church.” Anybody know what the seven last words of the Church are?
“We never did it that way before.”
“We don’t know why we did it that way, but we never did it any other way before, so this is how we do it.”
What happens when we study a topic like worship, we don’t think about it much. When you go to most evangelical churches, they do what they do and there’s not much instruction. I’ve talked about this, that we have a phrase that a lot of people use: “ritual without reality”. But the reason it’s “ritual without reality” is because it’s ritual without explanation.
Ritual relates to the symbols of worship. That’s part of what I’m talking about as we look at Eden, and then later in the temple and tabernacle, and then how the symbols are picked up. When I talk about symbols, it’s not allegory. The symbols are grounded in something that is literal, physical, and actual.
You have, for example, literal water, but that water has a representational feature to it. It’s used to represent something. So the literal rivers that flowed out of Eden were created by God. It is a picture of God providing that which is necessary for life. The emphasis here is that there is no life apart from God. We are also totally dependent upon God and yet man, in his rebellion and his rejection of God, wants to act as if he can sustain himself apart from God and find happiness, and meaning, and stability without having any kind of relationship with God.
Biblical worship is important to emphasize because, what happens in every generation, there is a degeneration that takes place in our understanding of worship. We often have heard the statement that “every generation has to earn its freedom again”. Well, every generation needs to earn its “spiritual freedom” again. Part of that is that every generation needs to recover from the natural, or the sinful, deterioration or decline that sets in, in every generation.
There has to be a group, a pivot, a core that is going to be influential through their own spiritual life. Not that they set out to be influential, but because there’s enough of them living their spiritual life and making decisions based on the truth of Scripture, it has a transformative impact on the culture around them.
Otherwise, there’s this deterioration into paganism. That’s what we see exhibited in much of the Old Testament. It is the cultures of the civilizations that surround Israel, or cultures that have a shadow memory of Eden. They have a shadow memory of that paradise of God. They have a shadow memory of God’s interference in judgments in human history.
This is often revealed through the corrupt and distorted memories that show up in their legends and in their myths and related to the flood. Almost every culture has a worldwide flood myth and that’s just a distortion of an original reality that’s given in the Bible.
Almost every culture, every false religion without exception (I don’t know of any exception), has at the core of its worship of its deities, sacrifice, some kind of sacrifice. Where do you think that came from? Was it just happenstance that somehow this just showed up across all these different ethnic groups and across different continents and spread out across the world? Or was there some original event that emphasized the necessity of sacrifice, and that over time, that got distorted and degenerated into different myths and different ideas down through the centuries?
That’s what the Bible depicts: there’s an original event that occurred. There was a historical, literal, physical Garden of Eden, and its memory is present throughout many cultures in different ways. But it’s been distorted and corrupted down through the ages.
So there needs to be this recovery of biblical worship, even in Christian tradition. It’s easy to get in the trap of doing things the same way every Sunday—that’s what we’re comfortable with. We grew up in a certain tradition. The church did things a certain way and that was our worship service.
Have you ever thought about that term? We call it a worship “service”. Why do you think we call it a “service”? What does “service” mean? It means that it is something to do with serving God. So, when we’re involved in a worship service, in what way are we serving God in that service?
How does that connect? Those are the kinds of questions that we need to ask. When we look across the spectrum of Christian denominations, we see that there are a lot of different practices that take place within certain of their traditions and their worship services. Where did those things come from?
Did they just wake up one day and decide all of a sudden we’re going to have liturgy, we’re going to do this, we’re going to light candles, we’re going to recite certain creeds? But doesn’t that have some sort of source also in a biblical archetype that somehow got a little distorted down through the ages? Those are the things that we’re looking at.
So in a working definition, the focus is on a celebration. Often we think of a celebration as having a big party. We celebrate New Year’s Eve. That’s a great celebration. We have a party, we sing, and we go to parties and we have a great time.
But we also have a celebration on days like Memorial Day, where we are celebrating the lives of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. It’s not a time for partying. It’s not a time for all of the things that we think of in terms of that first blush definition of celebration. It’s a time of sober reflection, or should be. Not a time of going out and buying a new washer and dryer at the Memorial Day sale or other trivial things like that, that often characterize our culture.
That’s what I like about being in Israel on Memorial Day. They have Memorial Day one day, and everything shuts down. But towards the end of the day, you start to see things change. You see some stands being put up. You see the loudspeakers coming out. You see stands being put up all over Israel. It’s preparation, because at sundown all of a sudden, it shifts from Memorial Day (remembering those who gave their lives for their freedom, for the independence of Israel in 1948, and continuing that), and it shifts to Independence Day, which now the celebration changes its whole tone and focus. The fireworks go off. There’re bands playing everywhere. There’re street dances. It’s just a remarkable shift. Those are two different ways of celebrating.
So, when we celebrate God, we’re showing gratitude, we’re showing thankfulness. We’re thinking and reflecting upon what was needed in order to give us this relationship with God that is eternal. Why was it important? Who is God that He made this?
That’s been the focus the last few weeks. Thinking about God as the Creator and the majesty of this God. Too often we have a small view of God, and we don’t think deeply and profoundly enough about God.
We live in a world that’s too busy. We live in a world that is extremely shallow. We live in a world where what reigns is the superficial, the quick, the quick sermon, the 20-minute sermonette. All of these kinds of things. We ought to stop and say: Does this really honor a God who has created a world that is of such precision, down to the minutest nano-particle? And a God who designed a salvation that is so complex and so multifaceted, but yet so simple that you can express it in a simple statement like just “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”?
We live in a world where most of us, myself included, don’t have nearly enough time to reflect upon God’s Word. We haven’t been challenged to do that, even in our own life.
Recently, as of yesterday, I heard something that I did not know before. I used an example before, that when I was in my first church (I pastored a church down in La Marque) and the pastor who had been there from 1933 to 1973, had retired and had moved back into the community and was in the congregation. I used to love talking to him because life before World War II was different than life after World War II (life in the 1920s and 1930s versus life in the 1940s).
This man went to Moody Bible Institute in the 1920s. When he finished, he went to Austin Presbyterian Seminary. When he graduated from Austin Presbyterian Seminary and wanted to be ordained, he had to take oral and written exams to demonstrate that he could read and exegete Greek and Hebrew.
I don’t know of any churches that do that today. Usually it’s a theological exam. “Are you theologically orthodox?”, something like that. But he had to demonstrate proficiency in Greek and Hebrew and theology. And he had to demonstrate proficiency in being able to teach the Bible. But you know, that wasn’t really that outrageous in the 1930s.
I learned yesterday that, before World War II, a man would not even be considered for ordination in the Anglican Church if he did not have all 150 Psalms memorized. Think about that. Think about the kind of culture that has that as a standard.
We can talk about, quibble about, the impact of liberalism on Anglicanism, but that reflected a culture and a foundation that went back 200 or 300 years that valued the Word of God so much, and that had a standard for men who taught the Word, that they would have so much of it memorized before they could enter into a public ministry.
If any of you have tried to memorize Scripture, you know that when you are reviewing it over and over in your mind, you’re thinking about “what does it mean?” and “what does that word mean?” and “how does this phrase relate to that phrase?”. It causes you to think more profoundly and more deeply about what the Scripture means.
So, that which you teach is no longer superficial. It’s not just something you cobble together on a Saturday before you teach it on Sunday. It’s something that reflects years and years of thought that went into understanding the Word of God.
This was something that the people in the pew did as well, and they were expected to do. It was a time, of course, when they didn’t have television (early 20th century). They might have had some radio. They didn’t have the entertainment distractions that we have.
We probably are exposed to more entertainment in 24 hours than they were exposed to in their whole life. If they were going from point A to point B, they were on a horse. Let’s say you’re a pastor and you’re riding that horse, you can let the horse go. You can’t let a car go. Can’t let go of that steering wheel. You can let a horse go and he’s going to stay on the road and you can open up your Greek text and you can read it.
Stephen Langton was the man in the 1500s who versified the New Testament. As he rode on horseback from Paris, France to Lyon, he had his Greek text open, no verses, just chapters. He marked where the verses should be. Those are the verses you have in your New Testament.
Because people had time, and they could focus on these things. We don’t have that kind of time, and we don’t take the time to discipline ourselves to do that. But this is what makes worship different.
Last week at the end of the class, I was tying some things together with the phrase related to “living waters”. As we worked our way through that term “living waters”, I noticed on Sunday morning ... How many of you all noticed anything Sunday morning related to the lesson last Tuesday night? Anybody notice anything?
We’ve sung this hymn #278 Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken, second verse. Think about the thought development of the writer. What is his understanding of the Scripture that produces this level of poetry?
See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the Giver,
never fails from age to age.
The writer of the words for that hymn is well known to everyone here. His name is John Newton. He also wrote “Amazing Grace”. This was a man who knew the Scriptures well, memorized large portions of Scripture, and thought profoundly about them such that he could write these kinds of words. There’s real theological depth and thought that goes in there that shows a familiarity with Scripture to be able to take the imagery from Scripture and recast that into this kind of poetry.
I’m not going to take the time tonight, but if we wanted to, we could go look at some of the ways in which contemporary Christian choruses use living water imagery and how superficial the poetry is. That doesn’t honor God. It reflects a superficial and shallow understanding of God.
And I don’t say that it to cast stones, because all of us do. When I read of men who have memorized huge portions of Scripture, it’s terribly convicting. I read and I study a lot, but the more that I read and I study, the more I realize how truly ignorant I am. And how much more there is to learn. And how much more pastors and theologians have read, and studied, and understood in the past.
This is what we’re talking about: if we are going to reverently adore and praise God, it is not something simple like just saying “praise God” or “Hallelujah”. But it comes out of a deep reflection upon God’s Word and appreciation for it.
That leads to the second part, which is an expressed commitment of trust, which is often what happens as we sing hymns and other things, maybe reading Scripture together or reciting creeds in some churches. It that expresses that.
But the problem with citing creeds, is that most people who recite them don’t know what they’re about. They don’t have enough knowledge of biblical teaching to really appreciate the nuances of the creeds and why they are said the way they are. It’s just something they mindlessly repeat. It, again, becomes a worship that is ritual without explanation.
Then the third is to remember God’s gracious work of salvation. To remember it means to go back to when it begins. That’s why we’re spending time in the Garden, and with the original Creation and then the Fall, to remember God’s gracious salvation and spiritual growth through divinely prescribed ordinances. All of this not only looks back to the Creation and Fall, but looks forward to its fulfillment in in the future.
I’ve talked about why it’s important to study this Old Testament worship. First of all, just emphasizing the majesty of God, and the breadth and depth and interconnectedness of everything in His Creation and of course everything in His Word.
By tracing these themes, it impresses us with how finely designed the Scriptures are. This isn’t just something that was written by chance by different people at different times explaining their different experiences with God. But it is the revealed Word of God that has significant pattern to it, that is there for a purpose.
Earlier when I talked about how the number seven shows up so many times in the first Creation narrative, in the seven days and how that’s repeated it. It’s going to show up again when we get into Genesis 4, and the whole episode with Cain and Abel. Down to this minute structure, there’s this structuring that goes on that shows how minute God’s organization of His revelation is.
The second thing that we see in this is that it allows us to trace key aspects of worship as they develop scripturally. So we will see the origination of sacrifice.
It’s interesting, I was having a conversation the other day about sacrifice. The comment was made, “Well, the word sacrifice is used of the ‘ultimate sacrifice’, the death of Christ on the Cross. And sometimes it seems rather simple and prosaic to apply that to times when we may give to the church, or we may do this or do that and call it a ‘sacrifice’.”
And yet that same word is used throughout Scripture to describe, for example, in Hebrews 13:15–16, that we have the sacrifice of praise to God. And in the next verse, it talks about doing good deeds and treating people with kindness is a “sacrifice”. Those are small compared to the major sacrifice of Christ, but they are part of the ways in which we exhibit Christ-likeness. That’s part of sacrifice and worship.
So sacrifice comes in and plays a part of worship, as well as proclamation. We see a phrase at the end of Genesis 4 that is not explained well until you get into Exodus. Yet it’s repeated several times. It has to do with “calling on the Name of the Lord,” which means to proclaim that which is related to His character.
That’s an important thing to understand when we get into the whole New Testament. It’s a major background for understanding things in the Gospel of John, that we have to understand God’s character. When you’re proclaiming the name of God, you’re proclaiming who He is and what He has done. How do we do that? Proclamation is part of every worship service because we proclaim the Word of God. We teach it and explain it.
In previous lessons, we’ve seen that often these worship practices in generations are affected by a worldview. So we have to understand that.
Second, we began to examine a key teaching of Scripture we’re tracing that through, and how God’s dwelling has occurred. We’re going to see a little bit more of that today.
Then third, we saw that the Tabernacle and Temple patterned a heavenly archetype.
Here’s where we have been developing. We’ve looked at Eden.
Eden is in the center of the earth. There’s really the whole earth. Then there’s Eden itself, and then there is a garden planted east of Eden.
These are three separate locations which are parallel to what we see in the Tabernacle and Temple. There is the area outside of the Tabernacle, that’s analogous to the world. Then there’s the Holy Place itself, the mishkan comprised of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
So the Holy Place is comparable to Eden. The Holy of Holies is comparable to the Garden.
This is used to teach things, and to remind the Jews of what there was originally. The separation from God is depicted, as we’ve seen, by the cherubs on the veils.
Man is excluded from the Garden. God set up guard of cherubs and angelic armies surrounding the Garden of Eden to prevent access to God.
Last time, we start looking at the characteristics that we see in the Garden of God described in Ezekiel 28— certain gold and precious gems.
We saw that those same gold and precious gems show up in the breastplate of the high priest and, again, in the Temple.
I didn’t take the time to do it, but if we go to the New Jerusalem, then these same precious stones are all around the New Jerusalem. At the center of the New Jerusalem is the presence of God.
So these things are not irrelevant to Scripture. God puts them in there and expects us to trace them out and think about their significance. It shows a unity in Scripture, and not that this was just different people doing different things on their own.
Genesis describes a situation. We talked a lot about water, and I want to review that talk about it a little more today. As God created in Eden, there is a river that goes out of Eden and waters the Garden. Again, there’s a distinction in those two places: there’s Eden, and there’s the Garden.
It waters the Garden. God provides for His people. He provides life. The water is a source of life. It produces growth in all of the trees and they flourish. There is a tremendous abundance there as God provides for His people.
The river that comes out divides into four. The Pishon, and then the Gihon, and the Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. Those are the four rivers.
Two of those names show up later in history— the Gihon and the Euphrates. But they’re not the same rivers that existed before, because they don’t diverge.
The Gihon, we had that name applied to the “spring” which indicates an underwater river flowing under Jerusalem and under the Temple Mount. We’ll talk more about that. I just touched on it a little bit last time.
The Euphrates is the river that represents the eastern boundary of the Promised Land, and separates the Promised Land from the plain of Shinar, and the location of Babylon.
Babylon always represents the forces that are hostile to God. It’s a literal place, and it was built initially by Nimrod, described in Genesis 11, as they built this tower to oppose God. That imagery is important to understand throughout Scripture.
But we have this picture in the Garden that there’s a river that comes out of the Garden, and splits into four. Then when we get to the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22:1, we read that there is “a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
This is the Living Water that comes out. What’s interesting here, as we read the chapter before, in Revelation 21:3, where he’s describing this new Heaven and new Earth. He says, “I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men ...’ ”
Now, this is in the New Heaven and the New Earth. “... ‘the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’ ”
Can you think of another place in Scripture that talks about God being with men? Anybody’s name that might indicate that?
Immanuel. God with us. El is “God”. Im is the Hebrew preposition “with”, and in Immanu, the nu in the middle of it is the first person plural pronoun. Immanu is “with us”. El, “God with us”.
Because that is the name or title for the Messiah, the Messiah is the One who will be incarnate and dwell among us. That word for “dwelling among us” in John 1:14 is the same word that we have showing up here. It’s translated “tabernacle”.
In the Old Testament, the word for “tabernacle” is the Hebrew word I have here, mishkan. Remember, they didn’t have vowels in Hebrew, so it just mshkn. The “m” is put there at the beginning. It takes a verb. The “n” converts it to a participle or a noun. So the main verb is shkan, which means “to dwell”.
It came over into many languages. In Greek it’s SKENE. See it’s “skn”. It’s the same consonants; it’s the same word. Where do you think that came from? It comes from, I believe, Hebrew is the original language, from the Garden of Eden.
But you have mishkan means a “dwelling place” translated as “a tabernacle”, which means “a dwelling place”. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men, and he will dwell (there is in the text of Revelation 21:3 the verb form SKENOO) He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, God Himself will be with them, and God will be their God.”
So we have that reference, we have the background of course as SKENE.. In John 1:14, we read, “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”––“Dwelt among us”, that’s “SKENOO” in John 1:14. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
This ties it together, this idea that God dwelt with man in the Garden, and He had close fellowship, walked every day with Adam and Eve. He taught them, instructed them, conversed with them, developed that rapport and that relationship until there was sin.
This takes place in this central place on the earth at that time, which is the place of God’s dwelling. This is also referred to by the Hebrew and Greek words that come over into English as “a sanctuary.”
So this is a place of worship in the Garden of Eden that gets destroyed. Man is no longer functioning as a priest, indicated by the terms “to work” and “to tend” the Garden. The Hebrew words are often used as the describing the work of the priest. He’s no longer able to rule over the planet as God intended. So God is going to restore all of this, and that’s the process of history going through the Old Testament.
When it is finished, we read in Revelation 21:6, “and He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of water of life freely to him who thirsts.’ ”
Last time we talked about this theme of the living water that goes through Scripture. Here we have its reference in the new heavens and new earth as the water of life that is given freely. That’s important because there’s this verse in Isaiah 55:1 that says, “Ho! Come to the water and drink freely.”
It is a recognition and this tying things together back to Isaiah, and it is the gospel that the water of life is given freely to us. We are not to work for it or earn it. God freely gives us everything we need for eternal life. Then Revelation 22:17 repeats this again: “and the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
It’s at no cost. This is the gospel.
Also, just to add to this point, in Revelation 21:22, there’s no temple in the new heavens and the new earth “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
The whole earth becomes the temple of God. His glory illuminates everything so that no sun and no moon are necessary.
Then what I did last time, I took us to a couple of Psalms that talk about this. Psalm 36:6, “Your righteousness is like the great mountains, your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.”
Psalm 36:7, “How precious is Your faithful, loyal love. [Your loyalty to your covenant with Israel.] Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings.” So we trust God because He is trustworthy, He is stable, He is a solid foundation.
“The shadow of your wings” is a zoomorphism, taking the image of a mother hen that is shielding and protecting her chicks. We worship God because He’s the source of all our security and all our life.
Then it goes on to say in Psalm 36:8, “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.”
We saw that it’s not river of pleasures. “Pleasures” is the Hebrew word “Eden”. This “River of Eden” takes us back to God as the sustaining Source of life, and that’s what’s behind here.
And the very next verse, Psalm 36:9, goes on to say, “For with You is the fountain of life.” If the “river of Your pleasures” doesn’t have the same significance as “rivers of Eden” when you see it connected to the next verse, “for with You is the fountain of life”, that should take us back to remember that God is the Source of our life.
This theme that we see through Scripture is God is the Source of life. Water is necessary for life. And so water is used to represent God’s provision for everything for us in life. It represents the free provision of eternal life that is at no cost.
Isaiah 55:1, I mentioned earlier, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters and you who have no money come, buy and eat.” It is offered freely. “Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
There is no cost to eternal salvation. It is a free gift, we have to accept it.
Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
It’s not a reward. It’s not something we earn or deserve. It is a free gift. So Isaiah 55:1 connects us over to Revelation 21.
Then I connected that to Psalm 46:4. For now, this gets a little interesting when we connect this. I’m going to add some other verses tonight.
Psalm 46:4, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God.” Some people think it’s a river of grace. Some people think it’s the river of God’s mercy. Some people think it’s the river of God’s provision.
It’s a literal river. It’s literal water that’s under Jerusalem. This makes the city of God glad because it provides a life for them.
You can’t have a city someplace where there’s no source of water. If you have a place in the desert, it’s got to have a well nearby. That’s where many places develop because they found a source of water.
What did they look for when they would identify a place that had water? Often you look for trees.
I remember when I was a young guy, I was probably 14 years old at the time. I used to go with Camp Peniel on canoe trips. We would canoe up on the upper Colorado River in Texas. Back then, all that was ranch land and nobody was around. We would just fill up our canteens out of the river. In August, the hot, muddy Colorado River wasn’t the tastiest water in the world.
But we were taught how to look for springs. You would be going along and you might see a sycamore tree. You’d realize that a sycamore tree sucks up a huge amount of water and usually they are at a spring or source of water. We would find springs at least once a day. We would find a spring, and we would go fill up our canteens with fresh cold spring water. And that was just great. It was so refreshing when you got a 105°F day and you are out in the sun all day to have that cold water.
Cities and towns would grow up around these wells because they needed a good source of water. So you have a source of water that God has provided for Jerusalem.
I showed you the map. This is the city of David. To the north, up here, this is the Temple Mount. The major spring was the Gihon Spring, with the same name as the Gihon River mentioned in Genesis 2. It’s not the same river.
But this doesn’t simply represent a spring that is there. There is a huge source of subterranean water here. But the water from the Gihon Spring would flow down. They built tunnels and it would flow down, all the way down to here, which is where they had the Pool of Siloam.
Or Shiloach in the Hebrew, SILOAM in the Greek. I showed you this picture last time. This is where Jesus healed a blind man, told him to wash his eyes at the Pool of Siloam. This is what it looks like today.
That water came from the Gihon Spring. This is when you walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. You’re walking through the water from the Gihon Spring.
Now the fact that there is water here is interesting. In Ezekiel 47:1, God is giving Ezekiel a vision of the future temple. This is the temple that is built during the Millennium, during the Messianic Age.
There is, at the end of the Tribulation period, this huge earthquake and this uplift in Jerusalem, so that there is a new Temple Mount that is a mile square. It’s is huge. It’s enormous. It’s much larger than what we have today.
What Ezekiel describes is that this angel is giving him this tour. Ezekiel 47:1, “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east.”
Well, what’s east of the Temple Mount today? It’s the Kidron Valley. So you have this water that flows that way, and it flows from under the right side of the Temple, from the south of the altar.
This now becomes the new River of Life in the Millennial Kingdom. It flows from the altar in the Temple.
What happens also at the end of the Tribulation (in Zechariah 14:8), “in that day, it shall be that living waters …”
Notice that, not “dead waters”. Here it’s not talking about living waters in a spiritual sense, but living waters that produce life, physical life. It’s going to contrast it to the saltwater that’s in the Dead Sea. Nothing lives in the Dead Sea.
But what happens at the end of the Tribulation, when Jesus returns and He steps down on the Mount of Olives? There will be this earthquake and it splits north to south, and opens up an east-west causeway, so that the Jews who have been trapped in Jerusalem can escape.
It creates an opening to this underground river that is under Jerusalem, so that water comes out. Part of it flows west to the Mediterranean Sea, and the other part flows east to the Dead Sea and completely rejuvenates the water in the Dead Sea, so that it produces life.
This is why it’s referred to as living water. All of this takes us back to understanding what God is doing.
What we see in summary, here is the city of David and the Temple are described as being over a river of water. This becomes evident only in the future Millennium. The Temple Mount becomes a source of water that flows out past the Mount of Olives. Again, it fits within the structure of all of this imagery.
Second, the use of literal flowing water is a picture of God’s future deliverance and salvation. It’s not just the fact that there’s living physical water, but it depicts something. It’s not just a symbol. There really will be this actual living water there.
It’s also used as a picture of the abundance of life. The abundance of God’s blessing is also a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit in the future kingdom under the New Covenant. With the New Covenant, you have a fresh outpouring of God the Holy Spirit and the rich blessings that will come upon Israel.
Then, fourth, the waters are also a picture of eternal life as a free gift of God. So God multi-tasks in the way that He uses these particular symbols.
God is always viewed as the Source of the water. He’s the Source of life. He’s the One who provides.
In Jeremiah 2:13, you see the Israelites forsaking God and turning to idols. Who is one of the main idols that influences Israel during the Old Testament period, from the time of Ahab on? Who’s the main god that gets them all distracted into the fertility worship?
Baal. What kind of god is he? He’s a strong god. He’s the god who brings rain and thunder. This is why, when Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal, that he sets the whole contest up by declaring that there won’t be rain until he decrees it. And, for 3-1/2 years there’s no rain.
Then Elijah is going to show up and challenge them to a battle. Building a big altar, and putting a sacrifice on it, and calling on Baal to light it, because he’s also the god of thunder and lightning, and he completely fails.
Then God is not only going to completely incinerate that altar, afterward Elijah is going to look off towards the Mediterranean Sea and he is going to see a small cloud that grows into a thunderstorm. Then He comes and begins to bring rain on Israel after 3-1/2 years, demonstrating that Baal doesn’t do anything. It is God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the God. He is the source of living water. He is the One who provides.
Now we skip ahead (we did this last time) to John 4 briefly. I wanted to stop and talk a little bit more about what’s happening in John 4. This is the third major episode that we see in John, or you could say it’s the fourth, but I’m just starting with the first episode where Jesus is at the wedding at Cana.
The second major episode is when he is having his conversation with Nicodemus. The third major episode is when He has this meeting with the Samaritan woman.
You have to understand what’s going on here. Samaria is the area that previously was Israel, the Northern Kingdom. It is located between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. The Israelites who had traditionally lived there were taken away by the Assyrians and other peoples were moved there. Their population was shifted so that they would not be able to unite in rebellion against the Assyrian Empire.
So you had this completely new hybrid of people there that were partially Jewish and partially whatever, and wherever they came from in the Assyrian Empire. They were looked down upon as sort of a half-breed, hybrid people by the Jews. There was no respect for them.
In fact, the Jews didn’t even want to go there. They would often walk to the other side of the Jordan River. If they were in Galilee and walking south, instead of the direct route due south [through Samaria], they would cross the Jordan and come down on the eastern side of the Jordan before they crossed back at Jericho and came to Jerusalem.
But Jesus takes his disciples the straight route through Samaria because He’s going to meet with this particular woman. So they come to Sychar, we’re told in John 4:5, which is near Shechem. It is a small village that is near Shechem that is down the hill from Shechem. Shechem is where modern Nablus is.
This woman has to climb this hill. She’s got to walk about a half mile uphill to get to this well. The well is near this plot of ground we’re told, as mentioned in the Old Testament that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there.
So Jesus goes there to be refreshed, and this Samaritan woman comes to the well. Jesus says, “Give Me a drink.”
She wants to know why He’s talking to her because He’s a Jew, and a Jewish male would never ask a woman to give him a drink, or not a Samaritan woman, at least, because they would have no dealings with her.
So He says to her in John 4:10, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”
I mentioned this last time. It’s that theme of living water. What does he mean by that? He phrases this in a somewhat cryptic way because she’s got to wonder “What is this gift of God?” and “Who are you that is saying this?” It raises questions in her mind.
Here is a picture of this well. Today it is 75 feet deep. It’s one of the deepest wells in Israel. Of course, over the centuries, a lot of dirt and detritus, and everything, probably rocks and everything, have filled it in some, so it was probably much deeper at that point. It is located inside of a church in Nablus.
This is Tommy Ice here on the right and then Joel Kramer on the left. We were able to get water in the silver bucket that’s over there by Joel. We would drop it down and we got to drink the water. It’s great. It’s pure. It’s wonderful. This is exactly where Jesus was. He was right here by this well, talking to this woman. Just amazing that you can go to a place like that.
Here’s another look at the well.
So, they had this conversation, and the woman says, “you have nothing to draw with, the well is deep. How are going to get that living water?” (John 4:11) She hasn’t figured out that the living water is symbolic of what Jesus is getting ready to show her.
In John 4:13 Jesus says, “whoever drinks of this water (the physical water) will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Wow. What does that mean? He’s talking about salvation here. It’s not going to just take care of physical life, it’s going to provide eternal life. “How do you get this water?” That’s eventually what she is going to ask.
But, in the meantime, He’s got to demonstrate who He is because she’s not too sure who He is.
She wants the water. Basically, in John 4:15, she says, “give me this water that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” She’s tired of walking up that hill every morning. She’s going to walk up that hill and walk back, several times a day, to get enough water. That was laborious. She just wants relief from her thirst.
Then Jesus says, “go, call your husband” in John 4:16. A couple things are going on there. First of all, He’s a Jewish male. She is a female, and so He’s got to go through her husband. He wants to show that He’s showing proper respect, that “you should bring your husband here and I will provide this for him”.
But that also serves a purpose to expose the sin in her life. Jesus does it in a very tactful manner. He’s not trying to embarrass her, but she gets the point. She says, “I have no husband” in John 4:17. And Jesus says “You said that correctly. You have had five husbands; and the one you’re with now is not your husband. You’re just living with this guy.”
She recognizes that He must be a prophet, have insight from God, or there is something special about Him, because He knows all of her dark secrets. And so she says, “I perceive you are prophet” in John 4:19.
Then she wants to change the topic to one of the really controversial issues between Samaritans and Jews. Jews said worship should be at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, whereas the Samaritans said that the Temple should be on Mount Gerizim.
You go there today, they have a temple there and they sacrifice animals there. Joel Kramer’s got a video about The Sacrifice up on his website. You can you can look at that. That’s what they do: every year at Passover, they slaughter the lambs.
She raises his controversial issue, and Jesus says in John 4:21, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.”
There’s going to be a change.
He says in John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know.”
They thought they knew. Jesus is not being winsome here. He’s not catering to their ignorance. He says, “you worship what you are ignorant of”.
“We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews,” not from the Samaritans.
John 4:23, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; (or literally, by means of the Holy Spirit and by means of truth) for the Father is seeking such to worship him.
John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in [or by means of] Spirit and truth.”
There are a lot of different lessons that are wrapped up in this. What we see here is a reiteration of the same theme that goes on and on: that God is the only Source of light and life.
He’s the One who provides the living water. Living water represents life.
We see from John 1 that Jesus Christ is the revelation of light and life.
So Jesus offers the water of life, through faith alone, as a free gift to her. And she accepts it. She goes back, and runs into town to tell everybody what has happened to her.
Now the same theme gets picked up, I talked about this last time in John 7:37, I was rushed at the end, because I wanted to get this whole connection down.
“On the last day (that’s the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles), the great day of the feast (this may have been the eighth day. It usually lasted seven days, but they celebrated always on the eighth day)that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink.’ ”
He’s identifying Himself as the Source of the living waters. John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
The rivers of living water are the source of life eternal. So if you accept Jesus, then what flows from you as a regenerate believer is the information needed to have life eternal. That’s the imagery here. The rivers that come out of you aren’t literal rivers. It’s the rivers that come as you tell others about Jesus.
This goes back to passages like Isaiah 12:3, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
These were sung by the Jews on that eighth day, along with Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,cCome to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
We have seen this before.
As we study through this, one of the things that comes out is that, in this particular episode at the time of the feast, the high priest and another priest would go each morning, each of the seven mornings through the feast, and they would go down to the Pool of Siloam.
That’s the pool I had the picture of earlier. They would draw water from that Pool of Siloam. That’s the river that God has provided, according to Psalm 46, for the joy of Jerusalem.
So they’re taking that water each morning and they carry it back up into the Temple through the Water Gate, to the Temple courtyard. There they would ceremoniously pour out the water into a silver basin on the west side of the brazen altar so that it would flow down through a gutter to the base of the altar.
As they did this, the Jews are singing these hymns from Isaiah 12 and Isaiah 53. So every day they would then pour this out as an offering to God, which represents God’s provision of water and life during the during the wilderness, striking though the rock and providing water.
But it has a forward picture because John interprets what Jesus is saying in John 7:39 and says, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive;”
That is depicting what will happen in the Church Age—the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in every believer.
He says, “for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The implication there is that the Spirit is given after Jesus is glorified. When is He glorified? After the Ascension, when He sits at the right hand of the Father, He’s glorified. Then the Spirit is given on the Day of Pentecost.
What happens then is He indwells every believer. We learn from 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 where Paul says, first, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God?”
So it shifts from something external, to something that is related to every individual believer. The Spirit of God dwells in us—not in a physical temple or tabernacle, but in our bodies, as we are prepared as a dwelling place for God the Son.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you …”(we’re indwelt by Father, Son and Holy Spirit) “whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
What we see here is that this whole concept of the River of Life is one that flows all the way through the Old Testament, and points eventually to salvation, which is what Jesus clearly articulates in the Gospels, and ultimately to the provision of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Our life is to be a life of worship and service to God.
So next time we’re going to come back and talk about the Tree of Life. Then what happens with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and into Genesis 4. That will be next week.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to look at how You have woven these themes. You have designed this from eternity past, so that these themes, these ideas, would be structured into the Scripture. And be structured into the world, so that there would be the water under the Temple Mount, that there would be the Gihon Spring located there by that finger of land that is the old City of David, the city of the Jezreelites.
“Father, we pray that we might come to understand that all of this reflects Your Majesty and the fact that You are the Creator and the One who oversees all of creation. Therefore, You are the only One who is worthy of worship, and worthy to be praised.
“We pray that You would use this to challenge us in terms of our own understanding of Scripture, that we might push ourselves to go beyond the easy and the superficial that characterizes so much of modern life. And that we would take the time to truly seek You in Your Word, and to learn about You, and to internalize what You have revealed in Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”