In the Old Testament, we meet a young prophet named Ezekiel. He happened to be one of the few that God appointed to see things that had not yet come to pass. Sometimes, he saw visions of hope. Sometimes, he saw visions of judgment. Here, he would see both.
In the 47th chapter of the book that bears his name, Ezekiel saw a vision of water trickling from the temple of God. This water, representing the presence of God, brought life wherever it flowed. And with it came the promise that it would always be so. “So where the river flows, everything will live” (Ezekiel 47:9, NIV).
Each Time He Returns
What is unique about this vision is how the prophet himself becomes part of the message he would convey to Israel. In these first twelve verses, we see the Hebrew word “sub” three times. In most versions, that word translates as “brought back” or “led.” But the most literal translation of the word is “return.” It implies going back to where we came from – to where we belong. And it is important to notice what happens to Ezekiel each time he returns.
“The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…” (47:1 NIV)
“He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.” (47:2 NIV)
“Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.” (47:6-7 NIV)
What He Couldn’t See Before
In all three verses, Ezekiel was able to see something he could not see before. It is important for us to understand that there is a kind of clarity that can only come from returning to God. If you want to understand who you are… return to God. If you want to understand who you were made to be… return to God. If you want to understand how to live life to the fullest… return to God.
Just as returning to God’s presence always increased Ezekiel’s clarity, so returning to the presence of God will increase our capacity to understand what God intends to do in us and through us. The nation of Israel was meant to show the world what was possible in a life surrendered to God. But so often, they showed the world what was inevitable in a life lived without him. Through Ezekiel’s vision, we get to see a picture of how we were made to come alive and experience the freedom Jesus died to bring us. The first step is up to us… will we return?