God has called, commanded and commissioned us to ‘be fruitful.’ He spoke those words to Adam and Eve, as representatives of humanity. The big story of Scripture goes on to show the idea was that we would reproduce what was in the garden of Eden. People living in relationship with God would fill the earth with all the blessings of that beautiful place, where God walked among people in intimate friendship. The purpose of God is to use us to transform the wilderness of our world into the garden of God’s good presence. We should keep the call to be fruitful within the framework of this over-arching vision.
We see this great purpose being realised in Revelation 22:2 where the garden has become a garden-city and there is a river flowing through it:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations(Revelation 22:2)
This is a fulfilment of the vision that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel and which we read about in Ezekiel 47:1-12, a biblical passage which has been significant in shaping our understanding of, and participation in, this purpose. I offer these reflections on the passage to remind us of this vision we are called to be a part of, and to refresh our thinking about it.
I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple towards the east (v.1)
- The river that transforms the wilderness flows from the temple, the place of worship. Our worship is the source of everything. But remember, worship is not just a song raised up, but a life laid down (see Romans 12:1). The river flows not from our meetings only, but from worship as a way of life.
- The temple is also a picture of the temple of the church where God dwells by his Spirit (Ephesians 3:22) and so the river also flows from a church where we are devoted to one another in love, whether we are able to meet together or not.
…where the river flows everything will live. (v.9)
- The life of God is able to flow from us and through us into our neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools and colleges, and our community. Jesus makes it clear that the key to this river flowing from us is that we thirst (John 7:37-38) and that we come to him and ask (John 4:14).
Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. …Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.’ (v.12)
- The fruit is for others. It is for all people groups, without prejudice. To participate in this vision our focus will always be on reaching out to others, like the branches of the tree.
- But for a tree to reach out wide, it has to send its roots down deep. To fully participate in this vision, we will send our roots down into Jesus through his Word (Psalm 1:1-3) and his Spirit (Jeremiah 17: 8).
…there will be places for spreading nets (v.10)
- We will all have places and relational spaces where we can throw out the nets of God’s indiscriminate love. It is not for us to try to ‘hook’ people, or to judge who is ready or not, but simply to keep casting out the nets of God’s love wherever we are.
Let’s keep this vision before us as we seek to see the wilderness of our world transformed into the garden of God.