Holy Israelite obedience would eventually change the entire earth, but where could anyone ever find the goodness that was required by God? Adam did not have it. Therefore, he was unable to receive the tree of life in Eden. Nor could the ancient Israelites put off their exile forever. They did not gain the blessings that could have been theirs according to Leviticus 26.
Toward the end of Ezekiel, the prophet saw a delightful vision of the world-transforming power of right relationship with the Almighty. However, time would show that the generations that returned to the Promised Land after the exile would have just as sad a record of disobedience as their ancestors before them.
What if they had been true to God? There would have been a river of life coming forth from the Lord’s holy place. The waters originating from the altar in the rebuilt Jerusalem would have made the seas fresh wherever they flowed. The trees nourished in God’s good land would have provided fruit all year long, and the leaves that came from their strong branches would have been useful for healing many people broken by futility and disease. A well-ordered Israel with extended boundaries would have been a showcase to all the other nations of the world, and even sojourners from other people groups would have found “an inheritance among the tribes” of God’s chosen people.
Could there be no fulfillment of Ezekiel’s triumphal Judaism? The Lord had something much better in mind. He would build a heavenly city based upon the sure and perfect holiness of one Man. Jesus’ death would provide a cleansing stream that would reach far beyond the Middle East. People from every tribe inhabiting the globe would hear the message of grace based on the perfect works of the true Substitute for sinners. The Spirit of God would bring resurrection life to a very great multitude of human beings.
Ezekiel’s vision was marvelous for its time, but it simply was not extensive enough for God’s ultimate purposes. The apostle John (Revelation 22:1-5) would see more than Ezekiel could have ever imagined. There would one day be a river “of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The ancient “tree of life” would yield its great harvest, and the leaves of that tree would be “for the healing of the nations.” Best of all, the people of God would “see His face,” and His Name would be “on their foreheads.” The citizens of the new heavens and earth would worship God without sin, and the Lord God would be “their light,” and they would reign with Him forever and ever.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our God, we want to see the water coming forth from Your heavenly temple. We want to put our hands in it, walk in it, and swim in it. We need the life from this river even now. That good stream brings resurrection everywhere it goes. O Lord, send Your Word everywhere, so that the dead may hear the voice of Your Son and turn to You. Surely there is a place in Your great land for all those who rest in Jesus. We were once foreigners to the covenant of grace, but now we are citizens of heaven because of the blood of the Lamb.