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Waters to Swim in

John Alfred Trench

In turning to Ezekiel 47:1-12, it is to the younger people here that I desire specially to address myself.

Just before this chapter we have elaborate descriptions, measurements, and ordinances of the Temple, to be erected in view of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to reign over His earthly people Israel and the setting up of His Kingdom. And we have in the vision seen by the prophet a description of the waters which will flow out from beneath the House of God, towards the east, in increasing volume until they reach the Dead Sea, resulting in the “healing” of that Sea. These living waters flowing produce life and blessing whore they go and also fruit-bearing trees of all varieties of luxuriant growth, whore previously all had been barrenness and death.

The waters, it will be noticed, find their spring in God Himself, and flow from under His dwelling place by the south side of the altar—which indicates that the love of God could only reach this world by way of the Cross (which the altar typifies) where our blessed Lord by His atoning death made a righteous channel for the love of God to flow down.

Jerusalem, where shall stand the Temple, is separated from the Dead Sea by about twelve miles in a direct line east which there reaches the northern bounds of that sea. The man with the measuring line measured 1,000 cubits, and the waters at that point were ankle deep: then he measured another 1,000, and the waters were up to the knees: then again 1,000 more, and the waters were up to the loins, and finally,when he had measured the fourth thousand cubits, they were so deep he could not pass over them, “the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.”

Then the man that had conducted the prophet so far, caused him to return to the brink of the river. “Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country and go into the sea (i.e. the Dead Sea) which being brought forth into the Sea the waters shall be healed.”

And he is told that it should come to pass. . . that wherever the waters should come there should be life, and a very great multitude of fish because these waters (from under God’s House) should come there, for they shall be healed, and everything shall live whither the river cometh. . . their fish shall be according to their kinds. as the fish of the Great Sea exceeding many.”

The Great Sea is the Mediterranean, and we know from Joel 3:18 and Zechariah 14:8, that there will be a great valley created between the Mediterranean and Jerusalem, and thence to the Dead Sea, which accounts for “Great Sea” fish being in that wonderful day, found in the Dead Sea.

Now read the 12th verse, and notice that along the banks of this glorious river, “all trees for food shall grow, whose leaves never fade, nor the fruit be consumed” (endless supply), “and they shall bring forth new fruit according to the months.” Why? “because their waters issued out of the Sanctuary.” Note well this statement.

So far for the passage we are considering. But it is the application to ourselves spiritually that is important, and I would now refer you to the Gospe1 of John for the antitype today. For whilst our chapter speaks of physical and material changes for the earth, you can see from chapter 22 of the Revelation, verses 1-7, that very much the same figures are therein used to describe the spiritual blessings and glories in the new Jerusalem—the Lamb’s Wife—the Church in the millennial day.

Let us now trace the water in John’s Gospel. We shall find its spring in chapter 3, where our Lord tells Nicodemus that there must be new birth to see or enter into the kingdom of God. He must be born again, born of water and of the Spirit.

Now it would be well that all of us should understand clearly as to new birth. This is the necessary start, and it is very blessed not to have a doubt as to one’s having really been born of the water and the Holy Ghost. But let us not be satisfied with just being born, for it is only the start. Shall I say just “ankle” deep? The ankles suggest walking, and we cannot begin the Christian walk until born again. Many seem to be satisfied with just being converted, and do not make much further progress. Now again let me press that this is merely the start, though a very blessed one.

Turn now to chapter 4, the next chapter, where we read of the woman at the well of Sychar. She was in character the exact opposite to the man in chapter 3. The Lord had to administer some pretty hard blows in dealing with the proud Pharisee, to show him that however fair religious “flesh” might appear, no amount of sanctimoniousness could make “the flesh” anything but “flesh,” and “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

The Lord uses very different treatment with this poor, degraded Samaritan. He disarmed her at once by putting Himself, as it were, under an obligation to her by asking her for a drink of water, which, by the way, we do not know that He received. She was amazed that a Jew would have any “dealings” with such as she, and the Lord soon showed her that He knew something worse about her than her Samaritan origin. But He attracts her by saying, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water.” “From whence,” saith she, “hast Thou that living water? The well is deep, and Thou hast nothing to draw with.” And the Lord replied, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give Him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.”

Now surely this phase of the water is more advanced than what we have been considering in chapter 3. Here it is, no doubt, eternal life in the power of the Spirit of God, because in chapter 7:20, where “living water” is again spoken of, we read “this spake He concerning the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Chapter 4 does not speak of the Holy Ghost’s indwelling, but of life received in His power, a fountain of living water springing up into its source, eternal life.

The Samaritan worship (always false) was not only now to be set aside, but even proud Jerusalem, with its divinely authenticated services was to cease, for God was seeking worshippers in spirit and in truth, and as the “ankle” deep water suggests a move towards God, this further development of it, the enjoyed spring of divine love in our hearts, suggests waters up to the “knees” and we prostrate ourselves before God in adoring worship. Let us not be satisfied with anything short of a heart flowing over in praise to our adorable God and Father.

Then she leaves her waterpot, forgets all about what she came to the well for, and goes off to the men in the city to say, “Come, see a man that told me all that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?” and the river of mercy flowed freely for some days in Sychar and many believed.

Now let us look briefly at the seventh chapter. Here we find that the Lord would not go up to Jerusalem to take part in the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the last feast in the year, and the only joyful one. He always went to the Passover Feast, which was to gain its fulfilment in His death, but the Feast of Tabernacles awaits what it was typical of, viz: the re-assembling of Israel when nationally converted and gathered back into their own land, owning the Lord Jesus, whom they murdered, to be their Messiah and King. The Lord could not take part in this Feast, for He, who alone could give it reality, was rejected by the Jews.

But at the last day, the great day of the Feast, He went up and cried, “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink: He that believeth on Me. . . out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Thus He exposed the shallow hypocrisy of the whole scene, and invited the many unsatisfied formalists to come unto Him for living water and then out of their very inmost souls would flow rivers of living water. That is surely the spring of all true testimony of Christ Himself to the world.

In chapter 4 the water flows up to God in worship, and here in chapter 7 it flows out in ministry to man. How can we have anything to impart unless we continue to draw water from the wells of salvation? Here, then, we have water up to the loins, and if we are to serve God in spreading the fame of our blessed Lord and seek to lead others to Him, we need to gird-up our loins as it were for service.

And now, finally, let us turn to chapter 13, which gives us the wonderful climax. In this scene, we are told that the Lord was aware “that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, and “having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” Then, “during supper, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He was come from God and went to God, He riseth from supper and laid aside His garments and took a towel and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.”

What He was about to do was symbolic of the service He would enter upon when He had left the world and gone to the Father. What He did they could not know at the time, but they would know hereafter.

“If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me,” He says to Peter (v. 8), and again, “He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his foot, but is clean every whit” (v. 10).

The bathing took place in chapter 3, so to speak, then they were washed all over, never needing repetition but what the Lord was teaching them in chapter 13 was, that to enter into the heavenly joys revealed in chapters 14 to 17, and to have communion with the Father and the Son would be impossible unless there was separation from all defilement. This the Lord provides for by His ministry at God’s right hand, in the first place by His priestly services to prevent our going wrong by His sympathy and His intercession, which the Epistle to the Hebrews unfolds; but if, in despite of all He does as preventive, we sin, then the other ministry comes into action, and He has to apply the water of the Word to our consciences to bring about conviction and restoration.

So that the water in John 13 is the cleansing process from defilement in the believer’s ways and walk to fit him to enter into the heavenly blessings and joys discovered by the relationship we are brought into as children of our God and Father, whom the Lord Himself reveals to us, together with all the blessed things associated with Christ in the new place He has entered into, and that we may enjoy by faith, and by the ungrieved Spirit’s power.

“Strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Here we may assure ourselves are waters that cannot be passed over—waters to swim in—and the result will be what we have in the fifteenth chapter, namely, the fruit-bearing displayed in connection with the river of living water flowing down from its heavenly source by way of the Cross to us, and leading us in varying measures to be found bearing fruit for the Lord, for “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples.”

Then may we all be encouraged to press on, “not as though we had already attained, either were already perfect, but to follow after, if that we may lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of us,” and so continue until He comes.


Extracted from “Ministry for the Church of God”