River of God | Day 2
Exodus 17, 1 Samuel 17, Joshua 3, 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
God begins speaking about rivers in the second chapter of Genesis and doesn’t finish until the last chapter of Revelation - and He says a lot of important things in between. What is the Biblical significance to this? What are the symbolic meanings and truths we need to understand?
Throughout Scripture, God compares the life in Him to a fountain, a well, a stream, a river, and rain. In Psalm 23, He uses peaceful water to paint a picture of the rest He offers us. In Psalm 46, He mentions the river of delights and “a river whose streams make glad the city of our God”. And in Ephesians chapter 5, He even compares His Word to water. The river of God in Scripture represents His life and power. Christ is the source of water, and the Holy Spirit causes it to flow, or distributes it.
Water in Scripture is seen in various forms, but it is not the form that matters. The focus is not on the channel of a stream or river, but on the water itself. Likewise, in this study of the river of God, we must remember and focus on what it represents, regardless of the analogy used. Water represents many things: God’s life, His power, His glory, blessings, revival, the word of God, cleansing, judgment, death and burial of the old sinful nature, the human race, direction, and praise. One of the more common references to water is as a representation of spiritual life.
In studying the connection between water and spiritual life, one truth emerges as critical, and perhaps the most encompassing: The water flows from Christ and was released at the Cross. He is the source. The headwaters are found in Him. There are many places in Scripture that paint this same picture. They are important to our understanding of this truth.
While Jesus hung on the cross, blood and water flowed from His side. All the drink offerings in the Old Testament anticipated this life being poured from Christ. David is a prime example of this. While in battle against the Philistines, David craved water from the well of Bethlehem. Three of his mighty men crossed enemy lines, drew water from this well, and returned it to David. When David received this offering, he poured it out on the ground as a sacrifice. Though unknown to David, this drink offering represented the pouring out of the ultimate drink offering.
Another example of water representing the Cross can be found in Exodus 17. Israel was in the wilderness without water, and God supplied it for them from a rock that Moses struck upon God’s instruction. This rock from which the river flowed was a type or picture of Christ being smitten on the cross, bringing forth the water of life. It is beyond coincidental that the Hebrew word for Moses striking the rock, and Christ being smitten, are actually the same word, nakah.
There is another passage that uses this word. 1 Samuel 17 tells the story of David and Goliath, and the word nakah is used to describe the rock from David’s slingshot striking Goliath on the forehead. Consider that David used a rock taken from a brook to kill the giant. It’s a perfect picture of Christ, the rock of our salvation, the chief cornerstone. Let’s take a look at a number of other similarities that point to the Cross.
Goliath was the greatest of all the giants in the land. Until this encounter with David, he was also a champion. He represents Satan, the great enemy of God and man. David represents Christ, the “son of David”. In this passage, we see a prophetic drama foreshadowing the Cross. Goliath challenged Israel for 40 days and nights. Forty is the biblical number of testing, and Israel’s courage was being tested. Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness after 40 days of fasting.
The number five in Scripture represents the Cross, grace, atonement, and life. There were five sacrificial offerings set forth in Leviticus - the burnt sacrifice, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering - all picturing the Cross, where God’s grace was poured out to give us life. Five wounds were inflicted on Jesus at the Cross - his hands, his feet, and his side. And here in 1 Samuel, we see that David collected five stones. He flung one into Goliath’s head. In fulfillment, Christ our Rock, the chief cornerstone and the son of David, smote the head of Satan.
When Moses’ rock was smitten (nakah), the river flowed. When David flung the rock, striking (nakah) Goliath’s head, the enemy was defeated. When Christ was smitten (nakah), the river of life flowed, and the headship and dominion of Satan was ended. What a powerful picture of the power and life offered to us, and what a beautiful story of its source!
Finally, the picture of the Israelites crossing the Jordan teaches us an important lesson about the Cross and its connection to the river. In Joshua chapter 3, the Israelites need to cross the Jordan River, but it is in flood stage. Joshua received instructions to cross by first sending the Ark of the Covenant into the water. The Ark pictures the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross. It’s a picture of Christ entering into death for us.
When the priests’ feet were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters rolled back. “Dipped” is the Old Testament word for baptism. When Christ was baptized into death, the power of death was rolled back. Incidentally, the river rolled back to a town named Adam. What a beautiful picture of what Christ did for us on the cross - restoring all of humanity back to the fall of Adam.
Finally, Israel built two memorials: one in the Jordan riverbed (which pictures the Cross), and one in the Promised Land (which pictures the Resurrection). Explicit instructions were given that the resurrection memorial had to be made out of stones from the riverbed of the Jordan. It was a sign the remind us that the only way to resurrection is through the Cross. Christ entered death for us and with him carried a seed from the tree of life. The life of that seed took hold of the death of that hand and split the tomb with His resurrection life. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NASB).
This is the source of everything we will discover in the river. It begins at the Cross. The river of death stops and the river of life initiates here. All other river revelations fade in comparison to this. It is the cornerstone of our experience with Him, and we must always remember that the only way to the overcoming life we seek is through the Cross. It’s always about Him.