[Note: This is the second part of this morning’s sermon, which can be accessed here, under the title “There is a River.”]
Scripture – Psalm 46:4: There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the dwelling place of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her at the break of day.
Introduction: Have you ever considered the fact that rivers are one of God’s best ideas? He loves rivers; they are His invention, a vital part of our ecology, channels of water flowing downward from elevations, twisting and turning, carrying their currents perpetually toward a lake or sea or ocean. They are part of the hydrological cycle of earth, with the water evaporating into the sky, falling as rain and snow, coursing through creeks and brooks, flowing into rivers, running to the sea. In Genesis 2, we’re told that a river watering the garden flowed in the east, in Eden, and there it separated into four branches. And in Revelation 22, we’re told that a river of water like crystal will flow through New Jerusalem. And Jesus Himself began His ministry in a river, standing in the middle of the Jordan, being baptized as the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. So we aren’t surprised when the Psalmist talks about the river, the streams of which make glad the city of God. The reference in Psalm 46 has layers of meaning.
1. The Historical River – If Psalm 46 was written to commemorate Judah’s escape from the invasion of Assyria in 701 BC and the deliverance of Jerusalem and Judah during the days of King Hezekiah, this verse is a probable reference to “Hezekiah’s Tunnel,” which provided a secret source of underground water for a city under siege but assured of victory (2 Chronicles 32; 2 Kings 20:20).
2. The Spiritual River – Often in the Bible, there are spiritual parallels to physical references. The story of Hezekiah’s Tunnel is a perfect illustration of the river of God’s blessings as described in numerous passages in Scripture (such as John 7:37-46). We may be encompassed by the enemy, shut up, sealed in, trapped, and frightened. But we have a secret source of refreshment and renewal flowing beneath the surface of our lives, “like a river glorious.”
3. The Millennial River – Many of the Psalms employ the prophetic device of double-fulfillment. They speak of an immediate situation, but that immediate situation is a foreshadowing of a more ultimate reality predicted in prophecy. According to Zechariah, Joel, and Ezekiel, when Jesus comes again there will be a terrific earthquake in Jerusalem. When His feet touch the Mount of Olives, it will split in two, releasing a great underground river that will change the topography of Israel and the Middle East. Now, just as a side note, there was an interesting article last year in the Jewish newspaper Haaretz. The headline said: “Israel’s Largest Underground Water Source Discovered Near Jerusalem Convention Center.” The article said, “A cave discovered during excavation work by Israeli Railways in Jerusalem contains the largest and most impressive unground water sources ever discovered in Israel.” The article describes a series of underground passages that seem to tap into a significant water source; but it’s nothing compared to the great internal geysers and rivers that will be unleashed by the earthquake at the Second Coming.
- Zechariah 14:1-9
- Isaiah 35:1-7
- Joel 3:18
- Ezekiel 47:1-12
4. The Eternal River – There is still a final layer of meaning to Psalm 46:4. The ultimate fulfillment is the Crystal River in New Jerusalem, after the Millennium, after the present heavens and earth are destroyed, after the new heavens and earth appear. This is a river that will flow through New Jerusalem, the capital of eternity, perpetually and forever.
- Revelation 21:1-4
- Revelation 22:1-3
Conclusion: Forty years ago, many of America’s rivers were so polluted you could hardly stand to cross them on a bridge or boat; and to swim or fish in them was truly hazardous. Chemicals and sewage had ravaged them. Many of them were little more than an open sewer. But Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, and experts now say that many of our rivers and lakes and shorelines are much improved. People are once again swimming and fishing and skiing in rivers that once were off limits. Still most rivers are none too clean, and we cannot imagine a time when the world’s waterways will be as clear as Crystal River in Florida. But even the purest can’t compare with the real Crystal River! We’ll gather with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God.