River of Life

Oh, the joys of those who do not
   follow the advice of the wicked,
   or stand around with sinners,
   or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
   meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
   bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
   and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
   They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
   Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
   but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1 NLT)

Rivers play an important role throughout the Bible, often as symbols of life, especially life in God. In Genesis 2, we read of a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden. As a child, Moses was set into a basket on the Nile so he might be saved from the Pharaoh’s wrath and go on to be the messenger of salvation for his people. It was in the Jordan River that Namaan was cured of leprosy after bathing himself seven times at Elisha’s instructions. It was in this same river that John baptized many people, including Jesus.

Again and again in the Scriptures, rivers are a source of life and healing, even so far as healing our world and all who dwell within it. John the Revelator writes of the river of life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb, with the trees on each side growing leaves “used for medicine to heal the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

Psalm 1 tells us that the law of the Lord is like a river to those who delight in it and meditate on it. We are to be trees that bury deep roots into the riverbank of the Scriptures so we might bear abundant fruit of the Spirit and show off the lush foliage of the Gospel in our lives to all who see us. It is absurd to think we can bear any kind of spiritual fruit without putting in the work necessary to cultivate their growth in our lives. In his last address to the Israelites, Moses tells them they have a choice set before them of life or death, and he instructs them to choose life “by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

This instruction is also for us. If we desire to choose life over death – blessings over curses and flourishing over withering – then we must obey God’s commands, commit ourselves firmly to following in the way of Jesus, and heed the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is how we meet God’s desire “to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” – our sacrificial lives of worship to him (Amos 5:24).