Throughout the book of Ezekiel, there has been the repeated phrase, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Of course, it is one thing to know about God, but it is another thing to know God in a personal way. I believe it is the latter that Ezekiel is most interested in. For knowing the Lord in a personal way means that the Lord is present with us. The whole elaborate plan for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and the renewed offering of sacrifice there has one goal, one end in mind, that the glory of the Lord should fill the Temple. It is significant that the book of Ezekiel ends on this note: “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord is There.” That is what we all most need and want in our heart of hearts, whether we realize it or not. The thing we long for underneath all our superficial longings, is that we should know the Lord, that he should be present with us, that we might have a relationship of love with the Lord our God.
And what will be the result of such a relationship, such presence of the Lord our God with us and in us? Ezekiel gives us a picture of the result in chapter 47. Rivers of living water flow from the Temple where the Lord is present. It is important to note that this has never been the case in actuality. There was never a river flowing from the second Temple, nor is there a river flowing in that location to this day. The idea of such a river of great depth would flow in that place would have been beyond reckoning to the Jews who knew Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s day, just as it would be an amazing thought to the Jews of this present day who live in Jerusalem. After all, that city is one of the driest cities one could hope to visit on the planet.
I think the picture that Ezekiel gives us is of a spiritual reality, not a physical one. The same vision is repeated in the book of Revelation where there is a river of living water flowing in the holy city, the New Jerusalem, which is the bride of Christ. This river of living water that Ezekiel talks about and that John talks about in Revelation is to flow from us when the Lord is present in us.
Jesus also said something similar one day when he was standing in the second Temple,
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
If we want to know God, if we are spiritually thirsty (and we all are), then all we have to do is come to Jesus and drink. All we have to do is ask Jesus to quench our thirst, and he will do it. How will Jesus do this? He will accomplish this by sending the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Once the Holy Spirit is in our hearts then rivers of living water will flow from us. In other words, once we have the Holy Spirit, we can be of spiritual benefit to others wherever we are, wherever we go. Then we shall give to others life instead of death, just as the Lord has given to us life instead of death.