I was well into my blog on the Kimmeridge walk yesterday before I read Morning Prayer and found myself reading one of the most spectacular chapters of Ezekiel, for the Old Testament reading for St Andrew’s Day. Ezekiel chapter 47 speaks of the temple spring and the river of paradise. It does help to have been to the Holy Land to really bring this to life, but anyone who reads these words is transported to another place, for it is one of the great visions of renewal and restoration of life in the whole of the Bible.
Why being to the Holy Land helps is that one can understand the geography of the area better. Jerusalem is set high in the hills, the mountains are around it too. There are deep valleys and these form dried up watercourses that gather rainwater from the heights around when the rains come. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and far below it, and, though many miles away, that is ultimately where the water goes, through the rocky wadis of the Judean wilderness. A heavy fall of rain in Jerusalem can cause a mighty rush of water by the time the Dead Sea area is reached. Walkers in the dust and heat of a rocky valley in the foothills beside the Dead Sea, with nothing apparently growing in it, have been hit, suddenly and without warning, by a wall of water that has swept them away and they have been drowned. It seems impossible but it has happened.
Holding this knowledge in one’s head and reading Ezekiel 47: 1-12, and one can understand how the millions of tons of rainwater rushing from the heights of Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, can help the vision of God’s refreshing and renewing water of life, deepening and driving on, sweeping before it and creating an environment that can sustain fish and vegetation, where there is only dead water and barren salt-laden ground. A great picture of the return to paradise.