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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rivers of Grace 4

Today I'm reading John 7:37-39 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

Rivers in the Bible are usually described in one of two different ways: as a barrier or a sign of God's blessing. The Jordan River and the Euphrates are usually seen as barriers. The Jordan was the barrier to the Promised Land. It was a battle line between Israel and it's enemies. Blessings were seen as flowing rivers watering crops and springing up from inside the believer or from the New Jerusalem. In today's passage the river is symbolic of the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the heart's of Christ's followers post-resurrection.

The one common river symbol that we don't find (I don't think) in Scripture is that of the journey. Lots of journey stories revolve around rivers. Such as "The Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad (another of my favorite authors).

In "The Heart of Darkness" a man (Marlow) has to journey up the Congo River to find one of his company's men (Kurtz) who has gone 'native' and has set up his own barbaric kingdom in the middle of the jungle. Surrounded by cannibals and head hunters Marlow is slowly stripped of his European sense of civilization and morality, and must confront his own "heart of darkness" as he encounters the disturbed and violent Kurtz. More than just a descent into sin the heart of darkness is an exploration of what happens when people are stripped of the conventional props they use to hold themselves together. Conrad liked to put people in positions where their normal supports were compromised so that their true characters would be revealed. As Marlow makes his escape the river is really his link to the civilized world; it is his hope and his avenue of freedom.

You may remember that this novel was used as the basis for the dramatically violent 70's anti-war movie "Apocalypse Now" starring Martin Sheen as Marlow character and a very creepy Marlon Brando as Kurtz. They transposed the setting from the Congo to Vietnam-War ear Cambodia. But the plot is virtually the same and Kurtz even quotes the poem Conrad used to begin novel.

So Jesus has something else for our hearts - not darkness but a new river of living water springing up from within. Not restricted by our civilization's rules or any other thing we may use to prop us up. It should be the sufficient source of life for us.


Today's prayer:

Living water fill my thirsty soul…

Bread of Life fill my aching need…

Come and quench this thirst within me
Fill this hunger deep inside
For so long I have been empty
Nothing else will satisfy
You alone are what I need Lord

I had searched this whole world over for the answer
Wanting just to fill this void inside
All the things that were material
They could not satisfy
For my hunger was for the bread of life.


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