River Imagery

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”~A Jewish exile in ancient Babylon~

Eternity Comes Knocking

River ImageryEverybody has a worldview. It is the framework within which we endeavor to make sense of everything and come to terms with the real meaning of life.

Some are intentional about developing how they interpret the world, while others do so by default or by accepting every bit of philosophical hogwash that floats down the pipe. Some sink deep roots and are determinedly grounded, while others chase after every supposedly new and improved idea that gets marketed.

A coherent worldview must address the great existential questions; origin, meaning, morality and destiny. Sorting through the collective wisdom of humanity can be a rich and rewarding journey, but if that alone is what shapes one’s perception then it is not satisfactory because it’s not complete.

There is an otherworldly element that cannot be dismissed or denied. In fact, though it is steeped in mystery, the supernatural must be foundational because the accumulated knowledge of all the brilliant thinkers who have ever lived is incapable of answering the door when eternity comes knocking.

God’s Story

An awful lot is settled in the opening words of the Bible: “In the beginning God . . .”  If life is viewed as a river, then its source is God. He is eternal—everything springs from his love and grace; it is his story.

River Imagery2Any worldview that does not have the Creator of the universe as the centerpiece is fatally flawed from its inception. Even doing so does not guarantee understanding. There is much that remains incomprehensible to us; finite can never fully grasp infinity.

The river of life has endless currents of difficulties, eddies of vagaries, and swirling moral dilemmas that all must be negotiated. The Bible, God’s written revelation of himself, is the matrix through which life on planet earth must be viewed. Of all possible orientations, we come closest to perceiving the oft-times distressing ebb and flow of life by nurturing a Biblical worldview.

Archaic as it sounds to the enlightened minds of the twenty-first century, God’s Word is a living document where faith meets reality because it breathes truth into our existence. Within its pages we find purpose, abundance and hope.

Many dismiss the Bible with a presumptuous wave of the postmodern wand; to them it is merely fairy tales or pointless storylines, yet God remains untouched by the intellectual bobbing and weaving. Truth woven together with the miraculous is stitched into the narrative because of the sovereign character of God.

Beginnings & Endings

River Imagery3It is interesting that from beginning to end, from cover to cover, the Bible uses river imagery as rich metaphors. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn that “a river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.”

The Garden of Eden was a paradise that Adam and Eve rejected because of a desire to be “like God”. They did not get booted out of the garden for eating an apple, but because they rebelled against the natural order of the universe, craving the divine authority to be their own gods when in fact they were simply created beings entirely dependent on a Creator.

Take a look around today and it is easy to see that humanity has never stopped coveting godlike power. All the pain, poison and prejudice that plague the world are grim reminders of our self-absorbed arrogance and pride. The sin that first entered creation through Adam and Eve is now tattooed on our souls; it manifests itself by warping our outlook and contaminating our relationships.

In Revelation, the final book of the Bible, the apostle John uses river imagery to paint a stunning portrait of a future paradise: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.”

Living & Dying

Two rivers: One flowing from Eden and the other streaming from the throne of God. Our lives are played out in a broken piece of time between those two waterways of indescribable peace and beauty.

Much like the Jewish captives in Babylon, we are exiled in a corrupt and crooked place. It is here, in the sin-defiled world that we must wrestle with the agonizing issues of living and dying; it is here, in a foreign land hostile to the stuff of eternity, we must sing the songs of the Lord.

A Biblical worldview—rich in the nuances of river imagery—means that we strive and press on secure in the promise of the river in Revelation. It is indeed a glorious picture of the fullness of life in perfect communication and relationship with God; a beckoning picture of the eternal blessings that are our destiny when we believe in Christ and allow him to satisfy our spiritual thirst.

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