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Is the river of Ezekiel 47 to be taken literally or as just a symbol of blessing to Israel?

I I believe a careful reading of Ezekiel 47 and other passages in the Old Testament would lead to the conclusion that it is most certainly a literal river. It will not be found today in maps of the rivers of the world, for the simple reason that it does not yet exist. It is a unique river created by God Himself. One proof in the passage should be enough to confirm us as to the literal character of this river. We refer to v.10: "And it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim". Literal fishermen will fish in this river. This is a clear prophecy which will yet be fulfilled and no amount of spiritualizing can get rid of its literal interpretation. The same river is mentioned in Joel 3.18: "A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord", and in Psalm 46.4, a millennial Psalm: "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God".

While the above is true, at the same time the river is a symbol of God’s grace and blessing to the nation of Israel when they have been restored. It will bring life and healing wherever it flows. It is not a stagnant pool, but a mile and a third from its source in the sanctuary it will have become a resistless flood. In many ways it will be a miraculous river. It will have its rise at God’s altar. Here is a river that in its course will have no adding of common water. It is so unique that it has no tributaries flowing into it. From its own deep fountain it draws. This is unnatural, for no such river has been seen on earth. This wonderful river of life will seek out the most unpromising region and reach the Dead Sea and rid it of its impure properties, so much so that it will teem with life. It is a holy river, unlike the Ganges. It is also a pure river, unlike the lower reaches of the Thames. How thrilling is this prophecy and what outstanding geographical changes there will be in the land of Israel during the millennial Kingdom.

John J Stubbs

Is Acts 13.1-4 a basis for commendation of an evangelist by an assembly? If so, is it the only one?

As far as the present writer is aware, this is the only passage in the New Testament which deals with the commendation of evangelists. It should be borne in mind that these men were not "commended to the work", but rather they were "recommended (committed) to the grace of God for the work" (Acts 14.26).

We are told that the prophets and teachers at Antioch "ministered to the Lord" (Acts 13.2) – this refers to their activity in prayer and intercession before God; they were evidently men of deep spirituality - having a sense of the Lordship of Christ; they also "fasted" - they were prepared to forego legitimate comforts, saying, "No!" to the flesh.

In such a situation, the Holy Spirit was able to convey His command in a clear and decisive way: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them". The voice did not come through the air but through the instrumentality of the New Testament prophets. The Spirit had already called Barnabas and Saul, but their brethren were made aware of it by the same Spirit. This is an example of "double leading" for the assurance of the Lord’s servants. On the one hand, it would be unwise to act independently of our spiritual brethren, on the other, we need personal conviction as to the Lord’s will for us.

"They...laid their hands on them" (Acts 13.3) – this was nothing official but simply an act of fellowship and identification in purpose on the part of the other prophets and teachers. Acts 14.26 (quoted above) shows in addition a wider circle of fellowship; it is evident that the church as a whole had part in the commendation of these two servants of the Lord. The expression in 13.3, "they sent them away", is better rendered "they let them go", no doubt with a measure of reluctance since they had been such a help to the assembly. Indeed, they were "sent forth by the Holy Ghost" (v.4).

There is no mention of any contract being drawn up for their approval and signature, no promise of any specified remuneration and no understanding as to a furlough at the end of a given period. The assembly from which they went and to which they returned exercised no control over their movements or their ministry. In every respect, these first commended missionaries were the Lord’s freemen.

David E West


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