We are in the midst of the lengthy report of the vision Ezekiel was given of a renewed temple with its worship and a renewed Promised Land, a picture of the future that the New Testament teaches us to understand to be a picture of the age of salvation, of the triumph of the kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and of that final condition of the church when the people of God are the Lord’s true servants, rejoicing in his presence, and living to his praise. We are reading just twelve verses of Ezekiel 47 and then we will take the remainder of the book and complete it next Lord’s Day evening, God willing.
All Ancient Near Eastern temples faced east. The temple of Solomon was built in many respects to resemble the typical Ancient Near Eastern temple down even to some of the details. The building was, of course, given a completely different meaning, the worship was conducted according to completely different principles, but it was a sanctuary familiar as a sanctuary in that culture. It is an example of that principle of accommodation we see so often in the Lord’s ways with his people. He employed what was familiar to them and invested such things with new meaning. Ezekiel is brought back from the kitchens in the outer court of the temple to the entrance to the sanctuary itself in the inner court and there he sees a small stream of water gushing out from under the threshold, the slab of stone at the base of the main doorway of the sanctuary.
The most direct route out of the temple, especially following the water, would have been through the east gate, but that gate had been closed to human traffic (as we read in 44:1-2) because that was the gate the Lord himself had used to enter the temple. The water was apparently flowing from underneath the south side of the gate structure. The word the NIV renders “flowing” in verse 2 is onomatopoetic from the Hebrew word for bottle. It suggests the gurgling of water poured from the mouth of a bottle. Thus, the amount of water is still small. [Block, ii, 691]
The cubit was generally the distance from the elbow to the tip of the finger tip. For more precise measurement the standard Hebrew cubit was 17.5 inches. As the river flows away from the temple it becomes deeper and, as the context will make clear, wider as well. By the time they had reached a distance 4,000 cubits from the temple, well over a mile, the stream had become a river too deep to cross. There is no mention of tributaries, so the stream is becoming larger as it flows through a miraculous effect.
As Ezekiel comes out of this extraordinarily impressive river he notices that the river is bordered by thick groves of trees on each bank. You remember the Bible’s use of the metaphor of a tree growing by a water course to describe the fruitfulness of a human life. Psalm 1 makes famous use of that metaphor in describing the wise man: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.”
The river that Ezekiel has now come out of and is standing by he learns continues its eastward course and flows down into the Dead Sea. The vision, idealized as it is, makes no provision for the flow of the river waters down to the Dead Sea. The topography as it existed then and does now would require the river to enter and cross valleys, ascend and descend mountain ranges, before it could drop the several thousands of feet to the basin of the Dead Sea. But that is no problem in a vision; and this is a miraculous river.
As you know, as was the case in Ezekiel’s time, there is little to no life in the Dead Sea. It has no exits and the water that enters it is, apart from that of the Jordan River, rich with various toxic minerals, including salt, that are trapped there. But the entrance into the Sea of this huge flow of fresh water makes the Sea waters fresh and soon it is teeming with life. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh. So where the river flows everything will live.
Fishermen will stand on lush lakeshores that have been for millennia barren desert wastes and will be casting their nets to catch the abundance of fish that now inhabits the Sea. En Gedi, an oasis on the Western shore of the Dead Sea, and En Eglaim, a more difficult spot to locate, were either located on opposite shores of the Dead Sea – indicating by a merismus, a part for the whole,that the entire lake was fresh and full of fish – or they were located at a distance from one another on the same western shore, indicating the same thing in a different way. The point is wherever you went on the shore of the Dead Sea now you would find fresh water and abundant fish.
Now what would you make of that sentence when you are reading through the Bible in a year and you come across verse 11? The salt was left in some places. Not all of the salt water will become fresh. Well salt was valuable too, as were some of the other minerals in the water. These were preserved in sufficient quantity so that people would have the use of them. The salt that kills is overcome; salt to preserve and to spice food is retained. The picture is of a perfect situation: fresh water and fish to catch and the salt to preserve them and to render them tastier in the eating.
You know what we call this now don’t you? This is an inclusio. At the beginning of this section and again at the end of this section, we are reminded where this water comes from; from under the threshold of the house, the sanctuary of the Lord. It is the Lord who provides this water. Finally the vision returns to the trees lining the banks of the river: fruit trees that remain perpetually green and provide an endless supply of food. This is a picture of unlimited abundance and all because, as we are reminded once more at the end, the water that nourishes such abundance comes from the sanctuary of God.
Now you are well aware that the theme of a river of life is a prominent one and connects the very beginning of the Bible to its very end. In Genesis 2 we read that out of the Garden of Eden four rivers flowed watering the nearby world. And in the heavenly country described in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, there flows a river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God, with trees of life on each bank, bearing fruit every month, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. There can be very little doubt that John has drawn in a substantial way from the picture painted for us in Ezekiel 47 for his description of the heavenly city in Revelation 22. In the near east, where water is scarce, abundance and prosperity were naturally expressed in images of large supplies of cool, fresh, clean, flowing water. Such a river, unlike the typical seasonal streams or the stagnant waters of the Dead Sea, was for those people the perfect image of a world of blessing. Such a river would be the perfect image of God’s blessing of his people, the very point emphasized here by the inclusio, by saying at the beginning and the end of Ezekiel’s description of this marvelous river that it originated from under the threshold of the house of God.
But there are other important uses of this imagery of the river that brings life and blessing in the Bible and two in particular. In Zechariah 14:8, in the prophet’s description of the future triumphant reign of the Lord, Zechariah – Zechariah, remember, follows the time of Ezekiel – we read:
“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.”
It is not exactly the same picture that Ezekiel has given us here, but it is very like it, and obviously making the same point. Summer and winter were the dry seasons when the rivers in that part of the world didn’t run at all. So rivers running with clear water even in the dry seasons were an impressive image of abundant blessing, all the more because throughout its history Jerusalem never had a really adequate supply of water. But, in the context in Zechariah 14 there is no doubt that this flowing water is an image of God’s blessing the world through the instrumentality of his people; the spread of his rule and his salvation proceed out from the city, the church, the Kingdom of God.
That is important because this imagery from Zechariah 14:8 is then taken up in the famous statement of the Lord Jesus in the gospel of John 7:38-39:
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Tabernacles], Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
John tells us that the Lord was talking about Pentecost, which was, as the New Testament
specifically tells us, over and over again, a missionary event, the beginning of the spread of the living water to the world. The Lord on that occasion, in John 7:38-39, was talking about the fact that Christians, by the working of the Holy Spirit, would become means of grace to the world. In other words streams of living water would flow from Jerusalem to the east and to the west bringing life wherever they went. The rivers of living water will flow not, in this case in John 7 from under the threshold of the temple, but from within the Christians themselves the Lord’s living temple. Interestingly, in the next chapter of John, the Lord says that he is the “light of the world,” another image of the spread of life and truth throughout the world. In Zechariah 14, just before we read about the river of living water flowing out from Jerusalem, we also read of the Lord bringing miraculous light to the world. Once again the object of these prophesies of restoration is not ethnic Israel alone, but the entire world. And the water, as the light, stands for salvation.
In the wider usage of the Bible and of the New Testament in particular the image of the river of flowing water – such as we have here in Ezekiel – is an image of salvation being extended to the whole world. It comes from the throne of God and brings life to the world. The culmination or consummation of this salvation is then expressed in the same terms, a river with clear, flowing water, with miraculous fruit bearing trees on each bank and so on. The river depicts the spread of salvation and also the consummation of that salvation. What that means is that this section, Ezekiel 47:1-12, is the most elaborate development of an important biblical image or picture of the way of salvation and the consummation of salvation in the world. We know that these chapters left an indelible impression on John’s revelation and his view of heaven. John alone records the Lord’s remark about rivers of living water flowing from believers to others and he incorporates the picture of the flowing river into his depiction of heaven at the end of his revelation. So it is still more noteworthy that it is in John that we find something else that may very well be related to this vision of the great river making the stagnant waters of the Dead Sea sweet and full of life.
Now I draw your attention to John 21 and its account of the famous breakfast picnic the Lord had with his disciples, after his resurrection, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. You remember that seven of the disciples had gone fishing but had caught nothing through the long night. But when it came to be morning Jesus, standing on the shore, called out to them to cast their net on the right side of the boat, which in obedience they did. They couldn’t bring the net up it was full of so many fish so they towed the net to shore and then dragged it up on the beach. Even then the net did not tear. The number of fish caught, we read in 21:11, was 153.
That number of fish caught jumps out at any reader of John 21. It makes us think. Usually the Bible doesn’t give us numbers like that, so precise. 153…it is an odd number. We are led to think and rightly that the precision is of some importance. Otherwise John would simply have said “many fish” or “about 150 fish.” On the first occasion that the Lord gave his disciples a great catch of fish there is no specific mention of the number of fish caught. But here we get the exact number.
To be sure, there are a number of commentators who argue that we have nothing here besides the report of precisely how many fish were caught. Many of our evangelical commentators assume that we have nothing more than John’s personal recollection of the number. They think of it primarily as evidence of an eyewitness account. The number stuck in John’s mind, he remembered it and so he wrote it in his account. The Gospel was written as we believe by someone who was there and he remembered the details. Well, of course, we have no doubt that the number of fish that were caught was precisely 153 and that John knew that because he had been there that morning and had helped drag the nets to shore and had seen the fish being counted, if he did not count them himself. And it isn’t at all difficult to imagine fishermen, so impressed, so amazed by what had happened, wanting to know precisely how many fish there were – large as they were – and so counting them. That is not hard to believe. But, it is harder to believe, frankly, that the number is not significant. First the fact that the Lord put 153 fish in the net and then that John took pains to tell us the number of fish that were caught, so let’s exam that number.
Now, we begin by reminding ourselves that the ancients were more attuned to symbols than we are. The Bible is full of them, of course. John wrote the Revelation, remember, which confuses us in large part because it is so symbol-laden. C.S. Lewis reminds us that “Symbols are the natural speech of the soul, a language older and more universal than words.” [Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, 137] And among the symbols often used in ancient literature and to which ancient cultures were attuned much more than we are, were numbers. Symbolic numbers, as you know, are everywhere in the Bible: 3, 7, 10, 1000 and so on.
153 is the triangular number of 17. The ancients thought about things like this. You don’t, but they did. Augustine himself points out that 153 is the triangular number of 17. That means that it is the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 17 and it can be represented in the form of a triangle. Imagine 17 dots in a line across the bottom. In the next line above it 16 dots. In the line above that 15 dots. And so on until there is one dot at the top. The dots thus arranged form a triangle and 153 dots make up that triangle. Hence 153 is the triangular number of 17.
Well, so what? Augustine thought that 17 was significant because it amounted to 7 (standing for the seven-fold spirit of God), taken from Rev. 1:4, and 10 (standing for the 10 commandments). That explanation doesn’t seem likely or contextually significant. It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of fish caught at least in any obvious way. There is no connection between Augustine’s explanation of 17 and what happened that morning by the lake. It does indicate, of course, that Augustine immediately assumed that the specific number 153 was surely symbolic of something. But hold that 17 in mind.
Here in Ezekiel 47, in one of the prophet’s beautiful predictions of the age of salvation, he describes a river that flows from underneath the threshold of the temple down to the Dead Sea where it makes those dead waters to live again. What is more, and this is where it becomes interesting for our purposes, Ezekiel makes a point of saying that large numbers of fish will be there, thriving in the clean and clear water. “Fisherman will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets.”
Here fish are an image of the bounty of the age of salvation. The Lord, of course, in his parables of the kingdom, even more explicitly spoke of the advancement of the kingdom of God as like a net gathering a great catch of fish. And he told his disciples that they would be fishers of men. That is how he pictured their calling: to fish for men. In other words, it is likely that the metaphors employed here are more specific than simply than as images of an age of prosperity, lots of fish to eat and so on. Fish represent men and their being caught represents their being saved.
Now what becomes particularly interesting then is the place names that Ezekiel gives us in v.10: En Gedi and En Eglaim. Two names and only two. En is Hebrew for spring. So we have two springs of fresh water that already existed on the western shore of the lake or on opposite shores of the lake. Two places now where great numbers of fish will be caught on the shore of the Sea because of the life giving water that is flowing down into the sea from the temple of God. The towns were not particularly noteworthy; we aren’t even sure where En Eglaim was located. Yet they have significance for Ezekiel’s vision.
Now, as you may remember, Hebrew often expressed numbers by letters. It did not have the Arabic numbers that we use today; in fact it had no numbers. And though it had words for numbers, it also expressed numbers by letters. Each letter of the alphabet had a numerical value. Having no numbers the letters had to do double duty, as it were. Letters of the alphabet were used to make words but they were also used to make numbers. The first nine letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the numbers 1-9. The next nine letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the numbers 10, 20, 30, and so on up to 90. The last four letters of the alphabet are the numbers 100 to 400. The system of expressing numbers by letters is known as gematria. This numerical system leaves its mark on the Bible in a number of places. In a famous example, after nine chapters of introduction, Proverbs 10:1 begins the proverbs per se with the title: “The Proverbs of Solomon.” The numerical value of the letters in Solomon’s name is 375. From Proverbs 10:1 to 22:16, where the proverbs of Solomon end, we have precisely 375 proverbs. As I say the Hebrews were attuned to numbers in a way that we are not. They saw numbers in words where we would not, the way we see an occupation and a name in such a word as “baker.”
Well, according to this Hebrew gematria, the numerical value of Gedi, as in En Gedi, or the Spring Gedi, is 17. The numerical value of Eglaim, as in En Eglaim, or the Spring Eglaim is 153. Now remember when a reader of ancient Hebrew read those words on the page he did not just seeing Gedi or Eglaim. He also saw the number 17 and the number 153. That was how he knew to write 17 and 153, with just those letters. So he didn’t have to figure this out, as if it were some secret code; the number is there, it is those letters that form that word. That is the way that number would be printed, that is the way it would be represented. In other words, the symbolic number 153, the triangular number of 17, the number of the fish that the Lord’s disciples caught after his resurrection, an image of their work as fishers of men, may very well tie together great themes in the Bible that are being summed up in this revelation that the Lord made of himself to his disciples in John 21. Lying behind Rev. 21 may very well be Ezekiel 47. There is a place in the Bible where you will find 153; you will also find right next to it 17. Indeed the fact that this En Egliam appears certainly only here in the Bible, draws attention to the spelling. You will actually find those numbers – 17 and 153 – lying side by side in a place where the Bible talks about lots of great big fish being caught in nets exactly as the disciples caught 153 fish that morning by the Sea of Galilee. The Lord’s disciples will be fishers of men. The gospel is going to the world and the nations of the world will hear and believe. The gospel net will draw in a great catch of fish. And, what is more, the result will eventually be the great age of salvation that Ezekiel described so famously in 47:1-12. As Jesus said in another place in that same Gospel of John, out of the bellies of his disciples would flow rivers of living water. The followers of the Lord would become a means of God’s grace and salvation to the world. Over and over again in the Bible and in the Gospel the people of the world are pictured being drawn up in the Gospel’s net.
Interestingly, even a number of commentators who are doubtful that we should invest so much significance in the number 153, agree that the large number of fish caught is clearly a symbol of a great harvest, not of fish, but of people. The Gospel net will never break; there will be no limit to the number that is caught in it. Now put yourself in the place of the disciples who are being sent out into the world to proclaim this message. These are ordinary men. They must have had their doubts about people believing them just as you have your doubts everyday that anybody is going to believe the message you bring. And here is the Lord telling them “153, the Dead Sea becoming fresh, a great day of salvation coming to the world.”
The objection that is raised to seeing 153 as a symbol of the great harvest of the Gospel and of the salvation of the nations of the world through the witness of the disciples, and of tying that number in John 21 to the vision of Ezekiel’s river of life here with its mention of Gedi and Eglaim, is that the symbolism depends upon the Hebrew language and John’s readers did not know Hebrew. Indeed, in this Gospel, the Gospel of John, Hebrew terms are regularly translated because John’s readers could not be expected to understand what they meant. Even very simple terms such as rabbi and Messiah are translated for John’s Gentile or, at least, Greek speaking readers. That has led a number of people to say that surely means that we can’t expect John to have thought that people would figure out the connection between 153 fish and the two springs on the shores of the Dead Sea brought to life by this magnificent river flowing from the sanctuary of God.
I confess not to be very much impressed by this objection. There is a great deal in the Bible. It is thick with meaning and application. Every text is thick. It was written so that it would continue to yield its treasures to its avid readers thousands of years later. Gentiles would not have figured out that Solomon meant 375 either, but we know that it does and we understand why. There was that in the Bible that was difficult to understand even for its first readers as we know from Peter. There is that in the Bible’s teaching, such as its teaching about the future in 2 Thessalonians 2, that would be much simpler for us to understand if we had the teaching that Paul had previously given to the Thessalonians and to which he makes reference in 2 Thessalonians 2 but which he did not bother to repeat in his letter. Such a number as 153 could easily have been explained to the people who read John in the first place. And for the rest, it is something to figure out and then to rejoice over when the symbol is understood. As Augustine said in his day, “just as there are shallows in the Scripture where a lamb may wade, so there are depths in Scripture where an elephant may swim.” And as Bernard of Clairvaux put it, himself an ardent student of the Bible, “what is difficult to understand, [should be for a Christian] delightful to inquire into.”
Fact is John seems to indicate to us by the attention he pays to that specific number that it was no accident that they caught precisely 153 fish and that it is a matter of some consequence that we know there were 153 fish caught. He begs us to ask what is significant about that number and about that great catch of fish. And the entire Bible helps us answer that question. And then, in one of the most elaborate demonstrations of exactly the same thing in the Bible there lying right before us on the page is the number 153! You don’t have to figure it out; it is just 153 written the way Hebrews would have written the number. And, once we have answered the question, got with some difficulty as that answer was, the answer seems the more precious and important to us.
You and I have cast our nets in vain many times, have we not? Have we not become discouraged that our witness has not born more fruit than it has? How many times have we had good hopes of someone that we were talking to, that we were cultivating for salvation’s sake, only to have those hopes dashed by their eventual disinterest. And, on a larger scale, how easily it is to be discouraged in our day as the cause of the kingdom of God seems to be faring so poorly in our part of the world and, indeed, in many parts of the world.
But then we have this immortal picture of things to come before us here in Ezekiel 47, we have the river of flowing water, the trees on its banks, and the fishermen at En Gedi and En Eglaim where now there is nothing but a desert waste bordering on a lifeless sea. And we have John’s 21st chapter. The disciples were weary after a night without success, ready to call it quits in their frustration. And then came the Lord who knew precisely where the fish were and, in a moment, everything was different. The net was bulging, so heavy that they could not lift it into the boat and had to drag it to shore. And, then, they sat down on the lakeshore, a warm fire in the middle of the circle, broiled fish for breakfast. “Lord, what a morning!” And all of that was a revelation of Jesus Christ! It was a revelation of his presence with his disciples and of his commitment to help them fulfill their calling. You don’t have to fish for men by yourself, I will be with you.
Many commentators take Ezekiel 47 to be describing primarily the effects of salvation, as often commentators do when discussing the Lord’s remark about how when the Spirit comes rivers of living water will flow from within Christians. They take that statement to refer to the personal blessing of the indwelling Holy Spirit. How great is it going to be to stand on that beautiful seashore and cast your net and bring in all those great tasting fish for which you have salt to make them taste even better and take them home to your family for a great meal. Both Ezekiel and the Lord were talking, so they say, not about the saving blessing that comes to others through us but the blessings that we enjoy because of our salvation. But I completely disagree! Personal blessings, wonderful as they are, are not what Jesus was talking about or what Ezekiel or what Zechariah were talking about. That isn’t what their words mean, either in Zech. 14, the basis of the Lord’s remark in John 7:38-39 or in John 7 itself. Nowadays, in our environmental age, commentators on Ezekiel 47 also speak of how the Lord will renew the earth and restore its ecological balance and fruitfulness. Well, there may be a bit of that here. But that is not what Ezekiel 47 is really about. Ezekiel was not an ecologist; he was a prophet of the day of salvation! He’s not interested in fish; he’s interested in human beings! What we have here is a picture of a great day of salvation, of the knowledge of the Lord filling the earth as the waters cover the sea. It comes from God – so the river originates under the sanctuary of the Lord – it flows to what is dead – so the river goes to the Dead Sea, not the Mediterranean Sea – and it produces life – so the trees bearing fruit and the caught fish, both so often in the Bible images of human beings blessed by the salvation of God.
Now there is, we have said in previous weeks, a now-but-not-yet to this vision of the future that Ezekiel was given and that he reported to us in his final chapters 40-48. The Gentile mission, the spread of the Gospel to the world is certainly the beginnings of the fulfillment of this great day of salvation. We must never forget how utterly remarkable a thing it was, perhaps the most remarkable thing that has happened in the world, that from a few believers in an upper room on the day of Pentecost, the Christian church is now to be found everywhere in the world and contains vast numbers of human beings. But it is very doubtful to me that Ezekiel’s vision can be adequately explained as simply a description of our own circumstances as they exist today – many millions, even hundreds of millions of Christians in the world perhaps, but a world still under the thumb of the Devil, still in the grip of unbelief, the church herself very much a mixed community of believers and unbelievers, her prosperity and her vindication hardly so complete that unbelievers are forced to acknowledge it. The picture we are given in Ezekiel 40-48, especially here in Ezekiel 47:1-2, and in many other like prophecies, requires I think a grander day than any we have so far seen.
But perhaps Ezekiel is talking about heaven. Perhaps what we have here in Ezekiel is not this world but the next. After all, we have the river of life in both Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22. That is a possible interpretation. I don’t favor it for a variety of reasons and two in particular. First, there are a great many such prophesies of a future age of salvation in the Bible – in both the Old Testament and the New Testament – that seem to require historical fulfillment, that is fulfillment in history, in the lifetime of this world, a time when the knowledge of the Lord actually will fill this world as the waters cover the sea. And second, it seems to me that the comfort and encouragement intended to be offered to God’s people in this vision of the future is largely lost if, in fact, it is not a future promised to the church in this world. The New Testament uses this part of the Bible to talk about what will happen in this world. Ezekiel seems to care that it is the rotten waters of the actual Dead Sea, not some brand new sea, that are made sweet and living again. The New Testament draws encouragement and inspiration from the fact that this forecast of the triumph of the kingdom of God concerns the world in which the church now lives and works. The Old Testament knew how to say that it was talking about what would be true only after a believer’s death and only at the end of time. Ezekiel knew how to say what his contemporary Daniel said,
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” [12:2]
That does not seem to me to be Ezekiel’s theme in these chapters and in 47:1-12 in particular. These questions, as you know, concern the various interpretations of biblical prophecy known as amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillenialism. The amils are likely to take Ezekiel’s river as a description either of the spread of the gospel through the world, such as it has been spread these past 2,000 years or to take it as a description of heaven. Postmils think of it as a description of a period of the triumph of the gospel in the world prior to the second-coming of Jesus Christ. Premils also take it to refer to a triumph of the gospel and the kingdom of God in this world but after Christ returns. There is no need to go into all of that.
But let me say this. What all of these pictures of the future reveal is that what God himself is after in the renewal of his church is the salvation of the world. His people will be the means of his grace to the world. That is what is depicted here. That is the great burden of this magnificent picture of this beautiful river. Listen, let’s make this very practical. There are those of you, I am fully aware, who are struggling in different ways, I know. Heavy burdens weigh down your life. But, may I suggest to you that one important impression of our text and of its echo in John 21 is that if you want the nearness of the Lord and his power and his provision in your life, if you want to sit down with him by a campfire and feel that all is well with the world, then you be sure that among all the other things you are doing with your life you are also fishing, up and about the great work our Savior is doing in the world and has called upon us to share. It is to the fishermen that he came to show himself. Interestingly, the only people in Ezekiel’s vision are the fishermen on the shore. In John 21 it is to those who are fishing – a picture of seeking the lost, of sharing the gospel, of trying to save men as agents of Christ himself – that the Lord revealed his great power and to whom he gave the time of refreshment with himself that morning by the lake.
We can become so preoccupied with our own private challenges, concerns, and woes that we lose sight of the larger picture, of the great interests of our Lord and Savior, namely the dying world around us and his plan of salvation for vast multitudes of human beings. We all wish the Lord would come and help us. We need a breakfast with him by the lake. Well, brothers and sisters, there is no better way to get such a breakfast than to go fishing. Make it your business, no matter what your circumstances may be, no matter how heavy your burdens, to be seeking to win the lost around you and the Lord will draw near to show himself to you and help you. I promise this to you in his name. “He who loses his life for my sake,” Jesus said, “shall find it.”
While the Lord was with them, before he ascended to heaven, he told his disciples, Matthew tells us at the very end of his Gospel, that they were to go to all the world and make disciples of all the nations and, that as they went, he would be with them always, even to the end of the age. Well, first he told them that. And then one day in Galilee he showed them that! They were to fish and he would direct them to the catch. They were to work, sometimes through the night with nothing to show for it, but he would provide the picnic in the morning.
You go fishing and keep at your fishing. And all the while you are fishing you keep an eye out for someone walking along the shore. He will know you are there, and he will be there, even if you cannot see him until the morning.