A Flowing River and a Tree, this is the first line of a classic hymn. These two represent a certain way that God takes to carry out His eternal purpose.
In Genesis chapter 2, we can find the tree of life in the garden of Eden. We also see that a river flows from there. Look at Revelation 22; you can also see a river that flows from God’s throne and with it is the tree of life. These bookends of the Bible are pointing to something about God’s relationship with man, something deep, sweet, and refreshing.
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Image and Dominion pointing to God’s Two-fold Need
As seen in Genesis 1:26, God’s eternal purpose is to gain His corporate expression and representation in the universe through man. God is invisible, but He is looking to be seen; that is, He desires an expression. God also has an enemy, Satan, who rebels against God’s authority and drags others with him.
Thus, you might say that God created man to fulfill two needs, expression, and representation. Expression means that man can express God. Through man, God can be expressed in the universe. Representation means that man represents God to subdue the enemy of God. To gain His expression and representation, God created man with His image to express Him and with His dominion to represent Him.
Do you ever feel like Satan is dragging you into sinful things that you don’t want to be in?
I Just Want to be Filled up with the Lord
Regarding expression, how can anyone express someone else without having that one’s life? God created man in His image, as a tripartite vessel, ready to receive God’s life. God then dispenses His own life into man. Ultimately, it is the man who is filled with God’s life, who spontaneously expresses God. To express God is to glorify God. When we talk about God giving life to man, we are not referring to the human life that everyone already has, but we are referring to the uncreated eternal life of God that is freely available to all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ (see John 3:16).
What comes to mind when you hear the word, Life?
For the dispensing to take place, God created man and specifically put Him in a garden. The tree of life in the middle of the garden is symbolic. Furthermore, from Eden flowed a river and this also is symbolic. The tree of life signifies God presenting Himself to man in the form of food. The river signifies the Spirit of God reaching man as living water to satisfy man. Both of these, the tree of life and the flowing river reveal to us God’s dispensing for the fulfilment of His purpose.
The line of life in the Bible
The Bible is comprised of the Old Testament and the New Testament. These two books are not independent but highly related to each other. If you read through the whole Bible, you will see a line, which goes from Genesis to Revelation. This line is the line of life. Let’s begin with two verses in Genesis.
Genesis 2:9-10 And out of the ground Jehovah God caused to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, as well as the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided and became four branches.
Here we see a picture. In the garden of Eden God planted many trees and these were pleasant to the sight and good for food. Among all these trees, in the center of the garden, there was one called the tree of life. Along with this tree there was a river. After God created man, He put man in front of the tree of life. We know this because God put man in a garden and God put the tree of life in the middle of that garden. Thus, God was pointing man to the tree of life. What a beautiful picture!
Why did God put man in front of the tree of life? He did this with the intention that man eat of the tree of life. This intention comes out from God’s heart’s desire and His purpose. God never expected man to do anything, except to simply eat the tree of life, which signifies God as life to man. The way for man to take God as life is to eat Him.
In the New Testament we can see that this tree of life signifies God incarnated in Christ.
John 1:4 In Him was life and the life was the light of man.
John 14:6 Jesus said to Thomas, I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly.
Hallelujah! We thus know that the life of God that is for us is in Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ came to give life so that we may have life and have it abundantly!
In John 6:57 Jesus then told us to eat Him.
John 6:57 As the living Father has sent Me and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.
Did you know that it was Christ Himself who first said that we should eat Him? What other verses show this?
The tree of life is also mentioned in Revelation 22:2 “And on this side and on that side of the river was the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” These verses point out that Jesus Christ Himself is the life for man, as portrayed by the tree of life, which is seen throughout the entire Bible.
If you read the verses in Genesis again, you will find that in the garden there was not only a tree, but also a river. This river which begins in Genesis ends up in Revelation where it is referred to as “a river of water of life”.
Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb in the middle of its street.
Just as we see the tree of life throughout the entire Bible, so also we see the river running throughout the entire Bible. The river signifies God as the Spirit reaching us as life and quenching our thirst.
John 7:37-38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes into Me, as the Scripture said, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.
Jesus came to satisfy us with His life in the same way that a drink of water quenches our thirst. Today Jesus is still offering Himself as food and as water to be our life. The way for us to receive Him is to eat Him and drink Him.
When someone says, Eat Jesus, how does that make you feel?
God made us with a spirit to receive Him and contain Him. Jesus reminded us to use our spirit when contacting Him. In John 4:24 He said, “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truthfulness.” In John 6:63 He said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” To worship God is actually to eat and drink Him. The way to eat and drink Jesus is to exercise our spirit!
Expression First, Then Representation
When Christians get filled up with the Lord within them, they express God in their daily life. It is this type of Christian that then represents God, subduing Satan and kicking him out of their life and their surroundings. Always, in pursuing the Lord, pay attention to the life of God. His life will fill you and then take care of so many things. God’s way to fulfill His purpose, His two-fold need, is life.
Come forward now to get the life
There is a hymn that starts with the words: “Sing praise to Christ who lives in us”. Here is Stanza 7 of this glorious hymn.
Come forward now to God through Him,
Ne’er shrink back to destruction;
Come forward now to get the life,
Which brings the proper function;
Come forward now the life to take,
By life His people us He’ll make,
And swallow death forever.