The Curse of Sin and the Course of God
October 13, 1996
Scripture: Psalm 14 and 15
Ever since I was a young boy I have been fascinated by rivers. We lived in Sioux City, IA, about three blocks from the Big Sioux River when I was in the 3rd through the 7th grade, appropriately enough in an area called Riverside. I spent all my summer days on the river fishing and exploring and swimming. The river held wonderful surprises around every bend and in every hole. It was ever changing and ever new, never the same in the same spot twice. When we moved to the farm I spent many days fishing and exploring the west branch of the Little Sioux River. Where did it come from and where did it go and why? In the Navy in Cuba I explored the Guantanamo River as far as I could take it before it hit communist Cuba, and in college at Ames, IA, I always unwound from studies along the banks of the Skunk River that flowed nearby. My first job after college was in west central Iowa where I managed the county park system. It was there that the Boyer River held fascination with its rich history of Indian lore and I searched out old settlements along the bank. Moving to Des Moines it was the Des Moines River that drew my attention. Later in north central Iowa the Boone River became my favorite as I searched out productive fishing holes, clam beds and swimming places. I brought home buckets and buckets of catfish. They seemed to come from nowhere in the clear, ice cold water. Later in south central Iowa the Chariton River captured all the time I could give it. One summer I walked down the center of the river in a relatively low stage just to check out the deep spots for fishing. It regularly went from ankle deep to neck deep in the most unexpected places. I would swim under the brush piles to feel for catfish. There were super huge catfish in those holes, turtles the size of washtubs, heron rookeries in the tops of the huge Chariton River hickory trees, turkeys, deer, Canadian geese, ducks and life in abundance. I had a row boat and went for miles up and down the river just to see what was there. I was never disappointed. It was forever new and abundant. The river was life. And it imparted a certain measure of life to me. I always came away with a new respect and wonder of God (Rom 1:20).
In God’s economy there is a River of Life that flows through the pages of the Bible with unerring purpose and wonder. It begins in the Book of Genesis, then goes underground (so to speak) even through the present day, but emerges later on in the millennial kingdom with a power of life and healing that will amaze the nations. Stop, look and listen to the power of this mighty river and the God who established its course.
I. The River of Life in the Beginning
Gen. 2:8 ¶ Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.
9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-- trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
11 The name of the first is the Pishon (Gusher); it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold.
12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)
13 The name of the second river is the Gihon (Spurter); it winds through the entire land of Cush.
14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
II. The Curse of Sin
Gen. 3:22 ¶ And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
Adam and Eve had the option to eat from the tree of life rather that from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they did not choose it. So mankind was banned from the Garden and the River of Life dried up.
Rom. 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--
Rom. 3:23 There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death,
Heb. 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
Rom. 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
Ps. 14:1 ¶ The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
3 All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Is. 64:6 ¶ All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.
Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
10 "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."
Jer. 2:12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD.
13 "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Jer. 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.
These verses explain a major doctrinal position of the Bible to us. And that is that man is totally depraved, totally lost, and totally separated from God because of sin. Have we stopped lately to examine the true condition of our hearts and our heartcry need for the holiness of God?
“How many Christians have you heard recently confess to being wicked? How many even believe they are wicked? Most Christians do not perceive themselves as wicked. Is this a problem? When asked if they are sinners, their answers change dramatically. Christians know they are sinners and readily confess it. Such willing acknowledgment raises new questions. If I am not a wicked sinner, does that mean I’m basically a nice sinner? Does it mean I’m a cultured sinner, and educated sinner, a refined sinner, a good sinner, an average sinner, a B+ sinner? Has God changed His stand on sin? Is the condition of sin no longer wicked in the eyes of a holy God? Deep down in the inner recesses of our heart, we know better. All sin is wicked in His eyes.” (Jim Russell in Awakening the Giant, Zondervan, 1996, p. 81)
Title: Scorpion and the Turtle
A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked a turtle to carry him on its back across the river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "You'll sting me while I'm swimming and I'll drown." "My dear turtle," laughed the scorpion, "If I were to sting you, you would drown and I'd go down with you. Now where is the logic in that?" "You're right," cried the turtle. "Hop on." The scorpion climbed aboard and halfway across the river gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle, resigned, said, "Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there is no logic in your stinging me. Why did you do it?" "It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion replied. "It's just my nature."
III. The River of Life in the Present
John 4:4 ¶ Now he had to go through Samaria.
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"
8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?") (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"
13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 7:37 ¶ On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
39 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.
V. The River of Life in the Millennium
Is. 35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."
5 ¶ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Joel 3:17 'Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.
18 ¶ 'In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias.
Zech. 12:10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Zech. 13:1 ¶ "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
Zech. 14:4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
6 On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost.
7 It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime-- a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light.
8 ¶ 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.
9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
Ezek. 47:1 ¶ The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.
2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.
3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep.
4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist.
5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in-- a river that no one could cross.
6 He asked me, "Son of man, do you see this?" Then he led me back to the bank of the river.
7 When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.
8 He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh.
9 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.
10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds-- like the fish of the Great Sea.
11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.
12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing."
Is this spring impossible?
Gen. 2:5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-
Gen. 7:11 ¶ In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month-- on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.
What is the place of those who have received the healing and cleansing of the living water in the river of God’s grace?
Da 7:18 But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever-- yes, for ever and ever.'
Da 7:27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'
Re 5:10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."
Re 7:15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
Re 7:16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
Re 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Re 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
V. The River of Life in the Eternal State
Rev. 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
6 He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.
7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Rev. 21:22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
Rev. 22:1 ¶ Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The River of Life runs its course through eternity to all who would be drawn to its lush banks for the abundance of healing and cleansing that the grace of God supplies. It cannot be dammed up. It flows from the depth of God’s love. It bursts forth from the springs of the deep. It is “deep and wide.” Follow it as far as it goes and you find all the more richness of its blessing. Trace it to its source and you find the altar of God. You find God Himself. God’s desire is that you worship Him. The grace of God is realized through the worship of God. He is the source and sustainer of life. He is the floodgate of mercy through which we find abundant life through the forgiveness of sins. The grace of God is applied through the blood of Christ.
Le 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (Christ will lead us beside streams of living water.)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(Christ has become for us the way to God.)
Eph. 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14 ¶ For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
Title: The Cross and the Blood
It is the closing scene in the motion picture, Ben Hur. The sky is disappearing behind the ominous looking cloud formations. The movie camera takes a long shot of three crosses rising out of a distant hill. Then the camera moves in close, closer, to the figure stretched out on the center cross. Lightning reveals a man squirming in silent agony to the rhythm of the flashes. It is raining hard. With each flash of light, the pool of rain water at the foot of the cross grows larger. Suddenly a single drop of blood drips into the pool and scatters. Then another drop falls. And then another. The pool is now tinted light red. The rain comes harder and the pool overflows into another pool immediately below it. The second pool reddens and enlarges, overflowing into still another pool which, in turn, overflows into a small stream. The blood-stained stream flows into a larger stream which meets a river which flows into an ocean. (Matt. 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.)
There is a river of God’s mercy and grace which no man can fathom. Have you come to the river? Will you come to the river? That river is Christ. He is forever the same, and He is forever new. He gave His blood for you. Believe it!
Hymn: Got Any Rivers
Hymn: Drinking at the Springs of Living Water
Title: Thirst in the Midst of Plenty
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. The mouth is 90 miles across. There is enough water to exceed the combined flow of the Yangtze, Mississippi and Nile Rivers. So much water comes from the Amazon that they can detect its currents 200 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. One irony of ancient navigation is that sailors in ancient times died for lack of water... caught in windless waters of the South Atlantic. They were adrift, helpless, dying of thirst. Sometimes other ships from South America who knew the area would come alongside and call out, "What is your problem?" And they would exclaim, "Can you spare us some water? Our sailors are dying of thirst!" And from the other ship would come the cry, "Just lower your buckets. You are in the mouth of the mighty Amazon River." The irony of ancient Israel and the tragedy around us today is that God, the fountain of living water, is right here and people don't draw from Him.