One of the favorite activities of many Christians, and especially preachers, is to look back at the Old Testament in order to look forward to Jesus. Some of this, as I've written before, is a stretch and does a disservice to the real, powerful testimonies of our Old Testament fathers, but neither should we deny that the Old Testament at times does look forward to the Promise God gives His people of a Messiah.
Sometimes, I think part of the prophecy of the Old Testament is that it can call into our hearts images of the New as we read it with eyes on the world where Christ has already come (once). I don't know whether the prophets of the OT were truly writing to say such things or if our knowledge of Christ and Him crucified opens our eyes to see things in a new way that the original audience might never have understood, but to be quite honest, that's above my pay grade; I just go with my heart when it's stirred.
And something that stirred it recently was an image that Ezekiel had of a river (Ezekiel 47).
This is the river that the prophet was guided to wade in, and the further he went, the higher the waters rose until it was deep enough to swim in and could not be crossed by simply walking any longer. At the end of the river is a sea, and when the fresh water from the river enters the stagnant waters of the sea, the waters of the sea are healed and made fresh. Life teems within it again, living and breathing where the river flows. Trees planted on its banks prosper and bear great fruit, and their leaves will never wither. All because of this water that comes from the river, which flows from the sanctuary.
Of course, it's easy to see a reference to Living Water here. Isn't this what Christ promises us? He is the Living Water that flows from the sanctuary and brings life to dead places and bears consistent fruit. I think that's an image that's easy to see; go ahead and let your sanctified imagination run wild with it in your heart for awhile.
But what's interesting, and what stuck out to me as I read through this passage this particular time, was that Ezekiel saw visions of fishermen standing beside this river, all along it. They have spread their nets out to dry and are catching all kinds of fish, all kinds. Full to the brim.
What I wonder here, and I'm just beautifully wondering, is whether these might be fishers of men. Could this be the first vision we have of the disciples?
We don't think about it much. We think the disciples are just some guys that Jesus picked because they happened to be around and strike His fancy. They were citizens of the region, so they were natural choices, but what if God was already thinking about these fishermen before Jesus ever called them out of their boats?
What if He was thinking about them while He was giving a vision to the prophet Ezekiel? What if the guys that Ezekiel sees on the banks of this life-giving river, pulling all kinds of fish out of the sea, are none other that Peter, Andrew, James, and John?
Something to think about.