A glimpse of the River

The River in the Bible - Second in a series

English lacks many of the inflections of Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. So crucial was Hebrew to God's Word that writings not found in the Hebrew Bible were not accepted as canonical (OT) by Protestants. The Jews were the stewards of Scripture by God's divine appointment. (Romans 3:2)

Though we cherish Hebrew as Scripture's original casing, most of us read our Bibles trusting that the translator knew well enough how to present its truth. This is a safe assumption with many versions, nevertheless, there is room for word study.

Take the word river. In Hebrew it is a masculine noun. Many who study grammar state that gender associations in languages are accidental, but do you believe that? Such assignments may partially be explained as occuring when cultures joined and languages merged and evolved, but that is not the full explanation. Gender is a way of animating and personifying words.

There are different sorts of men and different types of rivers. In addition to its figurative uses, a river in the Bible may mean: a canal (Dan 8:2), a stream or channel of water (Joel 1:20), a river stream (Ex 1:22), a perennial river (that does not wane nor dry up) (Gen 2:10), the "wady" that can be either a dry valley or flood or stream in season (Josh 12:1; Ecc 1:7), and even an artificial watercourse (Ps 1:3).

The Smith Bible Dictionary (studylight.org) states:

The perennial river is called nahar by the Hebrews. With the definite article, "the river," it signifies invariably the Euphrates. ( Gen 31:21 ; Exo 23:31 ; Num 24:6 ; 2 Sam 10:16 ) etc. It is never applied to the fleeting fugitive torrents of Palestine. The term for these is nachal, for which our translators have used promiscuously, and sometimes almost alternately, "valley" "brook" and "river." No one of these words expresses the thing intended…

Likewise in the New Testament, a river may denote a stream or flood (Luke 6:48), the Jordan (Mat 3:6), and figuratively, the abundant life in Christ (John 7:38), among other things.

The river in the Bible is personified as floods clapping their hands to rejoice in the Lord (Ps 98:8), as modeling peace (Isa 48:18) and God's abundance (Ps 36:8); and it reflects his loving care for life (Ps 65:9).

In all these images we can see the works and purposes of the Lord, and in a moment of wonder we may see the almighty God in his glory: pouring forth, driving or gentle, refreshing, cleansing, shining, beckoning, sustaining, dividing, conducting. Flow, River!

Introduced in a River

The River in the Bible - First in a series

Baptism in a river began the days of Christ's ministry. John who baptized him did not understand his role in this revelatory event. (Mat 3:13-15) But he understood his mission.

“Make his paths straight!” cried John. (Mark 1:3) The hearts and minds of the hearers were the paths. Many of them cleared a way for him to enter, by repentance through baptism in the Jordan River.

As a rite of God, baptism was given to John — the son of a priest — to perform in the Jordan, not in the Jewish place of worship. The explanation for that is given: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. (Luke 3:2)

In other words, Annas and Caiaphas were not about to let God rule in the Temple. This was the same son and father-in-law team that passed Jesus off to Pilate, with Caiaphas noting it was expedient for one man to die for the people. (John 18:14)

John was not interested in expedient ventures, for when the religious men came to him to be baptized, he said to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mat 3:7) Yet for a time he stayed alive on locusts and honey.

Despite his strange way of life, the weight of his authority and witness overwhelmed his enemies even after he was beheaded. When Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees, "By what authority doest thou these things?" he countered, "I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me." But they would not, being afraid of the people ...for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. (Mark 11:28-32)

There are arguments among Christians about baptism, but we can all say from what we know, the Lord was baptized in a river. Something is there to ponder.

Deep in the heart of Judaism there was knowledge of God as a river, among other natural wonders to which he promoted comparison, that we might perceive his glory.

An exploration of many of the mentions of river in Scripture will help us to meditate about why Jesus was introduced to the world in a river. Here begins a series of posts on the river in the Bible.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Twelfth in The Lord's Prayer Series, "The best prayer to pray in times of stress"

An important insight: The Lord's Prayer is a prayer to our triune God:

It is observable, that though the doxology, as well as the petitions of this prayer, is threefold, and is directed to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost distinctly, yet is the whole fully applicable both to every person, and to the ever - blessed and undivided trinity. - John Wesley

As we end our study of "the best prayer to pray in times of stress", we can join with Christians over the ages in hymns that recall the ending lines of The Lord's Prayer.

For thine is the kingdom

and the power

and the glory,

forever and ever. Amen.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore. (Ps 16:11)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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