Creation Time, River Sunday
Theme: River Sunday, by Keith Innes
Genesis 8:20-22; 9:12 -17
In the Flood story water is destructive, an instrument of judgment.
The ‘Cosmic Covenant’ includes the promise that God will not repeat this wholesale destruction ( 8:21 ; 9:11 ).
G. von Rad draws attention to the connection between 8:21 and 3:17 (compare also 5:29 ).
The indelible corruption in humankind which led up to the Flood (6:5) is now passed over ( 8:21 ).
‘The assurance… does not abolish disasters, but it does localize them, so that the human family may overcome them by forethought such as Joseph’s and by compassion such as Paul’s (2 Cor. 8:14 ).’ (D. Kidner, Genesis , p.93).
The earth endures as a home suited to its non-human as well as its human inhabitants.
The Old Testament roots of this passage are in Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; a river was of course also present in the Garden of Eden, together with the Tree of Life (Genesis 2).
The river containing the water of life, pure and uncontaminated, derives from the throne of God and of the Lamb (1).
The Resurrection of Christ’s dead body is the first instalment of the renewal of all things (Revelation 21:1, 5) as well as the firstfruits of redeemed humanity (1 Corinthians 15:20 ).
Rivers in the Old Testament
Rivers are places of assembly (Ezra 8:15 , 21; Psalm 137:1; Ezekiel 1:1).
Dry watercourses are seen as a judgment (Nahum 1:4; Joel 1:20 ), their restoration a blessing to all living creatures (Joel 3:18 ).
One’s native river could be a matter of some pride (2 Kings 5:12 );
but to claim rights as the owner and even the creator of a river was the height of arrogance (Ezekiel 29:1-10).
The waters are in fact God’s possession and God’s gift (Psalm 46:4; 65:9),
his supreme blessing (Isaiah 41:18; 43:19-20).
A river is a simile of peace and prosperity – shalom (Isaiah 48:18; 66:12; compare Psalm 1:3; 36:8).
In the New Testament
The imagery of the water of life finds its ultimate expression in baptism;
it is also a symbol of the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in believers in Christ (John 7:37 -39).
Facts and Figures
‘Human use of fresh water has quadrupled since the 1940s and is still growing fast, driven by population growth and more affluent ‘water-hungry’ lifestyles with household appliances, golf courses to tender and a taste for year-round fresh food….
‘One-fifth of humanity – 1.1 billion people – has no access to safe drinking water. This, together with lack of sanitation for 2.4 billion people, causes a child to die every 15 seconds and five million deaths a year.
‘But the environmental cost of providing more water has been devastating. Six out of 10 of the world’s biggest rivers have been seriously or moderately fragmented by dams, diversions and canals.
‘Half of the planet’s wetlands were lost during the twentieth century, in part due to these pressures, while ground water supplies are becoming polluted and running out.
‘Look anywhere in the world and the crisis is laid bare. Britain is the most ‘water-stressed’ country in Europe and an official drought was declared this winter. In other countries, the situation is more drastic.
‘Five times in the last decade the Yellow River in northern China has failed to reach the sea and some underground stores in rocks have lost 90 per cent of their reserves.
‘Widespread drought in southern India two years ago caused huge political pressure for national action, the Aral Sea in the former Soviet Union has dried up and Lake Chad has dropped 90 per cent since the mid-1960s.
‘In America , the Government wants to buy the contents of Canada ‘s Arctic rivers for Los Angeles and other desperate cities.’
(Juliette Jowit, Environment Editor, ‘This Parched Earth’, The Guardian , London , 15 February 2004 ).
‘[In Pakistan , t]he flow of river water is dropping precipitately, at nearly 7% a year. The country’s vast irrigation network is silting up and agricultural output will reach a crisis by 2010…, with two key commodities – food grain and cotton – badly hit.’ (Randeep Ramesh, ‘Rivers Run Through It’, The Guardian , London , March 16, 2005 ; referring to the Mumbai-based Strategic Foresight Group’s report, The Final Settlement. )
‘… pollution or contamination of the waters of the river damages the entire ecosystem of the broader region , which receives its life from the unceasing flow of water through the river’s surface and subterranean arteries.’ (The Patriarch Bartholomew I, Cosmic Grace , 268; italics original).
• If you live in an affluent part of the world, take action now to use less water.
• Donate to a charity which helps to bring fresh water to the poor, using environment-friendly technologies like ‘micro-hydro’ (small dams that cause no environmental or human damage).