River of Peace Sermon

The River of Peace by Barbara Shafer, preached at Advocate Condell 6.23.2013

When I was a child, one of my favorite summer memories was during the years I lived in North Carolina and developed my thick Southern accent.  Periodically, there are still words that bring it out, but mostly I’ve lost it.  But my favorite summer memory endures and involves my playing outside with friends—which is what kids enjoyed before smart phones, Wii and tablets.river rocks2

We would hike through the woods to a secret opening along the river bank.

The river—more like a gentle stream…bigger than a brook…in a child’s mind as wide as wide could be so technically a river…but mostly the water was not so deep that it failed to leave exposed some big broad, flat rocks.  Sometimes we’d go fishing, but mostly we’d lay in the sunshine on the rocks or sit atop them, telling stories and laughing while dangling our legs in the stream.  It was peaceful, refreshing; and we could spend hours as summer drifted along without any cares.

Don’t you long for a place like that?  Youth is wasted on the young, I guess, although I think I appreciated it even then because it is such an indelible memory.  And yes, I long for a place like that in the hectic adult life we grow to have.

There is a River of Peace available to you today.  It’s available to me.  It’s found cover to cover in the Bible if we look carefully to see its flowing from page to page.

There is a River of Peace and it

  1. Flows, bringing blessing 
  2. Flows, supporting life
  3. Flows, giving healing
  4. Flows, producing fruit
There is a River of Peace that flows from God.
Come to the River and find peace for your souls.

Where is this river?  We see it first in Genesis:

Genesis 2:9 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; 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; 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.

Before sin ever entered the world, there was a River of Peace flowing from Eden—the place of God’s presence among His creation.  This River nourished the Garden and sustained all of life.  Trees that brought beauty and food.  And the River multiplied into four headwaters.  Although locations of Pishon, Havilah, and Gihon are unknown, the river clearly flows in many directions from the high ground of Eden…paradise…the place of God’s dwelling among Adam and Eve, the pinnacles of His creation.

We see this same River also in Revelation.

Revelation 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.

Again we see this River of Peace flowing, bringing blessing, life, healing, and fruit.  It flows from the place of God’s presence, His rightful place upon His throne.  Don’t you long to come to a River like that?  A place with water of life, clear as crystal?  Refreshing, blessing, flowing, healing…

God desires you to come to such a River and to know the blessings of peace that He alone can give.

Where are you today?

Have you come to this River or are you in a place of unrest, worry, or pain?

The beautiful River of Genesis and of Revelation are one and the same River, but something happened between those chapters: something that causes unrest, worry, and pain.

Sin entered the picture.

* * *

dangling legsI didn’t tell you the rest of my story regarding the river of my childhood. 

We stopped going to the river one fateful day. 

One day when a few of my friends and I were sitting on the big broad rocks, dangling our legs into the cool refreshing water, we saw a snake.  Whether it was just a water snake or an actual cottonmouth (otherwise known as water moccasin) who knows anymore?  We’d turned it into a cottonmouth by the time we jumped from rock to rock and ran all the way home…not that snakes can run…

To this day, I don’t recall whether our parents told us not to go there anymore on account of the cottonmouth or whether we just avoided the area because we didn’t like snakes, especially aggressive and highly poisonous ones (go figure!), but the result was the same.  We didn’t come to the river anymore.

Have unrest, worry, or pain kept you from coming to the River of Peace? 

Things that bring fear…including sin itself…have the effect of blocking our way to peace.

The peace of the river of my youth was disrupted by the cottonmouth…just like the peace of the river from Eden was disrupted by sin.  It blocked the way, making the river harder to access because we were afraid.  The river was still there.  But fear kept us away.

Even so, my memory is most often of the beauty and the peace, just like the Bible tells us that the peace God gives is still available to us.  It can be our best thought by day or by night:

Isaiah 48: 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

God does not desire our living in tumult and turmoil.  He doesn’t want unrest, worry, or pain to keep us from Him and the peace that flows like a river from His throne.  He desires to give us peace in the here-and-now–until Jesus returns and the new heaven and earth restore everything to the perfect way they once were.  The River of Revelation clear as crystal…

Until then, is that scene from Revelation only the stuff of dreams and visions?  Visions like Ezekiel’s:

Ezekiel 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.”

Visions, yes, but this life-giving water is ALSO available to us today. 

How can I find the River of Peace, you ask?

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.

Isaiah 44: 2 This is what the LORD says– he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

In each of these Scriptures we’ve seen so far, the streams of living water, the quenching of the dry ground, the River of Peace: it all comes from God who gives us life.

We can come to the River of Peace—even today—by God’s own work of giving the Holy Spirit as a seal of redemption upon those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus.  He dwells in our hearts and His healing waters flow, ministering peace to our hearts even while our worlds outside may be poised to cause us harm.

It’s like God captured and removed the cottonmouth from endangering His children and by faith, you and I free to play on the big broad rocks.  We are free to enjoy the refreshing water, the flowing blessing, the fruit of righteousness, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.

By faith in Christ, we have been set free from the cottonmouth of sin.  We have received God’s forgiveness in place of our sins.  Indeed our sins have been washed away in this River of Peace—our sins are removed from us and are forgotten.  As believers, we have received the Holy Spirit and this is what Isaiah says (after discussing a world in trouble which is our life until…)

Isaiah 32:15 till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. 16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. 17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. 19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, 20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free

reflected treesThis is the River of Peace made up of living water that flows within– Living water that flows from the throne of God into the heart of every believer, sealed by God’s Holy Spirit.  So no matter where today finds you, you can come to the River of Peace where it

  1. Flows, bringing blessing
  2. Flows, supporting life
  3. Flows, giving healing—sometimes now but always eternal healing
  4. Flows, producing fruit of righteousness, indeed peace for our souls.

Come to the River of Peace…

Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on June 24, 2013

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