It’s early morning in San Antonio. Before I am due to the convention I’m scribing, I am taking a stroll down the Riverwalk. It lies below the street level, and with only an occasional café open at this hour, I share the quiet with the odd jogger and a few unflappable ducks.
This is my third or fourth visit to this popular tourist spot and I’m seeing it for the visual feast that it is for the first time. Due to being below street level, overhead bridges are everywhere, an integral part of the Riverwalk’s attractiveness – stone, iron and concrete spans add geometric frames and rich shadows to the meandering, garden-rimmed canal.
But it’s the presence of the water that is special. And it’s what keeps nudging me back to Scripture. Flowing water in the midst of habitation is a theme that runs throughout the whole Bible, from the opening chapters to its close. Eden had it. The Sons of Korah described it:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells. (Ps. 46:4)
In Ezekiel 47, the prophet is shown a river flowing from the temple bringing life to the surrounding area. And then, as Scripture closes in Revelation, John gives us a beautiful description of what the Psalm above referenced:
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 down the middle of the great street of the city. (Rev. 22:1-2)
One commentator explains that this symbolizes God as the fountain of life. A stream visualizes unending, uninterrupted, ever-fresh life derived from His presence. Another scholar sees this flow as the Holy Spirit, conveying God’s blessing to his children around him.
The murky water I walk by this morning is far from the “clear as crystal” stream in my mind’s eye. And as I watch a workman spraying yesterday’s dust and grime off the restaurant patio, cascading the muddy rivulets down the terraces into the canal, I think about how my sin and distraction discolor the stream of his presence in my life.
But my takeaway today is the beauty that comes from this juxtaposition of flowing water and human structures. This is a picture of the transformative presence of the Lord among his people. It’s the Garden enveloped in the City of God. Human flourishing under his righteous reign.
What a great reminder of what he intends to do – not only for all his people, collectively, but for each of us, individually.
Let the river flow!
Father, thank you for this engaging visual – your river in our midst. We desire your pure water to flow into our lives every moment of this day. Make us ever aware of your presence.
Reader: What’s your favorite city and water combo? Describe it to me.