Rivers of Delight - A River Crossings Reflection (Psalm 36)

Williamson River, Oregon

Psalm 36:5-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

                                          Robert Lowery


The "River Crossings" journey I've been on the past two months (as is true of my congregation---Central Woodward Christian Church) enters its third month. I have been (as is true of the church) been reflecting on biblical passages that speak to that journey. This weekend the church has been engaged in a series of conversations with Dr. Marti Steussy, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Christian Theological Seminary. In her presentation on Friday, which I attended, Marti spoke of the Rivers of Eden.  Regarding Eden, which we normally speak of as a Garden, she suggested that we might better envision this as an Orchard of Delights (the first humans don't dig in a garden, they pick fruit off trees).  So, as we live East of Eden (Delight), how might we reenter the Garden/Orchard? In the Priestly vision, that can be experienced through worship, which leads us to Psalm 36. 

The Psalm begins with a word about the transgressions of the Wicked and what God does with them. You can go and read the entire Psalm for yourself. I would like to focus our attention on the middle section of the Psalm, which rejoices in the steadfast love (hesed) of the Lord. "How precious is your steadfast love, O God!" Yes, how precious is that love that sustains us. Then in verse 8, we are invited to "feast on the abundance of your house." What we lay upon the Lord's Table might not seem like a feast, but it is symbolic of that feast laid out before us in the eschatological vision of the messianic banquet (Rev. 19:1-10). So, we come and dine in the Temple of God, feasting on God's abundance. Oh, what a day. 

For those of us who are thirsty, there is good news. God invites us to "drink from the river of your delights." That is because "with you is the fountain of life." The vision here echoes that in Ezekiel 47, which speaks of a river springing forth from the Temple, and flowing toward the Dead Sea, refreshing what is dead.  Yes, the steadfast of God provides the living giving waters that refresh us when we are dry. This is the river of delights, a river that flows from the Temple, but ultimately from the Garden. 

So: 

1 Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod;
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Refrain:
Yes, we'll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

Yes, let us gather at the river of delights and drink from God's provision.    

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