The focus of this lesson is on the blessings that come from the temple. To illustrate these blessings the Lord uses the symbolism of water. The most powerful messages from the Lord come in the form of symbols. Symbols allow us to understand the same thing on many different levels. By giving us symbolism to decipher we are only held accountable for what we currently understand.
The Water Symbol
Water is used all throughout the scriptures to illustrate teachings and doctrine, and water has many interpretations. Water can be used to represent life, knowledge, understanding, emotions, a destructive force, a purifying force, a source of healing, and water is used to represent covenants, as in the case of baptism.
The water mentioned in the verses of this lesson are easily able to make reference to almost all of the above mentioned forms of symbolism. In Ezekiel 47:1 it says “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward …” Ezekiel is talking about physical water that someday will issue forth from underneath the temple into two rivers of water. One river will flow down to the Dead Sea and heal that sea. The other will flow down to a barren valley just south of Jerusalem that is known for its complete absence of living things, and it will heal that valley as well.
So what does physical water flowing into the Dead Sea and into a dead valley have to do with us? To answer that think of what Christ told people during his ministry. In Revelation 7:17 we read
17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Christ’s teachings are referred to as the bread of life and the living waters. We are supposed to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. These words are what make it possible for us to have eternal life. They teach us truth that will lead us back to God. Because they reconnect us with God, they give us eternal life, making them endless. Spiritual death is to be separated from God, so when we listen to and follow the words of the Lord that bring us back into harmony with God then we are healed of the damage caused by our sins.
The water referred to in Ezekiel that will heal the Dead Sea is a demonstration that the words of Christ can bring back to life even that which has been dead for a long time. The other river that heals the barrenness of the dead valley is like a second witness that the teachings of God can make even something that is completely desolate bear fruit and be prosperous again. The point is that the words of eternal life are just that powerful and transformative.
The final example of water symbol is in Ezekiel 47:2 – 5. Starting in verse three the man who is showing Ezekiel the measurements of the temple that will someday be built in Jerusalem, has Ezekiel wade across the river. The river is up to his ankles. He then re-measures the river and when Ezekiel wades across it is up to his knees. He crosses it again and it is up to his loins (hips). Finally, he tries to cross the river again, but this time it is so deep he cannot get across.
In this case water represents the revelatory knowledge we receive from going to the temple. Our understanding is shallow when we first start attending the temple, but as we attend and serve in the temple our understanding deepens and eventually our knowledge becomes a formidable source to be reckoned with. This brings us to where this water or knowledge is coming from.
The Temple as God’s Throne
The temple is sometimes referred to as the throne of God. In Ezekiel 43:7 the Lord refers to the temple as “… the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever …” The temple is where the Lord comes to visit his people. This is his house, his sacred space. In Revelation 22:1 – 3 the apostle John tells us that he saw “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
Considering that water is the healing balm, the giver of life, the representation of the word of God, it is fitting that the knowledge of God and his ways would issue forth from his throne to heal the people. All knowledge of spiritual things comes from God, and the temple is his house.
The final representation of the effect of the word of God is in the same verses in Revelation 22:2 – 3. We are told that the Tree of Life grows on both sides of the river that flows from under the throne of God. The tree bears twelve kinds of fruit, one for each month of the year, and for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Even their leaves can heal the nations. Ezekiel 47:12 also describes these same trees, and he gives the same description that the fruit is to be eaten to sustain life, and that even the leaves have healing virtues.
The symbolism of the temple, the tree of life, and the waters that flow from the temple are powerful images meant to give us a sense of how important the temple should be in our lives. As the place where God directs his people, the temple is the source of truth, revelation, knowledge, covenants, and spiritual peace and health. The more we participate in what goes on in the temples of the Lord, the more we come to understand the Lord’s will and ways.
Lehi and Nephi described the fruit of the Tree of Life as sweet above all other fruits, and most desirable and delicious. This is what we receive when we attend the temple. We come to understand how much God loves his children, and our understanding of the Lord’s ways deepen as we participate in the ordinances of his holy house.