Verse 4. There is a river. Divine grace like a smoothly flowing, fertilising, full, and never failing river, yields refreshment and consolation to believers. This is the river of the water of life, of which the church above as well as the church below partakes evermore. It is no boisterous ocean, but a placid stream, it is not stayed in its course by earthquakes or crumbling mountains, it follows its serene course without disturbance. Happy are they who know from their own experience that there is such a river of God. The streams whereof in their various influences, for they are many, shall make glad the city of God, by assuring the citizens that Zion's Lord will unfailingly supply all their needs. The streams are not transient like Cherith, nor muddy like the Nile, nor furious like Kishon, nor treacherous like Job's deceitful brooks, neither are their waters "naught" like those of Jericho, they are clear, cool, fresh, abundant, and gladdening. The great fear of an Eastern city in time of war was lest the water supply should be cut off during a siege; if that were secured the city could hold out against attacks for an indefinite period. In this verse, Jerusalem, which represents the church of God, is described as well supplied with water, to set forth the fact that in seasons of trial all sufficient grace will be given to enable us to endure unto the end. The church is like a well ordered city, surrounded with mighty walls of truth and justice, garrisoned by omnipotence, fairly built and adorned by infinite wisdom: its burgesses the saints enjoy high privileges; they trade with far off lands, they live in the smile of the King; and as a great river is the very making and mainstay of a town, so is the broad river of everlasting love, and grace their joy and bliss. The church is peculiarly the City of God, of his designing, building, election, purchasing and indwelling. It is dedicated to his praise, and glorified by his presence. The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. This was the peculiar glory of Jerusalem, that the Lord within her walls had a place where he peculiarly revealed himself, and this is the choice privilege of the saints, concerning which we may cry with wonder, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" To be a temple for the Holy Ghost is the delightful portion of each saint, to be the living temple for the Lord our God is also the high honour of the church in her corporate capacity. Our God is here called by a worthy title, indicating his power, majesty, sublimity, and excellency; and it is worthy of note that under this character he dwells in the church. We have not a great God in nature, and a little God in grace; no, the church contains as clear and convincing a revelation of God as the works of nature, and even more amazing in the excellent glory which shines between the cherubim overshadowing that mercy seat which is the centre and gathering place of the people of the living God. To have the Most High dwelling within her members, is to make the church on earth like the church in heaven.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. What is the river that makes glad the city of God? I answer, God himself is the river, as in the following verse, "God is in the midst of her."
- God the Father is the river: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Jeremiah 2:13 .
- God the Son is the river, the fountain of salvation: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." Zechariah 13:1 .
- God the Spirit is the river: "He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 7:38 4:14. What are the streams of this river? Answer -- the perfections of God, the fulness of Christ, the operations of the Spirit, and these running in the channel of the covenant of promise. Ralph Erskine.
Verse 4. There is a river, etc. This is that flood which Ezekiel beheld in vision, the waters that came down from the right side of the house, and rising first to the ankles -- then as the prophet passed onward, to the knees -- then to the loins -- became afterwards a river that he could not pass over; for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. Shall we see in this, with the angelic doctor, the river of grace which burst forth from Mount Calvary? streams branching off hither and thither, the pelagim of the Hebrew -- "to satisfy the desolate and waste ground, and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth." Job 38:1-41 . O "fountain of gardens," "well of living waters," "streams from Lebanon," how do you, the "nether springs" of this world, bring to us something of the everlasting loveliness and peace of those "upper springs," by which the beautiful flock now feed and lie down, none making them afraid! Or with S. Ambrose and S. Bernard, understand the verse of the "river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb." And then the rivers of that flood shall indeed make glad the city of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, where is the tree of life, that beareth twelve manner of fruits, and yieldeth her fruit every month; that country and that river of which the old liturgies say, "They who rest in the bosom of Abraham are in the tabernacle of joy and rest, in the dwellings of light, in the world of pleasure, in the church of the true Jerusalem, where there is no place for affliction, nor way of sadness, where there are no wars with the flesh, and no resistance to temptation, where sin is forgotten, and past danger is only remembered as a present pleasure." Thomas Aquinas, Ambrose, and Bernard, in Neale's Commentary.
Verse 4. There is a river. The river of God that flows from his throne. No enemy can cut off this stream from the church of Christ. Observe the reference to Isaiah 36:2 37:25, compared with 2 Chronicles 32:2-4 . These gently flowing, but full streams, are contrasted with the roaring waves of the sea. T. C. Barth.
Verse 4. There is a river, etc. The allusion is either to the river Kidron, which ran by Jerusalem, or to the waters of Shiloah, which by different courses and branches ran through the city of Jerusalem, and supplied the several parts of it with water, to the joy and comfort of its inhabitants. But the words are to be understood in a figurative sense, as applicable to gospel times; and this river either designs the gospel, the streams of which are its doctrines, which are living waters, that went out from Jerusalem, and which publish glad tidings of great joy to all sensible sinners; or the Spirit and his graces, which are compared to a well and rivers of living water, in the exercises of which the saints have much joy and peace; or else the Lord himself, who is the place of broad rivers and streams to his people, and is both their refreshment and protection; or rather his everlasting love to them is here intended. John Gill.
Verse 4. Compared with the waterless deserts around, Judaea and Jerusalem were well watered, and drought pressed more severely on the besiegers than the besieged. The allusion here is to the well known rill and pool of Siloam. So in Isaiah 8:6 , the blessing of God's protection is represented by the waters of Shiloah, which go softly. From "The psalms Chronologically arranged. By Four Friends," 1867.
Verse 4. The city. The church of God is like a city,
- Because a city is a place of security.
- A place of society: what one wants another supplies; they have mutual fellowship.
- A place of unity, that people may therein live in peace and concord.
- A place of trade and traffic. Here is the market of free grace: "Ho, every one that thirsteth," etc. Here is the pearl of great price exposed for sale.
- A place of freedom and liberty, freedom from the guilt of sin, wrath of God, curse of the law, present evil world, bondage to Satan, etc., etc.
- A place of order and regularity; it hath its constitutions and ordinances.
- A place of rest, and commodious to live in, and thus it is opposed to the wilderness.
- A place of privileges.
- A place of pomp and splendour; there is the king, the court, the throne.
- A place of pleasure and beauty; Psalms 48:2 . Ralph Erskine.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. Glad tidings in sad times; or, the city of God in the times of trouble and confusion, watered with the river of consolation. Ralph Erskine.
Verse 4. What can this river be but that blessed covenant to which David himself repaired in the time of trouble? ... And what are the streams of this river, but the outgoings and effects of this divine constitution?
- The blood of Jesus.
- The influences of the Holy Spirit.
- The doctrines and promises of the gospel.
- The ordinances of religion.
- All the means of grace. W. Jay.
Verse 4. Make glad the city of God. There are four ways in which the streams of a river would gladden the citizens.
- The first regards prospect.
- The second regards traffic.
- The third regards fertility.
- The fourth regards supply. W. Jay.
Verse 4. City of God. The church may be called "the city of God" because,
- He dwells in it (see Psalms 44:5 ).
- He founded it and built it.
- It derives all privileges and immunities from him.
- He is the chief Ruler or Governor there.
- It is his property.
- He draws the rent of it. Ralph Erskine.
Verse 4-5. To the church, Joy, Establishment, Deliverance.