Psalm 46: Rivers of Gladness
The Mississippi River was my definition of a river. It flowed past my home town with a constancy interrupted only by occasional and sometimes devastating flooding. For many years it was severely polluted by raw sewage from towns all along its banks. That practice has abated, but it does not run clear like the Current River (in southern Missouri). But it’s not as silt-laden as the Red River. One thing it is: mighty. That’s it’s nickname: The Mighty Mississippi. It was a lifeblood for many along its banks – polluted and dirty as it may have been. When I see other smaller streams that are called rivers, I have to recalibrate my understanding of the term.
The psalmist says,
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
But there is no river in Jerusalem; either by name or by significance. There are a few small streams, but no river in the city. This psalm speaks of the river which is prophesied of in Ezekiel 47. The riven there flows from the temple of God outward. As it flows it gets deeper and more life-giving. It has a profoundly positive impact on all it touches.
I notice that this river makes glad the city of God. It is a joy to have a positive impact in others’ lives. The river in Jerusalem is not merely for the refreshment of its inhabitants. It refreshes all it touches – as far as it flows.
This is the secret of true gladness. It’s not about getting, it’s about giving. True happiness, gladness comes from blessing others; not just being blessed.
Jesus has the same to say about his followers.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38). It’s the same thought as when Jesus told his disciples, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) He provides the perfect example of this reminding his followers that he came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)
God’s desire is for his people to be fully blessed, completely glad. Experiencing his grace and love is the essential beginning of that gladness. The completion of it comes when we pass along those blessings to others. Such is the river of gladness: It flows to us with great and gracious blessing, and from us to others as we give that which we have received from God.