Fuller

Healing for All

May 20, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Revelation 22:1-2 (NRSV)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Focus

The imagery of the tree in today’s reading recalls the trees from the Garden of Eden in Genesis—the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The church has traditionally taught that this tree in Revelation is, or restores, or remembers, the tree of life in Genesis 2:9. The New Jerusalem is new, but it is also Eden restored. All that has been broken and hurt will be healed.

Devotion

Believe it or not, it’s still the Easter season until June 5. I’ve commented several times on the fact that during the Easter season, in place of the Old Testament story, the lectionary gives us readings each week from Acts which tell the story of how the early church grew and spread.

What is sometimes less noticed is what happens to the Epistle readings during the Easter season: all the readings are from Revelation. Revelation is, of course, a letter, though we usually don’t think of it that way; it begins with the writer, John, saying:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:4-5).

So, even as we hear the story of the church’s beginning from Acts, we are being reminded of where all of this ultimately ends up. The church’s goal isn’t to keep itself going just as it is in perpetuity, but to be part of preparing for the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1).

So much of the imagery of Revelation has entered our conversation and our literature and our hymnody that it’s hard to even know where to begin. People have (unfruitfully, I think) attempted to get many different schemes and outlines from the book of Revelation about exactly when, and how, Jesus is going to return and what will happen when he does. A much better way to read Revelation, I think, is to see it as making essentially three points:

Our life in the world will be difficult
Jesus knows and governs the end and has us under his protection
What we do now matters in some mysterious way for the new heaven and the new earth.

Today’s passage, from near the end of Revelation, comes at the end of a long description of the New Jerusalem. It will be surpassingly beautiful (Revelation 21:9-21) and will need no temple because the Lord himself will be the temple (21:22-23); there will be no night and no evil there (21:24-27, 22:5), water will flow through it and a tree of life will be in its center (22:1-2), and those who are there will spend their time in worship (22:3-5).

The imagery of the tree recalls the trees from the Garden of Eden in Genesis—the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The church has traditionally taught that this tree in Revelation is, or restores, or remembers, the tree of life in Genesis 2:9. The New Jerusalem is new, but it is also Eden restored. All that has been broken and hurt will, in that glorious everlasting moment, be healed.

When I was once going through a painful time, I stumbled on a little-known hymn by A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The Alliance as a denomination has a particular interest in Jesus’s healing power and speaks of him as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. I’ll make the unusual step of including all the lyrics below, since they are a bit hard to find.

The hymn refers most immediately to a story in Exodus 15:22-26: the Hebrews came to a place on their journey out of Egypt where, though terribly thirsty, they could not drink the available water because it was bitter. Moses stuck a branch in the water and it became sweet and drinkable. Yet I also immediately connected it with the imagery of Revelation 22—the beautiful river of life and the tree that heals. What was a one-time miracle in Exodus will be the way of life in the New Jerusalem: healing for all.

There is a healing branch that grows
Where every bitter Marah flows;
This is our health-renewing tree.
“I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
There is an old appointed way
For those who hearken and obey;
Above the gate these words we see:
“I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
There is an ordinance that has stood
Since Israel crossed the parted flood;
It stands today for you and me—
“I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
There is a great Physician still
Whose hand has all its ancient skill;
At His command our pains will flee—
“I am the Lord that healeth thee.”

Reflect

Where do you need Jesus to work in your life as Savior?

As Sanctifier?

As Healer?

As Coming King?

Act

I found just one recording of this song—a beautiful one, but instrumental only. You may want to listen to the music while you ponder the lyrics above.

Pray

Heal me, Jesus. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Babylon and the New Jerusalem: A Tale of Two Cities (Revelation 17-22)


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One thought on “Healing for All

  1. DiAnne says:

    Thank you for posting the lyrics to this hymn! That was beautiful.

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