(Notes of an address by J.S. Bertram at Galashiels).
As creator of the universe in bringing into being such a marvellous system, God had in His mind not only what was material but what was moral. In the material order that which was for the benefit of the creature essentially is a symbolism of that which must emanate from God Himself in relation to the moral or spiritual order. In this connection attention is drawn to the river in Gen. 2:11-15. It is striking that the river had its source in Eden, the garden of God, the earthly paradise. In issuing forth from Eden it became four heads, and went on its course for the benefit of the creature. The number "four "in Scripture signifies "completeness in relation to earth "; this forms a wonderful study throughout the Scripture. The river was one in Eden. The great teaching of the Old Testament is to put emphasis on the fact that "the Lord our God is one God "(Deut. 6:4), but as the river flowed forth it became four heads, surely a beautiful type of God coming forth in Grace in Christ. In that connection it is helpful to learn from the meaning of the names of the rivers, the coincidence with the presentation of the Blessed Lord Jesus in the four Gospels. The first of these heads or rivers mentioned is Pison which means a "broad river," coinciding with the presentation of Christ in the Gospel by Luke, who gives us so beautifully His coming into manhood and standing in relation to man and creation as Son of Man, the broadest of all His titles, for all things will yet be put under Him as such (Heb. 2). The river flowed through Havilah. The gold of that land was good. There was also the onyxstone (precious and durable) . Surely we can trace in the steps of the perfect man that which answers to the gold, onyxstone, precious indeed. "Unto you therefore who believe is the preciousness" and its abiding nature.
Gihon is the second river which means "swift". From the books of Esther and Daniel we find that the king's message required post haste (swift action). We find the Lord Jesus spoken much of as the King in Matthew's gospel. There He was born King, although denied His Kingly rights. There is presented in this Gospel how He will act in Kingly dignity. His teaching in Matthew 13 in relation to the Kingdom of Heaven, indicates the heavens as the seat of authority of the King. In Matthew 22 is the supper where the king views the guests, He sees one who has despised His provision. His authority at once is exercised. Action is swift, He is also hailed as King. As the king in Matthew 25 He differentiates His word as final, "Then shall the king say, come ye blessed of my Father," also to the other company, "Depart from Me." No opposing power can stay His swift action.
The third river is Hiddekel which means "sharp words." "The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword." Connecting this with the servant character of the Lord Jesus as presented by Mark, we find His word fraught with power and authority, the sharp keen edge was felt by the opposing element all the way through. Demon, disease and death all fled at His word. The proud Pharisees and reasoning Sadducees felt the keen edge and had to retire. If it be the case of the paralytic, He dealt with the question of his sins prior to the needs of his body. There is a laying bare of cause and effect : an essential ministry, that the Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The fourth river, Euphrates, meaning "sweet waters." This speaks to us of the outflowing of the Father's love and grace in the Son of His love, who ever dwelt in His bosom and came to earth to make it known, as He is presented in the Gospel by John. He drew the thirsty of earth to Himself; whether the outcast in John 4 or the unsatisfied Jew in John 7. What sweet waters flowed for the thirsty. They would never, never thirst again. There would likewise be an outflow too (for out of His inwards would flow living water), reminding us of the words in Ps. 46:4, "There is a river the streams whereof make glad the city of God."
As we pursue the course through the Gospel, we see the continuance of that rich, refreshing, sweet ministry as we come to John 13-17; just on the eve of the cross, the sweetness seems to increase! May the Lord enable us to drink more deeply into the river of His grace "which is flowing o'er this barren place where Jesus died."