The Prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a river flowing from God’s Temple. Everywhere it went the river brought life, including to the Dead Sea, which came alive with fish.
Strangely, Ezekiel’s vision includes measuring the depth of the river at different points, suggesting the level of activity people can have in the river.
“The man measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters, waters up to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and he brought me through the waters and they were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand and brought me through the waters, which were to the waist. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river I could not pass through: for the waters were deep, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.” Ezekiel 47:3-5
This river reflects another river described in the Apostle John’s revelations.
“Then the angel showed me a pure river of water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” Revelation 22:1
Note in Ezekiel’s vision the repeated suggestion that people are to go into the water. The water isn’t there to supply for trees and animals, but the specific reference points to people being ankle deep, waist deep and swimming in the water.
God’s River of Life is not provided to make nice scenery or to keep the grass green. It is for us. We are to get into that river and experience it.
At the same time we see that people can encounter God’s River of Life at different depths. The water brings life to us, but it impacts us in increasing measure as we go deeper.
Preachers understand this to speak to us Going Deeper into the things of God.
Some Christians keep their encounter with God at a shallow level. They don’t want to allow God to engage with them except in a shallow way. They may well have other things to do and other reasons to be alive, than to know God and enjoy Him.
Some people want God in their life, but they want to be lord of their life, able to decide when they step in and step out of the River.
The silly poem goes, “Mr Worldly went to Church. He did it every Sunday. Mr Worldly went to Hell, for what he did on Monday.”
Sadly, some people experience God in a shallow way because that is all they know. They see Christianity as a religion and they do the religious things, but never realise God’s reality and His love for them, and how wonderfully they could know Him if they only went deeper into the things of God.
Others do go deeper, but still only to the place where they have their feet on the ground. Notice that if the water is ankle deep or even waist deep, we can stay standing. We can walk out of the water if we choose. There is the idea of us staying in control of our experience of God.
Many people fear God’s ultimate reality and all the spiritual things they don’t understand. They want to keep their feet anchored and protect themselves from what they don’t know. This reflects that they sadly haven’t yet come to trust God and His love for them.
The river flows on to a place where the water can’t be crossed. But rather than being simply called a sea or a lake, Ezekiel specifically mentions ‘waters to swim in’. Again there is the idea of us being in the river.
When we swim in deep water we can’t touch the bottom and we can’t just walk out if we want to. We have abandoned ourselves into the water. We trust the water and its currents. We let the river take us along in its flow.
Many years ago I had an unexpected picture come to my mind, of a fast flowing river. My view was not of the top of the water, but what was happening along the river bed. I saw the water move pebbles along in its flow. I also saw very large boulders that resisted being moved.
It struck me that the river represented the flow of God’s Spirit. We are to be led by the Spirit. However, people can be ready to be picked up and moved in the flow, or they can be stuck in one place and resist being moved along.
I determined I wanted to be one of those stones that was ready to move as the flow of God’s Spirit picked me up.
Over the years I have often been in flowing water, at the beach or in rivers. It’s fun to be pushed along by the current. When I have had enough I would put my feet down into the sand and anchor myself against the flow. On those occasions when I found myself in deep water I would suddenly feel afraid, missing the ability to take control.
That’s what it’s like for us when we get in the flow of what God is doing. We can be caught up in the moment, but then feel like we want to get back in control.
When Peter stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus, on the water, he was initially filled with faith and ready to step out. But, despite the miracle of him walking on water, he became fearful and began to sink.
Our need to stay in control is probably the main reason we don’t spend more time swimming in God’s River. We get to the edge of our comfort zone and resist going deeper.
Yet Ezekiel’s vision clearly suggests us moving from ankle deep, progressively to the deep water. I urge you to trust God and to allow Him to draw you closer to Him and deeper into the things of God. Don’t live with one foot in the water and one foot on dry ground. And don’t keep trying to control God and how He deals with you. Trust Him, and let Him take you into the wonderful place of blessings He has for you. And may you be led by the Spirit into the things of God and ever Going Deeper.