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Ezekiel stood watching water pouring out from the Temple. It was the start of a river.
He walked to the east with a measuring tape and measured off fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet, leading me through water waist-deep. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet. By now it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through.
I’ve read a few commentaries on this passage, and I know that some interpret this passage to refer to God’s increasingly powerful work through the ages. I am sure that is correct. When I read the passage, though, I see another application that, I believe, is consistent with Scripture as a whole.
The angel takes out a great big measuring tape and measures out a distance of fifteen hundred feet. For my friends in parts of the world that don’t use feet and inches, that would be a bit short half a kilometer. The water is ankle deep there. The angel leads Ezekiel into that ankle-deep water.
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- In ankle-deep water, it isn’t too hard to keep your balance. You can splash and play a bit. The current isn’t so strong there that a person might be swept away. The ankle-wader is still fairly much in control over where he or she is going.
- The angel didn’t stop there, though. He measured off another fifteen hundred feet and led the prophet through water that was knee deep.
- In knee deep water, the current can be felt a bit more strongly. It takes a bit more strength and balance to keep walking. But basically, a person can still walk in knee-deep water.
- Then the angel measured off another fifteen hundred feet into water that was waist deep. Ezekiel followed him.
- In waist deep water, a person’s body is half underwater. The current pulls strongly. At this depth, the river-walker may intend to go one way, but the force of the current pushes in a different direction. If the walker insists on his own direction, he probably won’t accomplish that entirely. Depending on the strength of the current, he probably won’t be able to accomplish it at all.
- The angel then measured off another fifteen hundred feet. Ezekiel found himself in water that was over his head. It was deep enough to swim in.
Have you ever tried to swim in a river? Back in 1989-1990, I spent a school year in Papua New Guinea teaching at a school for the children of missionaries. During the Easter holidays, I visited the village where the parents of one of my students served. This village was located on the banks of a river in a jungle lowland area. It was the next-to-the last village along this river.
A large tree had fallen into the swiftly-moving river. The local children, the MK’s…and this visiting teacher…had a great time swimming in this river. We were all glad for the long sturdy rope tied at one end to the tree. The other end floated off downstream.
We took turns jumping off the tree into the river, then swam with all our might toward the rope. We grabbed the rope and hand-over-hand pulled ourselves back to the tree. Without that rope, the current would have swept us downstream.
Invitation to Go Deeper
As I look at this passage in Ezekiel, I see an invitation to us to go deeper into God’s river of life. Let’s move beyond the shallow water. The shallows are good, and can be enjoyable, but the deeper water, takes us places where God works mightily.
When swimming in that river in Papua New Guinea, you didn’t want to just let yourself be carried away by the current. If a person got carried away there, it could result in disaster. We can entrust ourselves to God’s life-giving current, and expect amazing things to happen.
Next time, we’ll look at some of the things that happen in places where the river of live flows.
Time for Reflection
- Consider your own life and relationship with God. How deep are you? Ankle-deep? Knee-deep? Waist-deep? Swimming in the current?
- If you are wading in “shallow water”, what is holding you back from following God deeper into His river?