The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river.
I believe that the river in Ezekiel’s vision represents the life giving water that flows from the throne of God available to all who immerse themselves in the presence of the Holy Ghost, and that the gradual steps that Ezekiel is led through speaks of the progression of a life submitted to the power of God.
The Lord desires to see all of us progressing in our walk with Him. From the time we accept Christ until we are in the grave the Lord expects us to move forward and to progress in our personal relationship with Him. We are expected to be move forward in maturity and in knowledge. We are expected to move from the shallow edge of the river which represent a simple trust in God, out into the deeper water as our faith becomes stronger and we learn to submit ourselves to His authority and completely trust in the power of Jesus’ name.
I like to think that I’m making progress, and I am, but honestly at times it seems like I take a few steps forward then I either step back a little or I get stuck in the mud on the bottom of the river. But as Paul said, “I strain to move forward.”
Moving forward isn’t always easy and many times we must trudge through life’s difficulties to make progress. I have not “arrived,” and I know I am not the man the Lord wants me to be, I am not even everything that I would like to be; but by the grace of God I am no longer what I once was, I am making progress, and I am moving forward.
In the vision Ezekiel was led out in steps from ankle deep water, into water so deep he had to swim. This symbolizes the progression God wants us to make in our journey to know Him more. When we first receive the Lord we start off wading in the waters of the unknown and then gradually we move into a deeper knowledge of Him. Eventually we get to the point where the knowledge of Him and His presence in our lives sweep over us like the waters too deep for us to walk in and we allow His living water control the direction of our lives like the currents of a mighty river.
There are many who are saved but still struggle with the same sins over and over again. They continue to wrestle with their “demons” for years. They are saved but not sanctified. They are saved but still struggling to die, still selfish. Sometimes they stay on the bank of the river and never really wade out. They dip their toe in once in awhile but once they realize the sacrifice they are unwilling to make it.
Some are in the water, but just barely. They want to maintain control. They are in the water but still struggling with anger, lust, addiction, and unforgiveness. They are in the water ankle deep but still struggling with resentment and bitterness. They have waded out a little but are still struggling with the desires of their flesh. You can usually tell who they are. The waters around them are always murky with the gunk they continue to stir up around them. If you are stuck at this level in your walk, I urge you to take another step. Move to the next level in your relationship with the God. At least up to your knees for now.
Once a person moves up to their knees spiritually they spend more time in worship, they pray more and humility begins to become a larger part of their character. Their focus begins to shift from their own will to God’s. They begin to understand that life is not about them, but about the giver of life. Now they no longer are constantly seeking to fulfill the desires of the flesh; they now are more focused on pleasing God.
The deeper you go into the water, your flesh will naturally become less visible. The farther you venture out in the deep, the stronger the current’s influence will become. The deeper you get, the less of an influence the things of the world will have over your life. Once the river has more influence over your life you begin to have enough faith to move into even deeper water. Now you can move up to your waist. Then out to where you will have to swim. That is God’s desire that we move forward, continually experiencing the change that comes from going deeper until He fully guides our steps.
Too many of God’s people are satisfied spending their lives in ankle deep water. They are unwilling to take the next step; stuck in the confines of tradition, they simply accept the status quo. God has so much more for His people.
One of the worst examples of this I can think of is those who miss out on the power that is received from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because of the traditional teachings regarding the Holy Spirit in many denominations, there are droves of believers who have been stripped of the very power they need to thrive and survive in a battle against an enemy who seeks to destroy anything that God loves.
Many never go on to receive the gifts that God has for them. They hedge at moving into the experiences that are the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They are stuck in mud at the bottom of the ankle deep waters of tradition.
My wife’s father was telling me that he went fishing last summer in one of Eastern Washington’s select fishery lakes. You have to use a boat or a float tube to get into this lake, there is no other way to access the deeper waters of the lake where the fishing is spectacular, most of the time. He was amazed at how much silt and mud there was as he waded out in his float tube. If he had given up because of all the resistance from the mud he would have missed out on the benefit and pleasures of fishing the deeper waters of that great lake. He didn’t catch any fish that day, but he had an opportunity he couldn’t have had if he had let the mud keep him back; trust me there is great potential in that lake, I’ve fished it many times and the trout are huge.
Everyday believers miss the opportunity to do great things for God and others because they let the mud keep them from deeper water. Have you ever heard of shallow sea fishing? The Church of Jesus Christ needs a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and I believe it’s on the way.
After Ezekiel had reached the deeper waters where he could no longer wade but had to swim; after he came to the place that was so vast, so deep, then his focused was returned to the bank where there were many trees. Ezekiel seen trees, fruit, that would not wither. Fruit that that could be used to heal and to sustain life. Because the source of the fruit came from the overwhelming presence of God that now controlled him.
Once God has liberated you and set you free from the bondage of religion, and tradition; once you come to the realization that God is bigger than your church, far greater than any organization and deeper than your opinions. When you finally arrive at the place where you realize that you don’t know it all and you are willing to accept that there may be more for you than what you have, then you have arrived at the place where God can stir up the gifts in you, and once those gifts are activated by the power of the Holy Ghost, He will sustain your life and heal you, and God will use you in ways you never imagined.
Don’t get stuck in the mud, it’s time for you to take the next step.