Several years ago the Lord gave me a dream about standing in waist-deep water. A friend of mine, who was with me in the dream, was excited about where I was standing. When I later spoke to a mentor about the dream, he got as excited as my friend who had appeared in the dream. I already knew that the dream was about the river of God (Ezekiel 47), but my mentor added something I hadn’t considered. Water up to the waist represents commitment.
Up until that time I had never considered the very practical aspects of the river of God. I understood that God is very practical about how things apply in our lives; I just had never considered how this applied to the river of God. I should have.
It has been many years since I began to understand that since the belt of truth covered our loins (see Ephesians 6:14), Paul was teaching that spiritual warfare included having our sexuality governed by God’s truth. On the one hand, illicit sexual expression violates our ability to stand before the enemy. On the other hand, godly sexual expression between a husband and wife is spiritual warfare. It not only helps us stand our ground, it takes ground from the enemy. As such, it is a part of our armor that must be defended from every attack launched by the enemy of our souls. This is very practical and important truth.
Since I understand this about the belt of truth, it should not have been a surprise that there is a similar message about the waist-deep water in Ezekiel 47. This very practical section of scripture outlines our walk toward God and his spiritual power in our lives. The first verses outline the work and flow of God’s Holy Spirit.
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits,[a] and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” (Ezekiel 47:1-6a ESV)
When the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts, we begin to experience his life, a life that proceeds from the throne of grace. We begin our Christian walk in the ankle-deep water of his presence. This is the level of beginning sanctification. As we walk about in the ankle-deep water, our feet are continually cleansed by the Spirit’s presence. This is a beautiful picture of his work in our lives.
When Jesus was washing the disciple’s feet at the Last Supper, Peter did not want him to do so (see John 13:1-11). Jesus insisted by telling Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8b). At once Peter understood that Jesus was doing far more than washing his disciple’s feet; Peter grasped that Jesus was illustrating a truth about spiritual cleansing. So he responded by asking Jesus to wash his hands and his head also. Jesus patiently explained to Peter that since he belonged to Jesus, he did not need a bath because he was already spiritually cleansed. However, when one walks in the world, one gets dirty feet. By his actions, Jesus was highlighting the need that Christians have for spiritual cleansing on a daily basis. Jesus urged the disciples to do for each other what he had done. As he helped them by cleansing their physical feet, we need to help each other by cleansing the “dirt” of this world off each other’s souls.
Jesus’ actions and teaching help us understand the Ezekiel River. Once we have come to Christ, we have been bathed so that we are no longer of the world. However, since we are in the world, our feet can get dirty as we go about our daily walk. When we walk in the River of God, our feet are cleansed by God’s Spirit on a continual basis. This ankle-deep water is the water of repentance and restoration.
Obviously, we never take our feet out of this water, but we don’t stay at the ankle-deep level either. As we grow in the Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to draw us into higher levels of understanding and consecration.When we are walking in ankle-deep water, we are still in control. The currents of the Holy Spirit may swirl around our feet, but we can remain standing where we wish.That changes as we begin to wade further into the river. As we go deeper, it is harder to resist the currents of the Holy Spirit.
We must choose to continue moving deeper into the things of the Holy Spirit, but we must also understand the message of the thousand cubits. Each stage of the journey is a thousand cubits long. Ten is a number of completion. Ten cubed is one thousand (emphasizing completeness in God’s season). We cannot truly choose to move deeper in the Ezekiel River until the water has completed its work in us at its current depth. Until the ankle-deep water has achieved its purposes, any choice to move deeper will be shallow and unsustainable. We will simply not have the resolve to move deeper until the Spirit has completed his work in us at our current level. We can speed this work up by cooperating with the Spirit’s goals in our life, or we can slow the process down by resisting his molding and shaping. But we will not move on until we have traveled the thousand cubits in our souls.
During each stage of this journey, we surrender more of our self-will to God. We can easily resist the Spirit’s pull in ankle-deep water. We can even, to an extent, resist the currents of the Holy Spirit when we are standing in knee deep water—as long as those currents are not too strong.* We can certainly feel his nudges at a much higher level, but we can usually resist them if we choose. However, once we get waist deep—the level of commitment—we are at the mercy of the current. The Holy Spirit can push and pull us where he wants us to go. When we get to the next stage of the river beyond that, the water that is so deep that we can only swim, the Spirit’s current will take us wherever he wants us to go.
I believe that we must understand this dynamic of the Ezekiel River, or we will be content to stay in the shallows throughout our entire life. We must go deeper if we want to be used by the Holy Spirit. We must move beyond the ankle-deep water to the deeper waters beyond. How do we go deeper? We choose to go deeper by an act of our will.
When we understand the practical aspects of the Ezekiel River, we can understand how to proceed into deeper waters. We can strive to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in his current work, and we can can consciously aim for deeper waters in our lives. While we can stay in ankle-deep water as long as we desire, those who want to be used by the Lord must press another thousand cubits to the knee-deep water. The knee-deep water is the water of reverence and intercession. In the Old Testament, a bent knee is a sign of worship and adoration. More than that, we learn from Solomon’s example that when a knee is bent in reverence it gives voice to supplication (see 1 Kings 8:54). The knees symbolize humility before the Lord, a humility that recognizes our dependence upon him, and results in supplication to him. We can choose to bow to the Lord’s dominion over heaven and earth in this fashion, and by doing so, enter into the Ezekiel River up to our knees. Knee-deep water is for those who have begun to understand their authority on the earth, and are committed to establishing God’s Kingdom with it.
But deeper waters keep calling. As I have already mentioned, waist-deep water symbolizes commitment. The parts of our body below the waist represent our base nature. This part of our nature must be cleansed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is not about denying our sexual identity. Christians are not called to abstinence, rather they are called to celebrate their sexual identities in the bonds of marriage, recognizing that the Lord is at work even in our marital intimacies.** At this level, because we have begun to understand true commitment, we can feel the shifts of the Holy Spirit’s current far more easily. Even if we wanted to resist, we are so committed that we are no longer able to effectively resist his nudges. We have walked through the waters of repentance and renewal. We have knelt in the waters of worship and intercession. And now we have moved on to commitment. All that’s left is to wade in another thousand yards so that our will becomes one with the Holy Spirit’s current, and his will is done in us as it is in heaven.
Now I understand why my prophetic friends (in the dream and in real life) were so excited by the waist-deep water. We haven’t seen much of the church operating at this level. But we will. When that happens, we will see the Bride begin to step into her true role. When that happens, everything will change. That becomes clear as Ezekiel’s vision continues:
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea;[b] when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.[c] 9 And wherever the river goes,[d] every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea[e] may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.[f] 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:6b-12)
When the Bride steps into the deep waters, bitter waters become fresh, life is released, fishermen (evangelists) will practice their trade freely, and healing will be released to the nations.
The deep waters are calling. Step into them.
* Ocean rip currents are often so strong that even those wading in knee-deep water can be swept off their feet and overwhelmed by the strength of this current.
**Of course singles are not excluded from the waist-deep level. While they will not give expression to their sexual energies, their willingness to govern themselves freely according to God’s plans for sexual expression is their spiritual warfare.
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