“… [I]f you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water…” (Isaiah 58:10-11)
My friend and I are going through Psalms together, and have been soaking (pun intended) in Psalm 1 for a week or two. The psalm talks about living like a tree planted by streams of water, whose leaves do not wither, that bears fruit, and that prospers in whatever it does.
So it came as no surprise that I happened upon a podcast sermon the other day, also about water – I love that God loves to reinforce what I’ve been learning. Kim McManus was talking about going deep with God in Ezekiel 47 (check it out at mosaic.org). I love this metaphor of faith that God shows Ezekiel in a vision, so I thought I’d share my take on it.
In the vision, an angel of the Lord takes out a measuring line and shows the prophet Ezekiel water that is flowing out from under the temple. The angel measures out 1,700 feet (1000 cubits) and they walk through it, in ankle-deep water. He measures out another 1,700 feet and they walk through knee-deep water. He measures out another 1,700 feet and they are now in waist-deep water. Another 1,700 feet, and they come to a river, very strong and too wide to swim across.
Imagine walking in ankle-deep water with the angel for one thousand, seven hundred feet. That’s more than 5 and a half football fields. This shallow water is easy to walk in. Sometimes in our walk of faith, we stay in safety and security, we don’t get challenged very often (or when we do, we avoid life’s difficulties and injustices, out of sight, out of mind). Here we find baby Christians who are getting their feet wet. Here we also find Christians who have lived for years, who need to get going and follow God into the deeper water.
Then we step forward and the water is deeper, up to our knees. Here we can move around, and we find ourselves going forward and going backward. It’s the depth of a kiddie pool, one that’s perfectly appropriate for babies, but not for us if we plan to go swimming. Here also is safe faith, but a little more movement than in ankle-deep puddles.
We move on again, and this time we are up to our waist. It’s a little more challenging than in the shallow part. It’s easy to jump around, but we can’t control much. We might have shifting sands below us, there might be creatures in the water, and we probably have to do some jumping in order to move forward. I love being in the ocean waist-deep because I don’t have to worry about getting my head wet. My husband loves to swim in the ocean, to body surf under the waves where his feet can’t reach the ground. Me, not so much. I don’t like the feeling of not being in control. But I’d be a much better swimmer if I got my head wet. Faith in this depth can be profitable in our lives and feel successful, but it still does not challenge and grow us in the Kingdom life as much as we are called to.
The passage goes on:
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. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” (Ezekiel 47:5-6)
We come to a great river. Here is the calling to which you’ve been called. (See Ephesians 4:1) Here is the place in which you can live abundantly in life and love, mercy and grace, but only with God’s help. It is too deep to navigate alone. Our faith comes from God, it’s not something we manufacture, but it is something to ask him for. God is faithful, and has promised to empower us, and work in us and through us to really live lives of love and purpose, not just individually but as a Church.
The passage ends with the angel showing the prophet that where the river ends, where it pours out into the seas, is teeming with life and healing (Ezekiel 47:7-12). It is a place of justice and truth, God’s Kingdom poured out, which can be right here and right now.
We can be a part of that healing and life. We, the people of God, who have God’s Spirit inside of us – we have no excuses – need to go deeper, to live out our calling, to dream our extraordinary dreams (like Doug talked about on Sunday), to fight the good fight against injustice and darkness and suffering and for fairness, truth and healing (see Isaiah 58:10-11). Let’s get our heads wet. Let’s go to the river together – and swim!
Kelly can be reached via email.