On Friday, June 26th 2009 I woke up at 6:00 AM in my cabin by the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Our bus was scheduled to depart for Tel Aviv at 8:30 AM, so I had time to go down to the sea, spend some time with the Lord and maybe take a swim. I had visited the Sea of Galilee several times before, but I had only walked in up to my knees.
That morning was sunny and the temperature was already in the 90’s. I stationed myself in a quiet spot in front of the lifeguard stand. No one else was around, or so I thought. I lifted my hands and sang songs of praise to the Lord when I heard a voice. Startled, I opened my eyes and saw an older man in a swim suit dripping with water. The man was walking up the beach toward me. I hadn’t seen anyone swimming when I arrived at the beach and was perplexed about where this strange man had come from. He had the countenance of a real Zayde (grandfather in Yiddish). The man spoke to me in Hebrew, but I didn’t understand, then in broken English he said, “Take a swim!” It sounded like a good idea so as the man left I began to wade out into the Sea. At that particular location on the southern shore you have to walk out about 75 yards to find water that is waist deep. When I was about 75 yards out I began to swim. It was so refreshing, I rejoiced to be swimming where Yeshua (Jesus) walked on water and where the disciples fished and swam!
I asked God to send someone to swim with me. My friend Tom showed up a minute later. Tom dove in and swam out past me to a buoy. We were giddy like two school boys. We rejoiced and we prayed together there in the water. I have seldom experienced such joy as I did that morning. But if it weren’t for that mysterious man who challenged me to take a swim, I might have just gone in up to my knees and then gone back to my room. What a blessing I would have missed…
In the book of Ezekiel, chapter 47, a man with the appearance of bronze with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand (see Ezekiel 40:3) brought the Prophet to a spot where water was flowing out from under the threshold of the Temple. The man brought Ezekiel to the Eastern gate of the Temple. “When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through water reaching the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded,” Ezekiel 47:3-5. In order to know something about the man who led Ezekiel through the water, one has to go back to the beginning of Ezekiel’s dramatic vision starting in chapter 40. Clearly he is no ordinary man. The man is either an angel of God or Yeshua (Jesus) Himself. He calls Ezekiel “Son of man,” in the same way God Himself addressed the prophet. So whether an angel or Yeshua, the man is a messenger of God. He led the prophet into very shallow water at first and then he led him progressively into deeper water.
The river here is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel was being led by God, first into shallow waters, and then into deeper waters. As believers in the Yeshua, we begin our walk as babes in shallow water. The more we walk with the Lord, He takes us to deeper places in Him.
What is the significance of the references to ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep and very deep water? According to Rabbi Kokeb Gedamu, our ankles represent the foundation of our bodies. They connect our feet to the rest of our body. So water up to his ankles represents a beginning and a foundation. It represents our foundation in Messiah and in the Holy Spirit. When we are in Messiah, then we are standing on the Solid Rock. Faith in Him is our foundation. Feet represent that foundation of faith we all need.
According to Rabbi Gedamu, knee deep water speaks to us of submission. Our knees are the part of our body that bows down before Almighty God. This speaks to us of yielding our will and submitting to the will of God. It is one thing to put your faith in Yeshua, it’s another thing to surrender your will to him and die to self. In 1Cor. 15:31, Paul wrote that we must die daily to self.
Waist deep water speaks to us of our reproductive body parts. This is the place in God where we become fruitful. The person walking in waist deep water with the Lord symbolizes a believer who has reached a level of depth and maturity in Christ that produces fruit for God’s kingdom.
Whether we walk in the River of Life up to our ankles, our knees, or our waist, we still have some control in the water. But when the water becomes too deep to stand, we must completely trust in God to carry us through the deep waters. Deep water represents a place in God of total submission and self-denial. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” Galatians 2:20. Swimming in the deep waters of the Spirit is a joyful, refreshing, and life giving place of abandonment in Messiah. Swimming in the deep waters of the Spirit is a life constantly lived in the Spirit; It is a place where God is calling each of us to go.
For many of us our human nature is to dip our toes in the water. Others like to dive in to the deep end. However, the deep water of the Spirit where Ezekiel went is not a place you can dive into without preparation. Each of us must begin with a foundation of faith (ankle deep); then we go deeper through prayer and daily devotion to the Lord (knee deep). Next we reach the place in Messiah where we become fruitful (waist deep). After we have been at each of these levels for a God measured length of time, then we can be promoted to deep waters. God is the one who leads us into deep waters, just as He led Ezekiel.
When I returned from Israel I contemplated how it was God who was calling me through a messenger to take a swim, to go out deeper into the Sea of Galilee. Then I began to understand that He is calling me to the deep waters of the Spirit.