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AT THE MERCY OF THE RIVER
Intro: A body of water can be a very dangerous place. I remember once, when I was about 6 or 7, that I nearly drowned in a river. Just this August, a 20-year-old Japanese woman was killed when she climbed over a wall to have her picture taken. She fell into the river and was swept over the falls. Her body has not been recovered. While searchers looked for her body, the found the body of an unidentified male at the base of the falls. That made me curious about just how many people had died in that location, and I discovered that since 1850 over 5,000 bodies have been recovered from Niagara Falls. Some of those deaths were accidental, many were suicides, and a few were daredevils who tried to ride barrels, or other contraptions over the falls. I read about one 7-year-old boy who went over the falls in 1960 wearing a life preserver and survived. Suffice it to say that if you ever get caught in the current of the Niagara River near the top of the Falls, you are in serious trouble. There are some bodies of water you want to avoid.
What if I told you that God possesses a body of water that He wants you to get into? What if I told you that He wants you to get over your head in this body of water? What if I told you that He wants you to give yourself over to the power of this river, to be swept away in its current; that He wants you to get into a place where you are helpless, and are at the mercy of the river? Ezekiel writes about such a river in these verses.
This is a millennial vision. Ezekiel is envisioning a time when the Lord will bring about absolute healing in the nation of Israel. He sees a time when the river of Godís grace and blessing will flow from His throne and will refresh the Promised Land. While this prophecy is for the nation of Israel and will be literally fulfilled one day, there is application here for us today.
If you will allow me, I want to make a spiritual application from these verses today. I want to tell you about a spiritual river that flows through this world right now. I want to tell you about a river that brings refreshment, power and glory right now. I want to tell you about a river you can swim in.
I want to ask you a question. How many could honestly raise your hands and tell me that you are exactly in the center of Godís will and that you are right where God wants you to be in your spiritual growth? Any takers? Is there anybody in this room who is over their head in the things of the Lord?
The truth of the matter is, we all have plenty of room for improvement! Thatís what this sermon is all about today. Itís about becoming more of what the Lord God wants each of us to be. Itís about leaving the shore of stagnant, disappointed Christianity and wading out into the deep spiritual waters of the born again life. You see, what has happened in the modern church is that many have become far too cautious about giving their all to Jesus Christ. I really believe that there are many in the church today who are afraid of getting in over their heads. I want to encourage you to throw caution to the wind today. I want to challenge you to wade out into the deep water, and to release yourself to the current of Godís will and power.
Letís take a few minutes today to look at Ezekielís prophecy. I want you to notice three aspects of this prophecy that apply to you and me today. I would like to help each of us learn to wade out a little bit deeper in the things of the Lord. I want to challenge each that is in attendance today. As the Lord helps me, I would like to preach about being At The Mercy of The River.
I. v. 1-2, 6-12 EZEKIEL SURVEYED A RIVER
A. This river is type of the Holy Spirit, John 14:16-18. There are three ways in which this river represents the Spirit and His work in the life of the believer.
1. In Its Source - The throne of God. The Holy Spirit, like this river, came directly from the Fatherís throne.
2. In Its Course - From the ďaltar.Ē Notice that this river came from the altar, or the place where sacrifice was made. The Water of Life, the precious Holy Spirit comes directly from the altar of Christís sacrifice, the cross - Matt. 20:28. The Holy Spirit came only after the death of Christ on the cross, John 16:7.
3. In Its Force - Notice four great truths about this river that made it very special. These four truths make the Holy Spirit special as well.
a. It had no Feeder Streams - There was no need for any thing to flow into this river to give it force, size and power. When it left the throne, it possessed all that it needed. The Mississippi is less that 3 feet wide where it begins, but after all the feed streams flow into it, it becomes a mighty river that is well over a mile wide where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Godís river needs no feeder streams.
What I mean is this, God doesnít need the world or anything that is in it, and He certainly doesnít need me and you to get His work done here in this world. God supersedes us! He supersedes this world and He will get the job done in spite of you and me. His river needs no feeder streams!
b. v. 8 It could Heal - This river made the sea water pure when it flowed into it. If you drink sea water it will kill you!
I am talking about a river that has the power to heal. I am talking about the power of the Holy Spirit in your life and mine. He can heal broken hearts. He can heal broken lives. He can heal broken dreams. He is a Spirit who flows with healing power today. He specializes in fixing broken things!
I challenge you to bring that which is broken to the Lord Jesus and watch Him heal it by His power! Ill. Matt. 11:28; Luke 4:18 Jesus can take a life broken by sin and through the working of His Spirit, bring healing to that soul and glory into the heart of that life that was the slave of sin!
c. v. 9 It could Revive - Everything this river touched was transformed with its life giving power. Notice that verse 9 tells us twice that everything the river touches will live!
When the Spirit of God moves into a life, there will be a renewal. When God moves in, He will change things! He can take that which was dead and make it live, Eph. 2:1-4. He can and will give a drink of the water of life that will produce everlasting life and eternal satisfaction in the life of the believer.
By the way, the Holy Spirit is Who our churches need if we are going to see revival and the power of God in our midst. We need to learn to welcome Him and not be afraid of His power in our midst.
d. v. 12 It could bring forth Fruit and Freshness - Everywhere this great river flowed, fruit sprang up.
So it is with the presence of the Holy Spirit. When He moves in, His presence will be manifested by fruit and freshness in the life of the believer. (Ill. He will cause His life to flow from you, John 7:38-39; Gal. 5:22-23!
All of these things picture the work of the Holy Spirit in saving and using the believer for the glory of the Lord. When our eyes are open, it is easy to see where the Spirit is moving and working.
B. Notice that the Bible says, ďHe SawĒ - Sadly, many hear the Gospel call, John 1:29, and they see what the Spirit can and is doing in the lives of others, yet that is as far as they get! However, that isnít far enough to save them. Many see the river flowing by, but they never get wet! For this river to do you any good, you have to get into it, John 3:7; John 7:37. (Ill. The Ethiopian Eunuch - Acts 8:36-37).
I. Ezekiel Surveyed A River
II. V. 3-4 EZEKIEL STEPPED INTO A RIVER
As the man in Ezekielís vision measured the river, he carried Ezekiel along with him. As a result, the prophet was led into ever deepening water. God wants to do this same thing in your life today! Notice how Ezekielís venture speaks to us as believers today.
A. He Waded In Ankle Deep - This represents the step of faith that saves the soul, Acts 16:31, Psa. 34:8. It is truly great to be saved, but it isnít the end! Yes, He brought us out, but He also wants to lead us on. Many stop right here and never go one step farther with God. There is much more to being saved than just getting saved!
This is where the waders stay! Those who get saved and refuse to grow in the Lord are just dabblers. They spend all of their time in the shallow end of the pool afraid to wade out deeper. They miss the blessings of the deeper life. These people are in total, absolute control of their loves.
Have you ever watched the children in the kiddie pool? They remind me of a lot of church members today. They are yelling and screaming, wanting somebody elseís pool toy. Doing their best to splash someone and push someone else under. Sounds just like many of the folk in our churches, doesnít it?
B. He Waded In Knee Deep - The knees speak of prayer. This represents a life that is learning dependence upon the Lord. This is the person who prays and trying to live their life in faith before the Lord, Heb. 10:38. Many never reach even this shallow level of maturity in the Lord. You need to remember, however, that no person will ever stand taller than he does on his knees!
Those who are at this level know something of the power of the river. They can feel its power as it rushes past, but they arenít really affected by it. They are still standing on their own two feet. They are in control of their lives and arenít being supported by the river.
C. He Waded In Loin Deep - The loins are emblematic of strength. This speaks of spiritual power in our lives. When one has waded out waist deep into the river, more of the river and less of the man is seen, Ill. John 3:30. When we have waded out this far, we can feel the power of the river, and others can see its effect on us, Eph. 6:10. This level of maturity is rarely reached, but when it is, you canít hide its effects in your life! It will tell on you! As deep as this level of spiritual growth is, it is still not as deep as we can go!
The few who are at this level of spiritual maturity have lost some control over themselves. They are often picked up by the river and moved a few feet at a time, but still, they are close enough to the shore to be able to stand if they need to. They are still in control.
I. Ezekiel Surveyed A River
II. Ezekiel Stepped Into A River
III. v. 5 EZEKIEL SURRENDERED TO A RIVER
At this point, Ezekiel has reached a place where the river is in control. It takes him where it will. He has no power over his destination. He is at the mercy of the river!
A. This represents the highest spiritual level that any believer can reach in this life. Couldnít pass over! It just doesnít get any deeper than this!
B. There are three reasons why I can say that this is the deepest you can ever get as a Christian.
1. When you wade out this deep, you have moved beyond your ability - Ill. Ezekiel was at the total mercy of the river. Far too many like the safety of the shore. The person who has reached this level of spiritual maturity has moved beyond himself and has placed himself under that control and command of God.
This is what true spiritual maturity is all about! It is about coming to the end of ourselves and understanding that there is no way that we could ever do it on our own. We must come to the place where we realize who is in control! Phil. 4:13; John 15:5.
God does not want me to get to where I can; He wants me to get to where I can't!
2. When you wade out this deep, you have ceased to support yourself - Ezekiel is no longer wading, he is just resting. He isnít in charge; he has given himself over to the power of the river!
Ill. This is where God wants to bring us to. He wants us to reach the place where we learn to rest in Him and allow Him to support us and carry us through this life. It will no longer be you trying to run around and get things done, it will be you resting in the power of the Holy Spirit watching the Lord conduct His business as He caries you along with Him.
3. When you wade out this deep, you have given yourself up to the will of the river - Ezekiel was going to go where the river took him.
This is how the Lord wants us to be. He wants us to loose sight of ourselves, our goals, our ambitions, our dreams and He wants us to be totally, 100% surrendered to Him and His will for our lives. God is looking for surrender from you and me, Rom. 12:1-2.
4. When you wade out this deep, you are just happy to be carried by the river - The will of the river becomes your will also. This is where we are all commanded to be - Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:25; 1 John 2:6.
Ezekiel is all wet! He has gotten into something that is way over his head. That, my friends is where God wants to get you!
Conc: Do you know what the secret to real revival is? It is nothing more than for Godís people to get to the place where they are as deep in Him as they can get! Thatís what it is! It isnít for that ankle deep crowd! Those knee deep folks will get a ripple every now and then. Even those who are out there to the loins wonít feel the force of Godís power like they should. It is only when we throw ourselves on the mercy of the river and we allow the Spirit of God to have the absolute right of way in our lives that we can experience true and genuine revival.
Now, I want you to notice two things that are so profound that we do not want to miss them.
1. Notice this statement in verses 3-4, ďHe brought me through the waters.Ē Some of you are holding back on total commitment to the Lord today because you are afraid that if you fully sell out to Him that you will drown. God will never let you down! Some of Godís saints have walked through some mighty deep waters over the centuries and God brought them all out! (Ill. Job, Job 1-2; 3 Hebrews, Dan. 3; Daniel, Dan. 6; The Disciples - John 6 (Feeding the 5,000 and the storm!) What the Lord did for them, He will also do for you!
He is in the business of taking His people through!
ē Isaiah 43:2, ďWhen thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.Ē
ē Isaiah 54:17, ďNo weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.Ē
2. The deeper you go, the harder it is to jump out - When you are in the kiddie pool you can jump in and out whenever you feel like it. When you are knee deep and loin deep, it is just a short hike back to the safety of the shore. But, when you have placed yourself at the mercy of the river, itís a whole lot harder to get back out again. What I am saying is that an ever deepening spiritual life is a hedge against failure. Get in as deep as you can!
Just how deep have you waded in? Are you still in the shallows? Or, are you At The Mercy Of The River?
We need a deeper walk with the Lord! If that is going to take place then we need to do a couple of things.
ē First, we need to be sure that we are in the river.
ē Second, we need to get away from the shore and move into deeper water.
ē Third, we all need to come to the place where the river is in absolute control of our life and destiny.
ē What do you need to do today?