There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells Psalm 46v4
In last week’s Big Issue on p17 there was a headline suggesting ONE THING TO DO IN ENGLAND THIS WEEK IF… and one of the ‘ifs’ was …YOU GO WITH THE FLOW. It went on to describe Flow – a new public artwork on the River Tyne in Newcastle/Gateshead: “It houses a giant wheel that harnesses energy to power musical instuments. As the tide changes, the instruments play different tunes.” Flow even has her own facebook page!
What a great idea: wind and water can both create sound as they flow and move. I particularly liked it as I read this after taking a Saturday morning prophetic workshop called ‘Into the River’ in a town about which it has been said, “This is a city of worship and of musical instruments”! The subject of our session was ‘prophetic flow’ – ie how the Holy Spirit likes music and – when we allow Her to – moves through God’s people in waves of worship and prayer, revelation and intercession. Like the currents of a river moving through our spirits and causing us to make heaven’s sound, it is both refreshing and overwhelming to encounter God in this way, bringing healing and challenge.
I have been thinking about God’s river since then – the one described in Psalm 46 above, and in Ezekiel 47:
‘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.‘ Ezekiel 47v3-5
It is a spiritual picture of course – water in the Bible usually signifies the Holy Spirit. The streams that make God’s city glad are the movements of His breath – the kiss of life, the presence of peace and joy. Ezekiel’s river is flowing out from under the altar of the temple in his vision – from the meeting place with God out into the world, getting deeper as it goes, bringing life to fish and fruit trees all the way to the Sea. This is how God’s Spirit wants to affect our lives and lands – but do we know how to engage with Her, how to enter the flow and find life? It is a call to every person.
So what does it mean to go deeper? I think, actually that some believers are quite good at splashing about in the shallows, paddling and playing! We enjoyed doing that last Saturday – the encounter with the water, like the taking off of shoes to bathe our feet. Jesus told us to ‘wash one another’s feet’ in the sense of humbly serving and preferring one another, helping keep each other clean. At the same time He also said, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean… and you are clean” John 13v10, affirming that we have been forgiven when we put our faith in Him – we have been baptised into His death and brought out into new life and are no longer condemned – but our feet can still get dirty on the road! To come to Him, to worship and to pray, to pray for each other and enjoy the encouragement that brings is like being on the edges of God’s mighty river. We can stay there near the safety of the bank… or we can take another breath and go in deeper.
‘Knee-deep’ speaks to me of prayer – a willingness to let the water of God’s compassion and mercy rise around us and provoke intercession for the needs and pain we see. It also struck me that to ‘walk upon the water’ you would have to be almost knee-deep as well – Jesus would hardly have been floating over the tops of the waves! It would be more like wading – but as Peter discovered on the Lake, easier to sink! “Lord save me!” But in the river you would not be deep enough yet for that… a little less in control, but still ‘feet on the ground’, the river bed.
Because it is all about who is in control: the power of the water or my puny human strength? We talk of ‘waves of blessing’ – but have we thought about what damage tsunamis can do? Psalm 42 says, “All your waves and breakers have gone over me” and talks about the roar of waterfalls; torrents signify death and terror in another place. The River may seem tame, but it is getting deeper and still the measuring line is stretching out. Waist-deep it’s getting even harder to walk and surely time to take your feet off the bottom to float and to swim! Eventually you will have no choice, as soaking wet the water carries you along and there is nothing to do but to abandon yourself to where it wants to take you. So it is with the life of the Spirit…