If anyone found out how real the river of God is, it was Ezekiel. The “man” who showed it to him had him wade in it: ankle, knee, and waste deep… and then beyond where wading was possible. I love the urgency in Ezekiel’s wording: “water in which one must swim” (emphasis mine).
If we are to thrive as sons and daughters of God, we must swim in His river, as Ezekiel did. We must go beyond analyzing and theorizing about His river. We must get into it… all the way in. Into the depths of His swell… where we relinquish control to Him and allow Holy Spirit to carry us along in His current, wherever He desires.
Obviously, this river is real. Elsewise, Ezekiel would not have been able to experience it in such a tangible way. Remember, he wasn’t simply seeing a visual picture of a river. He was inside the river. This means, he was feeling the cool water slide past his skin. He was in direct contact with the living waters that flow from the throne of God.
The river Ezekiel experienced is a spiritual river. Holy Spirit gives us this vivid description of the prophet’s experience because He wants us to grasp how real the spiritual realm is. “Spiritual river” does not mean “theoretical river.” It does not mean a river in someone’s head. It’s real. So real that you can’t cross it. It’s much more real, even, than the last river you set your physical eyes on.
The “man” wanted to make sure Ezekiel was paying attention to this experience of spiritual reality. So right there in the middle of the river, he asked him, “Son of man, have you seen this?” (v. 6, bold emphasis mine). Holy Spirit earnestly desires that you and I would pay attention to heavenly realities, too. They are accessible. They are here. They are for us, right now. This story is in the Bible, not to inform you of some faraway mystic’s experience, but because this river is for you.
How do we experience His river? By using our spiritual senses. Hebrews tells us that the mature “because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14, NASB, bold emphasis mine). Obviously, this verse is not talking about our physical five senses. We don’t discern good and evil with the eyes, ears, and nose featured on our head. We discern, perceive, hear, taste, see spiritual realities with our spiritual senses. Just like our bodies have five senses for taking in the world around us, so do our spirits.
Don’t miss the key phrase here: “because of practice.” Tuning into the spiritual realities available to us does not come automatically. It takes practice. Extensive practice. Eager practice. Persistent, determined practice. This verse is telling us that our spiritual senses actually need to be “trained.”
Here’s a training exercise for you. Close your eyes. Ask the Lord to anoint this moment with the power of His Spirit, and to speak to you. Believe that He will. Now, focus with your spiritual senses on the river of God. See yourself stepping into it. Don’t stay at the edge. Go in deeper.
As you do, feel the refreshing, the effervescence of the water, its tug as it draws you into itself. Breathe in the pure air emanating from the cool surface; smell its wholesome fragrance. Now submerge your whole being. Let go. Begin to float. Let Him carry you where He will. Immersed in His water, drink it in to your very core. Taste its lifegiving sweetness. Listen to the cadence of His current as it dances around, through, past, and over you.
Yes. His river is real. “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, NKJV).
“Everything will live wherever the river goes” (Ezek. 47:9, NKJV).
Did you try it? If so, I’d love to hear what you experienced! What do you think about having a spiritual sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch?