Levi Lusko - Five Feet High and Rising
Well, we are in a collection of messages that we have called the river wild. We're taking time this spring to look at some of the amazing realities, river stories in scripture. And today if you have a Bible we're going to be in Ezekiel, chapter 47. Of course you do get 10 brownie points if you can make your way successfully to the book of Ezekiel in your Bible. And I want to give you a message that I'm calling, with deepest appreciation to the man in black, five feet high and rising. Five feet high and rising. This is what Ezekiel had to say in the 47th chapter of his prophetic book. He said, "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate, and he led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured 1,000 cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles".
Again he measured 1,000 and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured 1,000 and brought me through; the water and it came up to my waist. Again he measured 1,000, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this"? Then he brought me and return me to the bank of the river. When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, there were very many trees on one side and on the other". "Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live".
One translation says, wherever the rivers go it turns fresh. "There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live, or everything will be fresh, wherever this river goes. It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi all the way to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. But it swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt". "Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine".
And God we thank you for this. We feel a little bit like we're standing in front of a magnificent painting in an art gallery. We don't quite know whether the goal is for us to understand the use of light, to understand what the artist was doing here, or simply just to bask in it for a second. But as we, for these moments, consider what you're trying to say to us through this powerful chapter, I pray that our minds would stop from just trying to worry over these things, and trying to puzzle over these things. And we would just simply sit back and take it in. And have ears to hear what you're saying to us. Because we realize that there are things you want to do in our lives that are unlocked by seeing a glimpse of the way this river flowed from this vision. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
When I was in Bible college I took a semester and went overseas to do my studies in England. And while I was there, I realized who knows when I'm ever going to be back. And so I want to get everything out of this I can. And you know we were allowed to travel on the weekends. And so two, three weekends out of the month, I would go somewhere explore something. Try and explore the sea I lived in, which was York, England. It was a weird year to be there, it was 2001. I was there during September 11th, I was standing in a fish and chip shop watching on television as the planes are crashing into this tower. And being an Old York, while this was all going on in New York. And being separated from family knowing if I could, if I wanted to, I couldn't fly home. It was just very it was very disequilibrating to be there, but I loved and I look back fondly on many of the trips. Going to Edinburgh, Scotland and visiting and touring. Spending a weekend down in London, and staying in a hostel.
But one of the most memorable trips was when a few of us went to a city that everyone told us you've got to see it to believe it. It's called Lindisfarne, and it's a tidal island. And tidal island that you can only access certain times of the day. So sometimes when you approach this 1,000 acre island, which is at the North of England just below Scotland, you look at it you go there's no way I can get there unless I hire a boat to take me out there. Because it looks like there's no way. But then the tide goes out and a road is revealed. And there is in fact a road that you can drive to this island, but you have to time it just right. You can only, during a few hours in the morning and a few hours and evening, drive there. And once you're there, you're there. Because this tidal island is completely cut off from vehicles getting in when the tide comes in.
And so if you live there, or if you want to visit there, you have to consult the Lindisfarne website, which has a tidal chart that tells you what time of day you can commute by car. And it looks like this where you see, OK, safe to cross, unsafe to cross, safe to cross, unsafe to cross. And there are literally, you know, we went in the morning and then we started touring, saw this castle, found something to eat. And then the tide comes in, and the water comes up. The moon starts pulling on the ocean, because that's how that works by the way. And all of a sudden we're like, oh yeah, you can't go anywhere because we had come in by car. We had no access to a boat. And so now here we are, six or seven college students, and we were like we're stuck. We've seen the things that there are to do on Lindisfarne, and well one thing led to another, and the closest I ever came to getting arrested while living in England actually took place on Lindisfarne.
Save that story for a different day. But it felt so weird to be at a place where we literally couldn't leave this island, because this water had risen. Which is at the center of Ezekiel's vision that we've just read here. Where an angel has come to him to show him something of what God's going to do in a hopeless situation. And the encouragement that he gave to Ezekiel, and by extension to the whole nation of Israel, and ultimately to us. And all of God's people have lived under the hope and the promise, and it all centers around a river. A river that comes from the altar. A river that comes from the altar and leaves through a temple. A river that comes from the altar and leaves the temple and comes through a gate. And eventually flows to all of us. And this obviously is something that is all a prophetic description of what God was going to do through Jesus. We know that because it involves an altar. We know that because it involves a temple. We know that because it involves a gate.
On the altar, in the temple that you access by going through the gate, was this picture of sacrifice and what it would take to have a right relationship with God. And Ezekiel was living at a time he wrote this somewhere around 597 BC, at a time when all hope seemed like it was lost. He wrote this at a time when he was living as a captive alongside 10,000 or so others at a little colony alongside a river. A river called the Chebar River in Babylon. And we know that he was there because even in the first chapter of his book, he said it came to pass, and he dates it. And then he says, "As I was among the captives", this is Ezekiel 1:1, "I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens opened and there I saw visions of God". And the angel came to show him that God was one day going to bring about a river that would water the whole world. How is it going to happen, it was going to happen through a temple, and water coming out from under the altar, and coming out through a door.
Now at this time, the temple had been seized. At this time, the temple had been torn down. At the time that these were living in exile, this seemed like completely impossible. Because of Nebuchadnezzar armies that had raised the city of Jerusalem to the ground. And so as he stood here by a river, and saw from the angel of God a promise of a coming river, it seemed completely and totally impossible. But it was fulfilled. It was fulfilled not only literally, when the Jewish people got to return to the promised land under men like Zerubbabel and Ezra and Nehemiah. And there they actually physically did rebuild the temple, and physically did rebuild the walls around the city. But much more important, it was fulfilled symbolically in that it was always a picture of what Jesus was going to do. Because Jesus was always talking about how the temple was actually a picture of his temple, his body.
In fact, one of the reasons he was put to death that they finally utilized in his trial, was his statement from John, chapter 2, verse 19, "Destroy this, temple and I will raise it again in three days". And that was what they used. They said, oh he said he's going to tear down the temple. They were trying to build him as some kind of a terrorist, but he wasn't pointing to that temple when he said those words. He was pointing to pointing to this temple, the temple of his body. That he was the lamb upon the altar that you read about in the Old Testament. That he was that sacrificial lamb. Behold the Lamb of God, John the Baptist said, who has come to take away the sins of the world. So the literal fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision here, that the temple's going to be rebuilt, you're going to live in the land once again. The promise God gave to Abraham, these have not been forgotten by God. He is going to keep them, but they all pointed forward to a day when Jesus Christ would come. Who is the temple, who is the lamb upon the altar, and who is the gate that you can use to access this new life.
He said in John chapter 10, verse 9, "I am the gate; and whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture". So this prophecy that this angel gave to Ezekiel, the priest who had a unique connection to the temple. And who would have been sadder than anybody standing by the River Chebar and remembering glory days when there was a temple. Glory days when the people of Israel lived in and accessed the city of Jerusalem, the city of peace. He, more than most, would have had this nostalgic sense of hopelessness over what was gone. And the angel comes from God with an assignment. I know you feel abandoned, I know you feel forgotten, I know you feel like your greatest days are behind you. But I got news for you. There is a gate, there is a temple, and there is a river. A river who makes glad the cities of God.
And the point of this literal fulfillment of this temple being rebuilt was to point forward to the symbolic fulfillment of what God was saying through it. And that is that through Jesus being on the altar of the cross, through Jesus going into the Holy of Holies with his own sacrifice for us. That issuing forth from that temple, issuing forth from that building, flowing out, we could access life through him. And so we had this picture of a river coming out to make glad the cities of God, which Psalm 46:4 says, is a reality. So this vision is both literal and it's symbolic. And it is also, from our perspective, both past and it is future. It's both past and future. What do I mean? Well I mean we can, from where we sit here in the year 2021, look back and go, yeah the Jews did go back into the promised land. They did live there once again. The temple did get rebuilt. There was an actual temple there with priests doing sacrifices in and on behalf of the people when Jesus came to die on the cross. And Jesus did come and die on the cross. And Jesus did rise from the dead.
So we look at that, and the coming of the Holy Spirit is a part of that river that today comes to make glad all of our hearts. But we also see in it a promise of what he will do at the end of time. What Jesus will do when he returns to this world. What Jesus will do when, as he left, he left from a mountain. And the disciples saw him ascend into heaven. The Bible says that Jesus will return in like manner. That is to say there's coming a day when Jesus Christ, who came to this world as a baby 2000 years ago, grew up in obscurity, died a death of humiliation on the cross, that he is going to return as a King. He's going to return as a champion. He's going to return as the sovereign ruler of this world. And He will rule, and reign with a rod of iron forever. And He will take up that mantle, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
And all of those things that were spoken over him as a baby. The prophetic voice, Prince of Peace, he's a wonderful counselor, that he's the mighty God, that he's the father of eternity. All of those things will be realized when he returns, not as a humble lamb, but as a reigning victorious lion. And on that day, Revelation and Zechariah and Joel and Ezekiel and all of these works that were written by God, that we have in the Bible, all speak of a coming day. Where, like in the Garden of Eden, all who live in his kingdom will experience the joy of a newly recreated world. That God will take this world and, like a seed that gets planted and comes out different. Same seed, but looks different. So our bodies will come out of the ground in the Resurrection glorious, and will be given a body like this body meaning our body is the seed sown.
That's why we as Christians we believe as we bury someone who trusted in Jesus, we are not saying goodbye forever for death is not the end. That we will see them, not only see them, but see them in that same body only new. In that same body only different. It will be like Christ's body. We will get to live in these bodies once again with Jesus in this world that is itself reconfigured. And in that day there's going to be a river flowing from Jerusalem, the headquarters, the capital of God's city. That represents the tip of the spear of his entire kingdom, and this new heaven a new earth that we get to live in, there's going to be a river. As we're told that as he steps foot on the Mount of Olives, it's going to split in two and a river is going to gush out. And I don't know what of that is meant to be taken as symbolic and literal.
But I know in the Garden of Eden there was a literal river that was wicked awesome. Right, it's like the Hawaiian punch in the water fountain from Mr Deed's. Like that's Hawaiian punch, like what the heck this is great. All I know is that in this world God created it to be full of rivers and lakes and mountains and there's going to be beauty. In heaven we're not going to be on a harp, playing a harp on a cloud, it's not going to be some mystical opaque experience. Y'all there's going to be rivers in heaven. How great is that? Like who doesn't love being on a river, in a river, near a river, around a river? And this river that's going to flow from where God's throne is, the symbolic headquarters, the Washington DC of his coming kingdom. This river's going to flow out, and from it water is going to flow. So that part of it is still future to us. There's not a river flowing out of Jerusalem, there's water under Jerusalem, but getting water into the city has always been a hurdle. It bubbles up into the spring over here, and they had to get it in and there would be water pipes that were to bring the water in. And you go there, and Pools of Siloam. So the river, we know there's water down there, it's going to come out is the point. And we'll get to experience.
So we look to the past and see the fulfillment of it, and we can look to the future and believe for the ultimate coming fulfillment. That is to say that today we live in a space like the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Where he kept one promise, but another promise is yet to be kept. He did what he said he would do. So why do I believe that Jesus Christ is going to come again? Because he came the first time. And the people around, many people missed his first coming because it seemed illogical, it seemed impossible, it seemed improbable. And so they were busy and missed his first coming. So we today are meant to always live in the perpetual hope of his second coming. I'm telling you Jesus Christ is coming again. And we look forward to that day. And in the middle, in between, we are to live in that spiritual mode of believing that right now, just like that river is coming that's going to hydrate the whole world there is today.
Psalm 46:4, "A river who makes glad the city of God". As God's people live we're to always believe his spirit is flowing into us, flowing through us, much like a river. And that, by the way, Psalm 46:4 was the basis of Martin Luther's hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God. Because when you have river, when you have access to water, life always follows that river. Five different things I want you to jot down about this river in Ezekiel's vision that he sees. Standing by a river, getting a beautiful vision of a river, as we look forward to the river. And as we experience the river now, what do we need to know? First of all, this river goes from small to big. I find that interesting. He says, He took me around to the back side through this door said, hey you see that? He said, what is that water coming from this building? It's a little bit of water.
When God wants to send a flood, it always starts with a trickle. It was just a little bit of water coming up. Just a little bit of water there. You would never look at that little bit of water and go this is going to turn into a raging river. This is going to be like class 5 Rapids. This is going to, Kevin Bacon and Helen Hunt, this is where that scene, this is Kootenai Falls. You don't look at the little trickle, it doesn't scream thunder, doesn't scream majesty. But that's how God's kingdom works. Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 13, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and it becomes a tree, so big that the birds of the air can come and perch in its branches".
So the things that God right now in your life wants to do, that 10 years from now is going to be this massive tree with birds in the branches, a strong, thing a wonderful thing, a thing that the world is going to take note of. I'm telling you, it's right now in your heart. It's just a mustard seed. It's just a little bit of trickle. It's just a little bit of water. Today we're easily able to miss out on the things that God wants to do because the huge things that God wants to do, they start small. But it's got to start somewhere. It's got to it's got to start with that dream. It's got to start with that idea. Getting out of debt, getting healthy, getting a marriage to be at a place where it's actually functioning well. Those things, they start with a trickle. And so don't today despise the small things. That business that you've got in your heart, you got to step out in faith. It's got to be that mustard seed. You got to be willing to believe for it, and fight for it, and dream. And you've got to keep willing to persist even though people around you will tell you it's a terrible idea.
One of the most incredible things about so many of these great stories that we would hear on a program, like How I Built This, is so many of these companies all had to endure through a phase where everybody in their life said there's no way it's going to work. So just play it safe. There's no way it's going to work. But you've got to believe when it's small. God loves to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. Most weird thing anyone's ever said to you, but that Zechariah 4:10. It says, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, the Lord rejoices to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand". That's a direct connection. Because here's Ezekiel, by the river. Back in Israel, temples destroyed. Back in Israel, there's not two rocks you could stack upon one another. I mean it is charred. It is burnt, it is nothing.
And Zerubbabel will be the one, the first one, to undertake this job of rebuilding a massive temple. Of rebuilding a glorious temple. And how did it start? Well how does any project start? The surveyors got to come, the engineers got to come, the architects got to come. You got to look and go, can we build here? Do we need to bring fill dirt in here? What are we going to need to do? And part of that is measuring the levelness of things. And so in that day, a plumb line, literally that was the very first thing you do. We need to build something and make sure it's level. Build something and make sure it's level. That is to say it's the ultimate humble beginnings. It's un-sexy it's un-glorious but he's just standing there, I wonder if we could put this here. I wonder if this could go there. And how easy is it to get discouraged in those days. But God loves to see the work begin.
Don't get discouraged if what is happening in your life is just a little bit of a trickle right now. You just got to keep going, you just got to keep trusting. You just got to keep persisting through failure, persisting through failure, persisting through failure. It can become a raging river if you don't lose heart. Jesus said on this rock I'll build my church. I was thinking this morning back to the beginnings of our church, 15 years ago. And yes, now by God's grace it does touch around the world. And yes, we get to see so much happening. But it started with a trickle. He didn't say, I will build my church on this mountain. He said, I'll build this church, you could actually say on this pebble. Because he was talking about Peter, and his confession that Jesus Christ is God. That tiny little confession. How does revival start? It starts with one person being willing to say Jesus Christ is Lord, and to tell someone else about it. On this pebble I will build the church.
So who's willing to be a pebble? Who's willing to play your part? Who's willing to tell one person? Who's willing to post one thing on your social media? Who's willing to step out in faith, and at lunch time, share the gospel with one person? To take that stab? I got to spend time with someone this week that I, there's no reason I would have any opportunity to have influence with them. But God opened a door, and so I'm sitting there at this meal with this one person. And I felt like God wanted me to do what I could afterwards. So I sent him a little DM afterwards, said hey, it was super good to talk to you, I'd love to be available if you ever want to talk more. Talk a little bit about what we both did. And it was incredible. He wrote back, and I felt like when I wrote back, God wanted me to take it a little bit further.
So I found this message that at one point in our conversation, I referenced. And I sent it to him. I slid up into his DMs with the gospel, you see what I'm saying. I'm just telling you, and who knows what God could do in his life through that one little DM. If he watches that one little 46 minute long message that he's going to watch from my friend Louie Giglio, preaching the gospel and using space as a metaphor. Who knows what God could do. And all I'm telling you is that when you're a pebble and when I'm a pebble, and each of us go our various ways to our various assignments. And you work at a hospital, and you work at a school, and you work at a tire rotation shop, all of us together are saying, God you could build your kingdom on me. I'll be that mustard seed. I'll believe you could one day have a tree with birds in its branches. I'm going to start small. God's kingdom works from small to big.
Secondly, it always takes things from death to life. Where God's river touches, life can spring out of where there is only dust today. I don't know if you noticed it, but he said the river goes to the sea, and when it touches the sea its waters are healed. What he's talking about is the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth. 1,300 feet below sea level, a sea whose salinity level is 6 times greater than the ocean, 25% salt content. There's so much salt in the Dead Sea the two things are true. Number one, it's impossible to sink. You can try. They told me that, I'm like I'm going to find a way to sink, and you can't. You just bob to the surface. There's so much salt, you're just like dang it. Right, and so you would be, I'm sure it's not impossible to drown in the Dead Sea, it would just take a lot of work. You'd have to work really hard at it, right. Because you just keep coming back up. And the second thing that's true about it is that there's no life in it and there's no life around it.
As you drive up you just see there's no trees around it. There's no there's no life around it. And when you get into the Dead Sea there's no fisherman fishing because it can't support any plant life, any animal life. Because there's only death. And so when he saying my river is going to flow into something that's completely dead and bring it to life, what a picture we have of what it is to know Jesus. To be dead in your sins, to be stuck and completely stranded. And to be completely helpless, and to be in a place where there is no life whatsoever. But to have his river touch us, the river coming from the altar, y'all. The river coming from the temple, y'all. The river coming through the gate, y'all. And now all of a sudden where we were dead, headed to hell, stuck in our sins by nature children of wrath. Who's thankful that he has saved us, and changed us, and made us new. The gospel is not bad people becoming good, it is dead people coming to life. We were dead, but we are alive.
That's why we're not afraid to celebrate. That's why we want this church to feel like a party. Because we were dead, but we were giving our life back. We were lost but now we're found. We were hopeless, but now we have hope. We were lying there in our casket of sin and selfishness, and Jesus called us to come forth. We've been given new life. Jesus said that the only way to describe what it is to have a relationship with him is to be born again. Born from above. And so we look at life knowing that physical death can't touch us. Because when we die we're going to, like David said in Psalm 23, we're going to cross through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, knowing that he is with us. And he is able and capable to make such a promise. Because he died and then he rose up again, and he said I'm the resurrection and life. You want life? Come to me, I'll give it to you. Guys, we get to face death we get to face the grave and know that it does not get the last word. That we are going to live forever in God's kingdom. And that right now, we are alive on the inside, and are here to tell that story. So the river takes what is dead and brings it to life. It takes what is small and all of a sudden, you look one day, after you been faithful for a while, and you look up and you go, wow. Look what big things that God has done using my little pebble.
And then thirdly, it takes what is toxic and it makes it fresh. Takes what is toxic, and makes it fresh. Ezekiel was told, did you see that? Did you see what happened there? That river as it was heading toward the Dead Sea to bring things from death to life, do you see the route it took? Do you see where it passed through? And Joel tells us something about the actual specific area that it touched on the way. Joel said, "It shall come to pass in that day, the mountain shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the Valley", got to be real careful, saying this next verse. But I'm an expert in saying the wrong thing usually, so I'm being really careful, "Shall water the Valley of Shittim".
So I'm reading that I'm like that's interesting that God gave us the actual specific name for this place, as being water here. That trees are going to grow up all alongside. Just like when you fly in an airplane you see there's trees all alongside rivers. Fresh water, there's going to be fresh life. Fresh water, there's going to be civilization. Fresh water, there's going to be cities. Fresh water, that's going to be activity. There's nourishment, there's a river, there's life through the Valley of Shittim. So I grabbed this Bible encyclopedia off my shelf, and I look there's Shittim and I find it there and it says two entries under Shittim. That number one, it is a proper noun for the lower portion of the Kidron Valley, outside of Jerusalem on the way to the Dead Sea. But then number two it says it's a synonym, and became a synonym for any of the wadi's in Israel. A wadi is a wasteland, a wadi is barren, a wadi is any area that there's no fertility. There's no growth, the ground has nothing. In any area that any farmer would say, pass that's no good, there's nothing here.
How great is it that that's just Shittim. They were like, how about that one? Shittim. Want to buy that? It's got a great deal on it. Shittim. So a specific portion of the Kidron Valley, and any area in your life that is barren and can't produce life. So I start to think about what I know of the Kidron Valley. And I remember that Jesus walked through it with his disciples on his way to the Garden of Gethsemane the night that he was betrayed. That he took them as they walked and he pointed to the vine and said, I'm the vine. As he would tell this, and they would sing, as they would walk in, that was all through the Kidron Valley. And then I also remember what I know of what they used to Kidron Valley for in Jesus's day. Or the lower portion of it, which we would call Shittim. And that is that it had become a landfill. Because it wasn't desirable, because there was no water there, they used it to throw their trash upon.
So think about the last time you were at a landfill, and you have to almost brace yourself when you go to one. It's like we've got to go to the landfill today, OK. Going to like get ready for it psychologically. Because even to see the reality of consumption, to see the reality of things being thrown away. And the birds circling, and the stench, that was the Kidron Valley, that was Shittim. And in Jesus's day, it was also used to throw the bodies of anybody who died who had no family willing to pay funeral expenses. The funeral for indigents and criminals took place by them literally tossing their remains on the Kidron Valley trash heap, where it was burned constantly. And this became a synonym for any area, any place where there's no life. Garbage. Trash. So now I think it just hits a little bit different when the angel says to Ezekiel, and by extension to all of us, take the area where you would say there's no way anything desirable could come.
There's no way something good could come from here. And I will take my river and I will send it through the Valley of Shittim, and life will spring up. And you just watch if, trees spring up. And you just watch if there's not one day commerce and joy and people and life where there was only garbage before. And this is the story of the gospel. This is what it means to follow Jesus. You come to him and you watch him bring death to your, death inside of you to life. And now he says, now let's talk about your Valleys of Shittim. And now let's talk about the dysfunction. And now let's talk about what's toxic, and it's going to become fresh. And we want to hold those things back, and we want to say there's no way that can happen. He says, you just watch in that area. I'm talking about that area. I'm talking about that part of your schedule. I'm talking about that part of how you get when you're triggered. I'm talking about that vice you turn back to again and again and again. And he says, there's going to be trees there, there's going to be life there.
And we go, you got to be Shittim me. I just don't I don't see it. Come on, I worked hard on that. That was my great breakthrough this week. Come on, you're welcome. But that's the promise, guys. That's the journey of following Jesus. That's Isaiah, 35, "That's the wilderness and the wasteland", that's Kidron and Shittim being glad. "The desert rejoicing and blossoming like a rose. Blossoming abundantly and rejoicing with joy, and with singing glory of Lebanon given to it, excellence of Carmel and Sharon". These are the desirable places. This is where you want to buy a farmland. No, now all of a sudden that blessing is on the Kidron, the blessing of Carmel, the blessing of Sharon. The rose of the air, it's blooming in Shittim. Why? Because they, "See the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God. So strengthen the weak hands, make firm the feeble knees".
"Tell the fearful hearted among you, 'Be strong and do not fear! Behold, your God shall come with vengeance, for the recompense of God; He will save you. The eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. The lame shall leap like a deer, the tongue of the dumb shall sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. Parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes'".
Come on our great lion King is going to take the elephant graveyard, he's going to take that barren land, and turn it into grassland. There's going to be nourishment, hydration. I'm telling you, church. And he always brings healing to the toxic parts of our lives after he brings salvation into our souls. The mistake with religion is religion tries to deal with your Shittim before your soul is saved. And you sit down in the church and you hear that mad pastor tell you about how you better quit smoking, and better quit getting high, and better quit getting drunk. Because you know the religion tries to do with our Shittim's. And God says, I always work on the inside before I touch the outside. You don't have to do anything to earn the life that Jesus wants to give you, you just need to believe in him. But once he saves you, he loves you too much to leave you toxic.
So now he's going to start one by one to work on that area. And that's why we keep coming and keep worshipping, keep trusting, and keep growing, keep seeking, keep stepping out in faith. Because we still got some Shittim places, we still got some barren places. We still got some places that there could be fruit, there's not fruit right now. There's still some salty areas, there's still some bitter areas. There's still some stuff from your past that you haven't dealt with, that you've just locked up that you just pretend it is not there. You still got some withered hands that you have not reached out to Jesus so He can make them whole. You still got some dumb areas of your life that they could be full of singing, but you're still holding those things back. Anybody with me on saying I want to move from toxic to fresh?
I don't want to be held back by my pain. I don't want to be held back by the difficult things I've gone through. I want every wasteland in my life to be turned into a fountain of water. Jesus, send your river to me. Send it to this area. Send it to the broken places. Sit down, I got one more thing to tell you. Actually, I got two more things to tell you. But just right now, I feel so much that God is opening our eyes up to see that just because He saved us doesn't mean that we're walking in the promise of salvation. There can be areas where we sold ourselves short. And we're tolerating dry land, when there could be roses. We're tolerating dysfunction, when there could be health. We're still toxic, but we're meant to be fresh.
The fourth thing is that God wants to move you From shame to celebration. I got to thinking about how it would feel to be one of the captives by the River Chebar. And to know that you're in captivity, and to know that you have no one to blame but yourself because God warned you and didn't want you to go there. And that he was so good that for 490 years he sent prophet after prophet, he sent message after message to reinforce the message he communicated at the beginning. And that is dwell on the land, obey me, let me be your God. Don't be like the people around you who idolize things in this world. Instead, trust me. Walk with me, walk by faith, not by sight. If you'll do that and you'll test me and be willing to give up a day of the week and honor me and not worship your career. But take a day when there's more work to do, and more money to be made, but instead say no I'm not going to, I'm going to let the land rest. I'm going to rest and worship.
If you'll just do that, if you'll just not put other God's before me, there's no one who can step up against you. There's nothing that can stop you. But if you turn your back from me, eventually you'll be taken into captivity. And for 490 years, they didn't honor God with the Sabbath. They didn't honor God, they turned to idols. They end up behaving just like the world around them that they were meant to be a light to. And so, as God promised would happen, he deactivated the force field which is what we do to ourselves when we don't walk with him. And now enemies were able to come in that could never have taken us out otherwise, but we gave them a key. We brought the Trojan horse in. And so now all of a sudden what are they doing? They're sitting down by the Rivers of Chebar mourning the life that they used to have. Mourning what their relationship with God used to be like.
And Psalm 137 captures the feeling of shame that they're stuck in. When it says, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there were those who carried us away captive and they asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' But how shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land"? They were buying the lie of shame. That you are your mistake, and that you only deserve your relationship with God when you're having a good day spiritually. And so God brings this river and one of the things it has to overcome is their reluctance to worship God when they've been doing bad. And this, we can easily get caught up in as well. And God told me to ask you what river have you hung your harp up next to? What tree, what willow tree have you hung up your worship song on? Because you failed God at some point, you did something you knew better.
And so now you identify yourself only by your worst day. And you think that God, up in heaven, maybe can tolerate you coming. But just doesn't want you to talk much, and doesn't want you to eat much. And yeah, you can come to heaven, just please shut up and be quiet because do you realize how much of a mess you've made that he's had to redeem. As though that were God's attitude. When the absolute opposite is true. And that he is a Father who loves you. And yes, your sins were so bad that Jesus had to die for you. But you are so loved that Jesus was glad to come and die for you. And for the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame. And you go what joy was it that kept him going when they were putting nails through his hands? What joy was it, Jesus, that kept you going when a spear was puncturing your heart? Jesus what joy was on your mind when they were pressing a crown of thorns upon your head? And he would say, you were the joy before me. Because you were lost and I wanted to find you. And you were separated from me by your sins, but I thought you like a sheep that had gotten away.
And I got you. And even though you are still a knucklehead, and you still have bad days, I love you in the midst of your greatest failures. And so you don't need to hang up your worship song because of your failures. That is the perfect occasion to pick up your instruments. To take your harp up from your willow trees, and to give God your best praise. Why? Because you are not defined by your worst day, you are defined by Jesus's greatest day. And upon the occasion of you remembering what you wish you could forget is the greatest occasion to give your God a song of praise. And we have to move from shame over what we've done. That always causes us to stand like, this and to think like this, and to live like this. And instead, to turn into a posture of celebration because of what God has done. And we are, we're bringing God no honor by rubbing our own noses in the carpet of sins that have been forgiven. And as far as the east is from the west, so far he has removed us from what we've done. And when your God looks at you, he only sees Jesus. When he looks at you, he doesn't see what you can't help but remember.
And that is the wrong that you've done. And when we get this shame to celebration switch, we're not feeling ashamed and defined by shame. Which only takes us to a dark place. Which only takes us to relapse, which only causes us to live far. Which is what the devil wants to happen. He wants you ending back up spiraling back down when you live a life of shame, but instead when you remember it's a celebration over what Jesus has done. The Father was glad to run to me and put a robe on my shoulders and a ring on my finger. And so I'm not standing high and riding high in the saddle because of me, I'm riding high in the saddle because of Him. And if he can forgive me, if he can love me, then I can love myself. If he can forgive me, if he can love me, then I can live a life of celebration because of how good my God is. And not be defined by my sin, but be defined by my forgiveness that he has given to me. And when we make that switch, we become powerful in his hand. Judas lived the shame narrative after failing Jesus. Where did that take him? Suicide.
Peter also failed him on that same night, and he was tempted to live in that shame cycle. But Jesus grabbed him said, do you love me? Then feed my sheep. Do you love me, Simon Peter? Yeah. Feed my sheep. Do you love me? Tend my lambs, take care of my sheep. You see he was using that which Peter was, he saw it happening. He was wanting to get back into that shame narrative, and Jesus lifted him up to the celebration narrative. And then upon that rock, upon that pebble, upon the same pebble that failed him and denied him outside the temple. Is now going to stand outside the temple and preach the gospel so good that even someone like me could be forgiven. Even someone like me can be restored. And so now we stand, not hiding those things back, but now we're proud of them. Because they're badges of honor of God's love.
Now we stand upon those same failures. Were not marked by our shame, but we're going to live till our last breath telling the story of celebration of a God so good that he plans a party even though we're the chiefs of sinners. And I think some of us, if we're honest long enough and quiet long enough and we stop distracting ourselves long enough, we'll realize that we need that river to touch some of our shame. And to touch some of those guilt's, and some of those things that we're haunted by. And allow Him to cause that river to come rushing in. Doing what Isaiah 61 says, it can happen. When the river touches, "Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours". I like it, I mean that's exactly how I was feeling. I'm glad that there was some of that right there in there for you as well. I mean can we just say thank you to God. That we're free from shame. And that we will never, as we whisper with our King, hear him saying, shame on you. He always says shame off you. For the shame was on my son, and now you're restored. The shame was on my son and now you're forgiven. And now you're loved, and you can never do anything to lose his love.
Fifthly, and we're done. Worship team, come on up here. We're going to close this message out, and we're going to continue it next week. The river keeps going, right. The river goes from shallow to deep. And I love this because it started with a trickle and it ended up as a flood. But in between he says it was at my ankles, and then it was at my knees, and then it was at my hips, and then it was five feet high and rising. I had to swim across, it was it was too tall for me. And this is what it is like to grow in your relationship with Jesus. There's more to discover. There is more to explore. There's more that you're even going to find, that you didn't realize that was there inside of you, that he put there at salvation. There's more, yeah, I don't care if you've read this Bible from cover to cover, there's more for you to find.
"Oh," Paul said, in Romans chapter 11, verse 33, "Oh, the depths of the riches is full of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Oh how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out"! There is always more to learn. There's always more to see. There's always more to do. And the way that you move best from ankles to knees, from knees to hips, because some of you today are at a place where you're in the ankle stage. And that's OK, you just got to keep going, got to keep discovering, got to keep learning. And some of you are at the hips, and some of you it's overhead. And some of you, now you need to go from overhead to really discover what's life. And the way for you to keep getting deeper and deeper and deeper into these things that God wants for you for the river, is to let it flow from you to other people. And that's why he ends, I believe with this picture of fisherman drying their nets. Where there was nothing, no fish can live there.
Now all of a sudden fishermen are drying their nets. Why? Because they spent all day fishing. And so what do we have? We have this idea of a river coming to us, and taking us from death to life, and from toxic to fresh. But the way we keep going into the depths of all the he has for us is we don't let it stop with us. We let it flow to other people. We never dam up God's blessings. We never shift into a mode of spirituality that's all about us. We keep thinking, God who have you put me in front of? Who have you given me access to? Who in the place where I work needs to know you? Who can I invite to my home, and as I open a bottle of wine and cook a dinner for them, can tell them the goodness of God in my life? Who can I entertain and show love to? Who can I give hospitality to? Who can I tell about what God has done in my story? Who can I influence? Who can I impact? Who can I be a part of you fishing for? Did not Jesus say, I will send you out as fishers of men? And in every different river, in every different company, at every different level, there are different people that we're meant to impact.
And as we continue to have that heart that says, freely I've been given so freely I'm going to give. There is no limit to what God can do through one person who God's river has touched. Where did we begin? Lindisfarne, that's right. Lindisfarne. When I went there, the tour guide said something peculiar, he said welcome to Holy Island. And at first I was like crap, we took a wrong turn. We're not Lindisfarne, we're at Holy Island. And he said, also known as Lindisfarne. Holy Island? He said yeah, this island has a rich connection to Christianity in England. From here, he said, the gospel rang out all over the island of England. Holy Island? I was like Holy Island, Batman. That's awesome. And he began to tell us the story of a monk, named Aiden from Ireland. Lived in a monastery in Iona 635 AD, when King Oswald of Northumbria, which is what we would call England today. He heard about the revival that was breaking out in Ireland, and the impact when people knew Jesus how different they lived. And how art and business, all these things would just flourish.
If you think about what happens when someone's got the creator living inside of them. What they're opened up to. To the moon, right. So he asked for a monk to come down from this monastery at Iona to preach. And they said a monk, named Carmen, this monk spent a couple of days talking to Oswald and trying to do his best to win the, he called them pagans, over to Jesus. And he came back to the monastery and reported it was a complete failure because it didn't work at all. I tried to tell them about Jesus. Those people, I can't do nothing for them. They're savages. He said, this direct quote, "They're barbarians". And Anglo-Saxon paganism had taken its heart in Northumbria, indeed. Gone were the days of Constantine's Christian empire. And so they said, well it didn't work. And we're going right back to Oswald, it didn't work.
But one monk raised his hand, named Aiden. Aiden raised his hand and said, maybe the problem with you trying to preach the gospel to them begins with you describing them as barbarians. Like I'm not an expert. I'm not a smart man, Jennie. But I know this, that I wouldn't want to be called a barbarian. And so maybe it wasn't your message that was the problem, maybe it was your spirit. Maybe it was your tone. Maybe it was that you didn't have any kindness or love for these people. Did you have to get off your high horse long enough to get to know anybody? And everybody at the table instantly went, well we know who to send. Carmen you're out, Aiden you're on. So they sent Aiden to Oswald's court. And he says, I'm here to get to know you guys, to love you. Thank you for the opportunity and the honor.
Oswald said what do you need? What do you want? He said, well I would love to build a training school where I could raise up people to preach the gospel. Because I don't just want to reach one part of Northumbria, I would love to see everybody here get to hear the gospel. He said pick anywhere you want. So Aiden scoured the area and where he chose, of all places, was an island called Lindisfarne. And he liked it because of the way the water came in, and the water came out, and the water came in, and the water came out. He said all the students are going to have enormous periods of every day where they can't go anywhere. And then I want there to be, he said, the symbolic moment when the water recedes. And now all of a sudden, these commissioned people can walk this road that wasn't there before. And they could take this gospel all over England.
And that's exactly what he did. There on Lindisfarne, Holy Island, Aiden opens up what is in our heart for Fresh Life leadership college. That is to say, young people who come in and spend a season serving God and knowing God. But it is always meant to go out. It's always meant to be about touching other places. It's always meant to be, we can't keep it in Kalispell, we got to go to Billings, we got to go to Whitefish, we got to touch to Portland, we got to get to Salt Lake City. Come out to other cities and other places. We must go. We can't just say we've been given death to life. We have to be a part of this message being preached, this message going out. And so every time the waters receded, there was a chance for someone else to go walk this road that wasn't there before.
And to take this message they had been given, and to go somewhere else. And within 30 years of Aiden's school being opened on Holy Island 75% of England had converted to Christ. And the whole Anglo-Saxon paganism was basically swept off the island. And from that tiny little 1,000 acre piece of land, people ended up going out telling the gospel and it rang out all over the world. So don't you tell me God can't use one person. And what I love about Aiden, is if you look into, they call him Saint Aiden now of Lindisfarne, is that he was a person who was humble. He was a person who cared for the poor. He was a person always trying to help people. In fact, one time he got in trouble. He gave away King Oswald's horse without asking King Oswald because he heard a family needed it. That was just how there was always this message that rang out with help that physical things needed to be done to.
You couldn't just tell someone about Jesus, but if they were hungry leave them hungry. He wanted to clothe the naked, he wanted to feed the hungry, he wanted a bed for the homeless. And church, this is how we change the world. We have the gospel of Jesus on our tongue, but we have kindness in a sweet spirit in our lives. And we are willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Come on, the water's rising a little bit. We're believing it's rising from ankles to knees, from knees to hips, from hips it's getting taller now. Come on, it's five feet and rising up. There's still more in front of us right now. We're believing a river is going out. We're believing God has something new for us. Come on, let's cry out for God to do all that he has for us.