Ezekiel 47:11
The beauty and even sublimity of this portion of Ezekiel's prophecies must impress every reader of imagination and taste. Upon the suggestion of the waters of Siloam taking their rise from the temple rock, and the watercourse of the Kedron threading its way among the rocky deserts until it reaches the expanse of the Dead Sea, the poet-prophet describes a river which has its source in the sanctuary of Jehovah, and which broadens and deepens as it flows, until it becomes a stream of vastest blessing, diffusing health and life for the benefit of multitudes of men. Under this similitude Ezekiel pictures the spiritual blessings brought by God, through the channels of his grace and faithfulness, not to Israel alone, but to all mankind.

I. THE SOURCE OF THE HOLY WATERS. AS the rain comes down from heaven, filters in the soil, and wells up a living spring, so the blessings of the gospel have their fountain in the very mind and heart of God himself. But, as conveyed to men, they have a well-spring human and earthly. The student of human history, who looks beneath the surface of things, and seeks to understand the growth of thought and of morals, turns his attention to the Hebrew people, wondering that from them, as from a well-head of ethical and religious life, should flow blessings so priceless for the enrichment of humanity. Yet so it is; the temple at Jerusalem is the symbol of a Divine revelation. The justest and noblest ideas which have entered into the intellectual and spiritual life of man have very largely issued from Moses and the Hebrew prophets. How far Ezekiel entered into this truth may not be certain; yet since he was a cosmopolite, in relation with Babylon, Egypt, and Tyre, and knew well the mental and moral state of the nations of antiquity, it seems reasonable to believe that he had enough of the critical spirit to compare the debt of the world to the Hebrews as compared with the people that figure so vastly in secular history. He was certainly right in tracing to Israelitish sources the waters of life, fruitfulness, and healing which were to bring blessing to mankind.

II. THE WIDENING AND DEEPENING OF THE HOLY WATERS. It is here that Ezekiel passes from history to prophecy. Possessed by the Spirit of God, he was able to look into the future and behold the wonder yet to be. It is, indeed, marvelous that, in a period of national depression, when national extinction seemed to human foresight to be imminent, the prophet of the exile should have had so clear a perception of the reality of things, and so clear a foresight of the spiritual future of the world, which must in his apprehension have appeared bound up with the continuity of the history and religious life of Israel. The river, like the temple from which it proceeded, was the emblem of what was greater than itself. Christian commentators have taken pleasure in tracing Correspondences between the gradual increase of the stream and the growth of true and spiritual religion. Beginning with Judaism, the stream of truth and blessing widened and deepened into Christianity; and Christianity itself, commencing its course in the besom of Israel, soon came to include in its ever-widening flood, its ever-deepening volume of blessing, all the nations comprehended in the dominion of Rome. And following centuries have witnessed the constant broadening of the life-giving and beneficent stream, so that none can place a limit to the area which shall be fertilized and refreshed by the waters that first flowed from the courts of the temple at Jerusalem.

III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE HOLY WATERS. Among the results of the presence of the waters of life may be observed the following.

1. Healing. The salt and bituminous waters of the Dead Sea are represented as being healed and restored to sweetness by this inflow of the sweet and wholesome waters issuing from the sanctuary. By this may be understood the power of pure and supernatural religion to heal the corruptions of sinful society. Certainly, as a matter of fact, not a little has been done in this direction in the course of the centuries, as the Church has taken possession, first of the Roman empire, and then of the nations of the North, and as, in these latter days, it has, with missionary zeal, penetrated the foulness of the remotest heathenism.

2. Life. And this in two several directions. The prophet saw very many trees on the banks of the river, and a very great multitude of fish in its translucent waters. Life, both vegetable and animal, life of every kind and order, is the result of the stream's full and beneficent flow. Corresponding with this is the spiritual life which results from the benign and wholesome influence of true Christianity. The Lord Jesus came that men might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Life of the spirit, the very life of God himself - such is the issue of the Divine interposition and provision.

3. Fruitfulness and abundance. The fishers spread their nets and draw up from the waters a great supply of fish; the husbandmen go forth into the gardens and vineyards by the river-side and gather great crops of fruit. The river of the water of life, like the streams of Damascus creating a green oasis in the Syrian desert, brings fertility, a wealth of blossom and of fruit, wherever it flows. Righteousness and holiness, patience and peace, devotion and hope, - such are the harvest for which the world is indebted to the sweet waters of the Divine sanctuary. - T.

But the miry places and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
This vision of Ezekiel unrolled the map of the progress of the Gospel. The scene on which he looked down — so dark, so sterile, so lifeless — is but a picture of the world at large, separated from the knowledge and influences of Christianity. The natural features of the one correspond to the moral features of the other; for man, untaught by revelation, or unmoved by revelation, is like the desert, uncultivated and unfruitful; or like the dead lake, devoid of spiritual activity and buoyancy, and fitted but to spread around him the poisonous exhalation of his native depravity. It is the Gospel which reclaims man from this state, which pours fertilisation on the wilderness, and healing into the distempered waters. The Gospel of our Redeemer is represented by the river, which poured itself over the panoramic world, on which the prophet's eye was fixed. And we shall perceive the propriety of this emblem, if we turn our thoughts to the mystery of its origin. The prophet beheld the stream stealing forth from the threshold, but he saw not the source — the fountain from which it flowed; his eye could trace it rolling slowly from the eastern door, but he knew nothing of it till it thus opened upon his notice. All, previous to its appearance was wrapped in mystery and concealment. It is so with that wondrous development of our God's compassion and wisdom, which we designate the Gospel of Christ. Dwelling upon this lower world, living, as it were, outside the walls of the sanctuary, we see but the revelation, the unfolding of a mighty plan which is destined to be the cause of incalculable blessedness to countless millions. We can trace its progress, and mark its footsteps, and see its marvellous results. We can cast our eye backward upon the line of bygone ages, and trace the growth and the increasing firmness of the tree from the time that it was cast a seed into the ground, till it spread its branches over many climes and many nations. And as it carried its blessings and its comforts farther and farther still, displacing barbarism and introducing civilisation, dispelling the thick darkness, and pouring out its stream of pure and golden light, we can discover the proofs and indications of its power, but we can see nothing of the fountain out of which all this issues; for that lies concealed in the sanctuary of God's wisdom, in the dark and veiled recesses of the council halls of eternity. It lies in the depths both "of the wisdom and the knowledge of God," unfathomable to the plummet, of mortal investigation. But we shall perceive the propriety of this emblem no less clearly if we consider the effects which the Gospel is calculated to produce. When the prophet's eye traced the course of the sanctuary river, he saw that it carried fertility and health with its waters. He beheld wildernesses converted into gardens — a wild and cheerless waste into a second Eden. The Gospel of the Son of God is calculated to effect the same result. Already has it reclaimed a large portion of our globe from the sway of ignorance, of barbarism, of unbroken darkness, and carried along with its saving announcements the blessings of civilisation, and knowledge, and social happiness. It has proved itself powerful, not simply to confer moral renovation, but to implant the seeds and the elements of spiritual life. It is clear, from the text, that there may be spots and individuals visited by the truth, and yet unreclaimed by the truth. These are "the miry places and the marishes" of the vision — spots which the river has touched, but which it has not changed — which lie in their original wasteness and sterility, although the stream of improvement has flowed over them. And these may designate either nations, or communities, or individuals. It becomes, therefore, a point of importance for us to ascertain distinctly what constitutes that miry and marshy state which is so fearfully indicative of total disconnection with the saving blessings of the Gospel. The state of man by nature is one of spiritual deadness, for spiritual life forsook him when he became a rebel against God. If man would be saved, he must have this spiritual insensibility removed, and spiritual life implanted, There must come a quickening from the Holy Ghost, the author and giver of life, into the soul. The man must be made alive unto God. There must be life in the soul. The river of the sanctuary must not merely cleanse the wilderness, and wash away impurities from the surface, it must besides pour such a flood of quickening power into its bosom, as that "everything where it cometh shall live." It must give you life in your spiritual desires, life in your spiritual affections, life in your spiritual duties, life in your prayers. The second effect produced by the river of life is the healing of the distempered waters. Man is not only a being dead in trespasses, and so insensible, but he is also impregnated by corruption, and so unholy. There must enter a stream of sanctifying influences into the very fountain of his innate depravity, to expel its poisons, and to heal its corruptions. And when this is done, there will be a continual aim and effort after holiness in the life and conversation. The alteration of the mind and temper and dispositions will be there, and an energy in religion will be there, and a zeal for God will be there, and the fruits of the Spirit will be there; in other words, the man or the community touched by the Gospel's magic power will be Christian. But when these marks exist not, when there are no indications of a spiritual life being infused, or of a healing process having been carried forward, then, we say, the Gospel has effected nothing — it has passed over men without changing them; it has been preached to men without converting them; it has visited men without sanctifying them. And let it not for one moment be imagined that God will show Himself an unmoved spectator of all this insult offered to His mercy, of all this despite done to the Spirit of His grace. No; for such as will sit beneath the sound of a proclaimed Gospel, without being touched by its power, or healed by its virtues, the Lord has His sentence of doom. It rests not concealed in His treasury of wrath and indignation. It is already announced — it is already on record — it is at this moment entered upon the dark registries of condemnation. His own lips have spoken it — "they shall be given to salt." It is a doom of deep and appalling import, for it tells of the curse of present barrenness and future destruction being poured out upon the hardened and impenitent. There are many methods by which the Lord effects this. One is by withdrawing from a heedless and obdurate people the Gospel — the ordinances of His grace — altogether. When He has made the stream to roll in its richness through it, and it will neither be healed nor quickened, shall it seem a marvellous thing if He bend the direction of the river and make it flow into other lands; if He leave spots that will not be changed, without a privilege, without one single water drop of Christian advantages? Another method by which the Lord accomplishes this decree, is by continuing to an apathetic and gainsaying people the outward ministrations of His grace, but stripping them of their faithfulness and purity. We shall allude but to one method more by which the Lord executes His doom of "giving to salt" a Gospel-resisting people. He continues to such a people the ministrations of His truth in all its purity and faithfulness, but He refuses to bless them to the salvation and improvement of the people's souls. The river will flow, but it will not fructify. In such an instance of judicial retribution, there will be a flintiness, a hardihood, an insensibility, a paralysis over the hearers' hearts which will resist all approaches of the truth, and fling it back, as the breakwater rolls back the tide which would irrigate the soil.

(A. Boyd, M. A.)

I. THE GOSPEL HAS NOT THE SAME HEALING EFFECT ON ALL WHERE IT COMES. Has the Gospel come unto me, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, and effectually wrought to the turning me from vain idols to the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:5)? Thus it does in all that are saved. But oh, to how many does it prove an empty sound, and who remain the same persons that they were before they heard it? They were dark and defiled, ignorant and unholy, lifeless and fruitless, and they are so still.


1. This is a reproach to the Gospel, as if it were spiritless thing, without power or efficacy to produce what it was sent for.

2. As it is a reproach to the Gospel, so also a grief to those that labour in it.


1. A soul not healed, or totally barren, is yet out of Christ: and to be doomed to perpetual barrenness, never to be healed, is forever to be excluded from Him.

2. A soul not healed, but given to perpetual barrenness, has no promise of the protection of Providence, but may be exposed to all the evils of the present life. Thus God threatens His barren vineyard with it (Isaiah 5:5, 6).

3. They that are finally forsaken as incurable, and given up to perpetual barrenness, have not a moment's security from eternal wrath.


1. God leaves them to a careless, indifferent spirit about what momentous things the Gospel reveals, and the concern of their souls in them.

2. Such a carelessness and indifferency is usually attended with blindness and insensibility, so as not to apprehend their disease, and mind a cure, and perceive their need of it.

3. Sometimes the waters of the sanctuary are staid, or diverted; or else, they that would not be healed by them are removed to places where they have none of the external means of knowledge and fruitfulness they once enjoyed.

4. The healing grace and influence of the Spirit may be withheld; without the help of which, the disease of the soul cannot be removed, nor its barrenness cured.

5. The Spirit being withdrawn, they may be left of God to entertain errors and to believe lies; whereby they may think themselves whole, when ready to perish, and cry Peace, peace, to themselves when sudden destruction is near (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

6. Upon this, the resolution may be taken up to let them alone, that His Spirit shall not strive with them.APPLICATION. —

1. Avoid those things which lead to this, which are such as these: —(1) Making light of the waters of the sanctuary by neglecting or careless attending.(2) Taking up with a mere profession of religion, and attending upon the means of grace without looking to see that their end be answered in a saving change wrought within.(3) Neglecting or opposing the convictions of conscience, and the motions of the Spirit.(4) Setting death and judgment at too great a distance, and flattering yourselves into stupidity from a vain presumption of having many years to come.(5) Delaying to look after a cure till another time.(6) Being too much taken up with the body and this present world, the cares of which choke the Word, and cause it to become unfruitful.

2. Take the course necessary to prevent it.(1) Apprehend the dangerous case you are in by nature.(2) Attend upon the means God hath appointed in order to a cure.(3) Be diligent in hearing, much in prayer, for the presence and influence of the Spirit, to heal, quicken, and recover you to God, and bring you into vital union to Christ.

(D. Wilson.)


1. He doth it principally because in those places where the Word is rejected by the generality of the people, yet there may be some secret poor souls belonging to the election of grace, whom God will have gathered, and called home to Himself.

2. God doth it for a testimony against them that receive it not, and to leave them inexcusable at the last day (Mark 6:11). Let not men boast themselves in the outward enjoyment of the Word, nor rest themselves in it.

II. THE SOULS OF ALL MEN ARE SPIRITUALLY DEAD, AND FULL OF WOEFUL DISTEMPERS, UNTIL THEY ARE QUICKENED AND HEALED BY THE DISPENSATION OF THE GOSPEL. I shall not stay to mention all the particular distempers that rage in some, and that rule and reign in all, before the coming of the Gospel — as darkness, blindness, ignorance, worldly-mindedness, sensuality, hatred of God, envy and malice — which are fixed in the souls of men by presumption and self-righteousness. There is nothing in them of spiritual life or holiness, of purity or zeal, nothing that is acceptable or pleasing unto God.

III. THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL IS, IN ITS OWN NATURE, A QUICKENING, HEALING, SANCTIFYING, SAVING WORD TO THEM WHO RECEIVE IT. They bring Christ along with them, the Great Physician of souls, who alone is able to cure a sin-sick soul. They bring mercy with them to pardon sinners. They bring grace with them to cure all the distempers of lusts (Isaiah 11:5-7; Titus 2:11, 19).


1. By the coming of the healing waters of the sanctuary, I intend not the occasional preaching of a sermon, although this be sufficient to justify God in the rejection of any person or people. In the first preaching of the Gospel, the refusal of one sermon lost many their souls unto all eternity (Matthew 10:12-15; Luke 10:8). But oh, the unspeakable patience of Christ to many in the world, where the Word is continued ofttimes for a very long season, and the salvation tendered therein despised! But this is that which I intend, as the rule of the dispensation mentioned: namely, when God by His providence doth cause the Word to be preached for some continuance, and to the revelation of His whole counsel — as (Acts 20:27). Nor do I mean any waters, but the waters of the sanctuary; not any preaching but the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul affirms to be his work (Ephesians 3:8).

2. What is meant by their sinful distempers not being healed?(1) Men are not quickened; they receive not a new spiritual life; they are not so brought to the knowledge of God.(2) The healing of these quickened souls consists in the curing and mortifying of their sinful distempers. If men are proud, worldly, sensual, they are dead also; there is no effect of the waters of the sanctuary upon them.

3. What is the lot and portion of such persons? Why, "they shall be given to salt"; that is, to barrenness, fruitlessness, unprofitableness, and eternal ruin.(1) For other Scriptures which assert the same truth, take (Proverbs 1:25-31; Proverbs 29:1; Luke 13:6; Hebrews 10:28-30; 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16).(2) For the degrees of rejection (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23; Hebrews 6:8).(3) The ways whereby God doth usually proceed in giving up such persons to barrenness, and so to everlasting ruin. He casts them out of His care; He will be at no more charge nor cost with them, nor about them (Hebrews 6:8; Ezekiel 24:13; Jeremiah 6:29, 30). He will sometimes utterly remove the Gospel from them; turn the stream of the waters of the sanctuary, that they shall come to them no more. So He threatened the Church at Ephesus of old (Revelation 2:5).

4. God doth this sometimes, though He causeth the Word to be continued unto them, by restraining the efficacy of it, that it shall not profit them. The second thing that God doth, in giving up an unhealed land unto barrenness, is His judicial hardening of them, or leaving them to hardness and impenitency, that so they may fill up the measure of their sins (Hebrews 6:8).(1) Their natural blindness and ignorance shall be increased and confirmed; and that by two ways. God will send them "a spirit of slumber" (Romans 11:8) — that is, a great inadvertency and negligence as to the things of the Gospel that are spoken of, or preached unto them. God sends them a spirit of giddiness, causing them to err in their ways! (Isaiah 19:14). We have a notable instance of this judgment of God (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).(2) Obstinacy in the will, or hardness of heart, properly so called, is in this judgment of God also (Isaiah 6:10; Romans 1:28).(3) Sensuality of affections is in this judgment also (Romans 1:26).(4) Searedness of conscience (1 Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:19).Use.

1. Of exhortation. Make use of your season, that you fall not under this sore and inexpressible judgment.(1) If you are not healed during your season, you can never be healed. If the Gospel cure you not, you must die in your sins.(2) You know not how your day is going away, nor when it will be over.

2. To discover the miserable condition of poor creatures, that having not in their season been healed by the waters of the sanctuary, are given up of the Lord to salt and barrenness.(1) They know not that they are so miserable.(2) They are pleased with the condition in which they are.(3) No man can help or relieve them. All the world cannot pull a poor creature out from under the curse of the great God.(4) Their eternal ruin is certain, as before proved.(5) This ruin is very sore on Gospel despisers.

( J. Owen, D. D.)


1. It stagnates in them: they hear in vain; learn, but do not practise; feel, but do not decide; resolve, but do not perform.

2. It mingles with their corruptions, as clear water with the mire of the marshes.

3. It becomes food for their sins, even as rank, sour grass is produced by the stagnant waters of "miry places."

4. It makes them worse and worse. The more rain, the more mire.


1. The talkative man, who lives in sin, flooded with knowledge, but destitute of love.

2. Those critics who note only the faults of Christians, and are quick to dwell on them; but are false themselves.

3. Those who receive orthodox truth, and yet love the world.

4. Those who feel impressed and moved, but never obey the Word.

5. Those who are mere officials, and attend to religion in a mechanical manner.


1. Because they are not aware of it: they think it is well with them.

2. Because the ordinary means of blessing men have failed in their case.

3. In some instances the very best means have failed. A special river of gracious opportunity has flowed down to them, but its streams have visited them in vain.

4. No known means now remain.

5. Their ruin appears certain.

6. Their ruin is as terrible as it is sure.


1. A lesson of warning, lest we ourselves be visibly visited by grace streams, and yet never profit thereby.

2. A lesson of arousing, lest we rest in ordinances.

3. A lesson of gratitude, if we are indeed healed by the life river, let us bless the effectual grace of God.

4. A lesson of quickening to ministers and other workers, that they may look well to the results of their labour, and not be making marshes where they wish to create fields rich with harvest.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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