Once again he measured off a thousand cubits, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough for swimming--a river that could not be crossed on foot.
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.
Waters to swim in.I. The first thought of the text concerning the Gospel is this, the idea of ABUNDANCE.
1. The abundant provision for the removal of sin and for making us accepted in the Beloved. Here is blood most precious, removing every spot, and a righteousness most glorious, conferring a matchless beauty, a beauty such as Adam in his perfection never had, for his was but human righteousness, but this day the children of God wear the righteousness of the Lord Himself, and this is the name wherewith Jesus is called — "The Lord our Righteousness."
2. God's stores for our sustenance and for our protection.(1) For our sustenance there is bread provided from heaven such as angels have never tasted. There is water leaping from the rock such as the fathers drank not in the wilderness. There is no fear that either the heavenly granary or the celestial fountain shall ever be exhausted.(2) And as for our protection. Think how the Lord's right arm is uplifted, that His power may preserve the saints; how His wisdom goeth to and fro in the earth, watching for their good; how His heart of love beats high with constant affection for them; how the whole of Godhead bows itself to protect the chosen.
3. The provision made for our training and our perfecting. In addition to affliction He has provided all the truth of God in the Bible to sanctify us; He has given us the blood of Christ to purify us; He has sent forth the blessed and eternal Spirit to refine us, and, as subordinate agencies, he has provided all our comforts, and at the same time all our trials, all our companionships with holy men, and all the beacons of unholy lives, that we may be educated for the skies.
4. What "waters to swim in" have we by way of consolations and strengthenings. The Comforter puts into the inspired word a singular sweetness which the most able ministers cannot arrive at, even though they should be, like Barnabas, sons of consolation.
5. Think of what God has done for us by way of making us happy and noble. He has not only pardoned us, but He has received us into His family, and He has taken us there, not to be His hired servants, as we once thought He might do, but He has made us His own sons; and what is more than that, He has made us heirs, and not secondary heirs either, but "joint heirs with Christ Jesus"; so that we have come right up from the place of the slave into the position of the heir of all things.
6. And then, beyond! Think of that which remaineth in Immanuel's land, beyond Jordan.
II. Our text gives us the idea of SPACE, amplitude, room. "Waters to swim in." Room enough.
1. First, as to thought. Think of God as He is revealed in Holy Scripture. The Father ordaining all things, according to the council of His will; take the whole line of truth which connects itself with the Father. Then consider the Son as man and as God, the surety of the covenant, the substitute for His people, the intercessor, prophet, priest, and king, the Lord who is yet to come. you have a wide range of thought there. Then consider the Holy Spirit.
2. There are "waters to swim in," next, not only as regards subjects of thought but matters of faith. Oh, how sweet to have something to believe where you get right out of reason's depths!
3. Then, blessed be His name, there are "waters to swim in" not only for thought and faith, but also for love. Some make the doctrines of the Gospel a cold stream, like the waters of the Arctic pole, and love would be frozen if she were to venture into them; but the Scriptures are like the Gulf Stream, warm as well as deep; and love delights to plunge into them, and swim in them. In the agonies of Christ there is, to the contemplative mind, a fulness of love unspeakable, which makes the heart feel, "now I can love here without stint." I can love the dear companion of my life; I can love my children; but there comes the thought, "I may make them idols, and I may thus injure both them and myself." That is not "waters to swim in." But if we loved the Lord ten thousand times more than we do, we should transgress no command in so doing: nay rather, the only transgression lies in falling short. Oh that we could love Him more!
4. There is room for the exercise and expansion of every faculty within the range of the Gospel. There are "waters to swim in," in the Scriptures. You need not think there is no room for your imagination there. Give the coursers their reins: you shall find enough within that book to exhaust them at their highest speed. You need not think that your memory shall have nothing to remember; if you had learnt the book through and through, and knew all its texts, you would have much to remember above that, to remember its inner meaning, and its conversations with your soul, and the mysterious power it has had over your spirit, when it has touched the strings of your nature as a master harper touches his harp strings, and has brought forth music which you knew not to be sleeping there.
III. The text has the idea of TRUST, at least to my mind. The text speaks of "waters to swim in," and swimming is a very excellent picture of faith. In the act of swimming it is needful that a man should float in the water. So far he is passive, and the water buoys him up. You must keep your head above water if you are to swim. We are told that the body is naturally buoyant, and that if a person would lie quite still upon the water he would not sink, but if he kicks and struggles he will sink himself. The first sign of faith is when a man learns to lie back upon Christ — to give himself up entirely to Him — when he ceases to be active and becomes passive, brings no good works, no efforts, no merits, to Jesus by way of recommendation, but casts his soul upon the eternal merit and the finished work of the great Substitute. That is faith in its passive form, floating faith. In the heavenly river you must float before you can swim. But the text does not speak of waters to float in, though this is essential. Many people never get beyond that floating period, and they conclude that they are safe and all is well because they fancy their heads are above water; whereas the man who is really taught of God goes on from the floating to the swimming. Now, swimming is an active exercise. The man progresses as he strikes out. He makes headway. He dives and rises: he turns to the right, he swims to the left, he pursues his course, he goes withersoever he wills, Now, the holy Word of God and the Gospel are "waters to swim in." Let us learn to trust God in active exertions for the promotion of His kingdom, to trust Him in endeavours to do good.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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