Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE LIVING CREATURES. Ezekiel 1
It was when the prophet was "among the captives" that the "heavens were opened, and he saw visions of God" (v. 1). John was in the Isle of Patmos when the revelation came to him. These "visions of God" which came to Ezekiel the priest, whatever be their import to Israel, are strikingly symbolic of the Church of God as seen in Revelation 4 (read r. V.). These living creatures resemble the Church in—
I. Their Origin. They came "out of the midst of... a whirlwind...a great cloud, and a fire" (vv. 4, 5). A fire that was taking hold of itself." The fire, cloud, and whirlwind, are suggestive of God of Mystery and of Judgment, all of which appear in the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. The Church is born of God in the mystery of godliness, and delivered from the judgment of sin (Acts 2:2).
II. Their Character. They are "Living creatures," literally "living ones." They are not dying ones. Not of the earth earthy, but from Heaven. They are living ones whose life is akin to God's, partakers of the Divine nature. Heirs of eternal life.
III. Their Appearance. "They had the likeness of a man" (v. 5). Created after the image of Him who is the Son of God, in righteousness and true holiness. The Church is in the likeness of the Man Christ Jesus. Having—
1. The face of a MAN for wisdom, and reverence in worship (v. 10).
2. The face of a LION for courage and strength in battle.
3. The face of an OX for patience and perseverance in service.
4. The face of an EAGLE for clear vision, and heavenly power in testimony.
Each had four wings, power to obey the Divine commission, and to keep themselves out of sight. With two they "covered their bodies" (v. 11).
IV. Their Movements. "They went every one straight forward" (v. 12). This method of action proves that they were of one mind, and dominated by one great purpose. How could it be otherwise when, "where the Spirit was to go they went?" That the Church of God might go straight forward in one Spirit, doing His will, was partly the burden of Christ's great prayer in John 17 (Romans 8:14; John 17:22).
V. Their Influence. "Their appearance was like burning coals of fire...like lamps...the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning" (v. 13). He makes His ministers a flaming fire (Psalm 104:4). The early Church was endued with "Cloven tongues like as of fire" (Acts 2:3). "Burning coals," "lamps, "and "lightning," are self-assertive, they are not to be hid. Be filled with the Spirit, and the coals of thought will burn, then the lamp of life will shine, and the lightning of conviction and revelation go forth (v. 14).
VI. Their Accompaniments. "And when the living creatures went the wheels went with them" (vv. 15-21). The rings of the wheels were so high that they were dreadful...and full of eyes...and the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Symbolic of the Providence of God in relation to His redeemed people. "All things work together for good to them that love God,...called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28. See 2 Chronicles 16:9). They were mysterious ("dreadful"), unerring ("full of eyes"), and in perfect accord with the living ones—the same Spirit was in them. What a comfort to the Church of God.
VII. Their Translation. "The living ones were lifted up from the earth" (v. 19. See chapter 10:19). When they are lifted up the wheels are also lifted up. This is a solemn thought for an ungodly and Christ-rejecting world. The Church shall be lifted from the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). But when the wheels of Almighty grace cease to move in the world, the flaming fire of retribution will be kindled (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Life from God is the guarantee of life with God.
EQUIPMENT FOR SERVICE. Ezekiel 2:3
The first great essential in service is a "vision of God" (chapter 1:1). A vision of His greatness, His holiness, and unfailing mercy. Saul, who became Paul, was not "disobedient to the heavenly vision." The vision comes through the revelation of His Son in the Scriptures of truth (John 1:18). Here are some characteristics, which, without fail, belong to the true servant of God—
I. They are Spirit-possessed. "The Spirit entered into me" (chapter 2:2). The revelation of God prepares for the entering of His Holy Spirit into the heart. Be filled with the Spirit. He is always ready to possess every consecrated life.
II. They are God-sent. "He said unto me, I send you" (chapter 2:3). Those who are Spirit-taught, will be Spirit-sent. "As You has sent me into the world," said our Lord; "even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:18). The vision of Calvary preceded the Pentecostal enduement and witness-bearing.
III. They are Willing Recipients of His Word. "He said. Son of Man...eat this roll, so I opened my mouth" (chapter 3:1-3). His words are spirit and life (John 6:61-63), so the Spirit-taught soul receives them gladly. He receives the roll of the book, just as a little child receives its food. He opened his mouth, and the Lord filled it, "and it was in his mouth as honey for sweetness." If the Word of God was more simply and fully received, there would be more delight in it, and more power through it.
IV. They are Courageous. "Behold, I have made your face strong," etc. (chapter 3:8). A "strong face," is an evidence of great force of character. Leaders of men have usually a strong facial expression. God can make your character to be strong and powerful. The fear of man is foreign to the man of God.
V. They are Obedient. "The Spirit took me up... and I wept in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit" (v. 14). The Word of the Lord was sweet in his mouth, but somewhat bitter in its practical operation. But although there was bitterness to his soul in following the guidance of the Spirit, he obeyed. Paul gloried in tribulation also.
VI. They are Humble. "Then I came to them of the captivity...and I sat where they sat" (v. 15). This was how he reached the lapsed mass. He obeyed the Spirit of God, and went and sat down among them. Those who labor for Christ, must act like Him, humbling themselves for the sake of others.
VII. They are Faithful. "I have made you a watchman" (chapter 3:16-21). The watchman must "warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life." The wicked need warning, and the man who has seen "visions of God" is alone able sufficiently to give that warning. Paul was a faithful watchman, and could say, "I am pure from the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26-31). Study to show yourself approved of God, a watchman that needs not to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15).
THE TIME OF LOVE. Ezekiel 16:1-20
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine. In this chapter we have a revelation of the marvelous love and grace of God! Judah is here represented as a helpless, forsaken infant, perishing in the open field. The time of Divine love came when He, passing by, pitied, and saved with a great salvation. The need of a ruined Jerusalem is the need of every ruined soul.
I. A Picture of Destitution. Could any figures of speech be more expressive than this?
1. HELPLESSNESS. "I saw you weltering in your blood" (v. 6). Jerusalem did not see herself in this sorrowful plight. God's judgment of sin is quite a different thing from man's (Romans 3:19; 5:6).
2. HOPELESSNESS. "None eye pitied thee...to have compassion upon you" (v. 5). No one is capable of pitying the sinner who knows not the holiness of God. Men can understand the sadness of poverty, shame and crime committed against himself or his fellow men, but not sin as against God. In this sense "No man can redeem his brother." In humanity there is absolutely no hope for man as guilty before God.
II. A Picture of Salvation. "Behold your time, the time of love" (v. 8). The time of love was when "He passed by, and looked upon you." Our time of love is now, while God in mercy and grace is passing by in the Gospel of His Son, beholding in pity and compassion our sin and misery. The proof and power of that love is seen in what He did.
1. HE SPARED. "I said unto you, Live" (v. 6). He only could speak the Word of Life to this bloodstained outcast. He who "spared not" His own Son spared this sinning soul. The salvation of God is the sparing of the soul in unmerited mercy from guilt and death. Saved by grace alone.
2. HE CLEANSED. "Then I washed you with water." Blood, the figure of pollution and sin, was washed away. Every spared one is a washed one (Galatians 1:4). The life He gives is a clean life.
3. HE COVERED. "I spread My skirt over you, and covered your nakedness" (v. 8). He acts the part of a near kinsman (Ruth 3:9). The skirt of His righteousness is unto all, and upon all them that believe.
4. HE CLAIMED. "And you became Mine" (v. 8). Oh, what a change! From the "open field" of sin and shame, into the bosom of the family of God. From self-degradation and hopelessness, into the Kingdom of grace and of glory.
5. HE ANOINTED. "And I anointed you with oil" (v. 9). It is God's will that all His claimed, cleansed, and covered ones should be anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 19:2).
6. HE CROWNED. "And I put...a beautiful crown upon your head" (v. 12). He who began the good work of saving grace, carried it on to completion, so that we become "perfect through His loveliness" (v. 14). The crown is the emblem of dignity and power. The crowning day is coming, and now is.
7. HE USED. "Your renown went forth among the heathen for your beauty" (v. 14). "Perfect through My majesty which I had put upon you" (R.V.). "The glory which You gave Me I have given them" (John 17:22). Let your light so shine before men.
III. A Picture of Desecration (vv. 15-20). In every age God has had occasion to make the same sorrowful complaint against His ungrateful people. Blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, yet backsliding in heart, and using their God-given prestige for selfish and worldly ends. This picture is a very sad one, and all the more so that the sin shown in it is so common. It is the desecration of their—
1. BEAUTY. "You did trust in your own beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown" (v. 15). This is what we sometimes term "religious pride," using the influence God in grace has given us for base, selfish purposes.
2. GARMENTS. "Your garments you did take, and decked your high places" (v. 16). The garments given her for glory and beauty (vv. 10, 11) desecrated to the adorning of a false and God-dishonoring religion. The teaching of Christ is now being used by some preachers for the building up of a new and unscriptural system.
3. TREASURES. "You have also taken My gold and My silver..and made to yourself images of men" (v. 17). Devoting the gifts of God to the honor and praise of men. The gold and silver of Divine truth debased, as if it were only the message of men.
4. CHILDREN. "Moreover you have taken your sons and your daughters, whom you have borne unto Me, and these have you sacrificed... you have slain My children" (vv. 20, 21). What an awful charge! A backsliding Church is a murderer of its children. Those born of the Gospel of God, in the day of His power and grace, are often sacrificed and "devoured" by false teaching. All this has come about by having a "weak heart" toward the Lord God (v. 30). Let us take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
SIN AND DEATH. Ezekiel 18:1-23
God charges the people with misrepresenting facts. He says, "What mean you that you use this proverb...saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (v. 2). Hereditary influence may be great, but that will not absolve from personal responsibility. "Behold, all souls are mine...the soul that sins, it shall die" (v. 4). There is no escape from this. Some searching and encouraging lessons are taught in this chapter. Notice that—
I. All Souls Belong to God (v. 4). He is the Author and Bestower of life. He is the Father of spirits. Souls in the deepest sense are spirits, and should glorify God as the chief end of their existence.
II. Each Soul is Individually Responsible to God "The soul that sins, it shall die" (vv. 4, 20). No man here is to die for his father's sin. The sinning son of the just man shall die in his sins;.(vv. 5-13), and the righteous son of a sinning father shall not die for his sins, but live (vv. 14-17). Every man must give an account of himself unto God. No man is condemned because of Adam's sin, but because "All have sinned."
III. Righteousness is the Condition of Life. "If a man be just...he shall surely live" (vv. 5, 9). A just man is literally a lawful man, a law-abiding man. A man whose life is in harmony with, and guided by, the holy law, or Word of God. Through Christ, the righteousness of God is now unto all and upon all that believe. All that believe are justified from all things (Acts 13:38, 39). Apart from grace there is "None righteous, no, not one."
IV. Wickedness is the Condition of Death (v. 20). Wickedness here is literally lawlessness, the opposite of the just who are lawful. A lawless soul is a soul living in the sphere of death. Enmity to God's Word and will is the evidence of it. Those who are a law unto themselves are the murderers of their own souls. Repent and believe.
V. Sin and Death are Inseparable. "The soul that sins, it shall die" (v. 20). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). "Wages" are something duly earned, and that must be justly paid. The soul that sins shall die, because, in sinning, the soul is choosing death rather than life. The presence of sin means death, as the absence of light means darkness.
VI. God has no Pleasure in the Death of the Lawless. "Have I any pleasure at all that the lawless should die? says the Lord God" (v. 23). God's character, His Word, and His work in the Person of His Son, all emphatically declare His displeasure at the death of the sinning soul. Could any protest be louder than the cry of the Christ of God upon the awful tree, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." His will is that all men should be saved by coming into the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
VII. Conversion is the Way into Life. "He should return from His ways and live" (v. 23). The Lord is no respecter of persons, His "way is equal" (v. 25). "Him that comes unto Me I will in no wise cast out. "Except you be converted—turned to the Lord—you cannot enter the Kingdom of life. I am come that you might have life. Come unto Me. Turn you, turn you from your evil ways, fox why will you die.
WARN THEM FROM ME. Ezekiel 33:7-11
The prophet is here reminded that he has been set apart as a "watchman unto the house of Israel" (v. 7; see chapter 3:17-21). If there were no danger there would be no need of the watchman. The enemy is ever seeking whom he may devour. What He said to Ezekiel He now says unto all, "Watch" (Mark 13:37). Notice the—
I. Responsibilities of the Watchman. They are twofold.
1. "To HEAR the word at His mouth" (v. 7). The watchman must not only have eyes to see and a mouth to speak, but ears to hear the Word of God as from His own mouth. The first necessity is to hear Him, and to enter intelligently and sympathetically into His mind and purposes.
2. To "WARN them from Me." Warn them, because there is impending danger; and warn them from Him, as one who is wholly devoted to His will. The watchman's responsibility lies in making men feel their responsibility to God.
II. Responsibility of the Warned. The "wicked" here are literally the lawless. Observe their—
1. CONDITION. "O lawless man, you shall surely die" (v. 8). Sin is lawlessness, and lawlessness is death. Death is the result of alienation from God.
2. OPPORTUNITY. "Warn them from Me." Through the prophet they were distinctly "warned of God." It is sad to be deluded and deceived, but it is surely a mercy to be faithfully warned of our danger. "Except you repent you shall likewise perish" was not spoken in anger, but in love. The warning comes from God just as directly as the invitation of His mercy (John 3:36).
3. RESPONSIBILITY. "If he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity" (v. 9). The warning is "to turn. " If he turns not he shall, die in his sins, his blood shall be upon his own soul. Regeneration is the work of the Spirit of God; but conversion—turning about—at His bidding is an act of our own will. The trumpet warning of the law may be despised, and the trumpet blower may be reckoned behind the times, but turning from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way into the Kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
III. Attestation and Appeal of the Wronged One. "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked (lawless); ... turn you, turn you from your evil ways, for why will you die" (v. 11). This is the agony of Divine love that found its fuller expression in the dying cry of His beloved Son on the atoning tree: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." "The Lord is... longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9). "He who takes warning shall deliver his soul" (v. 5).
HYPOCRITICAL PROFESSORS. Ezekiel 33:30-33
Hypocrisy is literally the acting of a part on a stage, assuming a character that is unreal. A "saint abroad and a devil at home" is how Bunyan puts it. Those who "steal the livery of the court of Heaven" to serve themselves on earth are hypocrites of the most ardent type. Take a look at their behavior as here depicted. See them in—
I. Connection with God's Servant. "Talking against you by the walls and in the doors of their houses." This manner of tale-bearing, behind the wall and in the home, is most reprehensible. This secret, God-grieving tittle-tattle against His servants is not overlooked by Him. All closet work, whether it be good or bad, is open to His eyes.
II. Connection with God's People. They say, "Come, let us hear what is the Word from the Lord... and they sit before you as My people sit, and hear your words." They put on the form of Godliness so long as it helps their own personal interests. They assume the habits of God's people, while they secretly sneer at the real work of God. The only time they are among God's people is when they are hearing His Word.
III. Connection with God's Message.
1. THEY HAVE PLEASURE IN HEARING IT. "They hear Your words... and lo, You are unto them as a very lovely song, as one that...can play well on an instrument." Ezekiel must have been an attractive preacher, with "a pleasant voice," and playing well, as on an instrument; and his message was, even to those hypocrites, "a very lovely song." That is just exactly what the message of God to sinful man is, "A very lovely song." But woe be to those who only hear it as a song for the ear, instead of a message for the heart. How much preaching there is today that "tickle the palate, but do not make men feel the bitterness of sin." -Good and entertaining preaching, that is to Godless hearers like a tune well played on an instrument, or a lively song sung with a pleasant voice. But in this case, as in very many others, the preacher was not to blame.
2. THEY IN HEART REJECT IT. "They hear your words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness." They love in a measure to hear God's message, but they will not receive it. "With their mouth and with their lips they honor Him, but have removed their heart far from Him" (Isaiah 29:13). Such base and deceitful conduct brings upon such the "woe" pronounced upon all religious hypocrites, who are "like unto whited sepulchers" (Matthew 23:27, 28). It is awfully possible to flatter Him with the mouth, while lying to Him with the heart; but as a man thinks in his heart, so is he before God. With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the heart man deceives unto everlasting condemnation.
FAITHLESS SHEPHERDS. Ezekiel 34:1-10
Here are six conditions of need mentioned as expressive of sin and soul destitution, making clear the great need of faithful shepherds.
I. Their Work.
1. To feed the HUNGRY (v. 3).
2. To strengthen the WEAK (v. 4). Weak through disease.
3. To heal the SICK (v. 4).
4. To bind up the BROKEN (v. 4).
5. To bring in the DRIVEN AWAY (v. 4). Backsliding.
6. To seek the LOST (v. 4).
II. Their Faithfulness.
1. They were SELFISH. They fed themselves and starved the flock (v. 3).
2. They were PROUD. They ruled with force, self-will, and not with love (v. 4, l.c.).
3. They were RUINOUS. The flock were scattered (v. 5). They became a prey to the beasts of the field (to false doctrine and lax example). "They wandered through all the mountains (false philosophies) and upon every high hill" (pride of intellect) (v. 6). The sheep became like distracted souls, seeking light and help in other godless religions.
4. They were DISOWNED of God (v. 10). Take heed to yourself. "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2, 3).
WHAT GOD WILL DO FOR HIS SHEEP. Ezekiel 34:11-30.
As the unbelief of some cannot make the faith of God without effect (Romans 3:3), neither can the unfaithfulness of God's shepherds make the faithfulness of God to fail. With regard to His sheep—
I. He will search and seek them (v. 11). They shall hear His voice (John 10:27).
II. He will deliver them (v. 12). The power of the enemy shall not hold them.
III. He will bring them (v. 13). Separate them for Himself.
IV. He will feed them (v. 14). Bring them into good pastures (Psalm 23).
V. He will rest them (v. 15). Cause them to lie down.
VI. He will bind up the broken (v. 16). Broken and useless members.
VII. He will strengthen the weak (v. 16). Weak through sickness and weariness.
VIII. He will judge their cause (vv. 17-22). When tempted, annoyed, and persecuted.
IX. He will watch over them (vv. 23-25; Hebrews 13:20).
X. He will bless them and make them a blessing (v. 26).
11. He will abundantly satisfy them with good (vv. 29-31).
THE GREAT CHANGE. Ezekiel 36:25-32
These wonderful words refer primarily to Israel's restoration. Under the law the heart of His people had become like a stone, but through His infinite grace a new heart would be given them, so that by the constraint of love they would walk in His ways. God's method in dealing with a sinful heart is revolutionary, it is a regeneration.
I. The Disease. "A stony heart" (v. 26). A heart that is "stony" is—
1. COLD. It has become insensible—past feeling. All warmth of affection for God and His Word has died away.
2. HARD. Not easily impressed. Unyielding as a rock. Indifferent to all the gracious influences of light and the force of spiritual truth. Callous.
3. DEAD. Incapable of spiritual motion. No vitality toward God. Deaf to His call and dumb for His Name.
II. The Remedy. "A new heart will I give you...an heart of flesh." The only cure for a stony heart is a new heart. Polishing or carving a stone into an altered and improved form will not make it a "living stone." A heart of flesh is—
1. A NEW HEART. It is the gift of God, and takes the place of the stony heart, and so renewing the whole man. It is not only new to the man who gets it, but its manifestations are new to all who see them.
2. A SOFT HEART. Sensitive and childlike, easily impressed by the things of God. The stony nature has disappeared.
3. A WARM HEART. The love of God has found a home in it, and is shed abroad through it. It glows with compassion for the perishing, and burns with indignation against sin and iniquity.
4. A LIVING HEART. Once dead, but now alive unto God. A heart fitted to have communion with the living God. When Sir W. Raleigh was asked to adjust his head on the block he said, "It matters little how the head lies if the heart is right." Is your heart right with God?
III. The Results. The new heart opens the way for the fullness of the new life. The new character reveals itself by—
1. POSSESSING HIS SPIRIT. "I will put My Spirit within you" (v. 27). His Spirit is the new motive power in the life. . This new moral machinery requires a new power (Romans 8:9).
2. WALKING IN HIS STATUTES. "I will cause you to walk in My statutes." The daily life is made to become pleasing unto the Lord. To walk in His way is to walk with God.
3. DWELLING IN HIS LAND. "You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers," etc. (v. 28). The good land of His providence is the inheritance of all Who have been made "new creatures in Christ Jesus."
4. RESTING ON HIS PROMISES (vv. 29-32). They are exceeding great and precious, so that we might delight ourselves in the Lord, because for His own Name's sake has He done all this for us (v. 32).
THE BONES AND THE BREATH. Ezekiel 37:1-10
These bones refer to "the whole house of Israel" (v. 11). As a nation, they are scattered over the open valley of the whole world, separated bone from his bone, and very dry. But the time will come when the breath of God's Spirit shall come upon them, and they shall "stand upon their feet an exceeding great army" of witnesses for God and for His Christ. But surely there is a present-day application of all Scripture, divinely breathed. Observe—
I. How the Vision Came. "The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit" (v. 1): We must be "in the Spirit" to see things as they really are as God sees them. This is where revival begins.
II. What the Vision Was. "A valley full of bones." A picture of utter desolation. A wrecked and ruined people. "Very many" and "very dry." Through their backsliding and indifference to God's Word they had become like bleached bones; no evidence whatever of spiritual sap or life in them; dried up through pride, worldliness, and self-dependence. .The same principles produce the same results today, but how few see it.
III. A Testing Question. "Son of man, can these bones live?" (v. 3). This question can only come home to those whose eyes have been opened to see the awful need of spiritual life. . The blind man would answer, "What bones? I don't see any bones. Things are quiet and peaceful, and the valley is lovely and attractive. " Think of the responsibility that rests with a Spirit-taught man! The opened eye is a new opening for work. If God has given us to see the need of others, does He not mean to use us for their deliverance?
IV. A Thoughtful Answer. "I answered, O Lord God, You know." He only could know, for He alone could make them live. Science, are, and all the philosophies of men have no remedy for a soul dead in sin and dried up with iniquity. "You know." Salvation is of the Lord. It is good in a crisis like this to cast ourselves on the wisdom and power of God.
V. The Remedy. The Divine remedy is revealed when the need has been seen and painfully felt. It is twofold. He is commanded to speak to the bones on God's behalf (v. 4), and to speak to God on their behalf (v. 9). Preach the Word of the Lord (v. 4) and pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. The preaching is to be in the faith of His promises. "Behold I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live" (v. 5). It is the Spirit that quickens. The results were according as he had said (v. 10). An army of men raised from the dead stood upon their feet, ready to breathe out their God-given life in His service. "Likewise reckon you also yourselves to be... alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6:11).
WATERS TO SWIM IN. Ezekiel 47:1-12
This mystical river is full of prophetic significance. In the time of Millennial blessing rivers of living water shall flow forth from the sanctuary of the Holy City into the desert and waste places of the earth (Zechariah 14:8), and "everything shall live where the river comes" (v. 9). But this river may also be regarded as a beautiful emblem of the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, or of the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I. The River. A free, spontaneous outburst.
1. ITS SOURCE. "Out from under the threshold of the house" (temple) (v. 1). Out from the holy place, the place of the "Mercy seat," the throne of God. Like the Holy Spirit, it proceeded from the Father (John 15:26).
2. ITS COURSE. "The waters came down...at the south side of the altar" (v. 1). Yes, the only way these life-giving waters can reach a perishing world is by way of the altar—the Cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit was not given until after Christ had suffered and was glorified (see Rev. 22:1).
3. ITS FORCE. IT GREW IN POWER AND PLENITUDE, ALTHOUGH IT HAD NO TRIBUTARY. The streams of earth can add nothing to the river of God. It became a river that could not be passed over. It had power to heal (v. 8), to revive (v. 9), and to bring forth fruit and abiding freshness (v. 12). Such is the power of the Holy Spirit working in those who believe in Him as the Scripture has said (John 7:38, 39). It is a symbol of the unsearchable riches of Christ and the boundless love of God.
II. A Growing Experience of the River's Depth and Power. Being obedient to the Divine Leader, he was brought in vision into a progressive experience of this fullness of blessing. Three times over we are told that "He brought me through," indicating that these were not final conditions, but the way to something deeper and better—a passing experience. Note the order—
1. ANKLE DEEP. "He brought me through; the waters were to the ankles" (v. 3). It was but a shallow acquaintance with the river of life, but still, he was in it. This stage represents the "Spirit of Faith," the definite act of stepping into the current of the Divine will, although that will as yet is but little known.
2. KNEE DEEP. "Again He brought me... the waters were to the knees." The only way the waters can rise upon us is by our getting deeper down. Knee deep represents the "Spirit of Prayer." When the knees are captured for God there will be delight in His fellowship. It is possible to be a believer and yet have no liberty in prayer. Although this is but the second stage of the Christian life, how many fail to attain unto it, because they refuse to be led (v. 2).
3. LOIN DEEP. "Again...the waters were to the loins" (v. 4). The loins stand for the secret of the strength of a man. The river has laid hold of his strength. This represents the "Spirit of Power." The praying Christian will soon become a witnessing Christian. His loins are now girded with the power of God. When a man is loin deep there is less of the man seen, and the depth of the river is in greater evidence. Those only ankle deep make a big show of themselves, and misrepresent the fullness of the waters.
4. SWIMMING. "Afterward...the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over" (v. 5). The swimming Christian has got beyond his depth, and is now being borne up by the river of God. This last stage represents the "Fullness of the Spirit." Instead of wading through, he is now resting on the waters. This is an experience that cannot be passed over. There is nothing better than this in earth or in Heaven. The perfection is not in us, but in the abounding fullness of His provision for us. "Waters to swim in." "Launch out into the deep."