A measuring reed.
(W. W. Battershall, D. D.)
To the intent that I might shew them unto thee.I. THE PURPOSE OF GOD TO STAIN THE PRIDE OF THE GLORY OF ALL FLESH. We may gather some instruction upon this from the 4th chapter of Daniel. The testimony that Nebuchadnezzar himself bore at the last, seems to me to be very expressive, and may be, as it were, put into the mouth of everyone that God has humbled. It is truth that we all do need humbling by the power of God. Happy man you will be if you are brought to nothing. It is one of the hardest things in the world to be nothing — to be nothing but a sinner; not a good thought, not a good word, not a good work, not a single grain or atom of goodness, but a thing of nought altogether. Now God has purposed this; He has purposed to stain the pride of the glory of all flesh; and He has purposed to do so first in mercy, and then He will do so in wrath; that is, those that He does not deal so with in their lifetime as to humble them down that they may receive His truth, He will deal with in wrath at that last great, that tremendous day. Every man's natural spirit is a spirit of ignorance, a spirit of unbelief, a spirit of enmity against God. Wherever true conviction enters, the soul is divided from the spirit of ignorance, and the soul comes into the knowledge of its own condition; the soul is divided from the spirit of unbelief, and comes into the faith of the Gospel; the soul of the man, his immortal soul, is divided from the native enmity of the spirit; for the natural spirit that is in us lusteth to envy, desireth to envy; it is the very desire of it, the very essence of it. Now when God begins His work it severs the soul from this spirit.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE LORD IN BRINGING HIS PEOPLE TO RECEIVE THE TRUTH. If the Lord has thus brought you down far enough, then I will name now the truths that you will be glad to receive. The man that is from his own experience prepared to receive that testimony certainly is not far from the kingdom of God; the man that is prepared from his heart and soul to receive that testimony in the understanding of it, in the love of it, and to abide thereby — there never was one so poor in spirit, there never was one so humbled, there never was one so led, and at the same time lost. If we are really brought down and know our nothingness, our hearts are prepared to receive the testimony in the 1st chapter of Second Timothy. The apostle knew the tendency; he knew that Timothy would get no worldly honour; he knew it would make Timothy rather what they call narrow-minded; he knew it would be offensive to many professors, but he says, "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, His prisoner," as I am a prisoner for that testimony. Now comes what the testimony is. "Who hath saved us" — that is the first thing He did. Believest thou this? Art thou brought down low enough to trace up thy salvation to this Divines this pure and heavenly source? "And called us with an holy calling not according to our works" — no — "but according to His own purpose and grace," etc. There is a clear epitome of the Gospel itself. Doth this offend you, or doth it please you? Are you sorry such testimonies are on record? or can you set your seal to it, that unless you are saved after that Divine order you never can be saved at all? Then, if so, I may apply to you the words here, which the Lord spake to Ezekiel, — "Son of man, behold with thine eyes." So I say to you, — Behold with your eyes; see after what a Divine, see after what a righteous, what a lovely, what a gracious, what a merciful, what a glorious way God hath saved thee. "And hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither." So, poor sinner, you may set your heart upon these truths, and you will never have to take it away again.
III. THE SPECIAL PURPOSE OF BRINGING EZEKIEL TO WHERE HE WAS BROUGHT, AS MEANT IN OUR TEXT. Ezekiel was brought to the river of God. First, its source — it came from under the threshold, just the same as we read in the last chapter of the Revelation of a river proceeding from the throne of God and the Lamb. That river I take to represent the Gospel in the life and blessedness thereof. That is one thing, then — its source. The second is its increase — it went on increasing. And just so the Gospel, in direct contrast, as we sometimes say to this life. For soma of us are getting into the shades a Lit; and this is narrowing and that is .narrowing, and the time is drawing nigh when we shall say we have no pleasure in this life. But, then, there is pleasure there — the river of God's pleasure — and those who drink of that river, "they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing"! Bless the Lord for this. And then mark also the power of this river. There is a lake on the southeastern side of Judea, about forty-five miles long, and from perhaps twelve to fifteen wide; that lake has nothing in it in a way of life. Nothing can live in it; it is so bituminous, so nauseous, and so deadly, that nothing can live in it. Now this river was to turn this lake into a fresh-water lake; for the river was to come down into this Dead Sea, and the waters were to be healed. You can see what that means, can you not? that the souls of men are in a state of death and bitterness. And this water of the Dead Sea, all travellers tell us, is nasty to the last degree to drink; you could hardly be put to a greater punishment than to be obliged to drink half a pint of it; you would not forget it for a twelvemonth. And just so the mind — the soul. Ah, could we see ourselves as God sees us, could we see sin as He sees it, we should indeed stand aghast; for "the heart is," even beyond angelic comprehension, "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Yet these waters were to heal this Dead Sea, turn it into a fresh-water lake. Just so the Gospel comes, destroys the bitterness, destroys all that is unpleasant, and turns the soul into that that is pleasant, to holiness, to righteousness, as pleasant to God as it was before unpleasant. There is another view of the river that I may just name, and that is that on its banks were trees whose leaves faded not, and that brought forth new fruit "according to their months." Let these trees all of them represent Jesus Christ, and let their leaves that never fade represent His promises; and let the fruits that are perennial and immortal represent the blessings that come to us by those promises.
Declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.I. THE MANIFESTATIONS WITH WHICH CERTAIN OF GOD'S SERVANTS ARE FAVOURED.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ does draw near in a very special manner to some of His people. He will show Himself to any of you who seek Him. He will unveil the beauties of His face to every eye that is ready to behold them. There is never a heart that loves Him but He will manifest His love to that heart. But, at the same time, He does favour some of His servants who live near to Him, and who are called by Him to special service, with very remarkable manifestations of His light and glory.
2. These revelations are not incessant. I suppose that no man is always alike. John was in Patmos I know not how long; but he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day" on one occasion, and he specially notes it. Days of heavenly fellowship are red-letter days, to be remembered so long as memory holds her seat.
3. Yes, and it is noteworthy that the occasion of these manifestations was one of great distress. Saints have seen Jesus oftener on the bed of pain than in robust health.
4. It appears, in this case, that the manifestation to Ezekiel was made when he was put into an elevated condition. God has ways of lifting His people right up, away, away, away from mortal joy or sorrow, care or wish, into the spiritual realm. And then, when the mind has been lifted above its ordinary level, and the faculties are brought up by some divine process into a receptive state, He reveals Himself to us.
5. When He had elevated him thus it appears that He conducted him to certain places, for He says, "For to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither." God's children are brought in experience to unusual places, on purpose that they may get clearer sights of the love and grace and mercy of God in Christ than they could obtain elsewhere.
6. However, it is not outward circumstances that can affect the Divine purpose, there must always be a movement of the Divine Spirit. In the third verse you read, "He brought me there." We never learn a truth inwardly until God brings us to it. We may hear a truth, we ought to be careful that we do not hear anything but the truth; but God must bring that truth home.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THESE CHOSEN MEN WHILE THEY ARE THUS FAVOURED. When the Spirit of God favours you with light, mind that you see; and, when there is a sound of grace, mind that you hear. We tell our children to learn their lessons "by heart." If we put the full meaning into that expression, that is the way to learn the things of God.
1. "See with thine eyes." What are the eyes for but to see with? He means this, — look, pry, search with your eyes. Looking to Christ will save you, but it is looking into Christ that gives joy, peace, holiness, heaven.
2. "Hear with thine ears." Well, a man cannot use his ears for any. thing else, can he? Ay, but hear with your ears. Listen with all your might.
3. "Set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee." Oh, but that is the way to learn from God — by loving all that He says — feeling that, whatever God says, it is the thing you want to know.
4. The Lord bids us do this towards all that He shall shew us. "Set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee!" We are to be impartial in our study of the word, and to be universal in its reception.
III. WHAT IS GOD'S REASON FOR MANIFESTING HIMSELF TO HIS SERVANTS? The object is this, — "Declare thou all that thou seest to the house of Israel." First, see it yourself, hear it yourself, give your heart to it yourself, and then declare it to the house of Israel. Dear brother, you cannot tell who it may be to whom you are to speak, but this may be your guide: speak about what you have seen and heard to those whom it concerns. Have you been in gloom of mind, and have you been comforted? The first time you meet with a person in that condition, tell out the comfort. Have you felt a great struggle of soul, and have you found rest? Speak of your conflict to a neighbour who is passing through a like struggle. Has God delivered you in the hour of sorrow? Tell that to the next sorrowing person you meet. Ay, but still this is not all your duty. God has shown us His precious word that we may tell it to the house of Israel. Now, the house of Israel were a stiff-necked people, and when Ezekiel went to them, they cast him aside, they would not listen. Yet, he was to go and teach the word to them. We must not say, "I will not speak of Christ to such a one; he would reject it." Do it as a testimony against him, even if you know he will reject it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
And he brought me by the steps whereby they went up to it.Psalm 44:18; Proverbs 2:18).
( John Bunyan.).