Ezekiel 11:16
Therefore declare that this is what the Lord GOD says: 'Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries to which they have gone.'
A Little SanctuaryEzekiel 11:16
A Little SanctuaryCharles Haddon Spurgeon Ezekiel 11:16
God a SanctuaryF. B. Meyer, B. A.Ezekiel 11:16
God the Sanctuary of His PeopleW. Jones Ezekiel 11:16
God the Sanctuary of the AfflictedW. Jay.Ezekiel 11:16
The Little SanctuaryA. Raleigh, D. D.Ezekiel 11:16
A Suffering People Scorned by Man and Comforted by GodW. Jones Ezekiel 11:14-20
Privilege: Apparent or RealJ.D. Davies Ezekiel 11:14-21
Exile and RestorationJ.R. Thomson Ezekiel 11:16, 17
There is a change in the tone of the prophet. A full end shall not be made of the remnant. The metropolis shall fall, the king shall be led captive. The enemy shall prevail. But the children of the Captivity shall not be forgotten; they shall experience the protection and fellowship of their covenant God; and they shall be brought back to the land of Israel, when Divine purposes are fulfilled, and when the time is ripe.

I. GOD A SANCTUARY FOR A SEASON IN A FOREIGN LAND. This must have been a precious and encouraging assurance to the captives in their banishment. They loved Jerusalem, and they loved the temple. Far from the scene of their national privileges, they were yet not forsaken by the God of their fathers.

1. Every holy place has its true meaning and value from the residence in it of the Eternal. It is not the costly material of which a sanctuary is built, the labour and art with which it is decorated, the robed priesthoods who minister, or the lavish offerings and sacrifices that are presented; it is not these things that make a temple. It is the presence of God himself to receive and bless the worshippers, that endears the building to the enlightened and pious.

2. God may manifest his presence and favour in p!aces where no sacred edifices exist. So Jacob understood, when he awoke from his slumber and his dream, and exclaimed, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!"

"Where'er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground." Those upon the stormy deep, those in the primeval forests, those in the waterless deserts, those in the caverns of the earth, have met with God in the exercises of devotion. And he was a Sanctuary to his banished ones in their captivity in the East, as near to them as he was to those still permitted to resort to the courts of the temple at Jerusalem. "The tabernacle of God is with men."

3. Thus God's spiritual presence may be realized and enjoyed even in a world of sin. Earth is in a sense the scene of exile and of banishment. But for all that, God will be to his people a Sanctuary in the place and during the period of their captivity. His Church is his temple, and from it he never departs.


1. The dispersion and banishment are appointed for a time and for a purpose. There were reasons why the sons of Abraham should be exiled from the land promised to their progenitor, the father of the faithful. It was apparent to the wisdom of God that only thus could they be preserved and delivered from the temptations, especially to idolatry, to which they had so often yielded. The discipline was severe, but it was effectual. The period of exile was not prolonged vindictively.

2. The restoration is as providential as the Captivity. The language of the text is very emphatic upon this Feint: "I will even gather you from the people," etc. "He deviseth means whereby his banished ones may return." It was this prospect which sustained and cheered the Hebrew people amidst disasters at home and exile abroad. The land of their fathers was their land; and in due time they were to enter and possess it.

3. The restoration of the Israelites prefigured the final salvation of all God's people. Their exile shall not last forever. There is a better country, even a heavenly, a Jerusalem above; yonder is the promised inheritance, and the eternal abode of the blessed gathered from every land. - T.

Yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.
Philosophers have frequently remarked what may be called the doctrine of compensation: by which they mean, the tendency there is in nature and providence to keep things in a kind of equality; so that, while, on the one hand, there are defects to counterbalance advantages, there are, on the other hand, advantages to counterbalance defects. In what condition can we be found that possesses no advantages? These a grateful mind will always look after; and, however severe the affliction, endeavour to say, "It might have been worse. I have lost much; but I am not deprived of all. He has chastened me sore; but He has not given me over unto death. The stroke is painful: but it will be profitable. 'Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.'"

I. THE CALAMITY: "I have cast them far off," etc.

1. The event serves to display the agency of God. He therefore, in the words before us, claims the work as His own. In the dispersion of the Jews He employed instrumentality, and wicked instrumentality; but neither of these detracts from His agency. What does God, without the intervention of any cause between Him and the effect? He blesses us by means; He warms us by the sun; He refreshes us by sleep; He sustains us by food; and He even requires us to prepare, for our use, the supplies He gives us. In a similar way He inflicts evil. And hence an irreligious mind is detained from God by the persons or the events that injure him. He thinks only of the flood, or the fire; of the heedless servant, the uncertain friend, the cruel enemy.

2. The event displays the truth of God. It had been clearly foretold, it had been threatened, as early as the days of Moses. Every successive prophet in the name of God renewed the threatening. In consequence of these denunciations the calamity was identified with the Divine veracity, and became surer than heaven and earth. The Jews imagined that they had nothing to fear: they thought that such a mighty judgment was improbable, if not impossible; and presumptuously cried, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we." But "the Lord is not a man, that He should lie," etc.

3. The event displays the holiness of God. His conduct towards this people seems severe; and it was severe. But the provocation was peculiar. Much was given, and much was required. Their offences were aggravated by their privileges. Sin is not to be judged of by its grossness, but by its guilt; and guilt arises from knowledge possessed, from obligations violated, from advantages abused.

4. The event displays the wisdom of God. By their dispersion the Scriptures were diffused, and the Desire of all nations was announced and expected.

5. The event displays His goodness. In the midst of judgment He remembered mercy. Though He punished them, it was not to destroy, but to correct and reform.

II. THE ALLEVIATION. "Thus saith the Lord God: Although I have cast them far off," etc. God is never at a loss to serve His people; and that He will compensate them for the want of those very things that seem essential to their welfare. Consider two cases in which this truth may be exemplified.

1. In the loss of outward comforts. God does not require us to be indifferent to our substance, to our health, to our friends and relations: yea, under the removal of them, He allows us to feel. But it is the duty and privilege of a Christian to be able to say, with the Church, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc. The believer may well display a superiority over those events that keep others constantly alarmed or distressed, since God is his portion; and in His unchangeableness and all-sufficiency he has a stock of happiness independent of the body and its diseases; time, and its vicissitudes; the world and its dissolution. The design of affliction is to wean us from creatures, and to bring us more entirely to make use of God. A good man, who had endured the wreck of fortune, being asked how he bore the change in his condition so cheerfully, replied, "When I had these good things I enjoyed God in all; and now I am deprived of them, I enjoy all in God."

2. In the want of gracious ordinances. God will never countenance the neglect of the means of grace; but He will make up for the want of them. And those should remember this remark who, by accident or sickness, or the care of young children, or the duties of servitude, are wholly or partially denied the privileges of the sanctuary. When we cannot follow Him, He can follow us.

(W. Jay.)

Sanctuaries — i.e., houses of God, churches and abbeys, and ecclesiastical houses — have always been places of shelter for criminals, for vanquished enemies, for persons in debt. The Jews had cities of refuge; and we may say, in general, that by the ecclesiastical laws of Christendom, through many ages, provision was made by means of church, or abbey, or consecrated ground, to receive criminal and distressed persons into shelter and safety. It is curious, and not without some tender interest, to hear of some places still left in our own land, such as the Sanctuary of Holyrood, in Edinburgh, which retain something of the old virtue, and open a refuge where honourable debtors and distressed persons may live in peace.

I. THE IDEA OF ASYLUM AND PROTECTION. "I will be as a little sanctuary" — I will be the shield and protector and sure refuge of trusting souls. Asylum! Is not this what every awakened soul needs and seeks? Some safe, sure refuge, from all that threatens, afflicts, alarms; from the thunders, loud or deep, of broken law; from the accusations of conscience, from the troubles of life, from the terrors of death — asylum from them all? When one has been living, or dreaming, in sin, and then awakes, and sees things as they are, and knows himself, and looks with rapid, startled glance at what is coming, and may be near, he feels at first just like one in an enemy's country. Look which way he will, there is no shelter or safety for him; none that he can see. He must flee; he must escape for his life. But whither? In what direction does safety lie? In this great strait God reveals Himself as "a little sanctuary" — a place of protection and safety; and says, "Flee, you have need to flee. Life is full of harms, and death broods in the air. In a scene that might have been all friendly to you, you have made yourself many enemies. Flee, but flee to Me: I am the refuge. I am the last asylum of your soul. Those thunders are Mine, but if you pass through them to Myself they will soften and roll away, and leave you in coolness and safety. Turn your face but Godwards, and let your steps be as your face is, and nothing can then surprise or hurt you. Not a hair of your head shall perish."

II. But a sanctuary means something more than a refuge and place of safety. It means, at least in the nomenclature of the Scriptures, A PLACE OF PURIFICATION, where we may wash and be clean: and may so avail ourselves of the helps to goodness which are provided, that "the rest of our time may be pure and holy." Our very words tell us this. "Sanctity," "sanctification," — a sanctuary is not equal to its name if it does not promote these. The whole hunger and thirst of the renewed creature is for righteousness — a righteousness always loved and striven for, yet never perfectly attained — a righteousness no sooner attained in measure, than, in some mysterious manner, it seems to waver, and fail, and begin to pass away; as the snow-white garment quickly loses its purity in a dusty or smoky air; or as the living branch when it is not freshly growing, soon loses the brightness of its green. The heart is deceitful, and the world is defiling, and no enterprise of human life were half so hopeless as the endeavour to be wholly pure and holy, if means of purification were not provided, and brought so closely to hand as to be within the reach of our daily and deepest needs. Would a man be considered very kind and hospitable who, knowing that some travellers were coming to his house, along rocky paths and across burning sands, should send a message to them while yet they are miles off, to say — "Do not come any nearer until you have washed and made you clean. Come: by all means come: I am not inhospitable: but be sure you come with ointment on your head, all fragrant with myrrh and spice, and clad in rich evening dress, ready for the banquet." What would the pilgrims think on receiving such a message? They would say in a moment — "He doesn't want us. We must seek some other gates than his." The case is even so as between us and God. He does not send a mocking message to frail, disabled men in this dusty, defiling, wilderness world, sinful although they be, by the offer of salvation to them under utterly impossible conditions. He does not say, "Come to Me for salvation, but be more than half-saved before you come." He comes to us with a whole salvation, with healing, cleansing, vivifying grace, which will grow in us, and develop us into perfectness.

III. THE IDEA OF NOURISHMENT. A hospice for the entertainment of strangers, or any hospitable house, is never without bread. Washing is before eating. Dressing is for the banquet. Every living thing must have something to live upon. Even in the "far country" where men degrade themselves, and spend their substance, there is something to eat — "husks," if nothing better — sapless roots dug out of the sand — some-thing that will dull if not satiate the craving of appetite. And will not God feed His refugees? Will He be a little sanctuary in which they may die? Is there no bread on His table? Yes, bread enough, and to spare. Is there no wine in His cups? Yes, the sweet wine of love and strength and consolation.

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The text begins with "therefore." There was a reason for God's speaking in this way. Upon reading the connection, we observe that those who had been carried captive were insulted by those who tarried at Jerusalem. The Lord hears the unkind speeches of the prosperous when they speak bitterly of those who are plunged in adversity. Many a time the cruel word of man has been the cause of a tender word from God. Because of the unkindness of these people, therefore God, in loving kindness, addressed in words of tender grace those whom they despised. Let us take all sharp speeches and cutting criticisms to God. It may be that He will hear what the enemy has said, and that He will be very pitiful to us. Because of the bitterness of the oppressor, He will bring home to our heart by the Spirit, with greater tenderness and power, some sweet word of His which has lain hidden from us in His Book.


1. They may be under chastisement. We may be in great spiritual darkness, and may be compelled to confess that our own sins have procured this unto ourselves. And yet, for all that, the Lord may have sent the chastisement in love, and in nothing else but love; and He may intend by it, not our destruction, but the destruction of the flesh; not our rejection, but our refining; not our curse, but our cleansing.

2. But wherever they are, whether they are under chastisement or not, they are where the Lord has put them. "Although I have cast them far off," etc. It is well to look beyond all second causes and instrumentalities. Do not get angry with those who are the nearer agents, but look to the First Cause. Though your trials be peculiar, and your way be hedged up, yet the hand of the Lord is still in everything; and it behoves you to recognise it for your strengthening and consolation.

3. The people of Cod may dwell in places of great discomfort. The Jews were not in those days like the English, who colonise and find a home in the Far West, or even dwell at ease beneath sultry skies. An ancient Hebrew out of his own country was a fish out of water: out of his proper element. It must have been a great discomfort to God's people to dwell among idolaters, and to be forced to witness obscene rites and revolting practices. God's own favoured ones in these days may be living where they are as much out of place as lambs among wolves, or doves among hawks.

4. The beloved of God may yet be in a place of great barrenness as to all spiritual good. Our education for eternity may necessitate spiritual tribulation, and bereavement from visible comforts. To be weaned from all reliance on outward means may be for our good, that we may be driven in upon the Lord, and made to know that He is all in all.

5. Worse still, the Lord's chosen may be under oppression through surrounding ungodliness and sin. Is it not still true of us, as well as of our Saviour, "Out of Egypt have I called My Son"?

II. WHAT GOD WILL BE TO HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY GET INTO THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. "Yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come." In using the word "little" the gracious God would seem to say, "I will condescend to them, and I will be as they are. I will bow down to their littleness, and I will be to each little one of them a little sanctuary."

1. A sanctuary was a place of refuge. In past ages, churches and abbeys and altars have been used as places of sanctuary to which men have fled when in danger of their lives. Now, beloved fellow believer, wherever you are, wherever you dwell, God will be to you a constant place of refuge. You shall flee from sin to God in Christ Jesus. You shall flee from an accusing conscience to His pardoning love. You shall flee from daily cares to Him who careth for you. You shall flee from the accusations of Satan to the advocacy of Jesus. You shall flee even from yourselves to your Lord, and He will be to you in all senses a place of refuge. This is the happy harbour of all saints in all weathers.

2. A sanctuary signifies also a place of worship. It is a place where the Divine presence is peculiarly manifested — a holy place. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the true place of worship for saved souls.

3. Now, go a little further. Our God is to us a place of stillness. What was the sanctuary: of old? The sanctuary was the most holy place, the third court, the innermost of all within the veil. It was the stillest place that ever was on earth: a closet of absolute silence. Once in the year the high priest went in, and filled it full of the smoke of incense as he waved his censer in the mystic presence; but otherwise it was a chamber in which there was no footfall of living thing, or voice of mortal man. The stillness within the Holy of Holies of the temple must have reached the intensity of awe. What repose one might enjoy who could dwell in the secret place of the Most High! If you can baptize your spirit into the great deeps of Godhead, if you can take a plunge into the fathomless love of the covenant, if you can rise to commune with God, and speak with Him as a man speaketh with His friend, then will He be unto you as a little sanctuary, and you shall enjoy that solemn silence of the soul which hath music in it like the eternal harmonies. The presence of the Lord will be as a calm hand for that fevered brow, and a pillow for that burdened head. Use your God in this way, for so He presents Himself to you.

4. The sanctuary was a place of mercy. When men have no mercy on you, go to God. When you have no mercy on yourself — and sometimes you have not — run away to God.

5. The sanctuary was the house of mercy, and hence a place of condescension - "a little sanctuary." To suit our needs the blessings of grace must be given in little forms. When the Lord communes with the greatest of men, He must become little to speak with him.

6. That sanctuary was a place of great holiness. "Holiness becometh Thy house." This applied to the whole temple, but the inner shrine was called "sanctum sanctorum" — the Holy of Holies, for so the Hebrews make a superlative. It was the holiest place that could be. What bliss to enter into the Holy of Holies! Now, you cannot do that by getting into a ceil, or by shutting your. selves up in your room; but you can enter the most holy place by communion with God. Here is the promise; the text means this — "I will be to them as a little sanctuary — a little Holy of Holies. I will put them into Myself as into the most holy place, and there will I hide them. In the secret of My tabernacle will I hide them. I will set them up upon a rock."

7. We may regard the Sanctuary as a place of cleansing. That may be gathered, from the other rendering of my text: "I will be unto them a little sanctification." We want not only the great blood washing, but also the lesser washing of the feet with water; and the Lord Himself wilt give us this blessing. Did not Jesus take a towel, and gird Himself for this very purpose?

8. God will be to us a place of communion and of revelation. In the Holy of Holies God spoke with man, on that one day in the year, in a wondrous manner; and he that had been there, and came forth alive, came out to bless the congregation. Every day of the year the teaching of the sanctuary was that in God there was everything His people wanted. The joys of this life are like the ice palace of Montreal, which is fair to look upon while the winter lasts, but it all dissolves as the spring comes on. All things round about us here are myths and dreams. This is the land of fancies and of shadows. Pray God to get you out of them, and that you may find in Him your sanctuary, and indeed all that you want.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. TO THOSE WHO ARE DEPRIVED OF THE MEANS OF GRACE. Sufferers in sick rooms, travellers in lonely and distant places, missionaries amongst the heathen. How often to such comes the vision of the country church, when the summer air stole into the open window, bringing the breath of flowers; or of the great city church, with the well-known voice of a beloved minister. They long for these again. But God will be all and more.

II. TO THOSE WHO CANNOT DERIVE BENEFIT FROM THE SERVICES THEY ATTEND. The clergyman is broad in his views, and unsympathetic with the deeper moods of the spirit. Still, it may be your duty to attend for example's sake; but whilst waiting before the Lord, He will draw near and become your sanctuary.

III. TO THOSE WHO ARE EXPOSED TO DANGER AND PERSECUTION. In the olden time the sanctuary was a place of refuge. All who fled thither were in safeguard. So let the driven soul haste to the folds of the Tabernacle of God's presence, None can pursue it into that secret place. No weapon shall smite; and even envying voices shall die into subdued murmurs.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

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