Chapter 22 – The River of Blessing

“Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under, from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the outer gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out the waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and He brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from En-gedi even unto En-eglaim: they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt. And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.” Ezekiel 47: 1-12.

This magnificent prophetic vision is doubtless a picture of the literal restoration of Israel’s temple and Israel’s race in the future days of millennial promise. Conceding this, it is quite legitimate for us to apply it also to the present working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His people, and in the midst of His Church, which is the temple of the living God.

Our Lord Jesus has Himself identified the living water in His beautiful words in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John. There, amid the sacred solemnities of that ancient temple and the Feast of Tabernacles, He applied to Himself the beautiful figure of the water that was being poured out before their eyes, and cried and said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His inmost being shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified).”

This is an exact paraphrase of the meaning of the vision of Ezekiel. It represents the Holy Spirit as a river of water flowing from the inmost being of a consecrated heart, and becoming rivers of blessing to others.

There is something about the entire imagery of this picture so oriental, so sublime, so rich, that, like a beautiful flower, we cannot analyze it too much without destroying some of its symmetry and sweetness. It speaks of something as glorious as the rich symbolism of the picture.

It speaks of the crystal stream and the deepening, broadening rivers flowing through desert lands, and transforming them into gardens of luxuriant beauty and verdure. It speaks of perennial fruits and leaves of healing and even the Dead Sea itself reclaimed by its healing waters, until it becomes a place of fishermen who stand upon its shores from end to end gathering their shoals of fishes. Finally, the Temple itself becomes the abode of God, and is named “Jehovah Shammah,” the Lord is there.

There is something about such figures that cannot be analyzed. There is a freedom, a glow, a vague but real splendor, a something which is unutterable and full of glory, which truly describes a certain elevated phrase of our spiritual experience. There are things in our Christian life which, if you translate into coarse speech, become like the petals of a dissected flower, withered and dead; but let them alone, and they are full of life and joy. You cannot translate them, you cannot always understand them. It is the voice of the Spirit within you crying with unutterable groanings or unutterable joy. It is as full as the magnificent river, as pure as the crystal water, as fresh as the morning dew, as healing as the leaves of the tree of life, and as full of power and blessing as that river that made everything live where it came.

Our hymnology is not exaggerated when we sing:

“I am dwelling on the mountain,
Where the golden sunlight gleams,
O’er a land whose fadeless beauty
Far exceeds my fondest dreams.
Where the air is pure, ethereal,
Laden with breath of flowers.
They are blooming on the mountain,
‘Neath the amaranthine bowers.”

But let us, notwithstanding, interpret as much as we may the rich and suggestive imagery of the picture. The first thing that strikes a thoughtful reader is the direction of this river. We know it represents the Holy Spirit, the blessed Person whose ministry is to cleanse, satisfy, comfort, help, and heal the disciples of Christ. But why is it flowing out and not in? Are we not always trying to get this river to run into us? Are we not always seeking a blessing and a baptism? But here the sanctuary seems to have only one business, to give out the water; and this river only one thing to do, to go forth on its ministry of unselfish mercy. That is the true life of the Holy Ghost. The true purpose of the Spirit in coming to us is to make us workers together with God, whose one business is ever loving, ever blessing, ever giving.

It was not after this river became deep and full that it began to flow out; but from the first little trickling drop it was at the same business. The Temple might have said, when the first two or three droplets began to ooze from beneath the threshold, “I can never spare you; you must remain in my reservoir.” But no; it simply sent them forth, and away they went on their ministry of love; and so on to the end it was ever flowing, and, when it reached the Dead Sea, its living power was so great that the sea became transformed into life and freshness.

The real secret of the Dead Sea was that it had no outlet; it was just a great reservoir through the ages. But as it begins to overflow, it lives. Beloved, this is the secret of spiritual weakness and disappointment. You want a blessing for yourself. Begin to live for God and others, and He will give it back tenfold to you again.

The second thing we learn about this river is that it flows from a sanctuary. What is a sanctuary? It is a sacred, separated, holy, and divine place. First, it must be separated from sinful and common uses. Secondly, it must be dedicated to God and belong exclusively to Him. Thirdly, it must be occupied by God and be filled with Him as its Possessor, its Guest, and the Object of its worship.

In this sense the truly consecrated believer is God’s sanctuary when he separates himself from all evil unto God, dedicates himself to be the property of the Most Holy, and receives the Holy Ghost to dwell in him, and to represent the Trinity as the occupant and owner of his heart and life. This is the sanctuary. This is holiness. This is the true Christian life, and from such a soul as this the river will always flow.

But you cannot be a blessing to others beyond your personal experience. You cannot give what you have not got. You cannot bring pure water out of an unclean fountain. Why are we not greater blessings? Because our hearts are not sanctuaries. We try to do a little for God and then find the whole hindered by a thousand forbidden uses; and God will have no partnership with evil, and will accept no service which is mixed or compromised.

Beloved, let us consecrate ourselves. Let Him sanctify us, fill us, and then flow from us in all the fullness of the Holy Ghost.

The third thing about this river is that it flowed from under the threshold of the sanctuary. It did not come from the roof, or from some hill behind it, or from the fountain in the holy court; but it came from the lowest place, from under the stairs, where people trod as they passed by. And so the Holy Ghost comes from the lowly heart, consecrates the humble spirit, uses the man who is most dead and who has become so lost to himself and all his graces that God can have all the glory, and can fill him without measure.

The fourth thing about the river is its direction. It is flowing toward the east. It is the river of the morning, not the river of the night. It does not represent the old life, whose sun is going down; but it represents the new life which has risen with the resurrection of Christ, and is looking out into the everlasting morning. It is a new and resurrection life, and it flows ever toward the rising sun.

This river begins in a few little trickling drops. It is scarcely a rivulet for the first half mile. It is so small that it just oozes from under the threshold, a few drops of moisture, but it becomes a mighty stream before it reaches the sea. So the Holy Ghost loves to begin in “the day of small things.” He loves to speak to us in “the still, small voice,” to show us that we are not very far off. If He shouted in our ear, it would be an intimation that He was at a great distance or that we were very stupid. There is no sweeter expression of confidence than a whispered secret. The blessed Holy Ghost comes to us with the faintest touches of His breath; and if we do not recognize Him in these small beginnings, we shall not see their growth and development, and we shall wonder all our days why we did not get the blessing. We are looking for wind and rain, for a cyclone of power, for electric storms, when the air is full of divine electric fire. We have only to make the connection, to take it as we need it, and to turn it on to all the machinery of our life.

Beloved, if you will recognize the first touches of God, the faintest whispers of His answering voice, the little finger of His touch, behind which stands all His omnipotence, He will prove to you that it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts.

The first stage of the river’s course was about half a mile from the source. There the prophet was halted by his attendant and caused to pass over the little brook, and, lo! it had increased until it was “water to the ankles.” The Hebrew word is much more expressive. It means literally water to the soles of the feet.

There was very little water there, perhaps not quarter of an inch deep, and if the prophet had despised it, he would have been kept out of all the glory of the vision. But he put his feet in the little water that he found. There was enough for the soles of his feet, and that was enough for him.

Is not this just what is said to us, “Every place the soles of your feet shall tread upon, that have I given you”?

What shall we call this putting down of our feet in the waters? Is it, perhaps, the act of stepping out on God’s Spirit, of venturing on Him, of standing on His promises, of counting upon Him, of putting our weight upon Him, of trusting Him for everything, and publicly recognizing and confessing Him as our life and strength? Or does it mean obedience? Do the feet represent the steppings of duty? Is this not also one of the earliest stages of the Spirit’s work? He comes to teach us faith and obedience, and He always requires us to do something very early in our spiritual career, something that often costs sacrifice, something that proves the sincerity of our motive, something that means everything to us; but as we obey Him and go on, we find Him coming to us in fuller measure, and giving us deeper revelations and leading us on to a larger fullness.

Beloved, shall we take both steps, and put our feet in the flood, and walk in the Spirit, and accept boldly and lovingly all the good and acceptable and perfect will of God?

“Waters to the knees.” This is the ministry of prayer in the Spirit that follows a life of obedience and faithfulness to God. He will take us into the secret place of the Most High, and will permit us to bear the burdens of others and to share with Him the priesthood which He ever fulfills before the throne. This is more than our words and works. This is a place of real power, but it must be baptized in the Spirit or it will be fruitless and vain.

Next, we have “the waters to the loins.”This is the girding of power, the baptism of the Spirit for service. The girding of the loins is the symbol of service and strength. God gives power to His servants to speak in His name with effectiveness and to accomplish the glorious results for which He has commissioned them.Without this power we have no business to attempt any service for God. Jesus did not begin His ministry until he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and it is presumption for us to dare to do so.

Next, we have the waters overhead, “a river to swim in.” The waters had grown so deep now that the prophet is himself powerless even to cross them. His own movements are impossible, and all he can do is to lie upon the bosom of the current and let it carry him.

This speaks of a time where we come to the end of our own effort and fall into the fullness of God. Henceforth our work is God working in us, and we are just like the swimmer on the bosom of the river carried by the tide, but far stronger than if he were fording it, for he has all the strength of the river on his side. Of course, there had to be a surrender of his own work.

There must, of course, be a surrender of our own life before we can fall into the strength of God. Then shall we inherit all the fullness of the divine omnipotence; so far as we are in union with God’s help, we shall have God’s power. This power is spontaneous. Without a struggle, it springs from a source beyond ourselves, and it flows like the ever changing river.

Next, we notice the fruits upon the bank of this glorious river. There are fruits for the food of the saints, perennial fruits, fruits of infinite variety; all the trees of paradise are restored, renewing their harvest every month; each joy is a new joy, fresh as the fruits and flowers of paradise. Even the very leaves are for healing. They are not the most important part of the tree, but they have their place; and so the Lord’s healing through the Holy Ghost is one of the ministries of the Spirit, but not His highest ministry, corresponding to the leaf of the tree while the fruit corresponds to the deeper spiritual life.

Then there are other fruits, especially the fruit of precious souls. The fishermen are standing on the shores of the Dead Sea gathering in their precious souls.

What a solemn picture the Dead Sea was, hard by Jerusalem’s gate, continually reminding the world of the hell that lies near the gate of heaven! Yonder was Zion and the Temple, but yonder also was the sea of death and the gate of hell.

Ah, still it is ever so! While we are rejoicing in the blessed fullness of the Spirit, hard by our gates are the masses of wretchedness and sin, the depths of danger and sorrow that crowd our mighty and sinful city and our poor lost world. But as we are filled with the power of the Spirit, we, too, shall go forth as fishers of men to gather precious souls for Christ in the power of the Spirit, and to turn the deserts of life into places of blessing, so that “everything wherever the river comes shall live.”

There is one more picture. It is in the last chapter of the book. “The name of the city from that day shall be called Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there.”

This blessed river brings the Lord. This blessed Holy Spirit brings the abiding presence of God, and He is better than all His gifts, graces, and operations. He is seeking a home in some of our hearts. The Holy Spirit is knocking at the door to find entrance for the king of Glory. If we will let Him in, He will make it His palace and His home and dwell with us forever. To be the dwelling place of God, is the highest and sublimest glory of the Spirit’s indwelling in the saint.

Like the ancient architect, who, when asked to build a temple for the sun, after others had constructed their beautiful models of granite and polished marble and resplendent gold, brought a design made of simple transparent glass, and said, “This is the true temple for the sun, for the sun himself can dwell within it and pass out and in without restraint.”

God is wanting temples for Himself as transparent as the colorless glass, reflecting not their own glory but His; receiving Him without the necessity of opening a single door, but with every channel and capacity of ours so free, so open, and so in touch, that we live and move and have our being in Him, and He can find in us that congenial abode for which He searches the mighty universe and the highest heaven in vain; for are not we also “the fullness of Him who filleth all in all”?