Clearly, this part of Ezekiel’s vision must have a spiritual meaning! Most interpreters agree that the waters which now presented themselves before Ezekiel’s eye signify the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ, which flowed forth from Jerusalem and spread themselves into the countries of the world. These waters are also a picture of the gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit which accompany this Gospel – by virtue of which, it spreads far and wide and produces blessed effects.
These waters flowed out from the threshold of the Temple eastward. This reminds us how Christ is our Temple, and He is the door; from Him, living waters flows out of His pierced side, that we receive by believing in Him (John 7:38-39). The prophet and his guide followed this stream as it ran down from the holy mountains; and when they had followed it for some distance, they crossed it to test the depth of it – and it was only up to the ankles. Then they walked some distance along on the bank of the river on the other side; and then again, they tested the depth of it by wading through it the second time, and it was up to their knees. When they forded it the third time, they found that it was up to their waists. And they attempted to repass it a fourth time; but by that time, it was so deep that they found it impossible – it was a river that could not be passed over. This is a picture of how the Gospel-Church was very small in its beginnings, like a little purling brook; but by degrees, it came to be ankle-deep (so to speak), and then knee-high, and so on. On another note, however, it also represents the impassable depths of the things of God; if we search the Word of God, we shall find some things very plain and easy to be understood, like the waters that were only ankle-deep. But other things are more difficult; they require more prayers to the Holy Spirit for teaching, and a more deep and diligent search – like the water to the knees or to the waist. And some are simply quite beyond our reach; we cannot penetrate into them. In such cases, we must – like Paul – sit down at the brink and simply adore the depths! (Rom. 11:33)
The waters of this river, wherever they shall freely flow, will be found to be a wonderful healing restorative. Even the stagnant Dead Sea – the sulphurous lake of Sodom, and that standing monument of Divine vengeance – even those waters shall be healed (verse 8); for they shall become sweet, pleasant, and healthful. This is a picture of the wonderful and blessed change that the Gospel makes. Wherever it comes, a great change is worked in both the character and the condition – just like the turning of the Dead Sea into a fountain of gardens. Whenever children of wrath became sons and daughters of love, and whenever those who were dead in trespasses and sins are made alive – then this prophetic picture is fulfilled.
It is said that a great abundance of fish will be in this Gospel-river. There shall be great numbers of Christians in the Gospel-Church, and they shall multiply like fishes in the rising generations. Trees will also grow on the banks of this Gospel-river, which will make the scene very pleasant and agreeable to the eye. The fruit of these trees shall never be out of season, for fresh fruit shall be produced every month! The leaves also shall be useful for medicine. This part of Ezekiel’s vision is copied out almost exactly into the Apostle John’s vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:2) – where, on either side of the river, the Tree of Life is said to grow; which yields her fruit every month, and her leaves are for the healing of the nations. Every Christian – and especially ministers – are to be these trees of righteousness, which are planted by the Lord (Isa. 61:3) and set by the rivers of water. They are grafted into Christ, the Tree of Life; and by virtue of their union with Him, they are also made trees of life – being rooted in Him (Col. 2:7). The fruits of their righteousness are beneficial to their fellow-men, one way or another, because they are watered by the continual supplies of Divine grace.
In verse 13, we now pass from the affairs of the sanctuary to those of the state. The land of Canaan is here secured to God’s people for an inheritance. Although their possession of it had been discontinued for a great while, yet God had not forgotten His oath which He swore to their forefathers. God’s Providences may, for a time, seem to contradict His promises; yet the promise will certainly take place at last, for God will always be mindful of His covenant. And so the heavenly Canaan is sure to all of God’s redeemed children, because He has promised it to them and He cannot lie!
The Promised Land is here circumscribed, and the boundaries and limits of it are fixed; and it was to be divided among the tribes of Israel. The 12 tribes were all to have an equal share, one as much as another; and therein, the tribes stand as pictures and foreshadows of the Gospel-Church, for all of the subjects of Christ’s Kingdom have obtained the same precious faith. Male and female and Jews and Gentiles are all equally welcome to come to Jesus and share an inheritance in Him!
Dear Savior, we give thanks to You for the abundant fullness of healing, sovereign, quickening, cleansing, refreshing, and sanctifying grace which is found in the streams of Your Gospel; for surely they are commissioned by You to give us life, and to give it to us more abundantly! Amen.
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