God Our Sanctuary
Mr. John W. Bramhall of Charlotte, N C , is an octogenarian who continues to faithfully serve the Lord in both a Bible teaching and writing ministry.
“Yet I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come” (Ezek. 11:16) was a very special promise for very special times, given to the faithful of God’s people in Israel during their captivity long ago. Its truth was proved by some faithful few and has today a spiritual parallel for God’s faithful followers living near the end of this age.
The Circumstances of the Promise
One hundred years before, the ten tribes of Israel had been scattered and taken into Assyrian captivity. Judah and Benjamin were left in the land, but notwithstanding the object lesson of divine judgment on the ten tribes, again and again they went astray, lapsing deeply into idolatry until at last Nebuchadnezzar beseiged Jerusalem, ultimately destroying the city and temple, and taking away captive the majority of the people.
Three outstanding men of God, Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, are prominent on the pages of divine history during that period of captivity. Daniel the prince, in Babylon; Ezekiel the priest, at the River Chebar in Assyria; and Jeremiah the prophet, remaining in the midst of the corruption and apostasy at Jerusalem. The Shekinah glory of the Lord was removed from God’s holy dwelling place at Jerusalem, his house left desolate and the sanctuary forsaken by Him (see Ezek. 9-11).
The Nature of the Promise
Though the symbol of God’s presence had been removed, He gave His people this new promise; “Although I have removed them far off among the nations, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries whither they are come” (JND New Trans.). God Himself promised to be a sanctuary to the faithful remnant, a promise that exactly suited the scattered and faithful saints of the captivity.
Daniel, the prince, in the midst of imperial Babylon proved it to be blessedly true. God was his sanctuary. Ezekiel, the priest, at the River Chebar experienced the same. God was his sanctuary. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, at Jerusalem in the midst of its corruption, with the house of God degraded and the nation demoralized and apostate, also proved that God was his sanctuary. Daniel was far from Jerusalem; Ezekiel was a lonely captive by the River Chebar; and Jeremiah was suffering for his testimony in the centre of Jerusalem’s corrupted apostasy. Nevertheless, each proved the truth of God’s promise.
The Spiritual Application Today
We live in a world that is still like imperial Babylon of old; we are in it and cannot get out of it but, oh, to live in it like Daniel, to live like he did before those who hate our God and Christ, and hate us! Yet to live so that the world finds no flaws or charges against us, except in the law of our God (see Dan. 6:5).
We need to be like Ezekiel, a different type from Daniel, but having visions of God in the quietness of his captivity; periods alone with God, waiting upon him for the revelations of His precious truth to our souls.
Ezekiel not only saw a vision of the departure of God’s glory from the temple, but in prophetic vision he also saw the returning glory (see Ezek. 40-48).
How we need to be a weeping Jeremiah in these days, not facing the world as a man of affairs as Daniel did, nor perhaps in the quietness of God’s presence as Ezekiel, but to be a saint that will weep in godly sorrow, on bended knee and with broken heart, because of the corruptions manifested in the outward Christian testimony today, seeking to win back the people of God to the simplicity and Scriptural path from which many have strayed.
In these days of increasing apostasy, departure from God, and corruption of doctrine, faith will receive the blessing when leaning wholly on this special promise God has given for such special times like ours today — “I will be to thee a little sanctuary.” May our Lord, by His Spirit, help us to prove it until the Lord Jesus returns.