If you take the Strong’s Concordance and look up the word ‘pure’ you will discover that it first appears in Exod.25:11: “You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold moulding around it.
From that first reference, to Lev.24:7 you will find the word ‘pure’ about thirty five times. I believe that each of those references is in relation to the tabernacle. The most frequent reference is to gold- pure gold. But we also find- pure olive oil, pure myrrh, pure frankincense, the pure candlestick, and the pure table before the Lord.
Whatever else may be true regarding the tabernacle in the wilderness this was the very heart and core of it all: Israel’s only hope of access into the presence and glory of God was through that tabernacle.
As such, the tabernacle as to its materials and all of the functions that went on inside of it, provide an incredible picture of the Lord Jesus Christ Who alone is our access unto and into the presence and glory of the Father God.
The tabernacle in the wilderness was that which ordered, disciplined and defined the worship of God with respect to the nation of Israel. And what I want to point out this morning is this: as to the materials used in the construction of that tabernacle, as to the materials used by the priests in the ongoing functions of their ministries within that tabernacle, as to the materials that made up the clothing or garments of the priests, and as to the moral or ethical quality of those priests- the one word which constantly appears in direct relation to all of that is the word ‘pure’.
If we would come into the presence of this God this morning; if we would worship this awesome God who is infinite holiness; if we would draw near to Him who is consuming fire- then let us understand this: PS 24:3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD ? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood- And has not sworn deceitfully.
Beyond the tabernacle in the wilderness, Moses blessed God who had caused Israel to drink the pure blood of the grapes.
In 2Sam.22, David sang of God, “To the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure.”
And then we come to Solomon’s temple, and as with the tabernacle in the wilderness we find the word ‘pure’ regarding the various materials used.
After that temple was destroyed, because it had become altogether corrupt and unclean, and after seventy years of captivity a new temple was built under the administration of Ezra. And at the time of its dedication and the celebration of the various feats we read this: For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure.
In Job you will find reference to a pure doctrine and a pure prayer.
In Psalms we read that the words of the Lord are pure words.
In Proverbs it is stated that every word of God is pure.
The prophet Daniel reported concerning that awesome figure in his vision that the hair of his head was like the pure wool.
And then you come to the end of the old order, and pass through four hundred years of silence- that period between the Old and New Testaments- and breaking that silence is the voice of Him who is infinite and absolute purity as He declares: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
From there we come to the letters of the New Testament and read such things as- Whatsoever things are pure…..think on these things.
-But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart.
-But holding the mystery of faith with a pure conscience.
-Call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
-To the pure, all things are pure. But to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
James wrote of the pure religion, and of the wisdom that is from above he wrote that it is first pure.
Peter instructed that we are to love one another with a pure heart.
John wrote that everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
And in the last book of the Divine Library we read- And the city was pure gold. We read that the street of the city was pure gold. And then in the centre of that street we discover a pure river of the water of life clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
And that brings us back to Ezekiel’s vision of the river flowing out from the temple of God.
Concerning this vision it should be obvious that it would require a very long series of lectures to expound even the surface realities here. My intention is to note just a couple of factors. The first very overwhelming reality is that everywhere the river went it brought life; everything it touched was resurrected to life from death. And the manifestation of that resurrection life- force was the fruit it produced.
Notice that the dry land (which actually means barren desert) was healed and became productive. Notice that the salt water (and the reference here is to the dead sea- which as implied by the name is dead because of the high concentration of salt- was healed or made fresh- and again, where there was no life there was now many living things.
But the second thing I would ask you to note is that in the presence of all of this healing there was one thing excluded- left out- left to be what it was: the swamp, the marsh, the bog, or the place of mire.
Obviously this vision is a physical picture of spiritual realities- and the question must be raised- ‘What is the spiritual reality represented by the unhealed swamp in the vision?’
If you have been tracking with this presentation I think you will be aware that this whole issue of the unhealed swamp has something to do with the issue of purity- with how God views purity, and consequently how He views impurity.
If you ask for the opposite of purity, most people will respond with dirty, unclean, defiled, etc.. That is a correct response- but not in relation to what we are looking at this morning. To understand the idea of impurity as it relates to this vision you have to understand what a swamp is. And to understand what a swamp is you must look at the two elements which were brought into healing- dry land and the salt sea.
The dry land is distinctly dry land. The salt sea is distinctly salt water. Each, in terms of what it is, is distinct, individual, single, unmixed and therefore pure.
But what is a swamp? It is neither purely dry land, nor is it purely water; it is a mix or compromise of both land and water. With the word ‘mix’ we have touched the core idea of impurity- and what the vision is telling us is that where there is compromise- where there is mixture- there is no healing, no life, no fruit, but only a growing reality of death.
Compromise or mixture is the bringing together of two or more distinct, or pure, or single properties in which the original properties lose their pure, individual singleness.
All of this finds its definition in the stern warning of the apostle Paul to the believers of Galatia: ‘Having begun in the Spirit, are you now brought to maturity through the energy of the flesh?’
There is nothing more religious than the soul of man- from the atheist, to the agnostic, to the cynic, to the hard core legalist, to the most driven devotee of whatever form, structure or definition that comes along- there is nothing more religious than the soul of man.
When I use the term- mere religion- I am referring to the endless energy and exercise of the soul independent of, without reference to, and in the place of the S/spirit.
The deception of mere religion is that Christianity is a compromise, a mix, a blending of flesh and Spirit. But the truth is, the flesh and the Spirit are mutually exclusive and beyond any possibility of mix. This is so emphatic in the words of Christ- “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. And that which is born of the Spirit is S/spirit.” Each is distinct, single, pure, individual, and unmixed.
Regarding the seventh church referred to in the last book of the Bible- the church of Laodicea- we read this: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
In the context of Ezekiel’s vision this message would look something like this: Because you are neither barren dessert nor salt water- but a swamp, a mix or compromise of the two, there can be no healing, there can be no life, there can be no fruit.
And yet there is hope. To that same church, which had become rather swampy, the Lord of the church said this, “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him and he with Me.”
What a picture- Christ outside of His own church, by reason of the compromise, the mixture, and the swampiness within her; and yet His unfailing loves appeals. And the only real question that remains to be answered is- ‘How should we respond to that appeal?’