A Little Sanctuary
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/01/2003
A Little Sanctuary
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, January 8th, 1888, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and
although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them, as a little sanctuary in the
countries where they shall come."Ezekiel 11:16.
THE TEXT BEGINS WITH "therefore." There was a reason for God's speaking in this way. It is
profitable to trace the why and the wherefore of the gracious words of the Lord. The way by which a
promise comes usually shines with a trail of light. Upon reading the connection we observe that those
who had been carried captive were insulted by those who tarried at Jerusalem. They spoke in a very
cruel manner to those with whom they should have sympathized. How often do prosperous brothers look with
scorn on the unfortunate! Did not Job of old complain, "He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised
in the thought of him that is at ease"?
The Lord hears the unkind speeches of the prosperous when they speak bitterly of those who are plunged in
adversity. Read the context"Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the
house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the Lord:
unto us is this land given in possession." This unbrotherly language moved the Lord to send the prophet Ezekiel
with good and profitable words to the children of the captivity. 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 lovingkindness,
addressed in words of tender grace those whom they despised. As, in our Saviour's days, the opposition of the
Pharisees acted upon the Saviour like a steel to the flint, and fetched bright sparks of truth out of him, so the
wickedness of man has often been the cause why the grace of God has been more fully revealed. This is some
solace when under the severe chastisement of human tongues.
Personally, I am glad of this comfort. I would gladly be at peace with all men: I would not unnecessarily utter
a word of provocation; but it is a world in which you cannot live at peace unless you are willing to be unfaithful to
your conscience. Offences, therefore, will come. But why should we fret unduly under this trial when we perceive
that out of opposition to the cause of God occasions arise for the grandest displays of God's love and power? If
from the showers we gain our harvests, we will not mourn when the heavens gather blackness, and the rain pours
down. If the wrath of man is made to praise the Lord, then let man be wrathful if he wills. Brethren, let us brace
ourselves to bear the bruises of slanderous tongues! 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. Be not dismayed, but go to him who is the God of all
comfort, who comforteth all those that are bowed down, and he will give you a word which shall heal your
wounds, and breathe peace into your spirit.
Now to proceed at once to our text, seeing that the occasion of it is a sufficient preface. Let us notice, first,
where God's people may be, and yet be God's people. They may be by God's own hand "scattered among the
countries, and cast far off among the heathen." And, secondly, what God will be to them when they are is such
circumstances. "Yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come." May the Holy
Spirit, who spake by Ezekiel, speak through these words to our hearts!
I. First, then, WHERE GOD'S PEOPLE MAY BE.
If you ask where they may be, the answer to the question is, first, they may be under chastisment.
If you will remember, in the Book of Deuteronomy, God threatened Israel that if they, as a nation, sinned
against him, they should be scattered among the nations, and cast far off among the heathen. Many a time they so
sinned. I need not recapitulate the story of their continued transgressions and multiplied backslidings. The Lord
was slow to fulfil his utmost threatenings, but put forth his utmost patience, till there was no more room for
long-suffering. At last the threatened chastisement fell upon them, and fierce nations carried them away in bonds
to the far-off lands of their dread. They were not utterly destroyed: their being scattered among the people showed
that they still existed. Though they were a people scattered and peeled, yet they were a people, even as Israel is to
this day. For all that tyrants and persecutors have ever done, yet the Jew is still extant among us, even as the bush
burned with fire, but was not consumed. Israel is still to the front, and will be to the world's end. The Lord hath
not cast away his people, even though he has cast them far off among the heathen. He has scattered them among
the countries, but they are not absorbed into those countries; they still remain a people separated unto the living
God, in whom he will yet be glorified.
But, assuredly, the chosen seed came under chastisement. When, by the rivers of Babylon, they sat down and
wept, yea, they wept when they remembered Zion, then were they under the Lord's heavy hand. The instructed
among them knew that their being in exile was the fruit of the transgressions of their fathers, and the result of their
own offences against God. And yet, though they were under chastisement, God loved them, and had a choice
word for them, which I will by-and-by endeavour to explain to you; for the Lord said, "Although I have cast them
far off among the heathen, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary." Beloved, you and I may lie under the rod of
God, and we may smart sorely because of our iniquities, even as David did; and yet we may be the children of
God towards whom he has thoughts of grace. Our moisture may be turned into the drought of summer, while day
and night the Lord's hand is heavy upon us; we may be in sore temporal trouble, and may be compelled by an
enlightened conscience to trace our sorrow to our own folly. 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. Let us take comfort,
seeing that God has a word to say to his mourners and to his afflicted, and that word in the text is a "yet" which
serves to show that there is a clear limit to his anger. He smites, but it is with an "although" and a "yet": he scatters
them to a distance, but he sends a promise after them, and says, "I will be to them as a little sanctuary." In the
Lord's hand towards his chosen there may be a rod, but not a sword. It is a heavy rod, but it is not a rod of iron. It
is a rod that bruises, but it is not a rod that batters to pieces. God tempers our afflictions, severe though they may
seem to be; and though, apparently, he strikes us with the blows of a cruel one, yet there is a depth unutterable of
infinite love in every stroke of his hand. His anger endureth but for a night: he hastens to display his favour. Listen
to his own words of overflowing faithfulness: "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies
will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have
mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." However, it is clear that God's own people may be under
But, secondly, wherever they are, whether they are under chastisement or not, they are where the Lord has
put them. Read the text carefully: "Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have
scattered them among the countries." The Lord's hand was in their banishment and dispersion: Jehovah himself
inflicted the chastisement for sin. You say to me, "Why, it was Nebuchadnezzar who carried them away: the
Babylonians and the Chaldeans took them captive." Yes, I know it was so; but the Lord regards these as
instruments in his hand, and he says, "I have done it," just as Job, when the Chaldeans and the Sabeans had swept
away his property, and his children had been destroyed through the agency of Satan, yet said, "The Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away." The Lord was as truly in the taking away as he was in the giving. 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. Do not get fretting about the Chaldeans and Sabeans. Let them alone, and Satan too. What have
you to do with them? Your business is with God. See his hand, and bow before it. Say, "The Lord gave, and the
Lord hath taken away." Come to that, for then you will be able to say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."
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 recognize it for your strengthening and consolation.
Note, next, that the people of God may dwell in places of great discomfort. The Jews were not in those days
like the English, who colonize 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. He was not like the
Tyrian, whose ship went to Tarshish, and passed the Gates of Hercules, seeking the Ultima Thule. The Jew
tarried at home. " I dwell among mine own people," said a noble woman of that nation; and she did but speak the
mind of a home-loving people who settled each one upon his own patch of ground, and sat down under his vine
and fig-tree, none making him afraid. Their Lord had driven them into a distant land, to rivers whose waters were
bitter to their lips, even to the Tigris and the Euphrates. They were in a foreign country, where everything was
different from their wayswhere all the customs of the people were strange and singular. They would be a
marked and despised people, nobody would fraternize with them, but all would pass them by in scorn. The Jews
excited much prejudice, for, as their great adversary, the wicked Haman, said, "their laws were diverse from all
people," and their customs had a peculiarity about them which kept them a distinct race. 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. Do not imagine that God makes a nest of down for all his eaglets. Why,
they would never take to flying if he did not put thorns under them, and stir up their nest that they may take to
their wings, and learn the heavenward flight to which they are predestinated! Perfect comfort on earth is no more
to be expected than constant calm on the sea. Sleep in the midst of a battle, and ease when on the march, would
be more in place than absolute rest in this present state. God meaneth not his children to take up their inheritance
on this side Jordan. "This is not your rest: because it is polluted." And so he often puts us where we are very
uncomfortable. Is there any Christian man who can say that he would, if he might, take up his lot for ever in this
life? No, no. There is an irksomeness about our condition, disguise it as we may. In one way or another we are
made to remember that we are in banishment. We have not yet come unto our rest. That rest "remaineth for the
people of God," but as yet we have not come into the land which the Lord our God has given to us to be our place
of rest. Some of God's servants feel this in a very peculiar manner, for their soul is among lions, and they dwell
among those whose tongues are set on fire of hell. Abel was hated by Cain, Isaac was mocked by Ishmael, Joseph
was among envious brethren, Moses was at first rejected by Israel, David was pursued by Saul, Elijah was hunted
by Jezebel, Mordecai was hated by Haman; and yet these men were wisely placed, and the Lord was eminently
with them. I mention this in order that tried believers may still know that, however uncomfortable their position, it
is nevertheless true that God has put them there for some good end.
The beloved of God may yet be in a place of great barrenness as to all spiritual good. "I have cast them far
off among the heathen"far off from my templefar off from the place of my worshipfar off from the shrine
of my glory. "I have scattered them among the countries," where they will learn no goodwhere, on the contrary,
they will see every abominable thing, and often feel like Lot, who was vexed with the filthy conversation of the
people among whom he dwelt. We are not kept apart from the wicked by high walls, or guards of heavenly
soldiery. Even our Lord did not pray that we should be taken out of the world. Grace builds neither monasteries
nor nunneries. "Woe is me," is frequently the cry of God's chosen, "that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the
tents of Kedar!" David knew what it was to be cut off from the assemblies of the Lord's house, and to be in the
cave or in the wilderness. It may be so with you, and yet you may be a child of God. You may not be out of your
place, for the dear path to his abode may go straight through this barren land. You may have to pass for many a
day through this great and terrible wilderness, this land of fiery serpents, and of great drought, on your way to the
land that floweth with milk and honey. To make heaven the sweeter we may find our exile made bitter. 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. Doubtless the jeers of Babylon endeared the quiet of Zion to the banished: they loved the
courts of the Lord's house all the more for having sighed in the halls of the proud monarch.
Worse still, the Lord's chosen may be under oppression through surrounding ungodliness and sin. The
captive Israelites found Babylonia and Chaldea to be a land of grievous oppression. They ridiculed them, and bade
them sing them one of the songs of Zion. They required of them mirth when their hearts were heavy. On the
festivals of their false gods they demanded that the worshippers of the Eternal One should help in their choirs, and
tune their harps to heathenish minstrelsy. Even Daniel, in his high position under the Persian monarch, found that
he was not without adversaries, who rested not till they had cast him into a den of lions. Those who were far
away, whether in Babylonia or in Persia, found themselves the constant subjects of assault from the triumphant
foe. They were crushed down, until they cried by reason of their oppression. It was not the first time that the
people of God had been in the iron furnace. Did they not come forth from the house of bondage at the first, even
from Egypt? Neither was Babylon the last place of trial for saints; for until the end of time the seed of the serpent
will war with the seed of the woman. Is it not still true of us, as well as of our Saviour, "Out of Egypt have I called
my Son"? Expect still to meet with opposition and oppression while you are passing to the land where the seed
shall possess the heritage. Those of us who bear public testimony may have to bear the brunt of the battle, and
suffer much from angry tongues. Nevertheless, to us it shall be an evident token of the Lord's favour, inasmuch as
he counts us worthy to suffer for his name's sake.
But enough of that. I am making a very long story about the grievous routes through which we wend our way
to the Celestial City. We climb on hands and knees up the Hill Difficulty; we tremblingly descend the steep of
Humiliation. We feel our way through the tremendous pass of the Shadow of Death, and hasten through Vanity
Fair, and walk warily across the Enchanted Ground. Not much of the way could one fall in love with. Perhaps the
only part of it is that Valley of Humiliation, where the shepherd boy sat down and sang his ditty among the wild
flowers and the lambs. One might wish to be always there; but fierce adversaries invade even these tranquil
meadows, for hard-by where the shepherd sang his happy pastoral Christian met Apollyon, and had to struggle
hard for his life. Do you not remember the spot where
"The man so bravely played the man,
He made the fiend to fly"?
You see where God's people may be, and yet may be none the less, but all the more, under the divine protection.
Are you in difficult places? Be not dismayed, for this way runs the road to glory. Sigh not for the dove's wing to
hurry to your rest, but take the appointed path: the footsteps of your Lord are there.
II. So, now, I hasten at once into the sweet part of the subject, which consists of this: 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."
Brethren, the great sanctuary stood on Mount Sion, "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth." That
glorious place which Solomon had builded was the shrine to which the Hebrew turned his eye: he prayed with his
window open toward Jerusalem. Alas! when the tribes were carried away captive, they could not carry the holy
and beautiful house with them, neither could they set up its like within the brazen gates of the haughty city.
"Now," says the Lord God in infinite condescension, "I will be a travelling temple to them. I will be as a little
sanctuary to each one of them. They shall carry my temple about with them. Wherever they are, I will be, as it
were a holy place to them." 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." Even the temple which Solomon builded was not a fit habitation for the infinite Jehovah, and so the
Lord will stoop a little further, and be unto his people, not as the sanctuary "exceedingly magnifical," but as a little
temple suitable for the most humble individual, rather than as a great temple in which vast multitudes could gather.
"I will be to them as a little sanctuary" is a greatly condescending promise, implying an infinite stoop of love.
There is a good deal more in my text than I shall be able to bring out, and I may seem, in making the attempt, to
give you the same thought twice over. Please bear with me. Let me begin at the beginning.
A sanctuary was a place of refuge. You know how Joab fled to the horns of the altar to escape from
Solomon's armed men: he ran to the temple hoping to find sanctuary there. 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. Take that
sense, and couple it with the cities of refuge which were set up throughout all Israel, to which the man who killed
another by misadventure might flee to hide himself from the manslayer. 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. Hither come all weather-beaten barques, and cast anchor in placid waters.
"God is our refuge, tried and proved,
Amid a stormy world:
We will not fear though earth be moved,
And hills in ocean hurled,"
O my hearer, make the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, and then shalt thou
know the truth of this text: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Wherever thou art
cast, God will be to thee a suitable refuge, a little haven for thy little boat: not little in the sense that he cannot well
protect thee; not little in the sense that his word is a small truth, or a small comfort, or a small protection, but little
in this respectthat it shall be near thee, accessible to thee, adapted to thee. It is as though the refuge were
portable in all our wanderings, a protection to be carried and kept in hand in all weathers. Thou shalt carry it about
with thee wherever thou art, this "little sanctuary." Thy God, and thy thoughts of thy God, and thy faith in thy
God, shall be to thee a daily, perpetual, available, present refuge. Oh, it is a delightful thought to my mind, that
from every danger and every storm God will be to us an immediate refuge, which we carry about with us, so that
we abide under the shadow of the Almighty!
Next, a sanctuary signifies also a place of worship. It is a place where the divine presence is peculiarly
manifesteda holy place. It usually means a place where God dwells, a place where God has promised to meet
with his people, a place of acceptance where prayers, and praises, and offerings come up with acceptance on his
altar. Now, notice, God says to his people, when they are far away from the temple and Jerusalem, "I will be to
them as a little sanctuary." Not, "I have loved the people, and I will build them a synagogue, or I will lead others to
build for them a meeting-place; but I myself will be to them as a little sanctuary." The Lord Jesus Christ himself is
the true place of worship for saved souls. "There is no chapel in the place where I live," says one. I am sorry to
hear it, but chapels are not absolutely essential
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