The Marshes of Travail

February 9, 2018

Ezekiel 47:11

But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt.


All of this movement of the river with its fresh water and swarms of living creatures and abundant fish and flourishing trees and then this curious word in verse 11 about swamps and marshes. It seems like extraneous detail and we would want to avoid over-reading its significance into the text. As noted at the outset of our journey, we are reading these texts from Ezekiel with the eye of a spiritual theologian for the sake of the body of Christ. At the risk of allegory, let’s explore verse 11 as it provides a lens on awakening.

A marsh is a buffer zone between two different habitats of life. Sometimes a marsh is referred to as a mire or a bog. They are muddy and wet and can only support a particular range of life forms. Creatures made for fresh water cannot survive long in the habitat of a saltwater marsh.

Making the analogy, as a marsh is to the ecosystem of rivers and bodies of water, so is travail to the ecosystem of awakening. To travail in prayer is to stand in the gap between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. It means to willingly go into the swampy territory of the place between slumber and awakening. It means to step into the miry bog of a lost and broken world and to embrace it in the love of God. To travail is to open oneself to a sharing in the divine burden for the awakening of the world.

As we said earlier, this comes back to our growing up in the love of God.


Lord Jesus, thank you for wading from the glory of heaven into the mired bogs and marshes of this earth. Thank you for the travail of your life. Thank you for giving us a living, powerful, and beautiful example of what it looks like to love people. Forgive us for our often-anemic efforts to follow you. In fact, we can’t follow you without your Spirit leading us every step of the way. Come Holy Spirit and walk us into the marshes of the world for the love of those who are still stuck there. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.


  • Am I ready to take more steps into the journey from John 3:16 to 1 John 3:16?
  • What is the alternative? To stay where I am? Discuss together.

If you’re interested in getting this Daily Text series in book form, you can pick up Awaken: From Dry Bones to the River of Life from our store here.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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