"Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory." (Psalm 102:13-16)
SEEING the word "arise" sometimes signifies to begin to act, let us consider the various steps the Lord takes in bringing about his purposes in the salvation of his own elect. The covenant of grace must occur to our minds, as also the revelation of the promised seed upon the fall of man: the call of Abraham, too, and the promise made that in this promised seed all nations should be blessed with the discovery of the covenant of grace, as confirmed in Christ; and also giving him the land of Canaan for his pilgrimage, and as an everlasting possession for his seed, telling him to walk through in the length of it, and the breadth of it; yet he had only a burying-place in it. By this figure he saw, by faith, his heavenly inheritance, and looked for the city that had foundations, and that could not be moved. Another step, he promised him a son, but made him wait long for the accomplishment; during this delay, human contrivance wrought in Sarah, and nothing but confusion and bondage followed till the promised seed came, and the bondwoman and her son were cast out. Here God refuses all the children of the flesh, and shows that he will bless none but those that are of faith. This promised son, in another step of Divine Providence, must have a wife, and this wife must have twins, that another discovery of God's everlasting covenant in behalf of his own elect may appear; and it was said unto her, "The elder shall serve the younger." In our firstborn state we would sell heaven and all for our lusts, as all do that live and die in that state, of whom Esau was a figure, in selling his birthright to Jacob. In this act, the birthright became Jacob's, and in his character all the elect of God peculiarly appear; for they obtain both the birthright and the blessing; but these were secured to them in the covenant before the world began.
Another step was to bring about the fulfillment of his purposes by Jacob; in his family the kingdom of God began to extend itself. Another step, Joseph must be sold for a slave. This was not a pleasing step to flesh and blood, but he knoweth how to bring good out of evil, and will fulfill his own purpose by his own means. In this good young man's bondage the devil exerted his power to destroy him: this could not be; but to prison he must go;--a crooked thing to his spirit, but here he must have a view of God's goodness to him, who suffered wrongfully; he must also see the wisdom and power of God displayed in his deliverance: and, indeed, who teacheth like him? Joseph never forgot this part of his life, nor the benefit he derived thereby.
Pharaoh's butler and baker must be confined for a misdemeanor in the same prison, and another step of Divine Providence, in fulfilling his purposes must appear: these servants must each have a dream, and this Joseph, being found a faithful man, and favor given him in the sight of the keeper of the prison, had the care of these. On a certain day, seeing them look sadly, he asked the reason, and they informed him that they had dreamed, and there was no interpreter: he tells them interpretations belong to God. They tell him their dreams, and he gives the interpretation, and requests the butler to remember him to Pharaoh to bring him out of that house where he was unjustly confined. But as there is a set time to favor Zion, so also there is a set time to favor every one of Zion's children. The butler, therefore, could not, or would not, or feared to, remember Joseph; for two full years must pass ere this set time came.
Now Pharaoh must have a dream, which, in the event shall show a most wonderful step of God's purpose towards his own people. It is Zion that must produce the first scene, and then the last. The fat kine and the lean; the full ears and the thin must perplex his spirit and baffle all the wisdom of Egypt, that the wisdom of God might in his own servant appear, his deliverance be wrought, and a way made to preserve his own people, and to cause them to sojourn in a strange land four hundred and thirty years, according as he had said to Abraham long before.
And this famine, predicted by Joseph, must reach far and wide; so that Jacob must find it necessary to send into Egypt, to unfold the mystery of God's providence with him and his family. And when he was himself about to take his journey thither, the Lord tells him, in a vision, not to fear, for that he would make of him a great nation. The purpose of God, which he had purposed in himself, he fulfills, and arises, and by various steps unfolds, and gives his own to see the mystery of his will. The children of Israel here must multiply to six hundred thousand, besides women and children, ere they were to assume the form of a nation, and have a peculiar government, as a holy people unto the Lord.
The mount Zion which he loved has always been his care, and another step he took, in showing mercy to her, was in his instituting the Passover, under the blood of which there were to find security from the destroying angel's sword, and their immediate deliverance from bondage; and to the faithful among them this was the gospel. At their departure from their long servitude, he took upon himself to be their guide, and rose up before them in a pillar of a cloud by day, to lead them in the way, and in a pillar of fire by night.
Pharaoh's heart returns to its hardness, and he follows Israel, to divide the spoil and satisfy his lust. But as he had thrown the males of Israel's progeny into the Nile, we read at this time God arose to judgment, to save the meek; he threw the horse and charioteer into a deep sleep: and here he acted as a man of war. "When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of a strange language, Judah was his sanctuary and Israel his dominion." (Ps. 114:1,2) Here he evidently arose and showed judgment against his enemies, but mercy to his Israel.
When he had destroyed the enemies of Israel, and brought them out from Egypt to himself in the wilderness, another stupendous act is described by Moses. "And he said, The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet: every one shall receive of thy words." (Deut. 33:2,3) What but love and mercy to his elect would cause him thus to do? Now, the fiery law, that makes the offense abound, must be given, and the blood-shedding of the ceremonial law ordained, with its various rites, to preach deliverance to them from the curse of the other, that mercy might be extended to all true penitents, consistently with law and justice.
And how affectionately does the Lord speak to Moses, when he tells him, "Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all my people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." (Exo. 19:3-6) The cloud, the symbol of the Lord's presence, abode on the tabernacle when it was made, and by this were they guided in the wilderness like a flock; and when it had abode for a time, and the people had rested, when they were to journey it arose, and Moses said, "Rise up, Lord, let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee." This must be counted a mercy to them; for what could they have done in this desert without protection and a guide?
But the greatest of all his rising in his Israel's behalf is this:--"A prophet shall the Lord thy God raise up unto you, of your brethren; him shall ye hear in whatsoever he shall say unto you." (Acts 3:22) From David's line he sprang, according to the flesh. "Of this man's seed," says Paul, "hath God, according to his promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus." (Acts 13:23) This act of the Lord is called, performing the mercy promised, and remembering his holy covenant, which covenant was made before the world, but was not forgotten:--"He hath holpen his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our Fathers, to Abraham, and to his [spiritual] seed for ever." (Luke 1:54,55) "Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come." (Ps. 102:13) God called things that were not, by David here, as though they were. But now, as above, the time for this great event, so often foretold and so repeatedly shadowed forth and so long expected, was come:--"In the fulness of time, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law," (Gal. 4:4) and mercy says, "to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," says Zechariah, "for he hath visited and redeemed his people;" (Luke 1:68) and mercy made him sing, for he calls this the effects of God's "tender mercy, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us." He adds, "to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:78,79) Then was favor showed, and the set time for it was then come, to mount Zion, that God loved and chose ere the world began.
Many had been looking for and expecting this glorious time, the tidings of which had often been sounded in their ears by one messenger and another: one says to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, thy salvation cometh;" (Isa. 62:11) and again, "Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" (Isa. 40:9) "Behold, the Lord God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock as a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." (Isa. 40:10,11)
"Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come." And when he was come, what mercy did he show! Have any applied to him, with a suppliant knee, that he ever sent empty away? No: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." The time to favour Zion and show mercy, the set time, was come. To do according to this, he must needs go through Samaria, and sit, weary, too, and that to the vilest, the woman of Samaria; infamous in her character, she must at this set time come to draw water, enter into discourse with the Lord of life and glory, have her heart and life discovered, and find her salvation in the Saviour of the world: and surely this set time to favor Zion she never forgot.
This woman of Samaria was evidently one of Zion's members, upon whom mercy was shown: and, according to the Saviour's own parable, it must be concluded she had fallen among thieves: but the good Samaritan journeyed where she was, and bound up the wounds she had received, pouring in his own oil and wine: "wine which makes glad the heart, and oil that makes the face to shine." The atonement applied makes us joy in God, and the oil of joy for mourning lifts up the face.
The set time being come to favor another of Zion's children, He entered and passed through Jericho. And now Zaccheus, the rich publican, must be manifested to be one of these; who, being moved with a special curiosity to see the Lord Jesus, gets up into a tree, little thinking the set time to favor him was at hand: but here we behold another discriminating act of the mercy of our adorable Redeemer; there could be no merit in this man's character to be noticed by infinite Divinity; but sovereign grace sometimes takes the worst, and saves them before our eyes as objects of his eternal love; and plainly shows us that his sovereign love in Christ Jesus is the source of our salvation.
I may mention another instance in which the set time to favor Zion appears, which is that of Saul of Tarsus; fully intent upon the worst of purposes, but the time being come, he must be kept back therefrom. Therefore the Lord Jesus speaks to his heart, and asks him why he did as he did: he at once forgets what he was going about, and presently asks the Lord, "What wouldst thou have me to do?" No doubt but he always looked upon this great event, for such it was to him, as the set time to visit him: "who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace." (Gal. 1:15) Some of you have your time in remembrance, no doubt, and I have mine, and hope I may look upon it as the set time to favor me.
We may look back to the first transactions in the covenant of grace and the Lord's proceeding thereto in the salvation of his chosen Zion, even till that great event took place, the coming of Him whom Moses and the prophets did say should come; and when he came, his work was before him, and his reward with him. He was clad with zeal as a cloak; the year or time of his redeemed was in his heart; he overcame the devil's temptations, preached the gospel to the poor, set at liberty the bruised, called many, and blessed them with his own salvation. When his time was come, through his own death, he destroyed him that had the power of death, (Heb. 2:14) broke the bars of the grave, and opened the doors of the celestial paradise to all believers, and so wrought an everlasting deliverance for all the body of his elect. "Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come." "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son." Four hundred and thirty years afterwards the time of the promise drew nigh, but not till the sins of the Amorites were full. "He hath determined the times before appointed;" and, among others, the man of sin hath his appointed time: he was revealed in his time; and when the time, times, and half a time, is up, he shall be covered with everlasting darkness.
Of mount Zion it is said, "the Lord shall reign in her for ever: for thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof." Solomon's stones, of eight or ten cubits, marble stones, and glistering stones, and stones of divers colors, which David had provided, and with which the temple (so often called Zion) was built and adorned, had given pleasure to many, and many had taken pleasure in them: there was no other such house in the universe, and the fame of it was great: "Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee." This was literally fulfilled in Solomon's time; for the kings that heard of him came to hear his wisdom, and brought presents: and that many among them took pleasure in her stones is plainly to be seen; for when the foundation of the second temple was laid, the old men, who had seen the first, wept; at the destruction of it had they also wept: "we wept when we remembered Zion;" and hung our harps upon the willows, whereon we used to make music when we went up thereto. In addition to the outward part of this magnificent building, the inward, covered with gold and set with gems in the most beautiful order, reflected rays of glory: but the glory of the second temple was to be greater. It is true the faithful saw the intrinsic glory of Solomon's temple was its holy furniture, the ark, mercyseat, cherubim of glory, and the shechina that dwelt between. No doubt they favored the very spot upon which the temple stood, "and favoured the dust thereof."
That this temple was figurative of Christ's body, of the church, and of heaven, there is no doubt: Christ is called the foundation of Zion; "his foundation is in his holy mountain." But a stone of eight or ten cubits is not to be compared with Him who bore the whole weight of his church: "Wisdom is better than gold, and the price of it above rubies." The foundation of Zion is of sapphire: "I will lay thy foundation with sapphires, and all thy borders with pleasant stones," (Isa. 54:11,12) and these stones of fair colors. Upon the foundation of Zion, gold, silver, and precious stones are builded, and these precious stones are called lively stones; and these all come to that living Stone, disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious, who is precious to all that believe; for in believing they have life through his name. These are to be the stones of Emmanuel's crown, lifted up for an ensign (of royalty) upon his head; and they will willingly crown him Lord of all. To have felt the precious love of Christ is a source of divine pleasure indeed! it sinks deep and rises high.
The foundations of the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem John saw, garnished with all manner of precious stones; an allusion to Solomon's temple, by which, I understand is meant believing souls, brought to Christ, and so to this glorious city, by the ministerial foundations, the twelve apostles, and those that succeed in the doctrine and experience of the twelve. The names of twelve precious stones are applied to them, and twelve pearls to the gates. The disciples could not at first look altogether above the outside of the matters; for they say to him, "Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings, are here!" His reply is, "There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:1,2) But not so the stones of spiritual Zion; they are never to be moved from the foundation on which they are built: "She shall not be moved; the Lord shall help her [in trouble], and that right early." "Upon this rock will I build my church [my Zion], and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18)
"Thy servants take pleasure in her stones." "My goodness," says David, "extendeth not to thee, but to the saints that are in the earth; and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. How pleasant is it for brethren to dwell together in unity! it is like the precious ointment upon the head of Aaron." Ye are taught of God to love one another. In retrospect, also, this is true: we have with pleasure conversed with Abel, the first martyr, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, when reading of their faith and consulting their footsteps. The prophets, Paul, Mary Magdalen, are all objects of our affections. "To whom coming as to a living stone." When we see one coming, and are fully persuaded it is from God's work within, we view him with pleasure. No sort of company in this world so pleasing to us as is the company of real saints.
"And favour the dust thereof." Dust is man, and to dust must he return. But the dust of Zion is not universal. Abraham styles himself dust and ashes: "Many shall awake that sleep in the dust of the earth; some to everlasting life." (Dan. 12:2) The dust of those that die in faith, and only such, is the object of the favor of God's servants. "Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, thy dew shall be as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. With my dead body shall they arise. He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust." (Isa. 26:19) The children of Israel mourned for Moses; there was also a great mourning for Jacob; but God's servants are all baptized into one body, and are all made to drink into one spirit, therefore we claim kindred one with another; and when we think of a good man gone to glory, we inwardly favor his dust. William Huntington, and others, in this sense we favor, and all the dust of the saints, from Adam to this day.
"The heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory." At the dedication of Solomon's temple, he prays for "the stranger that cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake, and of thy strong hand and of thy stretched-out arm: then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and do according to all the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee as do thy people Israel." (1 Kings 8:41-43) The promise that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel, is here held forth: "Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession;" (Ps. 2:8) "His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." (Zech. 9:10) "He shall set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law." (Isa. 42:4) "His name shall be continued as long as the sun; his name shall endure for ever; men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed." (Ps. 72:17) "I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever." This is the name that brings poor sinners nigh; for no other name under heaven is given, whereby they must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
"So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord." The fear here mentioned includes the whole of the spiritual worship of God under the gospel.
"And all kings thy glory." Wherever the gospel has spread, and the nation or nations where the Lord has sent it have favored the same, the light of the gospel has awed the rulers. But we read all kings shall fall down before Christ, all nations shall serve him; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. (Dan. 4:34) The kingdom is taken from the Jews, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. "Sing, O barren, that thou didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the [once] desolate than [she that was] the married wife, saith the Lord." (Isa. 54:1) And these children bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. Thousands of Gentiles have loved Christ above their own lives: a sense of God's everlasting love through the atoning blood of Christ has caused, in such, the greatest joy on earth; and the sprinkling of this blood on the conscience to purge away sin, the peace that passeth all understanding, and has brought into exercise every holy disposition under the influence of that Holy Spirit, who always attends the preaching of a crucified Christ.
"When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory." Mr. Huntington observes, there was a glory attended the giving of the law of Moses. We read, also, that when Moses reared up the tabernacle, spread abroad the tent over the tabernacle, and brought the ark with the testimony in it into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering and the other appurtenances in order, and reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hangings of the court-gate, and finished all the work. (Exo. 40:33) "Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." David fixed his eye on this circumstance when he uttered the above scripture.
The temple is often called Zion, as a fixed residence for God among the Israelites, corresponding with the tabernacle, but in a more extended and glorious manner, and David knew that, when this was finished and all things put in order, according to God's word, here also would God appear in his glory. According to this, we find it written; for when Solomon had finished the house of the Lord, which was a seven years' work, he assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, sacrificing oxen and sheep before it; and the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, under the wings of the cherubim. The priests on this occasion were all sanctified, and did not wait by course: Levites also who were singers, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, standing at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets. "It came to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God." (2 Chron. 5:13,14) The glory was too much for mortality to bear, in which state no man can approach Him "who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, whom no man hath seen, nor [in our imperfect state] can see." The glory of God is now to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ; and this glory is transforming, according to Paul, "changing us into the same image, from glory to glory." (2 Cor. 3:18)
There is no doubt but the heavenly things are in some measure represented by the patterns of heavenly things. The temple, which was called Zion, had its foundation; and as gospel Zion is called the house of the living God, a temple for God, and his habitation, she also has her foundation: "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation:" (Isa. 28:16) and believing on this is called building; the saints are said to be built up in him, and he is called the foundation of the prophets and apostles. And God, proclaiming himself gracious in forgiving sins and passing by transgression through the meritorious life and blood-shedding of his dear Son, is called the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. When this light reaches the hearts of poor guilty sinners, it brings them to build all their hope for eternal salvation upon this foundation. Oh! what a number of lively stones will make up the temple, the house, the habitation of God! From Adam to this day has this temple been building by the Prince or King of peace, and is not yet finished: stones of various sizes, hewn and squared, have been brought. Chief--various sized debtors; glistering stones--strong faith, little faith, different faiths according to different graces given; but all so bestowed that no schism should be seen, but the most perfect symmetry: casting forth, also, the brightest luster of divine grace to every spiritual beholder.
This building is still going on, but not by human "power or might, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." All mountains of opposition to this work shall become a plain; the hands of our Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house, temple, habitation, or city; his hands also shall finish it! for the plummet is in the hand of this Zerubbabel, with those seven which are the eyes of the Lord. (Zech. 4:7-10) Wherever God sends his gospel on the earth, to gather stones into this building, these eyes, the Spirit of the Lord, attend it, to make it effectual to the conversion of souls, that this house may be built; and we rejoice when we see his word in this work prosper in his hands. All the predestinated sons and daughters of the Most High must come into the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: the body mystical must be complete. The Lord Jesus will not appear in his glory till this mystery of espousing souls to Christ by the gospel is finished. Then shall the end come; (Matt. 24:14) then shall appear the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and all the holy angels with him, and then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, in the glory of the Father, with his angels, which are to gather his elect from the four winds of heaven. Before this time they will have been gathered to him by the gospel; but now, according to Paul, the Lord will descend in the cloud, with a shout, raise the dead saints, and change the living ones, and both be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so ever be with the Lord. For this, his appearing, the saints look, "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13) "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:4) When his glory is revealed, the saints are to be glad with exceeding joy. Then he will say, "Behold, I make all things new." (Rev. 21:5) And, according to our revered friend, in the new heavens and the new earth, he shall reign before all his saints gloriously. Zion completed, the glory of God will be her everlasting light, and her God her glory; the days of her mourning will be completely ended. (Isa. 60:20)
This temple of the Lord, this Zion of the Holy One of Israel, will outshine, in an infinite degree, the temple of Solomon, and in her God will appear in all his glory. The Lord God almighty, and the Lamb, is the temple of this city: "And this city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Rev. 21:23) Mortality being swallowed up of life, the saints will then be able to behold it; for when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Figures of things in the heavens are given us in the word; but how far the heavenly things themselves exceed! Eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor can the heart of man fully conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him: but certain it is that, to all that love his appearing, he shall come the second time, without sin, unto their salvation. (Heb. 9:28)