THE prophet here looks forward to a certain day: "In that day shall this song be sung." We are told in Scripture that God has no pleasure in forms and ceremonies: "In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure." (Heb. 10:6) They were not what He intended should take away sin, only types of it; therefore He could remove them out of the way, but could never remove His Christ. In Christ all His will was to be fulfilled. The temple and all its services could come to an end, being nothing in themselves. In them there was a remembrance made of sin every year; they could never take it away. But "in that day" when Jesus Christ came and offered Himself without spot to God, sin was taken away, and could no more be remembered every year. Therefore the shadows must flee away; the sin was removed once for all. In that peculiar day, when sin was actually removed from His people in the sight of God, should this song be sung: "We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks."
Jerusalem was strong of old, but not sufficient to keep her enemies always out. Her stronghold was overcome at different times, and her adversaries entered in. But here is another, stronger city of God's people, where no adversary can enter, which cannot be overcome. She is sufficiently strong for all her foes, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Why? Salvation is her walls and bulwarks. All that belongs to the covenant of grace is her safety, and dwells in Jesus Christ. He fulfilled her salvation, accomplished the whole work, removed the sin which was imputed to Him as the Surety of the covenant, and presents Himself to His people thus: "I am thy salvation."
We have the character of the people to whom the city belongs: "Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation, which keepeth the truth, may enter in." It is a lie that makes the world what it is, and makes men what they are. It is truth that makes God what He is and exercise endurance towards His people. He is faithful. It is truth put into your heart that makes hope rise in your soul in Him. It is truth that binds friends together and binds the children of God together. Truth and lies are established at two opposite points. The devil was a liar from the beginning; and Jesus Christ says, "I am the truth."
One or the other will show itself in your actions. What made the Pharisee thank God he was not as other men are? A lie. What made him plead his own goodness? A lie. The Word says, "He fashioneth all their hearts alike." "There is none that doeth good; no, not one." What made the publican smite upon his breast and cry, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" Truth brought out the confession of his sin. In all your confessions, it is truth brings you to the feet of the Lord. If you have the love of the truth in your heart, every promise in the Bible, in the guidance of the Spirit, makes an entrance for you into the city; it opens the gates to you. The righteous nation, that keepeth the truth, is to enter in.
Another mark is given us of these people: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee." Our thoughts are wandering things; but in some things we do not wander. We do not wander between a whole Saviour and a part Saviour; or between His blood being sufficient to take away sin and a something to be added of our own. Our minds are stayed on Him alone for salvation. We feel this,--none but Jesus can save us, and He can. There is perfect peace in our minds on that subject; we are fixed in that truth without wavering; and I would say, "Trust ye in the Lord for ever; for there is safety there."
Let us now look more closely at this blessed Person, the Lord JEHOVAH. This Name is applicable to none but God--not to the humanity only of Jesus Christ. It means, as it is expressed by the apostle, "Which is, and which was, and which is to come;" (Rev. 1:8) that is, unchangeability and eternity. In that place and others it is given expressly to Jesus Christ. "Which was" in His love before all worlds; for "God is love." "Which was" when the covenant of grace was made, before He made the worlds. If we look at Him and what He came into this world to do, is it to be compared with any thing on earth besides? You cannot see any thing of Him and not feel His drawing, the drawing of His loving kindness. Have we followed after Him through persecution? What is it to His following after us in our low estate? Do we give to the poor? Can it be compared with His becoming poor for our sakes, to give His riches into our poverty? Do we suffer much for our sins? Can it be compared with His sufferings, when He bore our stripes, and was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief? "With His stripes we are healed." When we see them by faith, we believe it. So it is said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Do you feel His grace draws your soul, and makes you say, "None but Christ?"
When you see Him, you see in Him that God is love and changes not; for He is God. What He was He is; His Word and Name cannot change. Whatever you have seen Him to be, He is still the same and shall be; though you see it not. It is you that are changed. Have you felt the drawings of His love? It is because He loved you from everlasting. He says, "Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) If so, I can tell you that every dispensation, every crooked thing, comes from that love to you, and will bring you to the place where you want to go; though you would have gone a thousand miles to avoid it, rather than go into it. His love is in it, and the right way is in it, to lead you to a city of habitation. By His Name Jehovah, the Lord says, "I am what I was to you, all through." It is promised: "The Lord shall guide thee continually." This great blessing is His people's; they have a Guide; they are guided through all their perplexities. "I will guide thee with Mine eye." In guiding them He shows them what He is to them, and can do. He leads the blind by a way they knew not, and always by the right way to the end. He hems them in it, and holds them fast. His eye is over them; His wisdom is directing them. Then judge nothing before the time. Some of His people have refused to go, and kicked, and rebelled; yet He has guided them. Wait till the end; it is not time to judge while the things are working. There is not one affection, not one cross, nor temptation, but it leads the right way.
"I am thy God," is enough to draw His people; they are not driven by force. "Fear not; I am with thee," enabled Jacob to go down into Egypt. He rested in His Name; because He changes not, and He has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Here we are exhorted to trust in the Lord for ever. There is faith in Him in the hearts of His living children, and there is unbelief. The two must fight together. There is love to Jesus Christ before all; and there is an adversary to Him, sin. These two combatants fight, and one prevails against the other, sin against grace, as Amalek against Israel when Moses' hands hung down. It may appear that the adversary gets the best; and all is over. But who is to have the victory is settled in God's account; and it is won already. It has only to be given to every child of God; and it is given in a twinkling. "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." We have not got to fight it out at last, when death draws near, in our old age. He has led captivity captive. Captivity is where captives are shut up; and that God has taken from our adversary, and the captives too, and set them free. Then there is no prison, no place to put us into captivity. Our bodies can be imprisoned, but not our spirits; as it was with Paul and Silas. In any circumstance, there is no captivity that can hold us. The grace of God will make us more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
There is a glass where you may see your beauty. When you look into it by faith, you do not see your own wrinkles and grey hairs; but the features of Jesus Christ drawn there, and you are changed into the same image. That is what faith does. "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18) If you have any beauty, it is a reflection from Him; any godliness, it is His grace, not yours. That made Paul say, "By the grace of God I am what I am." In looking into the glass, he saw the grace of God, not his own. There we read these words: "Without spot or wrinkle or any such thing." That is the grace of Jesus Christ; and He will bring His people to it when they see Him as He is.
In Him is "everlasting strength." The margin reads, "The Rock of Ages." This term, the Rock of Ages, has become very famous among the children of God. The reason is because of what it imports. God has founded Zion upon this Rock, and promised the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. He is the living God; and all that is joined to Him is living. The building upon this Rock is all of lively stones, and the provision made for them is living provision. Let us see how the Lord builds this strong city, His everlasting love has bound every stone to Himself from everlasting, given them an eternal union with Himself; and He unites them actually to His Word and truth by implanting faith within them. Faith is the hand that grasps the word of their salvation, and causes them to anchor in Him alone. It brings them to found all their hope of salvation upon the Rock of Ages, and so to worship Him. To worship Him is to reverence Him, to acknowledge what He is. A doer of the Word is one that acknowledges God in all his actions. If there is the spirit of worshipping God in different persons, it will bind them together, though one or another may be the veriest beggar. It will build them up together as the temple of the Lord, and make them unite at His feet. This is what no form will do; you may try it, but it will not unite the people of God.
Every living stone lives on the provision God has made in the gospel, living food. "I am the Bread of life." There is no hope of coming out of any of your troubles, but Jesus Christ is that hope. No way out, but He is that way. No salvation in them, but He is that salvation. No possible relief from them, from the prison where you are shut up, or from death and hell at last, but He is that relief. "I am the Hope of Israel." "I am thy salvation." Look where you will, there is none but in the Rock of Ages, that was from eternity. He is the hope of a sinner, sufficient to take away all his sins, and bring him to glory notwithstanding his sins.
There is safety on this Rock in the midst of every tempest. God has provided what is necessary for a rough way, and will not bring you by a smooth one. He is Lord of all the fires and waters you go through, guides you by His wisdom into and through them all, and is equal to all dangers; for He is "everlasting strength." His children feel their weakness, their poverty of spirit, and unbelief. He is sufficient for all that, to bring them to heaven notwithstanding that. Hear what God says of the very poorest and weakest: "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." It is for Him to see they have it. He is sufficient to fulfill all His Word. You will never know the fullness of that promise until you get there; you never know the blessing of having a union with Jesus Christ till then. But you may know enough to loosen you from both the cares and the vanities of this world, and make you sit loosely to things below. You who know what poverty of spirit is, you will prove in Him is everlasting strength, sufficient for all your deformities. The prophet says, "Trust ye in Him."
The Lord is not a friend, like man, to whom you must not go if you are in need. Many men are friends no longer then. He brings you into places where you feel your need of Him, and have to test Him. Your destitution is a loud cry in His heart. Many of His people know what it is to need a God in providence and in grace; and He will be a Friend in need. Those who have tested Him the most know Him the best. If you have anything wrong or crooked, He will have you lay it before Him. He says, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord; and He shall sustain thee." "Take no thought for the morrow;" that is, no anxious thought; for the Lord forestalls your need, and makes provision. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you." Two different words are here used in the original for care; one to express the anxious care of a person who knows not what to do to help himself and is unable to form a judgment; the other the gracious care of a parent, who has the means and will provide. He has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." All His sparing mercies from day to day, all His kindness in providence and grace, spring from His unchangeable, everlasting love. Because He is God, "therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6)
There is nothing wrong in asking the Lord for anything with this provision: "Thy will be done." And to ask for His salvation is asking according to His will; for He says, "Ask; and it shall be given you." "Knock; and it shall be opened unto you." It is according to His will to pray, "Lord, direct me in this thing;" for He has promised to do so: "I will guide thee with Mine eye." To ask for the remission of sins in His blood is according to His will; for it was shed for sin. Those sins that grieved Jesus Christ grieve His children. There is a quiet grief in their souls for sin; yet His blood has washed them whiter than snow. We cannot tell what it is in this world to be without sin, "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing;" but we have an earnest by faith that so it shall be.
Then "trust ye in the Lord for ever"--that is, at all times, in your dark places, in your sicknesses, wherever you are--to bring you to heaven; because He is God. He must overcome; God must be Conqueror. Do you think more of the fire and water than of Him? Do you think more of your foes than of Him who is salvation? Which do you think will conquer? Is your faith fixed here:
Does it lead you to cry,
"Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee?"
Then nothing will prevail against you. None ever failed whose hope was founded there. "For in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength."