GRACE TRUTH MINISTRIES
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A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

by MATTHEW WELLAND

Preached at Jireh Chapel Lewes, On Sunday Morning, February 24th, 1895

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“Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of Thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for Thy name’s sake; (For they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy strong hand, and of Thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee for.” (1 Kings 8:41-43)

PART of the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple which he had built. Being a man of God, he was a man of prayer; and there is evidently no hesitation in anything he asked the Lord for, not for himself only, not for the House of Israel only, but for all that might go there to seek the face of the Lord. It is said in the next chapter, “And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all, Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, that the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared unto him at Gibeon. And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before Me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put My name there for ever; and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually.” So we may safely conclude that the prayer of Solomon was heard in after years; and in a Gospel sense it is heard and answered to this day. He had asked the Lord for many blessings, and the Lord was pleased with him and his prayer; because no doubt he had an eye to the Saviour: the great intercessor between God and man.

In our text we will attempt to notice the few following things:-

In the first place, Solomon prayed for a stranger (not a Jew, not one of the children of Israel).

In the second place, the stranger had heard in his own country something to induce him to go to Jerusalem, and seek the Lord.

Thirdly, we find this stranger going to Jerusalem; and his employment there.

Lastly, the request of Solomon, which God promised to give him: “Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee for:” Grant him all he needs, answer all his prayers, and make him happy in Thyself.

First—the Stranger. As the Lord is the teacher of those that pray, He endued the heart of Solomon with wisdom to pray for people of other nations. Therefore God foresaw that many would come who were strangers; would profess the same truths that the Jewish people professed, and would become proselytes to their religion. If we accept this statement, we are led to see that the Lord has a people amongst all nations, and that He knows them. All His people have been known by Him from eternal day. The time will come when those strangers shall worship the Lord.

“Yes, they shall come, ‘tis heaven’s decree,
They shall to Jesus bow;
It was this shall come conquered me,
And gives me comfort now.”

So there is no uncertainty about it. If we believe this, we see that God knew and foresaw what He would do for us, when we were strangers to ourselves and to Him. How tenderly He watched over us during the days of our unregeneracy. Why did not death overtake us? Why were we not carried to the grave before we knew the Lord? The Word of God will tell us why, because the Lord would have mercy upon us. It is said of Christ in the 72nd Psalm, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust.” (They shall fall prostrate at his feet.) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. These are God’s “shalls,” not ours. God said it should be so. “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him. For He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also and him that hath no helper.” God said they should come from the wilderness and other parts to worship Him, to seek His face, and to serve Him. Again, the man of God, in the 87th Psalm, said, “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O City of God. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know Me: behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Ethiopia;” (Black people) “this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her, and the highest himself shall establish her.” If we come down to the days of the prophet Isaiah, there we read in the 56th chapter: “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, everyone that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them (sons of the stranger) will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” We read again, in the New Testament (Acts 2), that on the day of Pentecost, the multitude from many nations said amongst themselves: How is it those people are all Galileans and yet preach to people of various nations, languages and dialects, as opposite as the poles? “Parthians and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and Proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” See how God fulfilled His Word of promise, that many should be gathered from other nations. It sets forth to us that when the Gospel comes to a sinner’s heart he is a stranger to himself and God. He does not believe there is any danger attending his footsteps; he does not believe in God; he has not been brought to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is a stranger, and not one of the Children of Israel. Often when first we are taught to fear the Lord, we imagine we are just that character—”I know nothing about religion; I do not know the Lord; I do not know Jesus Christ; I feel like a stranger.” Perhaps there is someone here this morning, who may have attended this place for years and feel they are still that character. They are saying, “Oh, if I knew the Lord; if I knew I was one of the children of God; but I have sinned, I have gone astray like a lost sheep. I can look upon the people of God and know that they are safe and right; but as for me, I fear I shall never know the Lord.” Does it trouble us? Is it a cause of anxiety? Have we prayed the Lord to put us among His children? “And other sheep” (said the Saviour) “I have which are not of this fold” (that is of the Jewish fold). “Then also I must bring, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd. They shall hear My voice.” How tenderly the Lord speaks of us in the days of our unregeneracy, and when, by His Spirit, we are taught to seek His face. Art thou an Israelite, my friend? Art thou a child of God? Or art thou a stranger? You have most strange ideas and thoughts about yourself that were never known before. You think you must be lost, because you are not a Christian. You think now and feel that God would be just in your condemnation. You did not think so at one time. You have these strange feelings and desires after God; but as soon as these desires spring up in the heart, the enemy is there, ready to subdue them and cut them off. He may cut them off as often as God permits him; but they will spring up again. These are just the characters set before us in our text. We may not wonder that some go from one place of worship to another, hoping to find the Saviour. But the God of Israel the Saviour hideth Himself. Do not suppose that I stand here to deceive any. Heaven forbid! I stand here to encourage any to hope they are the Lord’s. Lord, keep me honest to myself and people! Have we sought His face? When strangers we cannot find the Saviour. Seeking often but seeking in vain. We read in the Gospel, “Everyone that seeketh findeth,” and you seek and do not find, and you cannot understand it. The Lord is showing you that all your goodness is worth nothing in a way of merit; that your best obedience is not worth a straw. You have thought perhaps you would discontinue hearing the truth and reading the Word of God, and you would go out into the world and lose it all; but if you were permitted to go and to join with the world, it would not ease, comfort, or satisfy your soul. It might give you carnal pleasure, but since you have been brought to feel your state as a stranger you would come back broken hearted and sorrowful. “Seek ye Me and ye shall live, saith the Lord. Let the wicked forsake his way (this stranger has done so) and the unrighteous man his thoughts (and he has forsaken them) and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” There is encouragement for you!

Secondly, this stranger had heard something that induced him to seek the Lord God of Israel. Where do we find the name of the Lord? My name is in Him. GOD’S name is in our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Lord of grace, mercy, and favor. When the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon (1 Kings 10) she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it; and behold the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.” She had heard of Solomon, and she came to prove him with hard questions, to see if he was as wise as the reports stated, but she found the report fell far short of what he was. So the poor sinner says of the name of Christ, O what a great name, for I hear and read in the Bible that He is a Saviour and a great one; how great His person! “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” Where, then, is the house you will build me? The name of CHRIST is sweet to every believer. It is dear to the heart of every angel in heaven, the myriads that stand before the throne of God. Is it a dear name to us? This stranger heard of the great name of Christ, that He bad wrought out a great salvation, by which the lost were saved, by which the worst of men and women are brought to seek the Lord. Let us never think of Christ as a little Saviour, but think of His great love wherewith He loved us! Oh, how great! There is nothing upon earth can fully set it forth! Bring all the oceans, lakes, and rivers and empty them into one, whilst there might be thousands of miles of water, this would not equal the love of Christ! His love was so great, that He would give Himself to bleed and die that you and I might live. The stranger heard of this. It seemed to take hold of his heart. CHRIST and His love so great as that, and does He give people to know that He loves them! Oh, yes! God has said in the Bible that you shall know this too. “We love Him because He first loved us.” “ Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3) What an exhibition of His love in His sufferings and death on Calvary. Hear His piercing cries and groans in Gethsemane! See Him stand in Pilate’s hail condemned, and yet had never sinned! See the scorn poured upon Him, more than was ever poured upon any person there before. You never read of anyone who was tried by the Jewish Sanhedrin, but that some crime was brought against them and often proved. You never heard of anyone else being spat upon but Christ! No He submitted even to that. We do not read of others being scourged there, that belonged to the Saviour, and to His great love; wherewith He loved sinners. Oh, what great love was this! You never heard of anyone else buffeted there as He was! You have never read of another whose clothes were taken away, and an old garment put upon them, but Christ only! You never read of another who stood there with a crown of thorns, with blood trickling down His temples: only the Saviour. And all this from His great love wherewith He loved us. Oh, my fellow Christians, would that we could love Him more, and bear trials more patiently. Oh, His great love! This stranger, seeking His face has heard of all this love, and he will never rest until he is brought to enjoy it. What great love is the love of God to man—unbounded, unsearchable, unparalleled love! There is nothing in heaven or on earth to be compared to His great name. If you and I have an interest in Him, we shall feel His name is great, and esteem Him for His greatness, His mercy and love. How great is His mercy. Oh, the mercy of God in sending Christ; the mercy of Christ in engaging to die for us, and in pardoning the guilty! Thousands have gone to the Lord by prayer and risen from the mercy seat with a sense of pardon through the everlasting mercy of God. Says someone, Can He have mercy on me? TRY HIM, my friend, TRY HIM, as this stranger did. It is in the trial of His love we find peace and heavenly comfort. MERCY is the name of CHRIST. “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Christ ate with publicans and sinners, because of His great mercy in pardoning the guilty, in blessing them with all they stand in need of. Joseph Hart said:

“I looked for hell—He brought me heaven.”

What a beautiful change! Mercy is one of the sweetest themes known in the Church of God. It is all through the mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We bless Him that it is so great, that it is everlasting mercy; and if we have once enjoyed it, it is ours for ever; and I want to impress upon my own mind and yours, that having tasted He is gracious He will be always gracious to us. From losing sight of this arises our despondency and trouble. What a friend Jesus has been to His Church and people in all ages! Jesus will never fail us.

“To trust Him endeavour,
The work is His own.
He makes the believer,
And gives him his crown.”

Christ is a friend that loveth at all times; in prosperity, and in adversity, in light and in, darkness, in health and in sickness. Here, or wherever we may travel He will be our friend, and we may always trust Him. Thousands have done so and have always proved Him a faithful friend, one that sticketh closer than a brother. The Church said, when she had been speaking of His beauties and excellencies (her heart was full of love to Christ), "This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” May God’s people be as bold as the Church was then, and just speak of Him as their own friend; and the doubting ones dare not say but that He has been a friend to them, appearing for them in trouble, and supporting them when cast down. They have found, by praying and calling upon Him, that He in a marvelous way worked for them. We think the Lord will appear in this way, or that way, but He takes His own way; sometimes in the whirlwind or storm, He will not submit Himself to us; He never said in the Scripture that He would, He promises to answer prayer, but not in our supposed way. Then, when deliverance comes, we say, how mysterious and marvelous, as one who said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not,” and we really do not, but it is ours to leave it with Him. He is a great friend. Ask the Church of God from the 1st or 2nd Chapter of Genesis, as you read their history down to the end, when the Scriptures were closed. Ask our fathers in their writings, if the Lord had not always befriended them, and methinks the very heavens would resound, Yes! Yes! He was always our friend, He never disappointed us, and it is through His friendship we are here at home in glory. Oh, Christian, His great name is known upon earth and in heaven, known everywhere. Depend upon it, if we want mercy and ask Him, He will be merciful; if we desire an interest in His love, He will shed abroad His love in the heart by the Holy Ghost given us; till we shall sing with John in the Isle of Patmos, Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:5,6)

Christ’s strength is mentioned in the text, as it is said, “They shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy strong hand, and of Thy stretched out arm.” Now, if His arm is stretched out He is always ready to receive and bless. Just as it was with Ahasuerus and Esther, when the golden scepter was held forth to her. “Give me the world,” says the worldling, “that is all I want;” “Give me Christ,” said this stranger, that is all I want. If I can find Him as my friend, all will be well.” The stranger cometh from a country of darkness and sinfulness, condemnation and death, and through grace finds his way out of it.

Thirdly, the report this stranger had heard of the Lord’s greatness and goodness induced him to go to Jerusalem. If the Lord took hold of the most worldly person today, they would find He would bring them to His feet. The employment of this stranger was prayer. He had heard the wonderful report that God answered prayer, and felt his need of mercy and help. Sometimes the Lord makes use of providential trials to bring His people to His feet. There is a group standing around the grave of a loved mother or father. They stand there weeping. Some perhaps may soon dry their tears; they may mention the names of the departed occasionally, but not very often; but there is one that is led to think within himself, “Where will my soul be, when my body is laid in the grave!“ and he is led to seek the Lord; to pray for mercy, grace, and salvation: he is a changed man, a Christian man. Though he is a stranger in himself, yet the Lord is teaching him that he is lost, ruined, and undone, and will teach him too His lovingkindness and tender mercy. How soon tears dry up; we go out into the world and think no more about it. Seldom we hear the names of departed friends mentioned; we have not exactly forgotten them, but how seldom we speak of them. Many that we have lost (lost to us but safe in glory,) how seldom we hear their names mentioned. Soon forgotten; but the Lord said, “O! Israel thou shalt not be forgotten of Me.” This person has come to pray to the Lord. It does not say anything about Churchman or Methodist, but he is a praying man. He has come to ask the Lord for many blessings. I daresay he asked Him if He would receive him and make him His child. He is asking the Lord to bless him and all that belongs to him, and O sweet privilege! though we may remove from each other, we can always meet in prayer—we can always come to the throne of grace; and how near we feel to our friends, when the Lord gives us a spirit of prayer. There may be thousands of miles between us, and yet we are one there; and we hope to remember him who is about to leave us, when he is far away; that God may bless him, prosper him, do him good, give him to know his interest in the love of Christ, and that we may at last meet before the throne of God, join the everlasting song and crown Him Lord of all! Meet your parents at the mercy seat and call upon God to bless them and us too.

Lastly, Solomon’s request, “Hear thou in heaven Thy dwelling place.” God dwelling in heaven hears the feeblest prayer that escapes from the hearts and lips of everyone, though such strangers and so unlike the people of God.” Hear thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee for.” What a wonderful text, is it not? Lord, give him all his heart’s desire, take care of him, bless him, prosper him, do all that he calleth to Thee for! May we be enabled to ask largely at the Lord’s hand: to pray for ourselves, to pray for each other, to remember each other at the throne of grace, and God will give us all we call upon Him for. May we believe this, and find Him a gracious God, Protector, Friend, Brother and all we need. We shall still call upon Him for mercy and blessings; and He will give us all we ask at His hands. We feel we can but bless and praise His holy name; till prayer shall be turned to praise in the other world, where we will meet to bless and praise Him for ever and ever Amen.

"Strangers and foreigners we stood,
Far off—a rebel race,
But JESUS brought us nigh by blood,
And made us free by grace.
Now introduced by Zion’s king
To his own household; saints
Enjoy your privileges and sing,
Till songs shall drown complaints.
No more estranged, far off, unknown,
But organized in Love,
Wait, look, and long to gain the throne,
And dwell with CHRIST above."

Joseph Irons



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