"God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early." (Psalm 46:5)
WHEN, by the power of pure, sovereign, unbought, uninfluenced grace we are lifted out of the regions of sin, death, the curse, and legal bondage, into the regions of salvation, life, blessing and Gospel liberty, there to see our standing and security, it is a blessed privilege to survey the various covenant promises in God's most Holy Word, and to experience their application to our hearts by the gracious power of God the Holy Ghost. It is thus we know that whatever may happen to us, for weal or for woe, nothing can separate us from His love, alienate us from His family, drag us from His loved embrace, or sever us from the affections of His heart. It is a glorious privilege to be led by the King into His kingly-palace home, to be carried by Him into the chambers of sovereign mercy, into the archives of sovereign love, the spot where He makes known His sweet Gospel secrets, and bestows the rich sense of undisturbed security in His firm and unbending decrees; and not only in His eternal purpose, but in the blessed experience of His love. The knowledge of these glorious verities and new covenant promises has nerved and cheered the hearts of God's children in many a trying hour.
It is blessed indeed when the melting season comes, after realizing the keen frosts of temptation and the chilling winds of adversity in which is seen an end of all perfection, to be led into the experimental possession of the glorious promises of this Psalm. Then our hearts can sing:--"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts." (Jer. 15:16) Yes, it is blessed to know that in the reception of God's precious truth (and this is a passive reception, even as the earth receives the rain which falls upon it), to know beyond the shadow of a doubt, by the infallible teaching of God the Holy Ghost, that grace and glory are ours; ours by covenant right and title; ours by covenant ties; ours by the unalterable word of JEHOVAH; and if that word is not sufficient to chase away our doubts, our fears, and our ofttimes accursed indifference, He will bring home His promise, ay, His exceeding great and precious promises, and not His promises alone, but He will condescend to confirm them by an oath. If a man uses an oath to confirm what he says, that man must have some hesitancy in respect to the honor of his word. "Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." (Matt. 5:37) JEHOVAH not only comes down when His "Yea;" but, when the devil tempts, taunts, and torments, with his "Nay," and would drag down the child of God into failure, defeat, and ruin, JEHOVAH is ready to save and nigh at hand to bless. He confirms every word He has given; every promise is confirmed by His immutable oath:--"Because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself." (Heb. 6:13) Oh, what marvelous condescension! The great and glorious JEHOVAH calling to His tried ones:--"If I accomplish not every purpose of covenant love to thee, may I, the eternal JEHOVAH, cease to exist!" So God dealt with Abraham; Abraham who, with all his faith, was ofttimes faithless; and if this was the case with Abraham, who represented the whole election of grace from his day down to the end of time, it must be so in our experience who are following in his steps. We, who know something of temptation and tribulation, darkness and desertion, if we understand the matter rightly, need not fear when we are brought into the depths of trouble; and yet we need; for there is a need-be for every stroke, every trial, every trouble that comes over a child of God. In each of them he will be brought to see a door opened to him for the inflowings of JEHOVAH'S grace, and for the aboundings of the sweet consolations of the "Brother born for adversity."
Peter understood something of this when he wrote to the elect strangers:--"If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." Manifold temptations! What does he mean by "manifold?" Why, see! In a drapery establishment we have placed before us a piece of cloth (no matter what the material) to be dealt out to us; it must be unfolded. Its "many folds" must appear. It is so in the temptations which are in store for the elect, redeemed, and regenerate family of God: they shall see, know, and feel them, and acknowledge that they are all for the glory of God the Father, the exaltation of His Christ, the honor of His Spirit, the good of His people, the thwarting of the devil, filling all hell with confusion, and flooding heaven with ceaseless praise. "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:7) What appearing? The Millenarians are looking forward, and many are losing themselves amid the dreamy regions of vain speculation; but the living child of God glories in present-tense blessings, and loves to behold the loved One of his heart appear in the full blaze of Gospel glory. See how blessedly this is unfolded by the Holy Ghost in our text:--"God is in the midst of her;" JEHOVAH in the midst of His people, and His people in the midst of Him.
Our Help in sovereign election before all worlds;
Our Help in redemption on Calvary's bloody tree;
Our Help in regeneration at the set time of favor;
Our Help throughout our earthly pilgrimage;
Our Help to all eternity--
"O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure."
O what a glorious Home! JEHOVAH our Help, our Hope, our Harbor, our Home! A Home for weary pilgrims who experience most keenly their outcast state away from felt union to Him. I have been much interested of late in reading the judgments which should come upon the enemies of God and His people. See! "Moab is My washpot." (Ps. 60:8; 108:9) God's washpot! A marvelous and strange declaration, yet glorious truth beaming forth therefrom. How is Moab God's washpot? Paul comes to our relief and informs us that God's elect are accounted the offscouring of all things; yet God will teach Moab that the filth is his, while His elect ones appear before Him without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Wherever God's Israel are found in this present evil world, there God's washpot must be. Listen! "Let Mine outcasts dwell with thee, Moab." (Isa. 16:4) Moab, a cradle, a couch, a covert, a washpot for the people of JEHOVAH'S choice, and all secured by sovereign decree. Is it not blessed to know that in the territory of our soul's worst enemies we have peace and provision prepared to our hands and heart by the Ruler of the nations? He orders and inclines the unruly wills and affections, the dispositions and movements of the enemies of His Zion, that they may prove to be her best friends, so far as things temporal are concerned. This all flows from union with Christ, identity with Deity, oneness with our incarnate God.
I well remember, long years ago, when a lad, sitting in old St. Jude's, Manchester. The pulpit was occupied by Daniel Foley, who was afterward Regius Professor of Irish in the Dublin University. His text was:--"His name shall be called Emmanuel; which, being interpreted, is, God with us." (Matt. 1:23) "But," said Dan, "interpreted? We want the Interpreter here! The One of a thousand! He who has the eloquent speech, whose lips are full of grace. Interpreted? Yes, but not into, or from, Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. No! A reprobate Pilate could do all that. The interpretation we desire is in the language of Canaan, the language of the redeemed sinner's need. My need, and thy need, poor sinner, and blessed be God, by Him I find all my needs supplied, 'according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.' God in the pulpit, God in the pew! Not in that wretched bit of paste which the Papists manufacture, worship, and eat." You will see from this how he hated the blasphemous idolatries of Popery, ay, hated the very smell of it, and so do I.
But what a blessed privilege to realize a present God! present not only in the time of trouble, in the day of adversity; but also in the day of prosperity. My heart has ofttimes thrilled as those words of England's Litany have dropped with sweetness upon my ear:--"In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth." Ah, that is it, by dear friends, our delivering God present, not only in the hours of darkness, trial, and temptation, but in the sunshine of prosperity when sweet peace smiles upon us, and not a ruffle is experienced in the conscience. An ever-present God is the glory of Zion:--"God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved." Her sons and daughters as refuges of hope, may be chased by the devil, chased by the curse of a broken law, chased by a frowning world, chased by the enmity of their own evil nature, by their foolish imaginations and carnal conclusions opposed to JEHOVAH'S gracious purposes and unbending decrees, yet they fly to the Refuge, and when through weakness and weariness they cannot fly, their cry reaches His ears and heart, "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." (Ps. 61:2) This is the Rock of eternal ages which still rears its head unmoved above all the storms of sin, corruption and condemnation. In it, in Him, the elect of God safely abide, and shall securely shelter until the tyranny of sin and Satan is for ever overpast, when our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, have wrought for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Ah!
"Rage as ye will, O ye portals of hell!
Safe in the Rock do the ransomed ones dwell."
"Therefore will not we fear though the earth be removed." When we are blessed with the experimental realization of God in our midst, we cannot fear. Fear at such a time is an utter impossibility. Why? Because of the length or the strength of my faith? Oh, no! If such were the case, I should be the greatest coward in creation. It is because He is true to His covenant engagements, and to His right-royal and precious promises. He is with me a very present Help"--"Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed." What are we to understand by the earth being removed? Isaiah in his fiftieth chapter and second and third verses, with Habakkuk 3:16-18, let us into the secret. When all earth's resources fail, when creature comforts are gone, when fond hopes perish in bitter disappointment, when false friends are unmasked, and true friends are powerless to assist: everything under the sun is vanity and vexation of spirit, all human help recedes from view, the very ground cut from under my feet, then will I not fear; ay, and "though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." What mountains? Our mountains of help, comfort, enjoyment, pleasure, in which we have boasted and rejoiced, and which we fondly fancied stood strong, yet in a moment all hurled into a sea of disappointment and perplexity. Yet His presence is salvation, and His power and preciousness known and felt give a joy and peace in believing, unspeakable and Divine.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God." (Ps. 46:4) Streams of love, life, blood, and salvation gladden the hearts of all true Zionites. "The tabernacles of the Most High." Marvelous yet blessed expression! What are these tabernacles? See! "For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor. 5:1) But here we may ask Paul a question. Does not David speak of "the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High?" Paul answers, "What, know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19) The body, "our earthly house of this tabernacle," the abode of our indwelling God and Friend, in which the rich, unfailing streams of unmerited, unbought grace must flow.
"God is in the midst of her." Whatever be the state or condition of God's children here, we have His unalterable testimony, and in His own set time of favor it must be sealed home to the heart by the power of God the Holy Ghost. What are we to understand by "her?" "Her" refers to God's Zion, the bride, the Lamb's wife, who, during her wanderings in these wilderness wilds, in conscious weakness, leans upon the arm of her Beloved. But sometimes His sensible presence and support are withdrawn, when trouble and surprise, weakness and anxiety are hers: she starts at the sigh of every passing wind, groans under the weight of temptation, and travels much by night. She longs for the company of her Supporter, and her anxious sigh is oft wafted heavenward and homeward:--"Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?" This is the one described in Solomon's Song, that blessed Book in which my soul would always live if God would thus indulge me; but He does not, and through the wastes and wilds of Ecclesiastes I must wander and learn that everything under the sun, out of Christ, is vanity and vexation of spirit, and through this to the rich realization of the beauty, bounty, and blessedness of the Bridegroom of my heart, as revealed in the Song of Solomon.
"God is in the midst of her." There are many precious declarations in God's blessed Word concerning His presence with His people. See Deut. 23:14,--"For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy; that He see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee." Well, blessed be God, our Emmanuel, having met every condition and requirement of law and justice, clothed and sheltered His own in His perfect and spotless righteousness, washed them from every stain of sin and pollution in His most precious blood, and graced them with the holiness of Himself and of His blessed Spirit, as He walks in their midst He beholds no iniquity, He sees no unclean thing: they appear holy and without blame before Him. "The King's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold." (Ps. 45:13) Oh, how blessed to know that He who is the righteousness of His bride is her holiness too!
"The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save." (Zeph. 3:17) Mark! "He will," not simply He has--"He will save" out of every trouble, every perplexity, every conflict, emergency, and extremity, and prove to thee what a glorious, covenant, faithful God He is. "He will rest in His love;" or, as we read in the margin, "He will be silent in His love." How will He be silent in His love? Listen! It was our lot last Sunday morning to dwell upon John 8:32. We then noticed some who were not silent: they were clamorous in their hatred against the sovereign grace of God. This caused them to drag into the presence of the Friend of sinners a poor fallen woman. They would have her stoned; but He would have her saved. He stooped and wrote on the ground. What did He write? The seventh commandment? No! But He wrote something which accused and condemned those "pious, consistent" hypocrites in their own conscience, and off they sneaked from the presence of sovereign and infinite excellency. The sigh and the cry of Zion's mourners at such a time is, "Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation, according to Thy Word, so shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me." (Ps. 119:41,42) Jesus rose and said to the woman, "Where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She saith, No man, Lord." Now mark! He was silent in His love! "And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Not a reproving word from His grace-filled lips to the bride of His heart. He looks with fond affection upon the travail of His soul. Tell me, will the mother manifest a spirit of hatred and vindictiveness because of the wail of her helpless infant? Will she upbraid and reproach? Nay! She will be silent in her love, yet not silent to soothe, nor silent for her little one before the throne, that it may be an heir with her of the grace of life, and a sharer in the covenant affections of her God. So it is with a precious Christ, as He sees His weaklings in their sins, sorrows, and necessities, He does not upbraid them. No! It is--"Thomas! Mary! John! Ann! thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee; all cast into the deep sea of eternal oblivion, cast behind My back, out of My sight for ever."
"God is in the midst of her." "Her!" The Church, loved and elect before all worlds: the Church, fallen in the world, sought, found, recovered, lifted up in the arms of sovereign mercy. Ah! what a mercy to be lifted up experimentally out of my corruption, deadness, darkness, and desertion, to be washed in precious, atoning blood, clothed in the spotless and impeccable righteousness of my God and Saviour, fed with heavenly provision, and blest with the possession of a life which can never die, and which is known by groans Godward, hopes heavenward, and sighs Zionward. When the veil of ignorance is drawn aside, and we are favored by the power and indwelling of God the Holy Ghost with a view of the verities of the everlasting covenant, then we behold our gracious Emmanuel taking to His home and to His heart a countless number of elect ones. In covenant His delights were with the Father and with them, and through their varied experiences His gracious promise holds good:--"I am with you, saith the Lord." See how blessedly He cheers the heart of His twos and threes as they are scattered here and there in the wilderness:--"Where two or three are gathered together in My name!" (Matt. 18:20) Do notice, that "are gathered." That is intensely passive, for wherever there are any to be gathered there must be a Gatherer, and in this dispensation of grace, the Gatherer is the Holy Ghost. Mark! He says not, Where two or three are gathered I will be; but "I AM." He speaks in all the glory of His Godhead, and the loving sympathy of His manhood, "I AM," God our Refuge. There I am waiting to receive you, and manifest Myself unto you. It is a blessed privilege to know and sing:--
"No sinner can be beforehand with Thee,
Thy grace is almighty, preventing, and free."
Blessed are all they that wait for Him, but thrice blessed are they who find Him waiting for them. Yes, we wait for Him, for His gracious manifestations, for the sweet revelations of His love, blood, and bounty; but He is ever waiting to open up the treasures of His inexhaustible grace, and to bless us with the rich provisions of His table, and the sweet love of His heart.
"God is in the midst of her," not only collectively, but individually (see Deut. 32:12). Benjamin dwells in God's heart, and God dwells in the heart of Benjamin. Nothing but a precious Christ formed in the heart the Hope of glory will truly satisfy a living soul. We may have a clear insight into the doctrines of grace, and be able to comprehend marvelous mysteries; but without Christ in my midst, Christ my life, Christ in my affections, all must end in disappointment, dissatisfaction, death, and damnation. Still further, "God is in the midst of her," not only for her comfort and consolation, but for the manifestation of the glory of Israel's covenant God. See how this was exemplified when "He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: where they crucified Him, and two thieves with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." (John 19:17,18) That was a dreary midst, the midst of sin-imputed, and reproach; the midst of wrath and condemnation, the midst of darkness and desertion, the midst of that hell of confusion and consternation which we must have suffered but for the agony and bloody sweat, the cruel cross and passion, the dreadful death and burial, of our incarnate God. Jesus in the midst of my sin and shame, that He might be everlastingly endeared to my longing heart. That is a blessed hymn by Lyte:--
"Lord, I would stand with thoughtful eye
Beneath Thy fatal tree,
And see Thee bleed, and see Thee die,
And think, what love to me!
Dwell on the sight, my stony heart,
Till every pulse within
Shall into contrite sorrow start,
And hate the thought of sin."
You all know that very precious hymn of Hart's on the agony and bloody sweat endured by our ever-precious and adorable Emmanuel in Gethsemane, it was the sight and experience thus described which melted him down, and lifted him up to the heights of favor and sweet acceptance. Nothing but this can conquer and triumph over wretched, rebellious me. Sweet love-visits to Gethsemane and Calvary endear our most glorious Christ to our hearts.
"Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which, before the cross, I spend;
Life, and health, and peace possessing,
From the sinner's dying Friend.
Let me sit for ever viewing
Mercy's streams in streams of blood:
Precious drops! my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God."
The God, who, as Man, died for me in the midst of judgment and the wrath I so richly deserved, that Christ revealed to me and in me gives me a standing before and with my God from whence I can look death and hell in the face without amazement, and enjoy a peace of JEHOVAH'S own giving when storms of trouble and temptation rage around.
"God is in the midst of her," on resurrection ground. "Then the same day, at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst; and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19) Jesus stood in the midst! Locks, bolts, and bars are vain to keep out a precious Christ from the loved ones of His heart. Sin and the curse, and death and hell, may unite their force to separate the Head from the members, the Bridegroom from the bride; but He having made an end of sin for His own, having been made a curse for His people, having abolished death and rendered ineffectual all the designs of hell against His Church, where she is He must be, and where He is she must abide. Jesus in the midst breathes His own sweet Spirit of peace upon them, shows them His hands and His side once wounded for them, blesses them with the assurance that He is the very Christ of God their Saviour and their Friend. With such marvelous manifestations of His kindness and care, "they believed not for joy." Blessed, joyful unbelievers! Do you know what that means? It reminds me of a poor collier's wife who, when the Lord enabled me to set forth His precious Gospel from John 6:45, raised her hands and cried in an ecstasy of delight:--"Eh, mester! it's almost too good to be true!" Ah! such seasons are too blessed, too precious to last long. To know Him and the power of His resurrection is to experience a gracious lift above the world and away from our worldly, fleshly, and devilish surroundings. Does the lifting up of His countenance upon us fill our hearts with joy and peace in believing? See! the hidings of His face give trouble. (Ps. 30:7) But from the midst of His disciples He is gone! Where? "And He led them out as far as to Bethany: and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." (Luke 24:50,51) Mark well the place whither our blessed Master led His wondering disciples, "as far as to Bethany." The Papists would have it "as far as to Calvary." But, no! Away from the place of a skull and dead men's bones, away from the regions of condemnation and death. He leads them to resurrection and ascension ground. "He led them out as far as to Bethany: He lifted up His hands and blessed them." Blessed be God, I know what that means! "While He blessed them, He was parted from them, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." Have you ever in spirit been in the same spot? Look! He is gone! Where? To prepare a place for thee and me, that where He is, we may be also.
"God is in the midst of her." Yes, in the midst of the virgin throng, high in the heights of glory, the glorious God-Man stands. Sinners saved, washed from every stain and cleared from every charge, surround Him. Rahab looks on with fond delight, while not a lie stains the fair comeliness which He had put upon her. David is there, but nothing is seen or known of the "former things" of treachery, adultery, and murder. Deity sheds forth eternal glory through the exalted Man upon all the ingathered ones, and glorious sovereignty is displayed in the slain Lamb.
"Those dear tokens of His passion,
Still His dazzling body bears,
Endless cause of exultation
To His ransomed worshippers:
With what rapture
Gaze they on those glorious scars!"
He is the Lamb in the midst of the throne. Every eye and heart feasts with unwearying delight upon His glorious person. He lives and reigns n the exulting and rejoicing spirits who throng around Him, while the cry, the shout, the long, loud chorus ascends:--"Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb!"
"Hark! how the glorious hosts above,
Around the great JEHOVAH'S throne,
Enjoying His eternal love,
The author of their glory own;
Without a jarring note they sing,
Salvation to our God and King."
Is it not blessed to know that that same Jesus, the Lamb, the God, the God-Man, is our Hope and Consolation? He is with us in all places whither we are led or driven. It signifies not where we go, through the deep dark waters of temptation and trouble, even there He will fulfill His own promise: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned: neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour." (Isa. 43:2,3) O what mercy! what kindness and care! He knew that we should deal very treacherously, should be transgressors from the womb, should wander from Him like silly sheep and wayward children: and yet gave His gracious promise which as graciously He performs. "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns," and, if thorns are not sufficient, I will "make a wall," and, if a wall will not do, "I will allure thee, deliver thee, carry thee, and keep thee." Who can tell the blessedness of being upheld by the arms of omnipotence, hid in the hallow of the hand of eternal love, embraced in the bosom of unfaltering affection, and a place given in the heart of the eternal Three-in-One better than that of sons or of daughters!
God is in the midst of Zion, and Zion lives in the affections of her God. He is a wall of fire round about her, and the glory in the midst of her. Her sons and daughters shine resplendently in His glorious coronet.
"There David's shines, without a stain;
Uriah's blood shall ne'er be known;
For, like a millstone in the main,
Are all his black transgressions thrown."
Yes, blessed be God, He preserved David whithersoever he went.
"Rahab, the harlot, loved by Thee,
Shall never sink to Tophet's flame;
When Jesus hung upon the tree,
The Book of Life contained her name."
What magnanimous mercy! Though in herself an abandoned, lying harlot, yet, in Him free from all sin, her case in His loving hands, her name inscribed upon His heart, and her person secure in the midst of His glorious perfections.
What a favoured lot is thine!"
"She shall not be moved." Let sin, Satan, death, and hell combine and rush like a wild deluge over the child of God; let the floods of temptation rage horribly, and the billows of trouble roar mightily, yet JEHOVAH sits a King above them all. He holds the waters in the hollow of His hand from whence they shall assuage; but from His heart Zion can never be moved, from His hand a weakling can never be plucked.
"God shall help her, and that right early." See margin:--"When the morning appeareth." Turning to Exodus 14, we see how in the morning watch JEHOVAH looked destruction on the foes of His people and deliverance for His own. So it is now; after long seasons of darkness and desertion the star of hope sheds its inspiring ray across the heaving billows of this life, and gives the sweet assurance that by-and-bye the Sun of Righteousness will arise above the spiritual horizon, shedding peace and joy upon Zion's pathway, ay, and the comforting assurance too that an abundant entrance shall be ministered unto the tempest-tossed ones into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Blessed be God for present help in time of trouble!