Jehovah-Shammah: A Glorious Name for the New Year
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, January 4th, 1891.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"The name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there [or in the Hebrew Jehovah-shammah]."Ezekiel 48:35.
HESE words may be used as a test as well as a text. They may serve for examination as well as consolation, and at the beginning of a year they may fulfill this useful double purpose. In any case they are full of marrow and fatness to those whose spiritual taste is purified. It is esteemed by the prophet to be the highest blessing that could come upon a city that its name should be, "JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, The Lord is there." Even Jerusalem, in its best estate, would have this for its crowning blessing: nothing could exceed this. Do we reckon the presence of the Lord to be the greatest of blessings? If in any gathering, even of the humblest people, the Lord God is known to be present in a peculiarly gracious manner, should we make a point of being there? Very much depends upon our answer to these queries.
There they behold thy mercy-seat:
Where'er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallowed ground."
And yet there is a special place where God dwells among men, and that is in his church. He has but oneone church, chosen by eternal election, redeemed by precious blood, called out by the Holy Ghost, and quickened into newness of lifethis as a whole is the dwelling place of the covenant God. Because God is in this church, therefore the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. "The Lord is there" might be said of the church in all ages. I have seen the crypts and underground chapels of the catacombs, and it made one feel that they were glorious places, when we remembered that the Lord God was there, by his Spirit, with his suffering people. When holy hymn and psalm and solemn prayer went up from the very bowels of the earth, from men who were hunted to the death by their foesthe Lord was there. In those dreary excavations, unvisited by sunlight and wholesome air, God was as he was not in the palaces of kings, and is not in the cathedrals of priests. In this land of ours, when a few people met together, here and there, to hear the gospel and to worship, they made cottages, caves, and hollows in the woods, to be holiness unto the Lord." Ay, and when crowds met beneath your gospel oaks, or gathered together by the hillside to listen to the pure word of grace, the Lord was there, and souls were saved and sanctified. When the Puritans solemnly conversed together of the things of God, and held their little conventicles for fear of their adversariesGod was there. On Scotland's bleak moors and mosses, when the covenanters gathered in the darkness and the storm, for fear of Claverhouse and his dragoonsGod was there. Those who wrote in those days tell us that they never knew such seasons in days of peace as they enjoyed among the hills, amid the heather, or by the brookside; for Jehovah-shammah, the Lord was there. And so onward, to this very day, wheresoever the chosen of God lift up holy hands and worship him, whether it be in cathedral or in barn, beneath the blue sky or beneath a thatched roof, anywhere and everywhere when the heart is right, and the soul adores the living Lord, this is the special glory of the place, that Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there."
Flying forward, as with a dove's wing, to the future that is drawing near, we bethink us of the truth that there is to be a millennial agea time of glory, and peace, and joy, and truth, and righteousness. But what is to be the glory of it? Why this, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there!" The Lord Jesus Christ will come, and begin his personal reign on earth among his ancients. In like manner as he went up into heaven, and the disciples saw him, so will he descend a second time, to be seen here among men; and his glorious presence shall fashion the golden age, the thousand years of peace. Then shall the nations shout "The Lord is come." What hallelujahs will then rise to heaven! Welcome, welcome, son of God! How will all his faithful ones rejoice with joy unspeakable, and sing and sing again; for now the day of their reward has come, and they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father! In all the glory of the latter days everything is wrapped up in this one word, "the Lord is there."
Our spirits by thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!"
Up yonder, whither many of our beloved ones have already gone: up yonder, within that gate of pearl where eye cannot as yet see. What is it that makes heaven", with all its supreme delights? Not harps of angels, nor blaze of seraphim; but this one fact, "the Lord is there." What must it be to be with God? O soul that loves him, what will your fullness of pleasure be when you shall dwell with him for whom your soul is hungering and thirsting! What joy to be "for ever with the Lord"! This perfect bliss may be ours this very day. We little know how near we are to our glorification with our Lord. The veil is very thin that parts the sanctified from the glorified.
We scarce can say 'He's gone,'
Before the ransomed spirit takes
Its mansion near the throne."
The joy and glory of those divine mansions is that "the Lord is there." Heaven's loftiest peak shines for ever in this clear lightThe Lord God and the Lamb are the light thereof: "the Lord is there."
Enough of this. I have proved my point, that the glory of the most glorious place is that "the Lord is there."
II. Suffer me for a few minutes to speak to you upon another point: THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS THE BEST PRIVILEGE OF HIS CHURCH. It is her glory that "the Lord is there." Note this, and mark it well. Brethren, we as a church have grown to great numbers, and we are not deficient either in gifts or in graces, or in work for our Lord; but let me solemnly remind you always that our chief, our only strength, must always lie in this"the Lord is there." If the Lord should depart from us, as he has gone from churches which are now apostate, what an abyss opens before us! If he should take his Holy Spirit from us, even as the glory departed from the temple at Jerusalem, then our ruin would become a thing to mention with dread, a case to be quoted for a warning to future generations. O Lord, our God, take not thy flight! Abide with us, we pray thee! Our only hope lies in thy making the place of thy feet glorious among us.
If the Lord be among us, the consequences will be, first, the conservation of true doctrine. The true God is not with a lie: he will not give his countenance to falsehood. Those who preach other than according to his word, abide not under his blessing; but are in great danger of his curse. If any man speak another gospel (which is not another, but there be some that trouble us), God is not with him, and any transient prosperity which he may enjoy, will be blown away as the chaff. God is with those who speak the truth faithfully, hold it devoutly, believe it firmly, and live upon it as their daily bread. May it always, be said of this church, the Lord is there," and therefore they are sound in the faith, reverent towards Holy Scripture, and zealous for the honor of Christ! Trust-deeds and confessions of faith are useful in their way, even as laws are useful to society; but as laws cannot secure obedience to themselves, so articles of belief cannot create faith, or secure honesty; and to men without conscience, they are not worth the paper they are written upon. No subscription to articles can keep out the unscrupulous. Wolves leap into the fold however carefully you watch the door. The fact is, the most of people say, "Yes, that doctrine is in the creed, and is not to be denied; but you need not preach it. Put it on the shelf as an ornament, and let us hear no more about it." Truth must be written on the heart as well as in the book. If the Lord be among his people, they will cling to the eternal verities, and love the doctrine of the cross, not by force of law, but because divine truth is the life of their souls.
Where God is present, the preservation of purity will be found. The church is nothing if it is not holy. It is worseit is a den of thieves. Setting the seal of its pestilent example upon evil living, it becomes the servant of Satan, and the destroyer of souls. Who is to keep the church pure? None but God himself. If the Lord is there, holiness will abound, and fruits of the Spirit will be seen on all sides; but if the Lord be once withdrawn, then flesh and blood will rule, and gender towards corruption, after its own manner; and the church will become a synagogue of formalists. Pray, my brethren, continually, that the Lord may dwell in our Zion, to maintain us in all holy obedience and purity of life.
Where God is, there is the constant renewal of vitality. A dead church is a reeking Golgotha, a breeding-place of evils, a home of devils. The tombs may be newly whitewashed, but they are none the less open sepulchres, haunts of unclean spirits. A church all alive is a little heaven, the resort of angels, the temple of the Holy Ghost. In some of our churches everybody seems to be a little colder than everybody else. The members are holy icicles. A general frost has paralyzed everybody; and though some are colder than others, yet all are below zero. There are no flowing rills of refreshment, but everything is bound hard and fast with the frost of indifference. Oh, that the Lord would send forth his wind, and melt the glaciers! Oh, that the Spirit of God would chase winter out of every heart and every church! No human power can keep a church from the frostbite which numbs and kills. Except the Lord be there, growth, life, warmthare all impossible. Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, but cry day and night to him, O Lord, abide with us. Go forth with our armies. Make us to be the living children of the living God"!
When the Lord is there, next, there is continuing power. With God there is power in the ministry, power in prayer, power in all holy work. We may do a vast deal of work, and yet nothing may come of it; and, on the other hand, we may only be able to do comparatively little, and yet great results may flow therefrom: for results depend not on the quantity of the machinery, but on the presence of the Lord.
Do you not all know persons who are not peculiarly gifted, and yet are eminently useful? You do not remark anything about them that is specially noticeable, and yet their whole career enlists attention by its power. Their words tell, for there is character behind them. A consistent life gives force to a plain testimony. It is not so much what is said as who says it? But that is not all: God himself is at the back of the man who is living for him. He causes him to speak in his name, so that none of his words fall to the ground. Is it not said of the godly, "His leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper"? This is so with every church where the Lord abides. His presence makes it a power with its children and adherents, a power with the neighborhood, and a power with the age. Its example, its testimony, its effort tells. God uses it, and therefore it answers its end. The power is with God; but the church is the instrument by which that power exercises itself. He uses a living people for the display of living power, and he gives to them both life and power, more and more abundantly. As we desire power with which to labor for God, we must pray that the God of power will remain in our midst.
Furthermore, whenever it can be said of an assembly, "the Lord is there," unity will be created and fostered. Show me a church that quarrels, a church that is split up into cliques, a church that is divided with personal ambitions, contrary doctrines and opposing schemes, and I am sure that the Lord is not there. Where there are envyings, jealousies, suspicions, backbitings, and dislikes, I know that the Holy Dove, who hates confusion, has taken his flight. God is love, and he will only dwell where love reigns. He is the God of peace, and will not endure strife. The children of God should be knit together. It would indeed be a shameful sight should children of his family fall out, and chide, and fight Saints who dwell with God love each other "with a pure heart, fervently." Some professors act as if they hated each other: I may not say, "with a pure heart," but I will say, "fervently." Where God is present the church is edified in love, and grows up, like a building fitly framed together, to be a holy temple in the Lord. Oh, for more of this unity!
Where the Lord is there is sure to be happiness. What meetings we have when the Lord is here! It is a prayer-meeting; but when you have said that, you have not fully described it, for it is far more. It was an unusual meeting for prayer, for, God being there, every prayer was spoken into his ear, and all the desires and petitions of the saints were prompted by his Holy Spirit. Why, the very room was lit up with the glory of the Lord; and whether we were in heaven or not we could hardly tell. What happy times we have in preaching the word of the Lord, when God's own presence is realized! His paths drop fatness. What joyous seasons we have frequently enjoyed at the communion table! The provision is but bread and wine; but when, by faith, we perceive the real and spiritual presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the breaking of the bread we eat his flesh, and in the fruit of the vine we drink his blood. When we have gathered in the Lord's presence we have sung
Can with thy courts on earth compare;
And here we wait, until thy love
Raise us to nobler seats above."
At the Master's table I have often been so blest that I would not have exchanged places with Gabriel. The Lord was there: what more could I desire? Joy, delight, rapture, ecstasywhat word shall I use?all these have waited around the table of fellowship, as musicians at a king's banquet. If God be there, our heaven is there.
III. I shall now close by noticing, in the third place, that since this presence of God is the glory of the most glorious place, and the choice privilege of the most privileged, it is our exceeding joy. THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD IS OUR DELIGHT IN EVERY PLACE.
We will think of our own dear homes. What a delightful family we belong to if it can be said of our house, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there"! Has it a thatched roof and a stone floor? What matters? The father of the family lives near to God, and his wife rejoices to be his fellow-helper in prayer, while the children grow up to honest toil and honorable service. Assuredly that cottage home is dear to God, and becomes a place where angels come and go. Because God is there, every window looks towards the Celestial City. It is a comfort that we need not go across the road to morning prayer, or step out every evening to worship, for we are priests ourselves, and have a family altar at home, whereon the incense burns both morning and night. We talk not of matins and vespers, but we glory that "the Lord is there" when we bow the knee as a household. What is more delightful than to gather round the family hearth, to hear the Scriptures read, and listen to the senior, as he talks to the younger ones of what God has done for him, and what the Lord is waiting to give to all who trust him? Free from all formality, family prayer makes a house a temple, a family a church, and every day a holy day. Truly, I may say of families of this kind, wherever they dwell, that it is none other but the house of God, and it is the very gate of heaven"; for "the Lord is there." Friend, is God in your house? If it has no family prayer, it has no roof to it. There is no true joy in domestic life unless the Lord be there. All else is fiction; God alone is true delight. I charge you, if your homes are not such that God could come to them, set your houses in order, and say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Will you dare to dwell where God could not lodge with you? May all men say of your home, "The Lord is there"!
Here is a Christian who lives alone, apart altogether from family life. All his dear ones are dead, or far away. In his lone chamber, when he bows his knee in secret prayer, or whenever he takes his walk abroad to meditate, if he be indeed a true lover of the Lord Jesus, "the Lord is there." Wherever the believer's lot is cast, if he lives in fellowship with Christ, he may say of his quiet room, or of the garden-walk, or even of the stable or the loft, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there." Many a humble garret is a right royal residence! for "the Lord is there." Better Paul's inner dungeon at Philippi, with his feet fast in the stocks, and the presence of the Lord, than the grandest apartments of Caesar's palace and an unknown God. The Lord is very gracious to his lonely ones. They can say, "And yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." Put you in a hospital, or in a workhouse: what matters it, if Jehovah is at your side to cheer you?
Some of us can bear witness that we have had the nearest approaches of God to our souls in times of intolerable pain, and even in seasons of intense depression of spirit as to earthly things. "I was brought low, and the Lord helped me," said David; and we can say the same. The Lord has said, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee"; as much as to say, "If I am not with thee anywhere else, I will be with thee then." In the furnace one like unto the Son of God was seen. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego never had that glorious fourth person in their company before, they had him when they were cast into the midst of the glowing coals. Jehovah-shammah makes a seven-times-heated furnace a pleasant arbour. We may say of the refining fire, and of the threshing-floor, and of the oil-press, God has been there. In the time of trouble he has been a very present help. One might almost say, "Send me back to my prison again," as one did say who lost God's presence after he had gained his liberty. One might well cry, "Ah! let me have back my pain if I may again overflow with the joy of the Lord's presence."
Dear friends, I thank God that you and I know what it is to enjoy the presence of God in a great many different ways. When two or three of the people of God meet together, and talk to one another about the things of God, the Lord is never away. You remember that blessed text, "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another." They had holy talks about heavenly things. It was such sweet conversation, that the Lord himself turned eaves-dropper, and hearkened and heard. What he heard pleased him so well that he there and then made a note of it; yea, and wrote it down, and ordered that "a book of remembrance" should be preserved "for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." Was not this sure evidence of his most gracious presence? John Bunyan knew that God was there when he went about tinkering, and came to Bedford, and there were three godly women sitting in the sun, at work; and as they worked they talked so sweetly that the tinker stood and listened, and was drawn to better things. By such means he became a believer and a preacher, and the writer of the "Pilgrim's Progress," which has so refreshed us all. The Lord was there, and therefore he dreamed a heavenly dream in Bedford jail. Wherever his people meet, the Lord is graciously near. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Yes, but when Christian people go forth to work, when you come to your Sunday-school, or go out with your bundle of tracts, to change them on your district, or when you join a little band and stand in the street corner yonder, and lift up your voice in the name of Jesus, you may expect, if you go with prayer and faith, that it shall be written, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there." It is only a young man standing up in a cottage to speak, and he has not much to say; yet there are penitential tears, and broken hearts: it is so, for God is there. It is only a humble woman speaking to a few persons of her own class, and yet angels are rejoicing over a repenting sinneryes, because God is there. It is only a little room in one of our back streets, and the city missionary has come in, and there are a dozen or two of the neighbors called together, and he is talking of Jesus and his loveoh, but if the Lord be there, do not tell me that the missionary is not in the apostolical succession; he need not claim it, he is himself an apostle of God to those poor people. He wants no gorgeous vestment, nor the swell of organ, nor even the thunders of the multitude as they raise the solemn hymn. The few so simple and so poor have God with them, and it is enough. Wherever you are seeking to do good, in prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit, it shall be said "the Lord is there."
And now, from this time forth, beloved, ye that fear God and think; upon his name, wherever you go, let it be said, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there." I often feel sorry when the Sabbath is nearly over; and so do many of you. I know you wake on Monday morning and take those shutters down again, or go off to that workshop where you suffer so much ridicule, or return to the ordinary grind of daily labor, and mix up with so many of the ungodly; and you do it mournfully. Now, pray that you may keep up the Sabbath tone all the week. Make every place, wherever you go, to be the house of God. A dear brother of ours went to a shop where he worked with four ungodly men, but his Lord went with him. It was not long before we had the privilege of baptizing that friend's master and all his shopmates, for the Lord was there. The other day there came a fresh man to work who could not bear to hear a word upon religion, but our brother was the means of his conversion, and the new man is coming among us, warm with his first love. Our brother makes up his mind that he is not to be conquered by any scoffers, but on the contrary he is determined to conquer them for Christ. He will not yield to the influences of sin, but he resolves, in the name of the Lord, that evil influences shall yield to the power of truth, and to the attractions of the cross. Write across your workshop, "The Lord is here." If you cannot do if literally, do it spiritually, "Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there."
Do not be found anywhere where you could not say that the Lord was there; but if you are called into the world in the pursuit of your daily vocation, cry unto the Lord, "If thy Spirit go not with me, carry me not up hence." Determine that you will have the Spirit of God with you, and that, be it in busy Cheapside, or be it in the lonesome country while you are hoeing the turnips or attending to a flock of sheep, of every field, and every street, and every room, it shall be said that God is there. Take Jesus with you when you go; and, when you come home, may his Spirit still be with you! God grant that it may be so! The Holy Spirit can work you to this self-same thing.
What shall I say to those who do not know the Lord, and do not care for him? O friend, the day will come in which Jesus Christ will say to you, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye workers of iniquity." Do not let him say that; but to-night commence an acquaintance with him. May his Holy Spirit help you so to do! I am sure the Lord Jesus Christ could not say to me, "I never knew you." It is impossible, because I could reply to him, "Never knew me, Lord? Why, I have been to thee with so many burdens, I have run to thee with so many troubles, that I am sure thou knowest me as one knows a beggar whom he has relieved many times a day.
Ah, my Lord! thou know'st my name.'
Thou rememberest me, for in my despair I cried to thee, and thou didst relieve me of my burden. Thou knowest me, for in my sorrow my broken heart found no comfort but in thee. Thou hast known me all these years in which I have had to cry to thee for something to preach about, and for help while preaching. Thou knowest how I have had to come to thee and confess my failures, and mourn my shortcomings, and lament my sins, and trust in thy blood for cleansing. "My Lord cannot say that he does not know me, for he has known my soul in adversity. Blessed be his name, I know him, and lean all my weight upon him. They that know him shall be with him, and he will receive them unto himself for ever, and this shall be their glory"Jehovah-shammah, the Lord is there." With him shall they dwell, world without end. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONIsaiah 45:8-25.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"774, 847, 806.