The Best of All is, God With Us
“Is not the LORD your God with you?” — 1 Chron. xxii. 13.
WHILE we were reading this chapter, you must all have been struck with the melting of one man’s life into another. Here is David most anxious about the building of the temple at Jerusalem; he is not permitted to erect it himself, and therefore he sets to work with diligent care to gather together the gold and the silver, the brass and the iron, the timber and the stone, that would be required. He also instructed the workmen who would be needed, so that, when he was gone, and his son Solomon had ascended the throne, the temple might be built. Did David live in vain? Can it be truly said that he failed in the grandest project of his life? Assuredly not; he did all that he was permitted to do, and by making those elaborate preparations, he was really the means of the building of the temple.
Let every man and every woman among us judge of our life, not merely from that little narrow piece of it which we ourselves live, for that is but a span; but let us judge it by its connection with other lives that may come after our own. If we cannot do all we wish, let us do all we can, in the hope that someone who shall succeed us may complete the project that is so dear to our heart. That is a blessed prayer which Moses wrote in the 90th Psalm, “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.” We shall be quite satisfied to do the work, and scarcely see the glory, if we may but know that, in another generation, the work that we shall have done shall produce glory to God which shall be seen among the sons of men. No, Elijah, thou must not do all the Lord’s work; but thy mantle must fall upon Elisha, and with it shall come a double portion of thy spirit, and he shall work twice as many miracles as ever thou didst, and shall do greater things for the Lord God of Israel. I do not think it ought ever to be any question of ours what people will do after we are dead and gone. The God who did very well without us before we were born, will do very well without us after we are dead. It is enough for us to do to-day’s work in the day; let somebody else do to-morrow’s work if we are not spared to do it. To-day, do that which cometh to thy hand, and be not dreaming of the future. Put down that telescope; you have nothing to do with peering into the next hundred years. The important matter is, not what you spy with your eye, but what you do with your hand. Do it, and do it at once, with all your might, believing that God will find somebody else to go on with the next piece of the work when you have finished your portion.
There is also another delightful thought here, and that is, the continuity of the divine blessing. God was with David in the gathering together of the great stores of treasure for the building of the temple; but then God was also with Solomon. Oh, what a mercy it is that God did not give all his grace to other people before we came into the world! The God of grace did not empty the whole horn of grace upon the head of Whitefield or Wesley; he did not pour out all the blessings of his Spirit upon Romaine and John Newton, so as to leave nothing for us. No; and to the end of time he will be the same God as he was yesterday, and as he is to-day. There is no break in the Lord’s blessing; he has not ceased to be gracious, his arm is not shortened that he cannot save, nor is his ear heavy that he cannot hear. God buries his workmen, but his work goes on; and he, the Great Worker, wearies not of it, nor shall he ever fail or be discouraged. All his everlasting purposes shall be accomplished, and Christ shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. Wherefore, let us be of good heart, if we have been apt to look upon the future with fear. The Lord Jesus still lives, and he will take care that his Church shall live and work on until he himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.
This text seems to me, dear friends, to have a very immediate bearing upon ourselves. David is talking to Solomon and the princes of Israel about the building of a temple; we are not building a material temple, but we are building a spiritual temple. We do not believe in gorgeous architecture, nor in the expenditure of needless gold and silver upon the house wherein we meet to worship God, for we still hear our Lord and Master say, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” We sing with Cowper, —
“Jesus, where’er thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy-seat:
Where’er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallow’d ground.”
We believe that God is as much present beneath the blue sky, and out there in the street, as he is in any kind of building that we can erect for him. It is very singular that, as soon as ever the temple was built, true religion began to decline; the day when Solomon opened it was the culmination of the glory of true godliness in Israel, and from that hour it began to darken down into an awful night. Yet it was proper that there should be a temple which, in its magnificence, should call for the respect of men towards God, being typical of that far greater temple, not made with hands, even the glorious person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We, however, are engaged in the building of a temple, in a spiritual sense. God has sent his servants into the world, to gather together for his beautiful house, stones hewn out of the quarry of nature, to be shaped, polished, and prepared for building into the temple of his grace. The Church is the living temple of God, “exceeding magnifical.” It is a wondrous idea that men’s hearts and souls can be blended together, and built up into a spiritual temple wherein God will dwell. This temple is to be builded of stones taken from the quarry of nature, and, God being with us, you and I are to go forth, and to how out and shape and prepare the stones for the building of this house of the Lord which shall endure for over.
In order to do this, wo certainly need the presence and the help of God; for what can we do without him? In the work of conversion, what can be done without the Spirit of God? I would like anybody who thinks he can convert another person without divine help, to try and do it, and see what a wretched failure he will make of it, or what a dire hypocrisy he will produce by his apparent success. We must have God with us for this work; we cannot create a spark of grace, how then can we create a now heart and a right spirit? Conversion is an absolute creation, regeneration is a miracle of divine grace, the work of the Spirit of God; and this is altogether beyond our power. We need the Spirit of God to aid us in the building of a temple for God; but, brethren, with the Lord’s presence we can do it.
The text says, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” I will go any length with the brother who likes to preach upon the incapacity of man, the utter and entire weakness of the creature apart from the Creator. You cannot, I think, exaggerate there; but do not always keep dwelling upon your own weakness, recollect that, when you are weak, then you are strong, it you do but fall back upon the omnipotence of God. “Is not the Lord your God with you?” Has he sent us into the world with the gospel, and will he not be with us in the preaching of it? Has he sent us to be the means of seeking souls, and made our hearts to ache because of the sins that men have committed against him, and will he not be with us? Do not let us talk as if we had to live and labour without our God. We have been brought to know him, we have been made members of the mystical body of Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in us, if we are what we profess to be, — the Church of the living God; will ho not occupy the house that he has built? “Is not the Lord your God with you?” Then, what can be too difficult for you?
Now, dear friends, I shall treat our text, first, as an assertion; for, oftentimes, in Scripture, a question is one of the strongest modes of assertion when it is anticipated that to that question there can be no other reply than “Yes.” Secondly, I shall treat it as a question, for there are some here to whom it is a question, some doubting, trembling ones to whom we must say, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” When I have handled it first as an assertion and then as a question, I will briefly use it as an argument; “Is not the Lord your God with you?” Therefore, arise and be doing. Something great and glorious ought to be done by men who have so divine a Helper with them.
I. First, then, this is AN ASSERTION.
Brethren and sisters in Christ, the Lord our God is with us. I do not entertain any doubt upon that point, and I hope you do not. Is the Lord your God? Is he your God by a holy covenant? Have you entered into bonds of fellowship with him? Have you taken him to be your God by trust, by love, and by the consecration of your body, soul, and spirit to him? Can you say of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, “This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our Guide even unto death”? Very well, then, if he be your God, he is with you. Do you ask how I know that?
Well, I know it, first, because he has pledged himself to be with his people. “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Is not the Lord your God with you, then? Assuredly he is, if he keeps his promise; and you do not doubt his fidelity, do you? Can he forget his promise, or, remembering it, will he treat it as if it were mere verbiage, words without meaning? There are men who can do that, we know; but does God act so? Can you suppose it possible? No, not for an instant; then, as he hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” he will keep his word. We say, “Never is a long day,” and so it is, for it covers all time; and the Lord hath said, “I will never leave thee,” — in poverty, in sickness, in slander and reproach, in depression of spirit, in the hour of death, in the day of judgment, — “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” He has pledged himself to this, and God forbid that we should, for even a moment, doubt that he will keep his word! To believers in their church capacity, there is a pledge given by the blessed Lord Jesus himself which refers especially to his work: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” “Lo, I am with you,” says Christ, as much as to say, “Not only do I promise to be with you, but I am with you, I am already fulfilling my promise to you. For the past, for the present, and for the future, ‘Lo, I am with you alway.’” Let not any Church of God hesitate to answer this question, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” If he be your God, he is with you as individuals, and he is especially with you as a Christian community going forth to preach his gospel to every creature. That ought to be enough, surely? He has pledged himself to be with us.
Next, he is pleased to be with us. It is the good pleasure of God to be with his people. He is our Father; and do not fathers love to be with their children? The loving father says, when he has little ones at home, “I will got back from my business early, that I may spend my evening in the family.” We feel ourselves happiest when, laying aside external cares, we leave the world, and rest with our loved ones at home; so God is at home with his people, as a Father he delights in his children. Remember how Divine Wisdom said, “My delights were with the sons of men.” It is a wonderful thing to be able to say, but God takes a great deal more pleasure in us than we do in him; yet there seems in us nothing that can give him pleasure, while in him there is everything that can afford us delight. The Lord so loves his people that he is never long away from them. You know that dear relationship into which our Lord has entered with his Church; she is his bride, he loves her as he loves his own soul. In some respects, he loves her better than he loves himself, for he gave himself for her; and do you think that he is happy away from his bride, his spouse? It is not so; he saith to her, “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely;” and whenever she calls for him, saying, “Let my Beloved come into his garden,” his quick answer is, “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” He so loves us that, when we shut the door against him, ho stands and knocks, and cries to us, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.” Do not think that he has gone from you when he loves you so as your Father, and as the Husband of your soul. Moreover, he will be with his Church in her work, because her work is his work; and wherever there is a heart on the earth, sanctified by the Holy Ghost, in sympathy and harmony with the heart of Christ, depend upon it he is assuredly there, for that sympathy and that harmony are created by his very presence. Well, then, as he has pledged himself, and he is himself pleased to be with his people, we believe the assertion which is implied in the enquiry, “Is not the Lord your God with you?”
I hope also, brethren beloved, we can say that we have had proofs that God is with us. In this house we have had many plain proofs of the Lord’s presence. If you could have been with me last Tuesday week, and the Tuesday before that, it might have made your hearts ring for joy, all the bells of your soul would have given forth blessed chimes as you heard how God had saved one and another who had strolled in here as if by accident, and others who had come in great heaviness of heart, but who here found the Lord. Our ministry is nothing, but the Lord makes it something, he makes it everything to many souls; and blessed be his name for that! And you, brethren and sisters, in your labour and service for the Master, have brought many souls to Christ; therefore I say to you, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” Assuredly he is, or you would not have beheld all this blessedness.
The Lord has proved his presence with us by preserving us in the hour of temptation. Some of you who have been lately converted to God have had very fierce temptations since then. In this wicked city, our young people — yet I do not know that I need say our young people alone, — have been exposed to a furnace of temptation which has been seven times heated. The days in which we live are grievous to the last degree; and if the Lord had not been with us, our soul would not have escaped like a bird out of the snare of the fowler. Often our feet have well-nigh slipped, and we should have fallen if the Lord had not been with us to preserve us. “Is not the Lord your God with you” when you have been kept alive with death so near? Assuredly, he is.
Some of you also know that the Lord is with you because you have been so greatly comforted in time of trouble, A sister said to me, the other day, “I could not have thought that I could have lived through the bereavements I have lately endured. When I used to think of the possibility of my husband’s death, it seemed to me that I must die with him.” Yet she is not dead; and she does not despair; though she had to endure that bereavement, and another as well, she said, “Oh, how good God was to me to sustain me as he did!” “Is not the Lord your God with you?” I know some dear friends who have experienced very great temporal trouble through heavy losses in these trying times; yet they are as happy as when they had ten times as much. The little bird still sings at the window, the blue sky hovers overhead, and the heart’s-ease still grows in their garden, and they love it well. Yes, dear friends, the comforts that God gives us in times of deep trouble are a sufficient proof that he is with us.
Beside that, there have been times when we have been in the house of prayer, or when we have been alone in our chamber, ay, in the middle of the night sometimes, when pain has kept us from sleeping, when we have felt that we did not want to sleep; for we have been flooded with delight. Did you ever feel that deep calm which sometimes comes over a believer, when there seems to be no evil in the world, when we could not invent a doubt if we tried, when we could not have a dark thought concerning our Lord? After our Saviour had been tempted in the wilderness, angels came and ministered unto him. Do you know what that experience is when there seem to be angels upstairs, and downstairs, and all through the house, ministering to you, and your life seems set to a gentle psalm tune, and instead of the sound of the trumpet calling you to battle, there is only the dulcet music of an instrument of ten strings praising the God who has given you rest? So, when the question is put, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” you can answer, “Ay, that he is, and blessed be his holy name!” Oh, what a blessing it is to live with a present God! If anyone says to me that there is no God, he might as well tell me that there is no air. I cannot see it, but I know that I am living in it, and that I could not live without it; so, “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” The Lord is life, and light, and love, and liberty, and all in all to some of us. “Is not the Lord your God with you?” is no question to us, for we know that ho is with us, and we glorify his holy name that so it is.
II. Now, secondly, we must devote a few minutes to those poor weary souls to whom this is A QUESTION: “Is not the Lord your God with you?”
“Oh!” says one, “I have no joy; I have very little rest; I have nothing but trouble; deep calleth unto deep at the noise of his waterspouts, and I am so weak, so feeble, so faint, I cannot imagine that the Lord is with me. I see no signs of his presence, neither do I perceive even a star of hope amid the dense darkness of the night.” Listen, dear friend; have you taken him to be your God? Are you trusting him? Are you determined to rely on nothing but the finished work of Christ? Then, he is with you; though you do not perceive his Holy Spirit, in the deepest darkness he is with you.
If the Lord had not been with you, your despondency might have become despair. If he had not been with you, your despair might have gone further still. You are yet alive, remember, you have not laid violent hands upon yourself, as you might have done if you had been left to yourself. God is with you, keeping you, even while you live on the very brink of despair. I know that there are some here who were sure God was with them in their darkness because it did not grow any darker. It was a black night, but still it was not altogether dark, there was a gleam of light left. Ah, yes! it was your gracious Lord who gave you that little ray of hope.
Tell me, sad heart, what is it that causes you to hate sin, and makes you so wretched without the presence of the Saviour? It is because you have his presence though you do not know it. You have, perhaps, seen your boy play with a magnet and a needle; the needle is above the table, and the magnet, though out of sight, acts upon it, the needle feels the attraction of the magnet, and moves after it; and those desires, those groans, those cries, that inward anguish, that self-despair, that horror of great darkness, all these prove that God is secretly working with you, and drawing you to himself. He is with you; and if you take him afresh to be your God, if you come and trust in his promises, I should not wonder but that, even now, your midnight shall burst into a glorious meridian. The Lord send it to you right speedily! Only, do rest in him.
The Lord is not far from any one of us; a cry will fetch him, he will hear even a groan, and he will quickly come to the rescue of those who call upon him. Do but trust him, do but take him to be yours, and then he cannot leave you. “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” There is such love in God’s heart towards the very feeblest of his people, that he cannot turn away from them. Mother, is it not so in your family, that the child who is most ill, most weak, most full of pain, is the one who is best remembered by you? While you have been sitting here, this evening, you have not thought of John and Thomas, who have grown up, and gone out into the world, and are strong and healthy, but you have thought of poor little Jane, whose spine is injured, or of the little boy who has to lie still so many hours a day, and who suffers so much. I am sure that, while I have been preaching, your thoughts have been trotting home to that dear child, and you have been thinking much of him. Well, remember that, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him;” and remember also how the Lord takes the mother’s part as well as the father’s, and says, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Those are cheering truths for those who do raise the question; I wish they could enable you to get rid of that question, and to know assuredly that the Lord is with you. I recollect how Mr. Joseph Irons used to say of some who were always hoping, “It is all very well to have hope, but do not keep on hoping and hoping, or hopping and hopping, but put both feet down, and begin to run.” I trust you may do the same, and get beyond the “hoping” and the “hopping” to the full assurance of faith.
“And art thou with us, gracious Lord,
To dissipate our fear?
Dost thou proclaim thyself our God,
Our God for ever near?”
Then, as Doddridge continues to sing, —
“Why droop our hearts, why flow our eyes,
While such a voice we hear?
Why rise our sorrows and our fears,
While such a Friend is near?”
III. Our last point is that, here is AN ARGUMENT: IS not the Lord your God with you?”
It is a reason for us to arise, and be doing. You observe how it is put in the sixteenth verse, “Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord shall be with thee,” — so it is in the original. Let all true Christian people arise, and be doing, because the Lord is with them. Perhaps, I need not say much to my own people about that matter, for most of you are doing what you can for your Lord. There is a brother who is just going out to Australia; when he came to bid me farewell, he gave me a little sketch of his life during three-and-twenty years. It has been a time of incessant activity in the church; and he said to me, “Yes, sir, you drove me out to work for Christ, you would not let me be idle. You said, ‘The worst kind of lazy people are lazy Christians,’ and you also said, ‘To come here twice on a Sunday, and hoar me preach, and to be doing nothing for the Master, is not at all the right thing.’” Then the good man added, “I do not often get to hear you now. I have been secretary of a Sunday-school for some time, and I often go out preaching, so I cannot come to the Tabernacle.” I do delight in so many of the members not coming to hear me because they are doing the Master’s work elsewhere! I know that in many churches the main thing is to sit down in a corner pew, and be fed. Well, of course, every creature needs to be fed, from the pig upwards; — you must excuse my mentioning that unclean animal, for he is the creature whose principal business it is to feed, and he is not a nice creature at all, and I do not at all admire Christian people whose one business is to feed and feed. Why, I have heard them even grumble at a sermon that was meant for the conversion of sinners, because they thought there was no food for them in it! They are great receptacles of food; but, dear Christian people, do not any of you live merely to feed, — not even on heavenly food; but if God be with you, as you say he is, then get to his work.
“What shall I do?” asks one. That is no business of mine; you have to find work for yourself. He who works for God does not need to go to this man, or that man, and enquire, “What shall I do?” Why, do the first thing that comes to hand, but do get to work for your Master! Many Christians live in country villages where there is no preaching of the gospel; then, preach it yourself, brother, but I could not!” Well then, get somebody who can. “But we have no chapel,” says one. What do you want with a chapel these bright days? Preach on the village green, where the old trees that wore cut down a year or two ago are still lying, and will serve for seats. “I could not preach,” says one, “I should break down.” That would be a capital tiling to do; break-down sermons are often the best for breaking down other people as well as the preacher. Some of the greatest enterprises in the world have sprung from very little causes; the forest of the mightiest oaks in the world was once only a handful of acorns. Oh, that we might all do what we can for him who laid down his life for us, and who still continues to abide in us, to be our joy and our strength!
David also exhorted these people to set their hearts upon what they had to do: “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God.” Oh, how much there is of our religion that is a kind of celestial going to sleep! The preacher preaches as if he had not really woke up yet; and the people hear in the same fashion. Are there not, even in our churches, many who, if a guinea were to jingle, would be sufficiently wide awake to look for it, but when the gospel is being preached, they are not thoroughly aroused? As to speaking to strangers, and saying a word for the Master, that has not yet occurred to them.
“I do not know what I can do,” says one. Brother, if the text is true, I do not know what you cannot do. The text says, “Is not the Lord your God with you?” “Well, I could not —” “Could not, — could not;” do you put God and “could not” together? I think it would be infinitely better to put God and “can” or God and “shall” together. If God be with us, what can be impossible, what can be even difficult to us? God being with his people, “he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”
I cannot speak longer to you, nor is there any need that I should do so. If you Christians will all go out and seek to save sinners, you will be prolonging my sermon, not only for a few minutes, but for many a day and many a year to come. God be with you, brothers and sisters, in this holy service! And if any to whom I am speaking are obliged to say, “No, God is not with me, I am not saved;” remember that the way of salvation is to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. If you trust him, he is with you, and you are saved; for “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” God is with you if you are trusting him, and you may go forth in his might to serve the Lord who has redeemed you. God bless you, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.