The Oath of Jehovah to His People
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, October 30th, 1842
Of all the privileges of a believing child of God, that of the sensible enjoyment of the presence of the Most High God is most to be prized. When He condescends to say, "I will be with thee," all prisons, dungeons , yea, even Daniel's den of lions, are as the gates of heaven. It is the presence of God makes them so. Yet, because there is a little famine in the land, the saints will travel hither, until they know not whither they are going.
If you turn to the second verse of this chapter, you will find the Lord said unto Isaac, "Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of." "Whither shall I go, Lord?" Why, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee."
Now I shall endeavour to show you, in the first place, that the heir of promise was not at home; secondly, that though not at home, he was owned, and honoured by the presence of God "I will be with thee;" and thirdly, the blessedness of the promise "I will bless thee." Then the expected privileges.
I. The heir of promise. Isaac, when he was among the Philistines, among the enemies of God, was not at home; and while we are in this wilderness we are among the enemies of God, and not at home; and if our characters do not make it manifest to the world, shame be on us.
I picture to myself a man walking in the street, covered with the skins of beasts; all the world would be inclined to look, and talk about him. Now reverse this, and suppose myself arrayed in Christian attire; this is what I ought to be, beheld as a stranger, yet beheld with solemn awe. Isaac was a stranger with the Philistines, yet they could not alter him, they could not make a Philistine of him. The devil is declared to be the god of this world, and rules the children of disobedience. Have ye known God? Some of your acquaintances are as ignorant of Him as if no Bible existed. Have you turned and looked within, and with gratitude thanked God that He has made you to differ? The worldly man knows nothing of our religion; they may say they are a good sort of people, yet they are a strange people; and may we keep so, not at home, among the enemies of God. There is enmity between the mind of man and the truth of God; it is opposed to everything that is of God, though they may put on a cloak. But here lies our mercy; we only sojourn in this wilderness, it is not our home; but we are on our journey. I have cried, "Oh, Lord, loosen my grasp from things terrene." We are very prone to settle in our nest, and to line it with mess, and the little birds begin to chirp, but,
So God says, "I will stir your nest;" and He gives us thorns on this side, and on that; so stirring up the Christian's nest, till he finds his rest in God. God has not told him how long he is to sojourn in this wilderness; the Christian is only a tenant at will. We look here and there. A voice is heard, saying to the father or mother, "Come away!" And who can tell but it may be said to some of us this week, "Come away?"
Mark, if we are only sojourners and tenants at will, waiting our heavenly Father's call, how ought we to loosen our grasp from earthly things, to be ready to go the everlasting mansions above when the summons shall come! The children of Israel were plainly told where to go. A pillar of cloud went before them, and they were not at liberty to stir or to rest until the cloud directed them. Turn to Exodus 13:21,22. "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
Whilst we sojourn on the earth, it is our privilege to view the hand of God marking out our steps, never to go out of His way. This should be our position, tenants at will, ready to be called away.
II. The heir of promise was owned, and honoured by God's Divine presence. "I will be with thee." May I ask my people whether they have felt His presence? whether they have touched the hem of His garment, or leaned upon His breast, as the apostle did? Has He owned and honoured you by His presence? What says the family circle? What says the closet? What says the desk, and the counting-house? Has Jehovah been with thee there? Think, then, of thy privilege, the Holy Trinity making a worm of earth His peculiar care. All glory to His eternal name, He knows how to descend in unctuous ministration, endearing the precious Redeemer to our souls, objects of His precious care.
In every station in life Jesus is spoken of as the Husband of His Bride, the Church. He is my elder Brother. Again He speaks of my people. The Holy Ghost loves His people, and is careful to train them, and instruct them, as the miser is careful of his jewels, so God says, Malachi 3:17, "In that day when I make up my jewels." The Father loves them, the Son is pledge for them, and the Holy Ghost comforts them. What then is there to fear? or what that you will not receive, if you follow that which is of God? The Holy Ghost is with thee, the Son is pledged not to leave thee comfortless, and the Father says, "With lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) What child of God has not felt the comfort of the promises made to Isaac, "I will be with thee?" Think of the extensive honours, to be owned and honoured by the Most High God, His everlasting arm underneath, and as a wall of fire round about, in His glory, surrounded by omnipotence; if I may so express it, bound up in the essence of Deity. The Father shows His mercy, the Son says, "I come for their salvation," and the Holy Ghost places it on record. Oh, the blessed security of the people of God; it opens and maintains sweet fellowship, applies the word with power, and, when we read the promises it carries the soul, above, from things terrene, furnishes us with hope, bids us look beyond the veil, and shows the home within. There is such a thing as holy intimacy with God. Oh, for more of it! All is perfect and serene, and no child of God can be satisfied without it, though they be subject it conflicts within. Balaam could preach, but he knew not God, it was the shell without the kernel, without the reality. If God be with us He makes known the glory of His name. My soul labours for strength of expression. Never can a soul walk with God in creature righteousness "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name," (Ps. 115:1) must be on all the facings of the soldiers of the cross; if this be not worn, Jesus is dishonoured, God is insulted, and the Holy Ghost deceived. When He manifests His glory, as in Ezekiel 44:4, "I looked, and, beheld, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord; and I fell upon my face." The Psalmist says, "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name:" and it is the will of Jehovah "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." When Jesus was crucified, "the vail of the temple was rent in twain." What said Isaiah in chapter 6:5, "Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." That religion which does not humble a sinner before God is a lie. The whole scheme of salvation is wrapped up in Divine glory. Abraham, when he offered up Isaac, enjoyed the presence of God and was encircled with the Divine glory. This is coming out from the world. The Christian may be encircled with trials and difficulties, but God says, "I will go before, and will be as a wall of fire round about you." Jehovah encircles His people, they are surrounded by all the perfections of Deity. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, for God is love." "I will be with thee;" no contingencies, because I love thee, therefore sojourn in this land, for a little space, and then I will be with thee to all eternity. God is with us here, and in heaven, the Church is with God. To what extent Lord? "I will give them a name, and a place, and they shall be among my sons, and daughters." (see Matthew 19:29) "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." A vast amount of covenant mercies they shall receive. All the old stores of the kingdom are laid up for those who are in Christ Jesus. I covet the best things, free, sovereign, immutable, unmerited grace; I have my treasures; some enjoyment of faith, some knowledge of the glory of God, but I want a hundred-fold. Ruth had enough to fill her apron.
III. The promised blessing. When God blessed Isaac it was in connection with sowing (see ver. 12) "Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him." Now, conscience, be honest, what have you sowed? Do not expect blessing if you have sown curses. God does not expect wheat from tares. What hast thou sown? Earthly amusements, carnal desires. Blessed are they that sow beside still waters. If thou wouldest have grace, it is thine to make use of the means, and God to give the blessing: and God says, I will exempt thee from the curse, the law cannot curse those who have felt the power of grace in the heart. I do not want to frighten my hearers by the terrors of the law, but when the believer feels and knows "that Jesus has been the end of the law for righteousness," then, and not till then, will he find enjoyment; he must be laid low, and see that Jesus bore our curse, and that our sins shall not come into condemnation against us, then the soul feels satisfied and feels it blessings.
The gates of hell are for ever barred against him. "I will bless thee." In this, are blessed souls raised to a dignity, which none on earth besides possess. Tell me no more of earthly titles, of the pride of kings, or names, all are trash when I picture to myself the entering into his glory.
The Psalmist says, "He lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, and sets him in high places, among the princes of the earth." God says, "I have made him to be a prince. Now, as a prince thou hast power, thou hast glory, thou hast honour and immortality. Yea all this blessedness is ensured upon both, "I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy Father."
It is all the work of God from first to last, for the people of His grace, they are called plants of righteousness, of His right hand planting. I will now, lastly, show you a few of the expected privileges. They are privileged to enter into covenant with the Most High God. "Abraham believed, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness "he possessed like precious faith once delivered to the saints, and God records him as a man fit to make a covenant with; and we, as the spiritual seed of Abraham, enter into that covenant with God. "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, according to the promise." (Gal. 3:29) He has vowed with a solemn oath, to be with thee in all places whithersoever thou goest, yea, has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Oh! the condescension of the self-existent Being who stoops to associate with us, and every individual of the election of grace. Oh! what a blessed privilege to be assured, in the word of truth, that cannot lie, that Jehovah will condescend to manifest Himself to His people. The Father says, "I will dwell in them, I will walk in them, I will be their God, and they shall be my people;" the Son has said, "I will come to you;" He reveals His glories, and moreover, is formed in our hearts the hope of glory. The Holy Ghost consecrates His people as the temple of God, so that we are declared to be "an habitation of God through the Spirit." What marvellous condescension! Oh! beloved, take care that you offer no offence or insult to the God who condescends to walk in you, take heed that the temple of God be not defiled.
Mark, my hearers, the dignity it confers on mortals, worms of the earth; just let me turn your attention to it for a moment. A poor sinner, made capable of walking with God, capable of talking with God, capable of pouring out our desires in prayer and praise to God, capable of close communion with God, to walk by faith, to walk in love, to walk believing we are in Him. What dignity! what a privilege! God owns you as an object of His electing love; He owns you by the blessings He repeatedly communicates, and by the promise confirmed by an oath, "As He could swear by no greater, He swear by Himself," (Heb. 6:13) and says, "I will be with thee, and I will bless thee, and will never leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will never turn away from them." Then what greater privilege can we desire or expect? Nothing but the presence of God can cheer us in this wilderness. The Church is represented as coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved, and "holding fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." I pray you, mark the vast importance of a life of fellowship being kept up with God. Live near to God, beloved, and then the world may frown, the devil may rage, corruptions may be stirred in us, but with Christ present with us, and smiling on us, applying His atoning blood to our hearts, we shall surely go on from strength to strength, till we exclaim with the Psalmist, "Surely goodness and mercy (not only hath followed me, but) shall follow me all the days of my life."
May God, of His infinite mercy, be pleased to command a blessing on these few remarks, and His name shall have all the glory, both now and evermore. Amen.