I was seeking the Lord as to what to preach to you today - it is a day of prayer, it is the last day of our week of prayer - and it was at one of the prayer meetings that I mentioned Psalm 46, and how I've been meditating on it. I think it was Thursday, perhaps that morning, and on the way out one of our sisters here in the assembly - she knows who she is - mentioned this verse to me, and I was blessed by it. But I thought nothing more of it until I got this verse in my own daily readings, and the Lord impressed upon me to preach on it. It's found in Psalm 48, and we'll read from verse 1 - the whole of the Psalm.
"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail. Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death".
I want to speak to you today about this God: 'This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death'. In my daily readings also I've been reading through the book of 1 Samuel, and now into the book of 2 Samuel, and I've been noting the biographies of both Saul and David as kings of Israel. There is one situation that never fails to marvel me every time I read it, and it's found in 1 Samuel 30 - if you care to turn to it - 1 Samuel 30, and there are two verses that astound me.
First of all you need a little bit of background to understand the story that we are breaking into. The story is that David is residing with many of his mighty men and many of his followers in the town of Ziklag, fleeing from Saul, but also later on in the story he is found now in that town of Ziklag. As they are there they return to Ziklag from journeys, and they find that the whole city is sacked and destroyed by the Amalekites. They find worse than that: many of their homes are burnt, many of their possessions have been taken, and worse than all of that many of their family members have been kidnapped, including their wives and their children. As we read that tragic story, King David looks around him at the desolation of the town of Ziklag, and it says that together they wept until they could weep no more tears. We read in verse 6 that: 'David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters'.
Now can you put yourself in that position for a moment? You come home and you find that your house is burnt to the ground, you find your children have disappeared, your wife or your husband is gone. As far as these people were concerned David was the source of the problem, for it was David that brought them to the city of Ziklag. David was distressed because he thought that the people - perhaps they were even bending down to lift up the rocks to stone their King. Look at the rest of the verse: 'but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God'. If you go to verse 19 you will find that before that he put on the ephod of God, and he asked God: 'Should we pursue after these Amalekites? And if we pursue after them, will we overtake them and will we win? Will we beat them?'. The Lord said: 'Go and pursue them, you'll win'. So David, with all his men, went. They went to that city and they took back their possessions, they routed that city and killed all their enemies They got all their possessions, all their wives, all their children back - and they went back victorious to Ziklag. But this is what it says, look at verse 19: 'And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor any thing that they had taken to them: David recovered all'.
That thrills me! Now, what would you and I do? Imagine this! What would I do as the Pastor if I was trying to lead you into a certain spiritual ground, and all of a sudden as I'm opening the word of God to you one Sunday morning you grab your hymn books and stand up and throw them at me? I think my P45 would be coming shortly, and maybe even my resignation note myself, with my own hand, would be written - and I'd say: 'I've had enough of this, I'm not serving these people', and go. We would become discouraged, naturally, at such a situation - everybody turning against us. But the amazing thing about King David is this, that in the midst of a situation where everyone turned against him - many of his mighty men who were faithful to him - they all turned to stone him, he encouraged himself in the Lord! What about that?
Now, here is the secret - you can't miss that when you go to verse 19, when it says there that there was nothing lacking to them. They got everything that they had lost, and then it says: 'David recovered all' - the point of the matter is this, if I can give it to you, that if David hadn't encouraged himself in the Lord he wouldn't have gotten all those things! He would have been lacking, he wouldn't have recovered all, but the difference and the distinguishing mark of this great King was that he had the ability in the midst of all sorts of afflictions to encourage himself in the Lord.
On my holidays, as I've said to you before, I read a few books, one of which was A.T. Pierson's biography of George Mueller. There is one thing that stands out about this great man of faith, and it is this: he exhorts you and I in this book to have a daily time with God in prayer and in the study of the word of God. But what we do is we have a 'quiet time', that's not what the word of God teaches us to do - to have a 'quiet time'. But rather God teaches us to meet with Him, to have communion with Him - not just a Bible reading and a time of prayer, going down a shopping list. George Mueller put it like this, and this gripped my heart: 'The first business of every morning should be to secure happiness in God'. Secure happiness in God! He goes on to say: 'Such quietness before God should be habitually cultivated, calming the mind and freeing it from preoccupation'.
Can I define your time, your daily time, with God as that? Securing, every morning, your happiness in God? That's another statement that encapsulates what David did: he encouraged himself in the Lord. Now, that's what we need - boy, do we need it today! There is so much to discourage us, so much to pull us down, we need to encourage ourselves in the Lord. Can you imagine what would happen if you got up at the scrake of dawn every day and decided - no matter what your problems were or perplexities, no matter what you were going into work to face and you know you're going in to face it - that you got before an open Bible and got on your knees and you stayed there until you secured your happiness in God? Do you do that? I'll tell you how you know whether you do it or not - what's your disposition when you get off your knees and walk out of your closet? Is it happy?
'Happy in Jesus, my Saviour divine,
I am so happy, still He is mine'.
Turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 15, till I show you this disposition as well - and we're leading up to our text, hopefully we'll get to it this morning. So we've seen this in David, we've seen it in a modern-day saint, George Mueller, and now we're going to see it in the great apostle Paul. Second Timothy chapter 1 and verse 15, and here we find that the apostle had a similar experience to King David - he says: 'All they which are in Asia be turned away from me'. All they that are in Asia be turned away from me - now please recall in your mind that these are the people that Paul was ministering to. Some of these people, perhaps, he led to Christ, and all of them in Asia turned away from him! Prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, preachers, turning away from the great apostle! Now turn to chapter 4 of 2 Timothy, he elaborates on this predicament that he was in and says: 'At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding' - oh, look at this - 'the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion'.
Now think of this - the accumulation of trouble: 'All turned away from me in Asia, no man stood with me, but all men forsook me - but notwithstanding this...', do you know what he's saying? All that didn't matter, because the Lord stood with me and strengthened me - and it was because the Lord was with me that I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. It's almost exactly in parallel to David's story. He wouldn't have recovered all if he didn't encourage himself in the Lord, and Paul would never have been delivered out of the mouth of the lion if he didn't realise and encourage himself - secure his happiness in God - that the Lord was with him. That is why I believe, in Philippians chapter 4 and verse 4, Paul says this: 'Rejoice in the Lord: again I say, Rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, Rejoice'.
Now, why is this? Why am I labouring on this this morning? It's because today we are having a day of prayer, and today do you know what we need to do? We need to rejoice in the Lord! You see the Psalmist gives us the reason why we need to do that. He says in Psalm 22 and verse 3 that God, speaking to Him, he says: 'Thou inhabitest the praises of Israel'. In this dispensation I don't think things have changed - God still inhabits the praises of His people, the church - is that not right? There is a special sense in which, when we are taken up with praise in God - and that is in prayer, that is in song - as our hearts worship Him in spirit and in truth we find that God comes among us in a special and in a unique way. That's why we're coming today imploring God upon our knees: 'Wilt Thou not revive us again?' - why? - 'That Thy people may rejoice in Thee'.
Before we go to our text today, let me lay down this fundamental principle to you: praise is what will take hold of God. Have you got that? Our praise is what will take hold of God, and the reason being: praise is the fruit of our knowledge of God. You see, when you begin to realise who our God is, when you begin to learn all about Him, what He has done, how He loves us, how we are secure in Him, how He blesses us - we cannot but help, when we begin to learn about Him, to praise Him - and from our hearts there flows an ocean, an absolute torrent, of praise and worship. Praise is the proof that what you have learnt in your head about Him has touched your heart down deep in your soul. Here is the defining factor of whether your knowledge is only head knowledge or not. Maybe that has been perplexing you: 'Do I just know all these things in my head?' - well, here's the answer: if what you know in your head isn't fermented in your heart to the full, precious, sweet wine of praise...it's only head knowledge.
Does it touch your heart? For when we know God, my friends, we will be filled with praise. And when we are filled with praise, do you know what happens? We are filled with faith. And when we are filled with faith, what happens? Our prayers are answered. Isn't that right? Oh, today, that we would let what is in our heads about our God filter down that 16 inch journey into our hearts. Filter down into our very bosom, and bring from it a birth, a conception, and then a delivery to God Almighty of praise. And when He hears the praises of His people, He will inhabit those praises. And when He hears the prayer of faith, believing and praising the God that He is, He will answer our prayer. He will say to us today, as He said to the blind, as He said to them who came unto Him to see: 'Believe ye that I am able to do this? Do you believe me?'. 'They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you'.
Here we have it. Here is the key to our prayers today. There are many aspects of prayer, but this is a fundamental one - and that is why Paul said again in Philippians: "Be careful for nothing; but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving' - not without it - 'with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the God of peace shall give you the peace which passeth all understanding, to rule in your heart and mind through Christ Jesus'. Oh, to come to God, yes, today with our petitions - but to come to Him in praise and worship from our hearts with thanksgiving! Let us not be destroyed for lack of knowledge in our prayers - and I think, do you know what I think? In the closing 10 minutes or so of our meeting, I think if we could get a glimpse and an appreciation of who our God is and who our Saviour is, we would see great answers to prayer today!
Who is He? Who is this God? Psalm 48 tells us, and as you read this Psalm it seems that David is praising two things. It seems that he's praising the Lord, and then he's praising the city of the Lord. But you know, that's a mistake if you can only see that, because it's the fact that the presence of God is dwelling in the city of Zion that David praises that city of Jerusalem. So by praising the city, he sees himself as praising the Lord God Himself - therefore the city becomes a picture, an illustration, a metaphor of God, and what a personification of God it is as you read down these verses! Look at it, He is described as His presence being a mountain of holiness, beautiful in loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, the wonder of the world, the royal city where the King resides, where processions and parades go down the street in pomp and in majesty. It says that all the kings of the earth and armies come to conquer her, but when they see her strength and her impregnability, they tremble and flee in fear. If you read down you find that even the greatest Navy in the world, of Tarshish, is not a match for this fortress - for this is an eternal city. Look at the final verses: she has towers without number, you can't count them, you can't tell them. Her bulwarks, her walls of defence, would take your breath away if you saw them. She has palaces of splendour, and the generations that come after her will reminisce about the greatness of the city of Zion.
What a representation of God this is! Now can I ask you, as you meditate upon that and as you ponder it, does it not already fill your soul with faith? Does it not fill you with praise? Look at verse 1, God is described as great: 'Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised'. In the second half of the verse He is described as holy: 'in the mountain of his holiness' - the mountain is holy because He is holy. It is 'the joy of the whole earth', because God is the joy of the whole earth, verse 2. In verse 3 He is described as a refuge. In verses 4 to 8 He is a defence. In verse 9 He is filled with lovingkindness, unfailing love toward us. In verse 10 He is a righteous God. In verse 11 He is a God of judgement and justice. And my friends can I tell you today, listen: this God is our God! Hallelujah! This God is our God!
No wonder Martin Luther, faced with the empire of Roman Catholicism, could write these words: 'A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing', isn't that right? That is what our God is. He says in one of his verses:
'And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us'.
What faces us today? We're on our knees today, maybe you're here today and you haven't even the strength to be on your knees because of a broken heart, because of trials, because of affliction, because of maybe the enemy that has come and revealed himself to you in a way that you could never have imagined or anticipated. What faces us as a nation? Millions upon millions of children that are murdered in the wombs of their mothers, that's what faces us. Sodomite marriages, this week broadcast on television for all to see. The possibility of human cloning in the future. Oh, well, I could go on, but let's not go on - because my friends as we see what's going on in our land, as we see children - children that the Lord said: 'Suffer to come unto me', children that He sat upon His knee - used as a propaganda stunt, whether by Republicans or by Loyalists, we can say: 'Our God is this God'.
Will you let that saturate you today? This God is our God! He is ours, we own Him! And can I bring to you: if this God is for us who can stand against us? Look to Psalm 46, look at it, and in the light of our present situation in Ulster today, and as we pray about our land today I want us to take this verse from God. This is how God is described in Psalm 46 and verse 9 and 10: 'He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth'. Now, do you believe that our God is this God who maketh wars to cease? Amen? Do you believe it? Really believe it? He breaketh the spear in sunder, the weapons of warfare He breaks. He can breathe peace into the most turbulent situations. He says: 'I will be exalted among the heathen' - from the very depths of evil and distress and iniquity and all that we would find despair in, He can raise out a memorial to Himself.
Oh, that you would rejoice in the power of this God, this God that is our God. Oh, that you would see Him at the Red Sea. Do you see Him? Do you see what He can do? Can you see Him bringing a great fish to rescue Jonah? Can you see Him with Daniel in the very lion's den, shutting their mouths? Can you see Him with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace? Can you see Him with David and Goliath? Can you see Him in the person of Christ? Feeding the 5000, making the blind to see, making the deaf to hear, making the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk? Does that not inspire you to have faith in this great One?
Gideon, on one occasion, despaired and said: 'Lord, if you are with us, if you're really here then why has all this befallen us, and where be all the miracles which our fathers told us of? Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt? But now, Lord, you have forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites'. Elijah had been taken up to heaven, and Elisha was told if you see me being taken up you'll be anointed by a double portion of the Spirit that I had. As Elisha was keeping his eyes fixed on Elijah going across the Jordan - you remember the miracle that Elijah performed with his mantle, he struck the waters and the waters parted - but then on the way back Elisha had the mantle and Elijah was gone. Elisha comes and what does he do? He strikes it just like Elijah did, and he said: 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?'. Where is He? I'll tell you where He is: this God is our God. He's our God! He is with us today, His power is here, His promises we have. You see His power and His promises: God is our refuge, that's our protection; He's our strength, that's His power; He's a very present help, that's His presence; 'Therefore will we not fear', that's His peace. You can go through the Old Testament, go through the New Testament, and we as the church of Jesus Christ today say: 'All the promises in Him are Yea and Amen unto the glory of God by us'.
Oh, that that would thrill your heart today, and that we could look to Psalm 42 this time - and the cry comes up from heart of despair: 'Where is thy God?'. Where is He? Where is God in your life? Where is God in the Evangelical church today? Where is God in East Belfast? You look at the television and you see hate as you've never seen it before, where is God now? The word of faith to us today is this: 'Why art thou downcast, O my soul? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him'. What does God want us to do? He wants us to stop looking at our boots and start hoping in Him, hoping in the power of God, standing in the promises of God, and yearning for the presence of God.
This God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. In the closing moments, would you grab hold of this? You my friend, we as the church, have the presence of God as ours. What does it say about that city in Psalm 46? 'God is in the midst of her', it speaks and says: 'there is a river'. Jeremiah says that the Lord is the fountain of living waters. The Psalmist in 36 says: 'Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light'. The Lord Jesus said in John 4:14: 'But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life'. Isaiah calls to you today, calls to us upon our knees: 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price'. 'And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely'. Hear it? Hear it! For this God is our God, this God is your God, for ever and ever: and He will be your guide even unto death.
Samuel Rutherford was locked up in a prison in Aberdeen for his faith, for preaching the Gospel of Christ. He was writing some letters to the members of his church, and he ended one of his letters in his book of letters like this: 'Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone in it glowed like a ruby' - Jesus Christ came into my prison cell last night, and every stone shone, glowed, like a ruby. You see, the presence of Christ can transform the darkest, dampest, damnedest prison cell into the palace of the city of our God and King. My friend, do you know all it would take? Praise, praise unto our God.
Let us bow our heads and pray. Let me just say that after this service at about one o'clock, giving time for the children and the rest of the folk to disperse, in the Upper Room all afternoon some of us will be there for prayer. If you can join us you will be made very welcome.
Our Father, we thank Thee that this God, this same God, is our God for ever and ever, and He will be our guide even unto death. Father, thrill us with our God and our King, Christ Jesus. Inspire faith within us, cause us to praise Thee in our prayers and in our thanksgiving, that we may see the will of God done in earth as it is in heaven, that You may inhabit the praises of Your people, and that we would have cause to glorify Thy name today - not just to answer our prayers, but because we have been heard in the courts of heaven, and that our prayers are answered. We thank Thee for this day, and we pray Thy blessing upon it now, and those that must leave us that You'll bless them, and bless us all now in the Saviour's name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "This God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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