Let's read our Psalm  again this morning, we'll take time to read through the whole of it: "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee".
We want to deal this morning with the last few verses - verses 9, 10, 11 and 12 of our Psalm. I hope that you've noted as we've gone through the Psalm that we have taken the various pauses where David, the Psalmist, took them - where you find that little word 'Selah', is a musical interlude, or just a simple meditational pause, where we are instructed to stop for a moment and to really ponder and think about the truths that the Psalmist has been praying and singing. We've done that, and we do it again this week - verses 9 to 12 - I've entitled it: 'Heaven Here and Hereafter' - Heaven Here and Hereafter.
Of course, this Psalm is speaking of a pilgrimage of Jewish people to Jerusalem - whether it was to the old tabernacle or the new temple we're not too sure, but it seems to be reminiscent of the old tabernacle that was no beautiful thing to look at on the outward appearance, but the depths of the riches of the knowledge of wisdom and glory that were found in the emblems and furniture and typology of that tabernacle seemed to be so dear to the heart of David, and indeed to the heart of God. We've read about the great desire that this man had to be with the people of God, worshipping God, but what seems to come out of this Psalm to us is the Psalmist's desire to be at all times in the presence of God.
We paralleled last week how these Jew's pilgrimage to their 'mecca', to Jerusalem, to the tabernacle, to the temple, is so parallel and so much like our pilgrimage through this sinful wilderness going towards our heavenly home, where one day we will be in the presence of Christ and God for all eternity. But in the light of that, if we were asked today: where is heaven? Many would retort back the answer that you often hear: 'Heaven is wherever God is', or 'Heaven is wherever Christ is'. Of course, that is true, heaven is where the presence of God is, but we ask a secondary question to that one: well then, where is heaven because we learn from a very early age that God is everywhere, He's omnipresent, there is not a place that God isn't? We heard this morning, around the Table, Psalm 139 quoted, that even if we ascend into the heavens, God is there; if we take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there God's hand will be on us; and even if we make our bed in the depths of hell, God is there. You cannot escape the presence of God!
So we have a contrast: if God is in the depths of hell, does that mean that the depths of hell is heaven? Well, of course it doesn't, because what David is speaking of here is a special presence of God. When we say that heaven is wherever God's presence is, we usually mean a special presence of God, where God's home is. But if we were to come a little bit closer and more personal to individual Christians, we would have to say that the simplest child understands that God lives within its heart. Isn't that right? God's presence indwells us. So theoretically heaven is a place which we cannot find on a map of the universe, we do not know how to get there. We know it exists, it's real, it's not subjective, it's a living destination - yet heaven can be in the depths of the human heart, because heaven essentially is where the personal presence of God is. We believe He's in our heart.
So heaven can be a place on earth, if heaven is in our hearts. You might say that this is a lot of subjective nonsense, and you've no basis within the word of God to say such things, but I want you to know where I'm finding this by turning to Ephesians chapter 1 for a moment - right into the New Testament revelation of heaven and the church, and the various mysteries that were guarded to the Old Testament saints but were revealed to the New Testament saints and specifically here to Paul the apostle. Ephesians chapter 1 verses 13 and 14, Paul's prayer in verse 12 is that the saints in the church at Ephesus would be made to the praise of the glory of Christ, the praise of God and the glory of Christ: '...who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise'. So you see the progression here, Paul is praying that, now these Christians in Ephesus are saved, that they would become men and women to the glory and praise of God who saved them, the gospel of Christ that they heard and they believed, they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. Now watch this in verse 14, that Holy Spirit of promise by which they were sealed: 'is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory'.
The gift of the Holy Spirit that we have as believers, or if you like - in the simple childish way of saying it - God dwelling in our heart by the Holy Spirit, is the earnest of our inheritance of things to come in heaven. Now I've often heard this preached on, and people say that this is just like a guarantee. If you imagine you're going into a jewellers to buy an engagement ring or something like that, and you go into the jewellers but you don't have enough money. People say: 'Well, you can leave your watch', maybe you have a very precious watch and you take it off - and you leave it on the counter and you tell the jeweller: 'Now I'm going to leave that with you as a guarantee that I will come back and pay you the rest of the bill that is due for that engagement ring'. That is what a guarantee is, isn't it? Or it might be a written guarantee, but that is not what Paul is speaking of here, because an earnest, specifically, has to be an advance of the same, an advance in measure of the same. So you couldn't go into the jewellers and take your watch off, you would have to pay him a certain amount of the money first of all, and then come and pay the rest of the money - you would have to give him an advance of the same. That is specifically what an earnest is.
So, when Paul is saying here that we, when we are saved and receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts, are given an advance of the same - he's not just saying that we are given a guarantee that one day we'll go to glory, but Paul is saying we're actually paid in advance a bit of heaven poured into our hearts to give us a taste of it! Do you see the difference? Paul is not talking about, and I'm not being disrespectful, about a load of dusty pages that we less than frequently read, that tell us that we are going to a place that Christ has prepared for us. Praise God for the word of God, but there's more than that, Paul says! There is not just a guarantee in the word of God, but there is an earnest, there is an advance payment of heaven that is to be poured into the soul of the child of God. We are to experience a little bit of heaven in our heart on earth!
Now, where are we when it comes to that? Franz Baker, a Dutch Christian, said these words: 'If we haven't personally learned what it is to pray, we will meet an unknown God after death'. John Owen, who was said by some to be the greatest theologian since Paul the apostle - I don't know about that, but certainly I know that he was a great puritan and a great theologian with the word of God - do you know what he said? In a little book, and I would urge you to read it, called 'The Glory of Christ' he says these words, now listen very carefully: 'No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven, who does not in some measure behold it by faith in this world'. Have you got that? 'No man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven, who does not in some measure behold it by faith in this world'. He goes on: 'Faith is a necessary preparation for sight. The soul unprepared by grace and faith is not capable of seeing the glory of Christ in heaven' - you don't have eyes to see it if you don't have faith to see it down here!
'Many will say with confidence that they desire to be with Christ and to behold His glory, but when asked they can give no reason for this desire except that it would be better than going to hell. If a man claims to love and desire that which he never even saw, he is deceiving himself!'. What is the great man saying? He's simply saying: 'If you can't in any way taste heaven by seeing the glory of Christ by faith in your heart, the likelihood is that you'll never stand in heaven and see it with sight'. What he is saying is simply what the word of God is saying, and I believe what this Psalm is prophesying into a New Testament context, that the preparation for heaven is determined by our pilgrimage on earth. How we will spend heaven will be determined by how we have spent our time here on earth, and the inference is that we can taste of the sweetness of heaven in advance, here and now, before we ever get there!
An old Scot was asked on one occasion, as he lay on his deathbed: 'Are you going to heaven?'. His reply tells so much - so simple, but he simply said: 'I am living there!'. One of the great puritans, it was said of him that heaven was in him before he was in heaven. That's what we're talking about today in this Psalm, that if we don't get heaven in our hearts before we die we shall never get there afterwards! If you don't have a taste of the glory of Christ in your heart and this great life that you're living, eternal life, the likelihood is you'll never be in heaven. Now my question to every believer here - I know that you don't walk around every day as if you're living in heaven - but my question to you is: are there times when you can actually sense heaven in your heart?
I want to tell you how that's possible from the words of this Psalmist. Three points, the first is simply this: you will live in heaven on earth if you adhere to verse 9. Look to it: 'Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed'. If you live in the place of shelter here on earth, in your heart, you will actually physically and spiritually live in the place called heaven. Now this was a prayer that was prayed by the Jewish nation for David, their King - but I believe that what we see here through the Holy Spirit's inspiration and prophetic ministry, we see a little bit of a gleam of the Gospel through the Old Testament clouds in the Psalms. We see not just King David, but we see here a prayer, I believe, prophetically concerning David's Greater Son. Now if you look at it in the light of that, you could pray this prayer and say: 'Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine Anointed' - God's anointed. It was David in the context, but who was David prophesying and pointing towards? Who have all the anointed of God been prophesying towards? It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ! If you want to live in the experience of heaven in your heart, heaven on earth, the only place that you will live it is under the shelter of God's Son.
If God looks upon the Lord Jesus Christ, let me tell you upon the authority of the word of God: you will come to no harm! Isn't that our prayer? 'Lord, look upon the face of Thine Anointed' - and if God beholds the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be enabled to go into the very presence of God and behold the face of God with joy! Sure, isn't that what the Gospel is? That we, how many times do you read it in Paul's epistles, we are now in Christ, we are accepted in the Beloved. It's as if we're in a shield, as David literally says: 'O Lord our shield, look upon thine anointed', and when we come into the presence of God by faith and through the blood, He looks down and He sees Christ, for if He saw us we'd be destroyed! If He saw us we'd never get near to Him, but He sees Christ and He accepts us in Christ into His holy presence.
We looked not so long ago, I think it was last summer, this time last year, at Psalm 91 verse 1, and it simply says: 'He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty'. Where is the secret place of the most High? Is it not the very right hand of the throne of God? And who stands at the right hand of the throne of God only our Great High Priest, our great Saviour and Redeemer who is able to shelter us beneath His wings because He died for us? And when the Father looks at the Son He sees perfect righteousness. I don't know whether you're here today and you're satisfied with mere formalities of religion, or little Christian idiosyncrasies, or dots and crosses - I don't know. But let me tell you this: if what turns you on is the discussion of doctrines, and little petty squabbles of men, and foolish ramblings, vain wives tales, I want tell you that that is not God's desire. God's desire is that we, like Him, should be occupied by Christ Himself. For it is the knowledge of Christ, looking upon His face, that gives us strength and gives us joy.
God wants us to know today that Christ is all that we have and can have. In all of the times that we go through, in all of our circumstances, not once can you say: 'Lord, look at me! Look at what I'm doing! Look at how good I am! Look at what I've achieved!' - but every time, as we walk in our pilgrimage, we've got to say: 'Lord, look upon Him, look upon the face of Thine Anointed'. I tell you, that's what I have to do when I fail, when I sin, when I go through trial and my head falls - I can't say: 'Now Lord, look at me, look at how well I'm doing'. I've got to plead Christ! You see, that's the secret of salvation, it's the secret of sanctification, it's the secret of survival when going through suffering and trial and sickness and sorrow and death - it's simply pleading with God what Christ is! Is that not it?
'Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling'.
'Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me'.
'Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head'.
Not because God's looking at my head, but He's looking at the face of Christ. Oh, it's wonderful: God is ever pleased with His beloved Son since the day He opened the heavens and said: 'This is My beloved Son in whom is all My delight'. He has ever been occupied from that day with His crucifixion and the satisfaction of the blood of Christ. Oh, He could say in looking at Calvary: 'I'm well pleased with that, I'm satisfied with that', and He said it by putting a full stop to the whole event by raising Him from the dead. The Lord of heaven is continually occupied with the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the perfect life, the perfect intercession and mediatorial high priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ - He is ever occupied with that, and that is what He wants us to be occupied with! Why? Here it is now: because that is what we will be occupied with in heaven.
What are you occupied with now in your heart? Is it a preparation for heaven? Do you have true faith? What does true faith rest on? What does our position and place reserved in heaven rest on? It can only rest on God's estimate of Christ: that He was satisfied with Him, that He loves Him, and anyone in Him He loves also. It's not upon our inward thoughts or feelings, or what we feel about how worthy we are, or unworthy, how guilty or sinful - it's upon Christ, and I tell you: if upon Christ the solid rock you stand, you'll not get down in sinking sand! Now listen, that's what heaven's going to be: just Christ. Emmanuel's land, the light of heaven is going to be the face of Jesus; the joy of heaven is going to be the presence of Jesus; the melody of heaven will be the lovely name of Jesus; the harmony of heaven will be the praise of Jesus; the theme of heaven will be the finished sacrifice and work of Jesus; the employment of heaven will be His service for all eternity; the fullness of heaven will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself full stop! I'll tell you, if you live underneath His shelter, if you ask God to look upon His face, and you in turn look upon it also, you will be living heaven on earth.
The second thing: it's a place of no comparison. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9: 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him'. We find in this Psalm that there is a place of no comparison, and a person of no comparison. He says: 'For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand', and the inference is - we could nearly put in there 'somewhere else'. 'A day in the courts of God is better than a thousand days spent anywhere else, even in the most favourable palaces with the best of food, finery and wine'. The greatest things that earth's pleasures can give a man, one day in the presence of God, in the house of God, is not to be compared with all the delights that men in this world can offer. Is that the way we think? That serving God, one day in God's house, would be better than everything and anything that the world can offer? You wouldn't think so today, because we can hardly get anybody to do anything even in this church. We have turned everything on its head: 'One day spent somewhere else would be better than an hour or a minute spent in the service of God'.
David had something in his heart, he had a homesickness for the people of God and the presence of God and the house of God; so much so that he experienced in his very heart that it was better - even though he was the King, perhaps, of all kings that ever lived humanly speaking - he said that all the things that he was offered in royalty, in sensuality, in festivity, you name it financially, everything was nothing compared to one day serving God with His people in the house of God. One day to feel the joy and the love of His presence! One day just rejoicing in the glories and the beauties of the Son of God! One day taking His word and surveying all His wondrous promises, lifting them by faith and applying them to his life! One day experiencing, in prayer, the power of the Holy Ghost upon you!
David is saying that this is something that this world cannot understand - worldlings can't enter into this, but I fear that children of God today can't even enter into this! I would rather be here than anywhere else! If that's what a day in the courts of the Lord was like, what will a day in heaven be like? Better than that: what will an eternity in heaven be like? This is a place of no comparison, but David said it's a place that can be in your heart here and now.
There's also a person of no comparison, because he said: 'I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness'. I'd rather be in the lowest station serving the Lord than in the highest position among the godless in the tents of wickedness. Do you know what he's saying? 'I'd rather have God's worst than have the devil's best'. That's not what people are saying today, that's not what Christians are saying: 'I'd rather have the world's best than God's worst'. My friends, as one writer said: 'God's doorstep is a happier rest than downy couches within the pavilions of royal sinners, though we might lie there for a lifetime of luxury'. To wait at the house of God, and to peep through the curtains of God, and to see all the glories of the beautiful golden vessels, to see the priests lifting their incense to God, to see the sacrifice slain and offered that teaches us of the awfulness of sin and the justice of God and the necessity of an atonement by blood - to look at that, to see the glories of our Great High Priest, our Redeemer the Lord Jesus Christ, to sing His praises, to offer up spiritual sacrifices unto God morning and evening in the church of Jesus Christ is better than anything that the world can offer!
Why are the churches empty then? Why is your seat empty at the Breaking of Bread and at the prayer meeting? Because heaven's not in your heart, and if it is it's buried under a load of debris and backsliding - but what a blessing to be singing, and remember who's singing this. It's the sons of Korah who we're told were actually porters at the doorposts of the temple - that was their duty! You remember, I told you two weeks ago, how they were rebels, how they wanted to be chief in the tents of wickedness. They led a rebellion, they didn't want Aaron's leadership or Moses' prophethood, they wanted to be their own men and they raised up, if you like, another denomination to worship God and another way to worship God. Yet God, in grace, is restoring them to the place of lowlihood, to the worst place in house of God - and they said: 'That's better than any of our forefathers could offer'.
Is that not what the devil chose in the very beginning? He said: 'I would rather be chief of my kingdom than to serve God in the tents and the house of holiness'. Matthew Henry said that this could be translated: 'I'd rather be fixed to a post in the house of my God than to live in liberty'. I think he's thinking of Exodus 21, I don't know whether you know the story, we haven't got time to look at it, but in the seventh year all the slaves would be released, the year of emancipation. But say a slave had got on well with his master and made a home for himself in that particular farm or whatever it was, and he wanted to stay - maybe he had a family and his children and wife were there. Well, he was allowed, out of love for his master and devotion for him, to ask to stay on. If he was to stay on he was to be taken and his ear was to be put against a post, and an awl was to be hammered through it. Matthew Henry is saying that this is what the meaning is here: to spend service, it better to be in slavery of God than in the freedom of sins, to be in the bondage of duty than the liberty of iniquity - because there's nothing like, get this, the presence of God! Do you know it? Do you know heaven in your heart?
Thirdly: it is a place where God is for His people. Verse 11a: 'For the LORD God is a sun and shield'. I wish I had time to deal with this: the Lord is a sun and a shield. You know if you're travelling in a pilgrimage you need the sun and you need a shield. You need the sun so that the cold will not smite you, and you need a shield so that the foe will not slay you. Israel found, as they went through the wilderness, that God became their sun and shield. He was a sun by a pillar of fire, He was a sun by a cloud of smoke guiding them along their way. He was a shield to them as He defeated their enemies through the wilderness and right into Canaan. But it was the sign of God's presence; and friend today, as we travel on toward heaven, against storm and wind and tide, God is still the light, God is still the shelter, He still gives sun in our happy days, He still gives us a shield in our dangerous days. He is a sun above us, He is a shield around us, He shows us the way, He is a shield to ward off our enemies and the perils along our pilgrimage. He is our light, and you know that the source of all life in this whole planet is light. Whether it's the wind across the waves, whether it's the light that comes that makes the waves go to and fro, whether it's the little plant that grows up, whether it's your actual body - light is the source of all life, and it's still God who is the source of your life and mine.
But I'm thinking more, as we come into the presence of God through the altars of God, you remember that David wanted to delight and take his refuge and shelter in the altars of God and the shed blood of the lamb. My thoughts go to 1 John chapter 1 verse 7: 'But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light', what happens? All our sins are uncovered and we are made naked before Him, and all the dirt and dross is seen - but if we walk into the light of the sun, the sun of God's presence, He will uncover our sin, but praise God He has provided a shield, for 'the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanseth us from all sin'.
Our God is for His people as a sun and as a shield, our God gives to His people grace and glory when it's needed. Look at verse 11, the middle: 'He will give grace and glory'. Whenever you need it, He'll give it to you in the full in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ - and that's all you need. That's all that's in salvation: grace and glory. Grace to save you now, and it's like a little bud, a little seed of glory - for one day will be glorified, we will be without sin, but that grace in your heart is like a seed and you've got it now! Heaven's in your heart, grace is here, and glory is in the hereafter. Isn't it wonderful to say today: 'Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory'. And as You guide me with Your council, to testify: 'Thy grace is sufficient for me, for Thy strength is made perfect in weakness'. This is a place where God is for His people, where God gives to His people, and where God withholds from His people - no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. There's some things that seem apparently good to you and me and we don't get them because they're not good in essence and God withholds them. But how we can see in the book of Romans that if God spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Does it not rejoice your heart as you wrestle on toward heaven that all things - mark it - all things are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's? If you're ready to receive anything - that means you're walking uprightly - He'll not withhold one good thing from you. Walk uprightly now, you must walk uprightly because it is the pure in heart that shall see God! Without holiness no man shall see God, and no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
What's your condition this morning? Do you feel unfit for heaven? Oh, praise God, the Lord will give grace: grace to forgive, grace to remember your sins no more. Do you feel unworthy, even though you're forgiven, of standing before God in heaven? He will give glory when your time comes to stand, He will give you new garments! Do you have many needs as you sit in this great company today? No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
What is the key to having heaven in your heart? Verse 12: 'O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee'. A life of real faith in God, that's it! Not of sight, but of faith, of faith in worship, of faith in God's Son, faith in God's house, faith in the ways of God, and faith that will take you to heaven and actually give you heaven in your heart now! You see, eternal life doesn't begin when you die, it begins when you have faith. A little faith will bring your soul to heaven but, my friend, great faith will bring heaven to your soul. Have you got it there? Matthew Henry said that we in this lifetime could be in the suburbs of heaven here and now. Do you have heaven in your heart? Do you know what my prayer is today, and I hope it's yours: that I'll walk so close with Christ on this earth, that when I die and go into eternity it will be no great change. Have you got heaven in your heart?
Father, we come to Thee today, and we covet a touch of heaven in our hearts, we covet a real sense of that earnest of the purchased possession. Lord, we long to sense that we are continually under the shelter of the face of Jesus Christ. You see Him, Lord. Lord, we long to know that You are with us, that You are for us, that You are withholding bad from us. Lord, we thank Thee for all these things, but Lord, help them to be in our heart, and help our hearts to be in heaven - for where our hearts are, there are treasure will be. Lord, for any in this gathering who have never beheld the glory of Christ in their hearts, they will never behold it by sight in heaven. May You shake them, may You awaken them to their need of Christ as their Saviour and Lord. May You warm all our hearts today as we travel towards our home, Amen.
Don't miss Part 4 of 'Psalm 84': “Make A Nest For Your Young”
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third tape in his 'Psalm 84' series, titled "Heaven Here and Hereafter" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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