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Sermon #106 — Isaiah Series
Title: ÒLook upon ZionÓ
Text: Isaiah 33:20-23
Subject: The Safety and Security of GodÕs Church
Date: Sunday Evening — October 20, 2019
Readings: Mark Medley and Mark Henson
There is one Church to which you must belong. If you are a member of this Church, all is well, you are saved by the grace of God, saved forever. If you are not a member of this church, nothing is well, you are lost, lost forever under the wrath of God. To be in this Church is to be in Christ. For the church that I am talking about is the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.
I am talking about the Church of the living God, the Family of God, the Kingdom of God, the Temple of God, that Church whichÉ
The only Door of entrance into this Church is Christ (John 10:9). And the only way you can get into this church is by the faith in Christ. You cannot get into this Church except by the new birth. You cannot even see it unless you are born again (John 3:3-5).
(John 3:1-8) ÒThere was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: (2) The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his motherÕs womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.Ó
The church IÕm talking about is a universal church made up of all GodÕs elect, both in heaven and upon the earth (Hebrews 12:22-24).
(Hebrews 12:22-24) ÒBut ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, (23) To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.Ó
It is an invisible church. That is to say, it cannot be seen or known by the eye of man. We see it only in parts, and very small parts at that. It is a spiritual church, the mystical, spiritual body of Christ. But it is a gathered church. Oh, it could never be gathered in one building. But it is gathered in heaven around the throne of God right now (Hebrews 12:22-24 — ÒYe are come!Ó).
This Church is the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the Israel of God, the Mother of us All. And this Church is GodÕs Zion.
Tonight, I am going to talk to you about the blessedness and safety of GodÕs Church. My text is Isaiah 33:20-23. The title of my message is — ÒLook Upon Zion.Ó LetÕs read these four verses together.
(Isaiah 33:20-23) ÒLook upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. (21) But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. (22) For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us. (23) Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.Ó
When this prophecy was given by IsaiahÉ
It seemed inevitable that Jerusalem would also be consumed by Sennacherib and his army of trained beasts. But God here promises to protect his people. And protect them he did. Sennacherib did not shoot one arrow against Jerusalem. In one night the angel of the Lord killed 140,000 Assyrians. And Sennacherib fled to his house like a whipped pup, with his tail between his legs.
In our text, GodÕs prophet says, ÒLook upon Zion,Ó as if to say, Òpay no attention to your enemies, but look upon Zion, the city of God, and believe the promises God has made to her. You know the analogy. Zion is the Church of God. Though we are constantly surrounded by strong, numerous enemies, the Church of God is not in danger. It is not now in danger. It never has been in danger. And it shall never be in danger.
Proposition: The Church of God is a city protected and defended by the Lord God himself.
Divisions: Tonight, I want us to ÒLook upon ZionÓ just as she is described in our text.
City of Solemnities
1st — Isaiah declares that Zion, the Church of God, the city of our solemnities, shall endure forever (v. 21).
(Isaiah 33:20) ÒLook upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.Ó
The Church of God is not a temporary institution. It can never be destroyed. It shall never be removed. It abides forever. Like the bush that Moses saw, the Church of Christ lives continually amidst the fires of persecution, heresies, trials, and temptations, but she is never burnt. — Notice how Isaiah describes the church.
It is a city, Òthe city of our solemnities.Ó — Here the saints of God are gathered in solemn assembly to worship God. Here, in the true Church of Christ, the Word of God is solemnly reverenced, preached, and believed.
á As the Word of God
á In its entirety.
á Solemnly received.
Here the ordinances of Christ are solemnly kept and administered.
á Baptism as Christ Commanded It — Immersion!
á The LordÕs Supper as Christ Gave It. — Bread and Wine!
Here, in Zion, in the City of God, the sacrifices of faith are solemnly offered.
á Prayer to God (1 Timothy 2:1-6).
á Praise for Grace (Hebrews 13:15).
á Gifts of Gratitude (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15; 9:6-8).
(1 Corinthians 16:2) ÒUpon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.Ó
(2 Corinthians 8:12-15) ÒFor if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. (13) For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: (14) But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: (15) As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.Ó
(2 Corinthians 9:6-8) ÒBut this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. (7) Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.Ó
The Lord God dwells here and makes himself known here (Matthew. 18-20; 1 Corinthians 3:16). — Throughout the Scriptures, both in the Old Testament and in the New, GodÕs worship and service was conducted in public assemblies. Men and women together, collectively, worshipped and served God under the direction of GodÕs appointed prophets, priests, apostles, and preachers (Psalms 122:1; 133:1). Our solemnities of worship are more than acts of religious service. They are acts of divine worship carried out in GodÕs appointed way.
The Church of Christ is a Òquiet habitation,Ó a habitation of peace. The visible church is often disturbed by heresies, strife, turmoil, division, inward troubles, and outward troubles. But the Church of God, the true Church of God is a quiet habitation.
á It is the habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
á And it is the habitation of saints.
á GodÕs saints are a united people, dwelling together in the quietness and peace of redemption, reconciliation, and grace in Christ.
á GodÕs house is always under GodÕs protection!
á GodÕs Church is a family united, spiritually united and unified! — One in Heart! — One in Doctrine! — One in Purpose!
á The rule of the house is brotherly love!
Gill suggests that these words, Òquiet habitation,Ó might be rendered Òquiet sheepfold.Ó ÒChrist is the Shepherd, the saints are his sheep, the Church is the fold where they are gathered, fed, and preserved, and lie down in safety and peace.Ó
Though now we see much trouble and much that troubles us in the outward, visible church, the promise of our text is — ÒThine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation!Ó And so it shall be!
Now, look at the blessed security promised to GodÕs Church. — It is Òa tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.Ó
The Church of God, in itself, is but a feeble tabernacle, a tent, without stability or permanence. — But, being a building of God, it is Òa tabernacle that shall not be taken downÓ (Revelation 21:3). Our feebleness is no reason to doubt our preservation and perseverance and success! — Our weakness only drives us to our God and serves to magnify his power. And so our weakness becomes our strength.
á We have no carnal weapons of warfare.
á We have no earthly riches.
á We possess no astounding wisdom.
á But this tabernacle shall not be taken down.
All the devils of hell have been spitting at this candle for two thousand years. Yet, it continues to show forth its light to the glory of God.
This is a tabernacle, which God has pitched, not man. Therefore it shall stand forever! These words could not be strictly applied to:
á The literal city, Jerusalem.
á Any denomination.
á Any local church!
This tabernacle is the tabernacle of God, his Church. Babylon shall be destroyed. But GodÕs church shall never be destroyed (Revelation 12:13-17; 21:1-3).
ÒNot one of the stakesÓ of this tabernacle Òshall ever be removed.Ó — ÒThe stakesÓ I take to refer both to gospel preachers and to all believers. As the church of God stands forever, so every member of it stands forever, as a stake driven by God in a place of permanence. God who preserves the whole church preserves every member of it (John 10:28; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5).
If you are one of the stakes of GodÕs tabernacle, you shall never be removed.
á From the Heart of GodÕs Love!
á From the Covenant of His Grace!
á From the Hand of His Power!
á From your Union with His Son!
á From the LambÕs Book of Life!
Perhaps the also refer to the purposes of God! Not one shall be removed! Either way, we have reason to rejoice. — Rejoice, believer, for your name is written in heaven permanently! The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.
ÒNeither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.Ó — These cords, which hold the stakes and the tabernacle together shall never stretch and become weak, wear thin, or be broken. The cords here, we may safely assume, refer toÉ
á GodÕs Everlasting Love.
á Electing Grace.
á The Covenant of Peace.
á Blood Atonement.
á Gospel Doctrine — The cords of Gospel Doctrine are the things that give the tabernacle of God stability.
These days a new doctrine is invented every day. New visions are told every day. Everyone wants something new. Church councils meet every year to update their creeds. I contend that any church whose creed must be updated is not the church of Christ, but the synagogue of Satan. Truth does not change! We are delighted to hold that form of sound words which God has given us (Isaiah 8:20).
á We will not alter the doctrine of the gospel for anybody, or for any reason.
á We will not alter the ordinances of the gospel for anybody, or for any reason.
What the Church of God has been, it is now, and it always will be. It will endure forever!
2nd — The Lord God will be to us a place of broad rivers (v. 21).
(Isaiah 33:21) ÒBut there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.Ó
In ancient times well defenced cities were cities surrounded by broad, deep rivers. These rivers provided protection to the city, fertility to the land, abundance of produce, and opportunity for commerce. Jerusalem had no rivers surrounding her, only the brook Kedron, which was little more than a small stream. But God promises his church, the true Zion, that he, Òthe glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers.Ó (Psalm 46:1-4).
(Psalm 46:1-11) ÒGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (2) Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; (3) Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. — (4) There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. (5) God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. (6) The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. (7) The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. — (8) Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. (9) 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. (10) Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (11) The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.Ó
Christ himself, Òthe glorious Lord,Ó the Lord of Glory is our place of broad rivers — Òrivers to swim inÓ (Ezekiel 7:4).
á Christ is the fertility of his Church, causing us to bring forth fruit unto God.
á Christ, like a broad river, provides for his church all she needs in constant abundance — ÒLacked ye anything?Ó — What can we need that he cannot supply? — What can we ask that he cannot do?
Christ is the security of his Church. What a defense Christ is! The devil can never cross this Broad River of protection. Between the Church of God and the fiend of hell stands Christ, our glorious Lord!
3rd — Now look at verse 22 — The Lord himself, the eternal God, is our Savior.
(Isaiah 33:22) ÒFor the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.Ó
ÒThe church here speaks with great pleasure of her interest in Christ under every character, and of her safety as depending upon them.Ó — John Gill.
ÒThe Lord is our Judge.Ó — All judgment is committed to Christ. He will judge his people. And he will judge for his people.
ÒThe Lord is our Lawgiver.Ó
á His Word is our rule.
á His Spirit is our Teacher.
á His love is our constraint.
á His example is our guide.
á His glory is our motive.
ÒThe Lord is Our King.Ó
á We bow to his rule.
á We trust in his providence.
á We look to him for protection.
ÒHe will save us!Ó
á From all sin.
á From all enemies.
á With everlasting salvation.
No Injury Possible
4th — Our text gives us this last promise — No enemy shall ever harm GodÕs Church. Injury is not even a possibility! — ÒNo galley with oars, neither shall any gallant ship pass therebyÉThy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of the great spoil divided; the lame take the prey-Ó (vv. 21, 23).
What does that language mean? Isaiah the prophet here speaks for the whole Church of God standing against her enemies, believing God. These words of the prophet certainly imply four things:
1. The Church of God has many enemies, who would destroy her if they could.
2. But, to the eye of faith the church has no enemies at all.
Spurgeon said, ÒFaith so clearly perceives the feebleness and frailty of man that, like her Lord, she taketh up the nations as a very little thing, and counteth all her adversaries to be but as a drop in the bucket.Ó (See Isaiah 54:17; Romans 8:31-39).
(Isaiah 54:17) ÒNo weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.Ó
Our Adversaries are like a spiderÕs web — a nuisance but no hindrance!
3. All Our adversaries shall be thoroughly confused and their goals completely frustrated.
ÒOh! How glorious it is to see the confusion of GodÕs enemies! Some say the devil is wise, but he is a fool, and he has been a fool from the very beginning. All he has ever done is to throw stones into the sky which have fallen down upon his own head; he always shoots his arrows (backwards) the wrong end foremostÉWhen the whole of this worldÕs drama shall come to an end, there will be one tremendous laugh from earth and heaven against the devil, for they will say, Aha! Aha! Aha! He has been GodÕs drudge all the while; he has been but GodÕs drudge, working out GodÕs glory; he thought he was having his own way, and doing his own will, and he has been but a black slave to carry the materials out of which God shall bring forth triumphs that shall shine throughout eternity.Ó — C. H. Spurgeon
4. And every enemy of GodÕs church shall be so thoroughly destroyed that the weakest of his saints shall completely spoil them.
ÒI reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.Ó (Romans 8:18).
That which we suffer now from our enemies shall in heaven redound to our eternal blessedness (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:5-7).
(2 Corinthians 5:17) ÒFor our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.Ó
(1 Peter 1:5-7) ÒWho are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.Ó
ÒLook upon ZionÓ and know that all is well.
(Psalm 48:8-14) ÒAs 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 forever. Selah. — (9) We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. (10) According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. (11) Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. (12) Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. (13) Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following. (14) For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.Ó
To you who are the citizens of Zion, I sayÉ
á Let us trust our great and glorious God (Romans 8:28).
á Be patient in the midst of trial. — Being saved, expect every temptation to minister to your growth. Expect every trial to make you richer in grace. Expect every adversary to fall before you.
To you who are notyet in the fold of GodÕs Church, I implore you to come to Christ. — There is no safety for your soul until you are in his Kingdom of his grace.