"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever."—Micah 4:5
The Sacrament of the Supper is a votive as well as a commemorative ordinance. And these words may be appropriately taken as embodying a holy resolution, or rather a series of holy resolutions, on the part of those who have recently recorded their vows.
"The Name of the Lord," it is said, "is a strong tower—the righteous runs into it, and is safe" (Prov. 18:10). You who, as good soldiers, have anew attested your allegiance to your heavenly Leader, are represented as garrisoning this divine Stronghold—"Those who trust in the Lord shall be like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever." It has its "places of defense"—fortified battlements. And we are now to invite you to "go about Zion, mark the towers thereof, mark well her bulwarks and consider her palaces." The various Towers of this Great spiritual Fortress are nothing else than the titles and attributes with which, in His own Inspired Volume, God has seen meet to make Himself known. Of such there are six, more conspicuously presented to us, in Old Testament Scripture alone—
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU. The Tower of Righteousness.
JEHOVAH-SHALOM. The Tower of Peace.
JEHOVAH- SHAMMAH. The Tower of the Divine Presence.
JEHOVAH-NISSI. The Tower of Defense.
JEHOVAH-JIREH. The Tower of Trust.
JEHOVAH-ROPHI. The Tower of Healing.
After a Sacramental Season, it is my privilege, as we survey these glorious munitions, to say to all believing communicants, in the words of the Prophet Zechariah—"I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in His name."
I. The First Tower we mention isJEHOVAH-TSIDKENU. "The Lord our Righteousness."
We were surely today specially invited to behold this Tower built on "the Rock of Ages." What was the main purpose of our gathering at the Holy Table, but to commemorate the Prince of Life working out for us, by His obedience and death, a righteousness not our own? Any shelter we can rear is a tower of sand—a citadel of bulrushes—that will leave us naked and defenseless in that solemn hour which is to try every man's work, and every man's righteousness of what sort it is. But, says Jehovah, "I bring near My righteousness" (Isa. 46:13). The salvation wrought out by His Eternal Son He has "appointed for walls and for bulwarks." And the believer's prayer who has fled to this Refuge city is—"Let Your hand be upon the Man of Your right hand, on the Son of Man whom You have made strong for Yourself" (Ps. 80:17). He has finished transgression and made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in Everlasting Righteousness (Dan. 9:24). Perish all else that would interfere with it. Let the giant deed—the triumph of divine sorrow and love which we have had before us in significant symbol—stand forth in its solitary grandeur. To attempt anything of our own by way of supplement or addition to the merits of the Divine Surety, would be seeking to gild refined gold; holding up the candle to help the sunlight; or listening to those who counseled the youthful conqueror of Goliath to cumber himself with useless armor, a helmet of steel, and boots of brass, and an untempered shield. Like him, let us cast them all aside, saying, as we stand panoplied in the great imputed righteous ness—"Behold! O God, our Shield, and look on the face of Your Anointed."
Brethren and fellow-Communicants, think as you pace that Tower, with its memories of suffering and victory, how it has been crowded by the Saints in the past. You are walking where Abraham walked, when "he believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." You are treading what was consecrated by the footsteps of Isaac and Jacob—Moses, and David, and Isaiah—the blessed Apostles, the holy Martyrs, the members of the true Church throughout all the world and in every age. You are taking up, in the text, the strain chanted and sung by each of them in turn—"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God," and "this is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:6).
II. A Second Tower isJEHOVAH-SHALOM. "The Lord my Peace," or "The Lord send Peace."
This Spiritual Tower of Peace stands side by side with the Tower of Righteousness. "The work of righteousness shall be peace" (Isa. 32:17). "Being justified by faith"—faith in the finished work and righteousness of Christ—"we have peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). "Let him take hold of My Strength, that he may make peace with Me, and he shall make peace with Me" (Isa. 27:5). It is through Him, who is emphatically THE STRONG ONE, that we can have peace. "Having made peace, through the blood of His cross" (Col. 1:20). The gifted author of the "Pilgrim's Progress" speaks of the window of the chamber called Peace, in which Christian lay, as opening towards the risen sun. The window faces the Sun of Righteousness. It gets its very name from the "Brightness of His rising." Isaiah, in one of the beautiful emblems of his later prophecy, likens the believer's peace to the "flowing of a river" (48:18). How as of a river? Whence these tranquil streams—these still, deep-flowing waters? They cannot be fed from the low marshy ground of his own goodness—his virtues, or moralities; his fitful frames and feelings—but from the Everlasting Hills—from that Righteousness, which the Psalmist describes to be as "the great mountains" (Ps. 36:6). Like the glacier Alps, from which streams, melted by the sun, are flowing all summer long in the midst of drought, when every other channel is dry.
Walk up and down, as Christian sentinels, in this Name of the Lord—singing your watch-song, "You will keep him, O God, in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You!"
What a repose this Gospel peace gives amid all the petty troubles of life! The Apostle speaks of it as "the Peace of God, which passes all understanding," and which "keeps the heart" (according to the meaning of the word in the original), as in a citadel or garrison. What a calm elevation is imparted to the present; while the future can be contemplated undismayed! The chariot of peace in which the believer is seated rolls on; and life's troubles are but as the thin clouds of dust on the gusty highway. Yes, you who climbed so lately "the Hill of blessing," as you enter this Tower of Zion, and gaze from its loopholed window, see how, when God gives His beloved the gracious boon of peace, He makes all things look peaceful. All that belongs to the Christian; his duties; his engagements; his very cares and difficulties, are softened and mellowed with this calm tranquility; just as in nature the setting sun transforms and metamorphoses the whole landscape into gold. While from your Peace-Tower you thus look along life's valley, you can observe also, beyond the border river, the fields of the true Canaan "dressed in living green," and which this purchased peace has made all your own. With the present rest of grace in possession, and the rest of glory in reversion, we may well say of the Lord, "He is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my Strength, in whom I will trust; my Shield, and the horn of my salvation, and my high Tower."
Let us joyfully renew and ratify our vows; and with earnest heart and voice utter the resolution, "We will walk in THIS name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
III. A Third Tower isJEHOVAH-SHAMMAH. "The Lord is there,"—The Tower of the Divine Presence.
It is a blessed thing for the believer to bear constantly about with him the realized sense of the Divine nearness, and it is his peculiar privilege and prerogative to do so. God, indeed, is everywhere. The world, the universe has written on its every portal JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH—"The Lord is there." It is gleaming in starry letters on the nightly skies. It is carved in deep hieroglyphics on earth's lowest strata. It is inscribed on the brow of its loftiest mountains. It is written in mosaic on the floor of the sounding sea. Among the forest glades—the cathedral aisles of tangled wood—where neither hammer nor axe nor tool of iron has built a Temple, God is there. Amid the waste of desert sands; on the mossy bank; on the lonely shore, God is there. In the summer calm; the raging storm; the smiling harvest, God is there. Like one of those giant mountains whose base is furrowed with lakes and valleys, and its top pierces the clouds; so is the Ever near—the Omnipresent One. Heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool. From among its lowliest insect tribes, up to the myriad ranks of Angel and Archangel—JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH—the Lord is there.
He is the living God also in Providence—alike in great things and in small. When we hear of kingdoms convulsed; nations reeling and trembling, The Lord is there. "Shall there be evil," says the prophet, "in a city, and the Lord has not done it?" (Amos 3:6). When we hear of death darkening the humblest dwelling; when we see the tiniest bud of earth's affection falling, as we think, prematurely to the ground, "The Lord is there," "Who knows not in all these things that the hand of the Lord has wrought this?" (Job 12:9). Yes, it is delightful and comforting surely, with the eye of faith, to see Jehovah thus riding in the chariot of Providence, reining in (if I may so express it) at His sovereign Will its fiery coursers—the mighty wheels, like those in Ezekiel's vision—rather their complex movements, wheel within wheel—revolving and evolving nothing but good—He guiding and supervising all; appointing every sorrow that is endured, and every tear that is shed!
There is yet a nobler and pre-eminent sense in which His covenant people can flee into this Strong Tower; and walking in the name of their God can say—"The Lord Almighty is with us—the God of Jacob is our Refuge,"—"Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). Oh! how it would hallow all life's duties, and take the sting from many of its sorrows, and fortify against its temptations, if we could ever regard ourselves as God's fortresses—our souls bearing the superscription on their living gates—"The Lord is there." Where the term we now speak of is used, Micah is gazing with prophetic inspiration on the future city of Jerusalem, and the Sanctuary which was yet to crown the heights of Zion. He tells us that although there will be the absence of the glory of the First Temple—no visible Shekinah—no visible cloud—yet that the presence of the invisible God will be diffused like an odor of sacred incense around; and the name of it shall be JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH.
Dear friends, today's watch-word, circulating from guest to guest at the Holy Table, was "Surely the Lord is in this place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of Heaven." Let us seek to perpetuate the blessings of a Communion-Sabbath by the holy resolve—"If Your Presence go not with us, carry us not hence." "You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by Your name." "We will walk in this name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
IV. A Fourth Tower isJEHOVAH-NISSI. "The Lord my Banner,"—The Tower of Defense.
This reminds all of us who have given public testimony of our faith in Christ, that we are still in an enemy's country. You remember how Bunyan (to quote the great Dreamer again) represents Christiana and her children knocking at the Gate; while in a castle, near by, there were those who were assailing them. If any leave a Communion-table to return to the world in their own strength, they shall assuredly fall. But we go not a warfare on our own charges. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God," and He who is for us, is greater than all that can be against us.
Let our moral attitude be like the workmen on the walls of Zion in Nehemiah's time, building with the sword girded by our side; ever ready, when the missiles are flying thick and fast around, to flee to Him who is a "High Tower against the enemy," and who thus invites all weak and helpless ones—"Come, my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you; hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast" (Isa. 26:20). This is the true Tower of King David, built for an armory, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men (Sol. Song 4:4). "Blessed is the people who know the joyful sound—they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name shall they rejoice all the day and in Your righteousness shall they be exalted. For You are the glory of their strength—and in Your favor our horn shall be exalted. For the Lord is our DEFENSE—and the Holy One of Israel is our king" (Ps. 89:15-18).—"We will walk in this name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
V. Our Fifth Tower isJEHOVAH-JIREH. "The Lord will provide,"—The Tower of Trust.
It is always desirable for a conquering army either to be near its supplies, or to keep up its line of communication. That broken, all is lost. The Christian has his promise of assured help—"My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). "The Lord will provide." Ah, that future! that unknown, sometimes dark and chequered future, how many a thought it costs! Who can forecast the varying scenes of changeful life? It is like walking up some sequestered dell; every turn in the path presents something new. A cluster of flowers here, a rotten branch or decaying tree there—now a flowing stream, now a quiet pool, now a sprawling cascade; now a gleam of sunlight, now the driving rain or muttering thunder. But each apparently capricious turn in life's way, all its accidents and incidents, are the appointments of Infinite Wisdom and "those who know Your Name shall put their trust in You."
Trust—trust in the goodness, and mercy, and faithfulness of God, is surely one at least of the great lessons which a Communion Season inculcates. Looking to these symbols and pledges of unutterable love, you can confidently make the challenge—"He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). A child in the midst of the storm can muffle its head in its father's arms and fall asleep. God is your Father! Walk up and down in the strength of that Gospel Name. Every earthly father does in a small scale to his family what the Great Parent does on a large scale to all His people. From that glorious Tower on the Hill of Ordinances you can look through the embrasures behind, as well as before. Survey the landmarks of the bygone pilgrimage! Count up your Ebenezers—the providential interpositions of the past, and then say—taking these as pledges and guarantees for the time to come, "You have been my help—leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation." The future, as we have already said, with all its vicissitudes, is in His keeping and ordering. You may work the loom—the shuttle may be in your hands but the pattern is all His—the intermingling threads of varied hue, even what are dark and somber. Talk not of a tangled web, when it is that of the Great Craftsman. Confide in that heart of Infinite Love. Shall we dream of being wiser than God? Shall we dream of correcting His Book of Sovereign decrees? of altering the building-plans of the Divine Architect? No! trust His loving heart, where sense cannot trace His hand. Trust is a staff not for level plains and smooth highways. It is the alpenstock, the pilgrim prop for the mountaineer, for the rugged ascent, the slippery path, the glacier crevasse.
As the El-Shaddai—the All-sufficient, God has said, "I will never leave you, I will (in the redundant emphasis and energy of the original) "never, never, never forsake you." He is a Rich Provider, a Sure Provider, a Willing Provider, a Wise Provider. JEHOVAH-JIREH! "We will walk in this name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
VI. Yet one other Tower remains to be noted.JEHOVAH-ROPHI. The Tower of Healing—"I am the Lord who heals you."
Among those who partook of the Holy Sacrament, doubtless there were not a few members of the ever wide family of affliction. Some, experiencing soul-sorrows—hidden, unspoken griefs, too deep for utterance or for tears. In the case of others, trials, the nature of which is only too patent to fellow-worshipers and fellow-communicants, from the sable attire and symbols of mourning. It is blessed for you to think of Him whose love you commemorated, as Himself the King of sorrows—the Prince of sufferers—who, just because He was thus "acquainted with grief," is pre-eminently able to heal the broken in heart, and to bind up their wounds. He proclaims as His Name (and He suffered, and wept, and bled, and died, that He might have a right to say it) JEHOVAH-ROPHI," I am the Lord that heals you." He is the true "Healing-tree," which, cast into your bitterest Marah-pool, will make its waters sweet.
Brethren, if other earthly portions have perished, cleave to Him who is unfailing and imperishable—whose Name survives, when prized earthly names have either faded in oblivion, or are whispered through tears. When, let me ask, is the name of God most comforting? "I have remembered," says the Psalmist, "Your name, O Lord, in the night" (Ps.119:55). It was at Jacob's fierce struggle-hour, as at many of our own, he was led to prompt the earnest question to Him who was wrestling with him, "What is your name?" And, as with the Patriarch, He blesses us there. That Name of God is like a lighthouse, with its six-sided revolving lamps, it shines brightest in the gloom of trial. If some of the loopholes of your Tower be darkened—if the sun has set; and the midnight sky be over and around you; be it yours to sing—"You will light my candle, the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness," "God our Maker gives songs in the night."
My closing communion wish and prayer is, that that Name, which is above every name, may be to all of you as "Ointment poured forth." "The name of the Lord!" it is spoken of as the badge at a more enduring Feast in the Church of the glorified. "His name," we read, "shall be upon their foreheads." No more; that Name is to form the theme of the saints' everlasting song. For what is the ascription of the Church triumphant—the ransomed conquerors beheld by John in vision, standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God? "Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify YOUR NAME?"
O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Three in One in covenant for our salvation—Send us help from the Sanctuary, and strengthen us out of Zion! that the resolve following a transient season of Communion on earth, may form at once the vow and the joy of Eternity—
"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever."