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gold. She is brought to the King in raiment of the finest needlework. She is comely and beautiful in the Comeliness, Beauty, and Righteousness of her risen and ascended Lord. May the Holy Ghost enable each of us to say with the Psalmist : “I WILL GO IN THE STRENGTH OF THB LORD GOD: I WILL MAKE MENTION OF THY RIGHTEOUSNESS, EVEN OF THINE ONLY.
AMEN! AND AMEN!!
HE WILL REST IN HIS LOVE.”
PREACHED BY THE
REV. J. BATTERSBY
(Vicar of St. James', Sheffield),
THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 6TH, 1879.
In the 3rd chapter of the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah, and at the 17th
verse, you will find these words :" THE LORD THY GOD IN THE MIDST OF THEE IS MIGHTY ;
SAVE, HE WILL REJOICE OVER THEE WITH Jor; HE WILL REST IN
His LOVE, HE WILL JOY OVER THEE WITH SINGING." ZEPHANIAH seems to have been one of the last of the Prophets before Judah was carried into captivity. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. In the 1st verse we have his parentage, and the name of the king in whose reign he flourished. "The word of the Lord which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.” Zephaniah means “the secret of the Lord,” or “the Lord is
Some take it to be a name given to him as “a revealer of secrets." This would be perfectly true, as we discover from the prophecies which he delivered. If I may be allowed to give you a short summary of his writings you will see that he was indeed a
* revealer of secrets. We do not know very much about this prophet, except what he has recorded of himself, and that which we find in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. But I will give you a few things respecting his prophecies. You will read in the 1st chapter that he foretold God's severe judgment against Judah for their sins, and especially for their sin of idolatry. And in the 2nd chapter you will find, in the first three verses, an exhortation to repentance given to Jerusalem; whilst the people of God amongst them are more particularly addressed in the 3rd verse :
“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment: seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger." Then God's judgments upon the Philistines, upon the Moabites and Ammonites, upon the Ethiopians and Assyrians, are declared by the prophet. Terrible judgments were to befall these nations, which have since come to pass, thus verifying the prophecies, and putting them as accomplished facts into recorded history. "In the 3rd chapter we have a very sharp reproof of Jerusalem contained in the first seven verses. I am inclined to think
to the prey.'
that this was not accomplished in the Jews being carried captive into Babylon in the reign of Zedekiah (II Chron. xxxvi), but after the coming of our Lord in the overthrow of the Jewish worship, in the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the Jews being destroyed or carried captive in the time of the Romans. Then in the 8th verse you will find that there are some gracious words spoken which refer to the Gospel times,—or, at least, I understand them to be spoken of Gospel times, and as referring to the Lord's people, and to the blessings that should be poured out upon
them. In the 8th verse it is said: “Therefore wait ye upon Me,' saith the Lord, 'until the day that I rise
up And in the 9th verse you have language which I think can only apply to the Gospel as it is revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and as it is made manifest in the hearts of believers by the power of the Holy Ghost. “For then will I turn to the people a pure language." Corrupt nature has no pure language. Persons who preach a yea and nay gospel have no pure language. But the Gospel of the grace of God, as it is revealed in His Word and made manifest in the heart by the Holy Ghost, is a pure language, proclaiming as it does that salvation is all of grace
from first to last. Here is purity; and when this has been learnt by the Holy Ghost's teaching, then it is a believer begins to speak the pure language of Canaan, and, as in the latter part of the 9th verse, to
the name of the Lord, and to serve Him with one consent.' This I look upon as the pure Gospel of Christ in practice. In the 11th verse it is said : “In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against Me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of My holy mountain.” It will be a very blessed state of things when that day shall arrive, that God's children shall no more be ashamed of all their evil doings. And the day is coming when such shall be the fact. The prophet tells us- and I think it refers especially to the early disciples of our Lord—that the “ Lord will also leave in the midst of thee"—that is, in the midst of Jerusalem,—"an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the Name of the Lord.” And as it was in the time of the Apostles so also it is now; there is a remnant, and there will be one even unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth : for they shall feed”—feed on Christ—"they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.” And why? Because they shall lie down under their own Vine, and under their own Fig-tree, which is Christ Jesus the Lord. Then follows the hymn of praise : “Sing, O daughter of Zion;"- good times are coming — "shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee : thou shalt not see evil any more.” This will be a blessed state of things when the children of God shall see evil no more. “In that day”—and at that time—"it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not.' How often our Lord spoke thus to His disciples, saying, “ Fear not.” to Zion, 'Let not thine hands be slack.'” And why? Because “the
Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;" and so there is nothing to fear. “He will save" thee, “He will rejoice over thee with joy ; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing."
There are three things in our text which I wish you to look at. First, The Lord's presence with His people : “ The Lord thy God in the midst of thee." Secondly, The Lord's work for His people : the Lord " is mighty," and “ He will save." And thirdly, The Lord's delight in His people: “ He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing."
Now if we fail to bring out these points clearly, yet you will perceive that our text contains them; and though I may fail in giving you all I desire, yet I pray the Holy Ghost will enable you to search for yourselves and to discover the blessed and glorious truths which are laid up in this portion of His Most Holy Word.
First then, The Lord's presence with His people : “ The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee." The Lord Jehovah, thy God, the mighty God. Think of the Person for a moment,—who He is : He Who holds the heavens and the earth in His Hands. He Who controls, guides, and governs all things for His own glory; working out everything according to His own eternal purpose.
He declares the
end from the beginningHis counsel shall stand and He will do all His pleasure (Isa. xlvi. 11). The Lord thy God, thy covenant God, is in the midst of thee. The Lord's presence with His people we discover in the earliest times. You will never doubt for a moment that the Lord was present with Adam when He created him. But we find that no sooner did Adam fall into sin by transgressing God's holy law, than the Voice of the Lord God was heard walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and calling Adam : “Where art thou ?” This Voice of the Lord was none other than Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Adam, though a fallen son, was not to be lost, the Voice calls him back, and he is mercifully dealt with. The Lord put in His appearance and searched out this ruined man that would have gone further away from Him, and He brings him back to Himself, and, notwithstanding Adam's terrible fall, the Lord made him one of the most glorious and precious promises recorded in the whole of God's Word. 6. The seed of the woman shall bruise the Serpent's head.” Thus blessing him before pronouncing any curse on his account. The Lord's blessed presence appeared to Adam. The Lord's presence with His people is farther discovered in the early Scriptures. He was present with Abel, and Seth, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. I think, when Jacob was out that first night, on his way from Beer-sheba to Haran, he discovered that the Lord's presence was with him, when he saw in his dream the ladder reaching from earth to heaven, and when he saw the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, and when he heard the Lord speaking to him and renewing to him the promises which had been made before to his father Isaac, and to his grandfather Abraham, saying: “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Then again we see the Lord's presence in the case of Joseph in Egypt, when he was left alone to be sorely tried ; and yet, he was
not alone, for the Lord was with him. In the prison the Lord was with him, and when raised to the throne, still the Lord was with him. The Lord's presence is in the midst of His people at all times, and under all circumstances, and in all places wherever they may be scattered. If He has a Moses that He wants to send down into Egypt, and if He has a people there that He wishes to be brought out, He knows how to bring both general and people together that His purpose may be accomplished. He visits them, and His powerful presence is irresistible. The Lord told Israel that while they were passing through the wilderness, He would be in the midst of them, and appointed a meeting place, the mercy seat, where He would meet with them, and where He would commune with them “of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel” (Ex. xxv. 22). He would meet them also at the door of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and there He would speak to them and sanctify them a holy people unto Himself (Ex. xxix. 42-44). The Lord spake to Moses, saying, “My presence
go with thee, and I will give thee rest." And Moses replied, “ If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” The presence and blessing of God are the secret of success. We pass on again and discover in Jehovah's glorious promise to Joshua, when sending him forth to take possession of the land of Canaan, that His presence should with him whithersoever he went : “ There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life : as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” I often feel amazed when I read such passages as these—“I will be with thee.” This promise includes every good thing. The Lord kept His word with Joshua : “There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel ; all came to pass (Joshua xxi. 45). Joshua was greatly encouraged by Jehovah, thus : “ Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage ; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed : for the Lord thy God is with thee whitbersoever thou goest." “The Lord thy God is in the midst of thee.” The Lord's presence is with His people. On the last occasion I touched slightly upon this subject when I pointed out how the Ark was a symbol of God's presence and power. For more upon this point I must refer you to my former sermon. We can trace the Lord's presence with His people throughout the whole of the Old Testament history. We see the children of God in the fiery furnace; the Lord is there. Daniel is in the den of lions ; the Lord is there. Jonah is cast into the depths ; the Lord is there. Whither indeed can the child of God fly from His presence ? (Psa. cxxxix).
Again, we pass on to the New Testament Scriptures. And we have the glorious promise of our Lord to His disciples that where two or three are gathered together in His Name, “there,” He says, “ am I in the midst of them.” And what did He say to His disciples when He was about to leave them ? "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew xxviii. 20). This is as true now as it was then. What did Jesus say to his disciples when he appeared to them after His resurrection ? “Peace be unto you.” What did He say to them eight days after when He appeared in their midst ? “Peace be