Living Under Cover
I take a text this morning which has been a comfort to very many Christians; it is probably marked in all of your Bibles; it is the 11th verse of the 84th Psalm, “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.”
It is a beautiful thing to think of God as a sun, but it also is a terrible thing. It brings a glow to the heart to think of God as a glistening, warming sun, but it also brings a feeling of terror.
In this statement is a contradiction and yet the statement is true. The Bible is filled with contradictions like the one I have stated, but they are contradictions that are true. Now, let us look at this statement which is true and at the same time a contradiction: The same sun that ripens the bananas in the tropics; the same sun that draws forth the wonderful rubber-plant; the same sun that causes the ferns to grow like monstrous bushes; the same sun which throws a cloak of warmth around the forests; the same sun that brings forth the great tropical trees covered with the delicate hangings of creepers, with their branches interlaced above, sheltering a rich undergrowth of foliage and blossoms beneath; the same sun that colors the orchids and makes the mosses to grow in the hollows of the boughs and the old fallen trunks; the same sun that coaxes the water-lilies from their muddy bed and lines them so thickly upon the water that often the boats have to cut their way through the tangled mass; the same sun which creates the tropical home for the alligators and makes a runway of boughs for the chattering monkeys and the screaming parrots; the same sun that brings forth the fairy-like beauty of creation WILL STRIKE DOWN men and beasts and flowers, hasten their decay, dry them to a crisp and bake them until the wind can blow them away, if they lack water. If they have water the sun is a tender friend, if they have no water the sun is a terrific enemy; if they have water the sun becomes the artist, painting delicate colors on tender filmy petals, if they have no water, it becomes a furnace of judgment. Our text is right; God is not only a sun, but He is also a shield—connected with the water of life God works wonders of mercy and tenderness and beauty in the human heart; disconnected with the water of life God becomes a furnace of fire and a terror to the sinner. Men do not have to commit horrible crimes and lead a lawless, venomous life to be damned, they have only to continue to stay away from Christ, who is the Water of Life, and their lives which could have been filled with beauty and become eternal become an eternal existence of horror: “They shall be cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus stood and cried to the Jewish race, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.”
God must carry out the penalty which a broken law demands or His government is a farce. He does this. He says, “The wages of sin is death.” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” As surely as the sun shines with a direct ray, the law of God must bring the doom upon sin. Sin must be judged in death. What scheme have men to propose that will allow human beings to escape the penalty of sin? All of their schemes have been to either weaken the authority of God by saying that He will not punish sin, or they have manufactured philosophies and religions to deny the guilt of men, but God’s scheme to save men from the penalty of sin does not use either of these methods. God says flatly that men have sinned and just as flatly that sin and death must meet. What hope is there for humanity? Something must come between the doomed sinner and the sure penalty; the sinner must find some shield, as a thirsty traveler would try to hide beneath some shade and shield himself from the terrible rays of a burning sun.
Where Is A Shield?
There is a shield for the sinner. God in His lovingness, tenderness and mercy has provided His own shield and His shield is His only begotten Son. His Son lived and walked and worked upon this earth without sin. No spot was found in Him. God allowed Him to be lifted up between Earth and heaven on the accursed cross and allowed Him to become sin for a whole human race and then struck His own Son with death. He allowed Him to die in the dark as an accursed thing, while God turned His back and heeded not the groans of His agonizing Son. God’s judgment had found its arrow and sent it forth with all the wrath of God behind it. God sent forth death as the arrow of punishment for sin and it lodged in the heart of His own Son. Death came, but it came to the Son of God. In that hour the Scripture saith: “He became sin for us, (He) who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This Son was the Second Person of the Trinity and He offered Himself to pay the penalty for the sin of the world—He did pay it and He said “it is finished.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Thus in that hour of death God became our shield. He is a sun and has lost none of His power, has done no violence to His justice and the penalty for broken law is paid and from that hour Jesus is offered to the world as a shield if you believe He paid for sin and take Him as your Saviour. God says that by faith you pass out from under the sentence of death into a gift of eternal life. His own Word says: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What Is A Christian?
A Christian then is one who does not stand before God in his own merit, but abides beneath the shield. He would not try to get to heaven on his own character, but by faith counts himself free from the penalty of sin through the death of Christ; he does not exalt himself but exalts this taker of death and this victor over death, who has given him eternal life. He can sing with the poet:
“My hope is built on nothing else,
But Jesus Christ and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
Under The Shield
God intends that all that we hold dear shall receive its value only as it is under this shield. All of our work, our struggling and planning, if it is for the glory of self, is not under this shield and at that great day when Christians shall receive their crowns, all work done for self will be burnt up and that which remains forever will be things done in His strength and for His sake. Now, the things in your home are valuable only as they are kept under cover. That fine piano, that carpet, that picture, those chairs, those beds, and those clothes would not be fit for junk if they were left very long exposed to the weather. The inclememnt weather of God’s wrath is revealed against all unrighteousness, selfishness, pride, bitterness, envy and unholy ambition; these cannot be brought under cover, but must be judged. It is only what you bring under cover that will last the testing day. You will have to sing with the poet:
“When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour content on all my pride,
Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood.”
This poet understood how to live beneath the cover. It is joy to have everything in your life sacrificed to that blood; no ambition outside of Him, nothing that your heart desires in the world, nor in what the world can give, but your whole heart satisfied in Him. My, what misery there is among Christians today, because they are living in the things that are outside of Christ; if they want fun they must go to the show-house to get it; if they want pleasure they seem to feel they must mix with the devil’s gang in order to get it; if they have an ambition, it is for something big outside of Jesus; the love affairs even of so many of them are clear outside of Jesus, with unbelievers. There can be no peace in such a life, for at every approach of trouble or storm they realize only too well that all their possessions are outside of cover and exposed to the wrath of God. You know, sometimes the farmers will be standing around a country store, when all of a sudden a sign of rain is seen in the sky—Bill will bid Tom goodbye and Frank will say adieu to Henry, and they will get in the wagon and hurry back to the farm, because they know the implements are all out in the weather and the hay is not in the loft. There is a place of perfect peace in Jesus, where you have Jesus in everything and everything is in Jesus. This brings you up to the 8th of Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
There is something more to God’s plan for our lives than the great fact that the debt of sin was paid on Calvary. He says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” The Lord God is not only a sun and shield, but beneath this shield, thank God, He gives grace. Now grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in taking the things of Jesus and making them ours; in other words, His death put us into a house with a roof on it, but His grace furnishes the house with love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, etc. Some folks go all through their Christian life without ever having a parlor in their souls where they can entertain their friends. They have never learned to be gracious, they have never learned to be tender, they have never learned to be forgiving, they have never learned to listen to the cry of other aching hearts, and they have no parlor. No friends find a nest of welcome with them. Their lives are lonely, but it is not God’s fault, for God will give grace. They have been thinking somehow that life was getting something, instead of allowing His life to flow through theirs in glorious giving. Then there are some folks who have no dining room underneath this shelter; they have the menu card and can read off the bill of fare and by the cold letter judge their friends. There are other Christians, thank God, who have some lovely morsel of experience constantly on the table and can kneel down alongside of a sinner and show him the way to salvation, the way to victory, the way to power, the way to joy, the way out of trouble, and many of God’s promises they are able to bring forth at just the right moment, all garnished with a warm glow of love. Some folks have a mighty little pantry, with but very little in it. All they know about God’s great plan and the mighty provisions in Jesus Christ they could write down in 200 words—they know five or six verses of Scripture and if anybody comes around hungry their pantry supply soon runs short. God has provided His own wonderful Word and His grace is sufficient to give you such an understanding of it, that, instead of handing your friends out small sandwiches, you can dish them up a full meal out of any book in the Bible. Then there are folks called Christians, and many of them, who have no kitchen; everything has to be served cold; there is no fire burning in their breast that brings forth the Word of God hot and steaming and savory to the taste; they don’t know how to mix Daniel and the Revelation; they can make no mixture for the hungry soul bothered with doubts out of Genesis and John. Jesus said unto His disciples before He went to the cross: “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” There are combinations of wondrous truths which God has enabled some of His very humble saints to prepare for the weary traveler who comes their way. I have gone to see many a time some saint of God who never was a preacher, but one that loved His Word and would say to me as he turned the pages of his well-worn Bible: “I just want you to get this delightful promise,” and they would read it over and then tell of the experience, warm and refreshing, that would make every word have a new and life-giving meaning. I remember when I first met “Auntie” Cook after I had become the pastor of The Moody Church and I said to her, “Well, ‘Auntie,’ it is delightful to be preserved in the love of Jesus,” and turning her dear, wrinkled face up to me, she said, “Brother Rader, Jesus has been saying to me way down in my heart for a long, long time, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.’” Then she went on to tell me of an experience that brought this verse to her and it has been a tender morsel under my tongue from that day to this. I remember again when we had the big tent over on the Northwest Side that we brought her over in the auto to spend the day and carried her in her chair from a room across the street from the tent. Somebody remarked to her as we were sitting down at dinner, “Auntie, it is lovely at your age to have your brain so clear,” and she sweetly said, “One day, a good many years ago, I was at a camp meeting and there was an elderly lady who had to be taken care of like a baby; she was in a tent not far from me and I began to wonder if the Lord did not have something better for His saints than this poor woman’s condition. I went to my tent and sought Him earnestly as to what I should do to walk with Him with my faculties intact, even though I should become old, and He gave me, on my knees, this precious promise: “Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season.’”
Yes, the cross of Christ has provided a shelter and His grace is able to furnish us unto every good work, but there are those who get greatly bumped as they go from place to place, about the good work, and this is because they have no glory in their lives. The glory is God’s electric lighting system for the house; it is the light of God that shines in such beautiful rays upon the furniture, the pictures, the promises and the plan of God and sets the heart on fire with the blessed hope of His soon return. It is the glow and the glamour in the walk with the Son. If we are living in Him and everything is under the shelter, He promises to give not only the furniture in grace, but He promises glory. Oh, there are so many poor Christians these days who seem to live without glory in their hearts. They even make fun of the emotions of others, but beloved, there is a life that comes from the fullness of the Holy Spirit which no human emotion can duplicate; a glorious joy which the world cannot give and bless God cannot take away. Egypt was covered with a darkness that could be felt, for three days, but the miracle is reported in God’s Word that during this time of awful darkness the children of Israel had light in their dwellings. Generally the motor is put in the lowest part of the house, and I believe that the motor which produces glory is put probably in the lowest part of our house; I believe it has to do with consecration of our bodily powers; there is a power and a glory in the Holy Ghost’s control of our body which only those who have given themselves fully and only to Him know. Thank God there is a bread which we may eat that the world knows nothing of. There is such a thing as going alone with God and waiting, giving our minds and bodies and spirits over to His control in seasons of prayer. It is in such hours that souls find the source of His glory. You must remember that it was “as He prayed the fashion of His countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in Glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”
The Lord ends this glorious verse by saying, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
There is only one thing that will keep a man walking uprightly and that is looking up, and I mean by this what the Bible means when it says: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” This is walking uprightly; our head, Jesus Christ, is yonder, all our hope is in Him; all our shelter is in Him; all our grace is in Him; all our glory is in Him, and if we thus walk uprightly, He will withhold no good thing from us. What a wonderful, terrible, mighty and yet loving and tender God is our God. “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.”