The Source Of Security
We have been studying a little bit in the prophecy of Isaiah, and I want to ask you to turn to Isaiah 26, the first two verses: “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”
You know, this book of Isaiah is just full of some thrilling and wonderful pictures of God’s plan of deliverance for you and me. This isn’t simply an ancient book of prophecy and history; it is so up-to-date. It has a message for our day, for your life and mine.
In the previous chapter we see four things that happened to us and can happen to us because of something, to quote Isaiah 25, “in this mountain” which we saw to be Calvary where Jesus died. In that chapter there was a picture of a feast, a fellowship that has opened up to us because Jesus died to make it possible. We saw that because He died on the cross, there was a removing of the veil between God and us, the unveiling of sin. It’s all there in Isaiah 25.
Now here’s another picture of us in this chapter. We might well call our message “The Tale of Two Cities.” And there is a striking contrast between the City of God, which is bomb proof and indestructible, and the city man has built which is doomed and under the judgment of God.
As, of course, in every instance in a prophetic book of Scripture there is an immediate and a long-term application. I’m not concerned so much with the immediate. It has to do unquestionably with the pending overthrow and destruction of the great Babylonian power which occurred soon after Isaiah’s ministry.
But I’m concerned with two things here. You and I are in the course of preparing our lives to live in a city. There are only two cities in which we can live—a far greater Babylon than that of ancient history, but a Babylon representative of world civilization today without God, under God’s judgment, and which one day Jesus Christ is coming back to destroy; the other city is the City of God.
I want you to think for a moment of that city and what a tremendously solemn thing it is to recognize that everyone of us will be inhabiting one or the other. In fact, we are inhabiting one or the other now. I’m not talking to you about what the communists call “pie in the sky.” I’m talking about something that is real today. You are either living in what Scripture calls the Babylon of world civilization, under God’s judgment, or you are living in the city which God has prepared for us.
Let’s have a look at this city which God has prepared. What is it? A strong city, Isaiah calls it, with salvation for its walls and bulwarks. Think about the story of the Bible. It begins in a garden where God and man walked together and talked together in perfect fellowship. It ends with a terrific description of a New Jerusalem that comes down from God out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. And once again we find God living with His people, wiping away all our tears. We find a place where there is no more pain, no more death and no more sorrow, for former things have passed away. “Behold,” saith the Lord Jehovah, “I will make all things new.”
The picture at the beginning is that of a garden with God walking with man; the picture at the end is that of a city with God dwelling in the midst of His people. Between it all is the story of sin and trouble and disaster, and yet the sovereign plan and purpose of God, a great miracle of redemption in which you and I may share, the preparation of a city in which for all eternity we may live, where God shall wipe away every tear, is being wonderfully worked out.
Strangely enough, as you look at the story of the Bible, if you remember, no sooner was man driven out from a garden and labeled a sinner, out of fellowship with God, than instinctively he began to build himself a city. No sooner is he driven out from a garden than he knows that away from God and out of touch with God, he’s in desperate danger and needs to build up defenses, so he builds a city.
The story of history in one generation after another is the story of how men build cities to protect themselves and just as soon as they have been built, or very soon after, they come under ruin and judgment.
Isn’t it a tremendously solemn thing to think, my dear friend, that beneath all that we see of modern civilization there lies buried in Europe, in the Middle East, the ancient civilizations of Rome, Athens, of Carthage, of Greece, Jericho, of Nineveh? Great cities that were indestructible lie buried in waste and ruin.
And isn’t it very significant that today I could take you to cities in Europe—Coventry, Liverpool, Plymouth, London, Hamburg, Cologne, Stettin, Berlin, lying, licking their wounds, heaps of rubble, in devastation? And my dear people, it isn’t only bricks and mortar that lie buried there—it’s dreams, ambitions, convictions, it’s ideals, aims, oh all that men have held dear, all their hopes for security, for peace, for a better world.
I’m here to say to you very solemnly that the greatest crash has yet to come, for the eighteenth chapter of Revelation tells us of a world civilization without God, that has turned its back upon Him who is the Light of the world, and I read, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, where in one hour so great riches shall come to nothing, and in one hour shall be made desolate.”
Consider the tremendous severity of the judgment of a holy God, and yet a loving God, who one day, in order that He might build a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, a new world which God will bring when our Saviour shall come again, must destroy everything that has made this world so miserable, so sinful, so dreadful.
Somehow or other, all through history instinctively from the very beginning, people have realized that. They have built their cities, they sought to make defenses, but away back in Abraham’s time there were some who had sense enough to know that it couldn’t work because God wasn’t in it. There were some who believed that man’s inventions and man’s place of security couldn’t possibly see them through the valley of the shadow of death, and not content with building bricks and mortar, from the very beginning of the world there were men who looked for a city whose builder and maker was God, a city which had foundation. Because of that they dwelt as pilgrims and strangers on Earth, they weren’t content to live within the mold of a world and of human civilization. They realized it couldn’t stand the test of time and eternity. God was outside it altogether, and they began to live by faith and to believe in the conviction of a life beyond this.
Jesus came one day and said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.” And the Apostle Paul said, “I know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, I have a building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Through the ages, and even in this very day in which you and I live, men have come to know that if all that men can offer us here and all that this world has to give us, if that’s the end of everything, this world cannot possibly be our home.
Knowing that here, to quote the language of the Book, we have no continuing city, because in this life there is nothing but sorrow, tears, hardship and disappointment, broken hearts, tragedy and disillusionment, and all these things are the portion of everyone of us through life, because of that, we have sought a city to come. And men have gone, as it were, outside the camp, gone outside this earthly life, for their hopes and for their peace and shelter. They have gone to a place called Calvary. They have gone to a cross, to a green hill, to a place beyond a city wall, and somehow strangely and yet wonderfully there have found a new security, a new foundation for hope, a new assurance for eternity.
They have come, as the writer to the Hebrews says, “unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church,…and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.” Out of a sense of utter insecurity and hopelessness in life, a sense of the utter bankruptcy of all that this world can offer us, many times with broken hearts, many a time with many a tear, with many a heartbreak and sorrow, many a sin and failure, with ideals blasted, with life seeming completely empty, and the future without meaning, men have come just like that to Jesus.
That’s the city that Isaiah has in view that is bombproof, that’s indestructible. This is the city of God where amidst all the confusion of Isaiah’s time, he pointed his people and bid them rest their hopes, and amidst all the confusion of your life, and all the confusion of this poor dark world, with the conviction ringing in my heart that the judgment day is soon coming, I point you to that city also—a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Would you just look and see what sort of defenses this city has? “Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks,” says the prophet. Salvation, and that lifts the source of security and protection of this city far beyond our earthly ideas of security. It’s not concrete, it’s not steel, timber nor wood; it’s not any human material. “Salvation will God appoint for walls and for bulwarks.”
What does that mean? I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that this city shuts out everything that is bad and shuts in everything that is good. The book of Revelation in 21:27 describes the city of God. “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.” Without that city, says the twenty-second chapter and the fifteenth verse of Revelation, “without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolators, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Oh, friend, the city of God just puts right outside it everything that’s evil. It excludes all that is filthy. It sends outside its walls and keeps outside everything that has brought a tear to your eye, everything that has caused a pain deep down in your soul, everything that has made you unhappy and miserable and defeated, or conscious of failure, everything that has wounded you and defiled you. God puts it right outside forever. It has no place in the city which He is building.
And God puts inside that city everything that’s good. For the old Book says that that city shall have the glory of God and within it there is the pure river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing out of the throne of God and the Lamb, and the tree of life is in the midst of it, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. We shall see His face and there shall be no night there, no need for the candle, no need for the sun, for the glory of God shall lighten it. The Lamb of God is the light thereof.
Yes, salvation is the wall of that city, a salvation which excludes all that’s unpleasant, evil, foul and filthy, a salvation which takes within the walls all that’s lovely, that which is for the healing of broken hearts and wounded lives and sinful experience, that clear water of life that’s pure as crystal from the throne of God into the very hearts of those who live within that place. Everything is lovely and best of all, we shall see His lovely face.
You see, God is the defense of that city. Its foundation is laid at Calvary. It’s been laid already. It’s been laid in the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s the foundation of this city of God. The Lord Jesus is the chief cornerstone of this city which God is building, and He’s put a wall of fire round about it, and He Himself is the glory in the midst of it.
And I want to say to you today, my friend, the wonderful thing about it is that you and I can live in that city today. Indeed, if we don’t live spiritually in it now, we shall not live eternally in it then.
“Our citizenship,” said the Apostle Paul, “is in heaven from whence we look for the appearing of our Saviour, even the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Oh, I’m so glad today that I live in that city. Are you? Because, you see, all who live within the walls of the city of God, within the walls of His salvation, all who live there know that between them and any calamity is all the great and wonderful ability of God to keep and to protect those who have taken shelter in the precious blood of Christ.
I tell you, I don’t know anything in life that robs temptation of its power so much as this, which takes the poison and the sting out sorrow and trouble and heartache, that takes away the unpleasantness of life so much as to grasp this tremendous truth that He has prepared for us a city.
I say to you, beloved friend, that it is the most thrilling thing in all the world to me, and I say this from the depths of my heart, and from personal experience, to stand, as it were, right out in the open in life, exposed to every fiery dart of circumstance, pain, temptation, of the devil and the world and the flesh, exposed to anything that all these things can hurl right at you, and to know that “all things work together for good to them that love God,” to know no matter what experience may touch the life of a man who is living in the city of God, he is surrounded by God’s sovereignty, and there isn’t one thing that can ever touch him but by the permissive will of our Lord in heaven. I wouldn’t exchange anything in all the world that you could offer me for that tremendous, solid basis of security.
Of course, we want to see a kind of visible wall around us somewhere, a sort of hand rail to hang on by. God calls not for that. He wants to whisper in your heart and say to you, “My child, though perhaps you’re absolutely alone in life, I am your companion, your Saviour, your friend. Though you’re naked, you can come to me for dress, though you’re unarmed and absolutely helpless, weak and hopeless, you can look to me for grace.” And our precious Lord Jesus covers every defenseless head under the shadow of His wing.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean that a man who lives within the city has no suffering, but it does mean that he has no anxiety. It doesn’t mean that he has no pain and no trouble, no testing, but it does mean that he has no burden. It doesn’t mean that he is except from trial but he is exempt from worry.
Friend, are you living within that city, God’s city?
Who are the people who live in it? Who are its citizens? Well, let’s look. The second verse says, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”
Now, don’t let us escape this, or try to overlook it, because the picture here is of a city that is empty, and those who are destined to live in this city, to whom the gates will open, are people who must have certain qualifications.
It’s just the thrilling picture which will be known in reality one day when heaven’s gates will open wide to receive those who have the qualifications to enter in, and none can say [to] them “Nay” or turn them away.
But who are they? None but the righteous can enter there, none but the righteous can have security here. And you and I must not expect to gain entrance there unless we have the qualifications for entrance here.
I am confident that nothing needs to be dinned into the heart and mind of a congregation and of the preacher by the Holy Spirit sounding like an alarm so much as this truth that I want to put to you as I close my message.
Take a simple illustration of an orchestra that plays a symphony. In order to reproduce that symphony perfectly, there are many instruments which have to be played. Sometimes the cornet plays the solo, sometimes there is a tremendous resounding beat of the drum, the gentle note of the flute, or the plaintive note of the violin, but it takes all the instruments to play the symphony.
As I listen to the orchestra there is the solemn warning, there is the plaintive note, there is the wooing tone. And somehow or other, a preacher in the presentation of a full gospel message is responsible under God from time to time to sound the drum, the cornet of warning, sometimes the flute of tenderness. I want to end this message with a cornet solo.
Who are the inhabitants of this city? Listen, the truth I want to din home to your heart and let it sound in mine again is this—that your constant enjoyment of the protection of the wall of salvation depends upon a constant maintained righteousness of life. Every sin and every dropping of the standard below that which is set by the Word of God for the quality of life expected by people who are to live within His home and within His city means I get outside the protection of the blood. If I choose to live out of the will of God, if I choose to act contrary to the Word of God, then in that action and in that choice, I forfeit my right to His divine protection. He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day. Oh, blessed truth. But see, He only keeps what I commit, and if there is a portion of my life that is not committed to Christ, I am in desperate danger of the judgment of God. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.”
There is no way of entering into that city, there is no way of going through the gates except by the possession of a purity of heart and a holiness of life without which no man shall see the Lord. Don’t let any of your convictions about justification by faith alone dim the reality of that walk.
Who then are the citizens of His heavenly Jerusalem? Revelation 21, verse 27 says, “They which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” They are there, but who are they? “These are they which…have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
Who shall enter those pearly gates? Who shall live his life here in Chicago brief as it may be, who shall he be that shall live within Chicago with salvation as his bulwark? Who?
Ah, it is the man who has come to Calvary with a broken and a bleeding heart. It is the man who has come to the cross humbled and repentant, the man who has come to the end of himself, the man who has seen the utter danger and insecurity of everything this world affords, the man who knows perfectly well for his life here and now and for all eternity he needs a shelter, a protection far greater than anything he possesses. He needs a righteousness not his own. He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in heaven.
And who today can have that sense of peace? Is it because of any personal purity of our own? No, indeed. Is it because of any tremendous sense of personal goodness? No, no, indeed. Far from it. It is only because moment by moment, for all the purity that can qualify you and me for entrance there, and for protection now, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;” and because that is true, you will always find one genuine evidence of a man or woman who is a real inhabitant of the city of God.
I’ll give it to you in the words of Scripture for in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Revelation, and the fourteenth verse, I read, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
So, my beloved friend, no amount of believing which doesn’t issue in submission to the authority of the Lamb upon the throne, can give you peace or security or salvation or heaven. None. Happy is the man who obeys the commandments of God, not in order that he might be righteous, not in order that he might qualify, but because he is saved and because he is washed in the blood of Jesus Christ. Happy is the man who knows the secret is not simply that he has been to the cross, but because he is submissive in every point of his life to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. At any point where he is not submissive to Jesus, he is forfeiting the protection of the blood. Have you got that?
Beloved, I would not put burdens upon you that the Bible does not put on you, but I would not be faithful to discharge the whole counsel of God were I to preach to you any other gospel than that, not a gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ which produces the fruit and the works of obedience in the power of God the Holy Ghost.
The man who has a right to the tree of life, the man before whom the gates one day will swing wide open, is the man who here and now at all costs has bowed his head and heart before Calvary, and seeks day by day to obey the will of God in the power of the Spirit of Christ within him.
My friend, are you living in the city that’s indestructible? Would you move right now away from the judgment of a Babylon of civilization without God into the protection of the precious blood of Christ, and there live for now and forever with salvation as your wall and bulwark?