ISAIAH XXXIII. 20-22.

“Look 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. 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. For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; he will save us.”

The text is somewhat lengthy, and comprises a variety of metaphors and figurative expressions admirably calculated to instruct and comfort the children of God in regard to the perpetuity and perfect safety of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Zion, or the city of David, which was a type of the church in her gospel organization, was at the time of this prophecy involved in commotion, infested with hypocrites, and encumbered with sinners, or violators of the laws which God had enacted for the government of that commonwealth, and we are told in the context, of the righteous judgments of God upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; by reason of which the sinners in Zion were afraid, and fearfulness surprised the hypocrites, and involved the whole city in consternation, and presented it in a very solemn aspect.

Zion was a city of solemnities, as the place consecrated and chosen for the performance of solemn rites and ceremonies. In Jerusalem stood the temple of the Lord of hosts, the altar and the priesthood, and thither the chosen tribes of Israel went up to worship, as the place consecrated for their national worship, periodical feasts, sacrifices, &c. It was truly the city of the Israelite’s solemnities, but from the connection of our text, we infer that it is so called in this instance on account of their depressed condition. But the prophet of the Lord, calls on Israel to look upon her in her depression, and mark the prophetic declaration of the change which should take place, when Jerusalem should be seen as a quiet, impregnable and safe abode. Whatever allusion was made to the temporal condition of the city of David the spirit of the prediction had a very direct and obvious allusion to the antitypical Jerusalem, or Zion of our God, as displayed in the church under the gospel dispensation. Here under the immediate reign of the King of Righteousness, the Prince of Peace, a happy contrast is presented to what was seen in the depressed condition as seen at the time of the prophecy.

Prophets and kings desired to see the glory of the Redeemer’s kingdom, but they saw it not, only as viewed through the type and shadows of the law. But “blessed are the eyes” of those who saw the glory of the rising kingdom of Christ; who beheld him in his incarnation; beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and who of his fullness received and grace for grace. Their eyes beheld Jerusalem a quiet habitation. Not the old Jerusalem which was destroyed, but the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and which is the mother of all the saints. The church of the living God, although surrounded with enemies, involved in warfare, assailed by enemies, hated of all men, traduced, persecuted, regarded by the world as the offscouring of all things; yet to the saints who view her in relation to Christ her spiritual Head, and the life hidden with Christ in God, as a kingdom not of this world, founded on Christ and built up in him, having salvation for walls and bulwarks, and the assurance that all things work together for good to all her legitimate citizens, their eyes behold her as a quiet habitation. Quietly and peacefully her inhabitants can confide in the God of their salvation, and sing, “The Lord is my refuge and strength, I will not fear what man can do.” In the world, said the Redeemer to his disciples, ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. In me ye shall have peace.

Such is the peace and quietness of the church of God, as she stands in her gospel order, her watchmen see eye to eye, they lift up the voice, with the voice together do they sing; no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast, for none shall be allowed to hurt or destroy in the holy mountain. There shall not come into her the daughters of the uncircumcised nor the unclean, for “except a man be born again he cannot see this kingdom of God.” Men without the Spirit’s work in the new birth may, and many of them do profess citizenship; have a name to live when they are dead, and may have a nominal standing in the visible church, but the church, as she stands in Christ, is only seen by faith, and there the eye of faith can see none but the quickened, regenerated children of God. One body, and one Spirit, even as all are called in one hope of their calling. Within her invincible walls members of Christ

“Shall find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.”

A tabernacle that shall not be taken down. The tabernacle in the wilderness was a portable tent to be set up or taken down as frequently as occasion might require, still it was a type of the immovable kingdom of Christ, of that church which Christ has built upon a rock, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. The establishment of the church of the living God, in all her order and ordinances, in all her doctrine and discipline, in all her laws and government, in all her members and ministrations, is seen in the gospel as a permanent and immovable building; a building of God, a house not made with hands; eternal in the heavens. The psalmist says of her, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her and that right early.” The church of Jesus Christ, the New Jerusalem, which is the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is now precisely what she was in her primitive days. She occupies the same ground which was staked out for her by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. And no community, fraternity or religious organization in this or any other day, which occupies any other ground, can be the Jerusalem of which the prophet speaks.

Not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed. Efforts have been made to remove her stakes, from time to time. Some perhaps have thought she occupied too much ground, and have labored to contract or circumscribe her boundaries, by denying to her the rights and privileges which her God has given to her, but the general rage of her adversaries has been in modern times to extend her cords and to set out her stakes so as to make them embrace the doctrine and institutions of men. Powerful efforts have been made to extend the church of God so as to make her include the modern mission machinery of the age, Sabbath School, Theological Seminaries, Tract, and hosts of other institutions which were not embraced within the stakes as planted originally to mark the boundaries of Zion; but not one of them has in reality ever yet been removed, they all stand precisely where they were set by her maker and builder, who is God. Every religious community, society, organization or confederacy therefore which these stakes do not inclose, is clearly not of this building. No order of people whatever, which is not found within the immutable and immovable stakes which God has set for his tabernacle, has any right to claim the name, nor to assume to be the church of the living God.

Neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. The cords of a tent or tabernacle, secure the curtains to the permanent stakes and give strength and stability to the tabernacle. The cords of this tabernacle may signify the unbroken love of God, which is as a three fold cord and cannot be broken. His love shed abroad in the hearts of his saints who are component parts of the building, fasten them effectually to the stakes which God has planted; and circumscribe them to the doctrine, laws and ordinances which Christ has established. By his love in their hearts they are cemented together, and his love and fear in their hearts forbid that they should depart from him, and he will not turn away from them to do them good. The heathen may rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth may set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. But he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Read Psa. ii. 1-4. They shall not break the cords of Zion; nor shall they make them longer or shorter. None of them shall ever be broken.

But there, at the very place which God has chosen, which he has desired for an habitation, which he has staked out, and of which he says, Here will I dwell forever; in this consecrated spot, this place of the tabernacle of the Most High, there the glorious Lord will be unto us as a place of broad rivers and streams. Christ is the glorious Lord who dwells in this tabernacle of God which is with man.

We cannot now speak of his superlative glory, nor of his dominion as both Lord and Christ; it is sufficient to know that as the glorious Lord he shall ever be found in Zion, his dwelling place. And that too to us he shall be the place of broad rivers and streams. As the divine Mediator between God and his people he is the medium or channel through which that river, whose streams make glad the city of God, flows. The pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, which proceeds from the throne of God and the Lamb, is found only in him who is the place of it. This life was with the Father and was manifested. And this is the record of Father, Word and Spirit, the Three that bear record in heaven that God hath given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He is truly the place of it; he is the Life, and all who thirst must come to him and drink. He is the fountain of living water, and it can be found nowhere else. There he was smitten like the rock in Horeb, and the waters gushing forth in broad rivers and streams, have been ever flowing and shall ever continue to flow. So broad that Ezekiel could swim in it, and so deep that the inspired Paul exclaimed, O, the depth! He is all this to us: Life to us, Rivers of immortality to us; that is to his people. But no foreign craft shall pollute this river; no galley with oars shall paddle or row themselves along by their own power or agency. Galleys with oars are very numerous in the rivers of Pharpar and Abana, in the Euphrates, which waters Babylon, but they shall not disturb the waters which are found in him.

Neither shall gallant ships pass thereby. While all the workmongrel tribes of the earth, with their slavish galleys, are prohibited, so also are all lofty towering gallant ships, with their expanded sails. They have not so much as a passage in these waters of life. None are admitted but those who are humbled under the mighty hand of God.

For the Lord is our Judge. He knows his own sheep. His foundation has this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his,” and he alone is competent to judge. Men shall not be allowed to judge what or who shall be admitted to these living waters.

The Lord is our Law-giver. And he has thus enacted; this is his law, and he is abundantly enabled to enforce it.

The Lord is our King. And he is able to govern, protect and secure his people, and to triumph over all his enemies.

He will save us. Us who are his subjects, who can in Spirit call him Lord; but none can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost, those who are subject to his government, who submit to his judgment, and confide in it, and who are satisfied with his laws and delighted to obey them, and who crown him Lord of all as their King. He will save them with an everlasting salvation.

Middletown, N.Y.
February 15, 1859.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 197 - 202