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REFLECTIONS ON THE CHURCH

"I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord (Psalm 122.1)."

Whether it is called the house of the Lord, the assembly, or the church, there is found in the congregation of the saints a solemn comfort rarely found elsewhere. Gathering to worship with those of like precious faith brings a satisfaction and peace of which those outside the camp can know nothing. It is meat, drink, and delight for weary pilgrims. Sitting down under the shadow of the apple tree provides great delight and is sweet to the taste (Song of Solomon 2.3). It is the Lord's banqueting house where the banner over all who dine there is love.

There in the banqueting house the saints hear the voice of their Beloved. He bids them come away. It is joy unspeakable, and full of glory, for there they are overcome with the wonder of His favor. They are made to cry within themselves, "Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee (Song of Solomon 1.4)."

Surely the saints of God are filled with gladness when their brethren bid them, "Let us go into the house of the Lord," for entering therein they experience not only divine privileges, but the presence of the Divine Himself. In the house of the Lord they find sanctuary and security. It is home, sweet home. They are among their brothers and sisters of like precious faith; they are an eternal family and covet each other's company, both now and forever. Oh glorious gathering, when saints are bidden into the temple of Jehovah.

Glad was my heart to hear
My old companions say,
Come, in the house of God appear,
For 'tis an holy day.

Our willing feet shall stand
Within the temple door;
While young and old, in many a band,
Shall throng the sacred floor.

Thither the tribes repair,
Where all are wont to meet,
And, joyful in the house of prayer,
Bend at the mercy seat.

Pray for Jerusalem,
The city of our God;
The Lord from heaven be kind to them
That love the dear abode.

Within these walls may peace
And harmony be found;
Zion! in all thy palaces,
Prosperity abound!

For friends and brethren dear,
Our prayer shall never cease;
Oft as they meet for worship here,
God send His people peace!
           Montgomery.

The redeemed sinners are a complex band. How often they feel cast down; gloom and trouble fill their souls, and peace is far removed. But, when the golden call to gather with the citizens of heaven comes, gladness fills their souls. There, within the sacred walls of the city of God the heavy shackles of their bondage are removed for a season, and sweet intercourse with fellow citizens dispels all previous feelings of distress. This, the house of the Lord, is for the time of assembling, heaven on earth. May it ever be so is the petition of every humble heart.

"Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth (Psalm 26.8)." David was not only glad in heart to hear the call to assemble, he loved the very sacred spot where God dwelt with sinners. Here, in the house of his God, the honour of the Almighty was maintained. His holy dignity could be felt; sinners were humbled before His august throne. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among them, and He was honorable in all His ways. Can saints not then with David also say, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house"?

The saints would not contend that the physical surroundings, the buildings, the pews, or the pulpit comprise the house of God. As much, however, as it is the place where the saints are gathered in His name they would afford it much respect. Consider the case of Jacob when he went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. God came to him that night in a dream. "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first (Genesis 28.16-19)." The point to be considered is, Bethel means the house of God. As did David years later, Jacob loved the place where God had manifested His honour.

"Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge (Psalm 48.2,3)." Through the centuries the saints have found a striking similarity between mount Zion of which David and others wrote and the church of the living God today. David saw Zion as beautifully situated; so too do the elect find the church in the present. Their Zion is the pinnacle of their spiritual assent; the mount of God's holiness to which, under His bidding, each must repair. David saw in mount Zion the joy of the whole earth, meaning all true Israelites, and wherever they may be situated, they longed for her comforts as unspeakable joy. Much more so do the scattered remnant of spiritual Israel view the church as their chief joy of all this earth contains. For David, Zion was the city of the great King. In spiritual Zion, the church that Jesus built, reigns the King of Kings, and here God's children humbly render Him the respects of their Spirit-quickened souls. In David's Zion the fair palaces were a refuge. How much more so do pilgrims and strangers today find refuge and sanctity within the confines of that blessed city built upon a rock? It has never been known that a poor sinner fleeing from wrath to come ever failed to find refuge when the Lord was pleased to add them to the church. It must be remembered, though, that it was God, known in Zion's palaces, that was the sinners refuge, and not Zion itself. So is God the refuge of the elect in the church.

"Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah (Psalm 84.4)." Who so blessed as those chosen to be favored with dwelling in the house Jesus built? This house is not a local meeting hall for the disgruntled to drift into on occasion. This is the dwelling of the blessed. They are favored to both dwell in the house of God, and dwell upon the same in our spiritual meditations. "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house." They may call it their church, but from everlasting is has always been thy (God's) house. With great love and cost was this blessedness purchased. Nothing less than the sacrifice of the Son of God Himself to the rigid demands of the law could procure the title to this house. And, it may be added, the title is clear; the deed has been conferred, and Jesus reigns majestically over all His house.

"They will be still praising thee." When the blessed are summoned to the dwelling of God their tongues are silenced to all but praise for Him that redeemed them. The Apostle James described the tongue as a little member that boasted great things, but even that unruly member must yield to perfect stillness when the God of all grace calls His children to the banqueting house. When Jesus spoke "Peace, be still" to the troubled waters, not a ripple of disobedience could be seen. Just so are the gathered saints made to be still in praising Him in the great congregation. Their souls shall be as still as the rebuked winds and waves. It is a peace that passeth understanding.

"How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God (Psalm 84.1,2)." How fitting that nowhere else in Scriptures is the word "amiable" used. The psalmist uses it to describe the loveliness of God's drawing room. This, to a great measure, is the very feelings of the tried saints through the ages as they reflect on the church of God. The church to them is lovely; it is amiable. Thus they confess it to be so to the Lord of Hosts, the great Head of the church.

Not all believers are favored with a convenient meeting place. Some are so far removed they rarely get to meet with their beloved brethren. The solemn convocation is a spiritual benefit the Lord has been pleased to withhold from them. But this cannot stifle the longing and the fainting for the courts of the Lord. They too cry out for the living God and the place of His abode. Their yearning is somewhat akin to the words of the hymn, "Jerusalem, my happy home; O how I long for thee." In their minds they walk about Zion; they go round about her: they tell the towers thereof. They mark well her bulwarks, and consider her palaces (Psalm 48.12,13). If they cannot be numbered with the citizens of Zion they can at least reflect on her magnificence with inward pleasure.

"One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock (Psalm 27.4,5)." When the spiritual mind is guided by the Spirit to reflect on the house of the Lord it is as if there is nothing else in all the world worth thinking of. Indeed, nothing else can be thought of. It is the one thing of all their thoughts that is paramount. They desire it of the Lord, for they have been shown that they surely cannot accommodate this desire in the flesh. Their Lord has taught them that He adds to the church daily such as should be saved, and if then they ever dwell there, He must add them as well.

It is no temporary visit to Jerusalem they seek. Never, Never! They would dwell there all the days of their lives. In the house of the Lord they anticipate beholding the beauty of the Lord, and such beauty demands of their heart a continuance, not an interlude. Here too the saint is hid from all his troubles, be they many or few. In the secret of the tabernacle God will hide them, for they are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3.3). This, the tabernacle of God, is a secret place, and the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him (Psalm 25.14).

"Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah (Psalm 87.3)." "...and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48.35)." Glorious things indeed, for the church, the city of God, is named after His presence there. Redeemed sinners can only speak well of their Zion, and like Abraham, they seek this city for it hath foundations. The foundations can never be removed; the city cannot be shaken. The saints that find this great city as their home are as secure as if already in heaven. No wonder then they speak of her glory and seek her comforts. This is the new Jerusalem, the mother of all saved sinners.

"Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
Thou mayest smile at all thy foes.
           Newton

"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come ... (Revelation 22.17)." David was glad when summoned to go into the house of the Lord. How much more those that hear both the Spirit and the bride invite them, "Come"? May our feeble efforts to reflect on the church that Jesus built be received by our brethren only to the extent that they can be sustained by the Word of God.

J.F. Poole
The Remnant
Volume 9, No. 6 - November-December, 1995