“And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” – Joel ii. 32
Eight centuries were to pass away before the accomplishment of this inspired prophecy, yet notice the assurance and absolute certainty with which the prophet speaks: And it shall come to pass. The declaration is worthy of the great and sovereign power from whence it comes, for it is a message from the throne of God. It is, as we are informed in the opening verse of the prophecy, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel.” The declaration bears the unmistakable evidence of sovereign power. Who but the eternal God of Israel could speak thus? No God who had left a single event to devolve upon chance could thus speak. It carries us back to the great Jehovah whose sovereign sway extends over all worlds, creatures and things, temporal or eternal, and the powers of darkness as well as the armies of light. He is JEHOVAH, the self-existing God; and when we speak of him as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, we do not use such words for mere form’s sake, or in an idle manner, but desire to convey our knowledge of his infinite wisdom and boundless power, the God who is present everywhere, and nothing can be hidden from his all-searching gaze. The revelation that he has been pleased to make of himself informs us, “I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like me: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” The messages that are delivered from his throne must therefore bear the unmistakable impress of his sovereign power. Joel, eight hundred years before, could speak with the same assurance as Peter, who in the opening hours of the fulfillment of this prophecy declared, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
“Firm are the words his prophets give,
Sweet words on which his children live;
Each of them is the voice of God,
Who spake, and spread the skies abroad.”
Not only were the events recorded in the text and its connection foretold, but the very time in which they were to transpire. Peter, quoting from this prophecy, informs us, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God.” To this agrees the testimony in Ecclesiastes, that there is “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The purposes of our God will assuredly be accomplished, each in its proper time. The “last days” The legal heavens, filled with just and righteous indignation, had long looked down upon a people who were constantly engaged in violating the law. Dark clouds had long been gathering, and all over the legal firmament were written the awful chastisements of the just and righteous God upon the people who had violated his law and trampled upon his covenant. The fountains of the great deep were about to be broken up, the windows of heaven opened, and the righteous anger of a just and holy God poured out upon the Jewish nation. “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand. A day of darkness and of gloominess; a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” What strong figures are used here; what signs of awful import are presented; the darkened heavens filled with fire and smoke, and a gathered nation trembling in the darkness of despair. We will turn for a moment from the fulfillment of these things in the closing days of the Jewish dispensation, to their fulfillment in the experience of every redeemed sinner. The “last days” come upon his soul; the closing hours of the legal struggle arrive. It is a time of midnight terror, the heavens are filled with awful fire, and signs of destruction, and he trembles before the revelation of the law’s holiness and his own sins. Where shall he look, or whither flee? The storm in its fury breaks upon his guilty soul, sweeping away his every refuge, overflowing all his hiding places, and bearing him swiftly onward upon the dark river of death. His urgent necessity and deep distress forces him to cry. The conflict is often concealed from his nearest friends; they meet him in life’s daily duties, sometimes with a forced smile upon his countenance, and little think of the fearful storm that is raging within his soul. But such an one rather seeks solitude, where the pent up emotions of his heart find utterance in deep groans and cries unto God. It is to such an individual as this that the promise of the text belongs, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” I desire to notice more particularly the calling on the name of the Lord. It is not the cause, but the evidence of life. Through the light of life eternal, the sinner is brought to see his true standing as a justly condemned sinner. He cries out under the bondage of sin. The felt need of deliverance is itself the cry. “Lord, save me!” cried Peter, as he began to sink. It is said that a certain woman worshiped the Lord, saying, “Lord, help me!” These were but the expressions of what was felt within. It is the cry of the soul to which I refer, and that cry is in the very need that one so sensibly feels of salvation from the throne of God. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” is the constant cry of his heart, while the burden of sin rests upon him, and the gloomy terror spreads around him. He has been taught that “vain is the help of man;” has come to the end of all creature ability; has climbed to the top of the highest mountain of legal merit, and the waters have overflown him there. Unknown to him, and step by step, the Lord has brought him on, until the hour of his great deliverance has at last arrived. And now the strong tower of salvation opens to his view, the NAME OF THE LORD. This is the name of that is “above every name.” “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe.” Through the heart-felt experience to which I have referred, the sinner finds shelter in the “name of the Lord.” Nor shall any who come to Jesus in this way ever be turned empty away.
“Such news shall ne’er
Be told in Zion’s street,
That some poor soul fell in despair,
And died at Jesus’ feet.”
The assertion is positive, “they shall be delivered.” The word shall is used five times in the text, and twice in this portion of it. In the first instance, it is said, they shall call. It is not left to their choice then. In the next place it is said, they shall be delivered. There is therefore no uncertainty about it. The matter is irrevocably fixed. Nor can the vile rantings of the ungodly, or the powers of hell below, prevail to break the eternal decrees of God.
I desire to offer a few thoughts upon the deliverance. How great and glorious is the sight that falls upon the enraptured attention of the sinner delivered from the bondage of sin.
“Lo, from yonder opening skies
What beams of dazzling glory spread.”
The burden of sin falls from his heart, the deep thundering of Sinai are hushed, and the radient light of the gospel breaks through the legal heavens, filling his soul with the never ceasing song of praise. How changed the scene! The terrors of midnight, give place to the joys of noon; bondage to liberty, and the sorrows of death, to the joys of life eternal. I have, however, met with a number of lovers of gospel truth who are greatly troubled because their conviction has not been as deep, and their deliverance as bright as some others have expressed. They were troubled because of sin, and were unable to extricate themselves from the horrible pit, and have a precious hope of salvation, but then, those things were not as bright and convincing as others have realized. Many cannot even tell the day and place of their deliverance, while with others, it was seemingly to them so faint as to hardly constitute a deliverance at all. This is a tender place in their experience, and their soul is filled with doubt and fear when they reflect upon it. The anxious inquiry of this trembling soul is a bright mark of life. The deep searching of heart, the constant thought shows plainly where their treasure is. We are informed that a book of remembrance was written before the Lord, for them “that thought upon his name.” “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” This declaration of scripture must certainly reach the point of experience to which I have referred. Our brethren who are thus troubled, give every evidence that they have passed through the shadows of death, to the joys of gospel light. Their present experience shows beyond controversy that the Lord has revealed himself unto them as their Savior, for their daily exercise is the fruit of that revelation. The saints of our God spend much of their time in their after experience in “calling on the name of the Lord.” Their troubles are different from what they were at first; but they come again into straitened places, from which the power of God can alone deliver them. They need his guiding presence ever. They call upon him for counsel in their hour of need. They desire to live upon his word and lean upon his arm in all their temporal journey. When temptation arise and the plagues of their heart are exposed to their sight, to whom shall they flee but unto Jesus and his righteousness? When the sorrows of life fall upon them, and the fiery darts of the adversary disturb their peace, where shall they find refuge but in the tower of salvation? So in all of their distresses and temptations they call upon his name; “for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said.” This clause of the text directs us to the great and only source from which deliverance or salvation flows. In the mount of the Lord it is seen. The deliverance of the text is confined exclusively to Mount Zion and Jerusalem; that is, to the church of the living God. The psalmist informs us that “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.” The river does not pass through Babylon, but its healing streams are confined exclusively to the “city of God.” So with the salvation of the text, it shall be in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem. The salvation of the redeemed family is in the death and resurrection of our exalted Redeemer. Living waters go out from Jerusalem, and burdened sinners are made to rejoice in the Lord’s holy name. The Lord has ascended up on high, “dragging the monster death in chains;” and all whose sins were laid upon him, every redeemed sinner, must experience the power of that salvation. The work is already done. The salvation is effectually accomplished, and through all the years and generations of time the light of that salvation shines. The deliverance experienced by a redeemed sinner, when the Lord appears as his Savior, is but the manifestation to him of that salvation. The holy song of salvation inspires his heart. The awful and solemn scenes of Calvary, and the bright glory of the Savior’s triumph, are written there. The Savior comes “to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Thus we find salvation in Jerusalem, as “the Lord hath said.” The Lord hath declared from the morning of time, and during the changing scenes of four thousand years, that at the time of his appointment the Savior should be born. Equally as clear and positive was the divine decrees that the work of redemption should be confined exclusively to the election of grace, the Mount Zion and Jerusalem of the text. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first born. * * * In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” – Zechariah xii. 10, and xiii. 1. This point of gospel truth shines equally clear in the closing clause of the text. There we are informed that the glorious deliverance of the gospel, the salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus, shall be “in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” This divine number is spoken of as a remnant. They were referred to among the Jews under the law as a very small remnant (see Isa. i. 9) left of the Lord of hosts. The religious world around us boasts of its numbers, as though that was a mark of the presence of the Lord. The chosen witnesses of our God have ever been few, compared to the great number who know not the truth. The Savior refers to his church as the “little flock,” and bids them “fear not.” But in the aggregate they are an innumerable host whom no man can number, “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues.” The Lord knows each and all of them. His foundation standeth sure, having this seal, “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” He has declared that he will both search and seek them out, as a shepherd doth his sheep. In the text they are spoken of as “the remnant whom the Lord shall call.” I desire to notice the principle upon which this call is based. We are informed in the letter to the Romans that “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called.” We see by this, as well as many other declarations of scripture, that foreknowledge and predestination precede the calling. And that those, and only those, who were foreknown and predestinated “to be conformed to the image of his Son,” are called. Jude writes to “them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ and called.” It is comforting to trace the way of salvation back to its eternal source, to contemplate the everlasting foundations upon which the salvation of the church rests. Here we see the broad rock of eternal truth upon which the lively stones are built, and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. We find here that the saints were chosen in Christ, as Paul informs us, “before the foundation of the world.” This, of course, has reference to their spiritual standing in Christ. In the development of time we find them manifested as the sons and daughters of Adam, and each and every one of them in the appointed time of our God is called to the knowledge of salvation. We see from the scriptures that I have quoted that they were foreknown in Christ, and predestinated to be conformed to his image, and that the calling is the consequence of this; that they were “sanctified by God the Father,” and then called. These are important points. But let us inquire whether or not the calling to which I refer is based upon our works. If it rests upon the foreknowledge and predestination of our God, how can it be also upon the act of the creature? Where would be the predestination in that, unless it was also held that the creature was predestinated to obey, which is not all the popular idea? Again, if based upon the works of man, and if, as the scriptures inform us, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually,” where are those works to come from? Certainly not from the heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, v. 19-21, informs us what the works of the flesh are. No one, I suppose, expects to be saved, by the works that he enumerates. “They that are in the flesh,” says Paul, “cannot please God.” – Romans viii. 8. The child of grace, instead of being saved by, hopes to be saved from his works. But the matter is clearly presented by Paul in his second letter to Timothy. He exhorts him to be “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” – 2 Tim. i. 8,9. The scriptures that I have quoted do away with the popular idea that God is calling upon every body, and leaves it optional with them to hear and obey. What an absurd idea! How inconsistent it is with the eternal perfections of our God. He speaks, and it is done, he commands, and it stands fast. It is certainly of the greatest importance to know that this is the sovereign, irresistible call of God manifested in the experience of those who were before chosen in Christ, the election of grace, and positively to none others. He who formed worlds from nonentity, brought order from chaos, and light from darkness, speaks in the heart of the poor sinner. The idea of the sinner rejecting such a call is religious nonsense. Such an idea is dishonoring to our God, and cannot be entertained for a single moment in the light of truth. “My word,” he says, “shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it.” – Isa. lv. 11. His word is sharper than a two-edged sword, and it will cut its way in the sinner’s heart. The sovereign voice of God pierces the dark regions of death around him. It will find its object, wheresoever he may be. There is no hiding place from its presence. Eternity and time lie open to the view of him with whom we have to do. “Whiter shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” says the psalmist. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalm cxxxix. 7-10. But let us proceed to consider the fruit or evidence produced by this call in the experience of the redeemed sinner. Through it he is brought to realize his justly condemned condition as a sinner in the sight of God. He is made to groan and cry by reason of sin, and finds no rest from the plagues of his own heart. The sins of his past life are opened to his view, and beyond his constant transgressions is the depravity of his nature. There is written upon his heart the expressive lines,
“Show pity, Lord; O Lord, forgive:
Let a repenting rebel live.
Are not thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in thee?”
He finds no rest in his own works; they turn to ashes in his grasp. I am confident that no person has ever experienced the deep, distressing sorrow for sin of which I write, only a redeemed sinner. The natural man knows nothing whatever of a heartfelt sorrow for sin. When caught in the snare of his own evil doings, he may fear the consequence of sin. This, however, is vastly different from the hatred of sin experienced by every quickened sinner. It is one thing to hate sin, and quite a different thing to hate merely the consequences of sin. The modern system of preaching consists largely in appeals to this natural fear of the future consequence of sin. The preachers of this system paint before their hearers imaginary pictures of the terrors of torment, and excite their natural passions. But the child of God is made to look deeper than this. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in his heart.” In the bright light of life within him he sees the terrible depravity of his natural heart. He is already alive spiritually, for without this life he could have no sensible knowledge of his standing as a justly condemned sinner, he could have no spiritual emotions or desires, no hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and for freedom from the bondage of sin. The Lord has called him by his grace, and now he calls on the name of the Lord. The call of the Lord comes first. So Joel presents it. He informs us that they shall call on the name of the Lord, for (or because) in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. Their calling on the name of the Lord for deliverance flows from the fact that the Lord has called them by his grace, and there is deliverance in Mount Zion for them. He never gives one a cry or prayer that he does not design to answer. The peaceful answer may seem a long time coming, but it will come at the proper time. Of course the call of which I write is not an invitation, as is understood in the religious world. It is, as I have stated, the sovereign, irresistible voice of God, the mandate of heaven, that falls with power upon the soul. And the deliverance that he experiences in the Lord’s holy mountain lifts his feet out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, causes him to breathe the pure air of gospel liberty, and look with exceeding joy to the bright hour when he shall be delivered forever from the “body of this death.” He has come “unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels;” while all over the gospel heavens is written in living light, LIBERTY, ETERNAL LIBERTY from the bondage of sin, and LIFE FOREVERMORE.
Yours in gospel bonds,
WM. M. SMOOT.
Occoquan, Va., Feb. 14, 1880
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Volume 48, No. 6
March 15, 1880