“The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearlessness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.”
This plaintive cry you do not find in the world. A worldling will never say: Who can dwell with a God who is everlasting burning? When they talk about hell they are mocking. Hell, this; and hell, that! They do not take hell seriously. The first word I heard, addressing a policeman, was: Hell! I don’t know what you are talking about! I talked the King’s English, having spent a year there, and this Brooklynite could not catch my brogue.
No, this speech is found in the church.
They are the “sinners” and the “hypocrites” in Zion who say: Who can dwell with the devouring fire and continual burnings of Jehovah? In plain words: who can dwell with a God who casts untold millions in an everlasting hell?
Aren’t we all?
Yes, we are all sinners, but this is a peculiar kind of sinners.
They are the sinners that were never visited by the Dayspring from on High. They are those who are satisfied to be and remain sinners.
I remember a voice of the past, making a difference between the “GODLESS UNGODLY,” and the “CONVERTED UNGODLY.” A few of you will remember.
God’s elect people, although they are still sinners, are called “saints,” and that for two reasons: 1) they are saints in Christ, and so God does not see their sin anymore. Indeed the Scripture tells us that He “hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel . . .” Numbers 23:21a. Theologians call that unspeakable blessing “justification from everlasting.” In harmony with another Scripture which is the ground for it, or, rather, the Fountain: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love . . .” Jer. 31:3a. And the ground is Jesus Christ’s vicarious suffering; death and resurrection.
That’s the first reason God’s elect people are called “saints.”
And the second reason is that they have a certain “saintliness” in the very depth of their hearts. Paul speaks of that when he says: “For I delight in the law of God after the “inward” man, Rom. 7:22; and also: “for to will is present with me . . .” (that is, to will the good) Rom. 7:18b.
And that event, producing such “will” and “delight,” is called by theologians: “regeneration and conversion.”
And the sinners of my text are neither justified nor regenerated. And they prove that by also being “hypocrites.” That’s the name the text gives them.
Now it is true that every living child of God is somewhat of a hypocrite, but they are that in spite of their inmost heart. They are not hypocrites to the extent that they must be denominated by that awful name.
A hypocrite is a man with a mask on his natural face. He is not what he seems to be.
Note that these sinners live in Zion, and that is the Church of Jesus Christ, both in the Old and in the New Testament.
When these sinners and hypocrites come in contact with the God of Israel they begin at once to complain: they cannot live with Him, for they see the Devouring Fire, and the Continual Burnings. In other words, they hear of His righteous anger and indignation over all the unrighteousnesses of man.
And so they will not dwell with Him.
But this is the awful irony of God: He will not let them dwell with Him. Neither indeed can they. As far as that goes: they are right!
Who can dwell with Him who created a place for the devil, the false prophet and for those who bear his mark, and are characterized by his number?
The text gives the answer: negatively: 1) those that despise gain of oppression; 2) those that despise bribery at the expense of judgment; 3) those that despise bloodguiltiness; 4) those that despise evil. And positively: 1) those that walk in righteousness; and 2) those that have the speech of uprightnesses.
A walk in righteousnesses (the plural of intensity) is a walk that is good. When such a walk is laid alongside of the law of God it harmonizes with the law and with God (which is really the same thing).
For righteousness is the state and condition where a man or an angel is in harmony with the Highest Good and that is God.
Quite naturally then such a person can dwell with God.
And the speech of uprightnesses is a speech where your mouth and your heart agree. Contrary to a speech with a smile on your face and a heart that is lying, that is cursing while your face, words and smile are sweet.
People that answer to the above description shall see the King in His beauty, and that is Jesus. And His beauty is something to sing about. When the poet said: I will sing of my Redeemer! he was outlining an eternity of hallelujahs in heaven. His beauty is so great that John fell as dead at His feet when he saw Him on the isle of Patmos.
Paul is one of those most blessed people, for he said: “But we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor!” Heb. 2:9. Therefore a little of that vision we have now already. And if that vision is so powerful that men and women and children have died for it, what shall be the vision when we see Him in Glory?
Moreover, those people, that is, the righteous and the upright shall see the land that is very far off. I think at this moment of a line in a song: “the land that is fairer than clay!” Of course, that means the heaven of heaven, cleansed, purified, renewed, recreated at the end of the ages.
All such beauties are the sum total of “dwelling with God.”
What constitutes dwelling with God?
It is not mere being with God.
No, for the devil and his angels will forever be with God.
God is everywhere. If I would make my bed in hell: Thou art there! Do you remember that text? God is in the devil, even as He is in everything.
The dreadful truth is that the very presence of God near with and in the devil, his angels and the reprobate in hell constitutes their very hell. God’s presence makes hell what it is.
The wicked at their demise fall into the hands of God. When they die they see at once the very face of God, and that Face tells them terrible things. They rather are crushed by the mountains than to look at that Face of God and the wrath of the Lamb. It will be their last prayer: “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the -.face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!” Rev. 6:16.
And so, mere presence with God is not the same as “dwelling with God.”
To dwell with God is the Covenant idea. You dwell where you feel at home, where you share the “gezelligheid,” the sociability of family life.
A weak shadow you find everywhere on earth.
Your dwelling is where you live, where you feel at home.
There you let your hair down. You take your familiar seat, and you glance with a smile at the wife and kiddies. There everything breathes harmony and peace. When it gets toward evening time, you hurry to get HOME!
Jesus loved to talk about the House of My Father.
Even the text where He speaks of the glory which He had with the Father from everlasting.
The Triune inhabits such a Home, and its name is Eternity, or, The inapproachable Light.
And God has from eternity visualized that Home full of children who would look like the Only Son He had ere the world began. They are the children of God whom “He predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son . . .” Rom. 8:29b.
And so there are certain blessed beings who are to dwell with God.
They are the justified and the regenerated of whom I spoke earlier.
I know, I know . . . you are going to say: But how can they dwell with Him, since they also have so much of the sinner and the hypocrite in them?
You will ask: Is it not true that they do not always refuse, despise the gain, the bribe, the bloodguiltiness, the evil? You will add, and that is heavier still: and how little they show of the righteousnesses and the uprightnesses in walk and speech?
The answer is the Gospel of God.
ONE, AND ONE ONLY MAN has been found who answers to the description of my text. And that One is the Man Jesus. Do you remember that I said a little while ago that righteousness is really to be good and to do good? Well, of this Jesus it is said that He went about the country doing good. And He called Himself: the Good Shepherd.
Man, angels and devils proclaimed Him good.
Even the devil himself. For when this devil incarnated himself in Judas, this unhappy man said of Jesus: I have shed the innocent blood! Those are the sorrows of Judas unto all eternity.
And God said of this Good Man: This is My beloved Son!
Oh yes, Jesus fits the specifications of the man who may dwell with God. In fact, it is one of the great, if not the greatest, of all theological problems: the incarnation. Is it not true that from His very conception God dwelled in His manhood? At one time He would say: I am so thirsty! And at another time: Your sins are forgiven thee!
Now then, if you have this Jesus in your heart through the unspeakable boon of regeneration, you now already dwell with God. And you will dwell with Him everlastingly in that “land that is very far off.”
Brethren! your happiness here is fragmentary and fraught with much unhappiness, because of sin.
Sisters! here you suffer sickness of which the text speaks. It is the sickness of sin, and oppression in your heart because of sin.
But in heaven, when you dwell perfectly with God, you will never say again: I am sick! because you will have forgiveness from all your iniquity!