“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.”
In that day!
It is the day of judgment!
Evidently that is the day the prophet has in mind when you consult the context. In chapter 24 he speaks of the doleful judgments of God which were to come upon the earth. And in the verses which follow our text, we note again that the prophet speaks of divine judgments. It must, therefore, be the day of judgment to which he refers in our text. Most particularly, he speaks of the day of final judgment of God upon the earth. But inclusive in this are also the judgments of God as they take place in historical progress. Typically, no doubt, the prophet has in mind the fall of Babylon as a world kingdom. But always it refers to all the kingdoms and cities of this world as they crumble into the dust under the judgments of God.
In that day shall this song be sung!
We have a strong city!
O indeed, a song it is which the prophet here teaches the people of God to sing. A song which must and will be sung when all that which surrounds us in the present comes tumbling down, falling in ruins all about us! Typically a song of consolation and victory for the church of the Old Dispensation; for it is sung in the land of Judah! Of Judah that was about to go into captivity, whose land was to be made desolate, whose earthly hopes were in despair. More particularly, a song of consolation and victory for the church of the New Dispensation! The church of today, and the church as she shall endure to the end of time!
As the children of Israel on the banks of the Red Sea could and did sing: “The horse and his rider are fallen in a dead sleep! Jehovah of Hosts is our Deliverer!” As the inhabitants of Judah, viewing the destruction of Moab and Assyria could say: “Fallen are the enemies of God’s people! We have a strong city! A mighty fortress is Jerusalem!” So we should learn to sing this song! As all the world’s institutions and cities crumble and fall, we have a strong city! Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks! Still more particularly is this prophetic of the church at the end of the age! When all earth’s institutions shall be completely dissolved, and the city of God, the New Jerusalem, shall descend from God out of heaven! Then shall the redeemed of the Lord exclaim in spiritual ecstasy: Indeed, we have a strong city! Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in!
Instinctively we are reminded of the fulfillment of prophetic Psalm 24. It was the day of the ascension of our Lord into the glories of His heavenly kingdom! On that day this song was sung: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and the King of Glory shall come in!” This was Jesus, the righteous King, Who entered in state! So it shall be sung when He has finished the city! Then it shall be sung: “Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in!”
Undoubtedly an ideal city does the prophet have in mind here!
Of this ideal city literal and earthly Jerusalem, in the land of Judah, was but a faint picture. That Jerusalem which one time was inhabited by the children of Jebus. (I Chron. 11:4ff). The stronghold which was captured by David, and which ever since was called Mount Zion, the city of David. Jerusalem, in the midst of the land of Judah, in which later was constructed in the very midst of it, on the temple hill, the house of God, in which the God of Israel dwelt in the very midst of His people. Jerusalem, that was still later restored in the face of the destruction of Babylon. Typical, earthly Jerusalem, which, though it pointed to something higher and greater, but which, because it was only type, must needs like earthly Babylon disintegrate and crumble into the dust, was but a picture of the ideal city.
That it is an ideal city, the text makes very plain. It is not constructed like the cities of the world. Its bulwarks are spiritual! Salvation has God appointed for walls and bulwarks! Besides, there are spiritual qualifications necessary for entrance! That nation must be righteous that entereth in at the gates! Yea, other Scriptures even describe the gates of the city as gates of righteousness!
This ideal city, which is filled by a righteous nation, is the whole church of God! The church as to her essential nature! The church as to her own polity!
Our strong city!
Strong it is because it is indestructible!
The prophet views the city in comparison with the cities of the world. The latter all fall. There is nothing abiding in them. The very nature of them is corrupt. Strong and powerful as the builders of them intend them to be; though they are founded with the firm intention that they shall stand for aye; time and change blow upon them until they melt into the earth! When all of them shall fall, only one is left.
We have this strong city!
That is the expression of faith of the church! That is the confident confession of the Christian! Like the lad who was with Elisha, whose eyes were opened that he could see the Lord’s host, to whom the man of God said: “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” So we see the Christ of God! So we lay hold on the promises of God! So we see the city!
A strong city it is, also because its defenses are sure!
The earthly city is as strong as its defenses. And those defenses are not only the external fortifications that guard against the siege from without, but they include also the internal will of the citizens within to stand in the siege. That city cannot long endure, no matter how strong the walls may be that surround it, if there is no internal stamina, that mental and spiritual fortitude of the citizens within to defend.
Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks!
Such are the defenses of our city!
God saves His people!
Our God is the God of salvation! A mighty fortress!
God is our refuge and our strength,
A helper ever near us;
We will not fear tho’ earth be moved,
For God is nigh to cheer us.
Although the mountains quake
And earth’s foundations shake,
Tho’ angry billows roar
And break against the shore,
Our mighty God will hear us.
Our city is God’s city! And He is the God of our salvation, who works salvation for us. This He did through His Son, our Lord, Who broke down all the power of darkness, destroyed all the power of the devil, paid the penalty of our guilt, brought atonement for our sins, merited righteousness for us wherewith we could appear before God without fear. So He prepared for us a city!
But He is not only the God of salvation for us! Not only does He make salvation possible for us!
He also works that salvation in us! He applies unto us, the citizens of the heavenly city, His salvation! Thus we know that we are saved with an everlasting salvation! He regenerates us by His Spirit! He implants the seed of immortality, of life, of resurrection life in us! He causes to be imbedded in our inmost heart a true and living faith, through which we consciously appropriate all the graces of salvation, including justification. He preserves us in that faith, so that we persevere in hope. And at last, He presents us without spot or wrinkle in the assembly of the elect in life eternal!
Of this we are assured!
And so we sing:
God’s city is forever blest
With living waters welling;
Since God is there she stands unmoved
‘Mid tumults round her swelling;
God speaks and all is peace,
From war the nations cease;
The Lord of Hosts is nigh,
Our fathers’ God Most High
Is our eternal dwelling.
They are all righteous!
Righteous nation that keepeth truths!
Righteous these citizens are because they have been acquitted before the bar of God’s justice. Righteous they are because they have been declared to be in perfect harmony with the will of God, and that, too, by God’s own judgment of them. Righteous they are because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed unto them. They, therefore, stand before the face of God as though they had never committed one sin. They have been clothed with garments of righteousness that have been washed and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb.
Not merely does the prophet have in mind that the citizens of this strong city keep a certain creed, as the translation suggests. Rather, he conceives of the righteous as those who walk in their righteousness. One who is keeping truths is faithful. He walks in the truth. He guards the truth with a sanctified walk. He applies his righteousness in every step he takes, in every word he speaks, in every relationship into which he enters. In one word, his keeping truths is a further manifestation of his righteousness.
Thus in the city none shall dwell that love or make the lie. All deceit and wicked practices have completely disappeared, and the righteous live and act toward each other with sincerity and truth.
Such, and such only, shall enter in and abide in the city!
Of the complement of this the seer of Patmos speaks when he writes, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”
Sing, therefore, O ye righteous!
Sing it aloud! All who have tasted the salvation of our God!
Indeed, we have a strong city!
In it we find safety, while we observe all the cities of the world crumbling into the dust! In that city we walk by that faith whereby we lay hold on the righteousness and live by that righteousness which hath been imputed unto us by our blessed Redeemer!
And we shall enter in in the day when that city shall be revealed in all her heavenly beauty!