Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
“A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.”
These words are a very beautiful and powerful affirmation of faith made by Jeremiah in a day of deep darkness and personal anguish.
There are very few who have suffered the sorrows and difficulties in the service of God that Jeremiah did. His words, which he faithfully delivered from God, were opposed and ridiculed every inch of the way by false prophets. He not only saw God’s Word rejected, but he saw the word of false prophets embraced and most cruel reproach heaped upon himself.
Jeremiah ministered the Word of God in a day when people were hardened in their heart to do evil. Repentance was clean gone, and their sins, says God in the first verse of Jeremiah 17, were written upon their heart with the indelible ink of hardness. And God had spoken through Jeremiah that He would punish. No reform was to come. Jeremiah would see Jerusalem and the temple of Judah wasted. He himself would be cast into a miry pit. The horrible reality of his day is stated in verse13 of Jeremiah 17: “they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.”
Yet, in the midst of this, Jeremiah went on with a courage that almost startles us. He tells us that God’s Word burned within his bones, and he was driven to speak. Facing a ministry of difficulty, each day a weariness and struggle, questioning whether he could go on, his flesh trembling—yet he went on, following God as a faithful pastor. How? The answer is found in this declaration, the verse that we have chosen for our meditation today, a verse that is inserted right in the middle of the chapter because it stood at the heart of Jeremiah’s life and comfort: “A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.”
Jeremiah was made strong in the conviction that the throne of God to which he might go in prayer was a sanctuary, a place of perfect protection, peace, purity, rest for his soul. He found and experienced the truth that, humbly bowing before the absolutely majestic and almighty God, he was in a sanctuary of perfect peace and contentment. That is very beautiful, is it not?
To the unbelieving and rebellious, any thought of the glorious throne of God is one of terror. But to those who, by the grace of Jesus Christ, have been subdued, their hearts changed, cleansed in Calvary’s fountain of blood, humbled and now kissing the hand of Him who sits upon the throne, God’s throne is a place of sanctuary, where nothing can touch them, nothing can disturb their soul. The mighty God of Jacob, our Father in heaven, is the place where we are lifted up above the swirling troubles of this present time. No matter the difficulty you face, no matter the burden of your sin, no matter the sorrows of your heart, child of God, by faith, go to your sanctuary, the place of perfect peace and rest, the glorious throne of God. Go there through the blood of Jesus Christ. All is well.
This is the message of God’s Word to us right now. Turning away from Jeremiah and all the circumstances in which he lived, we take these words of holy Scripture as our own. Because of what Jesus did for us upon Calvary’s cross, we declare these words to be a statement of truth for ourselves. God’s throne is our sanctuary, our place of protection and peace. If a man or woman, a child, a teenager would find sanctuary, he must find the throne of God. He must be brought in complete submission before the mighty God. If a man seeks a place of refuge and quietness, a place of peace in the midst of turmoil and trouble, he will not find it, he cannot find it, anywhere except before this throne. He will not find peace in man, in man’s philosophies, in wealth, in health, in pleasures. No! Only before the throne, submissive, by the grace of God, to Him who sits upon the throne in perfect majesty. There is peace, our sanctuary.
The idea of a sanctuary is a very common one in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament Scriptures. We read in Psalm 73 of Asaph, who had many soul troubles and was questioning the ways that God dealt with him and was envious of the wicked, who he thought had everything, while he as a believer was sorely chastened every day—until he made his way to the sanctuary, to the temple. There he was brought to understand the mighty purposes of God always to work His salvation through all things.
That is the meaning. When Scripture tells us that the throne of God is our sanctuary, it means that here upon earth we are filled with unrest. We come under the attacks of Satan and sin and grief and trouble. And our souls desire rest. The only possibility of rest is that we be brought before the throne of God, through the blood of Christ.
Usually when we think of a sanctuary we associate it with worship, as a holy place, a chapel of God. But here Jeremiah uses the word in the sense of a place of refuge, a place where he might hide himself, where he could find quietness and privacy.
What is a sanctuary to those who are bruised and broken in the battle? What is a sanctuary to those who are weary and struggling in their souls? A sanctuary is a place of rest from the storm. We use the word that way as well. We speak of a wildlife sanctuary, a refuge for birds or wild-life where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal. That is the idea of this Word of God. And, you understand, the reference is not to a physical sanctuary, an earthly sanctuary. It is not referring to some place where you can come out of the cold or find shelter from the heat, but it is a place for your soul.
A sanctuary, then, is a place of purity. That is the root meaning of the word in the Hebrew language: a place of holiness, God’s heavenly throne. That sanctuary in the heavens is a place that is separate from evil. It is guarded by the fire of God’s holiness. There is no deceit. There is no lie there. We live in a world of deceit and evil. We live in a world that is cutthroat, dog-eat-dog. Newspapers and news broadcasts bring us reports of abounding evil. We struggle with our sins. We are bruised, scarred, and battered. But now there is a place where evil does not reign, where we shall find refuge from the forces of evil that surround us and would seek our destruction.
Still more. A sanctuary is a place not only of purity but of peace. A place of silence. A place where very few are permitted to enter, where stillness awaits us and everything is untouched by turmoil or unrest. Sin cannot molest us. Fears cannot enter. Doubts must stop. Satan is barred entrance. There is privacy, peace.
And still more. A sanctuary is a place of protection. We are removed from the arrows that the devil would shoot. We become safe and secure. We are lifted high above all that would harm us and drag our hearts down into despair and hopelessness. If we find this sanctuary, then we find defense from all the accusations of the devil and of our own conscience that we have sinned and deserve to be condemned. We find refuge from sorrows.
A sanctuary is a place of purity, peace, protection. He
Men seek a sanctuary for their hearts and souls. Foolishly they travel to huge cathedrals. Massive oak doors greet them. Their footsteps echo off the marble and they think that they shall escape the stress of life by kneeling and making the sign of a cross or throwing “holy” water over their shoulder and looking upon an idol. They go to a therapist. They go to a doctor. They enter the halls of universities. They journey to remote places in the wilderness. They call friends around them. They seek a place of protection and rest and quietness for their hearts.
And today the stress of life is more terrible than ever. It invades places where previously men thought they were safe. It invades the home. The home for many is no longer a sanctuary. It becomes filled with fighting and bitterness between husband and wife. Children are subjected to abuse. The church is no longer a sanctuary for many because it departs from the truth and then can provide no refuge; or it becomes torn apart by fighting and bickering and party spirits and there is break-down. And man says, “I must find a place to escape the storms of life, someplace where I can rest my soul.” But he cannot find it. Not of himself. All his attempts at building his sanctuary: building up his inner fortitude, delving into New Age, downing another bottle, tripping out—all these prove futile.
There is only one place of sanctuary for the soul—a glorious, high throne from everlasting is the place of our sanctuary. The throne of the eternal. The glorious, the infinitely majestic, the almighty God—that is our sanctuary.
The sanctuary never was Moses’ tabernacle in the wilderness. It was not Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. It is not some beautiful cathedral made with men’s hands. It is not the peak of a mountain, or a lonely wood and stream. The sanctuary is not a hospital with the latest in medical technology. It is not a couch in a therapist’s office. It is not found in some book on life. The sanctuary for your soul is the throne of God. The majestic and the eternal, the fair and glorious God. Go there!
That is the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The one truth the Bible declares is that the throne of God is man’s resting place. The Bible declares to you, God says to you, if you would find sanctuary, by His grace, you must bow before His throne and know Him as the only God. If you would find a place of peace, you must submit to His rule. If you would be safe, then you must be brought to know your problem. Your problem is this: you are a rebel before the only God. You have revolted against the only true God. You are a sinner in His sight. And it is only through the blood of His Son that you can be placed in a right relationship to Him who sits upon the throne and who abides upon that throne as the eternal God only. And, by the grace of God working in your heart, only when humbly bending before Him, trusting and worshiping Him, adoring Him, being cleansed in the blood of His Son—only then is there a sanctuary for your heart.
Shall we look at that sanctuary? A glorious, high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. It is the throne of God. God’s throne is a symbol to us of His authority. It declares to us that God’s is the right and the power to rule and govern all things. His throne is fixed in the heavens. He reigns supreme (Ps. 97). From His throne issue edicts governing everything from the most minute particle of the creation to earthquakes and other great events. Before His throne all disputes are settled. He judges in righteousness and justice among men. Every man, you, must appear before His throne, the throne of Him who looks into the heart.
It is a glorious throne. It is splendid. It shines with the excellency of God’s own being. It radiates with a light no man can take in. It is glorious in holiness. It is majestic in its power. All before that throne bow down and worship before Him. Think of it! That is our sanctuary. The sanctuary is not in the god preached by many today, the god who cannot do something unless man first allows him to do this or that. It is not a god so desperate for man to acknowledge him that he allows a man to remain a rebel and says to man, “Well, you can go on in your sin, just give me a little part of your life, would you please?” Oh! There is no sanctuary in that god.
But the sanctuary is God’s throne on high. It is lifted up in majesty and in power. His throne is fixed. It is on high from the beginning—that is, it is eternal. God never contested for dominion. He does not contest with man today for dominion. God reigns over all! How could Jeremiah endure in his ministry when he was so weary, so hopeless, so alone? His sanctuary was God’s throne. There he stood unmoved.
The fixed point in the universe is the throne of God. Today man peers through his Hubble telescope theorizing about the beginning, looking for the center and the source of the universe. Man is overwhelmed, he is mystified. He cannot find it. His theories change yearly. But here is the center! All laws proceed from this source. Unchanging wisdom controls all things from this throne. The center of all things is the throne of God. It always has been and it always will be!
Are you tossed in your soul? Are you troubled in heart and mind? Do you seek a place of peace and safety and rest? Here is the sanctuary: the glorious high throne of God. Shall we go there? Shall we call it our sanctuary?
How can we do that? How can we do that when Adam and Eve, our first parents, were expelled from the garden of Eden and a flaming sword kept the way of the Tree of Life? How can we who are sinners come to this sanctuary of God’s majesty and holiness? There is only one way: through the blood of Jesus Christ. We read in the Scriptures (Rom. 5:2), “By whom (by Christ) also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” Through the blood of Jesus Christ, says the Word of God.
Apart from Christ’s providing an entrance to that throne, it becomes a place of terror. But through Jesus Christ the believing child of God enters. Jesus said in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” The Lord did not simply mean, “if I be lifted up a few yards from the earth on a Roman cross.” But He meant this: “If by the pathway of My suffering and sorrow I take the sins of My children given to Me of the Father’s election, if I take those sins upon My own breast and extinguish them in My own blood; if I be lifted up to make atonement for sin and then be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven; if I be brought as the Head of the church to that place where I am free from all condemnation—then I will draw you to Myself.” Through His cross, by which our sins were judged, through His resurrection and ascension, we come to the throne.
But we enter that sanctuary in submission. Cast yourself before the throne. Renounce your own way. We do not enter God’s sanctuary by hiding from God. We do not enter the sanctuary by rebelling, accusing, and refusing to be content with His ways. Then the throne is far away. Then the thunders of the throne threaten us. But humbled low, yielding, by His grace, confident that all that the Father has willed is for His glory and for our salvation—in that faith we come to the sanctuary, a place where fears and sins and sorrows cannot follow us. A place of rest and peace and safety. A place where we may lift up our hands and bow our heads and experience the peace of worshiping Him who sits upon the throne.
Go to the sanctuary.