Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
In this Psalm the poet extols the beauty and strength of Mount Zion, God’s church. Zion is the place where God dwells in covenant fellowship with His people. It is the city of God, the great King. It is the place where God is known, loved, praised, and worshiped. The marvelous beauty of Zion is the fact that God, in all His glory, is revealed there in His church.
That church is indestructible. Though hated by Satan, and though the whole world of sin and unbelief is arrayed against her, God’s church cannot be destroyed. When the kings of the earth assemble themselves against the church (Ps. 48:5, 6) they marvel at her glory. They are troubled; terror takes hold of them and they hasten away. God’s church stands unmoved!
Why is this? The answer is that the church in no sense and in no way depends upon man, human ability, or human strength. God, not man, established the church and will establish her for ever (Ps. 48:8). God, not man, is known in her for a refuge (Ps. 48:3). God is the sure defense of His church!
Thus, the poet calls God’s people to walk about Zion and observe her towers and mark well her bulwarks and consider her palaces! God’s people must see in the church the glory of God revealed. God’s people must also know that that beautiful church will never be destroyed but will stand forever. They must know this because this is God’s glorious church.
Further, God’s people, observing the glory and strength of God’s church, are to tell it to the generation following. What is it that they and we must tell the generation following? That this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death. Correctly translated, the verse reads: This God, our God, is eternal and forever: He will shepherd us even unto death. In other words, this God, our God, whose glory is revealed in the church, by Whose powerful, sovereign grace the church is saved and preserved so that not even the gates of hell can prevail against her, this God, our God, is eternal and forever: He will shepherd us even unto death. This we must tell the generation following.
Who is this God? The psalmist answers, “This God.” This God, in distinction from all the idol gods of human invention and imagination; the many gods of wood and stone who cannot speak, or hear, or move; the idol gods of human conception, the gods of money, the gods of pleasure who have no strength, who cannot save from sin or deliver from death, the idol gods who depend on the will of man to save. In distinction from all these, this God, Whose glory is revealed in Mount Zion, the church, and by Whose power the church is preserved, this God is the one, true, and living God!
This God is eternal and forever. God is the “I AM THAT I AM” Who has no beginning and no end. God is before all things. God has life in Himself and has need of nothing outside of Himself. He is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This eternal God lives the perfect covenant life within Himself. The Father begets the Son, the Son is the only begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father. All this is within the perfection of God’s one divine, glorious being. This God, our God, has no need of the creature. God is absolutely sovereign!
This eternal God determined to reveal His glory in Jesus Christ and in the church in Jesus Christ in the new creation. This eternal God sovereignly determined the way to reach that purpose: the deep, mysterious way of sin and grace! Thus the eternal God has forever elected a people in Christ Jesus before the foundations of the world and reprobated the rest in the way of their own sin. This God created the world by and for Jesus Christ by the word of His mouth in six days. This eternal God sent His only begotten Son into the world to make atonement for the sins of the elect on the cross. This eternal God raised Jesus from the dead as a sure seal of our justification and as the first-fruits of them that slept! This eternal God exalted Christ to glory giving Him the life-giving Spirit to lead us into all truth! This eternal God governs and upholds all things by His power so that all things serve the realization of His purpose. This eternal God will be revealed in the final appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will judge the living and the dead, destroy the heavens and the earth in the fire of His wrath, and create a new heaven and earth in which righteousness shall dwell. And there God’s glory will shine in the redeemed, glorified church forever, world without end!
This God, Who is eternal and forever, is our God! He created us in Adam in the beginning and He recreated us in Christ Jesus, redeeming us from our sin and delivering us from our death. God made us living members of the church, chosen in Christ to life and glory, and gathered by the Son of God out of the whole human race by His Word and Spirit.
This God is our God! He established His covenant of friendship and fellowship with us and our children. God maintains and realizes that covenant! This God causes all to work for our good and salvation. And this God, our God, does all, of this according to His counsel and by the power of His sovereign, particular grace!
This eternal God will be our guide even unto death. The text, correctly translated, reads, “He will shepherd us.” This means God will nourish and feed us. No man does this. Our eternal God does this by His grace and Holy Spirit through those whom He calls. God does this chiefly by means of the preaching of His inspired, infallible Word and by the use of the sacraments. That God shepherds us means as well that He rules us by His grace so that we willingly serve Him in love. God protects us from all our enemies, preserves and sustains us through every trial, every suffering, and through all of our sorrows. God gives us grace sufficient for our every need and guides us every step along our way, the way which He in His wisdom and love has determined for each of us.
Our eternal God will shepherd us even unto death. This means simply that from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death God will shepherd us. He never leaves or forsakes us, not for a split second. God cares for us to the very end.
And because this is true, nothing can be against us, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. All things are for us! Even death is for us! O, I know, death is horrible from every human point of view. Death is often preceded by terrible sufferings. We saw that with our dear one the past weeks. That strong body became so weak and that booming voice became barely a whisper. Death is the end of all our earthly relations. We have lost a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother in the Lord, and a co-worker in the ministry. What is worse, death is the expression of the wrath of God against sin. Death is part of the, curse! It is no wonder that the apostle refers to death as the last enemy (I Cor. 15)!
But all that has been changed! Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the cross and resurrection, of Jesus Christ. No longer is death the end. Death is the beginning of perfect joy, of fellowship with our eternal God in glory. God will be our guide; He will shepherd us even unto death, and through death take us to the glory of His presence.
And that is absolutely certain. Our eternal God will beour guide. There may be no doubt about this! Our eternal God will surely be our shepherd even unto death. Therefore, God’s church shall surely stand.
This is what we must tell the generation following. God’s Zion, His church, is full of the glory of God. God’s church is indestructible! Because it is God’schurch! And this God, our God, is eternal and forever; He will shepherd us even unto death!
Whatever may be said of Professor Hoeksema, thismust be said. This is precisely what he told us. This is what he always told his wife. This is what he always taught his children. And this is what he told all of us in the churches. In all of his preaching and lecturing in our churches and in churches in various parts of the world, in all of his teaching (30 years of it) in our seminary, as well as in all his writings, he always said: “This God, our God, is eternal and forever: He will be our guide even unto death!” And he did this not in his own strength. He did it by the grace of God alone. Now that God has delivered Professor Hoeksema from this vale of tears into the joy of His presence, let us be reminded of the weighty calling of God upon each of us who remain. Tell this, God says, tell this to the generations following. Just this, nothing more, nothing less! This God, our God, is eternal and forever: He will be our guide even unto death!
And what shall we say? Only this: great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God and in the mountain of His holiness.