A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/8/2013
And he said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you
rest.” [Ex 33:14]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1583, “Choice Food for Pilgrims to Canaan” 1583]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3330, “Two Choice Assurances” 3332]
May the inexpressibly precious promises of our text be fulfilled to
every one of you throughout your entire lives. What could heart
desire, or mind conceive beyond the heaped up blessedness of my text?
God’s presence and God’s rest — a ring of finest gold set with the
choicest pearl. The benedictions are worthy of God himself, and such
as only his boundless love could have uttered. Think them over, and
use them as food for your souls; with them you may well be content
even if the preacher’s lips should be as an enclosed spring, a sealed
fountain. You do not need any sermon: only let the Holy Spirit speak
these words with power, as coming directly from the great Father’s
lips to you, and your innermost soul will be satisfied as with marrow
Enough, my gracious Lord,
Let faith triumphant cry;
My heart can on this promise live,
Can on this promise die.
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
2. It is instructive to remember that a very short time before this promise was given, the Israelites had greatly grieved their God by setting up an image of gold, before which they prostrated themselves, saying, “These are your gods, oh Israel.” They had seen the greatness and glory of God at the Red Sea, and during their journey in the wilderness up to that time, and yet they were so besotted, that they bowed in worship before the image of an ox which eats grass. We do not marvel that the living God was angry, but we are filled with astonishment that, after such wanton provocation, he should, nevertheless, turn away his wrath from them and say to them — for the promise was not to Moses only, but to them as a people — “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Will God, then, go with sinners, with those who have provoked him so grossly, with those who have sinned against light and knowledge in so shameful a manner? Will he put away the iniquity of great offenders, and speak comfort to them? Yes, he will, for he is slow to wrath, and bears with our bad manners for many a day. Here is his own word: “For my name’s sake I will defer my anger, and for my praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off.” [Isa 48:9] Oh my brothers and sisters, what a consolation it is for us, while labouring under a sense of sin, that the Lord is able to put away sin so that we shall not die; and he will come and walk with us and dwell in the midst of us, notwithstanding all our former wickednesses. You know what a righteous God he is, and how jealous he is, especially for those he loves; and yet, for all that, though he is a consuming fire, yet, he is so gracious that, passing by transgression, iniquity, and sin, he will still return to his people, and yet again speak comfort to them. There is a secret, however, which must never be forgotten — namely, that Moses had made mightily prevalent intercession for the people, crying with many tears, “Oh, these people have sinned a great sin, and have made for themselves gods of gold. Yet now, if you will forgive their sin — ; and if not, blot me, I beseech you, out of your book which you have written.” He had gone up into the fiery mount, even up into the eternal presence; and there he had in will — though it was not accepted in deed — offered himself as a sacrifice for the nation in that memorable sentence, “If not, blot my name out of the book which you have written.” Though the Lord could not accept the substitution of Moses, yet he remembered a greater One: he remembered One who was then to him as much present as if it had already taken place, for he sees the end from the beginning, and the sacrifice of Christ was always present in the mind of God, before whom his Son Jesus is “the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” If then we carefully search to the bottom of things we shall find that it was by virtue of the Mediator that this promise was given to Israel, and God spoke this to Moses and the people. Atonement had been made, intercession had been offered, and hence the Lord’s presence was guaranteed and rest was promised. This is the only basis upon which God can dwell with you and with me and give us rest; an Advocate, one of a thousand, has stood in the gap, presented his life for our life, obtained favour from the Lord, and turned away indignation by the power of his intercession. God in Christ Jesus has come down to dwell with sinful men; and that presence will never be removed from us, for he says, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” He invites himself into our company; he offers to dine with us. Do our hearts not cry, “Come, Lord, reveal yourself to us, we pray you, and let the promise which has been read in our ears be now fulfilled in our hearts by the power of your Spirit”: — “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest?”
3. It may be that I am addressing some who are about to leave this congregation for other distant assemblies; and, if so, I hope I may be the bearer of seasonable comforts. I have spoken to some just now whose faces we may not perhaps see again, who are going far away, to their great sorrow, and to our intense regret. I saw the tear when they said goodbye to us, and to the house they have loved so well. Go in peace, and God be with you, my beloved. What more can I say? You are going to leave your native land: whether you shall ever return to it again is written in the decree of providence, but is all unknown to you. Do not be concerned, for we are all exiles, and are journeying towards the dear fatherland, where we shall be at home for ever. Others, it may be, are now making a very important change in life: moving to another home, or looking for another occupation altogether. Many of us here who are serving the Lord are going forward to new work, planning new service for the Lord. At such a time this word will be particularly precious to all in a changing state, if the Holy Spirit will lay it home to their hearts: “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Come, then, you who bid farewell to old England’s shores, you who move to a strange family, you who in any sense move your tents and advance toward the unknown land — come, I say, and listen to these gentle accents, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
4. We will think of the subject in this way: — First, what are the benefits of this presence? Secondly, to be practical, what are the demands of this presence if we are to enjoy it? And then, thirdly, what is the choice blessing which is appended to this presence — “I will give you rest?”
5. I. First, then, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE WHICH IS PROMISED HERE? “My presence shall go with you.”
6. The first is revealed in the chapter. It is the acknowledgment of the people as being particularly the Lord’s. Notice, Moses puts it like this, “How shall it be known here that I and your people have found grace in your sight? Is it not in that you go with us? So we shall be separated, I and your people, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” This clearly shows that the presence of God with his people is God’s way of acknowledging them, and saying to all mankind and to themselves, “These are my people, and I am their God.” Now, my dear fellow believer, what clearer acknowledgment by God can you conceive of than that God should be present with you? I think you cannot ask for a more certain, better seal than this; and if you do not have it I cannot see what can be a sign of peace to you at all. Is God never with you? Are you never conscious of his presence? Let me ask you to judge your case as if it were mine: — can I be a sheep in his fold if the Shepherd never comes to me? Can I be a child of the family if I have never had my heart warmed with my Father’s love, and have never heard my Father’s voice speaking comfort to me? The saints are married to Christ, but that would be a strange conjugal union in which there was no kind of conversation or communion whatever. If I am unable to see my Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, because my soul is in darkness, I must walk by faith; but I must not think the darkness light and try to be comforted without him. I must feel that, until the day-star shines again, and Christ’s presence returns, I must be unhappy, and I must search the city and go around its streets, saying, “Did you see him whom my soul loves?” But if I have never enjoyed his presence at all, if I could never once say, “He is near me; he is with me,” then how can it be possible that I am his? If I go out to the business of the day and never recognise God; if I come home at night and have never seen God’s hand with me; if I go to my bed and never, before I sleep, have a kind word from him, then, surely, I cannot be one of his: I lack the acknowledgment which the great Father must and will give to his own children. I do not see how a man can feel at all certain, indeed, how he can entertain the hope, that he belongs to the Lord, unless he enjoys his presence. Every true child of God wants his Father’s company. Every true wife desires the presence of her spouse. Our Lord’s presence is life and light, health and wealth, strength and song to us. Our prayer is, — If your presence does not go with me, do not carry me up there; for I would go out like an untended sheep to stray where grievous wolves watch for their feeble victims.
7. That is the first benefit of the presence of God. It is the glory which lights up the soul of the believer, and marks it as the special property of heaven.
8. Secondly, it is by that presence that we are preserved and protected. When Israel came out of Egypt the Egyptians followed close behind them. Pharaoh was eager to kill them or to drive them back again; but he could not touch them. They did not come close to each other all that night, because the Lord descended and like an impenetrable shield of darkness turned himself upon the enemy, while like a sun he turned the brightness of his glory upon his people. The presence of God enabled Israel to pass through the sea on dry land, and that same presence brought down the floods upon their foes and swept them away. All through the wilderness they might have been attacked by the wandering tribes, especially of the Amalekites, but the camp of Israel was never stormed by an orderly army, nor even plundered by a marauding band. Never did an invader’s foot plant itself within those streets of canvas. There were no bastions and fortifications, but the presence of the Lord was a wall of fire all around his people. No one could touch them as long as the Lord was there. It was true that Amalek attacked them once upon their march, and killed the stragglers, but this showed that those farthest off from God are in the greatest danger, and even these would not have been overthrown had not Israel sinned. Even their stragglers would have been secure if they had walked properly with God. Who can harm those whom Jehovah ordains to keep? Who shall fight against the invincible and omnipotent God? If enemies come out against his chosen, he will utterly destroy them. Who shall break through ramparts of fire to touch the sons of God?
9. I think every child of God must acknowledge how safe he has been when he has enjoyed the divine presence. When you get outside of that presence you are liable to temptations which in the divine presence scarcely come to you, or, if they come, they are shaken off as trifles which have no power over you. When we dwell in God the baser passions lie still, — like the beasts in Noah’s ark, they cause no uproar; but when God is gone those baser passions rush to the front, and the inferior appetites and propensities try to get the mastery over us, and cause us all kinds of trouble. While we are in the presence of God, we may safely stand in the midst of wicked men if Providence calls us there, and we shall keep our tongue with a bridle, and baffle all their cunning. Yes, our soul may be among lions, but no lion can touch us when God is with us in the den. We may go into the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, but the glowing coals cannot leave even the smell of fire upon us while God is with us in the flames. We are always safe in the presence of God in any place and in any work; but, if the Lord is withdrawn from us, then in his sanctuary we shall be tempted to transgress, like Eli’s sons; and in his temple the devil will find us and ply his horrible temptations. In the most common transactions of life we shall blunder and transgress if we move without the Lord, for the presence of God is the only protection of saints. Our sanctity depends upon communion with God. Like the moon, we are bright while the sun shines on us; all our glory is borrowed from our Lord. Oh, how blessed is the promise, then, if we view it in that light, for we all wish to be preserved from the defilement of the world, and this is the one golden method of sanctity, “My presence shall go with you.”
10. There is a third privilege which the presence of God brought to Israel, and brings to us: it is that of direction and guidance. Their route lay through a wilderness without a path, and they could not have known which way to go except the fiery cloudy pillar, which was the sign of the presence of God, had gone before them. Their path was a very strange one as it was, winding in and out, backwards and forwards; but “he led them out by the right way, so that they might go to a city of habitation.” Such is our pathway to the skies, a maze, a tangle, to ourselves; but all plain to the All-Wise. You and I know nothing of what is going to happen to us between here and heaven; indeed, we cannot tell what will occur within an hour; but some amazing blessing may come: I have no doubt you, my brethren, have had in your own lifetime days of surprises. You have been jogging along the ordinary road of life pretty comfortably, you never thought of what was going to happen; but you have come to a place where the road suddenly diverged, and from that instant new scenes have opened up before you. You hardly knew whether you were to go to the right or to the left, and you were at your wits’ end as you pulled up, for there was no sign-post, and no markers to guide you. At such times, if the presence of God has been with you, you have not been left to ask the way; but that ancient promise has become true in your experience. “Your ears shall hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way: walk in it.’ ” You could not explain to other people why you took that particular road, but you can see that if you had taken any other your entire life would have been darkened. After a fashion you explain to yourself why you did this rather than that; but if you had talked about it to your most intimate friend, it is just possible he would have replied, “Do you not think there may be a touch of fanaticism about your action? Is there not a little superstition in your reasoning?” So it might be thought, but there is a secret something between you and your God, which is the key of the position, and accounts for acts which otherwise would be unaccountable. If God were not there, it would have been superstition; but since God was really there, and you are one with whom he has become so graciously familiar that he gives to you the Urim and the Thummim, and reveals to you his light and his truth to guide you, there was no superstition or fanaticism in it. Oh the soft, sweet guidances of the royal presence; they have made my life radiant; like all his other gentlenesses, they have made me great. “He leads me,” and yet again “He leads me,” is one of the most joyous notes of my song of loves.
11. Ah, if the Lord is not with us, it is extraordinary what muddles we make. I have sometimes had very, very difficult things to do, and I have accomplished them with ease under the Lord’s own eye, but if I am without my Lord’s presence, I give very bad advice, and I most judiciously do very stupid things, and most prudently follow a course which everyone would say was prudent, but which turns out to be imprudent. I have noticed — and I often have to bless God for it — that when I have felt myself to be quite stumped and nonplussed, I have simply asked for guidance, and something has occurred to me which I had never thought of before; or something which I had thought of and rejected, but which was the best, has occurred strongly to my mind again; or someone else has come in and taken the leadership and put me aside; but somehow or other God has been glorified, and I have been happy when I have had his presence. I am sure that every believer will find it so in daily life; where the first thing is not to have common sense and to be wise, as some say, but to have a sense of God’s presence, which is better than common sense, and to trust in him for guidance, which is better than being shrewd. He will make the young men wise and prudent; he will give to babes knowledge and discretion, if they are only willing to be led by his divine instruction. You will find it so if you have his presence with you; but if you do not have it, you will do just as the Israelites did about the matter of the Gibeonites, which seemed too simple to pray about. You will be taken in with those mouldy crusts and those patched sandals, and those crafty rascals who say, “We come from a far country,” and without taking counsel with God, you will find yourself in fellowship with a brood of scheming Canaanites, who will entangle you and do you no end of harm. You will say, “Oh, but they are such nice old people, and it is wonderful how religiously they talk, and how nicely they persuade me to their side.” Yes, when Satan would deceive, his traps are very simple ones, such as you would never think to be traps at all. When you are quite certain about a thing, pray about it: when you are in difficulty, do as you like, I believe in that fine piece of advice — “When it is a fine day in this country, carry an umbrella with you. When it is raining hard, do just as you like.” I put it into another form, and ask you to remember it. “Why,” you say, “the matter is as plain as the nose on my face.” Then pray to God about it, for the nose on your face may bring you trouble. He who trusts in his own understanding may turn out to have very little understanding to trust in. Take plain matters to God. Get into the presence of God, and stay there, and see all things in the light of that presence: for you that will be instinct, common sense, judgment, wisdom.
12. We have thus seen that rich blessings are found in the presence of God-divine acknowledgment, divine protection, and divine direction; but there was another thing that Israel had by virtue of the presence of God, and that was, real worship in the wilderness. Their sacrifices could not have been presented if God had not been among them. There would not have been the tabernacle, with all its accessories, if God had not been there. God would not have commanded them to build him a house that he did not intend to inhabit, and he would not have instituted ordinances which he did not intend to fill up by his presence. If it is imaginable that there should be a tabernacle with all its outward gear, and sacrifices even until rivers of the blood of fed beasts should be poured out, yet it would have been all an empty, hollow sham if God himself had not been there. Brethren, we cannot in spirit and in truth worship God if we feel him to be absent. We must “believe that he is”; and it is a part of the “is” that he is everywhere present. We must believe that God is here, at this moment, or we are quite unable to pray to him. To pray to a God who is many leagues away is like the worshipper of Baal who says, “Perhaps he is on a journey or he is hunting, or he sleeps and must be awakened.” Elijah never thought that about Jehovah. When he stood by the altar and began to plead with the Lord God of Israel, it never entered into his head that he was sleeping and must be awakened, or that he was up among the stars and needed to be aroused by shouting. The prophet knew that he spoke right into the eternal ear, and talked right into the divine heart, for he felt that God was there. No worship will do us good, or can be accepted with God, unless the Lord is present with us in it. When you live in the presence of God how delightful worship is! You can very jubilantly sing songs upon your stringed instruments when the Lord Jehovah hears your praise. The same is true of prayer. You can wrestle with the angel, and hold him when you are sure he is there; but if he is not there you cannot wrestle with him, or even hold him. You can go out to preach very bravely when you go in the strength of the Lord God to make mention of his righteousness, even of that only; but if the Lord does not go with the minister what a proud place the pulpit is, and what empty stuff our talk must be. How delightful to come to the Lord’s table if the King sits there, and his spikenard exudes a sweet perfume. But what is bread and what is wine, and what is the table, if the King himself is not there? The presence of Jesus consciously enjoyed is the sweetness of our worship, and all goes awry where this is not found. Oh, that we may never attempt to do anything for God except with God, or think that we can worship at all unless the Spirit of God is in the worship, prompting and quickening it.
13. Once more, if God had withdrawn from Israel there would have been no communion with him. God’s presence meant communion with God. The Israelites could speak with God through their priests when he was in the midst of them, but if he had departed all fellowship would have ceased. And is that not one of the greatest enjoyments of a child of God — that he can speak to his Father whenever he desires it? No child, I think, as a rule asks for permission to speak to his father, but feels an unquestioned freedom on that point. Some time ago I went into a house where I sat with the head of the family, and heard a humble knock at the door: it was his wife, who asked if she might come in, but her lord and master spoke somewhat sharply, and she went away. I heard afterwards one of the girls come to knock at the door to know whether she might come in, and I wondered about it, because it is rather unusual nowadays for a man to be lord enough, but this gentlemen was lord too much by a long shot. I thank God that I have never seen more than one case in which a wife or a child was called upon humbly to knock at the door before she could come into the majestic presence of her husband or her father. I have always enjoyed the respect of my sons, but it has never occurred to them to ask for permission to speak to me. Yet many professed Christians treat their heavenly Father in that way: they are afraid of him, and dare not tell him all their hearts. But this is just the sweet privilege of a dear child, that he may turn his eye to the great Father whenever he pleases, and have a private audience with the King of kings at any hour of the day or night. Strangers may not do this; strangers must get an introduction; strangers must come with a great deal of ceremony if they want to see a king, but the little prince does not need any usher of the black rod to introduce him to his father. The believer’s relationship to his Father is a key which opens every door. We are on familiar terms with the great God, as it is written, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” In another place he puts it like this: “They shall be my sons and daughters.” Oh sweet word — “my sons and daughters.” This is a privilege which is secured to us by the presence of God.
14. If any of you have lost the presence of God, I have no doubt you have some kind of awe that makes you stand a long way off, as Israel stood at a distance from the burning mount of Sinai; but if God is with you, then no notion of standing a long way off need come to you. “In him we live, and move, and have our being.” We eat and drink and sleep eternal life. Whatever we do, we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the power of his abiding presence. The presence of God comes to be as palpable to us as the air we breathe, perhaps more so; as certain to us as the life we live. We know him to be with us, and we are as much in the habit of speaking with him as with our dearest friend; yes, much more, because we must be parted from the dearest friend at times, but from our God we are never separated; but, wherever we are, and in whatever frame of mind we are, we can always speak with him. “When I am awake I am still with you.” I fall asleep, and he is at my bedside; I wake up at any hour of the night, and he is there. “He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” He is always ready for fellowship with his people. May you have this ever enjoyable, always encompassing presence with you all the year round. May the Spirit of God give it to those whom I have mentioned, who are moving or changing their place by taking a long journey, or who are about to take the last long journey, who feel that the sentence of death is written upon them — is this presence not all that your spirits can possibly crave? Even death will give you no alarm if this sweet text, is fully enjoyed by you — “My presence shall go with you.” Certainly the hardships and dangers of emigration dwindle into insignificance before this promise: — “My presence shall go with you among strangers. My presence shall go with you across the sea. My presence shall go with you to the bed of sickness. My presence shall go with you through the valley of the shadow of death. My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15. That is the first point.
16. II. The second point shall not occupy much time, but I hope that it will be hammered out into a lifelong sermon, preached by yourselves. WHAT ARE THE DEMANDS OF THIS PRESENCE? Supposing that the divine presence shall go with us, what then?
17. Why, first it is necessary that we rely upon it. Beloved, if the presence of God is with us, do not let us act as if it were not with us, or as if it were not worth much although it is with us. If God’s presence is with us, what have we to be afraid of? Where is the excuse for our spirit being cast down? If God’s presence is with us, why do we talk about difficulties? That word should not be in our vocabulary now that omnipotence is at our right hand. If God’s presence is with us, why should we speak about fears? Whom shall we fear? “You are the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?” Oh, let this presence of God be real to you, if you are enjoying it. Do not talk about it, and then speak as if you were all alone, and go out to your work, saying, “I am not strong enough.” What, not if the Lord is with you? Do value your God properly in all your calculations; that is to say, if you can find a number that will represent him. What is your strength? A unit. Well, if you like, you may make a cipher of it, for that is nearer the truth. But what is God’s strength? Oh, you may carry it up to the nth degree, as we say in algebra. You may work it out to the utmost conceivable limit, but you will never get a number that will come near expressing the power of the presence of God. “I am with you” — “I,” and the universe echoes to the voice, as the words “I AM” roll in thunder peals along the heavens. “I have formed the earth and laid its foundations, and raised up the arches of the sky. I am with you, with my omnipotence, omniscience, all-sufficiency.” Well, if that is so, rely on it; rest on God, and do not play the fool by being dismayed and cast down. “I am with you.” Away with melancholy! Should a little child be always trembling and sobbing out, “Mother, I am alone, and I am afraid?” Her mother says, “I am with you, dear child; I am with you.” Will she not stop her sobbing? So the Lord says, “How can you fear? How can you fall? I am with you.” If we have his presence, let us treat it as a matter of fact, and be filled with rest.
18. In the next place, if we have his presence, let us use it. Every now and then we meet people who have thousands of pounds, and yet are half-starved. We have heard of two great lords who were spending the evening together at a coffee-house, and the bill came to an odd sum, and they quarrelled about who should pay the odd farthing, until one of the waiters said, “Come here! Here are two lords worth fifty thousand pounds a-year each, and they are quarrelling about a farthing.” That was a strange sight; but have you not seen Christian people behaving quite as inconsistently? They have the revenues of the universe to spend, and yet they starve themselves by the little enjoyment that they dare to take! They live upon a crumb a day of heavenly food. They are just like the elder brother who said to his father, “These many years do I serve you; neither did I transgress your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a kid that I might make merry with my friends.” You remember his father’s answer. He said, “You are always with me, and all that I have is yours. If you have not eaten all the goats, it is your own fault. You might have been as merry with your friends as you liked, for all that I have is yours.” And so may the Lord often reproach his people. “I am with you, but you do not use me. You do not exercise faith in me as for the mountains which lie before you, which would become plains if you left them to me. You do not leave me your sycamore trees, for me to pluck them up by the roots. I can do all things, and here you are using this poor feeble arm of yours with all its wasting, aching sinews, when there is an everlasting arm which would be made bare for your defence, and which would shake heaven and earth rather than fail to bring you deliverance.” Why, brethren? Why are we so slow to believe? Oh, if you have the presence of God, utilize it.
19. And then, next, if you have the presence of God, do not grieve him: do not lose it. In the presence of a king men behave themselves. Have you never known, as a boy, when you have been up to some little trick, someone has said, “Hush, father is coming”; and you have stopped your game at once. Oh, how reverently, how cautiously, how jealously, how holy ought we to behave ourselves who are in the presence of God!
20. It is wonderful what God will do for us. He often surprises us with what he does. He seems to be inventive in the liberality of his grace. He will make our path smooth, though so far it has been roughness itself. Very frequently he enriches our way, as though we were like the lepers who followed the Assyrians when they threw away their silver and their gold. We are surprised to find what goodness his mercy has scattered for us. Do we not feel that we must walk tenderly towards one who deals with us so gently? Such mercy as his should make us fear and tremble, because of the great goodness of God. It must be, I was going to say, a fearful thing to be a king’s favourite; but what a fearfully blessed thing it is to be the favourite of God — to be lifted up so near to him as to enjoy the light of his countenance. We ought to look at all our words before we speak them when we are in his presence, and stop our thoughts before we think them, if such a thing could be, lest any of them should vex his Spirit, and prove unbecoming in the presence of his majesty.
21. And, oh, when you have the presence of God, take care to glorify him all that you possibly can. Does he condescend to dwell in you? Then lay yourself out for his honour. Seek out those who have lost his company, and go and cheer them. Find all the daughters of sorrow, all the backsliders and wanderers, and all the poor sinners who are on the wild mountains, and seek to bring them where you are yourself — into the presence of the gracious Three in One. I think that if we do not work at any other time, we certainly should do so when we are resting in the light of his countenance. If my soul keeps no holiday at any other time, she shall certainly be dressed in her bravest, and shine in her best when the King himself visits me. It is a grand thing to go to work for God with the glory of God on your brow, and the love of God warming your heart, and the strength of God making your spirit courageous, and the wisdom of God directing you in the choice of words. So you shall work with purpose, and a work shall be done which will redound to the eternal glory.
22. So you see that the presence of God has its demands.
23. III. My time has gone, and therefore I must say only two or three words about that last word of promise. WHAT IS THE CHOICE BLESSING WHICH IS APPENDED TO THIS PRESENCE? “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
24. In this particular text we must confine the “rest” to the end of the journey, for Israel were to have their rest in Canaan; and so the promise was, “My presence shall go with you through the wilderness, and I will give you rest in the land that flows with milk and honey.”
25. Beloved, it would be no narrowing of the promise if we were to limit it to that sense tonight. If God’s presence is with us here, we shall be in God’s presence hereafter, and there we shall have rest. Some of you good workpeople come in here on Thursday nights, and cannot quite come in on time. Well, never mind, you can come late. I would sooner have you for ten minutes than not at all. A piece of a loaf is better than starving. I know that for many of you the idea of rest must be very sweet. For those who work very, very hard, as some of you do, the thought of an everlasting rest is very pleasant. But perhaps some of you have never been converted. I want to put this thought into your mind: “Will you rest? Will you rest at last?” They will lay your bones in the cemetery, and apparently you will rest; but will you rest? Oh, will you rest? Do you think you can rest if you die with unforgiven sin? Can you rest if you die unreconciled to God? Ah, no. “ ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked. They are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.’ ” Only think if that should be your portion for ever and ever — never to rest, but to be like the troubled sea, foaming, raging, and tossed about throughout eternity! May God grant, dear hearer, that such a fearful unrest may not be your portion. But oh, if you will trust in Jesus, and value his presence with you here, what sweet rest there will be above! I have heard some people speak about the rest of heaven as though it were only a bribe for lazy people. They sneer at the idea of rest, but those people who do not desire rest are unacquainted with hard work. I am persuaded of that. Your lackadaisical ladies and gentlemen, who never did a stroke of work in all their lives, and could not if they tried, may despise heaven as a rest, but for many of us that Scripture is most pleasant, “There remains a rest for the people of God.” The idea of service is, undoubtedly, very sweet — eternal service — very sweet to the strong, active young Christian; but I tell you that when you get older, and when your heads often ache with anxious care, and often you are worn down in the service of your Master, you will get more inclined to look upon heaven as a place of rest, and you will thank God that the Holy Spirit was not quite so hard as these fine ladies and gentlemen, but spoke to us of heaven as a place where the saints shall rest from their labours, and their works shall follow them. We do not know where we shall go between now and heaven, but we shall get home at last, and then we shall rest. We do not know how much more work we have to do, we cannot tell how often the burden will press on our shoulder; but we shall rest one day. “I will give you rest.” Here is a “shall” and a “will.” “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ah, poor toiler, you shall rest. Oh poor aching eyes, you shall rest when you shall see the King in his beauty. Oh poor aching brain, you shall rest when you shall have nothing to do except to rejoice in God, and praise him day and night in his temple.
But I think that under the gospel age we may take this promise in a
far wider sense. “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you
rest,” even now; for “we who have believed enter into rest.”
While we are believing we obtain rest, and this is the kind of rest.
We do not have the rest of inactivity, but that of peace: the
Israelites kept journeying on, and yet the Lord was their
dwelling-place. We do not have the rest of luxury: the Israelites had
to tread the barren sand, and live in tents; but ours is the rest
which is consistent with daily service and with frequent trial. We
rest in this way: we are perfectly at ease about everything. As for
the future, what have we to do with that? We have not come to it yet.
God arranges things to come. As for the present, we “cast our care
upon him, for he cares for us.” As for our sins, they are gone, dead,
buried, lost, and never will be seen again. They cannot be found, for
God himself has cast them behind his back. As for the devil, he is a
chained enemy. As for the world, Christ has said, “Be of good cheer;
I have overcome the world.” As for the needs of the body, he has
said, “Your bread shall be given to you, and your water shall be
certain.” As for the needs of the soul, Christ is ours, and all
things are ours in Christ. As for our eternal safety, “Whom he
predestinated, those he also called: and whom he called, those he
also justified: and whom he justified, those he also glorified.” He
will glorify us as certainly as he has justified us.
All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to the King.
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ex 32:30-33:16]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance — He Will Keep Us” 741]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — ‘Whom Having Not Seen We Love’ ” 785]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Evening — ‘Abide With Us’ ” 1028]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "John Ploughman’s Pictures"]
The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance
741 — He Will Keep Us <8.7.4.>
1 Saviour! through the desert lead us;
Without thee we cannot go:
Thou from cruel chains hast freed us
Thou hast laid the tyrant low:
Let thy presence
Cheer us all our journey through.
2 With a price thy love has bought us;
Saviour! what a love is thine!
Hitherto thy power has brought us;
Power and love in thee combine!
Lord of Glory!
Ever on thy household shine.
3 Through a desert waste and cheerless
Though or destined journey lie,
Render’d by thy presence fearless,
We may every foe defy:
Nought shall move us,
While we wee our Saviour nigh.
4 When we halt (no track discovering),
Fearful lest we go astray,
O’er our path thy pillar hovering,
Fire by night and cloud by day,
Shall direct us:
Thus we shall not miss our way.
5 When we hunger thou wilt feed us,
Manna shall our camp surround;
Faint and thirsty, thou wilt heed us,
Streams shall from the rock abound:
What a Saviour thou hast found!
Thomas Kelly, 1804.
The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
785 — “Whom Having Not Seen We Love”
1 Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of thine!
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine!
2 I see thee not, I hear thee not,
Yet art thou oft with me;
And earth hath ne’er so dear a spot.
As where I meet with thee.
3 Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
When slumbers o’er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravish’d soul.
4 Yet though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone;
I love thee, dearest Lord! and will,
Unseen, but not unknown.
5 When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall thee reveal,
All glorious as thou art!
Ray Palmer, 1858.
1028 — “Abide With Us”
1 Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear,
It is not night if thou be near:
Oh! may no earth-born cloud arise
To hide thee from thy servant’s eyes.
2 When the soft dews of kindly sleep
My wearied eyelids gently steep,
By my last thought, how sweet to rest
For ever on my Saviour’s breast!
3 Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without thee I dare not die.
4 If some poor wandering child of thine
Have spurn’d to-day the voice divine,
Now, Lord, the gracious work begin;
Let him no more lie down in sin.
5 Watch by the sick; enrich the poor
With blessings from thy boundless store;
Be every mourner’s sleep tonight,
Like infant’s slumbers, pure and light.
6 Come near and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take;
Till in the ocean of thy love
We lose ourselves in heaven above.
John Keble, 1827.