I want to say a brief and simple word, dear brethren, about the presence of the Lord. But, as in our reading, I am thinking more of the presence of the Lord with us when we are together: the presence of the Lord among His own, in His Church.
I have been thinking about the attributes of the Lord Jesus. And we often think of it in a personal way – what He is to me: Saviour, Friend; He is a King, too. All those are very blessed things. But I have been thinking lately of what He means to the Church, the assembly.
When I was thinking about this afternoon, for some reason I had an overriding impression of Psalm 23. And then, following through from the thought of what we can enjoy currently, as believers in this wilderness scene that we are all treading through, we can touch what is eternal and what is of God.
It led me to think of Psalm 27, too. These are both psalms of David, a man of experience. What comes out here, linking with what we were saying yesterday, is that he had a desire and an earnest longing to see more of these wonderful things. He did not just want to look in from the outside; he wanted to enter in to what God would have for him, and to see something of “the beauty of Jehovah” (v4).
I read the other two Scriptures because, whilst many, many readings have taken place on Luke 15 and John 14, there is always something new you can gain, I think, from the truth of the Father’s house. Luke 15, I suppose, tells us what, again, we can enjoy currently. The younger son wanted an inheritance now. He actually came into something, now, that was far better than what he had actually hankered after in the first place.
And then what we read about in John 14 is a future day in many ways. It is something the believer can look forward to. We should not forget that. It is not all current, we have a future. It is the wonderful thing for a believer that he does have a bright future. The wonder and glory of that should affect us now as well. That is why the Lord spoke to His disciples, that the future prospect might also be a current enjoyment.
Psalm 23 is for where we are now.
With the Spirit’s help, I want to say something tonight about the name of the Lord. When I say, ‘The name of the Lord,’ I do not mean His title. He has many titles. The many titles of the Lord Jesus in Scripture is an interesting study: Saviour, Lord, Shepherd, one could go on! It is an interesting study, especially when you are younger, just to go through the different titles of the Lord. But that is not what I have in mind. Every Scripture we have read mentions the name of the Lord, or the name of Jehovah. What I think that actually means is not so much His title, but what He is and, more importantly, how He identifies Himself with His people, or how we, as His people, identify with Him.
The four Scriptures read bear on the effect that the precious truth of the near return of Jesus should have in our lives and in our pathways today. The first Scripture is really an example of how to live. The second Scripture is a warning. The third Scripture is a declaration. The fourth Scripture is an admonition.
In Christian life there are many paradoxes. Maybe, for the young, that is a long word; a paradox means something that appears to be contradictory – two opposite things which are equally true. I want to speak about a paradox tonight. For the Christian is not to change certain things, but on the other hand he is to change.
What we have read here this afternoon are Scriptures about three river crossings. Now, the Christian life, as we know, is a journey, an experience. There are stages of growth in the Christian life, and I thought we could firstly look at the meaning of these three river crossings, and then see something else about them.