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Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones Saturday November 12th 1977
What mean these stones? Joshua 4:21
I am sure that I am expressing the feelings of all of us who are visitors here this afternoon when I say that it is a great privilege to be invited to come here and to share with the friends in this church, and our friend the minister in particular, the happiness and the joy of this unique occasion. I am sure that I am further expressing the feelings of my fellow visitors when I say that we shall endeavour to remember you who worship here regularly, both minister, officers and people, in our prayers that your witness may be a very powerful one in this new episode in the history of this church. It is indeed something for which all of us who stand for the faith at a time like this, should thank God and in which we should rejoice.
Now I would like to call your attention, on this occasion, to the words that are to be found in the book of Joshua, in chapter 4, beginning to read at verse 21 and going on to the end of the chapter:
And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.Now these words come in this chapter which, of course, is a very important and vital chapter in the history of the children of Israel. You remember how the children of Israel had had to go down to Egypt because of a famine that had arisen in their land and they had dwelt there. For a while they had been very prosperous. But times had changed and they had become slaves in the land of Egypt and were completely helpless. But God had raised a man called Moses and he had led them out of the bondage and the captivity. It was a very precarious enterprise because they were soon face to face with the Red Sea. They had to cross it and they could not do so. There was the Red Sea and the armies of Pharaoh behind them, and the situation seemed not only desperate but impossible. And God worked a miracle. He divided the Red Sea, as we are reminded here and the children of Israel crossed on dry land. But the moment that Pharaoh, his hosts and chariots and horses, tried to do the same, the waters closed in again and they were all drowned and finally discomfited.
Then God had led these people for forty years through a wilderness, and had fed them in a miraculous manner, by giving them the manna. And now here comes in many ways the climactic point. They are on the verge of entering Canaan, the chosen land, but they have got to cross the river of Jordan and it seems to have been in flood at this particular time. But God again worked a miracle. He divided the river Jordan exactly as he had divided the Red Sea and the people were able to cross over on dry land and enter into the Promised Land.
But God did a very interesting thing here. He commanded Joshua to call out twelve leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. He was to command these men, each one of them , to pick up a stone from the middle of the bed of the river Jordan, and each man was to carry this stone on his shoulder into the new land, Canaan. Then they were to set up these stones as pillars outside a place called Gilgal. And this was done. In the verses I am going to consider with you we are given the reason why this was to be done-why these men were to take up a stone each and why these twelve stones were to be set up outside Gilgal. The reason is this: it is to be done because 'when your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel come over this Jordan' (which was quite near there) 'on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which He dried up from before us, until we were gone over.' Why? 'That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.'
Well now I feel that this is an appropriate incident in the life and the story of the children of Israel for us to consider on this interesting occasion. Here is a new building, and people will be walking round here and passing by and in a few days probably and in the years to come people will stand outside and look at the building and at the notice board and they will say, 'What is this? What is this building? What is this Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Baptist? What does it mean? What is it about?' There are many buildings in Newport, and there are many new buildings that have been put up in Newport in these last years. And people pass by and they look and they say 'Well, what is this for?' One is called a Masonic Lodge, another is called an Institute, and so on. But here is this building, this new building, and they will ask the question, 'What mean these stones? What is the message of this building?' If any of you who are members here should be asked by somebody passing by 'What mean these stones?', what is to be the answer?
Well I suggest that the answers are these, and they are all here. I am not going to import any. I am simply going to expound what we are told in these verses. For I believe that what we are told here is exactly what we should be saying in reply to the same question that is put to us at this present time. What does this building represent?
Well, the first answer is exactly like those stones outside Gilgal, they point to history, to certain historical events and happenings. And this, I sometimes think, is perhaps one of the most important things of which we need to remind ourselves at the present time. Our Christian faith is based entirely upon history. This is where the Christian faith differs from everything else that is being offered to men and women in the midst of our modern troubles.
Let me put it to you like this. Christianity is not a philosophy. What is a philosophy? Well, a philosophy is made up of ideas put forward by men, in an attempt to try to understand life and our problems and how to deal with them and how to solve them. It is a matter of ideas, of thoughts and of teachings. My point is that while there is obviously a teaching and a doctrine which is a vital part of Christianity, that is not the first thing. What differentiates this is that it is first and foremost a record of historical events and historical facts. What mean these stones outside Gilgal? All that they mean is that certain things happened to these people-history. Let us be clear about this. There are so many people today who talk about the Christian attitude-towards war and peace, a Christian attitude towards education, a C hristian attitude towards art, drama and literature. Now all that tends to turn it into a philosophy, into a teaching, into a theory, into a point of view. But that is really not to be true to our position. So Christianity, we must remember, is not one of a number of theories and ideas and philosophies with respect to life. It is quite unique because it is teaching which is based upon history.
I can go further and I can say this. That this is the thing that differentiates the Christian faith from religion-from any kind of religion. You take these religions that people, some of them, are turning to at the present time. Buddhism or Confucianism or Hinduism, or any one of these 'isms'. What are they? Well, they are all something invented by men. They are all teachings. They involve a kind of worship, but they are not based upon facts and upon events. They are all based upon ideas-and they are ideas that are supposed to lead you and to help you to arrive at the particular deity that you want to worship.
Now here again, you see, our Christian faith is entirely different. It calls attention to facts. And that is why this building in a sense is going to do exactly the same as the bread and the wine do in a communion service. They again are calling attention to facts. So, we must start with this all important matter-this principle-and realise that it is vital to our whole situation. The uniqueness of the Christian faith depends upon a series of historical facts and events and the teaching which results from them.
But let me hurry to the second point, which is this. These facts, these events, on which our whole position is based, are not the result of man's action but God's action. You see, the stones outside Gilgal are not to call attention to anything the children of Israel did. They are to call attention to what God did with the children of Israel. They are memorials-pointing people, reminding people, of actions, events, historical happenings, which have been produced by Almighty God. The whole emphasis is upon that.
And so, you see, we need to be reminded of this and we need to remind others of this. People still persist in thinking that you can make yourself a Christian, and that it is as the result of certain good actions and deeds that you have done that you become a Christian. That if a man is going to arrive in Heaven, well, it is going to be the result of the life he has lived and what he has done.
This, of course, is the great characteristic of the age in which we live. It not only forgets and does not believe in God-it does not believe in the supernatural at all. The whole emphasis is upon man and the achievements of man. We are glorying in what man does scientifically. Putting people on the moon, these wonderful discoveries. Man, great man!-and what man has done! That is the whole trouble with the world today, is it not? That it is only interested in man and interested in what man has done and what man is doing and what man can do and what man, we hope, is going to do. The whole emphasis is upon man and his actions. The uniqueness of our position, the unique message of this building, is this, that though men have erected this building, what it is pointing to is what God has done, what the Almighty has done, not man. It is a record of the activities of God. So the Bible, you see, starts by saying 'In the beginning, God'. Not 'In the beginning, man' but 'In the beginning, God'. And the Bible is really nothing but a great record of what God has done. So this building is to point to that.
And you see this building can be a very powerful evangelistic force, therefore, if we only give the right answer to the questions. When the man or the boy asks outside, 'What is the meaning of this building? What mean these stones?' 'Ah', you say, 'this is a monument to what God has done!' The activity of God, in the midst of this evil present world, as in the past!
But let us go further. Let us go on, let us analyse what we are told in our statement. It is a record in particular of God's redemptive acts. Not only His acts in general. It does, as I have just quoted, it does tell you about creation, but you know the real theme of the Bible is not creation, it is redemption! You have the preliminary account, of course, of creation and the Fall, as I am going to show you, in order, in a sense, that you might know why redemption has ever become necessary. The glory of the message in this book, and what this building is going to proclaim, is God's acts of redemption, deliverance and of salvation. That is what we are told here. 'Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over.'
What does it mean? Well, as I told you in my brief synopsis at the beginning, it is the story of the deliverance and the redemption of the children of Israel from the bondage of the captivity of Egypt. It is customary, and rightly so, for us to regard that story as a kind of picture and a fore-shadowing of the great redemption in Christ Jesus. You remember the essence of that story. Here, as I say, were these children of Israel. They had become slaves. They were suffering under a cruel bondage. The cruel taskmasters with their whips were whipping them, getting them to produce more and more bricks without providing the straw that was necessary. It was a sad, it was a sorry condition. They were helpless and they were hopeless, they could do nothing at all. They were under a very powerful monarch, the Pharaoh, with all his chariots and his horses and his military men and all their great culture. Here were these poor people, the children of Israel, completely helpless, absolutely hopeless. But the story is that God intervened. God did something. What He did was to deliver them and to bring them out of that and to take them through the Red Sea and the Jordan and to put them in the land of promise, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Now then, that is what these stones are saying outside Gilgal, and you and I must make clear that people understand that that is what this building is announcing. This building is a proclamation of the fact that God has acted and intervened in this world in the salvation of men and women.
But we do not merely make a statement. We have got to start by saying why has God done this? Why was it ever necessary that it should be done at all? It is no use just going to people and saying 'Jesus loves you. Jesus saves you.' They do not know that they need to be saved. The Bible is very careful to tell us this. You know how the children of Israel had got into their miserable condition of bondage and of captivity, and it is our business to tell the modern man why he is in such grievous trouble. Why his world is tormented this afternoon. Why we are in a state of great crisis. What is it due to? Well, our answer is that all this is due to the fact that men and women are the slaves of the devil-that they are being governed and controlled by 'the god of this world', 'the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' How have they ever got into this condition? This is the condition-men and women are not free. They talk about freedom-never have they been such slaves! Slaves to the newspapers. Slaves to the television. Slaves to the wireless. Slaves to the thing to do. Slaves to advertising. Like sheep all doing the same thing. That's sheer slavery!
Well how did they ever get into that condition? The history gives us the answer. It was because man, whom God had created in His own image and likeness, in his folly, in his arrogance and pride, rebelled against God and wanted to be equal with God- and thereby fell and put himself in bo ndage to Satan. He listened to the suggestion and the temptation of Satan and so he became the slave of Satan. The whole of humanity is born in sin and shapen in iniquity. This has been the sad story of the human race-conscious of some strange bondage, anxious to get out of it but never able to do so. The whole world is in slavery to the devil and sin. The world, the flesh and the devil!
We must tell them further that we, by nature, are all as helpless as the children of Israel were in their physical bondage in Egypt. No man can conquer the devil. Our Lord describes him as 'the strong man armed that keepeth his goods at peace'! Men have tried to liberate themselves from the devil. Men try to put an end to bad habits and practices. You can make your New Year resolutions but you cannot keep them. We are weak. None of us can do this. The law was given to the children of Israel but they could not keep it. The law could not do because it was weak in the flesh. Try as it will mankind cannot emancipate itself. Oh the tragedy of the last hundred years when people in their folly thought that education would set us free, that emancipation was to be found in greater knowledge and greater travel facilities and so on. But it has all proved to be useless. The slavery and the bondage are as great this afternoon as they have ever been!
Well, now, here is a world in an apparently hopeless condition. Governed by what? Greed and envy and jealousy. We are seeing it today! It is true of everybody. It is not true of one class of society only. There are politicians who would have us believe that it is only the working man and woman who are greedy and want more money. The others at the other end are equally guilty! They all love money. The millionaire loves money. The man who would like to be a millionaire loves money also! And the whole trouble is that we are in bondage to sin and to Satan. We are slaves to the lusts and the passions of the flesh and of the mind and we cannot set ourselves free!
What is this building for, what is it announcing? The message of this building is this: that God has done something about this bondage of ours, exactly as he did with the physical bondage of the children of Israel of old. This is Christianity. God's acts of redemption. God's eruptions into time. God coming in and delivering us there amongst the fleshpots of Egypt and in the utter hopelessness of our spiritual despair. And this is the great message, of course, and the great record of the Bible, as I have said.
Let me just note to you some of these great acts of God. What mean these stones? Oh, what these stones mean is this, that God brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry land. He has brought them through this Jordan on dry land. God has done it. The facts!
What are the facts of God's redemption in a spiritual sense? Well, the first of course, happened in the garden of Eden itself. The woman and the man have listened to the subtle temptation of the devil and they have acted and they have rebelled, and at once they know that they are wrong. Then they suddenly hear the voice of the Lord God in the garden in the cool of the day. And He called out to them 'Adam, where art thou?' God has come down to man in his folly, his shame, his misery, his bondage. God has come down. He did not leave it there. He did not say 'Very well, carry on. Let things go on as they are!' They would have festered to putrifaction! God came down!
Why did He come down? Well He came down, not only to tell them the punishment He was going to mete out upon their sin and their folly. He came down to tell them that He had got a plan of redemption for the whole race. There was not only going to be warfare and strife between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The great promise, the Protevangel, the first intimation of God's salvation: the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. God came down. He came into history to make the declaration. Now that is the first one. I am only going to pick out some of the most striking ones.
Do you remember the history of the flood? That is fact. That is history. The ancient world had got into such a state that God said there is nothing to be done but to judge it. And the whole world was condemned and destroyed apart from eight souls, one family. God condemned, destroyed. Then God gave a new start, a new beginning in this great story. And on it goes. Think then of what happened at the Tower of Babel. When men thought again they were going to be equal with God and they could arrive in heaven, God shattered it all and confused their languages, and the whole world was in a state of confusion.
But God again did an amazing thing-He acted, He intervened. He took hold of a man whose name was Abram, who lived in Ur of the Chaldees and who was a pagan. He took hold of this man and He said 'I am going to turn you into a nation. I am going to make my own people out of you and you are going to represent Me . You are going to bear a message and ultimately through you and your seed, all the nations of the world are going to be blessed!' God intervening! This is salvation. This is Christianity. God is now going to form a nation, so that through this nation He can teach all other nations, and condemn them, and eventually offer them His great salvation. So it is again, you see, an act and an action of God. This is Christianity-not some vague philosophy or some ideas or some attitude, but God coming down and coming in. I am simply picking out the salient features.
The children of Israel came into being-God's people. They were different from every other nation. But as I have reminded you, in their folly they did not appreciate that. They wanted to be like the others, and they became like the others. The result of that was that God not only abandoned them, but he raised an enemy to conquer them and they were carried away as captives to Babylon. There they are again in utter and complete helplessness and hopelessness and bondage-slaves in Babylon. You would have thought that that was the end of them, and it would have been, were it not that God acts. God delivered them. He brought back a remnant. It is the action of God once more. Then He raised those great prophets to encourage them and to tell them that a great Deliverer was going to come. God sent them. These men did not have a sudden idea. The prophets were not philosophers. They did not suddenly have a brilliant theory. God gave them a message, 'the burden of the LORD came to me.' This is what they all say. It is God acting, and it leads up, of course, to that amazing man, John the Baptist. Do you remember the way in which the Bible introduces John the Baptist, emphasizing the point I made at the beginning, that we are dealing with history, my friends? This is how John the Baptist is introduced: 'In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar...' This is not a theory, this is not a story, this is not a fairy-tale or a romance. It is something that happened in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, '...Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea...,' and you get all these other men, tetrarchs in Galilee, Ituræa and Trachonitis, '...the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.' God spoke. It is God acting. He gave that man that message. He was the great fore-runner.
But that is entirely eclipsed by something else. 'When the fulness of the time was come, God...'-it is always God-'God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.' We are not here to say what man has arrived at in his thinking and theorising, as to how we can serve God and please Him. It is the exact opposite. It is God seeking lost men. It is God bringing and putting into op eration His plan of redemption and of salvation. And here is the supreme act: He sends His own Son into the world 'in the fulness of the time.' It was all predetermined, but it has arrived. God so loved the world that He gave-He sent into it-His only begotten Son. I must not keep you, my friends, but I am so anxious that we should realise that our whole position depends on these facts. It is not a teaching. It is facts, primarily, historical events, which inevitably have their teaching.
So you must go through all the facts about our Lord. When a man asks what is the meaning of this building, what is the meaning of this word 'Evangelical', what is the meaning of 'Emmanuel'? Ah, you say this is the only hope of the world today! It is all about that man called Jesus of Nazareth. Do you know who He was? This was the only begotten Son of God. This was the perfect likeness and image of God, the eternal Father. This was God's own Son. This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened in the whole course of human history: that God has been manifest in the flesh and has dwelt among us. This is fact. That is why you call this 1977. It is a fact. And the facts of His perfect life, His miracles, His teaching-yes, but above all the fact of the Cross. The event that took place on a hill called Calvary. What is that?
'Ah,' says the world, 'that was the death of a pacifist, wasn't it? He was a pure man and He didn't believe in war, or in force, or in strife. The world did not understand Him, as they had not understood Socrates, as they never understand their own greatest men. And they put Him to death. The death of a great pacifist or a great teacher. '
No, no! '(God) hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.' What was happening? '(God) hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' It was God acting on Calvary. It was men with their hands who actually nailed Him, but He did not die because of that! It was God. He was 'the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world'. It was God smiting Him instead of us. It was God reconciling the world unto Himself. It is God acting on Calvary-as He acts everywhere. Ah, but He died and they took down His body and they buried it in a grave. And it would have been the end of the story, but for one thing-God raised Him from the dead! God raised Him! Then He ascended into Heaven and took His seat at the right hand in the Glory everlasting.
Well, now, these you see are the facts to which this building is to bear witness. That is its purpose-to tell men and women that this has happened, and why it has happened. It is a part of God's way of delivering us and of saving us and of giving us a new life. But you know, it did not stop even there.
There was a great event on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. And we must not forget this. The Christian Church in a sense was inaugurated on the day of Pentecost. What happened then? Well, here were these men; they had got the message, and they knew who He was. God sent the Spirit upon them! They had met together to pray; that was what they could do. But, you know, we are here this afternoon because of this. While these men were praying and were waiting, suddenly, there was the sound of a mighty, rushing wind! What is this? Oh, it is God! It is the Spirit coming. God has shed forth His Spirit, sent forth His mighty power. He had promised to do so and He does so. And so the Spirit came down upon the Church and these simple ignorant men were enabled to preach with authority and power. Three thousand converted in one day, on the day of Pentecost, and added to the church. The joyful story of the early Christian Church!
It did not stop at that. They got into difficulties. God came in, intervened, and the miracles follow-the miraculous escapes from prisons and various other places. And the whole thing is alive with the activity of God. 'The Acts of the Apostles', we say. In a sense it is right, but I agree with the man who suggested that that book should be called 'The Acts of the Holy Ghost'! The Spirit came upon Peter and he spoke, and with authority. The Spirit came upon Paul and he healed a man. It is the action of God.
We do not stop even at the end of the New Testament canon. Do you know why we are here this afternoon? I can tell you. It is entirely due to the activity of God. The church, like the children of Israel of old, constantly goes astray. They forget their origin; they forget their message; they even deny it! They want to become like the world and we have known that in this century. Churches having whist drives and dances and wanting to be like clubs and institutions, as Mr. Harrison was telling us. And the church would long ago have ceased to exist were it not for one thing. What is that? The interventions of God in history in what we call revivals.
Look at it! The Protestant Reformation! Suddenly into the midst of the chaos and deadness God comes, raises up a Martin Luther, and many others. This is how the cause has been kept going and I say that is why we are here this afternoon. It is this series of interventions of God. He has come in and He has carried on these great acts of redemption. And so we find ourselves here this afternoon. That is what these stones are saying. That is the message of this building.
But let me say just a word about the character of these acts of God. It is emphasized here. They are the acts of God. 'The wonderful works of God' that the Apostles were speaking about on the day of Pentecost. And the people could hear them in their various languages. But think of the character of the acts. And here, this is emphasised-miraculous, supernatural.
What mean these stones? The answer is 'Israel came over this Jordan on dry land'. What? Can you come over a river on dry land? Israel, came through the Red Sea-on dry land? Impossible! Yes, with men. but it happened! Why? Because it was a miracle. The acts of God are supernatural and they are miraculous acts. These were phenomena and we are to tell people that our faith is based upon phenomena and it is a phenomenon in and of itself.
What does this mean? Well, we have got to tell people this quite plainly. Our position as Christians differs from that of everybody else. Your politician, he addresses a company of people, and he puts his programme before them and he appeals to their reason and asks them to vote for it. He has demonstrated it. He has shown it to them and they are capable of understanding and following the argument, and they vote for him.
We have got to start by telling people that our message is such that they cannot understand it! It is entirely different from everything that is confronting mankind this afternoon. It is a spiritual message, a supernatural message. We say to them, Look here, you won't understand this. A great man called Nicodemus thought he could understand it and he went to see our Lord to have an explanation of it. The Lord answered him at once, and said, ' Verily, verily, I say unto thee...'-though you are a great teacher of Israel. 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' All you have got is useless. '...That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again.' Do not be surprised at this! Why? Well here is the answer, 'The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' The whole thing is miraculous. It is supernatural. It is God intervening. It is not man striving, it is God coming down. It is not human ingenuity, it is divine wisdom. And 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' We have got to tell people this. It is a supernatural, it is a miraculous message. It is God acting, above nature, not contradicting it, acting above it and showing His lordship over it.
And this is true of the whole story of the church. You see the people of Israel, the nation of Israel, it was a miracle nation. Israel was unlike every other nation. It had been created out of one man. That was not true of any other nation. Their whole history is miraculous and supernatural. So is the life of our Lord. So is the origin of the Church. So is the continuation of the church, as I have been showing you-and so is the case with everyone of us who is truly Christian.
You can take up religion. You cannot take up Christianity. It takes you up. It apprehends us, as Paul tells the Philippians. He was apprehended, arrested. God, in Christ, intervened in his life on the road to Damascus. He would never have understood it. He was opposed to it. But something was done to him. He was made a new man. He is a miracle. Every Christian is a miracle.
And so that is what this building is to proclaim. Not only the acts and the works of God, but their character-that they are miraculous and supernatural. And this comes out again in those revivals to which I have been referring. Every Christian is phenomenon. And every revival is a great phenomenon. You cannot explain it. You cannot understand it. People have tried to do so, but they cannot do so. William Sargeant thought he could do it, but he could not-he completely failed. He doesn't understand this. He says it is a sort of conditioned reflex. You do this and that will happen. It isn't so. I have known many men who acting on that principle thought they could produce revival, by having all nights of prayer or something else. Poor fellows, they have died exhausted and the revival has not come! No, it is God alone who can do it, and it is miraculous and it is supernatural. It is a phenomenon. It is something that amazes men and causes them to cry out as those people did on the day of Pentecost-'What is this? What is this?' They asked that question there as these people ask the questions about the stones outside Gilgal-and as they should ask about this building.
Very well, this brings me to my last point, which is this. What then is all this to convey to people? What is the message that this building is to convey, the answer that we give to them to the question , 'What mean these stones'? And do you know it is all summarised here in a very terrifying manner-'that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty.' And that you children of Israel, Christian people, 'might fear the Lord your God for ever'.
What is this building proclaiming here in Newport? Well, I think we have got to put it first-it is proclaiming judgment. It is to remind this godless generation that God still is and that this world is His, not ours. And to tell them that it is under judgement. Well, you say, where is that in your text? Oh, I can tell you. Go back to the incident at the Red Sea which is emphasised here. Pharaoh and his people had been maltreating the children of Israel and they had all power. And who were these people, these nobodies? But suddenly these nobodies are led out by this man Moses. Here they are at Pi-hahiroth and Baal-zephon, one each side of them-the hosts of Pharaoh behind them, the Red sea in front of them. God divides the Red sea and in they go and through. And Pharaoh in his confidence said to himself, 'What they can do, I can do.' He thought he was only dealing with men, and he did not listen to their warnings, the warnings of Moses about this Almighty God. They went boldly into the sea. And what happened to them! They were all destroyed. The judgment of God!
The deliverance of the children of Israel miraculously through the Red Sea is not only indicative of God's power to save. It is equally indicative of God's power to judge and to condemn. And the whole world is under His judgment at this moment. We are here to tell the people to 'flee from the wrath to come'. We are here to tell them that judgment is abroad in the land. That is why everything is breaking down and is failing, approximating to the condition before the Flood, when God intervened in the Flood and in destruction. Judgment! God is again saying this.
'You are going to be asked', said Joshua, 'what mean these stones?' Well, tell them, tell those children that God manifested the glory of His power upon Pharaoh and his hosts. And he will do the same to any who are opposed to His people, and opposed to Him -the evil of simply waiting for the day of destruction. There are many reserved in chains of darkness waiting for the great day when the Son of God will come again and judge the whole world in righteousness. The hand of the Lord-and it is a mighty hand, and nobody can withstand it. Nobody can avoid death. Nobody can avoid the judgment that is to follow. Tell people when they ask 'What is the meaning of this?' say, 'This is announcing the judgment that is about to come upon the whole world'. Judgment.
But, thank God, there is another element here. 'That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty.' Thank God it is-and because salvation depends upon God, there is power sufficient to save anybody. 'I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ', says Paul. Why? 'It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.' You see before you can be a philosopher, you must have some brains; because before you can derive benefit from Plato, Socrates etc., you have got to have the capacity to follow them. The glory of this salvation is this, it depends upon the power of God. Not on our power, not on our understanding, not on our goodness. Not on anything in us. It is the power of God.
So what if a poor fellow, drunk, stands outside this building, and asks one of you members of this church, 'What is the meaning of this building? What is this Emmanuel Evangelical Church? What does it mean?' You can say to him, 'My friend, it means this- that there is a power that can deliver you from the slavery of drink. There is a power that can make you not only a new man, a sober man. It can turn you into a saint.' That is the message! That it is the power of God! That when education and culture and all medicine and everything else fail to deal with your alcoholics and your drug addicts and things which are even worse-God can do it! He has been doing it through the centuries. He is still doing it. So you tell them 'Believe in this God! Come to Him!'
The power of God! This is what it is proclaiming! 'The hand of the Lord, that it is mighty!' So we have got a gospel that we can offer to all and sundry. It is not a place for respectable, nice people only. The vilest sinner can come in. We can say to him:
E'er since by faith, I saw the streamWe preach a hope to all-in a hopeless world, as it is this afternoon.
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away.
And the last note is this-the certainty of the completeness of God's plan and purpose. All these actions and activities of God, of course, have been the carrying out of a great plan and purpose which He determined before He had even created the world. And this is but the record of how He has been carrying it out in parts and portions throughout the centuries. But He is going to finish it. It is going to be complete. But you say is there any hope for Christianity; with militant communism and atheism and the materialism and the humanism, and all the learning of today. And all these things that keep people from churches today. Is there any future? Are these people here mad to put up this building? The answer is if it were their activities it would be sheer madness and a tragic waste of money. But they are here because it is God's work- and God's work no-one can frustrate, no-one can spoil. God is Almighty. 'The hand of the Lord it is mighty!' The moment He arises He will blow upon men's aristocracy, humanism, every 'ism', and they will just vanish out of sight. They will pass away. There will be nothing left with God. The God who has acted, as the history tells us, and has worked miracles, and has done the impossible, and has destroyed the Pharaohs and every other enemy, He will destroy every enemy. As certain as we are here this afternoon, the day is coming when:
So that whenever anybody asks you, 'What is this? What does it mean?' That is what you will say. It is God-what He has done-what He is doing and what He is going to do.
Do you know Him? Have you submitted and fallen under His almighty hand, to escape judgment and to receive His great salvation?
May God enable our dear friends who will meet here regularly to answer
the question in that great and glorious manner, to the honour and the glory
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