And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.—Exodus 21.16.

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The Church’s Happy Days

A Sermon

[By T. James Blair.]

[1917.]

Text: “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.  The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.” Zeph. 3.14,15.

The gladness and rejoicing to which Zion is here called is very great, something out of the ordinary; and it is answerable to the complete deliverance promised her in these and the following verses.

There have been times of sorrow and times of rejoicing to the Israel of God.  Their sins and backslidings have provoked God often to bring them low.

The command at one time is, “Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy as other people: for thou hast gone a-whoring from thy God.” Hos. 9.1.  God’s people are “grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Amos 6.6.  When they behold Zion desolate, her hedges broken down, her gates sunk into the ground, their daily prayer is, “Return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts; look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine.” Psalm 80.14.  But, When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of His people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” Psalm 14.7.

When God ended the oppression of Israel by the Egyptians, and brought them out from under the hand of Pharaoh, and overthrew him and his host at the Red Sea; Moses and the children of Israel celebrated the victory with songs of praise to Jehovah.  Deborah and Barak celebrated the victory over Sisera and his army with a song of praise; and at many other times the children of Zion have praised God for deliverances wrought by the strength of His mighty arm.

The longer and sorer the oppression, the greater will be the joy when deliverance comes.  Zion’s contest with the great Anti-christian System is the longest period of oppression which she has to endure: “The holy city shall they {13} tread under foot forty and two months” (Rev. 11.2.) or 1260 years.

But this cruel oppression will have an end at the appointed time; even as God performed the deliverance of Israel from Egypt to a day (Exod. 12.17), so the time is just as infallibly set for the bringing forth from the wilderness, the “woman clothed with the sun.” Rev. 12.1.  She shall come forth from this, her greatest and longest conflict, with every manifestation of joy, with song and with shouting.  After the promises in the preceding verses of the taking away of sin, here follow promises of the taking away of trouble.  When the cause of trouble—sin—is removed, the effect will cease.

The prophet in these closing verses is no doubt declaring the peace, joy, and happiness that shall be the inheritance of the Israel of God during millennial times.  In the eighth verse we have God declaring to His people, for their support and encouragement in trying times, the just vengeance that, for His own honor and glory, and their sakes, He will take upon the Anti-christian System.  “My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy,” Zeph. 3.8.  In the terrible wars and commotions now in the earth we see these awful judgments being poured out to the consummation upon the civil and ecclesiastical powers of tyranny.  Then when Messiah “shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power,” (1 Cor. 15.24) of both civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” Dan. 7.27.  John saw the same, “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of {14} God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Rev. 20.4.

These are the happy days which Zephaniah calls on the “daughter of Zion” to celebrate with great joy.

1. A chief ingredient of these happy days is holiness.  Holiness and happiness are inseparable concomitants; what makes a people holy will make them happy, “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Heb. 12.14.  Universal holiness of heart, life, and conversation, is what God requires and men must have to enjoy Him here and glorify Him hereafter.  “Be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 20.7.  Holiness is the way God has ordained to blessedness.

2. “The Lord is in the midst of thee.”  And they cannot but be happy who have Jehovah, the fountain of life and light, diffusing His light and influence continually upon them.  “The King of Israel” is mighty to protect and save. “Who is this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” Psalm 24.8.

Zion shall no more have occasion to ask as of old, is the Lord among us or not? [Exod. 17.7];  for they shall have manifest tokens of His presence with them in His ordinances and providences.  “The name of the city from that day shall be, Jehovah Shamma.” Ezek. 48.35.  Although the gospel church has not the visible tokens of God’s presence in her as Israel of old had in the tabernacle and temple, yet the Lord is no less, but more abundantly present with her in the gifts and graces of His Holy Spirit, and her name is Shamma.  “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.” Psalm 46.5.  Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” Zech. 8.3.  “Sing and rejoice O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.” Chap. 2.10.  They cannot but have days of happiness who have God in the midst of them.

3. They shall have a period put to all their troubles and distresses.  “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments.” {15} The word judgments in this place seems to have its common acceptation, evils sent on them as punishments for their sins.  Distresses are no more their portion.  The noise of war is silenced; the swords have been beaten into plough-shares and the spears into pruning hooks.  This is one of the greatest pecuniary blessings; for war, besides being a pestilence of death, is also a moral and financial pestilence.

Peace, which is one of the greatest promoters of happiness, is a blessing God will then bestow on His Church.  “He maketh peace in thy borders.” Psalm 147.14.  “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” Isa. 11.9.  See verses 6-8.  “The Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29.11.

The divisions and animosities that exist among the professed members of Christ’s mystical body are the cause of great grief and trouble to the saints.  But then they shall realize and enjoy the promises: “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133.1.  “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” Isa. 11.14.  “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” Chapter 52.8.

4. That dreaded ravager—famine—will cease.  “At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh.” Job 5.22.  “I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.” Ezek. 36.29.

It was because of their backslidings that God smote them with famine; but when Israel shall turn again to the Lord and praise Him with the whole heart: “Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our God shall bless us.” Psalm 67.7.  The promise made to Israel will then be fulfilled: “I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sewing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell {16} in your land safely.” Lev. 26.4,5.

There will be a plentiful effusion of the graces of the Holy Spirit.  “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” Psalm 72.6.  Nevermore will there be a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8.11); but they will realize the truth of the promises: “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, My speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” Deut. 32.2.  “He will feed them with the finest of the wheat: and satisfy them with honey out of the rock.” (the Rock of Ages) Psalm 81.16.

5. God will take delight in them and in doing them good.  It makes the cup of their happiness to overflow to know that their exalted head delights in them, and the proof is the good that He does for them.  How affecting are the expressions of His delight in them!  “He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love; He will rejoice over thee with singing.” Zephaniah 3, verse 17.

The Lord is well pleased with the repentance and reformation of His people and has a peculiar delight in them.  “Thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee,   *   *   *   and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” Isa. 62.4,5.

But who can begin to recount the blessings and joys of those happy days, when, “They of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth;   *   *   and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.” Psalm 72.16,17.  “They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31.34.  “Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge {17} them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed;   *   *   so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isa. 61.9-11.

May the Lord in His own good time and way hasten the Church’s happy days.