#HEARING, SEEKING, FINDING
"Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the woods. We will go into His tabernacles: we will worship at His footstool."
- Psalm 132:6, 7
LONG before David’s time, the Ark of the Lord had been almost forgotten by the children of Israel. It formed a most important part of the Ceremonial Law which God had ordained. I may almost call it the central portion of that pattern which was shown to Moses in the mountain. But the Ark had been carried into captivity by the Philistines and, afterwards, the terrible judgment worked upon the men of Beth-Shemesh may have made many afraid to go near it. So it remained a long time in Kirjath-Jearim and there David found it. And, after leaving it for a while at the house of ObedEdom, brought it up to Jerusalem with great rejoicing. David’s heart was so full of zeal for God that he desired that every part of the Lord’s worship should be carried out with due order and proper solemnity. He wished to see a sanctuary built in which the Ark of the Lord should rest in its place and the worship of God should be carried out as He judged was meet and fit.
The first thing, therefore, for David to do was to find the Ark, for, as I have already said, it was a central portion of the Divinely-ordained Ceremonial Law. The Ark was put away in the Most Holy Place and it was an express and notable symbol of the Presence of God among the people. It was there, from above the Mercy Seat, that God met with man and communed with him in the person of the High Priest. It was there that the Shekinah glory, denoting the special Presence of God, shone forth between the cherubim. It is clear, therefore, that if David meant to restore the worship of God to its due and proper order, his first business was to find the Ark. Yet, without forgetting that fact, I am not going to talk so much about David finding the Ark as to think of some who are in the condition in which I once was. When I desired to find God, I longed to meet with Him, in the Person of Christ, in His own appointed way, but I could not find Christ. My heart was dark, my eyes were blind and I looked everywhere but in the right place. I did not look where the true Light of God was shining. But, at last, I resolved that I must find Him and I did, by His Grace, find Him! I found Him where I little expected to find Him and now, having found Him, myself, I have it on my heart to come and speak to everyone who is saying, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" It may be that my message shall be like the voice that reached poor Hagar in the wilderness, when she and her son were ready to perish with thirst, though there was a well of water close at hand. As the Lord said to her, "What ails you, Hagar?" so would I ask, "What ails you, poor seeking Soul, when Christ is so near?" His people will breathe a prayer for you that you may find Him even while I speak to you.
I. My first remark will be that, LIKE DAVID, WE WISH TO FIND THE ARK, THAT ARK BEING CHRIST.
Dear Friends, most here present—and I should suppose, all—are well instructed as to where God will meet with us as our reconciled God. The symbol was the Ark of the Covenant. And the Mercy Seat, the reality, we know is Christ. We know this, I say, for most of us have been instructed in the Scriptures from our youth up. Oh, that we all knew it in our hearts!
Now, concerning that Ark, the first point to be noted is that it was covered with a golden Mercy Seat which was the place of forgiveness when it was sprinkled with the sacrificial blood. Those who came to it, through the High Priest, knew that God had accepted them and forgiven their sins. You and I know that we can never meet with God except at the Mercy Seat which is Christ Jesus, the Lord! Christ made an Atonement, a Propitiation, for our sins—He "offered Himself without spot to God." Though in Him was no sin, yet He was made sin for us. For our sake He came under the curse of the broken Law of God and now, if we want to meet with God, it must be at the Mercy Seat, by the Propitiation which Christ has made. You say that you know this is the case—then never try to meet God anywhere else, for remember that He is a consuming fire! There is no safety in making any attempt to come to God except by Christ Jesus, the one Mediator between God and men. His pierced body, that torn veil, is the only means of access for a sinner to a holy God!
In addition to this, the Ark was not only a Mercy Seat, but it was a Throne of Grace. God sat there, as it were, upon a throne of mercy and to us, today, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Throne of Grace. God in Christ Jesus is our reigning God, stretching out the silver scepter of His mercy and accepting all who come to Him. Do you want to pray, poor Soul, so that God will hear you? Then plead the blood of Christ! Do you wish to pour out your burdened spirit before the God of Grace? Then come with the name of Christ in your mouth and His blood trusted in your heart—and you shall not be refused! There is no meeting place with God, there is no place for prevailing prayer, but where you meet God in the Person of Jesus Christ the one great Sin-Offering!
Then, further, the Ark was the place of God’s Manifestation. As much as could be seen of the Glory of God was seen between the cherubim. It is said that a bright light always rested there as a token of Jehovah’s perpetual Presence—and if you would see the Glory of God, you must look into the face of Jesus Christ. "No man can see God’s face and live." But we may see the face of Christ and live by seeing it! But only through the veil of Christ’s Humanity can we see it. I have noticed that when men look at the sun, it has to be through smoked glass. And when we look at God, it must be through the Incarnation of Christ, who was found in fashion as a Man, though He thought it not a prize to be grasped to be equal with God.
Furthermore, David knew, and you also know, that there were within the Ark three notable things—first, the tablets of stone which God had ordered to be placed there for preservation. There was, next, the golden pot with manna. And then there was also Aaron’s rod that budded. Now, if you come to Christ, you will find in Him all that these things represented and all that you need.
First, there is preserved the complete, vindicated and honored Law of God. You will never be able, in your own strength, to keep the Law of the Lord—you will break it as surely as you live. Yet you cannot be accepted without a perfect righteousness! Unless God sees you clothed in the garments of righteousness, He will never admit you to the wedding feast. So where are you to get that spotless robe? It is in Christ, for faith is imputed for righteousness to him who believes in the Son of God, even as Abraham believed in God and it was accounted to him for righteousness! But how is righteousness imputed to the guilty? Why, the Believer lays hold of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and it is reckoned as if it were his own! "For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous." That "One" is the Lord, our Righteousness, and when we put on His robe of righteousness, we stand before God, "holy as the Holy One." If, then, you need a perfect Law, you will only find it in Christ. If any say that they have it in themselves, I believe that is only setting up another and a false Christ, for it is a derogation to the special Glory of Christ, of whom alone it can be said that He has magnified the Law and made it honorable by keeping it perfectly! I have no righteousness in and of myself, nor has any child of God any of his own—any that we once thought we had, we do count but dross and dung—that we may win Christ and be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. Oh, how we need, then, to find the Ark, Christ Jesus, that we may see, there, the unbroken tablets of the Law of God!
But every child of God also needs spiritual food. If the Lord has quickened you, He has given you hunger with your new life, for spiritual hunger always goes with spiritual life and you are saying, "Oh, that I might but eat of the crumbs that the little dogs get under their master’s table—I must have some spiritual meat!" You will never have it till you get where the golden pot of manna is to be found. There is the food of the saints treasured up in Christ! There is no food for a soul even in Heaven except in Christ Jesus. He is the Manna, of which, if a man eats, he shall live forever! This shall satisfy his soul, strengthen him, build him up and develop him into a perfect man in Christ Jesus! But you must come to Christ for the food that was typified by the golden pot full of manna.
I think that I hear someone say, "I remember that a third thing that was in the Ark was Aaron’s rod that budded. And that reminds me that I need a power that can rule me, that can say to my rebellious passions, ‘Be still,’ and that can make me walk in the way of God’s commands, even bringing every wandering thought into captivity." Well, there is no rod that I know of that can rule our rebellious nature but the rod of Christ Jesus, the great High Priest of God! Once let that blessed rod be all-powerful over us, and with it shall come all manner of buds, blossoms and ripe fruit to our soul. Jesus said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls." Only from that rod can come the perfect fruit-bearing that every true child of God desires to produce!
II. This leads me to my second remark, which is that knowing what we do about Christ, the Ark, WE DESIRE TO FIND HIM.
I hope that I am addressing some who could even use the language of David and say that they intensely desire to find Him. They cry to the mighty God of Jacob in their affliction and with their whole heart and soul they long to find Christ! David made a vow about it, for his heart was set upon finding the Ark. Dear Friend, is your heart set upon finding Christ, or are you merely trifling with Him? Have you been so thoroughly awakened by the Holy Spirit that within you there burns a strong desire, insatiable as death, itself, so that you feel that you must find Christ? If so, I am happy to be addressing you—and you are already a happy person to have this hungering and thirsting after Christ, for that holy craving shall be fully satisfied with Him.
David thirsted to find this Ark immediately and so much in earnest was he that he said, "Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to me eyelids until I find out a place for the Lord." Oh, when it comes to this—that you must have Christ, then you shall have Christ! When with every breath you seem to say, "Give me Christ, or else I die," then you shall not die, but you shall have Christ and live! I have heard of some who have at last been driven to such a pitch of vehement determination that they have gone into their chamber and said, "By the Grace of God I will never leave this place until I have found my Lord." I knew one who said, "I dare not eat till I have found Christ, lest every morsel should choke me." And in the ardor of his spirit to roll himself upon his Savior and to be cleansed in His precious blood, he cast himself upon his knees and cried to his God—and the Lord revealed Himself to him! If you must have Christ, you shall have Him! But if you can be put off, you shall be put off.
Next, David sought the Ark most reverently, for he recognized it as being a token of the Presence of "the mighty God of Jacob." And you and I must seek Christ reverently. I do not like to hear the irreverent appeals of those who speak of Christ as though He were to be seized by force and carried off against all law and justice. Truly, "the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence," but it is the violence of humble men and women who dare to act with holy boldness because they are encouraged by their God. That I, a poor sinner, should ever speak with God in a sort of bullying tone, as I have heard some do, as though they said even to their God, "Stand and deliver," this will never do! Your mouth is in the best position when it is in the dust—and your heart is nearest to prevailing with God when it is bowed even to the ground. "Out of the depths have I cried to You, O Lord," should be the language with which we humbly approach His Throne of Grace.
But while David thus sought very reverently, yet observe that it was with intense desire that he might receive this Ark when once he found it. He wanted to find it, but his ultimate objective was to harbor it, to give hospitality to it, to find a resting place for it. And oh, dear Heart, if you want to find Christ, let it be with this desire, "Oh, that He may come and live in my soul, and be my own personal Christ! I do not want merely to hear about Him, to be taught about Him—I want to have Him—and if He is to be had, I will have Him! If there is Grace beneath the sky for a poor sinner, then I, the chief of sinners, will not rest until I find rest in Him." If I am speaking to any here of that kind, I say again that I am thrice happy!
III. Proceeding still further with our subject and coming directly to our text—first, knowing what this Ark is, and then desiring to find it—thirdly, WE HAVE HEARD WHERE IT IS—"Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah."
"We heard of it." And is it not a blessed thing that we have heard about where Christ is? Where did you first hear of Him? I do not know whether, by Ephratah, David meant Bethlehem. Some think he did. That was the place where he was born and in his own father’s house David had heard about the Ark. And there are some of us who can say with overflowing gratitude that we heard about Christ in our Ephratah, in our Bethlehem. His dear name was mingled with our mother’s hush of lullaby. Among the earliest recollections I have are memories of hymns about the Lord Jesus Christ! The Word of God was our first school book—do we not remember, as little children, spelling out in Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, something about that dear Lord? "We heard of it at Ephratah," in our earliest home—if that is the meaning of David’s words.
Oh, but, if you heard of Christ so soon, why have you not found Him yet? You who go to market know that there is nothing like the morning market—and there is nothing like seeking Christ early. They that seek Him early, shall find Him. If others do not, they shall—they shall find Him with an emphasis—find Him to a degree and in a measure in which some others do not. Oh, go to Christ in the morning market! Be the first there to buy the Truth of God and never sell it!
But Ephratah means—well, I do not know what it means, nor do any of the critics—it probably means some town of Ephraim. And I do not know and some of you do not know, perhaps, where you did not hear about Christ. You went to Sunday school and you heard of Him there. You went home and you heard of Him there. In these days, there are agencies that surround men so that they are often hearing of Him. Some here present have long heard of Christ and you are always hearing about Him—is it not time that you should get further than merely knowing and hearing—and should intensely seek until you find Him? You have heard of Christ from ministers. They have told you, many a time, where Christ is. You have heard of Him from Christian men and women. I hope that you will hear of Him again tonight from some Brother or Sister who will buttonhole you before you get out of this place, for there are some here who are very quick at that blessed work! And they will be sharp after you, for their love to you is great and they cannot bear that a soul should ever come within these walls and then, at last, be lost. I do pray the Lord that none ever may!
Oh, that your coming here might be the result of God’s Grace working upon your soul, that you may be saved! I remember one friend coming to me and he said to me very earnestly, "I should like, Sir, to take a seat in the Tabernacle." I answered, "Well, do so, by all manner of means! I am very glad when people do so." "But," he said, "I may not come up to what you expect of me, for I have heard that if I take a sitting here, you will expect me to be converted—and I cannot guarantee that." "No," I replied, "I do not want you to guarantee it. I do not mean the word, expect, in that sense at all, but I do hope that it will be so." "Oh," he exclaimed, "and so do I! I am going to take a sitting with that very view." And it was so, of course it was so! When the man wished it to be so, God accepted the wish and heard the prayer—and he was brought to Christ and joined the Church! May everyone who comes here have to say, "Well, wherever we did not hear about Christ, we did hear of Him at the Tabernacle—that was our Ephratah. We were told where He was and we received plain and clear directions as to how we might find Him."
IV. Now, fourthly, the next words are, "WE FOUND IT."
You remember the learned Grecian who, when he had made a discovery while in the bath, leaped out of it and ran down the streets crying, "Eureka! Eureka! I have found it! I have found it!" Oh, those are the best words in my text! "We found it."
Well, where did we find it? David said that he found it "in the fields of the woods," that is, where he did not expect to find it. Have not many of us found Christ where we never thought we should find Him? "Oh," says one, "I shall never go to Heaven, I am sure, through the preaching of Mr. So-and-So! I cannot stand him. I am sure I would never get a blessing among such-and-such people." And, perhaps, dear Friend, the very man that you have thought could not be a blessing to you is to be made a blessing to you—and the very place where you did not expect to find Christ will be the exact spot where you shall meet with Him!
In the case of David finding the Ark, it was not only where he could not have expected it, but it was in a place that was despised—a rustic place—"in the fields of the woods." Perhaps the Lord may lead you to some very plain minister, without any polish, or talent, or ability—a rustic speaker—a very Amos and, lo, there you will find the Ark of the Lord! If the Lord will guide you to Heaven through the word of a chimney-sweep, it would be far better than that you should go to Hell under the ministry of the most eloquent orator or the greatest bishop who ever lived. If you are brought to Jesus Christ by one who murders the Queen’s English—it is a pity that he should do that but, still, it does not matter much, so long as he does not murder the Lord’s Gospel, for the Gospel comes out straight and clear, despite his broken words. Then you will, as it were, find Christ "in the fields of the woods." I have known some who have found Christ in a very lowly place. They have gone away from all companions and up in their own little room they have sought and found Him. I knew one who found the Savior down a saw-pit and another who found Him in a hayloft. Some have walked the streets of London and have been more alone, there, than anywhere else and, as they have trudged along, men have seemed to them like trees walking—they have found Christ, figuratively, "in the fields of the woods." Get alone, dear Friends—it is horrible to live in a crowd! I do not know how a man’s spiritual life is to be constantly maintained in a crowd—he must often be alone. "You, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret."
"We found it in the fields of the woods," may, perhaps, mean, Brothers and Sisters, that you will find Christ where you lose yourselves. You know that it is very easy to lose yourself in the woods. You get in among the trees and you do lost, for you cannot tell which way to go. The nearest thing to being saved is knowing that one is lost! When a man is really lost in his own consciousness, the next thing is for him to be saved. The end of yourself is the beginning of Christ. May the Lord cause you to know that you are thoroughly lost, and then soon you shall sing, "We found Christ in the woods where we lost ourselves."
It has struck me, too, in thinking over our text, that often we find Christ very near to us. Where did Adam go after he had disobeyed his Lord? He went and hid himself among the trees. And you and I found Christ where we were hiding—we did not know that He was among the trees of the woods—we thought that we were out of sight of God and far away from Heaven and Grace and mercy. Yet all the time, there was the mercy close at hand. Poor Sinner, you do not know how easy it is to be saved. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." You do not know how near that salvation is to you. "The Word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the Word of faith which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved."
V. Fifthly, and very briefly, "WE WILL GO." "We will go into His tabernacles."
Now that we have found where Christ is and we can go to Him, we will have Him. We will go to God in Christ—"we will go into His tabernacles." We will not delay a minute longer, but we will, even now, by faith, go to the great Father in His own appointed way. We will go to Him for all that He is prepared to give—"we will go into His tabernacles" to find the Mercy Seat, to bow before the Throne of Grace, to behold the Glory of God, to eat of the manna, to see the perfect Law of God and to come under the governance of the blessed rod that buds. "We will go into His tabernacles," first, into the outer court. Then, into the inner court and, last of all, into the Holy of Holies. It is a blessed thing to see a soul on the go towards God when Christ becomes the Way!
"We will go into His tabernacles" and we will dwell there. We will dwell with God. We will get back to the Father’s House where there is "bread enough and to spare," and there we will stay. We will go to learn of God. We will be the disciples of Christ. We will go and we will go at once. Oh, I wish that I could hear some saying, "We will go. We know about Christ, we have found Him near us—we will now go and simply trust and rest—and so dwell in the great Father’s love." God grant that you may do so!
VI. And then the last word is, WE WILL WORSHIP. "We will worship at His footstool."
In lowly reverence we will bow ourselves down in the very dust, for we are but dust and ashes even when we are saved. "We will worship at His footstool." That is, with deepest solemnity, for even His Ark, His Temple, is but the footstool of the great King! Oh, what must He be! Heaven is His Throne, but the earth is His footstool. This world is a wonderful place. I have looked upon mountains, hills, valleys and mighty seas—yet the whole earth is nothing but the footstool of God! Let us go, then, and worship before Him in lowly reverence and with deepest solemnity.
But let us worship there with great joy. His "saints shall shout aloud for joy" and, as they bow at His footstool, it shall not be as slaves, but as His chosen and accepted ones. Let us also bow there very gratefully, blessing God that He has brought us to His feet. Part of the preparation for Heaven is to worship at God’s footstool on earth, but, by-and-by, we shall worship in His palace above! "We will go and worship" because we have found Christ and He is ours! May this be true of all of you, dear Friends, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.