Coming to Zion
by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Psalm 122, 125:1-2; Isaiah 25:6-9; Hebrews 12:22; Galatians 4:25-26; Hebrews 11:28, 12:23.
We have on our hearts to say a little more along the line of the city of God. In this message we are to be occupied with “Coming to Zion”. May I just at the outset make this inclusive statement that the Lord has His heart set upon securing for Himself a people in whom all the Divine features of Jerusalem in the Old Testament are represented. One stresses, of course, the Divine features. There are a good many features in Jerusalem in the Old Testament that the Lord does not want to see reproduced, but He has His heart set upon having for Himself a people in whom all the Divine features of Jerusalem are represented.
We have recently said that the history of the Jerusalem beneath, the historic Jerusalem, the literal Jerusalem, that history contains spiritual principles, and which spiritual principles are the components, the elements, the features, the characteristics of the Heavenly Jerusalem – the heavenly and spiritual counterpart, the New Jerusalem, or in other words, the church, the Bride.
Now, that is a general statement and gives us a good sphere in which to move round, and we are able, therefore, to come with a certain amount of spiritual awakening and enlightenment as to much that is said concerning Jerusalem in the Old Testament. We are in the advantageous position of having the New Testament as our interpreter of the Old, and if the Lord’s people would only use their Bibles in that way and really get down to the New Testament to explain their Old, they would be full of spiritual riches. That is, of course, of necessity by the enablement of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.
Now in these Psalms which we read; as you noticed they are called “Songs of ascent” or “Goings up” and some of these songs or Psalms of ascent were sung by the returning remnant coming back from captivity, moving back into the land which had been desolated and the city which was in ruins, and yet as they came within a certain range of the beloved city and began to make the ascent towards Jerusalem, their hearts welled up in song and they gave these poetic expressions, these sublime expressions to their heart conception of, and feeling for, their beloved city. The state of things was anything but in keeping with what they said about Jerusalem, but they had in their hearts their ideal, that which they had seen, that which they yet believed to see in a day of ruin. And so although Jerusalem was very much in ruin, you have these bursts of praise about the glory and splendour and perfection of Jerusalem. They go up singing their songs of ascent. And that represents something in the nature of a spiritual principle that we must lay hold of. It is a thing of tremendous importance and significance for us.
We, beloved, are going upwards to Zion – I hope we are. I hope you are marching upwards to Zion, really in the ascent, Zionward, going up. You will understand that one is not speaking literally, but spiritually. We are moving higher and higher in that upward calling unto the end, the object which God has in view as a state, a condition to be reached, to be arrived at. Surely it can be said with truth today that it is but a remnant of the Lord’s people who are in that state, who are in that attitude, who are so definitely, positively, strongly and exultantly full of faith amidst many discouragements, disappointments, and setbacks, yet definitely with set purpose of heart aflame moving upwards with the Lord towards His ultimate object and end. Only a remnant comparatively, and we are in a day of small things. We are in a day of remnant movements and I am quite sure before we are through this message you will agree with that statement more than perhaps you are able to do just at the moment. But the object in view is Zion.
What is Zion?
Well, we know historically concerning the Jerusalem that was and is below, that Zion was that last, final stronghold to be captured in Jerusalem. Zion and Jerusalem are not identical or synonymous terms although very often it looks as though they are used for the same thing, but truly they are not the same.
Jerusalem is the chief and the all embracing and all-inclusive, Jerusalem is the city in its full expanse and whole content, but Zion is the uppermost place and the stronghold.
As we were covering this ground in a recent message, you will remember we spoke of David and his mighty men. We referred to the tribe of Judah and Benjamin in the days of Judges trying to take Jerusalem and they could only take the lower city. The Jebusites held the upper stronghold against every attempt at their dislodgment and so it remained until David’s time. Although the lower city had been captured, this stronghold was still in the hands of the Jebusites who considered it to be so impregnable that they fortified it with the blind and the lame and sneered at David.
Now, David being such a one as he was, with all the Divine counsels and assurances and sovereign activities behind him, determined that the stronghold should not be kept in the hands of the enemy and he challenged his mighty men who made their attack. And Joab first scaled that height and wall and was made captain of the host. Then David took possession of the stronghold of Zion and it became known as the city of David – a city within a city, a stronghold within Jerusalem, a fortress, the city of the great King, so that Zion represented the uppermost stronghold, the place of supreme ascendancy in the city of God – that ultimate place of authority out of which the enemy has got to be hurled, in which the people of God have got to prove their testimony to the full. That is Zion in brief.
Blessed be God, our Greater David already occupies that place. I believe that that is the meaning spiritually, the meaning of those very familiar words in the Ephesian letter, “The exceeding greatness of His power which is to us-ward who believe, according to that energy of His might which He energised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand far above all rule and authority”. That is the far above place of Divine ascendancy in the exceeding great power of God, and David’s Greater Son occupies that place. He speaks of His occupation of that place to the church at Laodicea, “To him that overcometh will I give to sit with Me in My throne even as I overcame and sit with My Father in His throne.” It is a place of ascendancy through the tremendous conflict in virtue of a Divine calling and appointment now held by the Lord Jesus but, as we shall see, to which position He desires to bring His people. They also shall share that position with Him, far above all rule and authority. That is Zion spiritually. That is something more than the, shall we say, lower ranges, even of Jerusalem. It is the ultimate end of sovereignty, spiritual ascendancy, and authority. And let us go back to our first statement – He is seeking to bring a people into that position in whom the features of Zion are developed; not only of Jerusalem in general, but of Zion in particular, in whom, through the mighty exaltation of the Lord Jesus, is displayed His conquering power, made manifest against all His foes who occupy high or heavenly places, even principalities and powers and world rulers of this darkness and so on.
That being the object in view, the end that God has in His eye, that being the end He is seeking to bring about in us His people, that being the desire of His heart concerning at least a company, what is coming to Zion? We are come, says the apostle.
We Are Come to Zion
How are we come? Well, we are come in the Person of the Lord Jesus, and spiritually we are there in Him, but as we have so often put it here, the necessity for us is to come where we are, to get to the place where we are, and it is just that, that while positionally in Christ we are in the heavenlies, we are there far above all rule and authority. Experimentally, and so far as state is concerned, we may have a long way to go. We may have yet some ascending to do. Some going up, some journey. We may have yet some mount of discouragement, you may have many set-backs and difficulties, conflicts, and find the way hard, but the Lord is seeking to bring us to the place where we are. You understand that language by now.
Now, coming to the place to which we have come is a spiritual movement and development within our own hearts, and that is the meaning of these songs of ascent. You see, these people were in one sense already there, they were already in the city, they had already come to Zion in spirit, their hearts were there – I can imagine that when they literally got there, in their case they were disappointed. Blessed be God, we shall never be disappointed. They found what they did not expect to find. Their vision of Jerusalem being intact such as they had known, was destroyed after they had been carried away. Their mental pictures, their chambers of imagery disappointed them very much, but their hearts were already there, or Zion was in their hearts before they were in Zion.
What the Lord has got to do with us is to get Zion into us; to get the spirit of ascendancy into us, to get a spirit of elevation into us, the Spirit of Divine sovereignty into us, the Spirit of rising above and taking a place of triumph in Christ. We shall never come to Zion literally until Zion has come to us spiritually. So long, before they reached Zion, their hearts were full of Zion. That is, the spirit of going up was in them. They go up and their going up was in the strength of Zion having already come into their hearts and taking its place there.
Now, believe me, if I understand aright, if I am not mistaken as to the Lord’s dealings with His people and the meaning of our experiences – it is just this: that every difficulty, adversity, opposition, trial, provocation, every bit of pressure, every bit of down-pull and down-press is permitted of the Lord in order to develop in us the Spirit of Zion, to develop the spirit of ascent, the spirit of going up, taking the upper position. And every day that we live we have a hundred opportunities of either coming under or coming over and yielding to the pressure down, or to resisting it and taking the overcomer position in spirit. Every day we have that opportunity, and the nearer you approximate to the ultimate truth, to the ultimate revelation, the full supreme purpose of God, the more you will find the continuous, insistent necessity for exercising this spirit of ascendancy.