TFor the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. — (Deuteronomy 32:9.)
MOSES, I have no doubt, had in his mind’s eye the division of the land of Canaan among the tribes. After they had crossed the Jordan and had entered into the promised land, the land was marked off, so much for Reuben, so much for Simeon, so much for Judah, so much for Ephraim, and so much for Manasseh, so that each one of the tribes had his own peculiar portion. Moses represents the whole world as lying, as it were, like a map before the eye of the eternal God, and the Lord strikes out for Himself a portion which is to be the lot of His inheritance. That portion was in Israel’s day the nation of Israel. The Lord’s portion of ancient Israel — the nation — typified the spiritual seed of God, the children of Abraham who are descendants of the Father of the faithful. These, the chosen of God, the called of God, the regenerated, sanctified believing people of God — these are God’s portion.
Now, in certain respects the whole of Canaan belonged to every Israelite.
As soon as ever he crossed the border, he was in his own. native country.
But yet there was a special sense in which a part of the promised land belonged to each tribe. The man of the tribe of Simeon said, wherever he might be in Canaan, “I am in my own land,” but when he reached the peculiar possession of his tribe, then he said, “This land especially belongs to me.” So the whole world belongs to God; the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein; but yet there are peculiar people in the world whom God calls specially His own, and of whom He says by the mouth of an ancient prophet, “They shall be Mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up My jewels.” All things are God’s, but His people are especially His. Just as a man may possess large estates, broad acres and abundance of gold and silver and cattle and herds and crops, but he possesses his own children in a different sense from that.
He says, “All these things are mine, but still my children are peculiarly my own.” And so we are to understand the text. “The Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” Out of all the world besides, God condescends to call His people His own possession.
We will dwell a few minutes upon the fact, then upon the privilege which it brings us, and then upon the duty which it binds upon us.
I. Now, first, upon the fact. We must make this fact of God’s people being His portion run parallel with the figure — the figure of Canaan being divided into portions. So we notice, first, that the portion of any one tribe was peculiarly its own. Judah said, “This land is mine.” Simeon said, “This land is mine.” So also God saith of His people, “They are peculiarly Mine.”
I have already mentioned this fact in the outset, but I want you to realize it.
It is not so much a thing to preach about as to think over, to mark, learn, and inwardly digest. You, O believer in Jesus, are peculiarly God’s portion.
There is about His possession of you a specialty. Will you think of this?
You are in yourself an inconsiderable member of a vast community; you are unworthy in your own esteem; if you judge rightly, you are as nothing and less than nothing; and yet you are not so to God. To Him you are a precious thing. “Since thou wast precious in My sight,” saith He, “thou hast been honorable.” God has an esteem for you. Though the multitudes of men would pass you by and forget you, and though some of the great ones of the earth would look down upon you, yet the Lord hath remembered the low estate of His handmaiden and looked upon you, my sister, with an eye of love. And you, my brother, though you feel you were but as a beggar upon a dunghill, He has taken you to be His, and in so doing He has set you among princes, even the princes of His people. One sits down and rolls this under his tongue as a sweet morsel : — “ The Lord hath regard for me; He views me with a careful eye. He watches over me.
He hath designs and purposes of love towards me. He will watch over me till life’s latest hour and will bring me to Himself, because I am His. He has given Himself to me to be my Father and my God, but He has also taken me to be a part and parcel of what He calls His own inheritance.” I cannot dilate upon that thought, for time would fail me, but I do want you to get it, that you may have the sweet enjoyment of it, for ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s, “Ye are a chosen generation, a peculiar people.” You belong especially to the Lord, as many of you as have believed in Christ Jesus unto eternal life.
Note, next, in this fact, that each tribe had to conquer the inheritance which belonged to itself. There was the land marked out upon the map, but they had to go up and take it, for it was possessed by the Hivites and the Perizzites, and these must be driven out. Even so the Lord’s portion is His people, but He has had to conquer us; for when He began with us what were we but a prey to divers lusts and evil powers? Satan ruled us, indwelling sin had dominion over us; the world rode rough-shod over us.
We were evil. There was none of us that did good, no, not one. But, blessed be the name of the Lord, He has conquered us. It was a hard fight in the case of some of us, for we were exceeding strong against the God of grace. Why, there are those here to whom earnest sermons were only like paper pellets against a granite wall. A mother’s tears fell on them and never melted them, and yet they are mighty things. For them a father’s exhortations were in vain; for them a shipwreck and a battle and a fever and a lying upon the borders of the grave — all these were fruitless.. They remained still incorrigible. Their sins were like those Canaanites that had chariots of iron, and it did seem as if the land could never be conquered for God. But He has done it, glory be to His name! He has subdued our wills.
He has brought us to the foot of the Cross. He has made us love what once we hated, and prize beyond all worth what once we despised. The Lord’s portion is His people, and therefore by His mighty reigning grace He overcomes them and puts them under dominion beneath the feet of His mercy. Give glory unto the conqueror, my brethren. Bow down willingly.
Held in the silken fetters of love, bow before the Prince of Peace, and hail Him as your King.
And then the tribes, after they had conquered the land, had another task to do, namely, to extirpate the old inhabitants. For they were not merely to bring them under subjection, so that Judah or Reuben might possess his land, but they were to slay them utterly, for their sins had been great, and God had doomed them to die and the Israelites were to be their executioners. Now, this is what God has to do in each one of His people, viz., to exterminate our sins. O brethren, what a battle that would be for us! Why, our sins, when we attack them single-handed, soon overcome us.
Why, the very weakest sin that is in any one of us would be our downfall if we were let alone; and as for our stronger passions, if opportunity and temptation should come together and then our evil desires should leap up at the same time, who among us could stand in such a conflict? And yet, as surely as God has undertaken the work of our salvation, He means to take up root and branch all our sins. Can you realize it? O my brethren, who are daily fighting with inward sin, can you realize it, that the day will, come when you will have no tendencies to sin, when all your powers will go towards righteousness and to righteousness only? Can you grasp it? “Oh,” say you, “it is a heavenly thought.” Yes, and in Heaven it will be realized, and you will have more and more of Heaven here below in proportion as it is realized here. Holiness is the royal road to happiness. The death of sin is the life of joy. At the root of every sin there is the bitterness of sorrow. Sin is the root of bitterness. When God shall tear up every one of these roots of bitterness, it will be a blessed thing for us, but this He will do. The quick-tempered brother shall no longer be liable to bursts of passion; the sluggish-minded shall no longer be tempted to indolence; the man of imperious pride shall bow as humbly as the seraph who veils himself with’ his wings; there shall be in us every propensity to good and no inclination to evil. O sacred hour, O blest abode!
I shall be near and like my God, And flesh and sense no more assail The solid pleasures of my soul.
I shall be for ever free from that which brings me sorrow, and shall possess that which brings me joy. The Lord’s portion is His people, and He will not leave a Canaanite in the land. He will cut them up altogether.
II. Run on the parallel with the fact, and you get another thought. After the people had conquered their own portions, they had to cultivate them, and they did cultivate them well till the very tops of the hills were covered with vines, and the valleys laughed with joyous harvests. Now the Lord will cultivate His Church. We are as yet poor, barren soil; but the Lord knows how to plough us, and to till us, till we shall yet bring forth a hundred-fold to His glory. We hear sometimes of high culture. I would not be envious of the highest mental culture which the university would yield; but I envy above all things the spiritual culture of the Holy Ghost. “Ye shall be sown and ploughed,” saith the Lord, and blessed be they that can come under the divine tillage ! “He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.” Rest assured that any portion God undertakes to till, He will be first in it. None shall be such a husbandman as our Father.
He is the Husbandman, and He will get better harvests out of us than by any other means could be produced. We are in good hands. Sorry soil we are, but yet He will produce unto Himself harvests that shall be for His eternal honor. Let us have good hope and confidence since this is the fact.
And the people had not only to till the soil, but they had to protect it, for around them were many robber tribes that assailed them, and, therefore, they had, while they cultivated the ground, often to beat their ploughshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears. And God will do that for us. The everlasting arm will well protect that which it has so dearly won.
Jesus, who bought us with His blood, will not lose us. The Holy Spirit, who redeemed us by His power and brought us unto Himself, will not suffer the adversary to overcome Him. He will preserve our souls, and present them unblemished and complete at the last. “The Lord’s portion is His people,” and as the tribes held their heritage, so will God beyond the mighty, and in the teeth of all our adversaries keep every one of His people — every inch of His inheritance — to the end.
One other thought only upon this, and that is, the tribes, having had to fight for their country and till it and defend !t, expected to enjoy it. They expected to sit every man under his own vine and fig tree. They expected to drink of the rivers that flowed with milk and honey; and they did so.
And God expects from His people to obtain joy. Can God receive joy?
Well, perhaps, as abstract truth He cannot, for He is unspeakably and infinitely blessed apart from us, but yet He is pleased to reveal Himself as a Father. A father hath joy in his children, and God hath joy in His children.
And, indeed, it lies in the very marrow of the metaphor now before us. A man hath joy in his portion; so hath the Lord joy in His people. And you know that memorable passage; I scarcely ever dare to quote it without deep emotion, so wonderful a passage is it: “He shall rest in His love “- as if God found rest in loving His people — “ He will joy over thee with singing.” It is a wonderful passage. Have we not before told you that when God created the world the angels sang for joy. God did not sing: He said, “It is very good.” He spoke, and expressed His approbation, but I hear of no song. But now, in the new creation, when He sees His dear ones chosen before all worlds, for whom the only-begotten poured out His life-blood — when the Spirit of God sees His workmanship, it is written, “He shall joy over thee with singing.” God singing! Can you catch the thought? This is sweeter than the angels’ song or than the song of all the beatified that surround the crystal throne. It is Jehovah Himself that sings — like a husband rejoicing over his bride, or a mother singing over her child. For God hath joy in His people; Christ findeth satisfaction in the fruit of His agonies, and the Holy Spirit takes delight to view the soul that He Himself hath formed anew. This is unspeakably precious, but it is true; the Lord finds delight in His people and enjoys them, for “the Lord’s portion is His people.” And I believe, brethren, that the fruit that God looks for from us is our love. You do not expect your children to do anything for you, but you do expect them to love you, and you expect their gratitude. When their eyes sparkle, and their little lips almost incoherently tell you how thankful they are to you for your kindness, you rejoice in that. And praise is pleasant to God. He delights in the love of His people and in their thanksgiving. And, moreover, fellowship with God is sweet to Him. For it is said of Jesus, “His delights were with the sons of men,” and all through the Song of Solomon the spouse represents Himself as ravished with the love of His beloved. Christ always speaks there of His Church as being able to communicate joy to Him by the sight of her fair face, and the words of her lips. He says, “Let Me see thy face! Let Me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy face, and thy countenance is comely “ — sweet to Him and comely to Him. Oh, dear children of God, rob not God of His fruit that comes of His portion. Give Him your love; give Him your fellowship; walk with Him as Enoch did; for this is Christ’s joy — that you should have joy in Him.
But now a few words only about the privilege which all this implies. “The Lord’s portion is His people.” This implies great honor; for to be God’s above other men is to have special honor upon one. Better than to be a Knight of the Golden Fleece, or of the Order of the Garter, is it to be one in whom God takes delight. This is the highest honor, before which imperial dignities must lose their luster — the dignity of belonging to the King of kings. It brings honor. It brings, brethren, with it security, for if we be the Lord’s portion, He will preserve us. One of the crests of our nobility has upon it, “I will maintain it”; and rest assured, God has said of His Church, “I will maintain it”; “! give unto My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.” If I belonged to an angel, I might be lost, but if I belong to God, God will not lose His own. There is the privilege of honor and security. And there is the privilege of His presence. The tribes dwelt in their portion, so will God dwell in His Church. “The Lord’s portion is His people.” That explains the question which an apostle asked of his Master, “Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself to us, and not unto the world ?” A man in his own garden takes his ease; a prince in his own province feels at home. And God has made His Church to be His peculiar dwelling-place where He shines forth in all the majesty of His love. Brethren, if this be our privilege, let us enjoy it. What a shame it is that many of us are worth thousands a year, and live like beggars — ! mean, that we might have God’s presence, but, through our carelessness, we live at a distance from Him and are unhappy.
Enoch’s God is my God, and if I seek grace enough, ! may live Enoch’s life. You may, my dear brother, enjoy the presence of God in unbroken continuity, evermore abiding in Him, and as Christ Himself did, if you will but seek it with all your heart. God grant you may so seek it as to find it.
For this privilege gives us another privilege, namely, that of delight. Where God is, there is sure to be happiness.
My God, the spring of all my joys, The life of my delights.
We can truly call Him by that name — ‘Midst darkest shades, if He appear, Our Eden is begun.
We only want God’s presence, and we have got all the happiness our soul asks for. Take our God away, and the bursting barn is famine and the overflowing wine vats yield no joy. Friends cannot make us Otherwise than friendless if God desert us, and all the helps of the creature leave us helpless if the Creator turn aside. All our fresh springs are in God; and, since He dwells in His portion, we are a happy and a blessed people.
Truly the privilege, if we had time to think upon it, has much in it that would comfort us, especially in one aspect of it, for it opens up to us a glorious future. If we are God’s portion, then depend upon it, He means to do something great with us. It is the honor of a king to make his country famous and illustrious; it will be to the honor of God to make His Church something far nobler than she is to-day. He will come by-and-bye, and He will take us away from this land of our banishment to our own country. We dwell here as in tents, sojourners as all our fathers were. Wait awhile, for the hour cometh when He will translate us to the city that hath foundations, whose builder and whose maker is God. Farewell, ye scenes of earth with your attempts at joy; we go unto the land where joy for ever blooms and bliss never fades; for the Lord’s portion is His people, and He won’t let us lie out in the field for ever. When the wheat is ready, He will gather it into the garner. We are His gems to-day, but we still lie in the mire. He has brought some of us up from the mine and polished us somewhat, but He will take us from the lapidary’s wheel with all its cuttings; He will set us in His royal crown, and we shall be unto Him a joy and a glory for ever and for ever. Thus, you see, there is a great deal of comfort to be drawn from the privilege which the text implies.
III. Now, brethren, I hasten on, because the sands of time drop so hastily, to notice the duty which is wrapped up in all this. “The Lord’s portion is His people.” What, then? Why, let us own the blessed claim. Let each Christian here say — ‘Tis done! The great transaction’s done!
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine; He drew me, and I followed on, Charmed to confess the Voice Divine.
Look back, some of you, to the years when first you gave yourself to God.
I do remember well when I felt that I was bought with Christ’s blood, how it seemed the most natural thing in all the world to say, “My God, I am Thine for ever — my body, my soul, my spirit, my time, my substance, my house, if Thou shalt give me one, and whatever of talent I may possess.” I hope you meant it when you thus gave yourself wholly up to God. I ask you to repeat the dedication to-night. There have been some Christians who have written out a covenant with God — I think Dr. Doddridge did this, and then signed it with his blood. But such things are very apt to bring the soul into bondage. They are not prescribed in Scripture, and we had better not do anything of our own head: we had better leave such things alone. Yet still, as a matter of fact, I hope we should be prepared to sign it with our blood. If I saw before me a deed engrossed in which I was proclaimed to be God’s chattel — all that I am and all I have to be God’s for Him — to do what He liked with me, I would sign it and bless the God of grace that permitted me to give myself over to Him. And yet, dear brethren, though I know you would sign it, too, there are times when it comes to suffering for Christ, and are you not a little put to it? And perhaps you have long and severe pains, and then you begin to start back from the surrender, and can hardly feel resigned to the divine will. Come, let us now again go to our God and say, “Whereas we have sometimes drawn back as though we would no longer be Thine, we do to-night desire to confess that we are Thy portion; that we are not our own; that we are bought with a price; we would renew our vow in Thy presence ! O Lord, I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid. Thou hast loosed my bonds.”
And, next, let us recollect that every man’s portion is separated from everybody else’s. Judah’s portion was separated from Simeon’s, and Simeon’s from Ephraim’s. Now, if we are God’s, let us maintain the separated life. I do not know any practical truth that wants preaching more to-day than this — that God’s saints must be separated from the world.
Now, nonconformity — you may say what you will of that, but one thing is certain, that nonconformity to the world is the badge of the Christian. “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed.” I wish that all Nonconformists were more non-conforming to the world. And oh, that all professors of religion were more ‘distinct from the rest of the world !
Whenever you make the lines of demarcation between the Church and the world to be indistinct, you do both the Church and the world a serious damage. The Flood was probably brought upon this world because the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and so there was a blending of the two, and the distinction ceased. Then God swept the whole population away. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” “Ye are the light of the world.” “What communion hath light with darkness ?” “What concord hath Christ with Belial ?” How can you eat at the table of the Lord and then eat at the table of the devil? How can you be Christians and yet be worldlings? “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” There must be the separation, for “no man can serve two masters: either he will love the one and hate the other, or else he will despise the one and cleave to the other.” “Ye cannot,” says Christ, “serve God and Mammon. Come ye out from among them. Be ye separate. Touch not the unclean thing, and I will be a father unto you; and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty.”
So with that I shall conclude. If ye be indeed God’s portion, I exhort you, my dear brethren and sisters, to render yourselves up more and more to God from this day; serve Him with all your might; serve the Lord with gladness; lay yourselves out for His service; watch for opportunities of bringing Him glory; and never be content with what you have done. Be seeking still to do more and more for that God of grace who says that you are His portion and the lot of His inheritance.
IV. This sermon, I fear me, has not been addressed to all of you. There are those in this house to-night to whom there is no voice in the text, because whatever people you may be, you are not His people, and whose ever heritage you may be, you to remember that truth? You are prayerless, Christless, graceless. You have never believed in Jesus Christ, and though you sit with God’s people and belong to a godly family, yet when the Lord cometh, if you are then as you are now, He will say to you, “I never knew you: you are none of Mine. You loved the world and belonged to it. You loved sin; you shall have its wages. You neglected the great salvation; how shall you escape ?” Do I hear you say, “But may there not be a change in me? May I not become one of His people?” Oh, happy inquiry! Only ask it sincerely, and I will answer you thus: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” “Whosoever believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.”
And if, as a guilty sinner, you shall come to Jesus and take Him to be your only hope and trust, you are saved; your sins, which are many, are, in a moment, forgiven you, and you are the Lord’s. But living and dying without faith in God, your baptism will not save you; your confirmation will not save you; your attention to sacraments will not save you. “Ye must be born again.”
May God bring us to a saving faith in a precious Savior, and may our names be written in the Lamb’s book of life. And when He calls for His chosen, may we be able to answer to our names; in that day when the sheep pass under the hand of Him that telleth them may every one of you be there, and God shall have the glory. Amen and amen.