"Written Not With Ink"
by T. Austin-Sparks

Meeting 11 - Citizens of Zion

27 February 1957, at Pintung, Taiwan.

I don't think that there are many ways in which I am like the Apostle Paul. I believe that he was a little man physically and I think that in that matter, I am a little bigger than he was. And there are many other ways, I am sure, that I am quite different from him; that is, I certainly have not got his spiritual stature. But I am very happy to know that there is one way in which I am like Paul, Paul's life was very largely occupied with visiting the Church. He went about from place to place visiting the Lord's children and bringing them greetings from other churches, seeking to encourage them in the Lord. Well, that is how I feel that I am like Paul. I am moving about the world visiting the Lord's children and bringing them all greetings from the other people of God. And now in this trip around the churches, I have arrived here and I greet you in the name of the Lord's people in many places.

I think there is one special value about this kind of thing: it does make each little company know that they are a part of a very large family, that they are not just living alone in one place, but that they are joined to many people of God, and that is what I would say to you here this morning. You may be a small company, not in a great city, and perhaps sometimes you feel that you are very much cut off from the others, but I am here this morning to tell you that that is not true. As our brother has just said, there are many of the Lord's people all over the world praying for you, and you can be sure that they will go on praying. Now, I don't want to take too much time on speaking like that.

A Song of Zion

In these few minutes I want to give something from the Lord, and I am going to ask you to read with me a Psalm. Psalm 87: "His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee."

You will notice that this Psalm is called a song of Zion. This song brings a picture before our eyes. It is a work of imagination, and the picture that is presented by the Psalm is this: there are gathered together in a place, perhaps like this place, a number of men from different nations. And it is quite the usual thing that when that happened, these people began to speak about their own country. Here is a man who comes from Egypt, and here is a man who comes from Babylon, and here is a man who comes from Philistia, and there is another man who comes from Tyre, and there is another man who comes from Ethiopia, and another man who comes from Palestine; he comes from Jerusalem and they are all talking. And as they talk, they begin to boast about their own country.

This first man from Egypt says, "Well, there is no country like Egypt! Egypt is the best country in the world. We have everything there that you could want; if you want to get a certain thing, well, go to Egypt and get it!" And then a man who came from Babylon breaks in and says, "I don't agree with you. Babylon is the best country, we can get things in Babylon that you cannot get in Egypt..." and he begins to boast about Babylon, and while he is doing that, another man breaks in. It is the man from Philistia. He says, "You are both wrong. Philistia is the best country in all the world. We have got something in Philistia that you haven't got in your country. I am proud that I was born in Philistia!" And while he is talking, another man starts talking too. This man is from Tyre and he says, "Oh, Egypt is nothing; Babylon is nothing; Philistia is nothing, because Tyre is the best! I come from Tyre and Tyre is a wonderful city!" And he begins to boast that he is a citizen of Tyre. But he does not have the last word. Here is a coloured man from Ethiopia. He says, "Haven't you people heard about the gold that comes from Ethiopia? Don't you know about the jewels that we have in our country? Don't you know about our wonderful history? Oh, Ethiopia is better than all the others and I am very proud that I come from Ethiopia!" But that is not the last word. The last word is with the man from Palestine. He has listened to all these words and he has looked upon them in pity. He says, "You don't know anything about it. Zion is the place! Oh, Zion is the most wonderful place in the world!" And then he begins to talk about all the wonderful things in Zion. "If you want to see this, see that, you go to Zion. You want to know about anything? You go to Zion. All my fountains are in Zion." Now that is the picture.

I said that it was a work of imagination. But why is that picture in the Bible? It is a very natural picture. It is the sort of thing that you will find anywhere in the world. I don't suppose that brother Madsen and Dr Folkland will be here for very long before they start to talk about Denmark! It is the sort of thing that people will do when they get together, but I think the last man was right. At any rate, what he represents spiritually is quite right. Listen to what he said, "His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God." And we just take that from the Old Testament and take it over to the New Testament and in the twelfth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews is this word: "Ye are come to Zion, the city of the living God."

Dear friends, you and I are citizens of a better city that cannot be found in this world! Naturally we may have been born in a place down on this earth, but spiritually we have been born from above. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Rejoice in this; that your names are written in heaven." Whatever we are on this earth, we are all together in having one thing in common: birth. I expect naturally that many of you can say, "Now I was born in this city, or in that city", but the wonderful thing about our gathering this morning is that we are all born in the same City. By our new birth, we were born from above, and there are more wonderful things said about this heavenly City than about any other.

Well, what about Egypt? All those glories that this man boasted about have gone. What about Babylon? Well, recently I flew over Babylon and what did I see? None of the glory of the days of Nebuchadnezzar. They are gone and it is mostly desert and you find nothing that you can be proud of. The same is true of Tyre. It had a great story, but it is all gone. But you notice what is said about Zion: the Lord will establish here this City of God which is from above, which is the eternal City. We are born there and from there we receive eternal life. When all the cities of this world have gone forever, this heavenly Zion will go on. Well, this Zion is not a place, this Zion is the Lord's people together with the Lord Himself. It is:-

Where the Lord Dwells.

Where does the Lord dwell? He dwells with His people wherever they are. The Lord is here this morning. He is with us and we are sure of that. We know He is here; therefore, this is Zion and we go on and meet the Lord's people in many places and we meet the Lord in the midst of them. That is Zion again. This is something that the Lord has made and this is something that the Lord has established and we can boast of the greatest birth that ever a man had. We can truly say of all the others, "You don't know what you are talking about. You people of this world don't know anything about it; if you want to know anything at all, you get born from above and then you become a citizen of Zion, the heavenly Zion, and then you will begin to know something that all the people of this world know nothing about." You see, that is what this man from Zion was saying. With all the boasting he said, "You don't know anything about it! You think that you have got something, but you haven't got anything compared to what I have got" and spiritually that is true. The wonderful things that they have, and the wonderful boasts of what they have got... but we are here this morning and we know that they are wrong. We know that they haven't got what we have got. Is this not true, that every Christian has got something that others haven't got? Is that not true of you?

If I said to you this morning, "Do you want to go back to the world? Do you want to leave the Lord? Do you want to exchange what you got and exchange with the things that the world gives you?" You would look at me and say, "Why did I leave the world? Why did I come to the Lord? Was it not because I know that there is something that the Lord has got that the world hasn't got? All that I have will not satisfy me." Maybe you were saying "I am not thinking of going back there!" This morning we are men of Zion, we are glad that we were born there.

You notice this last word in the Psalm, "They that sing as well as they that dance shall say: all my fountains are in thee." What does that mean spiritually? That we have everything that we need in our new life in the Lord Jesus. Our supplies are coming from heaven. The Lord Jesus was the first great citizen of Zion. He said, "I am come down from above, I am not of this world." But when He was in this world, He was drawing everything from heaven. The disciples came to Him one day and said, "Master, eat!" He said, "I have meat to eat that you know not of." He was being supported from heaven, He was getting everything from heaven. He lived His life here in this world, but drew His supply from heaven. Of course that is true of all the citizens of Zion. We are getting our spiritual strength from heaven, we are getting our spiritual food from heaven, we are getting our spiritual guidance from heaven, we are getting our spiritual joy from heaven and there is not much in this world that can give us joy. It is just the other way. In this world there is very much sorrow and suffering. If we went through this world, we could be very miserable about this situation here. The world does not give us anything and yet the wonderful thing is that here this morning we are very joyful people. We have a joy that does not come from this world; it comes from heaven. "All my fountains are in Thee" and the best of it all is this: The Lord loves Zion and that makes our citizenship the best thing of all. It is the Lord's love for His people.

I think that there is nothing more comforting than to be reminded that the Lord loves us. I confess that I always find that the most difficult thing to believe. The Lord loves me, and I don't see how that can be. But there it is: "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion" and the Lord has spoken glorious things about this Zion. Do you know, when I say "Zion" I just mean people who have born from above. The Lord has spoken things about them. There is a glorious future for the people of God. The Lord shall establish that here.

Then there is this little bit that is put in; it is another picture. It pictures the Lord opening His big book. This big book is for the names of all the people who were born in this heavenly City and as He reads His big book, He reads out the names. He reads out your name. Your name is in that book. It is in the Lamb's Book of Life and the Lord looks and says, "So and so was born in this country. Their names are here in this book." Now, that is a very simple word; but it is a beautiful picture. The Lord knows all that are born above. You see, it is not just a big book full of names and the Lord saying, "There are too many names here, too many for Me to remember and I don't know them individually." No, the Lord didn't say that. It says, "The Lord shall count, when He writes up the people, that this one and that one are born here in this City from above." He knows them one by one.

You may not be known in this world, you may have thought that you are an unknown people, but the Lord knows you by name. It is wonderful to know that the Lord knows people by name. He said, "I have called thee by thy name for thou art mine." The Lord knows us personally and individually, if we are born from above. He knows everyone who belongs to His City and He has personal interest in every one. Now, this is my message. It is a very simple message that comes out of that picture in the Bible where the man of Zion is saying that he has got something that no one else has got. He has got all of the Lord and he has got all the resources that are in the Lord, and he has got all the promises in the Lord. Well, we transfer that to our Christian life. We hear the Apostle say, "We are come to Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the living God." So we are here this morning as citizens of Zion and it is the greatest thing in all the world to be a citizen of Zion.


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