David A Brown
Luke 4: 16-22; 27-30
Acts 16: 23-34
Ezekiel 47: 1-7
I would like to speak tonight as to the river of God's grace. We sang hymn 13 after our Thursday night reading in Linlithgow; the latter half of verse 3 says,
The river of His grace,
Through righteousness supplied,
Is flowing o'er the barren place
Where Jesus died.
There is a river of divine grace, and it is flowing in this room, and it has its source in God Himself. I can assure you tonight that the river of God's grace has not dried up. It is flowing today in all its greatness, liberality and power! I trust tonight that there might be a heart here which would be opened to receive the fulness of God's grace because it has its source in God Himself. He is the God of grace; the source is pure, and the river is flowing.
In Luke 4 we see the river of God's grace originating in this blessed Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. In His wisdom towards these persons, the Lord Jesus spoke, as an anointed Man, of what He was going to do: “to preach glad tidings to the poor … to captives deliverance, and to the blind sight, to send forth the crushed delivered”. These literal infirmities (poor, imprisoned, blind, crushed) also speak of moral conditions and the effect of Satan’s work has been to bring them to bear upon the human race: but the effect of grace is to lift persons out of such sinful conditions! If you feel that you are in any of these moral conditions that are suggested in chapter 4 of Luke, then the Lord Jesus in His grace is able to save you from them. Grace has travelled all the way from its blessed outpouring at Calvary right through the centuries until the present day. I can think of nothing more wonderful than telling you about the river of God's grace. As it flows, it is gathering persons in, and I trust that you will be one of those brought in tonight through its sovereign operation. The Lord Jesus preached here to persons in need. He is the only One who could say in verse 21, “To-day this scripture is fulfilled in your ears”, for the scripture spoke of Himself. What does it say? “And all bore witness to him, and wondered at the words of grace which were coming out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this the son of Joseph?” I trust that you will hear the word tonight, be affected by it, repent of your sins, have faith in Christ, and know the power and blessedness of the forgiveness of sins in your own soul. I read later on in this section because it speaks of divine grace operating in the soul of Naaman, who was told to plunge in the Jordan seven times, 2 Kings 5: 10. Grace goes to great lengths to secure just one soul. This is spoken about in Luke 15, the lengths to which divine grace will go in order to save one soul, and perhaps tonight divine grace is looking for you. God will go after you until He finds you. It does not say in Luke that He gave up; it says, “until he find it” (v 4), and I often give thanks for that: “until he find it”. It is love in operation and that is grace!
God's desire is that He might save you, and that is why I read in Acts 16. The river of God's grace continued until it reached Philippi. It went all the way from Nazareth, where the Lord was brought up, until it reached Philippi. Philippi was not in Asia but in Europe. So how great is God's grace that moved in order to save Gentile souls, and how it has flowed in order that persons like you and me might be saved. So it did not only flow into the city of Philippi, but into a jail: Paul and Silas were imprisoned there because of their faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Never has a jailor had prisoners like this before, because these men became a temple for the service of God through the operations of divine grace. A physical earthquake took place in this jail, and sometimes we need a moral earthquake in our lives to change us from our wilful pathway. The gospel does indeed change persons, and it certainly changed this jailor in Philippi for good. “The jailor being awakened out of his sleep, and seeing the doors of the prison opened, having drawn a sword was going to kill himself, thinking the prisoners had fled.” What does Paul say? “Do thyself no harm, for we are all here”: none had left. I appeal to all, especially the young, “Do thyself no harm”. Prevent moral harm by asking this question, the most important question anyone could ask, “what must I do that I may be saved?” The answer? “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house”, the most important answer anyone could receive. There are two references to “thou” (or in modern English, ‘you’). The first reference is individual: so, have you the faith or have you asked God to give you the faith to believe? There was something with the jailor that caused him to say this, “Sirs, what must I do that I may be saved?”. Whether he heard these prisoners singing, or listened to the testimony of other prisoners, there was just something that caused him to ask that question. That something is called the work of God; it is sovereign, and I trust that in every soul in this room the sovereign work of God is proceeding so that you might be affected by God’s word. There is nothing I can do to affect the souls of persons in this room; only God can do it. He did it with this jailor, and if He can do it with this jailor, He can do it with any one of us. “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house”. Notice, “thou and thy house”. Households are very important, and God has households in mind for blessing. All of us who are heads of households have a responsibility to bring in the word of God, and through prayer and faith facilitate salvation in our houses. The scripture then says, “And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, with all that were in his house”. I would suggest that they spoke to him about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and what it meant: the death of the Saviour, the One who gave His life for each of us, the One who went to Calvary, the One who met the whole sin question and resolved it completely and eternally. Paul and Silas would speak to him about baptism and teach him the truth of baptism: that is why, “he took them the same hour of the night and washed them from their stripes; and was baptised, he and all his straightway”. How wonderful it is when persons are brought into an acknowledgement that what they are after nature, Adam, could never please God: it is only what is of Christ that can please God. “And having brought them into his house he laid the table for them, and rejoiced with all his house, having believed in God.” What a wonderful result from this river of divine grace which flowed into that jail, and then into the jailor's house. What a change in a man! He was changed from a jailor charged by the magistrates to keep Paul and Silas in the inner prison into a man who is rejoicing “with all his house, having believed in God”. How wonderful this river of divine grace; it has continued for over two thousand years, is still flowing, and is bringing persons into blessing.
In Ezekiel 47, there is not only a river of God's grace, but also I would suggest a river of God. We read locally in Exodus 7 as to the first plague which turned the water into blood; there was no life in the river of Egypt; the whole thing was turned into blood and it stank, v 20, 21. Corruption set in, and corruption abounds in the world in which we live. The only sure source is God, and the only blessing for you is to relate yourself to that pure source. It speaks a little in the psalms as to the rivers. Psalm 65: 9, 10 refers to the river of God and what it does:
The river of God is full of water;
thou providest their corn,
when thou hast so prepared it:
Thou dost satiate its furrows,
thou smoothest its clods,
thou makest it soft with showers;
thou blessest the springing thereof.
That is the river of God; it is full of water, and it has never dried up. The broken cisterns of this world, which we have all tried, are drying up fast, and have limited resource; God's resource is limitless. Ezekiel 47 refers to a river that has its source in the house; so that is like the gospel going out. The gospel goes out from the house, flowing out and getting deeper and deeper. When the Spirit came it widened out into the gentile world. The river flowed to Philippi and has increased right down to our own day. So this river of God is flowing out from the altar and goes “under the threshold of the house eastward” which speaks of the coming of Christ. Later in the passage it speaks of waters that went to the ankles, then to the knees, then to the loins, and then it speaks of “a river that could not be passed through”; “for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed through”.
I would especially like to attract the young amongst us to come into this river of blessing. There is water to the ankles, and you might have experienced that. You might have trusted in the Lord Jesus and asked for the Holy Spirit, and I suppose in one sense the waters are to your ankles, but what about the waters to the knees? Have you started being interested in divine things? Have you known waters to be at your knees? It then says, “And he measured a thousand and caused me to pass through: the waters were to the loins”. That speaks of your affections; have your affections been stirred by the Spirit through reading of the Lord and His work, through living ministry amongst us, by what we were talking about earlier today in our enquiry together, and by what our young brother gave us yesterday in the address? If your affections were stirred, then I am sure you would desire to remember the Lord, to honour Him and to acknowledge the divine claims of love upon you. That would be the normal process in a believer of being affected by this river, the river of God. And then, “he measured a thousand; it was a river that I could not pass through, for the waters were risen, waters to swim in”. Can I just encourage your hearts? You might not have understood a lot of what was said in the reading today, but go into the river and the Spirit will help you. He will help you to swim spiritually, and will help you to enjoy these things. Do not be afraid. The service of God on Lord’s day morning also gives each of us a wonderful opportunity to respond to divine longings. That is like waters to swim in, the enjoyment of divine grace, the enjoyment of divine love, waters to swim in. As a younger man I used to think, ‘Will I ever understand these things?'. It is as we seek help from the Holy Spirit to read our Bibles and the ministry, pray about what we have read, and then listen to what is proceeding in the meetings. I especially encourage the young men amongst us, because the Lord’s testimony is going to be in your hands. Older brothers whom we respect and love will not be here for ever, and many have been taken to be with Christ in recent times; so, if the Lord does not come for us, His testimony will continue in a living and vital way in those who have experienced the blessedness of these things.
Then it says, “And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? And he led me, and brought me back to the bank of the river.” What did he see? Trees; “very many trees on the one side and on the other.” As we enjoy these divine things maybe we will venture in to see what is happening, and what will you find? Others who have similar exercises to yourself, similar thoughts and desires to enjoy these waters to swim in. So the river of God's grace flows and acts in persons and acts on our consciences, hearts and affections. May each one of us have our affections stirred for Christ and heavenly things! We have been speaking today about eternity; the river of God’s grace brings us into what is eternal. We enjoyed that thought in our reading together in 2 Corinthians 4 as to what is being established in the hearts and souls of persons - “an eternal weight of glory”.
So in closing I would appeal to you to allow the river of God's grace to operate in your soul. Do not just dip your toe in the water. Go in and enjoy these waters. May these blessed things be for the encouragement of every soul in this room. For His Name's sake.
16th November 2014