“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be over past. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” Isaiah 26:20-21
Read in connection, Exodus 12:22-23. Notice here, first, A duty enjoined, and also a particular occasion for this duty, arising from that which God is about to do. Such an exhortation is always suitable; but it is specially so at those times when appearances arrive of God’s displeasure being poured out against a people and against a kingdom; and when a nation’s cup of guilt is so filled up to the brim as to be ready to run over.
“Come, my people, enter into thy chambers.” Three views may be taken of this word, one agreeing with that text in Matthew: “And thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet,” etc. And, again, it may be understood in the sense of the passage read from Exodus, which tells of the blood being sprinkled on the posts and the lintels of the doors; and also in the light of those passages which speak of God as a hiding-place: “He shall hide them in the secret of his presence;” etc. These views, however, express the same thing. Entering into the closet is only useful in so far as we enter thereby into the secret of God’s pavilion; and it is only by entering into the secret of God’s pavilion that his people can ever be safe from their enemies.
Now when do we enter into the secret of God’s pavilion? How do we enter there? We come to the Holy God, as to one who is a Spirit, possessed of infinite perfections, the just, true, and gracious God. His presence is called the Holiest of All. This expression denotes, perhaps, the nearest possible approach to God.
How do we come to Him? By the blood of the covenant; and with all boldness.
Now I fear we often think that we can come without this blood; or rather without any deep sense of our need of it. But what is the reason of that? Simply that some of us do not know God at all; and that we never yet have discovered either our enmity to God, or God’s contrariety to us.
Now, beloved friends, the very first effect which the knowledge of God has upon a man, is to make him feel that he is full of enmity to God, and that therefore he cannot and dare not come to God. He trembles at the very mention of His name: he never can hear it with joy until he has been sprinkled by the blood. This approach by Christ’s blood is clearly shewn forth in the Passover. The blood on the lintel kept the destroying angel out. This is just a picture of the covenant of grace. Sprinkled with this blood, we can draw near to God. It is not natural to fallen man to come near in this way, and it is only when sin is weakened within us, that we can do so. But when God by his Spirit draws us, then we come by his way, and have boldness to enter into the Holiest of All.
But then, remember, that makes us humble. No soul that ever entered there remained proud, either toward God or man: and this just belies the approaches to God that some people say they make. If they find it a natural and easy thing to come into the secret of His presence; -- if they find that their nature goes quite along with it, and they can enter there at all times, without difficulty, -- this proves nothing but their ignorance of God.
The effect of the least knowledge of God’s blessed perfections is to drive a man to the blood of Christ, and to make him set a high value on that precious blood. Now it is that this blood having been applied afresh to the conscience, he comes a poor, rebellious, God-dishonouring sinner, to present on the altar his body and soul a living sacrifice.
Again, when a believer goes into his closet, he requires to have this blood of sprinkling applied to his conscience, and that blood he presents to God. But before he can do this, the enmity must be slain by the power of God’s Spirit: and this is one of the tokens of God’s eternal covenant with his Son having been ratified, that the believer feels this within him, as one of its glorious fruits.
True, the enmity is only so far slain; it is not yet extinct. Believers know this: and when we come into our closets, do we not often bring with us that awful distance of heart, which dwells even in God’s own people? It can never be destroyed while sin remains in them, and it can only be subdued by the sprinkling of the blood of the Lamb.
Now, if there are any present who never have known what enmity is; and who find it quite an easy matter to come before Him in prayer at all times; what does this prove? That they are living near to God? It just proves this, that such people know nothing of God.