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Spurgeon's Sermon Notes: Inquirers Answered
Isaiah 14:32 — What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
Attraction to Zion
It is clear that Zion attracts attention. The messengers of the nations inquire concerning her. Men can hardly remain indifferent when the true Church of God is near them: for some reason or another they will inquire.
The church excites attention by:
- The peculiarity of her people.
- The speciality of her teaching.
- The singularity of her claims.
- The greatness of her privileges.
It is so good a thing to have this attention excited, that one should be ever ready to give an answer, for this is the way by which the truth is spread in the earth.
Oh that all nations would send messengers to inquire concerning our King, and his reign! Perhaps they will when we are what we ought to be, and are ready to answer their enquiries.
The messengers' inquiries
What do the messengers ask?
They come as the ambassadors from Babylon to see everything. They ask questions, as did the Queen of Sheba. Concerning Zion, or the church, they ask:
- What is her origin? (Psalm 78:68-69)
- What is her history? (Psalm 87:3)
- Who is her King? (Psalm 99:2)
- What is her charter? (Galatians 4:26)
- What are her laws? (Ezekiel 43:12.)
- What is her treasure? (Psalm 147:12-14; Revelations 21:21)
- What is her present security? (Psalm 48:13)
- What is her future destiny? (Psalm 102:16)
- There is nothing about Zion which is unworthy of their inquiry.
- There is nothing about Zion which is closed against inquiry.
Let the candle stand for the believer, and let him be willing to be so elevated in life as to shine upon those high mysteries of our holy faith which otherwise would never have been perceived by other men.
Why do they ask?
- Some from mere contempt, “What do these feeble Jews?” They would see the nakedness of the land. Perhaps when they know more their contempt will evaporate.
- Some from idle curiosity. Yet many who come to us from that poor motive are led to Christ. Zaccheus comes down from his tree as he did not go up.
- Some from hearty admiration. They inquire, “What is your beloved more than another beloved?” They have seen his star, and are come to worship, asking, “Where is he?”
- Some from a desire to become citizens. How can they be initiated? What is the price of her franchise? What will be required of her burgesses? Is there room for more citizens?
- They are wise thus to ask, and count the cost.
- Men can hardly remain indifferent when the true Church of God is near them: for some reason or another they will inquire.
Pointing them to God, not us
Why should they be answered?
- It may silence their trivial objections.
- It may win them to God.
- It will do us good to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
- It will glorify God to tell of what his grace has done for his church and of what it is prepared to do.
- The answers should be prudently suited to the inquirer.
- They should be clear, bold, truthful, and joyous.
- We should think before we give an answer. “What shall one answer?”
- Our manner in answering should be gracious (1 Pet. 3:15.).
- The answer should refer to God rather than to ourselves: it is so in the text now before us.
It's all about God
What should be the answer?
- God is all in all to his church: “The Lord has.”
- Her origin is from him: “The Lord has founded Zion.”
- His people are poor in themselves, and rely upon another. It is a city to which the poor flee for refuge, as many fled to the cave of Adullam who were in debt and discontented.
- Their trust is in the foundation which the Lord has laid.
- We resolve to abide in that trust: “The poor of his people shall trust in it.”
- If you ungodly ones would only ask the righteous concerning their hope, it would be well.
- If you godly ones would tell inquirers your experience, it might do great good. “That we may seek him with you” (Song of Solomon 6:1).
Visiting a vaulted passage in the palace of Nero, at Rome, we were shown certain frescoes upon the roof. To exhibit these a candle was lifted up upon a telescopic rod, and then moved along from picture to picture. Let the candle stand for the believer, and let him be willing to be so elevated in life as to shine upon those high mysteries of our holy faith which else had never been perceived by other men. Eminent saints in the past have served such a purpose: their lives have cast a light upon priceless truths, which otherwise would have been forgotten.
Open doors for the refugee
If a man should ask me, after I have recovered from an illness, by what means I had been healed, should I not tell him with pleasure? To monopolize such information would be monstrous. The church of Christ is not a walled fort, or a club with exclusive rules. Its walls are for inclusion, not for exclusion; its gates shut out no refugees who would enter. All that we know we are glad to tell, for all that there is to tell is glad tidings to our fellow men.
Give God the glory
A young Kaffir, who was brought to England to be educated for mission-work in his own country, when taken to St. Paul's Cathedral, gazed up into the dome for some time as if lost in wonder, and when at length he broke silence, it was to ask, “Did man make this?” Those who obtain a view of the grandeur and glory of the spiritual temple may ask a similar question. We can tell them its “Builder and Maker is God.”
Inquirers should be answered
It is never well to be dumb to attentive ears. As someone has wisely said, “we shall have to give an account of idle silence, as well as of idle speech.”
A cheerful tale
Our testimony should be bright and cheerful. The dismal tale some tell of trials and temptations is not likely to fetch home the prodigal from the far country: such lean and discontented followers will never make anybody say, “How many hired servants of my Father have bread enough, and to spare!”—Mark Guy Pearse
Safety for the silly sheep
To the matter of the safety of the church, through the presence of the Lord, we may apply the following dialogue between a heathen and a Jew: “After the Jews returned from captivity—all nations roundabout them being enemies to them—a heathen asked a Jew how he and his countrymen could hope for any safety, ‘because,’ he said, ‘every one of you is as a silly sheep compassed about with fifty wolves.’ ‘Ay, but,’ the Jew said, ‘we are kept by such a Shepherd as can kill all these wolves when he pleases, and by that means preserve his sheep.’”— Thomas Brooks