The captivity in Babylon did not bring the Jews to national repentance, and so lead to national restoration. When God had prepared the way by the establishment of the new Persian kingdom under Cyrus, and had moved this ruler to give permission to such of the captives as desired it to go up to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of the Lord, but few availed themselves of it (536 B.C.). Only forty and two thousand went up. A considerable number of these were priests, and some Levites; but, for the most part, they seem to have been of the poorer and humbler class. The proclamation of Cyrus speaks of building the temple, not the city and its walls; and to this work did the returned exiles first address themselves. (Ez. iii.) Having erected the altar of burnt offering, they proceeded to lay the foundation of the temple; this was done in the second year after their return, but for a considerable period their work on the temple was hindered by the opposition of their heathen and Samaritan enemies (534-516 B.C.). But it is plain that this external hostility was not the sole cause of the delay; it was rather the slothfulness and indifference of the colonists themselves. To arouse and quicken them, God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah; and at last the temple was completed. (Ez. v. 1, vi. 15.)
After the rebuilding of the temple, a period of more than fifty years passed (515-458 B.C.), of which we know very little. Then came Ezra the scribe from Babylon, followed after some years by Nehemiah (445 B.C.). By the latter the walls of the city were rebuilt; and by his efforts and those of Ezra many abuses were corrected, and the Mosaic laws enforced with more strictness. The last of the prophets was Malachi (432 B.C.). A brief survey of the condition of the Jews after the return from exile will enable us better to understand the words of these last prophets.
At no time after the conquest by the Babylonians did the Jews regain their political independence, except for a very short period under the Hasmoneans. They dwelt in their own land as a subject people. If not oppressed by their Persian rulers, still they were by their local position much exposed to spoliation and suffering through the wars which Persia waged with other states, especially with Egypt. At first they occupied but a very small part of their old territory, but were scattered through it, chiefly in the northern and central parts. Being so few in number, it was for a time a question whether they could be preserved as a distinct people, or would be merged in the peoples around them. Two things were especially on the hearts of their leaders, — to keep them separate from the heathen by strict prohibition of intermarriage, and to re-establish the rites of worship. The first step was to rebuild the temple, for this alone could be a centre of unity to the returning exiles. In their condition of political subjection to heathen governors, the only rule possible under Mosaic institutions was that of the priests in ecclesiastical matters; and, as the office of high priest was hereditary and permanent, it soon became the chief and most influential.
The Jews who returned from Babylon were probably those least tainted with idolatry, and their dislike of their heathen rulers naturally intensified their aversion to heathen deities. But for a considerable period after the return the intermarriages with the heathen, which their rulers vainly attempted to repress, exposed them to temptation; and there are indications that some yielded to it, and fell into idolatry. (Ez. ix. 1, etc.) Gradually, however, they became more and more strictly monotheistic, and looked with increasing abhorrence upon idols and idolatrous worship. Their reverence for Jehovah did not, indeed, lead them to obey His commands, or to make great sacrifices for His honor, as is shown in the complaint of the prophet Haggai that they were more eager to build their own houses than His house.
It must be borne clearly in mind, that this return under Zerubbabel and Joshua was not a national restoration, nor was it a re-establishment of the original theocratic relation. Jehovah was no longer their King as of old; He did not return to dwell among them. He could not dwell in a land over which heathen princes ruled, — in a city in which His will was not supreme. When He returned, it must be to assert His high prerogatives over both people and land, to separate the good from the evil, to judge the heathen nations, to exalt and bless His chosen ones, and fulfill all that the Theocracy was originally designed to accomplish.
The return of a remnant to remain in subjection to heathen rulers was, therefore, primarily for the preservation of the people till the hour of the Messiah should come. It was a continuation of national existence under the law of Moses, but on a lower plane. Yet was this remnant itself on trial; for by faithful obedience to such Mosaic laws as were applicable, it might hasten the return of Jehovah to dwell again in Jerusalem, and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. Before the exile, and while Jehovah was dwelling among them, this Kingdom was presented as the completion and exaltation of the existing Theocracy; but after the exile, when Jehovah had ceased to dwell among them, the restoration of the Theocracy, and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom, were presented as to be contemporaneous and identical. The return and dwelling of Jehovah in Jerusalem, and the appearing of the Messiah, were thus to take place at one and the same time; and both alike were the object of hope.
In immediate connection with this trial of the returned remnant, whether it would by its moral preparation regain what it had lost, or fall still lower, two things are to be noted: first, that the returning exiles had at their head a prince of the house of David — Zerubbabel—and the high priest Joshua; second, that prophets were given to help these leaders in the execution of their work. The means were thus in the hands of the remnant to prepare the way for the fulfillment of God's promises, — means both for the right order of worship under the Aaronic priesthood, and for the revival of the Davidic dynasty, — and the prophetic voice also was there to warn and to guide. Much was wanting in the second temple that had been found in the first; but faithfulness to their covenant might restore what was lacking, and the day quickly come when Jehovah would return, the Messiah appear, and all that the earlier prophets had spoken be fulfilled. But, because the people were not faithful in that which was left them, all these means of preparation were given in vain. Zerubbabel was the last prince of the house of David, and the royal family sank speedily into obscurity. The High Priesthood continued for a time, indeed, in the line of Joshua, but passed at last into the line of strangers; and the spirit of prophecy, quenched by disobedience, was silent for centuries.
Let us now turn to the utterances of the three prophets after the exile, — Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These took their distinctive character from the changed relation in which the returned remnant stood to Jehovah as the theocratic King. They all recognized the fact that He had departed from the holy city and temple, that He was still absent, and that with His return the true prosperity and blessedness of the nation would begin. "Lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day. . . . And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land." (Zech. ii. 10-12.) "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple. . . . He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver. . . . Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old. . . . And all nations shall call you blessed." (Mai. iii. 1, etc. See Hag. ii. 6-9.)
We may note the following chief points of agreement in these prophets as to the present and future of the people: —
1. All recognize the fact that the mere return from Babylon to the land, and the rebuilding of the temple, did not restore the theocratic relation existing before the exile. The covenant is not abrogated, but Jehovah is no more present with them as their King. His return to dwell among them is still future.
2. The day of Jehovah's return to dwell again at Jerusalem is "the day of the Lord," "that day," the time when He "will shake the heavens and the earth," and "destroy the strength of the kingdom of the heathen." "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name One."
3. He will then deliver and sanctify His people, and dwell among them. In that day "Jerusalem shall be
illed a city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord f Hosts the holy mountain." At the dedication of the jmple they offered "a sin-offering for all Israel, — welve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes if Israel." "I will save my people from the east
country and from the west country, and I will bring
them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem;
and they shall be my people, and I will be their God in
truth and in righteousness."
4. In that day, the nations, humbled by His judgments, "will come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord."
5. This return of Jehovah to His people, and the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom, are contemporaneous events; Jehovah being revealed to men through "The Branch," who shall "build the temple of the Lord, and sit and rule upon His throne."
Let us now consider the individual utterances of these prophets, — first, of Haggai and Zechariah, who prophesied during the time of Zerubbabel and Joshua.
The words of Haggai (520 B.C.) were, for the most part, of a practical character, reproving the people for their remissness in not building the temple, exhorting them to diligence and to firmness of faith, and encouraging them by promises of Divine assistance. Their covenant with Jehovah is still in force: "I am with you," "My Spirit remaineth among you ;" therefore they are not to fear. There is no direct mention of the Messiah, yet there are not wanting allusions to Him and to the future Messianic Kingdom. The prophet speaks of a day when Jehovah will "shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, and all nations, and will make the glory of the latter house greater than of the former," (or, as some prefer to render it, "the latter glory of the house greater than the former glory.") That this did not have its fulfillment in the successive overthrows of the Persian and Greek kingdoms, or in any accessions of proselytes, is obvious: the prophecy has a larger scope, and looks forward to "the great day of the Lord," of which all the prophets before him had spoken. "In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts," — words to be fulfilled under the Messiah, when He shall judge all nations, and establish universal peace. "In His days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." (Ps. lxxii.)
Divine promises of this character are, as we have already seen, both absolute and conditional: absolute, as declaring the unchangeable purpose of God; and conditional, as to the time of their fulfillment. They can be fulfilled only when the people are spiritually prepared. "And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God." But there was no such preparation among the returned people down to the time of the coming of His Son. To that temple which they builded the long-promised One came. He was among His people, the Messianic King, to speak peace; but they received Him not: and at the close of His ministry He declared of that temple that it should be destroyed, and not one stone be left upon another. But the prophecy, though so long delayed in its fulfillment through the unpreparedness of the people, remains in force, as we are taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (xii. 26.) It is at the return of the Risen King from heaven to seat Himself upon the throne of His glory, that "every thing that can be shaken will be shaken; and only those things which cannot be shaken," because good in the sight of God, "will remain."
The words addressed to Zerubbabel — "In that day I will take thee, and will make thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee " — are plainly spoken of him as the representative of the Davidic family, and type of the true David to come. He was the chief of that family, and this promise to him was an assurance that God remembered His covenant with David; and in the day when He should shake the heavens and the earth, the Messiah to come of David's lineage would be to him as a signet.
The prophecies of Zechariah, like those of Haggai, had an immediate practical purpose, yet were far more of a symbolic character, and of a larger prophetical scope. We find in general the declaration of Jehovah that He had not cast off His people: "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." He was still "jealous for Jerusalem and Zion," and in due time would return and dwell in them as of old. But ere this there must be a great moral change: "Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will return unto you." Under the figure of Joshua, the high priest, the official representative of the priesthood, whose filthy garments were removed and clean raiment given him, was set forth the cleansing of the priesthood; and this must be before He could bring forth " His servant, The Branch." (Zech. iii. 3.) At another time the prophet was bidden to take silver and gold and make crowns, and set them on the head of Joshua, and say to him, "Behold, the man whose name is 'The Branch.' He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord. . . . And He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne, and He shall be a Priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." Here are set forth the regal and priestly offices of the Messiah, who will be the true builder of the temple of Jehovah. Of Him both Zerubbabel and Joshua are types.
Thus in the visions of Zechariah is the glorious future of Israel immediately connected with the Messiah. Under Jehovah He administers the government, and bears the glory, and brings peace to His people: "The counsel of peace shall be between them both." All that is done by Zerubbabel and Joshua is only preparatory to this, the preservation of a people from whom the Messiah shall spring, and whom as their Prince and Priest He will exalt and bless. Not till He comes can there be a full gathering of the scattered nation. When thus regathered, and restored to Divine favor, "many peoples and strong nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord." There will be such a revelation of His glory, that "ten men out of all languages of the nations will take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." It is Jehovah who is presented as the Supreme Lord, and chief object of worship, but with Him is His King: "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. . . . He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and His dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth." (ix. 9, 10.)
But there are clear intimations in this prophet, that many dark days were before the people ere Jehovah would reign in righteousness. He appears when all nations are gathered against Jerusalem to battle. "Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when He fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, . . . and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee." (xiv. 1-5.) This is their final deliverance; now is the universal Kingdom set up. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one." Then will He inflict terrible judgments upon those that had fought against His people: some will perish by a plague, others by mutual slaughter. But a residue will be left; and it is said of them that they "shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." Then will take place those physical changes in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, which shall prepare the city to be the fitting capital of the theocratic kingdom, the city of the Great King. (xiv. 9, etc.)
The last of the post-exilian prophets was Malachi, the exact time of whose prophecy is uncertain, but probably about ninety years after the first return from exile. Let us note the changes that had taken place during this period, that we may the better understand his words.
Under Ezra the scribe a new body of the exiles returned (458 B.C.). Upon his arrival he found that through intermarriages with the people of the land, the colonists were in danger of becoming heathenized. (Ez. ix.) He therefore gathered them together, and so wrought upon them by his words as to bring them to a confession of their sin, and to obtain from them a promise of amendment, which promise for a time seems to have been kept. (Ez. x.) Some twelve years later came Nehemiah with authority from the Persian king to rebuild the walls of the city. But, although these were rebuilded, the internal condition of affairs was very unsatisfactory. The poor complained greatly of the evils brought on them by their poverty, and of the oppression of their wealthier brethren; and in this there was effected a partial reformation. The efforts of both Ezra and Nehemiah were now directed to the awakening of a higher consciousness of their standing as the covenant people. A solemn fast was appointed; and the people entered into a covenant to walk in God's laws given by Moses, and in all His judgments and statutes, and especially not to intermarry with the heathen, to observe the Sabbath days and the Sabbath years, and to pay the tax appointed for the temple service, and the tithes and first-fruits.
After some years passed at Jerusalem as Persian governor, Nehemiah returned to Persia. How long he was absent, we are not told; but on coming again to Jerusalem he found the old abuses revived, — intermarriages with the heathen, desecration of the temple, taxes unpaid, and tithes and offerings neglected, the Sabbath profaned by traffic, and the house of God forsaken. (Neh. xiii. 7, etc.) Nehemiah seems to have used with vigor his authority as governor to put away these abuses, but of the result of his labors we have no information.
It is probable that Malachi prophesied either during the absence of Nehemiah in Persia, or after his return; he spake to meet the evils of the times, and his words are, for the most part, of rebuke and warning. The character of his utterances shows us a people in whom there was an outward observance of the law, but without any true zeal for God, or genuine obedience. The rites of worship were maintained, but the general feeling was that of irreverence and indifference. Many years had now elapsed since their return, and yet the colony — for it was no more — was weak and oppressed. They were Jehovah's people, yet His promises of blessing had not been fulfilled, their expectations had been disappointed; they were without courage or hope; even their worship was a weariness. The priests are addressed as those that despise God's name; they are mercenary, and so avaricious that they will not render God the smallest service without reward. By their conduct they had caused many to stumble at the law. With their connivance the people offered Him polluted bread, the blind and sick and lame were sacrificed, they robbed God in tithes and offerings. They had taken heathen wives, and put away the wives of the covenant. Even God's moral government over men was hardly recognized; for they said, "It is vain to serve God, and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinances? Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord. . . . And where is the God of judgment?"
These words of the prophet indicate a people profoundly discouraged and helpless. Their sore experiences since their return had not awakened in them any real sense of their sin. On the contrary, they justified themselves, and charged God with unfaithfulness. "Your words have been stout against me." "They wearied the Lord with their words." The prophet speaks to meet this despairing and irreligious spirit, and strives to arouse them to a strict observance of the law. (iv. 4.) "Remember ye the law of Moses my servant." He saw that their salvation consisted in making the line of religious separation between them and the peoples around them broad and high.
But the law alone could not prepare them for the kingdom of the Messiah. For this a living messenger was needed: only one sent of God, and speaking in the light and power of His Spirit, could show unto the people their sins under the law; and such an one was promised. This promise of a forerunner to prepare His way was a testimony to them, that under the institutions then remaining they could not be prepared. Having lost the original means of preparation, God must send to them a special messenger. Such a promise was not wholly new; for Isaiah had spoken of the voice of one crying in the wilderness, " Prepare ye the way of the Lord." To this earlier utterance Malachi doubtless refers, but he gives it greater definiteness: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." From this time the expectation of a herald, and of special preparation, was closely connected with the coining of the Messiah.
The declaration that " the name of Jehovah should be great among the Gentiles, and that in every place incense should be offered unto His name, and a pure offering," looks forward to the universal Kingdom so often spoken of, and is not to be understood as foretelling that His special relation to the Jews should cease, or Jerusalem cease to be the appointed centre of worship. On the contrary, when they should "bring unto Him an offering in righteousness," then would it be "pleasant to Him as in the days of old;" and if they obeyed and honored Him, then "All nations shall call you blessed; for ye shall be a delightsome land."
There is no direct reference to the Messiah in this prophet except in the prediction, "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." Are there two persons mentioned here, or three? If but two, these are Jehovah and the messenger whom He sends to prepare the way before Him. He who is designated as "the Lord," — Adon, — and as "the Messenger of the covenant," must be identified with Jehovah, or with the messenger who prepares His way. If three persons are mentioned, — Jehovah, the messenger, and the Lord and Messenger of the covenant, — then the last must be the Messiah. And the change in the words made by the Saviour in His application of it to the Baptist, leaves no room for doubt as to its Messianic meaning. "For this " — the Baptist — "is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." He who sends is Jehovah, the messenger is the Baptist, and He that comes to His temple is the Messiah. This prediction is from the Old-Testament point of view; distinguishing the comings of Jehovah and of the Messiah, yet making them to be contemporaneous. As seen before the Incarnation, the Messiah comes with Jehovah; as seen after it, Jehovah comes in the Messiah. The messenger will prepare the way before Jehovah, that He may re-establish the old theocratic relation; but the re-establishing of this relation demands that His king of the house of David also be restored. And the preparation for the one is the preparation for the other. We have already seen, that, so long as He dwelt at Jerusalem, the Davidic throne continued to stand; when He departed, it fell. So long as He continues absent, it is not set up again; when He shall return, His king will sit anew on the throne. He comes to His temple, —the palace temple. (See Isa. vi. 1; Ps. xlv. 8, 15.) And the day of His coming is the great and the terrible day of the Lord, when He will purge and refine His own, and spare them, and gather them as His jewels; but the wicked and the proud shall be stubble, and perish.
MESSIANIC BELIEFS IN THE PSALMS. — MESSIAH
The Psalms are distinguished from the prophetic utterances, amongst other points, in this: that they were not spoken to the people, not messages sent of God, but the spontaneous, though inspired, expressions of individual feeling. Probably, if we could trace their origin we should find it for the most part in some special outward event affecting the heart of the Psalmist, and awakening emotion which sought expression in song. Extending over a period of probably more than five hundred years, counting from the earliest to the latest, and therefore widely differing in manner and matter, there is yet a fundamental unity, — a unity having its root in the covenant relation of the people to Jehovah, and which manifests itself in common beliefs, hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows. If it were not for this community of sentiment of which the Psalms are the utterances, they could not have been used in common worship: as purely individual utterances, they must have perished with their writers. But this fundamental unity does not exclude, both in form and contents, much diversity. As having many authors, living under widely dissimilar circumstances, and differing in degrees of spiritual knowledge and literary power of expression, we may expect to see in them a variety of conception and of statement as regards both the character of God and His purpose in His people. It is not impossible that some of the Psalmists may surpass the prophets in their deep insight into the Divine character, in their spiritual understanding of His purpose, and in their steadfast faith. Personal communion with Him may give such sense of His holiness and of human sinfulness, such apprehension of the way of salvation through the Messiah, that truths are seen by them which cannot yet be revealed by Him to the people at large, and promises dark to others are to them full of light.
We are here concerned with the Psalms only as regards the one point, — how far the Messianic beliefs of which we are speaking are found in them; and we may designate as Messianic Psalms all those that distinctly mention either of the three elements already spoken of as entering into the Messianic conception of the Jews. Their references to a suffering Messiah will be considered elsewhere.
1. The kingdom of Jehovah as now established in Israel, and to be established over all the earth. That Jehovah is the King of Israel, and will judge and rule all nations, is often declared in the Psalms. "The Lord is King for ever and ever." (x. 16.) "The kingdom is the Lord's, and He is the Governor among the nations." (xxii. 28.) "The Lord sitteth King for ever." (xxix. 10, xxiv. 7-10, cxlv. 13.) "He hath prepared His throne for judgment, and He shall judge the world in righteousness. . . . The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God." (ix. 17.) In several Psalms, mention is made of His coming to judge the earth. "For He cometh, He cometh to judge the earth." (xevi. 13.) "A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about. . . . The hills melted like wax at the Presence of the Lord, at the Presence of the Lord of the whole earth." (xcvii. 3, 5; xcviii. 9; lxxxii. 8.) Thus through His acts in judgment His universal Kingdom is established. "All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." (Ps. xxii. 27, cii. 15, cxxxviii. 4.)
2. In this Kingdom, His elect people will have the highest place; they are "His inheritance," they are "the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand." It is among them that He dwells, and through them that He manifests Himself to the nations. To them it belongs "to declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people." In the land which He had given them, upon Mount Zion, will He dwell, and from thence will He show forth His righteousness in the eyes of all nations. "The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell." (cxxxii. 13, 14.) "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King.''' (xlviii. 2.) "When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory." "From heaven did the Lord behold the earth, ... to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord." (cii. 16-22.)
3. In this kingdom there is a King under Jehovah, of the house of David. There are several allusions to the Davidic covenant: "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David: He will not turn from it." (cxxxii. 11,12, 17.) "He chose David His servant, and took him from the sheep-folds. . . . He brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance." (lxxviii. 70.) "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations." (lxxxix. 3, 4; xviii. 50, etc.)
Mention is also made in several Psalms of a King, an Anointed One, but nothing is said of His name or lineage. In Psalm ii. such a King is spoken of whom Jehovah has set upon His holy hill of Zion, and to whom He will "give the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession." In Psalm xx. prayers are offered for a King going forth to battle, and who is called His Anointed: "Now know I that the Lord saveth His Anointed." In the Psalm following (xxi.), thanksgiving is offered for His victorious return. In Psalm xlv. mention is made of the marriage of a King, who wins great victories, and of whom it is said, "I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the peoples praise thee for ever and ever." In Psalm lxxii. prayers are offered to God for a "king's Son," that He may rule the world in righteousness, and under whose rule all nations are blessed. In Psalm ex. Jehovah says to One whom the Psalmist calls his Lord, "Sit thou at my right hand. . . . Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek;" and to whom He gives the promise of victory over all His enemies.
Who is this King? Is one and the same person meant in all these Psalms? or did their writers refer each to some king of his own day? To answer this, we must consider them in the light of the Davidic covenant.
We have seen in our examination of this covenant, that in the promises made to David special mention is made of his house and of his kingdom as to abide forever, but not of any individual king: "Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee;" "thy throne shall be established for ever." (2 Sam. vii. 12, etc.) How did David understand this promise? That he applied it to himself, was not possible. Did he look for a succession of kings without end? or did he believe that one would come in due time in whom the promise could find its perfect and final realization,—one who would not die like all before him, but abide the eternal king, and administer an universal kingdom? Let us ask what light the Psalms give us on these points.
We can easily believe that David, as a man specially endowed by the Spirit, had an insight into the meaning of the promises made him respecting his Son deeper than any of his contemporaries or royal successors. (2 Sam. xxiii. 2.) It is plain from the Psalms generally admitted to be his, that he knew and felt the dignity of his place as Jehovah's king, His anointed, and had a just sense of the duties it involved. (Ps. xviii., ci.) But it was his chief honor to be the father of the Anointed One to come. Wherever, therefore, in any Psalm he speaks of a king in terms far surpassing any that could be justly applied to himself, we must suppose that he looks forward to his greater Son. There was, indeed, much which all his successors as theocratic kings must have in common, springing from a like relation to Jehovah. (Ps. lxxxix. 18, Rev. Ver.) Each might be called "His son;" "His king, seated on His holy hill;" "His anointed;" and, if faithful, each had the promise of His help to overcome all his enemies. And of David, as the first in the line of these kings, might all this be said in a pre-eminent degree; but not of himself, and of no successor except One, could it be said that he had an universal and eternal Kingdom.
If we now examine the Psalms generally ascribed to David in which mention is made of such a king, we shall see that his words can be fully understood only as applied to the Messiah. In Psalm ii. mention is made of a great assemblage of nations and peoples to cast off the rule of Jehovah and of His Anointed. Such rebellion, in a limited degree, might have occurred in the life of David, or of any one of his successors; but the language here clearly intimates that it is an universal and final attempt of the nations to free themselves from their subjection to the Lord and His King. The promise, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen" — the nations — " for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession: thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel," points to a full and absolute investiture of power, and to a last and complete victory over all enemies. Thus He by whom this is effected is marked out among the successors of David as the highest and the last. He is in such sense as none other "The Son of God," "The King," "The Anointed."
In Psalm xx., generally regarded as David's, — a prayer to be offered on his behalf when going forth to war,—there is nothing asked that might not have been fulfilled to him; but in Psalm xxi., also his, and a commemoration of a victory, there is a largeness of expression which makes its exclusive application to him difficult. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it Him, even length of days for ever and ever." "For thou hast made Him most blessed for ever." This length of days and eternal blessing belong much more to the Messiah than to David. (2 Sam. vii. 13; 1 Chron. xvii. 14.)
In Psalm ex. the writer, whom we cannot doubt to be David, clearly distinguishes between himself and another whom he calls his Lord: "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand." That these words were not spoken by David of himself, need scarcely be said. The writer in spirit sees one who is not only a king exalted to God's right hand, but a priest: "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek;" i.e., a priest sitting on a throne. This prerogative of priesthood did not belong to the sons of David as heirs of the throne, but is given to Him of whom the Psalmist speaks; and by this He is distinguished from all before Him. And this priesthood is given to Him as a personal prerogative, and secured to Him forever by Jehovah's oath.
It is this Royal Priest who is to be the instrument for executing Jehovah's judgments upon His enemies. "Jehovah will send the rod of thy strength out of Zion, rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." Then will His foes be made His footstool. Here is marked a new stage of Jehovah's actings, beginning in judgment upon the nations, and ending in their submission. Under His Royal Priest His universal Kingdom begins.
Let us now turn to those Psalms not written by David, which are generally regarded as Messianic, — the forty-fifth and seventy-second. The former seems to have been written on the occasion of a royal marriage. Who is this king? That he was of David's line may be assumed. Was he a king of the writer's own day? Of all the historical circumstances, except so far as the Psalm itself declares them, we are ignorant. That this king was regarded as a type of the Messiah, the Psalm as Messianic, both by the Jews and in the Church, is well known; and in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is quoted as having direct reference to the Son. "But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Let it be admitted that the term Elohim — God — is here used, as in some other places, in a secondary sense, or that the words may be rendered, as by some, "Thy throne is God's throne," and so are in themselves applicable to every successive theocratic king, still the other expressions used by him point to One pre-eminent among the sons of David. He is One loving righteousness and hating iniquity, and who is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows. His children shall be made princes in all the earth, His name shall be remembered in all generations, and be praised by the peoples for ever and ever.
But what significance, as applied to the Messiah, has the marriage relation? By the queen cannot be meant the Jewish people, since she is bidden to forget her own people and her father's house, which plainly implies that she is of foreign lineage. If it be prophetically spoken of Christ and the Church, the words find an easy application. The queen is the type of the Church, the Lamb's wife, gathered from all nations. (Eph. v. 32; Rev. xix. 7.) It is of the children of the Church, the sons of God, that He will set princes in the earth. But it must be acknowledged that this mention of the new election, and of its special relation to the Messiah, is such as is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament.
In the seventy-second Psalm we find mention made of One, a king's Son, and in the order of royal succession, to whom is given a kingdom of righteousness and peace without end. "All kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall serve Him. . . . They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. . . . His name shall endure for ever." In this Psalm a King appears under whom there are such righteousness and peace in the earth as never before. Nor is His rule one of force, though no enemies can stand before Him, and "He breaks in pieces the oppressor." The establishment of the kingdom is not here described, as in Psalms ii. and ex., but its order and prosperity and universality when established. And the King under whom this is done is thus clearly distinguished from all those before Him, whose rule had been so partial in extent and imperfect in character.
Thus our examination shows us that while, to all the successors of David as Jehovah's kings certain promises are made, all if faithful are to be upheld by Him, and their people, under their righteous rule, will have internal prosperity and peace, and strength to overcome all enemies from without; yet there are certain points in which one King and His reign are distinguished in all these Psalms from all kings and reigns before Him. It is an universal Kingdom; the whole earth is His inheritance; all nations are subject to Him, and under His sway righteousness and peace everywhere prevail. It is a kingdom without end; the kingdom now attains its permanent form. Jehovah has found One who can be in the highest sense His King and His Priest, and thus His purpose in His people can be accomplished. Now He is known and obeyed and worshipped in all the earth, by all peoples; and He by whom He acts, in all His works, both of judgment and of blessing, is a Son of David. This King is thus lifted up above all of His predecessors.
In certain Psalms of uncertain date (xcvi.-xcix.) mention is made of the coming of Jehovah to judge the earth, and to establish His kingdom; and yet nothing is said of the Messiah, or of any one of David's line. How is this to be explained? It is said by some that these Psalms were written after the Babylonian exile, and at the time of the rebuilding of the temple, when the house of David no longer sat on the throne. If it be so, we may understand how the desire for Jehovah's return to His holy city to reign again over them, might put out of mind the remembrance of the promised One of the house of David; for not till the old theocratic relation, broken at the national overthrow, was re-established, and Jehovah dwell again on His holy hill of Zion, could His King administer the government under Him. To Him, therefore, rather than to the Ruler under Him, were the eyes of the Psalmist turned, as even now we call on God to arise in judgment, although we know that all judgment is given to the Son. (John v. 22.) Or it may be, that in the mind of the Psalmist the two were inseparably associated, — the revelation of Jehovah to judge the world in righteousness, and the appearing of Him of the house of David, to whom He would give the rule over the nations. That this coming of Jehovah was not merely for the restoration of the old order, — the state of things before the exile, — is plain from its terms. He appears in terrible majesty; "a fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about, His lightnings enlightened the world, the earth saw and trembled, the hills melted like wax at the Presence of the Lord." In this day not only does "He remember His mercy and His truth toward the house of Israel," but "all the ends of the earth see the salvation of God," all the earth is called upon to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, to rejoice and sing praise. "He hath done marvellous things, His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory." It is plain that this day is the same as that spoken of in the other Psalms, in which Jehovah acts in judgment through His Anointed King, and by Him rules over all the nations.
We thus find, in some of the Psalms, clear proof that their writers looked forward to the universal kingdom of Jehovah, to be administered by a Son of David; and that this Son was to be distinguished from all His predecessors. The impossibility of arranging the Psalms in a defined chronological order renders it impossible to trace in them the growth of Messianic beliefs; nor can we say how general at any period was the knowledge among the people of the purpose of the Davidic covenant as fulfilled in the Messiah, or expectation of its speedy fulfillment. If their hopes reached only to a renewal of the prosperity and glory of the kingdom in the days of David and Solomon, then each successive occupant of the throne may have been looked upon as one who might do this. As all the kings of this family had in virtue of the Davidic covenant a kind of Messianic character, there is no reason why a Psalm may not have been written of any one of them, in which desires are expressed and prayers offered for the fulfillment of all the promises to David.
But if such hopes were early cherished, and find expression in some Psalms, the national experience soon showed how sadly the house of David failed to respond to its high calling. Of the great disappointment of the national hope, Psalm lxxxix. is an expression, and also an appeal to God to remember His faithfulness, and fulfill His oath to David. It is plain that this Psalmist, who may have lived at the time of the exile, looked for the restoration of David's house, and in the person of One in whom the covenant promises would have their complete and final fulfillment.
THE PRESENTATION IN THE LAW AND PROPHETS AND PSALMS OF A SUFFERING MESSIAH.
The knowledge which the Jews could have had of a suffering Messiah, one who should die for the sins of the world, could have been drawn from three sources only: first, from patriarchal traditions, resting on earlier Divine revelations; second, from the rites and teachings of the law; third, from the words of inspired men, — prophets and psalmists. But as the conception of a suffering Messiah cannot be separated from the consciousness of sin, and to develop this consciousness was a chief end in the spiritual education of men, thus to prepare them to receive the promised Redeemer; of this development we must first speak. And we may mark three stages: that before the law, that under the law, and that since Pentecost under the Spirit. It is with the first two of these stages that we are here concerned; the last will be considered later.
But, before these points are historically considered, we may note the distinction between the consciousness of personal sin and the knowledge of the corruption of human nature as a form of being originally good, but become evil, and so rejected of God. In all times and among all peoples there have been the consciousness of personal sin, the sense of guilt and fear of Divine punishment; and these have entered as essential elements into all religions. But knowledge of the evil condition into which our humanity was brought by the sin of Adam, making it incapable of answering the end of its creation, and that there must be a second Adam to restore what had been lost, could not be given, at least in its full measure, till the Incarnate Son came in "the likeness of sinful flesh," and died and rose again. Then was it revealed, that only through "the law of the Spirit of life in Him " could men be set free from the law of sin and of death.
1. We may now inquire as to the degree of consciousness of sin before the time of the law, and what knowledge was then given of a Redeemer, and of His expiatory work. The general character of the antediluvian, or patriarchal, period has already been spoken of. It was the period of infancy; the capacities of humanity had not yet been proved, nor its dormant propensities to evil been quickened into full activity. It was not possible that men in the earliest times should have known the full power of sin, what depths of evil were in it, its many forms of hostility to God, and its destructive energies: these could be revealed only in the experience of the race. But we may believe that from the first there was in fallen man the consciousness that he was fallen, and morally unclean, and deserving of punishment. He knew that he was separated from God, banished from His Presence, and brought under the law of death; the ground had been cursed because of his disobedience, and his earthly life made one of toil and weariness. And we may believe that the consciousness of sin was deeper and more active in the earliest fathers than in the later antediluvian generations, as the memory of their intercourse with God in Eden was yet fresh, and their conceptions of Him, as there revealed, more distinct and vivid. That there was early in patriarchal history a loss of the sense of sin is clearly implied in the biblical narrative. That this primitive and deeper consciousness of separation from God involved in it, as a necessary element, a belief in a Mediator, — one to stand between the sinful and God, and through whom alone Divine forgiveness could be obtained, — we do not say. But it served as a basis for the revelation of such a Mediator to come, " the Seed of the woman that should bruise the serpent's head;" and also as a basis for the institution of the rite of animal sacrifice.
In the promise of the Seed of the woman, the first victory of good over evil was assured. But by whom was it to be won? Was it then understood as the promise of a personal Deliverer? We can scarce doubt this, and that it continued during the antediluvian period to be the hope of the faithful. But the victory was not to be won without a struggle; the heel of the victor should be bruised: and it may be that under the figure of "the bruising of the heel," the first patriarchs saw some form of personal suffering predicted; possibly His death. But, as with many words of God respecting the future, the truth wrapped up in them was of slow growth; for promises that embrace ages can be but partially understood by those to whom they are spoken.
What knowledge of the mode of redemption, or of the person of the Redeemer, was gained through the rite of animal sacrifice, it is not easy to say; but of its meaning Adam and his children must have had some apprehension. They saw the special calling of the priest as a mediator, and that without an offering for sin — the shedding of blood — there was no acceptable approach to God; and the idea of mediation must have become familiar to them, and in some degree that of substitution. Every father was in a measure a priestly mediator. (Job i. 5.) More light may have been given them, both as regards sacrifices and the purpose of God in the Deliverer, than is recorded in the very brief biblical narrative; but, even if so, it is not probable that there was at so early a period such consciousness of sin, and such knowledge of the corruption of human nature, that the full meaning of sacrifice as to be realized in the Lamb of God was seen, or that need was felt of One who should die and rise again — the Just for the unjust — to bring men to God.
2. The consciousness of sin under the law, and the knowledge then given of the Redeemer and His work. Leaving it, as we must, undefined what knowledge respecting a suffering Redeemer was handed down from the early patriarchs to Abraham and his children, new light was given them through the Mosaic appointments. As they were the elect people, and as the promised Seed of the woman was to be of the seed of Abraham, the discernment of His work among them as one of redemption from sin depended on their consciousness of sin; and this, therefore, must be enlarged and deepened. In a twofold way was this done under the Theocracy: on the one side God manifested Himself to His people as the Holy One, and on the other the law He gave brought to light the evil in their hearts. By admitting His people into immediate intercourse with Himself, Divine Holiness was brought into direct contrast to human sinfulness. To all other peoples He was a God afar off; but He dwelt among them, and the place of His habitation was holy. "I am the Lord your God; ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves; and ye shall be holy, for I am holy." And, on the other side, by the law was given the knowledge of sin. (Rom. iii. 20.) "I had not known sin but by the law," says the apostle. Now was disclosed, as never before, the power of the rebellious will, how strong the lusts of the flesh, and the tendencies to idol-worship, and how great the enmity of the carnal mind to God's holy rule. Thus through the law there was brought into clearer consciousness man's alienation from God, and his obstinate opposition to His will. Testing themselves by His righteous commands, the faithful among His people learned to know themselves as sinful, and this more and more in each successive generation. And that there was more than the consciousness of personal sins, that there was, at least in some, the knowledge of the corruption of human nature, appears from the Psalms, (li. 5, lviii. 3.)
As God dwelling among the people was manifested to them as the Holy One, and His righteousness revealed through the law, and their sinfulness was thus brought into clearer light, the necessity of redemption was more deeply felt. But by whom should this redemption be effected? Who could stand between them and God? Must there not be a High Priest to come, holier than those of Aaron's line? Through the sacrifices of the law, so sharply discriminated and carefully set in order, each with its own special purpose and typical meaning, and especially through the greater sin-offering, were their eyes directed forward to One who should make an atonement for them, that would need no repetition. It may be that a few in all generations, made through the law deeply conscious of personal transgressions, and of the evil in their hearts, and specially illumined by the Spirit, saw that the blood of animal sacrifices could not take away sin, and that these must be typical of a sacrifice to be offered more truly redemptive. And to such the primal promise of the Seed of the woman would have new and higher meaning. But was this Seed of the woman to be identified with their Messiah? Was the Son of David to bruise the serpent's head, and His heel to be bruised? Was He typified in the sacrifices of the law, and His blood to be shed for the sin of His people? If a definite belief of a vicarious sacrifice to be offered by the Messiah, and of atonement through His blood, was in fact attained to by any through the types of the law, it was by very few only. It was through the prophets, therefore, that the Messiah must be set forth as one to suffer and die. And we must ask what were the conditions that determined these prophetic revelations.
In general, it is to be kept in mind that the words of the prophets were determined, first of all, by the covenant relations of the people to whom they spake; and, second, by the circumstances of the times. As there was progress to a definite end in the history of this people, so there was progress in the revelations to them of God's truth. His purpose in the Messiah embraced all men in its results. He was to be the Redeemer of all, — "the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world." (John i. 29.) As made to the first parents of the race, the promise of the Seed of the woman was made to all their children; but the higher truths respecting Him, His person and His work, could be spoken only to that one people which God had chosen, and prepared to hear by His previous training. As the nations at large knew nothing of the Son of David, who under Jehovah should rule over all the earth, so they knew nothing of Him as one who should save them from sin by His sacrifice upon the cross. God's revelations by His prophets of the Messianic salvation were not made to them, for they could not have understood them.
Hence it was, as will be seen, that in the presentation of a suffering Messiah, the prophets speak of Him primarily in His relations to the elect people. He suffers to restore them to God's favor. Of the bearings of His sacrifice on other nations who stand in no covenant relations to Him, they do not speak. In due time it would be made known to them that His redemptive work embraced all the children of Adam, both the living and the dead: but the words of the prophets were to the children of Abraham; and the revelation to the nations of His purpose in His Son must be through them when fully instructed in His ways and made ready for His kingdom.
Of the threefold work of the Messiah to be fulfilled in redemption according to the Divine purpose, as the Sacrifice on the cross, as the High Priest in heaven, and as the theocratic King and Judge, the last was first set forth by the earlier prophets. It could not, in the nature of the case, have been otherwise, each new revelation of the Divine purpose in Him resting upon the preceding; and it was God's promise to David of the Son to sit on his throne, that gave definite form to the Messianic expectation. This is not to deny that the great lessons of the law were Sacrifice and Atonement; no promise of a King could supersede them, for they lie at the basis of redemption. But the prophetic presentation of the Redeemer is primarily as the Ruler under Jehovah of the elect people. To the Jews abiding faithful to their covenant, the only intelligible presentation that could be made of their Messiah of the royal house of David, was that of a King who should reign in righteousness, and whose coming is an object of hope. As He comes to administer the kingdom under Jehovah, if the people were walking at His coming in obedience to Jehovah, they would welcome Him and His holy rule. A voluntary rejection of Him would not be possible. It was not, therefore, consistent with their position as His faithful elect, that the prophet should announce a Messiah whom they would reject and crucify, and so bring on themselves Jehovah's terrible judgments. And yet His sacrifice on the cross for all men must precede His work as their King. How, then, could a knowledge of a suffering Messiah be brought to His people in a manner consistent with their moral trial? It is plain that only in view of a change in their original relations to Jehovah, could such an announcement be made. And this change took place at the time of the Babylonian exile.
In the Messianic conception springing from the covenant with David, the Messiah is one who succeeds to the throne in virtue of His royal descent. He is the rightful heir. And coming as a King, there must be an independent nation over which He can reign. He is not one who must be the Redeemer of His people before He can reign over them, for this presupposes some condition of national bondage out of which they are to be redeemed. Jehovah had redeemed them when he brought them up out of Egypt. (Deut. vii. 8.) And this position of national independence they should have preserved; but coming again into bondage, they must be again delivered. The Son of David, therefore, must restore them to freedom before He can reign over them.
We now see why the Messiah could not have been presented by the prophets as the Redeemer of Israel, till the Babylonian captivity was near in the prophetic vision. A change was approaching in the relation of the nation to Jehovah. Because of its persistent violations of the covenant, He was about to forsake His holy city, and scatter the people among the nations. Nor would He spare the royal family. The Messiah, therefore, could not succeed to the throne in regular succession as all the kings before Him had done; He must first restore the nation and rebuild the throne. Thus, as they saw the captivity approaching, they were able to understand that the Messianic Kingdom must be preceded by a work of national deliverance.
We may now inquire as to the nature of this deliverance. And we must first note the nature of the new captivity. It was not like that in Egypt. From Egypt Jehovah had brought them forth that He might make them His people, and constitute them a nation. Their special covenant relation to Him was not formed till He had brought them to Sinai. (Exod. xix. 5.) But their captivity in Babylon, and in all its subsequent stages, was a punishment inflicted by their covenant God because of its violations. Although His own people, He brought them under the bondage of the heathen as the expression of His righteous anger against them. As the greatness of their sin, so the severity of their chastisement.
This evil condition into which they had fallen necessarily presented a new aspect of the Messiah's work. He could not now come as a King to a people obedient, and waiting in joyful hope for His appearing, but to a people rebellious and apostate, and suffering under sore judgments. How could He deliver them? What were the elements of the deliverance to be wrought? We may speak of them as threefold: first, the turning away of God's anger, and the remission of their sins; second, their repentance and confession; third, their liberation from the hand of their enemies, and their restoration to their own land and to their place. All these must be done before the Messianic Kingdom could be set up.
The first and great step in this work of deliverance was to turn away the just anger of Jehovah, and to restore His people to His favor. Even if there were seen on their part genuine repentance and true confession, yet a sense of sin and its confession were not sufficient in themselves to obtain its remission. Through the law they had been taught that "without shedding of blood there is no remission" of sin. The guilty cannot make atonement for themselves; there is need of a Mediator, and forgiveness must rest upon the ground of a special sacrifice. Even in the case of individual transgressors, a sacrifice must be offered, a victim slain, and its blood sprinkled by the priest. (Lev. iv.) So must it be for the sins of the nation; there must be a like work of priestly mediation, an atonement must be made for the people, that they might be cleansed from their sins before the Lord. (Lev. xvi.) After this had been done, they could be restored to their original standing as Jehovah's people, and receive the fulfillment of His promises.
To sum up what has been said: By His prophets God made known to His people that because of their sins a day of judgment was approaching; they must be cast out of their land, and be scattered abroad till "they accept the punishment of their iniquity;" then should their sins be forgiven, and they be restored. But this forgiveness must rest on the basis of a sacrifice offered for them, like that offered for the expiation of national sins on the Day of Atonement. And who should offer this sacrifice? It must be the Son of David, who should not only be a King, but also a Priest. (Ps. ex.)
In all this there was nothing that a spiritually-minded Jew might not have apprehended. Kingship and priesthood were familiar in their practical exercise, and both might have their highest representation in the Messiah. But was this all? Was the sacrifice by which their sins were to obtain remission, only a repetition of the sacrifices offered at Sinai? Was it the blood of bullocks and of goats that was again to be sprinkled upon the people? (Exod. xxiv. 8.) This involved no suffering on the part of the Messiah, it was simply the fulfillment of His priestly functions.
How, then, was the fact to be made known, that the Messiah must offer Himself as an expiatory sacrifice? He must be the Victim as well as the Priest. But how could this fact be made known? Could the mystery of His Person be then revealed, and the people be taught that the Son of God should become man, and so become the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? This was not then possible; for the knowledge of this mystery presupposed the knowledge of many truths respecting the nature of the Godhead, and of the Divine purpose in man, which they could not in this stage of spiritual culture understand. That God would "send His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, to condemn sin in the flesh," was not apprehended till He came and died and rose again. Yet, on the other hand, if they saw in Him only a man, a partaker like other men of a corrupt nature, how could He offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin? Or was His suffering for His own people only, and in kind like that of any just man who gives up himself for the good of his country?
Thus it is obvious, that to make known the true nature of the Messiah's sacrifice as the Incarnate Son before He came, was intrinsically impossible; yet, if He were believed to be a mere man, false notions of that sacrifice were inevitable. But a partial revelation was possible, — one preparatory to a higher to follow. He could be presented to the people in terms that indicated at least a superhuman character, — one more than man; and those who meditated earnestly and reverently on the prophetic words must have had some anticipations, if vague, of His exceeding dignity and greatness. To their eye, He appeared as a dim but majestic form filling the future. As in the vision of the prophet, they saw "the likeness of a throne, and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it." In this was shown to them that the fulfillment of the Divine promises respecting the universal kingdom could be only through One far higher than any of the sons of men. And such an One, not only a King, but "a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek," might offer a sacrifice for the remission of their sins, and in some way, not clearly understood, bear their iniquities. What the apostle says of us all even in this present higher stage of revelation, that we "see through a glass darkly," was far more applicable to them. As the resurrection life and the new heaven and earth are still mysteries to us, so to them were the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory that should follow.
We may now inquire what God was pleased to reveal by His prophets respecting the sacrifice of the Messiah.
It was by the prophet Isaiah that He made the fullest and clearest revelation. And why by this prophet and in his time? Such questions can be at best but partially answered. We see, however, a fitness that Isaiah, to whom it was given, as we have already seen, to reveal the purpose of God in some new and most important particulars, and who was permitted to behold in vision the Messiah on His throne, and was thus capable of speaking in the most exalted terms of His glory, should also speak most distinctly of His humiliation and sufferings. And the time during which he prophesied was one of great moment to the world, and especially to the elect nation. The king of Assyria — the founder of the Second Empire — had already made his power felt by both Judah and Israel, and every year beheld him a more threatening and dangerous enemy. And still obscure but visible to the prophet's anointed eye was the rising Empire of Babylon, the instrument of God to punish with overthrow and exile His disobedient people. (Isa. xxxviii. 6.) The dark shadows of coming judgments fell athwart the land. By timely repentance, they might be averted; but the prophet knew that they would not hearken to his words. He had heard the seraphim cry, "Holy, holy, holy;" and he was filled with a sense of his own un cleanness, and that of his people. So far had they fallen from their covenant standing, that God must address their rulers as "the rulers of Sodom," and the people as "the people of Gomorrah." (i. 10.)
Thus the time of this prophet was one of great national peril, whether viewed from without or within. Upon all who had any true apprehension of the love of Jehovah to them as shown in their election, of His continued goodness, and of their unthankfulness and persistent transgressions, and who believed the prophetic announcements of the punishment about to come on them, the present evils must have rested as a heavy burden. They saw that the anger of God was kindled against His people; and how should His anger be turned away? It was, therefore, a fitting time to declare to such that their Messiah would stand up for them; that He would offer Himself as a sacrifice, "the Just for the unjust, to bring them to God." It is true that the real nature of that sacrifice to be offered for them could not then have been understood, even by the more spiritual; but they could understand that only through this sacrifice could God's anger be turned away, and their sins be forgiven them. And they could understand, also, that the sufferings of the Messiah must precede His glory.
No prophet has given so high a presentation of the Messiah's person as Isaiah. He is "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom." This presentation of Him as King precedes the mention of Him as the suffering servant, for the greatness of His person makes more conceivable the thought of Him as the sacrifice for the sin of His people. (Isa. ix. 6, 7.)
It is in his later prophecies that Isaiah presents the figure of the suffering Messiah. Upon the peculiar character of these, we have already had occasion to remark. He speaks as one standing at the end of the long captivity, — that period of rejection and desolation of which he himself had spoken (vi. 11-13), and of which the Babylonian exile was only the first stage, — when the discipline of God had done its intended work, and that remnant, long sought for, had been found to whom He could speak comfort, because conscious of their sins and truly penitent. ." Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." As the poor in spirit, the meek, the broken-hearted, they are prepared to say: "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." (xii. 1.) And then can He give command to His prophets: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, and her punishment is accepted." (xl. 1, etc., Rev. Ver.) Being now truly penitent, He can fulfill, to them all His promises. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." "Then will the Lord be unto thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." Thus " the remnant shall return unto the mighty God." "A little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation."
Thus, at the end of the days, through God's dealings with them, are wrought in a remnant a deep consciousness of sin, and true sorrow and penitence; and they will rejoice in the fulfillment of the promise of the suffering Messiah. And to such, of the prophet's own day, and of all the years down to the end, in whom a like spirit was found, the knowledge that on Him the Lord would lay the iniquities of the people, gave the assurance of their future redemption, and filled their hearts with hope. (Luke ii. 38.)
It is this prophet who gives special emphasis also to the fact that the people must be holy, to have communion with God in His kingdom. He often calls Him by the name of "the Holy One of Israel."
This name is almost peculiar to Isaiah, being found rarely elsewhere, and only in writings of a late date. Its use by this prophet is in harmony with his place as the one who discerned most clearly the sinfulness of the people, and the spiritual demands of Jehovah upon them. As separated unto Him, they were holy: "I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other peoples, that ye should be mine." (Lev. xx. 26.) But now because of their unholiness they will soon cease to be severed, they will be scattered among the nations. It is necessary, therefore, that they be often reminded, in the prophecies which look forward to the restoration, that Jehovah is "the Holy One of Israel, whom they have provoked unto anger." (i. 4.) They cannot remain in their unholiness; if restored, it must be as "the holy seed,"—• "the remnant that shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth." (x. 20.) And then Zion shall be called "the Zion of the Holy One of Israel." This designation thus becomes most emphatic, as pointing to the future and showing what is demanded of the people before they can be restored. We may note, also, the use of the term "Redeemer" — Goel — in this prophet. This term, in the family relations of the Hebrews, denoted one who, as nearest of kin, was "the avenger of blood," and the redeemer of the enslaved poor, and of the lost inheritance. (Num. xxxvi. 12; Lev. xxv. 25.) God had redeemed the people from their bondage in Egypt, and been their avenger upon their oppressors. "I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments." (Exod. vi. 6.) "Thou hast led forth thy people which thou hast redeemed." (xv. 13.) Thus Jehovah was their Goel. But this term could not be used of Him again except with reference to a new captivity and a new redemption. Having forfeited their land, to Him it belongs to redeem it, — to restore the old landmarks that had been removed. (Ps. lxxiv. 2; Prov. xxiii. 10, 11.) And as this redemption, embracing both the land and its enslaved possessors, is especially the burden of Isaiah's later prophecies, it is in these prophecies that Jehovah is presented as the Redeemer, — Goel,—and the people as "the redeemed." In most cases the Redeemer is also designated as the "Holy One of Israel:" "Thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel." (xli. 14.) "Thus saith the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." (xliii. 14.) "Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer;" "Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One." It is the King of Israel, the Holy One of Israel, who must be the Redeemer of Israel. Thus these elements, all having Messianic significance, are united in the presentation of the Deliverer to come. How far, through these terms, the people may have understood that the promised King of David's line was the Holy One of Israel, and their Redeemer, — Goel, — it is not possible to say. Isaiah at least, to whom the vision of the Messiah was given, may probably have known that one and the same Person was meant, and have seen in "the Redeemer that should come to Zion," "the Virgin's Son," "the Branch out of the roots of Jesse," of whom the Spirit had spoken by him. But the law as to the redemption wrought by a kinsman, would naturally direct the thoughts of all to Him as one of their own kin, to whom such an office would properly belong, and yet One able to avenge and redeem.
It is true that the office of the Goel does not necessarily involve any personal suffering on his part; but the name, whether used of Jehovah or the Messiah, brings out clearly the condition of those to be redeemed, and so taught the Jews into what bondage their sins had brought them, and the need of a Redeemer. (Isa. lxiii. 1-6.)
But the name that points most distinctly to the suffering Messiah is that of "The Servant of Jehovah," which is found in the latter part of Isaiah, (xl.-lxvi.) To understand the application of this term to Him, we must consider its general usage in this prophet. The people as such had been chosen by God to serve and honor Him. "This people have I found for myself: they shall show forth my praise." "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for thou art my servant. I have formed thee; thou art my servant." (xliv. 21.) But the service He sought they had not rendered. "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities." But although His people as such had failed to serve Him, the obedient servant, if but a remnant, must be found among them; and, from the nature of the case, this obedience would demand the highest degree of self-sacrifice and of devotion to Jehovah. At the head of this remnant should He stand who is the Servant, and who is obedient even unto death.
It is not easy, indeed, to determine in all cases the exact application of the term, "servant of Jehovah," as used in Isaiah, — whether to the whole elect people as such; or to the faithful few among them in the prophet's day; or to the last remnant, — the Holy Seed; or to Him who is such in an especial manner,—the obedient One, the Messiah. But there are some passages which cannot well be referred to any but Him, since there is such contrast between the people and this Servant that by the latter an individual is clearly meant. (Isa. xlii. 1-5, xlix. 5-7.) As to the nature of this service, in all the Messiah does He is acting for Jehovah, — One raised up to declare His will and to fulfill His purpose; and the term "Servant" is therefore applicable to Him in all the offices He fills, even the highest. But there is one work in which the term finds its fullest application, as showing the highest measure of self-renunciation and obedience: it is in the offering up of Himself for the sins of His people. He must take their iniquities upon Him, He must humble Himself, and suffer in their stead, and be obedient even unto death, that He may thus reconcile them to God. To do this, it is necessary that He put aside the royal honor that belongs to Him as David's Son and Heir, and take the lowest place, — a place of suffering and shame. And this work is one in which none can aid Him; it is purely personal.
The first intimation of this lowest form of service is found in Isaiah: "Thus saith the Lord, ... to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth, to a Servant of rulers." (xlix. 7.) But the fullest declaration is to be found in chapters lii. and liii. It is unnecessary to cite words so familiar, or to say more than that One is here to us presented who is despised and rejected of men, and stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But His sufferings were not for Himself; upon Him the Lord laid the iniquity of all. "He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed." Because of the transgression of His people was He cut off out of the land of the living, but He was to rise again from the dead. "He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. ... I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong."
We have here One presented who is rejected by His people under circumstances of special ignominy and reproach. "He pours out His soul unto death, and is numbered with the transgressors." But He suffers and dies for others; He is stricken for the transgressions of His people; on Him the Lord laid the iniquity of all. But He does not continue in the realms of the dead. He rises again, He is exalted, and made very high. He becomes an Intercessor. He shall sprinkle many nations, He shall see His seed, and shall justify many. Who can be meant here but the Messiah? To whom beside was it possible for the Jews to apply them? Why, then, it may be asked, did not the Jews in general so understand them? Two reasons may be given: 1. The lack of such apprehension of their sins against their covenant, and of God's anger with them, that the need of such a sacrifice could be felt. They could not see that the first work of the Messiah must be to make an atonement for them and cleanse them. In their subjection to their heathen masters, and feeling keenly their servitude, their natural thought was of One who by a strong arm should set them free, and bring back the glory of the Davidic reign. Thus the national bondage, which should have been a continual reminder of the transgressions which had brought it upon them, and have awakened in them a profound sense of sin and earnest desire for the coming of the suffering One, who should stand in their stead, and by whose stripes they should be healed, was looked upon rather as a wrong done by the heathen to Jehovah in their person, and which it belonged to Him to avenge. 2. The high place given after the exile to the law, and the great value set upon its literal observance as making righteous. The tendency of this was to make the thought of any sacrifice to be offered by the Messiah for their sins incredible because unnecessary. This point will be more fully spoken of in another place.
It may be said that the Messiah is here presented as suffering, not for the sin of the world, but for the sins of the Jewish people; and for their sins as a people, rather than for the sins of individuals. Upon the first point some remarks have already been made. It is in His special relation to the covenant people that Isaiah here presents the Messiah. "For the transgression of my people was He stricken." The bearing of that sacrifice upon other nations and upon all men, as the "propitiation for the sins of the whole world," could not be made clearly known to them till it had been accomplished.
As to the second point, that the sacrifice of the Messiah is presented as offered rather for the sin of the nation as such than for the sins of individuals, much light is cast upon it by the rites of the Day of Atonement. The appointment of this day as a yearly fast was to the end that an atonement might be made, first for the priesthood, and then for all the people, having especial reference to their worship as defiled by their sins. Upon this day every individual was called upon to afflict his soul: "For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people." (Lev. xxiii. 29.) After atonement had been made for the priests, the high priest kills "the goat of the sin offering that is for the people," and sprinkles its blood, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even of all their sins." "This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel because of all their sins, once in the year." (Lev. xvi. 15-24.)
Thus the sacrifices of this day had both an individual and a national application. No Jew thought of himself as separated from his people, and obtaining a blessedness which was purely personal; he must share in the common good or evil. The spheres of individual and of national life were so closely united in the Jewish mind that they could not be separated. The sense of national sin, bringing with it the loss of God's favor and the hiding of His face, could not but deepen in each heart the sense of its own sin and loss; and, on the other hand, the consciousness of personal sin must deepen the sense of God's anger against national sin. He who felt the guilt of his own transgression, would feel most strongly the guilt of the national transgressions. As the sacrifice to be offered by the Messiah was for the whole people, so was it for every individual member, but under the condition that each one "afflict his soul." To one not thus afflicted it had no cleansing efficacy, but he should be cut off from among his people. He would have no part in the Messianic salvation.
Clear as the meaning of the prophet's words is to us, the Jews at no period seemed to have had any clear apprehension of it. That one should die for all, and that He should become the Source of a new and higher life through resurrection, were truths that could be rightly known only as the time of their fulfillment came.
In the prophet Zechariah, after the exile, we find additional particulars respecting a suffering Messiah. (Chaps, xi.-xiii.) A commission is given to one to feed the flock, because their own shepherds failed to do this, But this Divinely appointed Shepherd is rejected and despised by the unthankful flock. And when He says to them, "If ye think good, give me my hire," they weighed for His hire thirty pieces of silver, — the price of a slave. This ingratitude of His people, shown in their treatment of Jehovah's Shepherd, found its highest expression in the reward given to Judas for the betrayal of the Lord, — a pitiful sum, but enough in the eyes of the rulers for the life of " the Prophet of Galilee," and, although they knew it not, "the Good Shepherd who giveth His life for the sheep." (xi. 4, etc.)
Again, mention is made of one whom His people have pierced, or slain, and for whom they shall repent and mourn. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him." (xii. 10.) In these words, as applied by the apostle, reference is made by the prophetic spirit to Jesus as the Incarnate Son, — very God and very Man. (John xix. 34, Rev. i. 7.) *• They shall look upon me — they shall mourn for Him." In Isaiah mention is made of His death, but not by whom He is slain; here it is ascribed to His own people. Even if the words refer, as claimed by some, to a true prophet of that day, slain by the people as a false prophet, they would still have their highest fulfillment in Him who was sent of God, and rejected and slain.
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts." (xiii. 7.) Who is this shepherd and fellow of Jehovah? It might perhaps be any one who helps Him in the care of His flock. But the Lord's words applying it to Himself show that, as in the earlier passages just cited, it has its especial fulfillment in Him. (Matt. xxvi. 31.) He is the rejected Shepherd, He is the Man, the Fellow of God.
Let us now turn to the Psalms, to see what indications we may find in them of a suffering Messiah. We have already seen that a king is presented in several Psalms, in terms that could not have been realized in any king that sat on David's throne. So in others we find a sufferer, whose sufferings are not only extraordinary, but stand in a special relation to the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom. The most noticeable of these Psalms is the twenty-second, which we must briefly consider. The whole tenor of this Psalm shows that it is a personal one, the record of personal experiences. There is much in it that might have happened to a faithful servant of Jehovah in an evil time, as for example to Jeremiah, to whom some ascribe it. The Psalmist is "forsaken of God,"' "a reproach of men, and despised of the people;" he is in great bodily affliction; "all my bones are out of joint, . . . my tongue cleaveth to my jaws, and Thou hast brought me into the dust of death." "The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me, they pierced my hands and my feet." If the piercing of his hands and feet refers to crucifixion, it can scarcely be historical, for such punishment was not then inflicted; but according to many it should be rendered "they bound," rather than "they pierced." (Rev. Ver., margin.) It is most probable that the Lord's hands and feet were both bound and pierced.
But granting that much said in this Psalm of persecution and personal outrage might have been realized in the experience of the writer, yet there are clear indications that the Spirit of God looked beyond the present to a greater Sufferer. The person so afflicted is evidently one of great eminence, whose deliverance is a matter of national interest, and a proof to all the people that Jehovah hears the cry of the afflicted. (Verse 23.) This might indeed have been true of David or of Jeremiah; but it could not be said of them, as is said here, that their personal sufferings stood in any direct relations to the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom. "The meek shall eat and be satisfied: ... all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's." Only of some very extraordinary one could it be said that his deliverance was of such moment that all the nations should be brought thereby to the worship of God. In the Messiah only could it be said that this Psalm has its complete fulfillment, both as to the sufferings and the glory that should follow. (Isa. liii. 12.)
There is also in this Psalm a clear prophetic reference to the remnant. "A seed shall serve Him, it shall be counted unto the Lord for His generation." (Rev. Ver., margin.) Or, as rendered by some, "He shall be accounted as Lord to that generation." (Verse 30.) A people is to be born, and this people is identical with the "seed," or "generation of the future," — the remnant spoken of by the prophets. As was said by Isaiah, "He shall see His seed." (Ps. cii. 18; Isa. liii. 10.)
A like Psalm is the sixty-ninth. Here, as before, the writer is in deep distress. "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." . . . "They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head." And they hate and persecute him because of his faithfulness to Jehovah. "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me." But this Psalm differs from the earlier one in the confession of personal sin (verse 5), and in imprecations upon his enemies. (Verse 22, etc.) There is nothing in this Psalm that may not have been in some measure in the experience of any faithful servant of God in a time of apostasy. Here also there is, though not so distinctly expressed, a connection between the writer's sufferings and the salvation of Zion. (xxxiv.-xxxvi.) Both of these Psalms were quoted and applied by the Lord to Himself.
In many other Psalms there is confession of sin, sometimes national, sometimes personal; and there is in some a remarkable blending of the two. In Psalm li. the Psalmist, whether David or another, makes confession of his sin, and asks forgiveness, and then by a sudden transition passes from himself to the people and its distress. "Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion, build Thou the walls of Jerusalem."
Thus we find in the Prophets and the Psalms an ideal — not imaginary — Sufferer; One in whom the idea of suffering is fulfilled. He stands as Mediator between the sinful people and their offended God, and bears the punishment of their iniquity. To His sufferings, which had been foreshadowed in the law, and foretold by the prophets, the Psalmists give personal expression. It was not consistent with the moral trial of the people and their free action that the Sufferer should be distinctly mentioned; nor could the true nature of His Sacrifice, or its bearing upon all men, be known till the Incarnate Son died and rose again. Yet so much light was given to the chosen people that the Lord could say to them: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Luke xxiv. 25, 26; 44-46.)