Book traversal links for Remarks On The Prophetic Word (continued)
Jeremiah is speaking continually in the name of the remnant. In chapter 15, for instance, he speaks for all Israel, and then he returns immediately to the remnant. It is the testimony which God gives to His people of its iniquity, when He is about to withdraw His throne from Jerusalem, and about to punish them. The covenant in some sort is terminated, because He has taken away His throne. Chapter 25 begins the judgment of the. nations, or rather the judgment which extends over all the earth. He gives the cup to drink to all nations (v. 15). From chapter 30 there are promises of restoration, and warning to set forth their iniquity. What follows for the most part is the controversy between Jeremiah and the prophets; a kind of history, especially of the fall of Jerusalem; of the flight into Egypt contrary to the will of God; of the false prophets; with judgments upon Egypt, the nations, and Babylon. The last chapter is a history.
The wretchedness of Jerusalem; the Spirit of Christ, which identifies itself with the sufferings of Jerusalem, in Jeremiah appealing to the grace of God for restoration in intercession.
Ezekiel applies himself no more to Israel in its land; he prophesies in the captivity only to condemn it; he sees the throne of God leaving Jerusalem, and consequently the beginning of the throne of the Gentiles. Chapter 11 shews the formation of the throne; he gives the history of the last king who wished to be the beast (Pharaoh-Necho of Egypt), but who could not; and it is Nebuchadnezzar who is the beast. Ezekiel passes over the four empires; different prophecies concerning the different classes of the Gentiles who are not included in the four monarchies, or prophecies concerning the nations who were not the beasts. From chapter 26-36 the re-establishment of Israel (chap. 28 being fall without temptation; it is possible that it is a revelation of the fall of Satan); the Jews from chapter 10-20. Ezekiel, when the Lord Jesus comes, speaks more of the ten tribes than of the Jews.
This prophecy fills up the gap which Ezekiel left, which stopped with the counsels of God relative to His people, whilst Daniel prophesies about the times of the Gentiles. Daniel gives the four monarchies. In the first six chapters he is only the interpreter of the general things which should be revealed to the Gentiles; whilst in the last six he himself is the vessel which God makes use of to give out his thoughts. This prophecy is much more taken up with what will happen to the Jewish people. In the first chapter we see the knowledge of God in contrast with the wisdom of man, the faithfulness of Daniel keeping himself separate from the spirit of Babylon, in order to exercise his office. The last three chapters relate to the Jews.
The rejection of Israel and of Judah, and their after-restoration; threatenings specially against Israel (the ten tribes); judgment upon Israel.
Joel, taking occasion of a famine, announces the day of Jehovah upon Jerusalem; a call to repentance in order for blessing; announcement of the gift of the Spirit; the judgment of the nations, and the re-establishment of Zion. It is not specially Antichrist who makes havoc in Jerusalem, but rather the Assyrian.
Amos speaks to Israel and equally addresses all the nations which lie around Israel: the Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and the two families of Israel. It places the two families come out of Egypt, as the other nations. After certain intercessions, the Lord refuses to spare any longer, and He allows them to be led away captive; He takes away the tabernacle of David, and plants them in the land whence they shall no more be taken away.
is the judgment of Edom (future). The judgment of Esau will be complete without leaving a grape (v. 5).
Jonah is important in certain respects, being the only prophet who was 6ent to the Gentiles. It was while the throne of God was remaining at Jerusalem and the Gentiles were not acknowledged. It is a proof that, notwithstanding principles the most severe, mercy superabounds. Jonah called Him Jehovah, but he only says to the Ninevites God. The mercy of God towards the Gentiles, likewise towards the creation, is here shewn; deliverance in death through resurrection, and then the mortification of the flesh; the breaking of the will in the ways of God.
Summary of the prophet Isaiah; the great principles at the beginning of Isaiah; the revelation of the judgment of Jehovah on account of the sin of Jacob, and the manifestation of the power of God according to election in grace towards Jerusalem; and then (which is very important) the judgment of the nations when Christ shall be manifested, according to His promises to Abraham.
The judgment of Nineveh and of the world in general as not being included in the four monarchies, as having been rebellious against God (opposed to the people of God). Nineveh was the enemy of the Jews during the time that the Jews were acknowledged by God, whilst Babylon was the enemy of the Jewish people whilst it was apocryphal. It is very important to distinguish the difference of the relations these two towns stand in, towards the people of God.
Habakkuk complains of the iniquity of the people of God, and asks for judgment; then God shews him the chastisement of His people through means of their enemies; why his love for the people of God returns; and then he cries against the oppressors. God shews that He well knows the oppressor, and He shews that it is necessary to wait, and that the just shall live by faith, because deliverance will come later; then he reveals, on God’s part, the judgment which falls at the last on the oppressor, and in a song, calling to mind the deliverance of the people of God at the beginning, he declares his confidence in God, even when the people of God are not in the enjoyment of outward blessings.
is the day of the Lord on Jerusalem; the judgment of the nations who are in the territory (the Philistines, the Moabites, etc.), and judgment on the Assyrian, in behalf of the remnant of Jerusalem; promises and prophetic history of the remnant. The three prophets who follow prophesied after the captivity.
Haggai excites to build the temple by promising the presence of Messiah in the temple; he announces also the judgment of the nations when the heavens shall have been shaken; Zerubbabel was the seed of David.
Jehovah takes notice of the four imperial nations, judges them and accepts and justifies Israel prophetically but places it actually upon its responsibility, shews the church order blessed under Messiah. Judgment against evil, and the manifestation of iniquity in its true character, and in sight of all nations, of all the empires of which the second only had accomplished the will of God. He takes occasion from this blessing to declare the re-establishment of the temple by Messiah Himself; this terminates at the end of chapter 6. There are only two prophecies in this prophet; the first till the end of chapter 6, and the second until the end of the book. On the demand, if they ought to fast, he remarks to them how the words of the ancient prophets had been accomplished, but that they had returned to do good. He reassures them by saying that He had returned in grace, but for the present time placing them under responsibility, reveals to them the glory to come; judges the people who are in the territory of Israel; takes away strength in order that He may be their strength; He makes them conquerors over all the enemies of Jehovah, and blesses them in His presence as His flock; He blesses Judah and Ephraim, and gathers together all countries; He exposes then (at the end of chap. 10) the details of their history in that they have rejected Christ and have received Antichrist; they shall be subject to Him (chaps. 12, 13, 14); he speaks of the siege of Jerusalem in the last days, and of what shall happen to the remnant or to the people after the death of Jesus struck by Jehovah as their shepherd; Christ represented ecclesiastically, and Christ in these two characters (chap. 6:13); the two olive-trees; programme of the ceremony of this justification.
Chapter 11 of Zechariah has generally been thought one of considerable difficulty; but there are some points in our Lord’s character, and the unfolding of the purposes of God in His actual ministry, which I think make comparatively easy what seems most difficult, and may, perhaps, lead the way to what is yet unexplained. The strong expression of our Lord’s mind in Spirit—the full representation of the moral force in the sight of God of what took place upon His presence on earth—the breaking up of all God’s purposes in their present ministration—the immense importance which we find consequently to be attached to what in the eye of reason might seem small circumstances, because the principles of God’s moral government are involved in them, and all brought out into relief in the person of the Lord Jesus; all contribute to attach the deepest interest to this morally comprehensive chapter, as God’s version of all that then passed. The glory of the house of Israel is laid low—its external strength and glory. The glory of the shepherds is spoiled—its rulers and guides. The pride of the river of Israel is spoiled—the national fulness and power.
This is the general statement. The command follows, “Feed the flock of the slaughter.” Their possessors (though I have doubted it), I apprehend, must be the Gentiles; their own people, those that sell them to the Gentiles; Herod for example, and the preceding chief priests and princes, or any such characters; some one who owned Jehovah, but sold His people. The Lord does not think it necessary to say who they are, as He owns them not at all; they are possessed by those who slay them, and sold by persons more or less owning the Lord openly, but loving covetousness, anjthing but the Lord’s care as to their present estate. This flock of the slaughter —their own shepherds (who they are there can be no doubt), their own leaders and rulers pity them not. Verse 4 is the delivery of them, under these circumstances, into the Lord Christ’s hands to feed, or take charge of them. The next verse shews however, that the body of the nation then, who inhabited the land indeed, but were not God’s flock (compare 1 Peter 5 and the corresponding charge to Peter in John 21 all of which is properly Jewish), would not be spared. “I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land—Israel’s land, saith Jehovah; but, lo, I will deliver,” etc. When the care was delivered to Him, He would not spare but deliver them to the fruit of their own ways. Such would be the general state of the inhabitants of the land, and then, “I will feed the flock of the slaughter,” the poor, despised people. “Blessed are the poor, and ye poor,” said the Lord, Himself the feeder of the flock of the slaughter: generally the nation was the flock of the slaughter; but in His hand a distinction was made, between those who were identified with the slayers, and the real flock of the slaughter, even the poor whom He saved. In judgment He had given up the inhabitants of the land, every man to his neighbour; He would not be a judge and a divider over them; and Herod and Caesar alike preyed upon the land, and they all preyed upon each other—now especially Caesar their king, “we have no king but Caesar.” But He took His two staves, of which words we shall see the force presently, and He fed them as a good Shepherd, even them, the poor of the flock: as for their shepherds they were cut off; between them and the good Shepherd there was nothing in common. His soul loathed them, and their soul abhorred Him. He had taken however two staves, one, Beauty; and the other, Bands; and fed the flock.
Then, viewed as in connection with their shepherds, as a nation which must abhor Him, He would not feed the flock: as such, they were delivered up to the fruit of their own will and depravity as it came upon them. And He took His staff, Beauty, and cut it asunder, that He might break the covenant He had made with all the people, that is, all the peoples (the Ammim). Now this was formally done at the destruction of Jerusalem, and in fact at the rejection or death of our Lord, when He refused the nation, or when the nation refused Him; in principle, when they rejected His word and works. To Him was the gathering of the peoples (Ammim) to be. All nations were to be gathered to the throne of the Lord, to Jerusalem; this was the great, wide, circling covenant, that was made by Christ, made with Christ. This gathering of the peoples to Jerusalem, clothing herself with them all, was the great gathering foretold; it was to be to Jerusalem, but it was of the peoples; but when Jerusalem rejected Him, to whom was it to be? So upon the rejection of Him, He broke the covenant made with the peoples, and the destruction and rejection of Jerusalem made the poor of the flock that waited upon Him know that it was the word of the Lord: they knew in faith upon His rejection. It was then manifested in result, for His rejection had proved the rejection of all their hopes, and they lost the gathering of the nations. The whole plan was not abandoned but frustrated, that is, in present ministration (in the wisdom of God’s counsels), in the rejection of the Lord, who had shewn and warned of all this, and Jesus was the Lord.
Nothing I think, can be more simple, if the gathering of the nations (Ammim) promised to Shiloh be seen, and that to Jerusalem, nor than the necessary results as testified by Him on His rejection, proving as to them who might be perplexed upon His rejection by the shepherds, who He was—that very Word of the Lord, and Himself the truth of all He said. His word in Zechariah was proved true, it was Himself in all that chapter. But there was another point incident to the acknowledgment of the Lord. Being thus refused, He says, “Well, what do you think me worth?” This would have been most strange, even after His rejection. “You have rejected me, I came for no other purpose, what do you think me worth? what is your judgment of the Lord?” Oh! what condemnation, while they thought they condemned Him. “If you think good, give me my price; if not, forbear.” “I count myself nothing worth, I put no price upon myself, you can do what you please.” The fulfilment of this—our Lord indeed became as a servant—is too well, too little, known in its verity, to need or to be met by verbal explanation. The transition from all the expectations or titles of Shiloh in meek submission, when He would not have Israel, and He the Lord, is marvellous. It is here we learn what we can learn nowhere else—the strange meaning of that word, obedience—the marvellous mystery of the submission of the Lord. It is here, in the contrast from Shiloh to a rejected slave not opening his mouth even for the price (may we have grace to own Him in humiliation) discerned of us. But He was really the Lord in all this, which is the very revelation of this chapter, and it was the judicial process (yet saving to the remnant) of presenting the Lord to them.
There was another consequence connected with the acknowledgment of Shiloh, they were to be made one stick; the union of Israel and Judah was to be in His hand; the accompaniment of the same headship which involved the gathering of the Ammi, “then shall the children of Israel and the children of Judah be gathered together, and appoint unto themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” And though Jerusalem was to be the head—the Jehovah Shammai11; yet they were to be no more two, but one in the land; and so the Lord always owned them. Zebulun and Napthali saw a great light, and the poor of the flock, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” indiscriminately met His care, scattered though they might be, but that unity depended upon David their king, their one head. His rejection broke all this; He cut asunder His other staff “Bands,” to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel; and this surely shall not be united again, till the King be owned again, and then indeed shall these things be according to the sure mercies of David; till then, even if in their land, they shall be a divided and a weakened people; and as I a believe, “Ephraim against Manasseh, and they together against Judah: for all which, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” Verse 15, and possibly also verse 17, but surely verses 15,16,1 believe to belong to the presumptuous shepherd, the fool that says in his heart, “there is no God”; one who shall come in his own name, whom they will receive. Lord, forgive them yet and deliver! The word is not merely “foolish,” though I have alluded to that, but the word (eveele) which includes in connection with the Lord, impiety, folly against God, in a word—Antichrist. They are given up after Christ is rejected, the Gentile history coming in meanwhile. The idol shepherd does not seem to me to go quite so far, perhaps it applies to the Jews in that day, who desert the flock when evil comes.12ik8 The shepherd who is nothing—emptiness. Yet Jerusalem shall be made a cup of trembling in that day to the nations round about her, but this is the Lord’s mercy. Having then given what the leading principles of the chapter appear to me to be, I will not pursue that which follows, though affording the leading principle of the whole of this prophecy would be of the deepest interest, and, I believe, afford much instruction in the testimony of God.
The following chapters are the results in the latter day, with which the prophet then is wholly occupied—the rejection of Christ, and giving up to Antichrist and the idol shepherds, being the basis on which it rests.
We have then in the chapter the judgment in which the Lord found the Jews, Israel, and to which, in point of fact, they were given up; then the history of His assuming the pastorship, His rejecting, as He must, the exceeding evil state of them that dwelt in the land, His taking the poor of the flock, but the rejection by Him of the shepherds, and of Him by them. He had assumed necessarily in the pastorship, humble as He might seem, the double rod, not yet made one, of God’s government; but upon His rejection by the shepherds, He broke that which involved the gathering of the nations; and, so to speak, neither He nor Jerusalem were of any more avail as the then fulfillers of this counsel. It was left to the shepherds to count His price, and they gave thirty pieces of silver; but Jerusalem and they were comparatively then given up; He alone could or would gather them. “How often would I have gathered thy children together! “(Matt. 23:37). Then what was the use of His other staff? He broke that also, even the bond of Israel itself, that also was gone in Him; they were then given up to the foolish shepherd, though this was left future, with a woe upon their own then faithless one. Subsequently comes the unfolding of God’s unaltered purpose concerning Jerusalem, and the sure glory of Him whom they had rejected in His real and gracious character, in spite of their iniquity.
Brethren, beloved of the Lord, how should we dwell upon the extent of gracious and marvellous humiliation of that word, “If ye think well, give me my price; and if not, forbear”; even for Him whose all the glory was, “which things angels desire to look into,” “a goodly price” that He was prized at by them. Oh! what is man? and what is Jesus to us? the Lord our God.
The Lord had left them in Zechariah under their responsibility. Malachi feels the reproaches of the Lord Jehovah on account of their unbelief after their return, notwithstanding His goodness; he announces to them the day of the Lord; the distinction between the remnant (the faithful) and the mass (those who are not so), (chap. 3:17, 18); he announces the blessing of the remnant, and the coming of Elijah before the day of the Lord.
11 Ezekiel 48:35.
12 Compare John 10. Here the Jewish leaders, I conceive, in the latter day.