“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth j even in him.”—Eph. 1:9, 10.
All the fulness of God is well pleased to dwell and manifest itself in Christ the Son. Such was the counsel, the blessed counsel of the Holy One. The manner in which this is manifested to us, and in which we are associated with it, is to us infinitely interesting. After all, but a small, and, as it were, external part is treated of in the following pages; still a part deeply interesting. The manner of its accomplishment is, on God’s part, designedly external, and so by truths; but by these truths the child of God enters into communion with Him who is the power of them; and, moreover, is guarded by them (poor feeble creatures that we are!) from substituting his own imaginations in place of the holy manifestation of God.
The subject spoken of here is that contained in the prayer of the apostle at the close of Ephesians 1. There is a deeper matter whence it flows, at the close of Ephesians 3, to which I have alluded above; nor can the subject of Ephesians 1 be really enjoyed without, in some measure, the power of Ephesians 3; but I respond feebly to the desire of some in communicating this, trusting that God will supply the rest.
There are two great subjects which occupy the sphere of millennial prophecy and testimony: the church and its glory in Christ; and the Jews and their glory as a redeemed nation in Christ: the heavenly people and the earthly people; the habitation and scene of the glory of the one being the heavens; of the other, the earth. Christ shall display His glory in the one according to that which is celestial; in the other, according to that which is terrestrial—Himself the Son, the image and glory of God, the centre and sun of them both. And though the scene and habitation of the glory shall be the heavens, wherein He hath set a tabernacle for the sun, the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it. It shall be manifested suitably on earth, and earth shall enjoy its blessing. When all this is accomplished, God shall be all in all; and the tabernacle of God shall be with men, not descending, so to speak, but descended out of heaven. The principles and the manner of the accomplishment of this are fully detailed in the Scriptures. Though the church and Israel be, in connection with Christ, the centres respectively of the heavenly and the earthly glory, mutually enhancing the blessing and joy of each other, yet each has its respective sphere, all things in the heavens being subordinate and the scene of the glory—angels, principalities, and powers in the one; the nations of the earth in the other.
But to confine myself now to the history and condition of the church on the one hand, and to that of Israel on the other. “In the beginning,” I read in the Old Testament, “God created”; “In the beginning,” I read in the New, “the Word was” —the latter the foundation of a higher and an abiding glory, on which the former, ruined in man’s weakness and man’s sin, should rest and be restored. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” All were made and fashioned very good: sin entered, and they were defiled. (Compare Col. 1:20; Eph. 1:10.) God, for a moment, as it were, rested in them; and His rest passed away. Of the defilement of the heavens little is said; we know only that the angels fell. But on earth, and by man, the great scene of divine working and redemption was to be manifested; and of this a full account is given. The sabbath of God in creation was short. The sabbath of man with God was not so to pass. That which passed away in the first Adam in weakness, was to be restored in infinitely fuller blessing in the last Adam (sustained and displayed in His strength), God gathering together in one (as we have seen in Ephesians 1) all things in heaven and in earth, in Him. On this re-heading of all things, as the scripture expresses it, in Christ, hangs the constitution and substance of the church’s hope, until “God be all in all.” “Christ manifested” is spoken of in this respect as the Heir of all this, the church as co-heirs with Him. It is, so to speak, the formal character which He receives as to all things, that we may understand our place with Him.
Thus, in Hebrews 1:2,” Whom he hath appointed heir of all things”; Ephesians 1:11, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance”; and Romans 8:17, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” The source of this great title is yet in greater glory. “He is the first-born of every creature; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth”; “all things were created for him and by him.” Then we have seen the church, the children, are co-heirs with Him. The manner of this we have to develop. Christ takes this title as Man. He takes it as the risen Man; being previously the fellow-sufferer in respect of the evil; afterwards the Head and chief, and source of the blessing.
First, we have in the “image of him that is to come,” the type and picture of this; and it is used as such in Ephesians 5. That is Adam, Adam hidden in sleep, as it were; and Eve, the church, taken out of his side, and presented to him by God as the help-meet for him, as the co-partner with him in the dominion over and inheritance of all things which God had given him in paradise. So the church, taken as it were out of Christ, He (being God as well as man) presents to Himself, awoke up in His glory, partner with Him in the glory and dominion which was already His in title, and in the gift of God. “The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.” And Adam and Eve together are called Adam, as one, though Eve was in a sense inferior to Adam, and subsequent; and so with the church and Christ—one mystic Person. This type, familiar to the readers of Scripture, presents very simply all the force of the truth, save that the last Adam, being Lord from heaven, is Head and Lord of the heavenly things also.
The texts which speak very particularly of this dominion of man, the union of the church with Christ in it, and its not being yet accomplished, follow. They have their rise, as the apostle uses them, in Psalm 8, “Thou hast crowned him (man, the Son of man) with glory and honour; thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” This we learn in Hebrews 2, is not yet to be seen; but Jesus is crowned with glory and honour, the designation to the church of Him under whose feet, as Man, all things are to be put. Meanwhile, till His enemies (who unrighteously hold the power till God’s purposes be accomplished) be made His footstool, that He may hold all things in power of blessing, He sits (that is the present economy) on the right hand of the majesty on high, set down, as having overcome, on the Father’s throne, as He will give them who overcome to sit down on His throne when He takes it—takes His power and reigns. In Ephesians 1, at the close, we have the union of the church in all this, according to the exercise of the power in which Christ was raised from the dead. Read from the prayer of the apostle in chapter 1 to the end of verge 6 in chapter 2. The glorious cause, or reason, is in verse 7. In chapter 1:22, we have Psalm 8 again quoted, “And hath-put all things under his feet, and hath given him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Here the church is the body of Christ, the Head over all things which are put under His feet. He is Head over all things to the church as His body. This is as risen and ascended, as is there fully stated. This point is taken up specially in 1 Corinthians 15, where the same passage is referred to: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end when he shall have delivered up the kingdom [the kingdom held thus as the risen Man, which is the subject of this chapter] to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule and all authority. For he must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject (i.e., as the risen Man, the last Adam, in which character He is ever spoken of here) unto him that put all things under him, that God [not Christ in His mediatorial kingdom] may be all in all.” Here then we have this reign of Christ as Man in resurrection, in a kingdom which He delivers up, that “God may be all in all”—all administration and human dominion being given up, that the divine glory simply may be universal.
As to the manner in which this is accomplished, other passages instruct us. Christ, we have seen, was the heir in title, as Creator: “All things were created by him and for him,” the Son; and also by the counsels of God, in appointment; and so (God acting by way of promise) all promises centre in Him. To Abraham and to his seed were the promises made; not to seeds as of many, but as of one; “and to thy seed “—which is Christ. And 2 Corinthians 1, “All the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us.” Thus Christ was the heir, the Seed to whom the promise was made. As regards the earth, Israel, the seed after the flesh, were the best situated of all men to receive the Lord in a world that knew Him not; Israel, His own, whose were the law and the promises, and the covenants, and the oracles of God; and amongst whom, according to the flesh, He was to come; and who, amidst a ruined world, had, through their relationship with God the sabbath, the sign given to them of the hope of God’s rest. But though coming according to all which their own prophets had said, they received Him not. They said, and justly, “This is the heir”; but they hated Him, saying, “Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.” Here the last hope of the rest of God on the earth was gone. After all that had passed, He had yet one Son. It was tried; but man was found in his best estate altogether vanity, wholly wanting when all was done. But it only made way for the revelation of a far deeper and more glorious economy. The earth and Israel were set aside for a time, though the gifts and calling of God were without repentance. The counsel, hidden from ages and generations, was now to be revealed, the counsel stated in Ephesians 1, the embodying in one the remnant of Jew and Gentile in Christ; to set them in heavenly places, the companion and spouse of Him who was rejected and risen, gathered while He sat at the right hand of God, and to appear with Him in the same glory when He shall appear. (Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2.) Christ, as the seed of Abraham was the heir of the promises. Had He taken them alive here, He had taken them alone. Thus, after His vindication of His glory as Son of God, in the resurrection of Lazarus, and as King of the Jews, in His entry into Jerusalem, when the Greeks also came to seek Him, it was evident that the hour was come—though the Jews might have rejected the promised seed. The hour was come that the Son of man should be glorified; but, adds the Lord immediately, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Christ was to take the inheritance in resurrection with the church, born upon this plant from the tomb of death. The church is therefore perfectly justified; that is, Christ takes the promises, not as on earth, incarnate, but as risen. That is, after He has done all needful to redeem the church, and in the power of that life in which He associates them (quickened them into fellowship and association) by the Holy Ghost with Himself, when born of the Holy Ghost they are viewed as raised together with Him. In a word, He is heir as the risen Man, the ascended Head of the church. The confirmation of the promise to Christ, referred to by the Spirit in the Galatians, accords exactly with this. It is in Genesis 22, where we find the promise of blessing to the nations, made to Abraham in chapter 12, confirmed to the Seed consequent on his reception from the dead in a figure, as the apostle speaks in Hebrews 11:” Because thou hast done these things,” etc.; and, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Thus we have seen under various lights this blessed truth, how the church was redeemed into union with Jesus, that in taking the inheritance He might have a help meet for Him, entirely associated and made like to Himself glorified. For this it was necessary, not only that the church should be redeemed, but that He should go and prepare a place for it.
The resurrection was both the accomplishment of the redemption of the church, and also set Jesus in the place in which He could establish the sure mercies of David (Acts 13:34); that is, establish in His Person all the promises to Israel; but He had yet to take the heavenlies, that the kingdom of heaven might be established, that He might fill all things, and associate the church in that new yet everlasting glory, prepared before the worlds yet hidden from preceding ages, for which the rejection of Messiah by His people, by the Jews, in the wisdom of God made the way. There were two things in this—the preparation of a place, a heavenly place of abode; and the gathering, out of all nations, those who were to be the joint heirs—to call the bride who was to inherit it.
Thus, in John 14, the Lord says, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” See John 17. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”; and “Whom he foreknew, he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren”; and Colossians 1, “The head of the body the church, the firstborn from the dead.” But how is this? Not as “bearing the image of the earthy,” but, as we have borne that, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” This is in 1 Corinthians 15, where the subject is entirely the resurrection; and in Romans 8 it is pursued, not to sanctification here below, but to glory. “Whom he justified, them he also glorified”; “Who shall change (as we read in Phil. 3) our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.” The time of this is clearly taught in Scripture. Christ now is hid in God; Col. 3:3. Our life is hid with Him there. It is a time of gathering, by the Holy Ghost, the members of His body, the co-heirs, while He sits on Jehovah’s right hand, till His foes be made His footstool. “Having,” says the apostle (Hebrews 10), “by one offering perfected for ever them which are sanctified,” He sat down, “from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” He has finished all He had to do in redemption for us His friends; and while we are actually gathering by the power of the Holy Ghost sent down by Him, and revealing Him and the Father by Him, He sits there expecting, not taking the earth till this, the gathering of His bride, His co-heirs, be accomplished. Seated on the Father’s throne, there the church knows Him now. But while He waits, we, yea, the whole creation, wait for the manifestation of the sons of God; as to when and how the Scriptures are plain. If we are to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus, it is plain it must be by resurrection and glory, because He is risen and glorified. Accordingly it is said in Romans 8, “The whole creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God: and not only so, but we ourselves also, who have received the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” In Colossians 3, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory”; and in 1 John 3, “We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”; as we have seen before the Lord saying, “I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” And the circumstances of this, the resurrection or change (“for we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed,” which is the church’s entrance into glory), are particularly told us (1 Thess. 4): “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
The description of this, of the “marriage of the Lamb,” and of the consequent judgment of the earth, or at least of the leaders of antichristian wickedness, may be found in Revelation 19. The judgment is described in yet wider terms in Jude, where “the Lord cometh with myriads of his saints to execute judgment”; or, as in Zechariah, “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee”; when He shall have presented His spouse to Himself, a glorious church, “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” in her own beauty and glory that is proper to herself, seeing in her Lord the beauty and glory of the Father, and with Him in His own glory, and in the power of that love in which He has loved her, and given Himself for her, that she might be perfectly purified and glorious with Him where He is; and then brought forth in glory with honours such as His, the participator in all His glory, the glory given Him of the Father (that the world may know that we have been loved as He was loved), to judge angels and the world; companions in all His glory, and the ministers and instruments of the light and blessing of His reign over a refreshed and solaced earth, renewed out of its miseries, where Satan is not. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” “They that are counted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, die no more”; “on such the second death hath no power, but they… shall reign with him [Christ] a thousand years.” Blessed are they! Risen already as regards their souls, they now, when Christ appears, are raised as regards their bodies, on account of His Spirit dwelling in them, to a resurrection, not of judgment, but of life (John 5:29); a resurrection which belongs to the church by virtue of its union with Christ, through the Holy Ghost dwelling in them, and with which, therefore, the wicked can have nothing to do, though raised by the word of Christ in their own time for judgment,” but they that are Christ’s at his coming”; the rest, when (the kingdom being given up) as Son of God, He, on the great white throne, shall judge the dead, heaven and earth being fled from before His throne. So the word of God instructs us. The taking of this kingdom by Christ is described in Daniel; but as this would lead us into the second part, or the earthly glory, I do not yet enter on it, having only here sought to shew the place which the church holds in this scene, and the scriptural connection of it with all the most sweet and fundamental truths, which, in their true light, rejoice and fill the heart of the true believer.
There is one point of this scarcely touched on here (but I should be too long, and depart too far from the subject, so as to distract the minds of others); that is, the place of the Father’s love in it. But this is very blessed also. It is the Father’s kingdom we pray for. In the Father’s kingdom we are to shine as the sun, that is, as Christ the Sun of righteousness; Matt. 13:43.
In the Father’s glory Christ is to appear. And this is a sweet part of it; for it passes into deeper and yet calmer waters, where eternity unruffled is found—that wide and soundless ocean of infinite joy, the length, and depth, and height, and breadth, of which are, we know, unknown: I say, “passes into,” for it is learned there: we learn glory there; grace, perhaps, more deeply here. We witness it there. But the passages referred to may suffice to lead those who search much into this blessed and simple truth. They will soon learn that they have everything to find there—the fulness of Him, who, without beginning, began, and without end shall endlessly fulfil, all the joy which itself enables us increasingly to apprehend. There are great lessons to learn in glory with Him, the Lamb, in whom we have all the Father revealed. The life we have received makes it ours now. But this is individual. Here I have simply traced the place of the church, when Christ takes the glory and the power, and it is manifested as His consort and companion in the same glory and love, all things blessed through it as the medium and sphere of the display of His glory and blessing.
We have seen, in the first part of this tract, the infinite grace of God manifested in the exaltation of the church into heavenly places. In this second part, we pass on to the interest of the earthly people, “a people wonderful from the beginning hitherto.” As in the church we have seen the full manifestation of grace, so here we shall behold, supremely displayed, all the providence, all the counsel, all the patience, all the long suffering mercy of God, manifested in sovereignty, shewn already, or before the end of the history of this earth, the wonderful theatre of all His dispensations: here is the importance of the thing. It was necessary that God should choose some nation: in this He was both sovereign and wise. He chose the Jews: He formed them for Himself, that they should be His witnesses, and that they should shew forth His praise; Isaiah 43:10, 21. Let us follow the history of this people of God, towards whom “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” Rom. 11:29.
The two passages we have just quoted are sufficiently remarkable in themselves to attract all our attention to Israel. God has formed this people for Himself; and it is with respect to them that it is said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” It follows as a direct consequence, that the faithfulness of God on one hand, and His character on the other, should be found specially manifested in this nation.
In fact, it was in contemplating the dispensations of God toward this people that the great apostle of the Gentiles exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. 11:33.
But it is on earth that they are the witnesses. As to the heavens, there is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all; Col. 3:11. Consequently, this witness acts on the nations of the earth. God Himself, in the midst of this people, and by their instrumentality, acts on these nations, and shews Himself amongst them by His justice and power towards Israel, and by the connections which Israel had with the nations, or the nations with them, and according to their conduct towards this people.
Here, then, all His providence finds its centre, as it is written: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel,” Deut. 32:8. Thus, then, the faithfulness, the character, and the providential government of God are found displayed on earth. I shall endeavour to follow, according to the Scriptures, some of the facts, the principles, and the testimonies, which refer to this people, and instruct us in the judgments and ways of God.
There is a very clear distinction between the ways of God before and after the deluge. Since the fall, there has always been a people of God, and the world of the ungodly. God has never left Himself without a witness. The prophecies of Enoch were the instruction of the people of God in those days, and the hope of the faithful in our days. Nevertheless, in those times, there was no manifested judgment, no nation, no external call, which formed believers or an elect people into a body acknowledged before God; and there was consequently no development of the principles of the character of God. It was a fallen race; and the fallen nature of man shewed itself, and followed its course in spite of the witness of God; and God did nothing until (the evil being intolerable) He swept them from before His face, by a judgment which none could escape, save the little band in the ark; and the world, swallowed up in the waters, perished. God “repented that he had made man,” for “the earth was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence,” and God destroyed it.
The world which exists now is a new world, reserved for fire in the day of judgment. In this world there are two great principles: rule in the hands of men—and separation from the world by the call of God.
The first is easily corrupted; and men may shew themselves in this, and in everything else, unfaithful in maintaining the glory of God; but where there is the possibility of evil, where there are principles, which, left to themselves, might produce evil and misery, there the ordering of everything on divine principles, according to the will of God, is the first principle of happiness, which, in its character, embraces all the extent of the earth. This was the principle which, in its root, was established for the first time with Noah, for the guidance of that new world, which rose out of the ruins caused by lust and violence: “He who sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” It was the authority of God over life, put into the hands of man, and for which he was to be responsible. The exercise of this power was the manifestation of the judgment of God, and recalled the holiness, the authority, and the constant watchfulness of the Most High. This at least was its true character. But in order that the value of this principle of rule should be recognised in its details, either by the governor, or the governed, it was necessary that the source whence it emanated should be acknowledged. The value of this principle was its recalling, to the heart and the eye, the authority of that God who had established it—an authority which, thus recognised, would restrain the lusts of the flesh, ere they broke out in those acts to which the power of the sword itself was to be applied, and would even prevent the effects of those desires which were not sufficiently serious to come under the immediate application of the law. But not only do we see the head of this new world failing (in the very beginning) in self-government, and consequently losing the respect of him who ought to be the first to obey, even his own son; but we also perceive an evil and malicious spirit, who knew how to destroy the efficacy of this power in its very source, by appropriating it to himself—presenting himself as the source both of the evils and blessings which resulted from man’s conduct, or were the effect of the power and rule of God. And in the fallen and sinful state of man, he was able in some degree to verify his pretensions, or at least to cause them to be respected.
Hereupon, then, came in the second principle; viz., the call of God: a principle which (by separating one person, one people, one family, one assembly, which acknowledged the true God) was capable of rendering them witnesses of His character, and the theatre where He could display His power in accordance with that character. “And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods. And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan,” etc. (Josh. 24:1-3). We see, in the history given in this passage, the occasion and the necessity of this call, which was a thing unheard of in all the provocations before the deluge. “Your fathers served other gods!”—a fresh crime, a fresh snare of Satan, which called for new measures on the part of a God who is all goodness.
Strife and violence displayed themselves in the time of Nimrod; and perhaps pride and ambition, rising against God, were seen in those who wished to make themselves a name, lest they should be dispersed. There Satan caused the principle of rule to flow from the will and the violence of man, and the concentration of power from the name he was making for himself. But the judgment of God, confounding their projects and dispersing them, sufficed to shew the supremacy of His power to humble their pride, and by the confusion of tongues to originate at the same time the national separation and ties of country, which were to furnish opportunity for the organizations of His providence.
But, whilst the pride of man was abased by the judgments of God, and served only to display His watchful power and to accomplish His providential designs, the substitution of the power of Satan in man’s heart, under the form of false gods, as the originators of rule and the authors of judgment, gave occasion to Almighty God, who is ever able to extract good from evil, to display the other principle before mentioned, even the calling of God; and thus He glorified Himself, even by the perversities of His foolish creatures.
God called Abraham, who was a type (both according to the flesh and the spirit) of the family of God, and the depositary of all His promises. These are the terms of this call: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great: and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Here, in principle, was separation from the world, by breaking all its strongest ties and nearest relationships, in order that he might give himself to God alone, in heart, faith, and confidence.
The principle of national government and family authority remained in all its power, but Satan had seized upon it; and our gracious God, by drawing one family and nation nearer to Himself, introduced a new and powerful principle to make good His name, His character, and His grace, in the midst of that world, which had withdrawn from His providential judgments, by throwing itself into the hands of the great adversary of its happiness, as well as of the glory of God. The want of fidelity and power in man, under responsibility, was thus again shewn, in a manner fatal to the whole world; because his weakness had placed it in the hands and under the authority of Satan, not only in consequence of the sin of the whole human race, but as respected the principle of government introduced for its regulation. But the principle of the call of God maintained His supremacy in a manner which put it beyond the effects of man’s responsibility; and therefore God could add to it unconditional promises. This is what took place as respected Abram; and, in what follows, we shall see its importance in the history of the people thus chosen. This is the difference between the external call in itself, and the principle of government (two things, nevertheless, which have clear and positive rights on the hearts of men) on one side, and the certainty of the promises and the calling of God according to grace on the other, whether for the Jews or for the church. God’s right is recognised by the believer in the first case, but also the perfect failure of man in every sense, as respected them. The efficacious power of God is felt, and produces its effects, in the second.
The existence of this principle of the call of God has been developed, since the time of Abraham, under various forms; but God has constantly maintained the principle. In the history of the government of the world from that time there have been many changes of the greatest importance, in which the government of God has been displayed; and the truth of it will yet be honoured by the results which shall spring from them in the latter day. These are the subjects of the Old Testament prophecies; as the precious subjects of the New are the faithfulness of God to His call, as respects His ancient people, and the manifestation of this call in a new form, which leads the church into the knowledge and enjoyment of heavenly things—things plainly revealed by the Holy Spirit which has been given to it.
Before the deluge, then, we see the perfect opposition between fallen man and the character of God; and that, after a simple yet powerful and patient testimony, God swept this mass of iniquity from before His face, and washed the polluted world in the waters of the deluge. We have seen the principle of judgment and daily retribution introduced under Noah, as a constituent of the new world. This is the principle of government. We have also seen the principle of the calling of God marked out in the history of Abraham. This is the principle of grace, holiness, and the supremacy of God. But the union of these two principles is also presented to our view in the Scriptures; a union very remarkable for a time, as a new trial of the faithfulness of man under responsibility, and in circumstances altogether singular, and accompanied by a still more astonishing display of patience on the part of God, which will furnish the subject of that solemn praise in the latter times: “His mercy endureth for ever.” As to the future, the union of these two principles is the source of a state of things which will be the manifestation of the incomparable wisdom and power of God, when He takes the government into His own hands.
The history of the union of these two principles, whether under the responsibility of man or in the efficacy of the supremacy of God, is the history of the Jewish people. The law is the directing principle of it, as being the expression of the actual terms of God’s government. It is consequently in the history of this people that we must look for the centre of the administration of the government of the world; containing (as it does) in its past history, on the one hand, the witness given by a people called to the knowledge of the only true God against the false gods of the Gentiles (“Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord!”), and, on the other hand, the witness afforded to the principles of the government of the true God by His conduct towards His chosen people, blessing or punishing them openly according to their proceedings: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2. In their history for the future (of which prophecy is the account), the sovereignty and efficacy of the calling of God will be clearly and openly manifested, and the government of all the earth be put into the hands of the king whom God has established, and conducted according to the principles of a law which God shall, in the meantime, have written on the hearts of His people; a covenant teeming with rich and sovereign blessings, and proving at once the riches of His goodness and the faithfulness of His promises, and of which the obedient Gentiles shall partake, according to their measure, in a world filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.
But if the responsibility of man gave mediately an opportunity for the display of the whole character of God on the one hand, the weakness of man on the other made it necessary for God to establish the hope of all His promises on some other basis than this responsibility. And, in fact, we see, in the history we are examining, that Israel receives the promises in Abraham, according to the calling of God absolutely and unconditionally. Under the law, Israel takes these promises on the responsibility of their own obedience. We will examine their circumstances in these two respects rather more in detail.
The promises of blessing were given to Abraham unconditionally. We read in Genesis 17, that “when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and. thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be called Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Then he received the seal of circumcision, which, if neglected, occasioned, not the loss of the promise nationally, but the cutting off of him who omitted it. We also see the unconditional promise in chapter 15, “He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir”; and, again, “so shall thy seed be”; and in verse 18, “In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites,” etc. This promise to Abraham is confirmed to Isaac in chapter 22, and to Jacob in the vision at Bethel, equally unconditionally.
Let us compare the covenant made with the people at mount Sinai. God had brought them out of Egypt with a strong hand, and had led them with grace and blessing to the mount, providing for all their wants, and never reproaching them for their murmurings; and Israel encamped over against the mountain. This was God’s message to them by Moses, “Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord,” Exod. 19:4-8.
Then the law was given; and thus was the covenant concluded, on the express condition of obedience on the part of the people, as a preliminary to their enjoyment of the promises it contained. What was the consequence of it? Just what must be expected from man—from our wretched hearts. Before Moses could bring down the details of the covenant from the presence of God, and the commandments written by His hand, the people had turned completely from Him, and had made to themselves a god of gold.
The covenant was, on their part, broken in its fundamental principle almost before they had received it. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up; make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him,” Exod. 32:1. What forgetfulness of the hand of God! But the Lord takes them at their word, and does not acknowledge them as His people under the covenant that had been made with them. He said to Moses (v. 7), “Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.”
Let us pause for a moment at this important juncture, and consider the unfolding of the relationship of God with the world, and with men, in this people: after that we will return to their history. From this time we see the three great instruments of these relations, holding their place in the midst of them: Moses was the representative of royalty among the people of God. “Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob. And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.” Aaron held the place of the great high priest; and Miriam as the prophetess: “For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam,” Micah 6:4. See also Exod. 15; Num. 13.
Thus we see in the wilderness the model of the three mediatorial instruments of the power of God—one, the communication of His will; the second, the means of our approach to Him; and the third, the instrument of His government, the recipient of His power.
Moses at different periods filled all these three functions. Thus also in the plagues inflicted on the proud Egyptians, Aaron acted as prophet, Moses as God to Pharaoh, but that changes nothing in the main. During the union of the two principles of government and calling, these things were fully developed. But under responsibility in these things, the Jewish people corrupted themselves in each one of them.
Under the priesthood (when God was their King, and there were only judges raised up from time to time to preserve them in their inheritance from the occasions of misery produced by their unbelief), they were connected with God through the medium of the priest. Shiloh was the place where God had put His name; but what was the end of it? A witness of judgment to all generations. “Go ye now [saith the Lord] to my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel… I will do unto this house… as I have done to Shiloh,” Jer. 7:12. Under the priesthood there was complete corruption, even in the priests; as we see in 1 Samuel 2, and in the touching scene described in chapter 3, which marked Ichabod on the people of God. I say not that the priesthood was abolished; far from it: it was, on the contrary, to be an example of the patience of God, until He came who could efficiently fill all its functions.
Samuel was the representative of the prophetic line, a judge also, governing the people by the witness of God—a witness given, as we have seen, against the actual state of the priesthood. It is for this reason Peter says, in Acts 3, “All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after.” This then was God’s government by prophets; yet the people were not yet satisfied with it, but desired a king: and God gave them “a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath,” Hos. 13:11. A king chosen according to the flesh, when God was their King, served only to shew the weakness of all that man did, the folly of all he desired. Nevertheless, the kingship of Christ over His people was ever in God’s designs. And He gave them a king after His own heart, and David and Solomon furnished the type of the kingship of Christ: one, in suffering and overcoming all his enemies, after complete obedience; the other, as reigning in peace and glory over a happy, obedient, and prosperous people. There the picture ended! Man may furnish types, but can never fill the functions of that which is true, and which shall be fulfilled in Christ. The repose and glory which Solomon enjoyed were the cause of his fall. He kept not his uprightness in the midst of the gifts of God, but, drawn aside by his wives, he followed other gods. Kingship, the last resource of God for maintaining His relationship with His people, was corrupted, just in that particular in which Israel should have been His witness. The kingdom failed, and was divided: nevertheless, the house of David had one tribe, in the wisdom of God, for the love of David His servant, and of Jerusalem, the city which He had chosen among all the tribes of Israel; for the calling of David was a calling according to grace, and the choice of Jerusalem was the choice of God. See 1 Chron. 21:22; ch. 22:7-14; 1 Kings 11:13. After that, the longsuffering of God waited, teaching, reproving, and forewarning by His prophets. For “the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees,” 2 Chron. 36:15. The rest of their sorrowful history is short: the kingdom was made over to the Gentiles. God, to fulfil His designs, preserved and restored a remnant, in order that His Christ should be set forth in the midst of the people, “a minister of the circumcision, to confirm the promises made to the fathers.” The prophet was manifested, the king was born but rejected. The history of this all-important event is given us, though shortly, in the controversy which Jesus had with all classes of the Jews, at the close of His ministry; Matt. 21:23, etc. At length He sent unto them, saying, “They will reverence my Son. But when the husbandmen saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” And their judgment was given, and their desolation declared in these tender words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Having accomplished His ministry to the people as a prophet, and maintained their cause (notwithstanding their being under a righteous judgment until that day) like Aaron, not yet come from within the veil (they therefore consequently ignorant of their fate), He will return as a King, and fill the throne of David His father. He shall be a Priest upon His throne, according to the promise: “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days,” Hos. 3:4, 5. In those days, the government and the principle of calling shall be united under the reign of Christ; and “the Lord shall be King over the whole earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one.” Nevertheless, Jerusalem shall be built and safely inhabited; and God shall say, “It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God,” Zech. 13, 14.
Having thus briefly followed the history of this people, until grace shall restore happiness to their nation (which shall bear fruit, and be the people whom the Lord has blessed, Matthew 21:32)—a history which shews us how they have been the scene of the manifestation of the principles of God’s government—I will now resume the consideration of their relationships with God, under more general, yet deeper and more detailed, circumstances.
We have seen the promises made to Abraham unconditionally; the exodus from Egypt through grace and the strong arm of God. We have seen the people, led by grace to mount Sinai, enter into a covenant based on their obedience, and break every tie with God by making to themselves a god of gold. But this circumstance gave opportunity for the revelation of another principle of the greatest importance—mediation; which served at once to maintain the consistency of the character of God with the choice which He had made of a wicked people, and to give occasion for the development of that character, in patience, justice, and faithful chastisements and pity. Mediation always recalled to God His grace; never the covenant of obedience: for then there was no need of it, inflicting, perhaps, at the same time, severe chastenings, the duration and severity of which were proportioned to the fervour of the mediatorial supplications—a mediation on which, consequently, all the relations of God with His people were based; in order that He might display all the riches of His grace and of His nature, manifested towards the people of His choice, beloved by Him (the just God), but constantly failing, in fact, in the obedience which was His due, and which would have been the source of direct blessing.
Mediation sustained the relations of God with His people in the midst of their transgressions, whilst all His wonders were made known, and until His judgment had severed the wicked from among them, and completed the blessing and glory of His people under the sustaining hand of him who had been the mediator during the time of all their trials. “And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: but my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land, and his seed shall possess it,” Num. 14:20-24; read all the chapter.
But we must observe the historical evidences of this introduction of mediation as a support to the old covenant, or the foundation of a new one. “And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiffnecked people: now therefore let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them,… and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou32hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I have spoken of will I give unto thy seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil that he thought to do unto his people,” Ex. 32:9-14. Here was the principle.
The consequences of this mediation—the conduct of Moses towards the people—his return to God with fresh supplications (placing himself as the one hoping to atone for their sins), together with the detail of God’s answers, are found in what follows in Exodus 33. At length Moses intreats to see the glory of God: this was impossible; but He promises to make all His goodness to pass before him. “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children unto the third and to the fourth generation,” Ex. 34:5-7. Then, on the renewed intercession of Moses, the Lord announces to him some modifications of His dispensations; and in the end it is said (v. 27), “Write thou these words, for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.”
Here we see a covenant founded on the calling to remembrance the covenant made with Abraham, etc. (the intercession of Moses staying the uplifted hand of God), and the revelation of a special character of relationship with the people; a character on which is based the new covenant with Moses the mediator, and the people. When Moses interceded in the desert on the return of the spies, his intercession was founded on the character given by God as the terms of the relationship existing between Him and the people; and both the answer and the judgments of God are in accordance with this character, save only one special mark of mercy which arose from circumstances. Ezekiel 18 (often quoted with really unbelieving views) announced that God acted towards the people for their own iniquity, and according to the covenant of which we are speaking, and in truth put an end to an important application of an important principle it contains. The same thing is found in Jeremiah, who concluded the period of their history in their country, as Ezekiel concluded it out of it, accompanied in the former by a promise of a covenant and a new order of things, which should in the latter days be made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah; Jer. 31:27-37. It will be found also that Daniel, who prophesies of the four empires, confesses both their past and actual transgressions.
Having traced the allusions to this covenant, there is one remark which it is very important to make; and the intercession of Moses, at the time of their sin in making the golden calf, gives rise to it. It is this: the Spirit of God, in all references to the true hopes of Israel, refers to the unconditional covenant made with Abraham. Thus we have seen Moses saying, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, saying,” etc. In the same manner the God of mercy, having pronounced blessing on their obedience, and followed their rebellions with threats, until their actual dispersion, adds in Leviticus 26, “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers… and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” See also Micah 7:20. Such was the hope of Zacharias, filled with the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:72, 73); such also the prophetic song in Psalm 105:6-9, 42. According to the solemn declaration of God, when Moses asked, “If they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I am that I am,” He said also, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Therefore, the apostle in discussing this subject says (Rom. n:28), “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”
We see, in the book of Deuteronomy, the people, when nearly entering Canaan, put under the principle of obedience, and their enjoyment of the promises dependent on that obedience. Moses recalls to the people all that God had done for them, adding, “The Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear… Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do… that thou shouldest enter into a covenant with the Lord thy God… that he may establish thee to-day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” As it is said, Moses “set before” them “life and death, blessing and cursing.” It was a covenant which, in remembrance of the oath made with the fathers, is a covenant of blessing, if they obeyed, and of threatenings, if they disobeyed. God did not promise that they should possess the land, but that they should be blessed in it; otherwise, that they should be driven out of it; but that God would shew mercy unto them in a far country, if their hearts turned to the Lord. For this reason the apostle quotes a passage here as a pledge of the righteousness of God according to faith, because the observance of the law was impossible in any land except that of Israel. Nevertheless, if they were obedient in heart, and turned to the Lord, they should be heard and delivered. The return under Nehemiah was a partial accomplishment of this promise, and this covenant. But in that return, there was no question of the promises made to Abraham. It was an event that shewed the mercy and faithfulness of God, but which was not the fulfilment of His promises and original covenant, although it involved important consequences. The original promises, given unconditionally, and guaranteed by the oath of God, must find a complete fulfilment in all their extent.33 This is what still remains for the people of God. Joshua gives the history of their then present and earthly fulfilment; and the book of Judges, that of the fall of Israel in the midst of human enjoyment.
In order, then, to accomplish the full manifestation of the thought and will of God, there was needed, not only the promise made to Abraham, and the mediation (which testified to the complete violation of it), to sustain the weight and truth of God’s promises, in conformity with His justice, until the fulfilment of the promises should take place (a mediation which was the type of Christ’s); but there was also needed the representation of the type of Him who was to be the instrument of their accomplishment, and the centre of the blessings they comprised. This must be by grace in the midst of a fallen and rebellious people, who were consequently thrown upon the mercy of God. This representation took place in David among a people, who, transgressing under the immediate government of God, desired in their wretchedness another king than Him, that they might be like unto the nations. After this filling up of their iniquity, God, in His grace, gave them a king, who was a remarkable type of Christ—named as king, rejected, driven out, hunted as a partridge on the mountains, but just, patient, and obedient under his sufferings; the hope of Israel, when Israel would not hope in him, rilled himself, in the midst of his trials, with all those glorious hopes with which the Spirit of God inspired him; afterwards vanquishing all his enemies, and reigning in glory in Solomon. These are the things which God gave us, to serve as a type of Christ rejected—Christ the hope of Israel. And in fact the Psalms are the prophecies of the experience or the expression of the sympathy of Christ with all the sufferings of His people. We see the soul of Christ revealed, either in the circumstances which were to befall Him, in the midst of His people (and in that case taking the form of direct prophecy); or in the events which were to happen to His people (and in these He is found by His complete sympathy, as His Spirit expresses itself, “In all their afflictions he was afflicted,” or, as He said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”). In every case they are songs which give, not an historical narration, but the soul, the feelings, the thoughts, the dependence of the spirit of Christ under the circumstances detailed: an admirable thing to give us the most perfect acquaintance with Christ, and throw a light and a personal interest over all the circumstances described in the gospel histories, and in those prophecies whose accomplishment is yet future.
We find the mind and the thoughts of Christ, on all that was passing around Him, in the gospels. We find it also in the whole prophetic history of future events. These strains introduce us to His heart, whether it be to the reality of His sufferings, or to the perfection of His sympathy with His people. The sufferings and the kingdom of Christ are the completion of all the promises which have been typically presented to us in David and Solomon: and the Spirit of Christ, as in the midst of His people, presents to us in the Psalms all that He was in them.
But there were also declarative prophecies; and we would speak a little of their character. These begin with the anticipated fall of the kingly power—the last means of maintaining the union (in the responsibility of man) of the government and the character of God in His called ones according to the flesh. In order to enter into their full character, we will take the prophet Isaiah, where the commencement of this species of prophecy is given us. This prophet begins by stating the complete fall of the nation—their future glory—the coming of the Gentiles to that revealed glory; and he takes Israel themselves for a witness that God had done all that was possible for them, and that they had only brought forth wild grapes. He declares, nevertheless, that after judgments grace should triumph in blessings to this rebellious and backsliding people. After this, he is regularly appointed to his mission, and goes to meet Ahaz.
It is to these latter circumstances that I wish to draw the attention of those who have accompanied me in my researches. The first thing to be observed is this: that the promise, and the prophecy as a witness of the promise, are always applicable to a state of failure. Adam, in a state of innocence, had no need of the promise. Israel, walking in all uprightness under the law, and rejoicing in all the blessings which flowed from it, was not the subject of the reprimands of God, or of promises tending to encourage the faithful, when depressed by the prosperity of the wicked or the misery of the chosen nation. Consequently, the promise and the prophecy belong alike to grace. They are addressed to sinners, and are the intervention of God, to give an object to faith, or to sustain it where already existing. This is their character, as we find it in Isaiah 6— the manifestation of the glory of Christ, as the Lord God of Israel, convincing the nation and even the prophet of sin, but strengthening his mouth by purifying it to bear witness, in the midst of them, to the judgment of God, and also to His faithfulness in preserving for future blessing the seed which was to be the strength of the tree stripped of all its glory. I say, the glory of Christ, because it is thus stated in John 12. Judgment had been hanging over the heads of this people for centuries; but at length finds its accomplishment on their rejection of Christ, the true David. See John 12:40; Acts 28:26, 27. The other part of the spirit of prophecy is intercession, the spirit of faith, which acknowledges the people and the fidelity of God; the answer of the duration of the judgment of God, as not being for ever—an answer which is the support of the faithful remnant, in the midst of a wicked people. The glory of Christ, and His rejection (sufferings), are the two subjects of prophecy—a rejection which shews the fulness of that wickedness which the glory condemns, and becomes the foundation of the hope which finds its blessing and its end in that glory. Reproof always takes place according to actual circumstances; and the violation of that law which was the rule of the government of God, together with the idolatry which destroyed their witness as a chosen people to the one true God, furnished the occasion for those wonderful expositions of grace, of which the prophecies are full, and also for the detail of those circumstances, by which God vindicated His rights in the midst of an ungrateful people by righteous judgments, and by means of a new covenant.
This is the reason that the prophets (I speak not now of Daniel and the Apocalypse), omitting the present dispensation, pass from the circumstances which gave rise to the prophecy to the circumstances in and by which the judgments of God on infidelity (which is the subject of the prophecy) shall be fully displayed. They pass to the events of the latter days, when God shall arise in judgment upon all nations—upon Israel, according to their behaviour as a people, and the Gentiles, according to their conduct towards that people; and when the glory of Christ, which has been the hope of the faithful in all ages, shall be manifested for their joy and complete happiness. It is impossible to understand the prophecies without looking to the circumstances of the latter days. Certainly there have been remarkable judgments on the Jews, and on the Gentiles who were in connection with them; but nothing which fulfils the prophecies, because nothing which fulfils the end of God. This, to my mind, is the meaning of the Holy Spirit, when Peter says, “No prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation”; it must form a link in the counsels of God, which only finds its completion in the solemn and magnificent scenes of the latter days. All the nations which persecuted Israel, and insulted God by their idols and their pride, shall take part in them. Christ must reign over all the nations. The mountain of the Lord’s house is to be set up above all mountains, and the Gentiles shall flow to it. He must reign in peace; but first the judgments of God must be manifested: “When thy judgments are in the earth, then shall the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” The consequences of these judgments on Israel, and even on the nations, may be seen in Isaiah, from chapter 13 to chapter 33, in which is contained also the glory of Israel, which shall be accomplished. The same may also be briefly seen in Jeremiah 25.
There are three classes of prophecy in the Old Testament, after the establishment of the kingdom—those which preceded the captivity, those during it, and those which followed the re-establishment of Jerusalem. But there is one event of the utmost importance, which gave rise to the division, viz., God’s ceasing to reign in the midst of His people, and the giving authority and dominion over the whole earth into the hands of the Gentiles. Jerusalem ceased to be “the throne of the Lord,” where His rule was directly displayed, where the ark of the covenant was found, and where God was seated between the cherubim. Consequently, there were prophets who bore witness to the circumstances of the Jews, and the other nations, whilst the throne of God was in the midst of Jerusalem, or who spoke of the judgments of God on His people and on their enemies. There were others who spoke of the state of the Gentiles, during the time that the authority of God in judgment was committed to their hands. The prophets after the captivity embraced both, and had a special character on account of the partial re-establishment of the Jews, whilst the Gentile empire still existed. The event of which we speak changed the whole state of the earth, by separating the government from the calling of God—two things which had long been united in the Jewish people under responsibility: a union which (having failed through the unfaithfulness of man, when God Himself ruled over them) had been propped up, and established afresh, under the reign of a man who was a chosen type of Christ. From the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the throne of David, the government of the world was in the hands of the Gentiles; and the times of the Gentiles commenced (see Dan. 2:37, 38) under a responsibility, the effects of which are described in the book of Daniel, the Apocalypse, and Zechariah, and which are characterised in Daniel 4. The four great empires which, by their pride and in God’s providence, successively seized on the supreme power, and consequently brought themselves under this responsibility and failed, are well known. All the time of their dominion, Israel has been Lo-ammi, “not my people.” This is all that we need say of them at this present time.
Before this event, prophecy was the voice of God, judging the nations as from His throne in the promised land. The world is viewed in its pride, rising against God and His people, and Babylon presenting itself only as taking the place where Israel had reigned. Its destruction is consequently foretold; but its history, and that of the nations which succeeded it, are not given. The question is always between the God of Israel, Israel, and the world. There is no mention of Babylon in the first prophecies of Isaiah, which end at chapter 12. In chapter 13 we have the destruction of Babylon, which represents the habitable world. In chapter 14 it is said, “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land; and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place; and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids; and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.” Here is Babylon set aside, and replaced by the restoration of Israel to dominion in the land of the Lord. “For the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion, from henceforth even for ever. And then, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion: the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” This is the accomplishment of the prophecy in Micah 4, “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” I have quoted all this as necessary to complete the scene. The details belong to the times of the Gentiles, which is the reason I refer to what belongs to those times.
But there were many prophecies which belong to Israel, recognised in a measure, though unfaithful. The great question was between Israel and the world, before and after the existence of the beasts: not as under their power, for the beasts come into existence only by Israel’s ceasing to exist as a people. Egypt, which was at first the world, was already passed away in that respect—God having called His son out of Egypt. Assyria was its representative: that is the reason we see so many vital questions, between Israel and Assyria, as the last thing in the history of the present age.
Babylon represented the world in the time of the empire of the Gentiles, when God had given the empire to the Gentiles, and she was responsible in herself for the exercise of His power. Daniel, as we have said, has given us the results, but the call of God (a principle of all importance) was separated from government. We see the character of the union of religion and government under the beasts, in Daniel 3. Faithfulness was displayed in keeping out of such a union, while acknowledging the authority of the government; but for religion it appeals to God alone. But while Israel was the called nation, Babylon was not in question.
But the question between the authority of God’s government in Israel and the world ever existed. Nineveh and Assyria were the occasion of it. This was how God acted. He permits the world, as executor of His judgments, to lay waste His people for their good. Judgment begins at the house of God; but if the worldliness and the sin of His people have been corrected by the stronger worldliness and sin of the world, what will the end of that world itself be? We have, consequently, two prophets, whose witness concerns Nineveh only: one of these, the last witness given to the world in the mercy of God, that is to say, Jonah, a witness that there was the greatest and most speedy mercy for the world itself before God; the other, Nahum, a witness of the final judgment. “The Lord hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown.” “The Lord hath turned away the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel”; but there was, through grace, a faithful remnant, though a small one. Here there was nothing but pride against the Lord: and who shall abide the day of His wrath? In the prophecies which bring into contact the state of Israel and the world, we find the activity of the Assyrian, as the last instrument of the wrath of God, and the judgment of Israel by its means; but at length their destruction by God Himself.
Israel is found a prisoner in Babylon, or, what is still worse, united in desire and principle with the king of the apostate system, having “made a covenant with death,” and being “at agreement with hell,” saying, “When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves”: wretched refuge against the justice and the wrath of the Lord! The return from Babylon, when Cyrus was king, changed nothing in fact: “Behold we are servants this day,” said Nehemiah (who felt the truth of the thing), “and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress,” Nehemiah 9:36, 37. And the Lord Himself, the legitimate King of the Jews, united Himself, in His infinite wisdom, to this confession of the state of His beloved Israel, in repelling their unholy temptations: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The wretched Jews received a repulse, which left the weight of their wicknedness on their own heads. Their malice and wretchedness reached their height when they said, “We have no other king but Caesar.” Although their state varied according to the character, the strength, or weakness of their rulers, yet were they always under the dominion of the Gentiles.
But it was quite otherwise as to the Assyrian, the rod of the Lord: he humbles them. But the Lord, choosing Jerusalem, puts her by His power beyond all the efforts of the pride of the world. Thus, until the end of Isaiah 13 where the history of the world begins, the prophet pursues the history of Israel in relation with the king of Assyria. The other events are only passing troubles; and both in chapter 7 and chapter 8 the king of Assyria is the subject of the prophetic threatenings; and from chapters 9 and 10, from the actual circumstances of the moment, he shews the outstretched arm of the Lord, until He takes the Assyrian by His strong hand to be the staff of His indignation, which is completed, and ceases, in chapter 10:25, with the destruction of the proud king.
In chapters 10 and n we see the glory, the joy, and the peace of Israel, and of the world in their deliverance, a deliverance which, as the apostle says, shall be life from the dead. Chapter 10 marks, in a very striking manner, all the principles and effects of the judgments of God, which only leave a faithful remnant of His people, who destroy their enemies completely. It is God judging the earth, whether His people or the world. For this reason, after the destruction of Babylon and its king (who had been substituted in the place of God’s union with Israel), we find in Isaiah 14:24, 25 the destruction of the Assyrians upon the mountains, and the land purified from all those enemies, when the answer to the messengers of the nation shall be, that the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall trust in it (v. 32). In the remainder of the chapters which are applicable to this subject, we see the judgments of God on all the nations who have interfered with the affairs of Israel, whether near or afar off beyond the rivers of Cush. We see the subject also treated of in reference to the latter days (the occasions of the prophecies being sometimes the Assyrians, sometimes Nebuchadnezzar), and a complete mixture of dates and circumstances, if we refer them to past time—exact, however, even in detail as to the latter days, a detail which is verified and arranged by a comparison with other prophecies.
To enter into the details would be to explain almost all the prophecies. The slightest attention will shew us the application of these things to the latter days (for example, chapter 18 and the end of chapter 19). But we have said enough to shew the separation of rule and the calling of God, in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the giving of government or power into the hands of the Gentiles. With them it still exists, and shall exist, until the destruction of the last of the four empires: with this destruction the times of the Gentiles end. During those times the calling of God remained with some of the Jews. After the fall of their nation, after all hope was lost for the Jews in their actual state by their rejection of Messiah, this calling took place in the church, not for earthly, but for heavenly places; and God, in His providence, surfers the last empire to exist until it rises against Him and His church. See Rev. 16:14; ch. 17:12, 14; ch. 19:19, 20. But this belongs to the history of the Gentiles, or to the hope and character of the church, of which we have before spoken.
We must observe here, that at the time of the invasion of the Assyrian (a type of what shall take place in the latter days), they acted upon Israel and Judah, seizing Israel and falling before Jerusalem. The king of Babylon (representative of the empires) takes Jerusalem; consequently, when he is destroyed, Christ will retake Jerusalem; and the contest between Him, as King there, and the Assyrian will begin; and the restoration of Israel shall have its full accomplishment.
Thus, among the prophets of the captivity, we have in Jeremiah (who prophesied in the land) the total rejection of Judah, as Lo-ammi, not a people; and a new covenant made with the two divisions of the people, Judah and Israel; and under this covenant complete blessing is brought in both to that nation and to the earth. We see in Daniel the history of the four empires, and the circumstances of the call of God, until their end. In Ezekiel, we find an entire omission of the four empires. The prophet, having given an account of the destruction of Pharaoh by the king of Babylon (whose attempts were a last effort to obtain the empire before Babylon), passes at once to events which characterise the return of Israel and their re-establishment in their own land, and to the attacks which their last enemies will make upon them; attacks which only serve for the complete manifestation to the Gentiles of the glory of God in the midst of Israel. These last events bring us to the consideration of the reunion, once more, of rule and the call of God in the Jewish nation, but under His dominion, who, in the display of His glory, shall make all the earth happy; in the reign of Him who shall be a Priest upon His throne, and who will maintain the fulness of blessing by His presence in His reign, and by the complete union, established and settled in Him, between the heavens and the earth.
We will quote some passages as proof of the accomplishment of these things: first, of the government of Christ in Israel, as powerful to subdue and drive out the enemies of His ancient people; and then of His being the peaceful Benefactor of them, and through them of the whole earth: in both cases joining together power and justice, which had long been separated. The cross of Christ was the complete overthrow of justice on earth. For the only just One was persecuted by the people whom He loved—of whom He was the benefactor and the glory; condemned by him who represented the government of the world, and who, nevertheless, declared His innocence; and at length apparently, and in one sense really, forsaken of God and given up to the justice of Him He had appealed to. This is what the cross was to the world. The church, which views these things in their heavenly light, sees in them, not the judgment of the patient Jesus, but of that world which rejected Him. It sees heavenly justice in the abandonment on the cross (divine love having provided a lamb for a sacrifice)—a justice which made good the rights of that victim, not by helping Him in this sinful and wretched world, where He finished the work of salvation, but by receiving Him to that place which was the only real witness of His righteousness and the glory of His Person; namely, to the right hand of the Majesty on high. The church, consequently, partaking of the righteousness and glory of Christ, should seek rather the fellowship of the sufferings of her Head, than the participation of that false glory which drove Him from the earth (see Phil. 3); expecting that which He expects—that His enemies be made His footstool.
In those days His cause and His right shall be maintained even upon earth, and His right hand shall find out all His enemies. The Jews suffer the earthly consequences until this moment. The kingdom which has rejected Him in His humiliation, rising out of the abyss, will oppose Him when coming forth out of His place in His glory, and shall find its end. Then Christ, uniting Himself to His earthly people, or at least to the faithful remnant, will subdue the whole world unto Himself by His power. The little stone which broke the image shall become a great mountain, which shall fill all the earth.
This is the witness of a post-captivity prophet, given in the passage where he speaks of Christ manifesting Himself in humiliation: “When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man. And the Lord shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south. The Lord of Hosts shall defend them.” See Zech. 9 and 10. “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am the Lord their God and will hear them,” Zech. 10:6. And in chapter 12, “In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it,” Zech. 12:3. The details of these things will be found in this chapter and the following ones. Jerusalem will have been taken before, as was foretold by Ezekiel, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it; and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him,” Ezek. 21:27; see also Zech. 14. We see the same truth in Jeremiah 51:19, “The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the Lord of Hosts is his name. Thou art my battle-axe, and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms,” etc.
Let us come to more general descriptions of the reunion of Christ with this people, at the time of their restoration. “The children of Israel,” saith the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of Hosea, “shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” Read from chapter 2:15 to the end of chapter 3.
This is the promise in Jeremiah 32:37, “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in my anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul,” etc. And in chapter 33:14,” Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness. For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel… . Thus saith the Lord, If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant,” etc. Also verses 7, 8 and 9 of the same chapter, “And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned and whereby they have transgressed against me. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” Also in Isaiah 59, having described the state of sin and ruin in which Israel was found, their transgressions being multiplied before the Lord and truth lost, the prophet announces the intervention of the Lord in these words: “And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke. According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come from Zion; and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob [or, shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob], saith the Lord.” I take here the reading of the apostle (Rom. n:26), supported by many ancient versions, which alters nothing as to the present question; but the application of the passage by the apostle is of immense importance, for he says that it applies to the restoration of Israel, after the fulness of the Gentiles is come in; that is to say, to the glory of the nation after the end of the economy of the church.
There is yet another long passage which must be quoted. After the resurrection of the dry bones, the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Ezekiel says, “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these? Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so shall they be my people, and I will be their God. And David my servant shall be king over them: and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.”
We may also read in detail Isaiah 65 and 66, the elect remnant of Judah, and the judgments on the wicked nation, the blessing of the earthly Jerusalem after a marked distinction between the faithful and unfaithful Jews (chapter 65:13, 14; then chapter 66:15), the remnant addressed in terms of the greatest tenderness and consolation, and at last judgment on their enemies. “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many… For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord… For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain,” Isaiah 66.
The same thing may be seen in Joel 3 and the manner in which it shall be done in Isaiah 63 compared with Revelation 19. The promise is found in the second Psalm. I have already quoted the latter chapters of Zechariah, and will only select three passages, amongst numbers that present themselves: the first, respecting the re-establishment of the Jews; the second, respecting the judgment on the nations; and the third, concerning the presence of Christ as the strength of the restored nation against the Assyrian. “Behold,” saith the Holy Spirit, by the prophet Amos, “the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God,” Amos 9:13-15. “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent,” Zeph. 3:8, 9. What follows is the joy of Israel, saying, in verse 17, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.” “Thou shalt not see evil any more,” v. 15. This is the quotation from the prophet Micah: “Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces,” Micah 5:1-5.
That which follows is the description of what Jacob shall be in the midst of the nations, and of what God will be in the midst of Jacob and the nations: for, as we read in Zechariah 14:9, the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one. We see the kingdom given to Christ after the destruction of the fourth beast; Dan. 7:13,14. In Psalms 75, 76, 82, we have God arising to judge the earth, because all have failed in obedience, walking in darkness, Christ celebrating the government of God as put into His hands, in Psalm 75, His re-establishment in Judah, in Psalm 76.
There is one consequence to be observed, which several of the quotations have in fact already marked; namely, the actual blessedness of the earth under the government of the Lord. The call to universal joy is found in Psalm 95; then in Psalm 96, the earth is called to sing the new song: being instructed, she sings the song in Psalm 97. Psalm 98 is the calling of Israel to sing. Their song is found in Psalm 99. Psalms 96 and 98 finish with one common chorus. The same state of things is described in Psalm 72, but directly as Christ reigning as Solomon. We have seen, in the passages quoted, the judgment of God on His unfaithful people, and the calling of God separated from His government, and the government made over to the Gentiles, furnishing afterwards the opportunity (through the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews) for the manifestation of the heavenly calling of God to the church.
We have seen the promise of the restoration of Israel, but under very adverse circumstances, even their chiefs at Jerusalem making a covenant with hell and the grave to escape the scourge of God; all the nations led by their pride and their passions against Jerusalem; the righteous judgment of God on His people: a time thus described by Jeremiah with the promises already quoted, Jeremiah 30:7: “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” We have, in fact, seen all the nations of the earth assembled against her, saying in their pride, Where is thy God? But at this word, this unknown God shall shew Himself to their confusion, and shall gather them as sheaves into the floor; Micah 4:12. Jerusalem becomes a burdensome stone to all nations. Her faithful remannt escape from the judgments. See Isaiah 65:19. To the faithful remnant the Saviour manifests Himself. They weep justly, but they will have David their king—His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives. Then the calling and the government of God shall be united once more, “This man shall be the peace when the Assyrian shall come into the land.” The wrath against Israel shall then have ceased; their land shall be delivered from their oppressors, who had long filled it: and the dispersed among the nations shall return. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people … and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab: and the children of Ammon shall obey them,” Isa. 11:10-14.
All the promises to Israel shall be fulfilled to the letter: for when has God failed in His promises? But the earth also shall rejoice before the Lord, Himself coming to judge it. And we have seen in Daniel 7 dominion over all nations put into the hands of the Son of man; and His kingdom, which broke the image, becomes a mountain which fills all the earth. We have seen also, in speaking of the church, that Satan shall be bound at this time, and there will be a world blessed under the dominion of Christ, from which outward temptation and the tempter shall be alike banished. The Lord shall hear the heavens, and the heavens shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall hear Jezreel (that is, the seed of God); Hos. 2:21. There shall be a chain of blessing without interruption or hindrance from the throne of the Lord to His people blessed on the earth; and the Gentiles shall rejoice with them.
We have seen this state described in Psalms 96, 99, 72; Isaiah 24-28; and even the following chapters describe the same things. For it is in those days that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Here is the truth of the promises. They shall bless themselves in the earth, in the God of truth. Here is the long expected accomplishment of the prophecies. Here the proof that the calling of God is without repentance, even on earth; and that His mercy endureth for ever. Here is the oath to David, to which the faithful God has not been wanting. Here is the government of God established, not on the instability of man under responsibility, but on the efficacy of the power of Christ, the Son of God, Son of man, Son of David, Heir of all things. Here, even on earth, is the grace of God triumphing in the splendour of His justice: “Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” “Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven; yea, the Lord shall give that which is good, and the land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of His steps.” We may read from Psalm 73 to the end of Psalm 77, which are all the description of what will take place in Emmanuel’s land in the latter days. The blessings of Noah, the promises made to Abraham, the hopes of David, shall be accomplished together; and men shall rejoice in the beneficence of the Lord, not in the miseries of their own weakness and the temptations of the enemy, but in the strength of a present God, and of Christ, the rightful Heir, the support, the Mediator, of all the blessings.
I have but one word to say, one character of Christ to add. It is in those days that He shall be manifested as the real Melchisedec, King of Righteousness, King of Peace; the Priest of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth; the High Priest, not of intercession within the veil, hidden in God, but come forth to bless, with the riches and abundance of His house, the people of God, already conquerors over all their enemies, and to pronounce on them the blessing of the Most High God, possessor then in blessing of the heavens and the earth, and to bring up praises worthy of Him in the mouth of the High Priest. Happy reciprocation of blessings! for if the blessings of God are the happiness of His people, the happiness of His people in Christ is the joy of God. It was meet to make merry and be glad for those which were dead, and are alive again, which were lost and are found. The happiness and blessing of this earth are the joy of our gracious God; and the last Adam will not fail of this part of His inheritance. Happy those who are co-heirs with Him, and who, partakers of the divine nature, may rejoice with God in the blessings with which He clothes others, with hearts filled with His love. Blessed is the church of the Lord.
32 God had before said to Moses, “thy people, which thou.”
33 What is said in Deuteronomy 32 goes farther and deeper: God speaks not according to the covenant, but according to His sovereignty, and His thoughts. Consequently, the joy of the Gentiles with His people is there introduced.