Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Israel's oppressors, a day of release and of consolation. God's people shall with their eyes behold and see the reward of the ungodly1. Further, we find that the picture of the Messianic deliverance varies according as one heathen power or another is the temporary oppressor of Jehovah's people. The prophetic oracles,' says Dr. Bruce, 'were addressed to the present, were rooted in the present, were expressed in language suited to the present, and pointed to a good in the near future forming a counterpart to present evil or to an evil in the near future which was to be the penalty of present or past sin 2.' If Jerusalem is threatened by hostile armies, hard pressed and compassed about, standing in the midst of a wasted and ruined land like a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, the blessing of the future shall be the vision of Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down, an island protected by broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby3. If Israel is carried away captive, merged and overwhelmed in the sea of nations, cut off from life and hope the promise is given of a resurrection, a bringing back from the grave, a revival of perished hopes by the renewing might of Jehovah's Spirit 4. Forlorn, exiled, and scattered as they seem, the children of Zion may look forward to a home-coming more glorious, more amazing even than the exodus from Egypt. The day of the Lord is not merely a terror to the evil; it is to be a day of everlasting joy to the righteous. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away

5

At this point it may be well to notice some limitations in the prophetic vision of Israel's future. We

1 Ps. xci. 8.

2 Bruce, Chief End of Revelation, p. 221; cp. Riehm, Messianic

Prophecy, pp. 95 foll.

3 Isa. i. 8; xxxiii. 20.

[blocks in formation]

Jeho

have seen that two great elements alternate in prophetic thought-the glory of a Davidic king, and the personal manifestation of Jehovah; and that the promised redemption of Zion is connected now with one element, now with the other. But the two lines of thought are parallel, and are nowhere actually combined in the picture of a single divine-human figure. They are continuous and co-existent elements in Messianic prediction. They meet us again in the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the last-mentioned prophet the two ideas are found in close juxtaposition. vah Himself is the shepherd of His people, and the Davidic king is a prince ruling in His name1. Further, nothing is more remarkable than the adherence of the prophets to the forms and figures suggested by present experience. They picture a kingdom of God visibly founded on earth; they regard Jerusalem as the necessary centre of Messianic government, and as the spot where the divine self-manifestation will ultimately take place. In these representations we recognize the effect produced by the magnificence of Solomon's temple and the worship connected with it. The visible theocratic institutions in fact coloured the entire picture of the future, and though Jeremiah in days of religious and political upheaval was able to rise in a measure above these limitations 2, the prophetic thought of a later period reverted to the earlier conceptions. Thus the prophecy of Ezekiel closes with the vision of the restored temple as the earthly dwelling-place of Jehovah in the midst of His people, while the later Isaiah looks for the restoration of Jerusalem in radiant splendour as the scene of a spiritualized levitical worship in which all nations of the earth are summoned to participate. Again, in predicting future blessings

1 See Ezek. xxxiv. II, 23, 24, and xxxvii. 22, 24, 25; Jer. xxiii. 3-6, 15. Cp. Schultz, vol. ii. pp. 417 foll.; Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, p. 312. Obs. in the apocalyptic writings the two conceptions are united, the figure of the Messiah being invested with a halo of superhuman glory. Jer. iii. 16 foll.; xxxi. 29-34. Cp. Riehm, A TI. Theologie, pp. 220, 221. Cp. Zech. xiv, and Cornill's remarks on it (Der Isr. Prophetismus, pp. 166 foll.). See also Kuenen, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 108, 109.

2

3

the prophets know not the time or manner of fulfilment. To them the present and future are contiguous and as yet undistinguished. Each prophet gives an independent picture of the future, exhibiting it from his own standpoint and depicting it in terms suggested by the actual experiences of his own time. A living hope indeed is inevitably inclined to hasten the natural course of events; it regards each crisis as final, and the conditions of the moment as ripe for the occurrence of a catastrophe. In general, therefore, the prophets proclaim salvation as a blessing of the immediate future; yet the delay of the promised consummation does not shatter their hope and confidence, partly because they regard even a small and relative measure of fulfilment as a pledge of an ampler and more decisive deliverance yet to come, partly because they are keenly alive to the conditional character of Jehovah's word, since impenitence or apostasy on Israel's part necessarily interrupts or postpones the advent of Messianic times 1. But whether remote or near at hand, the coming of Messiah was the consummation on which hope was fixed. 'The long vista of expectation

was closed with His form 2.

Faith waited for Him

that should come and did not look for another 3. As king He would be supreme, as prophet or teacher He would bring a final and authoritative message from God to man 4. The unclouded light of truth and the blessings of righteous sovereignty were alike connected with His advent. The age of the Messiah was an epoch beyond which prophecy did not look, since it would inaugurate an era of eternal peace and

blessedness 5.

4. But to proceed. When royalty in and after the days of Manasseh declined in influence and prestige, and the national fortunes became more and more

1 Cp. Riehm, ATI. Theologie, p. 222.

Stanton, The Jewish and the Christian Messiah, p. 148.

2

8 Matt. xi. 3.

5

Cp. Stanton, loc. cit.

4 Cp. John iv. 25 (Westcott, ad loc.).

disconnected from those of the reigning house, another Messianic conception, at which earlier prophets had already hinted, rose into prominence-that of the holy remnant or true people of God. It was a period of violent reaction against the teaching of the prophets, which lasted for about fifty years. The contrast between Manasseh's reign and that of his father Hezekiah has been justly compared to that which is presented by the era of the Stuart restoration in its relation to the Puritan ascendency which preceded it. The insolent, materialistic spirit of libertinism revived. Jerusalem again became the scene of strange idolatries; Manasseh himself practised the hideous rites of Moloch worship; the arts of sorcery, magic, and soothsaying amused the indolence of a corrupt court. The living voice of prophecy sank into silence1, and was only again uplifted when Josiah had ascended the throne. Moreover, from this time onwards an increasing volume of calamity threatened the Jewish state. Before the close of Manasseh's reign (638) the terrible inroads of the Scythian hordes took place. They overran for a period of twenty years the greater part of western Asia, spreading desolation and terror to the very borders of Egypt. Meanwhile Nineveh was tottering to its fall (607); then followed a struggle for supremacy between the giant-powers of Babylon and Egypt, which was decided by Nebuchadnezzar's defeat of the Egyptian army at Carchemish (605). The period was in fact one of almost unbroken excitement, terror, and distress; the effects of Josiah's attempted reformation of worship on the basis of the Deuteronomic law were superficial and soon passed away; it was manifest that for Jerusalem the day of reckoning was close at hand. Zephaniah at the beginning of Josiah's reign had already proclaimed that in the impending deluge of judgment Israel would by no means escape. Habbakuk represents

1 Darmesteter, pp. 65, 66. Possibly, as Ewald and Cornill hold, Micah chh. vi, vii belong to the reign of Manasseh.

the patience of faith waiting on God amid universal convulsion. Jeremiah is the prophet of Jerusalem's fall. He, together with Habbakuk, gives utterance to the distress of that righteous remnant of Israel which in an evil time had set itself to seek God. The whole problem of suffering began to press for solution; and rightly to estimate the spiritual importance of the epoch which began with Josiah's death (about 609) and only ended with the return from exile, we must bear in mind its general character: the entire period was one of judgment, inevitable, crushing, and complete. The sorrows of the holy seed, the spiritual Israel, in the land of captivity served to accentuate the problem which perplexed the minds of Israel's prophets and saints. The faithful remnant, conscious of its own integrity of heart and of its newlyawakened zeal for God, was overwhelmed in the common calamity which had overtaken the nation. Old theories of retribution had thereby been proved to be inadequate. A new doctrine of suffering was imperatively needed to account for the new circumstances in which the righteous found themselves placed. And, speaking broadly, it is not inaccurate to say that the lesson which above all others Israel learned in its day of calamity was the real meaning and purpose of suffering.

[ocr errors]

The principal pictures of the righteous sufferer contained in the Old Testament for instance, the twenty-second psalm, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the story of Job-seem to embody the deepened spiritual experience of the exile. In these great passages of Scripture tribulation is recognized as being not merely a judgment upon human sin, but an element in the progress of the kingdom of God, a discipline by which the true servant of Jehovah is trained and educated for his unique mission. The thought of the priestly or mediatorial office of God's people comes to Cp. Cornill, Der Israelitische Prophetismus, pp. 77 foll.; Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 171 foll.

1

« AnteriorContinuar »