Man is God's darling -- the king and crown of creation. The whole creation was made for him to develop and rule over and enjoy. He is in a class by himself. When he made his bad break there was just one thing left to do. God must get a new leader for His man to lead him back into all the original plan for himself. Of the whole earth man stood next to God Himself. God could not find that leader lower down. So He went higher. Jesus is God giving the race a new Leader who would withstand the lure of temptation and realize the ambition of God's heart for His darling.
The man was made in the image of God, for self-mastery, and through self-mastery for dominion over all of God's creation. That was the plan for the man. That, too, is the plan for the new Man. There is only one place to go to find God's plan for the coming One. That is in the Hebrew half of the Bible. One can hardly believe, unless he has been through the thing, how hard it is to get out of the Old Testament its vision of the coming One without any coloring from the New getting into his eyes.
We have been reading the Old Testament through the events of the New for so long that it gives a severe mental wrench to try to do anything else. Yet only so, be it sharply marked, can the plan for the coming of Jesus be gotten, and, further, only so can Jesus be understood. One must attempt to do just that to understand at all fairly what a reverent Hebrew in prophetic times expected; what such earnest Hebrews as Simeon and Anna were looking for.
I have tried to make a faithful effort to shut severely out of view the familiar facts of the gospel story for my own sake, to try to understand God's plan as it stood before there was a gospel story.
This old Hebrew picture is so full of details that are found in the reality that one who has not actually gone studiously over the Old separately will be very likely to think that the New Testament details are being read into the Old. If that be so, it is urgently requested that such an opinion be held off until the old Hebrew pages have been carefully examined as outlined in the study notes, that you may get the refreshment of a great surprise.
It must be kept keenly in mind that there is a difference between God's plan and that which He knows ahead will occur. Sovereignty does not mean that everything God plans comes to pass. Nor that everything that comes to pass is God's plan. Clearly it has not been so. It does mean that through very much that is utterly contrary to His plan He works out, in the long run, His great purpose. He works His own purpose out of a tough tangled network of contrary purposes; but in doing it never infringes upon man's liberty of action. He yields and bends, and, with a patience beyond our comprehension, waits, that in the end He may win through our consent. And so not only is His purpose saved, but man is saved and character is made in the process.
The plan is a detail of the purpose. There is one unfailing purpose through continual breakings of the plan. God's purpose remains unchanging through all changes. Yet here not only is His purpose unbroken, but His plan is to work out in the end unbroken too, though suffering a very serious break midway.
The plan goes back to the first broken plan. There was dominion or kingship of the earth by a masterful man bearing the image and imprint of God. All this was lost. Through loss of contact with God came the blurring of the image and the loss of self-mastery. Through loss of these came loss of dominion. These are to be restored -- all three. This is the key to the plan for the coming of Jesus. A universal dominion, under the lead of a Master-Man, in God's image, and through these a restoration of blessing to all the earth of men. This is the one continuous theme of the old Hebrew writings. The emphasis swings now to one aspect, now to another, but through all the one thought is a king, a world-wide kingdom bringing blessing to all creation.
But if Jesus was to lead man back He must first get alongside, close up, on the same level. This was the toughest part of the whole thing. The hardest part in saving a man is getting the man's consent to be saved. There is no task tougher than trying to help a man who thinks he doesn't need help, even though his need may be extreme. You may throw a blanket over a horse's head and get it out of a burning stable or barn; or a lasso over a bull's head to get it where you want, but man cannot be handled that way. He must be led. The tether that draws must be fastened inside, his will. He must be lifted from inside. That is a bit of the God-image in him. And so God's most difficult task was getting inside the man that had shut Him out.