These are but the beginnings. It is in the prophetic books, the third of the groups, that the full picture with its brightest coloring is found. The picture is not only winsome beyond all comparison and glorious, but stupendous in its conception and its sweep. It is most notable that, as the flood-tide of the nation's prosperity ebbs from its highest mark, the vision to the prophetic eye of a coming glory grows steadily in brightness and in distinctness. As the great kings go, the great prophets come. It is to them we must turn for the full-length picture.
The one continuous subject of the prophets is the coming King and kingdom and attendant events. Immediate historical events furnish the setting, but with a continual swinging to the coming future greatness. The yellow glory light of the coming day is never out of the prophetic sky. Its reflection is never out of the prophetic eye. Jeremiah is the one most absorbed in the boiling of the political pot of his own strenuous time, but even he at times lifts his head and gets such glimpses of the coming glory as make him mix some rose tincture with the jet black ink he uses.
The common thread running through the fabric of the prophetic books clear from Isaiah to Malachi is the phrase |in that day.| Sometimes it thickens into |the day of the Lord,| |the great day of the Lord,| |Jehovah hath a great day,| |at that time.| About this thread is woven in turn the whole series of stirring scenes and events that are to mark the coming time. Sometimes it is of local application; most times of the future time, and a few times the meaning slides from one to the other, touching both.
Over all of these pages is the shadow of Somebody coming down the aisle of the ages, who is to be the world's Master. The figure of a man, large to gigantic size, majestic, yet kindly as well as kingly, looms out through these lines before the reader's face. The old idea of God Himself dwelling in the midst of the people, sharing their life, made familiar by Eden, by the flame-tipped mount and the glory-filled tent, comes out again. For this coming One is said to be God Himself. But more than that He is to be a man, and a son of man; man bred of man. The blending of the two, God and man, is pointed to in the unprecedented thing of a pure virgin birth for this one. God and a pure maiden join themselves in His coming. He is to be of native Hebrew stock, in direct descent from the great David, and born in David's native village. Of course He is to be a king as was David, but unlike that ancestor, to be not only a king, but a priest, and a preacher and teacher.
The kingdom he will set up will be like Himself in its blending of the human and divine. Its origin is not human, but divine. The capital is to be Zion or Jerusalem. It will be marked by the glorious presence of God Himself visibly present to all eyes. The characteristics of the kingdom are of peculiar attractiveness, at any time, to any people of this poor old blood-stained, gun-ploughed battle-field of an earth. The stronger traits that men commonly think of as desirable are combined with traits that have been reckoned by men of all generations as absurdly, unpractically idealistic.
There will be vengeance upon all enemies, who have been using Israel as a common football, and great victory. Yet, strangely, these will be gotten without the use of violent force, and will be followed by great peace. The kingdom is to be established in loving-kindness and marked to an unparalleled degree by a sense of right and justice to all. This feature is emphasized over and over again, with refreshing frequency to those so eager for such a revolutionary change in their affairs. Absolute gentle fairness and impartiality will decide all difficulties arising. Even the most friendless and the most obnoxious thing will be fairly judged.
That great universal majority, the poor, will be especially guarded and cared for. There will be no hungry people, nor cold, nor poorly clad; no unemployed, begging for a chance to earn a dry crust, and no workers fighting for a fair share of the fruit of their sweat-wet toil. But there are tenderer touches yet upon this canvas. Broken hearts will be healed up, prison doors unhung, broken family circles complete again. It is to be a time of great rejoicing by the common people. Yet all this will be brought about, not immediately, but gradually, following the natural law of growth; though the beginning will be marked by a great crisis, coming suddenly.
The effect upon Israel nationally is to be tremendous, sweepingly reversing the conditions under which most of these predictions are made. Israel is to become a Spirit-baptized nation, wholly swayed by the Spirit of God, and that gracious sway never to be withdrawn. All judgments for her sins are removed and all impurity thoroughly cleansed away. Possession of their own land is assured. And the capital city is to become a holy place from which, in common with the whole land, all impurity has been cleansed away. All weakness and disability are gone, and full freedom from the exactions of her former enemies to be enjoyed. Not only is Israel to be at peace with all nations, but, far more, is to have the leadership of the nations of the earth, and leadership of the highest sort -- in a world-wide spiritual movement, in the day when the Spirit of God is to be poured out upon all flesh.
This leadership is to be a glorious and absolute supremacy among all the nations of the earth. And yet this is not to be by man's method of conquest, but of their own earnest accord all nations will come a-running eagerly, voluntarily, with all their wealth and resources for the upbuilding and service of Israel. In that time the Hebrew capital Jerusalem will likewise be the capital of the earth.
No less radical and sweeping will be the changes in Israel personally, individually. The people are to be made over new within. The modern word for this sort of thing is regeneration. The old-fashioned word is a new heart -- a new spirit. The change is to be at the core; a change of the sort. With this will come a marked spirit of devotion to God, and a peculiar open-mindedness to the truth. There will be an absence of all sickness and a decided increase in length of life and great increase in numbers. There will be no longer any disappointment in plans, and the sense of slavish fear, which is universal, not only with all the race, but through all time, will be utterly absent. Israel is to be a nation of persons with thrilled hearts and radiant faces.