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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XI. REMAINING BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

Companion To The Bible by E. P. Barrows

CHAPTER XI. REMAINING BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

1. The divine authority of the Pentateuch having been established, it is not necessary to dwell at length on the historical books which follow. The events which they record are a natural and necessary sequel to the establishment of the theocracy, as given in the five books of Moses. The Pentateuch is occupied mainly with the founding of the theocracy; the following historical books describe the settlement of the Israelitish nation under this theocracy in the promised land, and its practical operation there for the space of a thousand years. There is no history in the world so full of God's presence and providence. It sets forth with divine clearness and power, on the one side, God's faithfulness in the fulfilment of the promises and threatenings contained in the Mosaic law; and on the other, the perverseness and rebellion of the people, and their perpetual relapses into idolatry, with the mighty conflict thus inaugurated between the pure monotheism of the theocracy, and the polytheism and image-worship of the surrounding heathen nations -- a conflict which lasted through many ages, which enlisted on both sides the great and mighty men of the world, and which resulted in the complete triumph of the Mosaic law, at least so far as its outward form was concerned, thus preparing the way for the advent of that great Prophet in whom the theocracy had its end and its fulfilment.

2. How fully the divine authority of these books is recognized by Christ and his apostles, every reader of the New Testament understands. It is not necessary to establish this point by the quotation of particular passages. Though the writers of the historical books which follow the Pentateuch are for the most part unknown, the books themselves are put in the New Testament on the same basis as the Pentateuch. To those who deny Christ, the Mosaic economy, with the history that follows, is a mystery; for when they read it |the veil is upon their heart.| But to those who receive Christ as the Son of God, and the New Testament as containing a true record of his heavenly mission, Moses and the historical books that follow are luminous with divine wisdom and glory, for they contain the record of the way in which God prepared the world for the manifestation of his Son Jesus Christ.

3. The Old Testament contains a body of writings which are not historical; neither are they prophetical, in the restricted sense of the term, although some of them contain prophecy. The enumeration of these books, prominent among which are Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, with an account of their contents and the place which each of them holds in the plan of revelation, belongs to the Introduction to the Old Testament. It is sufficient to say here, that they are precious offshoots of the Mosaic economy, that they contain rich and varied treasures of divine truth for the instruction and encouragement of God's people in all ages, and that they are, as a whole, recognized in the New Testament as part of God's revelation to men. The book of Psalms, in particular, is perpetually quoted by the writers of the New Testament as containing prophecies which had their fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth.

4. The prophetical books -- according to our classification, the Jews having a different arrangement -- are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets. The vast body of prophecies contained in these books -- the prophetical portions of the other books being also included -- may be contemplated in different points of view.

Many of these prophecies, considered independently of the New Testament, afford conclusive proof that the Old Testament is the word of God, for they bear on their front the signet of their divine origin. They contain predictions of the distant future which lie altogether beyond the range of human sagacity and foresight. Such is the wonderful prophecy of Moses respecting the history of the Israelitish people through all coming ages, Lev. ch.26; Deut. ch.28, a prophecy which defies the assaults of skepticism, and which, taken in connection with our Lord's solemn declaration, |They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,| Luke 21:24, marks both the Old Testament and the New as given by the same omniscient God, who declares the end from the beginning. Such also are the predictions of the utter and perpetual desolation of Babylon, uttered ages beforehand, and which presuppose a divine foresight of the course of human affairs to the end of time: |Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.| |I will also make it a possession for the bittern and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts.| Isa.13:19, 20; 14:23. See also the prophecy of the overthrow of Nineveh, Nahum, chs.2, 3, and of Tyre: |I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea.| |I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more.| Ezek.26:4, 5, 14. On all the above prophecies, and many more that might be quoted, the descriptions of modern travellers furnish a perfect comment.

5. But it is preeminently in Christ that the prophecies of the Old Testament have their fulfilment. As the rays of the sun in a burning-glass all converge to one bright focus, so all the different lines of prophecy in the Old Testament centre in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Separated from him they have neither unity nor harmony; but are, like the primitive chaos, |without form and void.| But in him predictions, apparently contradictory to each other, meet with divine unity and harmony.

He is a great Prophet, like Moses; the Mediator, therefore, of the new economy, as Moses was of the old, and revealing to the people the whole will of God. As a Prophet, the Spirit of the Lord rests upon him, |the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.| Isa.11:2. As a Prophet, he receives from God the tongue of the learned, that he should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. Isa.50:4. As a Prophet, |the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.| Isaiah 52:15.

He is also a mighty King, to whom God has given the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. He breaks the nations with a rod of iron; he dashes them in pieces as a potter's vessel, Psa.2:8, 9; and yet |he shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.| Isa.42:2, 3. |All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him,| Psa.72:11; and yet |he is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:| |he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.| Isa.53:3, 7. Many other like contrasts could be added.

With the kingly he unites the priestly office. Sitting as a king |upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever,| Isa.9:7, he is yet |a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.| Nor is his priestly office any thing of subordinate importance, for he is inducted into it by the solemn oath of Jehovah: |The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.| Psa.110:4. As a priest he offers up himself |an offering for sin:| |he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.| Isa., ch.53. When we find a key that opens all the intricate wards of a lock, we know that the key and the lock have one and the same author, and are parts of one whole. The history of Jesus of Nazareth is the key which unlocks all the wards of Old Testament prophecy. With this key Moses and the prophets open to the plainest reader; without it, they remain closed and hidden from human apprehension. We know, therefore, that he who sent his Son Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of the world, sent also his prophets to testify beforehand of his coming, and of the offices which he bears for our redemption.

6. To sum up all in a word, we take the deepest, and therefore the most scriptural view of the Jewish institutions and history, when we consider the whole as a perpetual adumbration of Christ -- not Christ in his simple personality, but Christ in his body the church. It is not meant by this that the Mosaic economy was nothing but type. Apart from all reference to the salvation of the gospel, it was to the Israelitish people before the Saviour's advent a present reality meeting a present want. The deliverance of the people from the bondage of Egypt, their passage through the Red sea, the cloud which guided them, the manna which fed them, the water out of the rock which they drank -- all these things were to them a true manifestation of God's presence and favor, aside from their typical import, the apprehension of which indeed was reserved for future ages. So also the Mosaic institutions were to them a true body of laws for the regulation of their commonwealth, and in their judges, kings, and prophets they had true rulers and teachers.

But while all this is important to be remembered, it is also true that the Mosaic economy was thickly sown by God's own hand with the seeds of higher principles -- those very principles which Christ and his apostles unfolded out of the law and the prophets. Thus it constituted a divine training by which the people were prepared for that spiritual kingdom of heaven which |in the fulness of time| the Saviour established. |All the prophets and the law prophesied until John| -- not the prophets and the law in certain separate passages alone, but the prophets and the law as a whole. They prophesied of Christ, and in Christ their prophecy has its fulfilment.

7. The consideration of the extent of the canon of the Old Testament does not properly belong here. It is sufficient to say that we have no valid reason for doubting the truth of the Jewish tradition, which assigns to Ezra and |the great synagogue| the work of setting forth the Hebrew canon as we now have it. That this tradition is embellished with fictions must be conceded; but we ought not, on such a ground, to deny its substantial truth, confirmed as it is by all the scriptural notices of Ezra's qualifications and labors. It is certain that the canon of the Jews in Palestine was the same in our Lord's day that it is now. The Greek version of the Septuagint contains indeed certain apocryphal books not extant in the Hebrew. These seem to have been in use, more or less, among the Alexandrine Jews; but there is no evidence that any canonical authority was ascribed to them, and it is certain that the Jews of Palestine adhered strictly to the Hebrew canon, which is identical with our own.

8. The principle upon which the canon of the Old Testament was formed is not doubtful. No books were admitted into it but those written by prophets or prophetical men. As under the New Testament the reception or rejection of a book as canonical was determined by the writer's relation to Christ, so was it under the Old by his relation to the theocracy. The highest relation was held by Moses, its mediator. He accordingly had the prophetical spirit in the fullest measure: |If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold.| Numb.12:6-8. The next place was held by prophets expressly called and commissioned by God, some of whom also, as Samuel, administered the affairs of the theocracy. Finally, there were the pious rulers whom God placed at the head of the covenant people, and endowed with the spirit of prophecy, such as David, Solomon, and Ezra. To no class of men besides those just mentioned do the Jewish rabbins ascribe the authorship of any book of the Old Testament, and in this respect their judgment is undoubtedly right.

9. The inspiration of the books of the Old Testament is everywhere assumed by our Lord and his apostles; for they argue from them as possessing divine authority. |What is written in the law?| |What saith the scripture?| |All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me;| |This scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spake before concerning Judas;| |The scripture cannot be broken| -- all these and other similar forms of expression contain the full testimony of our Lord and his apostles to the truth elsewhere expressly affirmed of the Old Testament, that |all scripture is given by inspiration of God,| 2 Tim.3:16, and that |the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.| 2 Peter 1:21. When the Saviour asks the Pharisees in reference to Psalm 110, |How then doth David in spirit call him Lord?| he manifestly does not mean that this particular psalm alone was written |in spirit,| that is, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; but he ascribes to it the character which belongs to the entire book, in common with the rest of Scripture, in accordance with the express testimony of David: |The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.| 2 Sam.23:2.

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