THE PROMISE OF THE REDEEMER
"For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? 25 But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24,25).
I. THE ORIGINAL PROMISE OF THE REDEEMER
When man disobeyed God and partook of the forbidden fruit, he was banished from his home in Eden. At that time the Lord made an announcement to the serpent concerning the redemption of the human family: "And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:14,15). According to this promise there would be eternal enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The former is to deal a blow to the latter which is compared to a crushing stroke upon the head; the latter, in turn, is to deal a blow to the former which is compared to a bruise upon the heel. In other words that which the seed of the serpent does to Him who is the seed of the woman is a minor injury compared to the smashing blow which the latter deals to him. In the final outcome therefore the seed of the woman is to be triumphant, whereas the seed of the serpent is to go down in utter defeat.
The term, the seed of the woman, expressed in the phrase, "her seed," is unique; it does not appear anywhere else in the Scriptures. The universal method among the Hebrews throughout their history was to count their seed according to the man and never according to the woman. Since this record is infallibly inspired by the Spirit of God who never makes any mistakes, we may be certain that it was with design that this expression was used. According to Genesis 1:27 when the Lord made man, He created them male and female. The Almighty blessed them saying, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." The power of propagating the species was given to the man and woman jointly. When God made the woman out of a rib from the man's side, He brought her to him. Adam immediately recognized that she was "bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." This statement implies that the Lord removed something more than simply the rib from Adam's side--flesh also. The suggestion has been made that probably Adam was created with the procreative organs and that, at the time of the removal of the rib from his body the Lord removed the feminine organs and built the woman around them. Though we may not be dogmatic on this point, one can see the reasonableness of the position. When Eve was presented to Adam, the Lord decreed that man should leave his father and his mother and that he should cleave to his wife," and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Thus from the very beginning God indicated that the two--the man and the woman--should propagate the species, but the sacred writers always spoke of the progeny as being the seed of the man--never of the woman.
Notwithstanding this universal fact which has obtained among the Jews--from the very beginning to the present moment--the Lord spoke of the seed of the woman in this most definite and specific manner. Obviously this language can mean nothing else than that there would arise an individual who would be born of a woman, but with whose birth no mortal man would have any connection. If it were to have been otherwise, the expression under consideration would have no meaning whatsoever. When we take this language at its face meaning, with all its implications, and read it in the light of subsequent revelations--as for instance, Isaiah 7:14 which speaks of the virgin birth of the Messiah--we can see very definitely the import of this unique expression in this first promise, the announcement of the Saviour's birth.
All men and women from Cain to the present time, being born by natural generation (begotten by the father and born of the mother), inherit the sinful, fallen nature of their foreparents. Since this one is not, according to the prediction, to have a human father, it is quite evident that His nature is to be entirely different from ordinary men who enter the world by natural generation. In this first announcement regarding the Redeemer of the race, there is a clear intimation that He, though a man, is to be entirely different from other men in that He does not have a human father. If He should be born of natural generation like all other men, He would obviously have the same kind of fallen nature that others have. This principle is according to true science, for one of its fundamental principles is that like causes under like conditions produce like results the world over. This fact is set forth in Genesis, chapter 1, in such a statement as the following: "And God said, Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind: and it was so" (Gen. 1:24). This same principle occurs in the statement regarding the birth of Seth: "And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth" (Gen. 5:3). Seth was in the same image and likeness as his parents, Adam and Eve. He had the same fallen nature which they had; but, since the Redeemer promised in the passage under consideration is to be the seed of the woman, we see that man has nothing to do with His birth. He is on a different plane from that of all other men. He is therefore to be a unique character in every sense of the word. He cannot, obviously, be classified with any of the sons of men--even though He is a man (the God-man).
In the next chapter we shall have an occasion to view this subject more fully in the additional light given by later predictions.
II. THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
Israel is indeed the hub of the nations. All history revolves around this people. Centuries before the creation of Isaac by a biological miracle, the Almighty, at Babel, scattered the peoples throughout the earth. Then He allotted to each nation its territory, apportioning to each its inheritance, but doing it with reference to Israel. In other words, the nations received their inheritance, but were placed with special relation to the Jewish people:
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When he separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel. 9 For Jehovah's portion is his people: Jacob is the lot of his inheritance (Deut. 32:8,9).
When the time came in the providence of God for the unfolding of the Almighty's plan, He found in the person of Abraham a man through whom He could work. The eyes of the Lord are running constantly throughout the earth to find a man whose heart is perfect toward Him, in order that He might show Himself strong in behalf of such a one and might work through him in the carrying out of His plans and purposes (II Chron. 16:9). Concerning Abraham, He spoke as follows: "For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Gen. 18:19). Notwithstanding the fact that Abraham was born into and reared in an idolatrous home (see Josh. 24:2), he refused to stultify his conscience and to shut out that light which God grants to every man coming into the world. As we have already seen in a former chapter, man is given capacity and spiritual discernment to recognize in and behind nature the Supreme Being. Abraham followed the light that lighteth every man coming into the world. Step by step God led him, and finally entered into a solemn covenant with Him: "Now Jehovah said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make they name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:1-3).
This quotation might properly be called the cornerstone of all prophecy; from it all prophetic lines must run and all surveys be made. A failure to start here when one attempts to measure the prophetic field is to lead one into erroneous calculations and false conclusions. A clear understanding therefore of this passage is absolutely essential to the proper comprehension of the truth of God.
An analysis of this covenant yields the following results in the form of a sevenfold promise: (1) "And I will make of thee a great nation"; (2) "and I will bless thee"; (3) "and make thy name great"; (4) "and I will bless them that bless thee"; (5) "and him that curseth thee will I curse"; (6) "and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed"; (7) and the land promise, implied in the statement of verse 1, "unto the land that I will show thee," and mentioned in verse 7, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." This element of the promise was also given to Abraham personally in Genesis 13:15, "for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever."
None of these promises have been fulfilled to Abraham in the measure here contemplated. Since God watches over His Word to fulfill it, we may be certain that at the proper time the Lord will make good every promise--literally and exactly as He has stated.
On account of limited space I cannot enter into a discussion of these points, but feel that attention should be called to the last four items. A special blessing is promised to the one who sincerely, and not for material considerations, blesses Abraham and his seed. Those who have followed the spirit and the letter of this condition testify that God has made good this promise to them. He has likewise cursed those nations and individuals who have persecuted the Jew. Egypt became one of the basest kingdoms of the world in fulfillment of Ezekiel 29:13,14. Assyria and Babylon likewise fell under the judgment of God because of ill-treatment of the Jews. The same thing is true of ancient Rome and medieval Spain. This special curse will likewise fall upon the Nazi regime and all supporting it who have as their objective the persecution of the seed of Abraham.
The sixth item of this covenant is that it is the Almighty's plan to bless all nations in Abraham. This promise is explained more fully in Genesis 22:14-18:
15 And the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said, By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
From this promise we see that all nations are to be blessed in Abraham's seed. We learn from this fact that the promise reaches out into the distant future, and that it was not to be realized in Abraham's day. What or who is meant by "thy seed"? This word in the original is in the singular number as all students of Hebrew know. Confirmation of this position for the English student is seen in Galatians 3:16: "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." But this word is also a collective noun, as demonstrated in Genesis 15:4; "And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be." Since Abraham's seed (singular number) is here promised to become as numerous as the stars of heaven, we see that it is used in a collective sense and refers to Abraham's literal seed--the Jews. This same meaning appears in Genesis 22:17, where Abraham's seed is compared to the stars of the heavens and to the sand upon the seashore. We must conclude, therefore, that the word has a double signification: In the first place, it refers to the Messiah of Israel who alone can bless all nations; in the second place, it refers to Abraham's literal seed, the Jews. These passages show that Messiah is to be of Hebrew origin and that through Abraham and his literal descendants the world will be blessed.
Finally, the seventh promise of this covenant grants to the Hebrew people permanent possession of Palestine. Figuratively speaking, they hold the title deed which is on file in the "hall of records" in heaven. At the proper time they shall have possession of their own land--by the grace and mercy of God.
All prophetic utterances spoken after the making of this covenant are but an enlargement or an application of the original items contained therein.
III. THE PROMISE THROUGH JACOB
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be (Gen. 49:10).
Jacob, by prophetic vision, looked across the centuries to the time when He, whom he called Shiloh, should come and promised his sons that the ruling power should not depart from Judah until this one should make His advent. Although there has been quite a discussion as to the real significance of this term, it becomes quite evident that it is messianic; for it is in perfect alignment with predictions regarding Messiah preceding and following it. Something like twelve or more renderings of this passage have been advanced. When all the facts have been taken into consideration, it appears that the only explanation that will harmonize with all the data is this: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He comes whose it is; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be: (literal translation). An unmistakable echo of this clause appears in Ezekiel 21:27 and is properly rendered, "… until he come whose right it is."
In fulfillment of this prediction the ruling authority remained in the tribe of Judah, until it was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as we shall later see. After He was rejected in 30 A.D., the authority passed away from Judah in 70 A.D., when the Romans overthrew the nation of Israel and scattered them to the four corners of the globe. (For a full discussion of this prophecy see chap. III of Messiah: His Nature and Person.)
IV. THE PROMISE THROUGH BALAAM
Balaam, a non-Israelite yet inspired by the Spirit, was invited by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel as she was passing through his borders on the way to the Promised Land. In his second oracle Balaam foretold Israel purged, free from all iniquity and sin, and a divine King sitting enthroned, reigning in her midst:
He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob;
Neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel:
Jehovah his God is with him,
and the shout of a king is among them. (Num. 23:21).
This verse is Hebrew poetry. Lines three and four are parallel. The first statement declares that the Lord, the God of Israel, is with him. The second statement affirms that there is a shout of a king among them. This king is none other than the God of Jacob among them, who is in their midst.
A prediction of this king, similar to this one, is found in Numbers 24:7:
Water shall flow from his buckets,
And his seed shall be in many waters,
And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
In his fourth oracle Balaam likewise predicted the advent of Messiah and His rule over Israel:
I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not nigh:
there shall come forth a star out of Jacob,
And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel,
And shall smite through the corners of Moab,
And break down all the sons of tumult (Num. 24:17).
From these predictions we see that Israel's future King is to be none other than God in human form, reigning in her midst upon this earth.
V. THE PROMISE THROUGH MOSES
In his final oration to Israel, spoken immediately before his death, Moses, the great lawgiver, uttered this marvelous prediction:
15 Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16 according to all that thou desiredst of Jehovah thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of Jehovah my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17 And Jehovah said unto me, they have well said that which they have spoken. 18 I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him (Deut. 18:15-19).
According to this prediction the one whom Moses called "a prophet" and whom he declared God would raise up to Israel would be like himself. From the nineteenth verse we see that God would hold every Israelite responsible for not rendering obedience to Him when He appears. The Apostle Peter, in his second recorded sermon (Acts 3), declared that God had fulfilled this promise in raising up Jesus of Nazareth to the Hebrew people.
22 Moses indeed said, A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. 23 And it shall be, that every soul that shall not hearken to that prophet, shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. 24 Yea and all the prophets from Samuel and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. 25 Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities (Acts 3:22-26).
VI. THE PROMISE TO DAVID
When David wished to build a temple to the glory of God, the Lord forbade his doing so; nevertheless, He appreciated David's holy desire to honor Him, and through Nathan the prophet gave him the following promise: "Moreover Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house. When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with they fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever" (II Sam. 7:11-16).
In verse 12, Solomon is introduced as David's successor, who mounted the throne upon the latter's death. According to verse 13 he would build the Temple to the glory of God. In verses 14, 15 we have a wonderful promise and a threat, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee." Without doubt this passage refers to Solomon. God did prove a father to Solomon and recognized him as His son, chastening him when he disobeyed. In verse 16 there is the promise that David's house and kingdom would be made sure and his throne established forever. Following Solomon, there sat upon the throne nineteen kings of the Davidic house. The literal throne of David was overturned at the time of the Babylonian captivity in fulfillment of the warning that, if David's descendants on the throne committed iniquity, God would punish them. Since, according to this promise, David's throne is to be established forever, and since it was overthrown at the time of the Babylonian captivity, it becomes evident that this throne must be re-established and that, when it is thus restored, it will continue as long as the sun, moon, and stars endure. These inferences, drawn from the predictions, are confirmed by clear prophecy such as Amos 9:11-15:
11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old; 12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the nations that are called by my name, saith Jehovah that doeth this. 13 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, 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. 14 And I will bring back the captivity of my people 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. 15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith Jehovah thy God.
Micah likewise, in 4:6-8, spoke of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom:
6 In that day, saith Jehovah will I assemble that which is lame, and I will gather that which is driven away, and that which I have afflicted; 7 and I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation: and Jehovah will reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth even for ever. 8 And thou, O tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, yea, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.
From all of these facts we realize that the promise in II Samuel, chapter 7, looks at the Davidic line and sees it continuing through practically five centuries. We learn this also from the historical portion of the Old Testament. But neither the Prophet Nathan, nor Amos, nor Micah says anything about the long period of time during which the throne has been vacant and the nation has sojourned in dispersion. As we have just seen, this lack of information is supplied by certain other prophets.
Further confirmation of this position is seen by a glance at the duplicate copy of this original promise, found in I Chronicles, chapter 17. In this passage, the sacred writer did not call attention to the Davidic dynasty; on the contrary, he looked away from Solomon concerning whose labors he spoke in verses 11 and 12. In verse 13 God promised that He would be a father to Solomon and that Solomon should be a son to Him. From this monarch the prophet looked forward across the centuries and saw one of David's descendants whom God would settle in his house and in his kingdom and whose throne should be forever. From these passages it is clear that the Prophet Nathan saw this one who mounts the throne of David and who remains thereupon as long as the earth stands. This one can be none other than the Hebrew Messiah.
VII. THE PREDICTION CONCERNING THE VIRGIN BIRTH
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). During a crises in the history of Judah when the very existence of the country was hanging in the balance, the Prophet Isaiah went to Ahaz, the king, and, as God's representative, offered to strengthen his faith by the performance of a miracle --a sign in the heavens above or in the depth beneath, according as the king might prefer. With a pious, hypocritical dismissal of the question, the king declared that he would not tempt God. The prophet was not deceived; he, turning from the king and looking forward into the future, addressed the house of David: "Is it a small thing for you to weary men, that ye will weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14, literal translation). Isaiah spoke of the mother of this child as being well known for, according to certain manuscripts, he spoke of "the virgin." This statement assumed on the part of the auditors a knowledge of a definite, specific virgin.
Some have erroneously thought that Isaiah was speaking of some woman who was present in the audience or who was alive at that time. There is no evidence to support such an idea, for, as just stated, the prophet turned from the king and, addressing the house of David, threw his prediction out into the future. He did not intimate how far in the future the fulfillment would be.
Having made the forecast concerning this child to be born of a virgin, the prophet turned to his contemporaries and spoke of another child who was of that generation and who would not reach the age of refusing the evil and choosing the good before the lands of the kings of Syria and of Israel should be forsaken. All the facts in the case justify our identifying the prediction of verses 13 and 14 as a reference to King Messiah whose birth, considered from Isaiah's standpoint, was in the distant future. Verses 15 to 17, on the contrary, foretold certain events concerning a child who was the contemporary of the prophet and his auditors.
The word rendered "virgin" literally means an unmarried woman. It occurs in six undisputed instances in the Hebrew Bible. An examination of these in the light of each context indicates that it can and does mean only and unmarried woman. Unless the facts of this context which we are now studying indicate clearly a departure from the usual, literal meaning of the word, we must accept that connotation as its significance here. The very facts of the prophecy lift this passage out of the realm of the ordinary and place it in the sphere of the miraculous. For these and many other reasons which could be discussed--but which are not for lack of space--one is driven by the facts to see in this prediction a forecast of the virgin birth of King Messiah. (For a full discussion of this question see chapter v. of Messiah: His Nature and Person.)
VIII. THE PREDICTION OF MESSIAH'S UNIVERSAL REIGN
Both the psalmists and the prophets spoke in the most glowing terms of the universal reign of King Messiah who shall exercise dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth--when all nations will be gathered to Jerusalem to worship the Lord God of hosts.
A typical prophecy on this point is to be found in Isaiah 9:6,7:
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.
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