PURPOSE OF MESSIAH'S COMING: TO MAKE AN EVERLASTING COVENANT
WHEN "Shiloh" who is "Messiah the Prince" comes, He will make a new Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְכָרַתִּי אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה׃ לֹא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת־אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר־הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִי וְאָנֹכִי בָּעַלְתִּי בָם נְאֻם־יְהוָה׃ כִּי זֹאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרֹת אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים הָהֵם נְאֻם־יְהוָה נָתַתִּי אֶת־תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל־לִבָּם אֶכְתְּבֶנָּה וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ־לִי לְעָם׃ וְלֹא יְלַמְּדוּ עוֹד אִישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵהוּ וְאִישׁ אֶת־אָחִיו לֵאמֹר דְּעוּ אֶת־יְהוָה כִּי כוּלָּם יֵדְעוּ אוֹתִי לְמִקְּטַנָּם וְעַד־גְּדוֹלָם נְאֻם־יְהוָה כִּי אֶסְלַח לַעֲוֹנָם וּלְחַטָּאתָם לֹא אֶזְכָּר־עוֹד׃
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; forasmuch as they broke My covenant, although I was a Lord over them, saith the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people, and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying: 'Know the Lord'; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more" (Jer. 31:31-34 (30-33) Jewish Pub. Soc. Tr.).
According to this promise, God, says Jeremiah, will make a new covenant with the entire house of Israel which will not be like the one He made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, which covenant consisted of rites and ceremonies enjoined upon all to be observed, and for the infraction of the least of which rites severe punishment was to be meted out; but this covenant promises to be one which goes deeper than the outward observance of commands, statutes, and ordinances;--it reaches the heart and soul and changes the life, for "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it" (Jer. 31:33). Again "a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek. 36:26).
This everlasting covenant is likewise mentioned by Isaiah the prophet, in his invitation to his brethren to come and to eat and drink without money and without price, which invitation is found in Isa. 55:1,2 and is followed by
הַטּוּ אָזְנְכֶם וּלְכוּ אֵלַי שִׁמְעוּ וּתְחִי נַפְשְׁכֶם וְאֶכְרְתָה לָכֶם בְּרִית עוֹלָם חַסְדֵי דָוִד הַנֶּאֱמָנִים׃ הֵן עֵד לְאוּמִּים נְתַתִּיו נָגִיד וּמְצַוֵּה לְאֻמִּים׃ הֵן גּוֹי לֹא־תֵדַע תִּקְרָא וְגוֹי לֹא־יְדָעוּךָ אֵלֶיךָ יָרוּצוּ לְמַעַן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְלִקְדוֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי פֵאֲרָךְ׃
"Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not; and a nation that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee."
From verse three the logical inference may be drawn that Israel is dead spiritually, but that in order that she may live she must hearken to the message of the prophet and must accept the everlasting covenant which he promises that God will make,--even the sure mercies of David. It also logically follows that the covenant which was made at Sinai could not give life to Israel.
The expression "sure mercies of David" doubtless refers to the promise vouchsafed to him (2 Sam. 7; I Chron. 17; II Chron. 6:42). A perusal of the passages referred to clearly indicates what are the blessings of this new covenant, namely, the setting up of the Davidic dynasty in the person of a descendant of David, who reigns forever, i.e., the Messiah, and the restoration of Israel to the fatherland and their blessings where they shall be free from all trials, persecutions and difficulties. The word translated "sure" is הַנֶּאֱמָנִים and means "strengthened," "established"; hence the sure mercies of David are the promises which God made to him and which, because God is God, are absolutely sure and certain. In verse 4 Isaiah states that God made David a "witness to the peoples, a leader and commander to the peoples." From the historical records preserved in the accounts of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles it is clear that David was a witness for God to the nations round about Israel and that he was a leader and commander of certain small nations which he conquered; but the language here is so very inclusive and far-reaching that it embraces all the peoples לְאֻמִּים. Hence David filled out this picture of a world witness and international ruler only in a very limited and partial manner. He functioned in a typical sense, foreshadowing the universal and righteous reign of the Messiah. This interpretation is confirmed by verse 5 which states that "thou (the remnant of Israel which accepts His invitation of grace, verses 1 and 2) shall call a nation that thou knowest not; and a nation that knew thee not shall run unto thee," etc. This statement throws the fulfillment of the prediction definitely into the future. In no sense can it be said that it has been fulfilled to Israel. Therefore as stated above, David's limited and imperfect reign dimly yet unquestionably foreshadowed the universal reign of his "Greater Son," the Messiah, Who will enter into covenant relationship with the preserved remnant of Israel.
Again, through the same prophet, God promised to send one upon whom He would place His Spirit, to bring joy, gladness, and all blessings to the oppressed and down-trodden remnant of Israel. When He fulfills this promise, He says that Israel shall be restored to her own land and shall be served by foreigners, but she will be priests of the Lord, and the wealth of the nations shall be brought to her. Furthermore, she shall have a double portion of blessing instead of persecution. Then He will make with her an everlasting covenant (see Isa. 61:1-9). Thus far God has never fulfilled this promise because Israel is scattered among the nations and her land is still desolate, having been in this condition for centuries. When, however, God enters into this everlasting covenant with her she shall, as is seen in 2 Sam. 7:1-17, never again be removed from her land.
It may appear to one at the first glance that this everlasting covenant is the one that was made with Israel at Sinai, but a close examination of the various promises concerning this covenant reveals the fact that the covenant made there was only partial and temporary; and that the covenant which God made with Abraham, reaffirmed to Isaac and also to Jacob, is in reality the everlasting covenant as is seen in Psa. 105. Without doubt the covenant which was promised through Jeremiah in the following passage is this covenant. "And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: Behold, I will gather them out of all the countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul" (Jer. 32:36-41). Though verse 36 has as its background the dark days of Babylonian captivity, the promise in the following verses transcends so very far the return under Zerubbabel that it is impossible for one to see in that event the complete fulfillment of the promise. It is doubtless true that this partial fulfillment and restoration under Zerubbabel was a fulfillment which typifies the full and complete fulfillment under King Messiah who will gather Israel from all countries and plant her in her own land, and at the same time will make this everlasting covenant, after which she will never be cast out (see II Sam. 7:10; I Chron. 16:14-20).
The position taken in this chapter may seem to the casual reader to contradict the statement that the covenant of circumcision is an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7), that the sabbath is an everlasting covenant (Ex. 31:16), and that the ritual on the Day of Atonement is also "a statute for ever unto you" (Lev. 16:29). Nowhere is the covenant of Sinai called "an everlasting covenant." The covenant of circumcision was given prior to the giving of the Law. The observance of the sabbath was commanded to Israel when God first gave them manna to eat prior to their arrival at Sinai (Ex. 16:29-30). Therefore it cannot be said to be a part of the ritualism given at Sinai. It is true, however, that, according to Neh. 9:14 God made known unto Israel His "holy sabbath" in the sense that He explained its significance.
The ritual on the Day of Atonement is "a statute for ever." It was God's plan that it should be observed year by year for a certain time and then to be superseded by a sacrifice of the Messiah whose atonement is the fulfillment of the yearly sacrifice on Yom Kippur. That the sacrifices were not to continue forever is seen from the following Scripture: "Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in; Mine ears hast thou opened: Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I am come; In the roll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, 0 my God; Yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psa. 40:6-8). The Speaker in this Psalm is doubtless the Messiah Who states that God does not want burnt-offerings and sacrifices, but that instead of such sacrifices He, the Messiah, comes to do the will of God. The connection shows that He is speaking of His doing the will of God with reference to the matter of sacrifices. This passage, taken in connection with Isa. 53:10-12, shows that it is the will of God to stop the animal sacrifices, which can never cleanse the soul, and to accept Messiah's sacrifice and atonement as the complete satisfaction for sin. Since the sacrifice of Yom Kippur finds its complete fulfillment in the sacrifice of Messiah, the former can correctly be said to be an everlasting covenant.
According to Ezek. 40-48 Messiah will build the great temple of God in Jerusalem and will restore certain feasts and ritualism which will doubtless look backward, as memorials, to things which Messiah accomplishes at His first coming. It is likewise true that the sabbath will be observed during Messiah's reign (Isa. 66:23).
During the period between the first and second comings of the Messiah God shows that it is not His will that the ritualism delivered at Mount Sinai should be practiced, by the fact that He permits the temple to be destroyed and the nation to be scattered to the four winds. If it were not His plan for the ordinances delivered at Sinai to be discontinued during this period, He would not have permitted the destruction of the nation.¹
From the facts thus far presented it is clear that God will in the future enter into a covenant with Israel which will be entirely different from the covenant made at Sinai.
CONCLUSION TO BOOK TWO
Having seen in the investigation thus far that there are infallible and indisputable proofs of the existence of a personal, intelligent, Supreme Being revealed in the Tenach as the God of Israel; that He has communicated to the world through the prophets of Israel the authoritative revelation of Himself which constituted to Israel "a rule of faith and practice" in matters both religious and political; that there is a plurality of Divine Personalities; that these Divine Persons constitute a unity which, according to the second of the "Thirteen Principles of the Faith" (Daily Prayer Book, Hebrew and English, Page 181), "is a Unity, and that there is no unity in any manner like unto His, and that He alone is our God, Who was, is, and will be"; that the number of these Divine Personalities is three; and that One of these, according to the predictions of the prophets, assumes human form for the purpose of blessing mankind, the reader is now invited to consider the reasonableness of the doctrine of the incarnation of the Messiah. An illustration will suffice on this point.
In the Torah appear several accounts of the appearance of "the angel of the Lord" to certain patriarchs in the form of a man for the purpose of communicating with them. Since, according to the records of the Torah, in order to forward His plan and to bring a blessing to the chosen people, "the angel of the Lord," Who was none other than God, assumed human form temporarily, it is but natural that He would assume a genuine human body for a protracted visit to man. It is in accordance with sound reason that He should act thus. The reasonableness of this position becomes apparent by the following illustration. If man were God (being all-powerful, knowing all things, and being loving and compassionate) and wished to communicate in the most effective way with an ant, one of his creatures, the natural thing for him to do would be to assume the form of an ant and to speak to him in his own language. By so doing he could present his message in a way that the ant could understand and could appeal to the intelligence, emotions, and will of the same. The analogy holds good in respect to God and His relation to man. Since God is all-powerful, knows all things, and loves man, His creature, with an eternal love, it is but logical to think that the former would take the form of the latter in order to teach him His ways and His thoughts in the language which he understands.
Since the Tenach has aroused such great anticipations in the hearts not only of Israel but also of mankind which expectations thrill the soul with radiant hope, and since it closes without the realization of these glorious predictions, it is now proper to turn to the הברית החדשׁה "New Testament"² which is a collection of twenty-seven books similar to those of the Tenach, which were written by Hebrew prophets and sages who delivered "The words which the Lord of Hosts had sent by His Spirit" (see Zech. 7:12) for the salvation and blessing of mankind.
¹ To illustrate God's annulling the covenant at Sinai, it is only necessary to note the following analogy. The Legislature of a state, for example, California, can draft a constitution and adopt it, putting it into effect on a certain date. When it no longer serves the purpose of the state the same legislative body which made it can declare it null and void and can supersede it with a new one. Therefore the body that adopts it can cancel the same. Since God has nowhere declared the Sinaitic covenant as an eternal one, when it serves His purposes He can annul it. The fact that He has destroyed the temple and scattered the nation (according to Dan. 9:24 ff) is proof that He has annulled the old covenant.
According to the many promises quoted in this chapter, He eventually will make a new covenant which will be entirely different from the old one.
² Though the reader's attention has been called several times in the preceding pages to one of the principal rules of interpretation of language it will not be amiss to re-emphasize the same and to call attention to some other vital principles before he begins his investigation of the New Testament Scriptures.
Being true to Himself, having man's interest at heart, and wishing to communicate His will to him, God certainly clothed His thoughts in language capable of being understood. A corollary growing out of the facts stated above is that God said what He meant and meant what He said.
The literal meaning of each word and expression is to be sought in every instance and to be so interpreted unless there are definite indications in the context which point most clearly to the fact that the writer was using the language in a figurative sense. In that case the figure must be interpreted in accordance with the common usage.
Whenever a passage from the Old Testament is quoted in the New, the reader should turn back to the passage in the Old Testament and read the connection to ascertain the original significance of the prophecy; then he should study its setting in the New Testament passage in order to arrive at the full meaning.
In Matt. 2 appear four quotations from the Old Testament. Each of these is an illustration of a different principle of interpreting prophecy. Verse 6 illustrates the principle of literal interpretation. Micah stated that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem; Matthew says that the birth of Jesus in the city of Bethlehem was the fulfillment of that prophecy. This language is unmistakable. In v. 15 appears the principle of literal fulfillment plus that of the typical. This passage is quoted from Hos. 11:1 and primarily referred to the literal coming forth of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. This exodus typified, according to Matthew, the coming forth from Egypt of God's Son--Jesus the Christ. In v. 18 appears a quotation from Jer. 31:15 which referred to the sorrow and grief of the Jewish mothers at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Matthew's using this passage with reference to the weeping of the mothers of Bethlehem when Herod slew their infants is the literal interpretation plus that of application. Since it was a similar situation the words of the prophet were indeed applicable to the new situation; hence it was an application (there is a vast difference between interpretation of Scripture and application of the same, which must be kept clearly in mind if one is to avoid error). In v. 23 is the principle of the literal fulfillment plus the summary. Matthew says that Christ dwelt in Nazareth, and "that he should be called a Nazarene." In the Old Testament there is no statement that He should be called a Nazarene but there are detailed statements that He would be despised and hated. The word Nazarene was an epithet with which to stigmatize one with the greatest reproach; hence in this one word Matthew summed up all the predictions concerning the Messiah's being hated.
If the context of an Old Testament passage indicates unmistakably that it is to be taken literally, it is to be understood literally in the New Testament; if the Old Testament setting indicated a figurative meaning, its New Testament context will indicate the same. Zion in the Old Testament was literal; in the New Testament it is always to be understood literally unless the context indicates otherwise. So with all prophecy.
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