The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew/Chapter 4

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THE SILENCE OF GOD HOW IT SHALL BE BROKEN


" God, even God, the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof.

" Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined forth.

" Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him.

" He shall call to the heavens above, and to the eajlh, that He may judge His people.

" Gather My saints unto Me ; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.

" And the heavens shall declare His righteousness ; for God is Judge Himself. Selah.

" Hear, O My people, and I will speak ; O Israel, and I will testify unto thee : I am God, even thy God.

" I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices ; and thy burnt offerings are continually before Me.

" I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds.

" For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

" I know all the fowls of the mountains : and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.

" If I were hungry, I would not tell thee : for the world is Mine and the fulness thereof.

" Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats ?

" Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving ; and pay thy vows to the Most High :

" And call upon Me in the day of trouble ; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.

" But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, and that thou hast taken My covenant in thy mouth ?

" Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest My words behind thee.

" When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

" Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.

" Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother ; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.

" These things hast thou done, and I kept silence ; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself :

" But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

" Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver :

" Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth Me ; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God." PSA. 1. (R.V.).


Ill

THE SILENCE OF GOD HOW IT SHALL BE BROKEN

The Second Advent in Relation to the Church, Israel, and Christendom

IT must be obvious, even to the most superficial student of the Scriptures, that we have in the Old Testament two distinct series of prophecies referring to the coming and person of the Messiah ; the one de- scribing Him as coming in humiliation, "lowly and riding upon an ass " ; "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; led as a lamb to the slaughter, and pouring out His soul unto death ;" while the other series speak of Him as coming in visible power and great glory, and receiving dominion and a kingdom, so that " all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him." " His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

The Jews many centuries ago puzzled .over the apparent discrepancies in the picture of Messiah, drawn by the prophets on the pages of Scripture, and at last invented a characteristic solution of their own. There must be two different persons, they said ; and they called the one Messiah Ben-Joseph, who must suffer and die; and the other Messiah Ben-David, who should

6 6 5


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come in power and reign. 1 Of course this explanation is absurd, for there is no trace of two Messiahs or of a Messiah Ben-Joseph anywhere in the Old Testament. Christian commentators and theologians have had their own way of explaining the difference, and this has been by applying two different principles and methods of interpretation. The prophecies of Messiah's suffering, they said, must be taken literally ; but those speaking of His coming in manifest glory, and of a throne on Mount Zion, must be explained spiritually, or referred to the reign of Christ in heaven. But the system of the two principles is scarcely more satisfactory, and has even less consistency about it, than the Jewish one of the two persons ; for if a prophecy of a glorious appear- ing of Messiah to reign over the earth is not to be taken literally, why should one describing an advent in suffer- ing be so explained ? The true solution which should commend itself to the minds of all God's people is that there is but one person, Jesus Christ ; one principle of interpretation for all prophecy, whether fulfilled or un- fulfilled, to believe and take God's Word as it stands, but that there are two advents one in humiliation, the other in glory ; one to suffer and die, the other to take unto Himself His kingdom and reign.

To the two distinct series of prophecies announcing two different advents, two well-known prophetic scrip- tures may be taken as key passages. The first is Micah v. 2, which tells us that " the Ruler in Israel," whose origin is Divine, and whose goings forth are from the days of eternity, will be born as a child in Bethlehem Ephratha. The second is Dan. vii. 13, 14, where we see Him no longer as a child born on earth of a Jewish


1 See on this subject of the Jewish doctrine of two Messiahs a note on p. 44 of my book, " Rays of Messiah's Glory."


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virgin, but as "the Son of Man," coming with the clouds of heaven to receive the homage of the world.

These two scriptures, which are only representative, each in its line, of many others, cannot surely describe the same advent, and we may also ask the question how, as Son of Man, can Messiah come with clouds from heaven, except He was first taken up into heaven for the very name " Man " implies a human origin ? The answer is simple and fully supplied by Scripture. Though " God blessed for ever," He is made of a woman, and " took hold of the seed of Abraham," and being found in fashion as a man, He, for our salvation, "humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." " He was buried according to the Scriptures," but He was not left in Sheol, nor did God suffer His Holy One to see corruption. " On the third day He rose again," also " according to the Scriptures," and in accordance also with that which prophets and psalmists sang in advance, " He ascended on high, leading captivity captive," and there as the God-man, at the right hand of the Majesty, He now sits as our blessed High Priest, waiting until His enemies shall be made His footstool, when He shall descend again in power and great glory. To this truth both apostles and prophets bear witness.

This, however, is only a word of introduction to the exposition of one of the most sublime scriptures in the Bible, with regard to which the testimony of the Church throughout the ages has been almost universally agreed that it refers to the second series of prophecies of which we have spoken, and describes the appearing in glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

In order to impress us with the power and majesty of the glorious Being whose advent the psalm announces,


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He is introduced by an array of Divine titles, the order and conjunction of which is only paralleled in one other passage in the Old Testament. 1 El Elohim Jehovah are the three august and blessed names with which this Psalm commences, and they are in keeping with the great subject it teaches, for while He is represented as appearing at last as the El and Elohim, the mighty and awful God of power and judgment, the terror of the ungodly, He also comes as the faithful covenant Jehovah of redemption, to gather His saints, and to consummate His everlasting purposes of love and mercy towards them.

This glorious Lord of Majesty " hath spoken." It is from the mountain-top of prophetic vision that the inspired psalmist describes the certainties of the future. The Divine programme here unfolded is so certain of accomplishment, that in relation to the Church, to Israel, and the world, from the standpoint of God's purpose it can already be announced as past, or in the very act of accomplishment.

The first verse is His call of attention to the whole universe in reference to the great events which are about to take place.

When He came the first time the words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him, " He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street." He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth ; but now He comes speaking, and at His voice the earth trembles " from the rising of the sun until the going down thereof."

The chief and central act of the prophetic drama which is unfolded in this Psalm is that announced at the end

1 Twice repeated in solemn oath by the two and a half tribes in Joshua xxii. 22.


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of the second verse, " God hath shined ! " And what is this but an Old Testament proclamation of the Epiphany, or shining forth of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ ?

In the Psalms this expression is found three 1 times, and these are all based on that remarkable passage, in Deut. xxxiii. 2 : " Jehovah came from Sinai, burst forth (as the rising sun) from Seir unto them ; He shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came from the myriads of His holy ones ; from His right hand went forth a fiery law unto them." The imagery of this passage is beautiful, the figure being borrowed from the breaking of the dawn and the progressive splendour of the sun rising. Oh, what a wonderful event in the history of the world and of Israel was the revelation of the glory of Jehovah on Sinai ! What a bursting forth of light on the moral darkness of this earth ! But alas ! by reason of the weakness of the flesh it was not the light of life, but rather of death, for it revealed to us our sin and utter helplessness, and the perfect holiness of the God who is " a consuming fire."

But the law contained not only the promise, but was in itself also a preparation for the gospel ; and, there- fore, in the fulness of time, though not attended by outward splendour as on Sinai, another Epiphany (2 Tim. i. 10) of God our Saviour took place, bring- ing not "a fiery law," but the gospel of His grace, which abolished death and brought life and immortality to light. The acceptable year of the Lord ushered in by that Epiphany is rapidly running to its close, and although for nigh nineteen centuries favour has been preached to the wicked, yet has he not learned righteous- ness, and men are beginning to ask if the faith founded by the Son of God has not already proved a failure, 1 Psa. 1. 2, Ixxx. i, xciv. I.


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and scoffers boldly say, " Where is the promise of the coming, and what sign is there of any change or inter- ruption of the present state of things?" Even the professing Church, lost for the most part in worldliness and error, seeks to strike its roots in the earth, crying peace and progress, and acting as if all things will for ever continue as they are.

But, as already shown, this earth shall yet again see the glory of the personal presence of the Lord, and, as sure as there was an appearing of Christ in humiliation, so surely will there be a shining forth of the Son of God in glory and majesty, and this time in the com- bined character of Lawgiver, Judge, and Saviour.

The centre of the future Epiphany of God's glory will be "Zion," even as Zion was the focus of all God's revelations in the past. The earthly centre for the carrying out of His gracious purposes in relation to the nations, has never been, and never can be changed, for ' Jehovah hath chosen Zion ; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever : here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Psa. cxxxii. 13, 14). Yes, to Zion shall come the Redeemer, but from Zion, and Israel as the centre, His glory will radiate to earth's utmost limits. And Zion shall then be "the perfection of beauty." The word " Zion " comes from a root which means a dry, barren place or arid wilderness, and in this its original condition it is a type of Israel. If the renown of the moral beauty of Israel in the past went forth among the nations, there is no praise due to them, for in themselves they ever formed most unpromising material. " From Me is thy fruit found," God says ; and it is wholly owing to the power and skill of the great Husbandman that so barren a plot of ground was trans- formed into a fruitful garden. " Thy beauty is perfect through My comeliness which I put upon thee," saith the Lord (Ezek. xvi. 14).


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At present the land and the people are seen again in their naturally barren and desolate condition. " They called thee an outcast, saying, This is Zion (a barren, unpromising plot of ground), which no man seeketh after" (Jer. xxx. 17) ; but as surely as this has been ful- filled, so surely will Zion, covered once again with God's glory, be the very " perfection of beauty," and " a praise in the midst of the earth."

The Epiphany of the second verse is explained by the Parousia which is the subject of the third verse : " Our God shall come (or ' cometh '), and shall not keep silence." Oh, what a startling announcement to some ! " Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him, and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him. Even so. Amen ! " But this verse chiefly describes the manner of the mani- festation of the awful presence and majesty of God : " He shall not keep silence." 1

Compare this with what He says in verse 21:" This hast thou done, and I kept silence." Or rather, contrast this announcement of a visible manifestation and inter- position on the part of the great God, with the present long period of silence. In looking back on the ages that are past we see that God has His times for speak- ing and His times also for keeping silence.

There are notable pauses, during which God seemed to have withdrawn Himself from man in so far as visible interposition was concerned.

  • In my remarks on this sentence of the psalm I take the liberty

of making free use of notes made many years ago in my inter- leaved Bible of a powerful address, to which it was my privilege to listen, by that true father in Christ, the late Dr. Horatius Bonar, who, together with his two worthy brothers, Andrew and John, were the representatives in Scotland of those who waited for the Lord's appearing.


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In Eden we hear " the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day," but soon that blessed converse ceases on account of the Fall. The last echoes of that voice die away, and there ensues a period of silence during which men lived and the world made progress, in the sense in which it always does, until the silence was broken, and Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying : " Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among men, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly men have spoken against Him." After Enoch another pause of long centuries set in, and the earth again went on developing in the old way, until the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and until it became manifest in the sight of the heavens that " every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually."

Again God spoke, and again it was in judgment. He sent the Flood ; but it was judgment blended with mercy, for a few that is to say eight souls, were saved by means of the ark, which He commanded Noah to build.

After the Deluge the world began anew ; man had a fresh chance. God withdrew Himself from open inter- position, and for a space of long centuries there was silence. But what was the result of the new test ? The world again made progress, and man developed what was in him, until by the end of the time " dark- ness covered the earth and gross darkness the peoples." But in the midst of the universal darkness the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, saying, " Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house." From this point of time onward, from Abraham to Malachi, a period of more


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than fifteen hundred years, may pre-eminently be called a time of God's speaking. There were, indeed, in the course of this age both longer and shorter spells of silence, but it nevertheless remains a fact that the chief characteristic of the period of Israel's national history, up to the point when "the times of the Gentiles" set in with the destruction of the first Temple, was that it was a time of God's self-revelation, and manifest interpositions.

At sundry times and in divers portions and ways God spake unto the fathers by the prophets. Won- derful, astonishing fact ! fifteen long centuries at one stretch bearing witness to the fact that the great God hath spoken ! Was it a long successional lie ? Was it a continual self-deception as infidels and rationalists would have us believe ? Oh no ; the whole history and continued existence of Israel, the Divine and won- derful character of the words preserved to us, and the consciousness of the Christian cry aloud against so monstrous a supposition.

But after this long period of speaking there followed again a long interval of about four centuries which was suddenly broken by the cry, " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand ! " From this time there recom- menced another period of revelation on the part of God, during which He spoke His most wonderful words of all through His Son, and through the apostles by the Spirit. But the period of New Testament history, lasting about ninety years, soon ends. The last echoes of that voice die away on the barren rock of Patmos in the words, " Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus," and there sets in this long silence, the longest silence the world has yet experienced. How wonderful, how long, how deep, how mysterious is this silence ! How often have the hearts of God's people grown impatient under the long


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strain ! How often has the Church cried, " How long, O Lord, how long ? " but there is neither audible voice nor sound. Will this long silence never again be broken ? Will God never again outwardly and manifestly inter- pose in the affairs of man and in the government of the world ? The answer of this sublime scripture is, " Our God cometh, and shall not keep silence." But before considering further this great and awful event, let me remind you that there is deep significance even in God's silence.

(a) The silence of God is designed to drive man to that which He has spoken ; He would remind us of His Word, which in His good providence is preserved to us, and which is sufficient and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous- ness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Out of it He still speaks by His Spirit, although not by audible voice, to all who have ears to hear. In it He tells thee, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of thee.

{b} The time of God's silence is another testing-time for man under more favourable circumstances than in preceding ages. It is a time of opportunity for the full development of good and evil, so that when God again interposes it may be manifest to principalities and powers that " He is justified when He speaks, and clear when He judges."

And what has been the result ? While God has been silent, man has taken the opportunity of speaking, and his words are ever more foolish, proud, and blas- phemous against the Most High, as may be seen from the press and the literature of the present day. But out of his own mouth man shall be judged, and all his thoughts and words shall be " set in order " before him, and rise up in judgment against him.


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(c) The period of God's silence is the period of His longsuffering, which, in the riches of His goodness, is designed to lead men to repentance. The continued length of that period gives us a glimpse into the in- finitude of the patience and forbearance of the everlasting God, but man should be the last to complain about it, since it lengthens the time in which God commendeth His love and undeserved favour to men, and in which peace and pardon is proclaimed to the vilest sinner.

The Christian, too, becomes more reconciled to the long delay in his Master's return by the thought that in the interval the acceptable year of the Lord is still running its course, and that by the preaching of the gospel multitudes of souls are being gathered into the company of the redeemed, to the praise and glory of Him who died to save them.

But the time of God's long-suffering, protracted as it is, has its limit. It is a set time appointed in the eternal counsel of God, and at the exact "day and hour," known to the Father, it shall cease, the long silence shall be broken, and to the world the day of vengeance shall commence by the coming of our God. Then "Jehovah shall cause His glorious voice to be heard and shall show the lighting down of His arm, with the indignation of His anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scatterings and tempest and hail- stones" (Isa. xxx. 30).

" A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him." This is explained in another scripture in Isaiah (Ixvi. 15, 16): "For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with His chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh : and the slain of the Lord shall be many " and forms also the basis


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of that sublime and terrible description of the descent of the Son of God " in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. i. 8, 9).

The main object of His coming is stated in the fourth verse : " He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth that He may judge His people." In this term both His earthly and His heavenly people are included. In times past the heavens and the earth are often called upon as witnesses of Israel's apostasy and consequent punishment.

Thus at the very beginning of their history Moses again and again says, " I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it." Thus Isaiah cries, " Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth : for Jehovah hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have re- belled against Me." And the same heavens and earth which were witnesses of the commencement of God's controversy with Israel, shall also behold both the climax of judgment on their apostasy, and also the faithfulness of the Righteous Judge in executing vengeance on their enemies in the day when their transgressions shall have an end, and His own covenant people be finally delivered.

And professing Christendom shall then be judged too, for " when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from


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his goats. And He shall set His sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world . . . and to them on His left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . and these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." And the individual Christian also, though free from all condemnation in his person, shall then be judged in his works, " for we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in His body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. v. 10).

But the great and solemn event of His glorious appearing is viewed in this psalm in relation to three different sections of humanity, namely, the Church, Israel, and the apostate nations of Christendom. Indeed, the psalm divides itself into three almost equal parts, the key words of which are, " the saints " (verse 5), " Israel" (verse 7), and " the wicked " (verse 16).