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The difference between the Old and New Testaments as to the knowledge of redemption and of a Redeemer
The Chetubim, or Hagiographa, in which I do not now comprehend Daniel (though his book has a character distinct from the other prophets) form a very distinct and interesting part of divine revelation. None of them suppose an accomplished and known redemption, in the New Testament sense of the word, though like every blessing all is founded on it. In Job a single passage gives a particular application of the term: “I have found a ransom” (Copher). The Psalms recount we know, prophetically, the sorrows and sufferings in which it was accomplished.
But redemption by blood is known by faith, when accomplished, whether by the Jew or the Christian. Isaiah prophesies of Israel’s recognition of it fully. There were also, as we know, shadows of it under the law. But the knowledge of eternal redemption is Christian knowledge, or that of the Jews when they look on Him whom they pierced. Till Christ’s death, the veil was unrent, the holiest unapproachable. There was knowledge more or less clear of a Redeemer-of a personal Redeemer to come; of God’s favor towards those that walked with Him, and the confidence of faith in Him and in His promises. But there was no such knowledge of sin as led, God being revealed, to the consciousness of exclusion from His presence as a present state, nor of such a putting of it away as reconciled us fully and forever to God by its efficacy, and brought us to Him.
The poetical books: the divinely given expression of man’s thoughts and feelings under God’s government
The books we are treating of are not prophecies of God’s dealings or actings, save as the Psalms express future deliverance by power and by God’s judgments; but they are the divinely given expression of man’s thoughts and feelings under the government of God,1 and the explanatory revelation of God before redemption is fully known. This process has mainly gone on in Israel; and hence they are in the main the various expression of God’s ways with Israel. Still what was carried out there, under revealed conditions and prophetic communications in direct government, was what was in principle true of God’s ways everywhere, though there specially displayed (the question of man’s positive righteousness being raised too there by the law, the perfect rule of life for the sons of Adam).
(1. And these pass into what Christ’s were in His humiliation and sufferings, and thus become prophecies of His sufferings, but in the form of His feelings under them, and this of infinite price to us.)
The scope of the Book of Job
The Book of Job affords us the example of the relationship of a godly man outside and doubtless before Israel, and God’s dealings with men for good in this world of evil; but then it runs up, I doubt not, into a clear type of Israel in result. Those ways are fully displayed in that people. And it is to be remarked that, when Job practically feels the impossibility of man’s being righteous with God, he complains of fear and having no daysman between them; and Elihu, who takes up this ground in God’s stead, explains not redemption but chastising and government. These things God wrought oftentimes with man (ch. 33; 36).
Ecclesiastes: Can fallen man find happiness and rest in this world without redemption?
Ecclesiastes estimates this world under the same government, in its present fallen state, and raises the question whether by any means man can find happiness and rest there, with no trace of the knowledge of redemption. Nor is there any recognized relationship with God. It is always Elohim (God), never Jehovah, fearing God and keeping His commandments being the whole duty of man as such.
The standpoint of the Song of Solomon and of Proverbs
The Song of Solomon affords direct relationship with the Lord, the Son of David, the ardent affections which belong to the relationship with Christ; Proverbs, a guidance through the mixed and entangled scene, and here all is on the ground of relationship with Jehovah, God (Elohim) being only once or twice mentioned in a way which does not affect this. (See more fully note to page 35.) But none place themselves on the ground of known redemption. They do look for redemption by power. Hence, on the contrary, Romans begins with the revelation of wrath from heaven, not government, against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness where truth was, against Gentile and Jew,1 and brings in redemption, personal justification, and righteousness-God’s righteousness. The case of Gentile and Jew is fully gone into, and brought out as before God Himself, and wrath from heaven the necessary consequence; complete redemption by blood for heaven, and sovereign grace reigning through righteousness and giving us a place with the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, together with the result for Israel hereafter. All is made clear in the light as God is in the light-His eternal redemption, and heavenly places, though finally earth will be blessed. But we are pilgrims and strangers here. This is our place by redemption itself. To the Abrahams and Davids it was so, by getting nothing of what was promised, or else persecution under the government of God upon the earth; so that under that order of things it was after all a puzzle to both, though the final inheritance of the land, the heir, and the judgment of the wicked, known by revelation, met the puzzle in their minds.
(1. And note here Psalm 14, which he quotes as proof of sin in the Jew, and Isaiah 59, both end in deliverance in Jerusalem by power. In Romans it is met by present justification by blood.)
Eternal relationship and present, known redemption unknown and unfound in Job, Psalms and the other poetical books
But in Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, which express men’s feelings under it, this puzzle is fully manifested. Faith and confidence in God may get over it, or persevere through it; prophetic testimonies may meet it; but it is there, and this earth is the scene of the reply of God, even if their faith might be sometimes forced to rise above it, nourished by personal confidence in God. But a present fixed eternal relationship with God even our Father through redemption, in a wholly new scene into which we are brought by that precious blood, whose shedding has glorified God Himself, and reconciled us to Him, though yet in an unredeemed body-that was unknown. Much was learned, learned as to God, and this was most precious. But the actual result for Job was more camels and sheep, and fairer daughters; in the Psalms, judgment of enemies, and deliverance through mercy that endured forever, and an earth set free under heaven’s judicial rule; in Ecclesiastes, as to the perception of the present effect of government, that man must fear God, keep His commandments, and leave it there. Present known redemption is nowhere found. And oh what a difference, an unbounded difference, this makes! “As he is, so are we in this world.” He who redeemed us is gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God. Proverbs and the Song of Solomon have, as I have said, another character, though referring to the same scene: Proverbs, not man’s feelings in the scene, but God’s guidance through it by the experience and wisdom of divinely instructed authority;1 and the Song of Solomon, the carrying the heart quite out of it all, though still in it, not by known redemption, but by devoted affection to Messiah, and of Messiah to Israel, by the revelation He makes of Himself, indeed of His love to them to beget it in Israel’s heart.
(1. It will much help the reader as to the character of this book and Ecclesiastes to remark, that in Proverbs the name Jehovah is always employed, save in chapter 25:2, where it is “Elohim,” and “her God,” chapter 2:17. But this is not an exception: that is, it is recognized relationship with the revealed God of Israel. Whereas in Ecclesiastes Jehovah is never found. It is always Elohim, the abstract name of God without any idea of relationship: God as such in contrast with man and every creature, and man having to find out experimentally his true place and happiness as such, without special revealed relationship with God. In Job the editor, if I may so speak, or historian who gives the dialogues, always uses Jehovah; but in the body of the book Job, unless at any rate once as to the government of God (ch. 12:9), and Elihu constantly, use the name of Almighty, the Abrahamic name of God, or simply God. The friends generally use God, or particularly Eliphaz the Almighty, sometimes it is only, He. Zophar, I think, uses no name. The dialogue is characterized by God or Almighty. )
These exercises of heart have their place in us now, for we are in the world; but in the consciousness of accomplished redemption and the present care of a holy Father, the perfection of whose ways, as seen in Christ, is the model of our conduct. We can take joyfully the spoiling of our goods, knowing in ourselves that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance; and glory in tribulation, because it works its needed end, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us. This is another case, and a blessed one it is.
I think these general remarks will help us to understand the books which are now about to occupy us. I turn to the books themselves.
Job, the upright and righteous man, put to the test, his exercises and God’s dealings
After what I have said, the Book of Job will not require a long examination-not that it fails in interest, but because when the general idea is once laid hold of, it is the detail which is interesting, and detail is not our present object.
In the Book of Job we have one portion of those exercises of heart which this division of the holy book supplies. These are not joyful exercises, but those of a heart which, journeying through a world in which the power of evil is found, and not being dead to the flesh, not having that divine knowledge which the gospel furnishes, not dead as to one’s self with Christ nor possessing Christ in resurrection, is not capable of enjoying in peace, whatever its own conflicts may be, the fruit of God’s perfect love; but which struggles with the evil or with the non-enjoyment of the only real good, even while desiring to possess it; while, by the means of these very revelations, the light of Christ is cast upon these exercises, and the sympathy and entering of His Spirit in grace into them practically is touchingly developed. What is learned in them is what we are-not committed sins; that was not Job’s case, but the soul itself is put before God.