Messianic Prophecies

Micah 5:1  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 10
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But I turn to what is more important. The result of the rationalist system is, that they never examine the prophetic scriptures as a whole, and hence are totally incapable of estimating the value or real bearing of the parts. Mr. N. has had greater advantages than they, and often seeks to use them against the christian faith. It is a painful thing to see how often he speaks the language of Canaan, while he labors in the spirit of a Philistine. Still he has chosen to take up the rationalist system. Now, I affirm, that according to its own clear contents, be they true or false, all scripture is Messianic from Genesis to Revelation. From the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head-yea, from "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (for according to scripture all things were created by Him and for Him),-until "Even so, come, Lord Jesus"1-"the first and the last," the testimony as well as the purposes God refer to (have as their object) Him who, the Wisdom of God before the worlds, was all His delight in this, who first descended and then ascended that He might fill all things.
Now there are two great subjects of scripture besides. That is, first, it speaks of man's sin, the change in him needed to enjoy the blessing, and the redemption accomplished, that we may be with God, with all its varied effects and glories; and, secondly, of the government of this world. Some true and devoted Christians have looked only at the first, as being the great vital necessity (as it is), but, having thus dropped the other when the scriptures which applied to it were before their minds, they were bewildered as to the interpretation of them. There are the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow. These glories include many parts, inasmuch as God, for the administration of the fullness of times, will head up all in Christ, of things in heaven and things on earth. Every family2 in heaven and earth comes under the name of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, no doubt the Lord Jesus suffered amongst the Jews; and this made one ground of Jehovah's judicial dealings with them, as Isaiah and Zechariah and the Psalms abundantly testify. But the government of the world is the great subject treated of in the prophetic books. And we are expressly told in Deut. 32:88When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8), that "when the Most High divided unto the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel." God made Israel the center of His earthly government. The profane history of nations, in fact, centers round it; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, all contend for it; are known in connection with it, or actually get their full imperial possession and character at the time they acquired possession of it-I do not say by gaining possession of it, but at the epoch at which they did. Clouds of dark traditions, scarce pierced by modern researches, hang over all the rest, and obscure the history of nations, while they reveal their existence.
In the neighborhood of Israel all is light. Prejudiced, ignorant, barbarous as they may have been, they possess and shed the light of their history on all the nations around them. It is preserved almost with modern accuracy, when a few fragments scarce rescue from entire oblivion other ancient histories. We must disentomb the remains of Thebes and the Ninevehs to get at the history of their ancient monarchs, to know their dynasties, and say even if there were two Assyrian empires or one, while, by God's providence, that which gives some historic data to the glories of Mizraim and Asshur confirms in its detail that of which we have already the minutest particulars in Israel's authentic history. We find, in pictures yet fresh on the lore-covered walls of the country of the Pharaohs, the very kinds of overseers over the Jews making their bricks, of which Moses speaks in the Book of Exodus. Modern research alone has given the place and importance to these countries which the scriptures had already assigned them.
Now, when is this great drama of this world's history to find its dénouement and its close, according to the scriptures? Not clearly till the end. It would be an absurdity to suppose such a thing-a denial of the terms in their proper meaning. Scripture places it at the end-speaks of the Lord coming in glory, of the destruction of the Assyrian, of the beast, of the false prophet, of Gog, and that by a grand day which should "burn as an oven" -a day in which the glory of the Lord should be revealed, and all flesh see it together, in which by fire and sword the Lord would plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord should be many-a day when a man should be more precious than the fine gold of Ophir; when God would punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; when the Lord would come forth out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; when the earth would uncover her blood, and no more cover her slain. Is it not equally declared that when He came there was no man, when He called there was none to answer-that He should give His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, nor hide His face from shame and spitting-that His visage should be so marred more than any man, and His countenance more than the sons of men, even that Servant who was to be exalted and extolled, and be very high-that He was to be despised and rejected of men, to make His soul an offering for sin, and bear their iniquities- that they should look on Him whom they had pierced, and mourn for Him? Accordingly we find in the Psalms the expression of the deep sense of these sufferings, as Psa. 22; 69, 102, and others.
Do not these scriptures, in their general tenor-confirmed as they are by hundreds of others and the constant course of God's moral ways in putting suffering on the path of glory-do they not most clearly point out two distinct scenes: a time when the great subject of prophecy, the Son of man, the Son of God, should suffer; and a time when glories should follow, in respect of the government of this world, and that by judgment being in His hand?
See Psa. 2, compared with the general expression of feeling in the Psalms. Is not the first a declaration of Messiah, He who is King in Zion, and Son of God, set as God's King in spite of all enemies-Adonai laughing to scorn their efforts in the day of His wrath? Yet are not the Psalms, as a whole, the expression of the sorrows and sufferings of the righteous, and of Messiah with them? Is He not David's Lord, called to sit at God's right hand, till He makes His foes His footstool, and the rod of His power goes forth from Zion, ruling in the midst of His enemies? Such is the uniform tenor of scripture in every part. The first song we have after the exodus (Hannah's, in the beginning of Samuel) sings with a heart confiding in goodness, after its sorrows, the same truths as to Christ, naming Him as the object of hope.
Now, I ask, Is the destruction of the Assyrian connected with deliverances in power and judgment, or with the suffering of Christ?3 No one who has read scripture can hesitate for a moment as to the answer. The destruction of tl is powerful enemy, no doubt, will be connected with Him who suffered, but not with the time of His suffering. The two parts of His history (not the length of the interval, because that did not belong to Israel, but to the Church) are as clear and distinct as possible. The argument, therefore, of Mr. N. that Messiah could not be Jesus, because the prophecies relating to Messiah are connected with the destruction of the Assyrian (Phases, pp. 192, 193), is worse than worthless. I am persuaded he knows better than his pages bear upon their face. That these testimonies of future glory and deliverance then given were comforts to the souls of believers, and sustained their faith in the midst of evil, and the consequent judgments which fell on the beloved people, I do not doubt; and they were, I doubt not, meant to be so; but the things they prophesied of were different from the present comfort conveyed, though rationalists cannot distinguish these things, nor suppose, with the evident reason for it in the history before them, that God was merciful enough thus to consider the brokenhearted faithful whom He had taught to confide in Him.
They understood it; and, though with much obscurity of mind and many prejudices, gracious confidence in God was maintained; and, through all their darkest times, there were those who feared the Lord and spake often one to another, and who waited for redemption in Israel. I do not spiritualize it; I believe it. I do not believe Jesus has fulfilled the prophecies which speak of the revelation of His glory in judgment and government; but I am sure that that Stone on which those who stumbled have been indeed broken, as we know, will grind to powder those on whom it shall justly fall-that "Stone which the builders rejected, and which is become the head of the corner"-when Hosanna shall be sung, not only by babes and sucklings, to confound the adversary, but by a people to whom every promise shall be fulfilled, and by a world dwelling in peace under the blessing of Him for whose law the isles shall wait, and whose scepter shall be their confidence and their blessing-the King of righteousness and King of peace.
I will now show that on this point Mr. N. is as incorrect in detail, as he is narrow and superficial in his apprehension of the whole-more than narrow; for he connects parts of which the least attention or understanding would show the distinctness. Indeed, his remarks prove, either that he has not attended to what he is talking about, or that he is incapable of seizing its bearing. Not a prophecy connects the Assyrian with the sufferings of Christ. But Mr. N. refers particularly to a passage in Micah, which he declares cannot apply to Jesus: "The Messiah of Micah however was not Jesus; for he was to deliver Israel from the Assyrians, and his whole description is literally warlike." (Phases, p. 192.)
We had better have the passage: it will help to show the value of "our logic," and of rationalist comments in general. It is as follows:-"Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto m that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land," &c. Then we have victories attributed to the Jews; and they become the source of blessing to the earth-are as a lion and yet as a dew among many people. (Mic. 5) Now, whatever the explanation of the details, which I do not think indeed exceedingly obscure, it is quite clear that the smiting of the Judge of Israel on the cheek is followed, not by the destruction of the Assyrian, but by being given up for a period designated by "until she which travaileth shall have brought forth." Whatever may be in the womb of God's purposes, till it be accomplished the Jews will be given up. There is, first, one period or order of things; the Judge of Israel not warlike, but smitten, and they given up in consequence. Then we have another, He stands and feeds in the majesty of the Lord, for now shall He be great to the ends of the earth; and when the Assyrian comes into their land, this Man-this same Jesus-will be the peace, and Israel great and glorious. Can anything be plainer than the distinction of these two conditions of the Judge of Israel, and of the two states of Israel-given up at one time; and at another defended, in peace, victorious, and a blessing?
And this is adduced to show "that the Messiah of Micah was not Jesus, because he was to deliver Israel from the Assyrians, and his whole description is literally warlike"-"and Micah conceived of a powerful monarch on the throne of David." But it is a singular sign of power that He should be smitten on the cheek, and Israel given up, none could say till when-till the birth of the fruit of some great purpose of God! Such interpretation entitles us to lay aside the conclusions and the judgment of him who has pretended to speak of the passage, and to put no further confidence in anything he alleges about the scriptures.
The same train of reasoning applies to Isa. 8 in even a stronger way. "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him." And then he goes on to describe the misery of the great and final vexation of Israel,, after He had already arrived, and then (by Messiah) their deliverance from every yoke, and His glorious reign, through this battle, not like that of ordinary warriors, but of fuel and fire. Can anything more clearly distinguish the two dates-one, God's hiding His face from stumbling Israel; and another, the glorious subsequent deliverance by the Lord?
But it is well to pursue the spirit of rationalism into some further details.
I admit that Psa. 724 has never yet been fulfilled. The Son of David has never yet sat on the throne of His glory as such. We may leave it; as Mr. N. himself must be a prophet to say that this prediction never will be fulfilled.
Isaiah5 9 "may be verified by Jesus hereafter." Well, I believe the greater part will; so here we have not much to contend about. Still Mr. N. repents of the seeming candor of his acknowledgment, and so says it cannot be, for Judah and Israel had been reconciled long before the time of Augustus. When? A few of the ten tribes had from the beginning thrown themselves into the kingdom of Judah; but when were the ten tribes reconciled? I never heard of it; I thought they were carried away captive by Shalmaneser and others. That faith always owned them as a whole, from Elijah on his Carmel to Paul and James, is true; but that is nothing to the purpose. Besides, the prophet is speaking of what they will do, when as tribes they are restored in blessing and power to their land. Then will there no more be these quarrels. The distinctions of Philistines, Moab, and Ammon are lost to Mr. N.: they are not to this day by the Jew; and such distinctions are much more preserved than people suppose, and will, I doubt not, re-appear, and Israel will dispossess the people inhabiting these countries. These testimonies, as to the future, must have their credit, it is perfectly evident, from the general proof of the authority of the prophecy: no one can, as to the future, have any other proof, unless he sets up to be a prophet himself.