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Chapter XI. Conclusion.
In dealing with the various subjects of this book, we have reserved for separate treatment their relation to the Messianic hopes of the Jews and to the realisation of these hopes in Christ. The Messianic teaching of Chronicles is only complete when we collect and combine the noblest traits in its pictures of David and Solomon, of prophets, priests, and kings. We cannot ascribe to Chronicles any great influence on the subsequent development of the Jewish idea of the Messiah. In the first place, the chronicler does not point out the bearing which his treatment of history has upon the expectation of a future deliverer. He has no formal intention of describing the character and office of the Messiah; he merely wishes to write a history so as to emphasise the facts which most forcibly illustrated the sacred mission of Israel. And, in the second place, Chronicles never exercised any great influence over Jewish thought, and never attained to anything like the popularity of the books of Samuel and Kings. Many circumstances conspired to prevent the Temple ministry from obtaining an undivided authority over later Judaism. The growth of their power was broken in upon by the persecutions of Antiochus and the wars of the Maccabees. The ministry of the Temple under 300 the Maccabæan high-priests must have been very different from that to which the chronicler belonged. Even if the priests and Levites still exercised any influence upon theology, they were overshadowed by the growing importance of the rabbinical schools of Babylon and Palestine. Moreover, the rise of Hellenistic Judaism and the translation of the Scriptures into Greek introduced another new and potent factor into the development of the Jewish religion. Of all the varied forces that were at work few or none tended to assign any special authority to Chronicles, nor has it left any very marked traces on later literature. Josephus indeed uses it for his history, but the New Testament is under very slight obligation to our author.
But Chronicles reveals to us the position and tendencies of Jewish thought in the interval between Ezra and the Maccabees. The Messiah was expected to renew the ancient glories of the chosen people, “to restore the kingdom to Israel”; we learn from Chronicles what sort of a kingdom He was to restore. We see the features of the ancient monarchy that were dear to the memories of the Jews, the characters of the prophets, priests, and kings whom they delighted to honour. As their ideas of the past shaped and coloured their hopes for the future, their conception of what was noblest and best in the history of the monarchy was at the same time the measure of what they expected in the Messiah. However little influence Chronicles may have exerted as a piece of literature, the tendencies of which it is a monument continued to leaven the thought of Israel, and are everywhere manifest in the New Testament.
We have to bear in mind that Messiah, “Anointed,” was the familiar title of the Israelite kings; its use 301 for the priests was late and secondary. The use of a royal title to denote the future Saviour of the nation shows us that He was primarily conceived of as an ideal king; and apart from any formal enunciation of this conception, the title itself would exercise a controlling influence upon the development of the Messianic idea. Accordingly in the New Testament we find that the Jews were looking for a king; and Jesus calls His new society the Kingdom of Heaven.
But for the chronicler the Messiah, the Anointed of Jehovah, is no mere secular prince. We have seen how the chronicler tends to include religious duties and prerogatives among the functions of the king. David and Solomon and their pious successors are supreme alike in Church and state as the earthly representatives of Jehovah. The actual titles of priest and prophet are not bestowed upon the kings, but they are virtually priests in their care for and control over the buildings and ritual of the Temple, and they are prophets when, like David and Solomon, they hold direct fellowship with Jehovah and announce His will to the people. Moreover, David, as “the Psalmist of Israel,” had become the inspired interpreter of the religious experience of the Jews. The ancient idea of the king as the victorious conqueror was gradually giving place to a more spiritual conception of his office; the Messiah was becoming more and more a definitely religious personage. Thus Chronicles prepared the way for the acceptance of Christ as a spiritual Deliverer, who was not only King, but also Priest and Prophet. In fact, we may claim the chronicler's own implied authority for including in the picture of the coming King the characteristics he ascribes to the priest and the prophet. Thus the Messiah of Chronicles is 302 distinctly more spiritual and less secular than the Messiah of popular Jewish enthusiasm in our Lord's own time. Whereas in the chronicler's time the tendency was to spiritualise the idea of the king, the tenure of the office of high-priest by the Maccabæan princes tended rather to secularise the priesthood and to restore older and cruder conceptions of the Messianic King.
Let us see how the chronicler's history of the house of David illustrates the person and work of the Son of David, who came to restore the ancient monarchy in the spiritual kingdom of which it was the symbol. The Gospels introduce our Lord very much as the chronicler introduces David: they give us His genealogy, and pass almost immediately to His public ministry. Of His training and preparation for that ministry, of the chain of earthly circumstances that determined the time and method of His entry upon the career of a public Teacher, they tell us next to nothing. We are only allowed one brief glimpse of the life of the holy Child; our attention is mainly directed to the royal Saviour when He has entered upon His kingdom; and His Divine nature finds expression in mature manhood, when none of the limitations of childhood detract from the fulness of His redeeming service and sacrifice.
The authority of Christ rests on the same basis as that of the ancient kings: it is at once human and Divine. In Christ indeed this twofold authority is in one sense peculiar to Himself; but in the practical application of His authority to the hearts and consciences of men He treads in the footsteps of His ancestors. His kingdom rests on His own Divine commission and on the consent of His subjects. God 303 has given Him the right to rule, but He will not reign in any heart till He receives its free submission. And still, as of old, Christ, thus chosen and well beloved of God and man, is King over the whole life of His people, and claims to rule over them in their homes, their business, their recreation, their social and political life, as well as in their public and private worship. If David and his pious successors were devoted to Jehovah and His temple, if they protected their people from foreign foes and wisely administered the affairs of Israel, Christ sets us the example of perfect obedience to the Father; He gives us deliverance and victory in our warfare against principalities and powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, and against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places; He administers in peace and holiness the inner kingdom of the believing heart. All that was foreshadowed both by David and Solomon is realised in Christ. The warlike David is a symbol of the holy warfare of Christ and the Church militant, of Him who came not to send peace on earth, but a sword; Solomon is the symbol of Christ, the Prince of peace in the Church triumphant. The tranquillity and splendour of the reign of the first son of David are types of the serene glory of Christ's kingdom as it is partly realised in the hearts of His children and as it will be fully realised in heaven; the God-given wisdom of Solomon prefigures the perfect knowledge and understanding of Him who is Himself the Word and Wisdom of God.
The shadows that darken the history of the kings of Judah and even the life of David himself remind us that the Messiah moved upon a far higher moral and spiritual level than the monarchs whose royal dignity was a type of His own. Like David, He 304 was exposed to the machinations of Satan; but, unlike David, He successfully resisted the tempter. He was in “all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
The great priestly work of David and Solomon was the building of the Temple and the organisation of its ritual and ministry. By this work the kings made splendid provision for fellowship between Jehovah and His people, and for the system of sacrifices, whereby a sinful nation expressed their penitence and received the assurance of forgiveness. This has been the supreme work of Christ: through Him we have access to God; we enter into the holy place, into the Divine presence, by a new and living way, that is to say His flesh; He has brought us into the perpetual fellowship of the Spirit. And whereas Solomon could only build one temple, to which the believer paid occasional visits and obtained the sense of Divine fellowship through the ministry of the priests, Christ makes every faithful heart the temple of sacred service, and He has offered for us the one sacrifice, and provides a universal atonement.
In His priesthood, as in His sacrifice, He represents us before God, and this representation is not merely technical and symbolic: in Him we find ourselves brought near to God, and our desires and aspirations are presented as petitions at the throne of the heavenly grace. But, on the other hand, in His love and righteousness He represents God to us, and brings the assurance of our acceptance.
Other minor features of the office and rights of the priests and Levites find a parallel in Christ. He also is our Teacher and our Judge; to Him and to His service all worldly wealth may be consecrated. Christ 305 is in all things the spiritual Heir of the house of Aaron as well as of the house of David; because He is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, He, like Melchizedek, is also King of Salem; of His kingdom and of His priesthood there shall be no end. But while Christ is to the Kingdom of Heaven what David was to the Israelite monarchy, while in the different aspects of His work He is at once Temple, Priest, and Sacrifice, yet in the ministry of His earthly life He is above all a Prophet, the supreme successor of Elijah and Isaiah. It was only in a figure that He sat upon David's throne; it formed no part of His plan to exercise earthly dominion: His kingdom was not of this world. He did not belong to the priestly tribe, and performed none of the external acts of priestly ritual; He did not base His authority upon any genealogy with regard to priesthood, as the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “It is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah, as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests.”325325 Heb. vii. 14. His royal birth had its symbolic value, but He never asked men to believe in Him because of His human descent from David. He relied as little on the authority of office as on that of birth. Officially He was neither scribe nor rabbi. Like the prophets, His only authority was His Divine commission and the witness of the Spirit in the hearts of His hearers. The people recognised Him as a prophet; they took Him for Elijah or one of the prophets; He spoke of Himself as a prophet: “Not without honour, save in his own country.” We have seen that, while the priests ministered to the regular and recurring needs of the people, the Divine 306 guidance in special emergencies and the Divine authority for new departures were given by the prophets. By a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt,326326 Hos. xii. 13. and Christ as a Prophet led His people out of the bondage of the Law into the liberty of the Gospel. By Him the Divine authority was given for the greatest religious revolution that the world has ever seen. And still He is the Prophet of the Church. He does not merely provide for the religious wants that are common to every race and to every generation: as the circumstances of His Church altar, and the believer is confronted with fresh difficulties and called upon to undertake new tasks, Christ reveals to His people the purpose and counsel of God. Even the record of His earthly teaching is constantly found to have anticipated the needs of our own time; His Spirit enables us to discover fresh applications of the truths He taught: and through Him special light is sought and granted for the guidance of individuals and of the Church in their need.
But in Chronicles special stress is laid on the darker aspects of the work of the prophets. They constantly appear to administer rebukes and announce coming punishment. Both Christ and His apostles were compelled to assume the same attitude towards Israel. Like Jeremiah, their hearts sank under the burden of so stern a duty. Christ denounced the Pharisees, and wept over the city that knew not the things belonging to its peace; He declared the impending ruin of the Temple and the Holy City. Even so His Spirit still rebukes sin, and warns the impenitent of inevitable punishment.307
We have seen also in Chronicles that no stress was laid on any material rewards for the prophets, and that their fidelity was sometimes recompensed with persecution and death. Like Christ Himself, they had nothing to do with priestly wealth and splendour. The silence of the chronicler to the income of these prophets makes them fitting types of Him who had not where to lay His head. A discussion of the income of Christ would almost savour of blasphemy; we should shrink from inquiring how far “those who derived spiritual profit from His teaching gave Him substantial proofs of their appreciation of His ministry.” Christ's recompense at the hands of the world and of the Jewish Church was that which former prophets had received. Like Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, He was persecuted and slain; He delivered a prophet's message, and died a prophet's death.
But, besides the chronicler's treatment of the offices of prophet, priest, and king, there was another feature of his teaching which would prepare the way for a clear comprehension of the person and work of Christ. We have noticed how the growing sense of the power and majesty of Jehovah seemed to set Him at a distance from man, and how the Jews welcomed the idea of the mediation of an angelic ministry. And yet the angels were too vague and unfamiliar, too little known, and too imperfectly understood to satisfy men's longing for some means of fellowship between themselves and the remote majesty of an almighty God; while still their ministry served to maintain faith in the possibility of mediation, and to quicken the yearning after some better way of access to Jehovah. When Christ came He found this faith and yearning waiting to be satisfied; they opened a door through which Christ found 308 His way into hearts prepared to receive Him. In Him the familiar human figures of priest and prophet were exalted into the supernatural dignity of the Angel of Jehovah. Men had long strained their eyes in vain to a far-off heaven; and, behold, a human voice recalled their gaze to the earth; and they turned and found God beside them, kindly and accessible, a Man with men. They realised the promise that a modern poet puts into David's mouth:—
“... O Saul, it shall be A face like my face that receives thee; a Man like to me Thou shalt love and be loved by for ever; a Hand like this hand Shall throw open the gates of new life to thee! See the Christ stand!”
We have thus seen how the figures of the chronicler's history—prophet, priest, king, and angel—were types and foreshadowings of Christ. We may sum up this aspect of his teaching by a quotation from a modern exponent of Old Testament theology:—
“Moses the prophet is the first type of the Mediator. By his side stands Aaron the priest, who connects the people with God, and consecrates it.... But from the time of David both these figures pale in the imagination of the people before the picture of the Davidic king. His is the figure which appears the most indispensable condition of all true happiness for Israel. David is the third and by far the most perfect type of the Consummator.”327327 Schultz, Old Testament Theology, ii. 353.
This recurrence to the king as the most perfect type of the Redeemer suggests a last application of the Messianic teaching of the chronicler. In discussing his 309 pictures of the kings, we have ventured to give them a meaning adapted to modern political life. In Israel the king stood for the state. When a community combined for common action to erect a temple or repel an invader, the united force was controlled and directed by the king; he was the symbol of national union and co-operation. To-day, when a community acts as a whole, its agent and instrument is the civil government; the state is the people organised for the common good, subordinating individual ends to the welfare of the whole nation. Where the Old Testament has “king,” its modern equivalent may read the state or the civil government,—nay, even for special purposes the municipality, the county council, or the school board. Shall we obtain any helpful or even intelligible result if we apply this method of translation to the doctrine of the Messiah? Externally at any rate the translation bears a startling likeness to what has been regarded as a specially modern development. “Israel looked for salvation from the king,” would read, “Modern society should seek salvation from the state.” Assuredly there are many prophets who have taken up this burden without any idea that their new heresy was only a reproduction of old and forgotten orthodoxy. But the history of the growth of the Messianic idea supplies a correction to the primitive baldness of this principle of salvation by the state. In time the picture of the Messianic king came to include the attributes of the prophet and the priest. If we care to complete our modern application, we must affirm that the state can never be a saviour till it becomes sensitive to Divine influences and conscious of a Divine presence.
When we see how the Messianic hope of Israel was purified and ennobled to receive a fulfilment glorious 310 beyond its wildest dreams, we are encouraged to believe that the fantastic visions of the Socialist may be divinely guided to some reasonable ideal and may prepare the way for some further manifestation of the grace of God. But the Messianic state, like the Messiah, may be called upon to suffer and die for the salvation of the world, that it may receive a better resurrection.311
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