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CHAPTER II.

THE BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

THE Old Testament seems to me something like a great picture-gallery hung with numberless pictures of divine truth. In some countries it used to be the custom for the women of the king's household to work in tapestry all the events of that king's reign, and hang them on the walls of his palace, so that every visitor, in walking through the galleries and rooms of the palace, could read from these tapestry-pictures one story after another celebrating the praises of the king. And just so, in the Old Testament, we have hung up for us a wonderful series of pictures, progressively developing divine truth. The doctrines of our faith are taught us later on in our Book; but the typical pictures of these doctrines are given to us in the early part of it, and we can only, I think get a clear insight into the doctrines, in proportion as we study them in the light of these pictures. I believe there is not a truth revealed in the New Testament that has not its corresponding picture in the Old.

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We will first take a rapid resumé of the names and order of these pictures, and then consider them more in detail.

Genesis. -- The outcome of Adam, or Man, and what he is by nature. This book gives us the development of human nature under many varied circumstances, and shows how man as man, without divine help, fails under all. It is a picture of the first lesson that every soul needs to learn, and that is, the utter failure of man as he is by nature, let his circumstances or his efforts be what they may. It opens with man in the garden of Eden, and leaves him a slave in the land of Egypt. Its New Testament counterpart is to be found in Rom. i. ii. and iii. 1-20.

Exodus. -- Redemption and its consequences. This book finds the people in hopeless bondage, from which they had no power whatever to deliver themselves, and shows us the redemption that God accomplishes for such, by His own outstretched arm of power. It answers to the experience of conversion, or the entrance into the Christian life. Its counterpart is Romans iii. 23-31, and iv. v. and vi.

Leviticus. -- The worship and communion of a redeemed people. In Leviticus we see God dwelling in the midst of His people, and making known His mind to them. It fulfils in type the words of our Lord in John xvi. v3, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth.” Its counterpart is Ephesians ii. 13-18, and Hebrews x. 19-22.

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Numbers. -- The wilderness-wandering of the redeemed, or the failure to go in and possess the land of promise. It answers to the experience of a Christian who knows he is redeemed out of the land of Egypt or the world, but who has failed to go in and take possession of the rich fullness that he sees stored up for him in Christ. The seventh chapter of Romans is, I think, the New Testament counterpart of this book.

Deuteronomy. -- Practical obedience, or the Consecration of those who are redeemed. It is a second giving of the law and a second cleansing, answering to the experience of the soul of the believer at a certain stage, when he longs to know the power of the resurrection, and to enter into possession of the promises. The rules and precepts, if this is to be done, are here given. The New Testament key-note to this book is to be found in Rom, xii. 1, 2; 2 Cor. vii. 1, and similar passages.

Joshua. -- The redeemed in heavenly places, or the believer entering into possession of the promises, and realizing the victory of faith. God's people in this book come out of the wilderness, and enter at last into possession of the land which He had promised them; the land from which they had been turned back forty years before by their unbelief. It is a picture of the believer seated in heavenly places in Christ; and answers to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Rom. viii. and similar passages.

Judges. -- The failure of the redeemed in heavenly places, or the dangers which arise even in advanced 22 stages of Christian experience. Its counterpart is to be found in such texts as 1 Cor. iii. 1-4; Hebrews v. 12-14.

Ruth. -- The union of Christ and the Church. A Gentile bride was here redeemed by her Jewish kinsman from the one who by nature had a right to possess her, and was purchased to be his wife; even as “Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.” The counterpart of this little book is to be found, I think, in Ephesians v. 22-32.

The next six books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, are all really only different chapters of one book. They contain the story of the kingdom, and I would suggest that their title might be, “The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.” They are typical of that “kingdom” which exists now upon this earth, outwardly in the Church in all its branches, and inwardly in the heart of every child of God. Luke xvii. 20, 21, is the key note to these books.

Ezra and Nehemiah. -- Individual faithfulness in a time of general unfaithfulness. A faithful remnant go up out of captivity to rebuild the temple and the walls of the city. The doctrinal counterpart to these books is to be found in 2 Corinthians vi. 14-18.

Esther. -- God's providential care over the redeemed, even though they may be in captivity, and He may be hidden from their sight. They forget Him, but He remembers them, and cares for them. It illustrates the truth of that promise so often made by the Lord to His people, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

With these books we close the historical series of pictures 23 in the Old Testament. The five books which follow -- Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles, give us, I think, the progressive development of the heart exercises of the believer, as to sanctification.

Job. -- The death of self. A righteous man is here brought through the refining processes of God's chastening, in order to bring him to an end of the self-life, and to prepare him for a revelation of the Lord to his soul. It answers to Heb. xii. 5-11. It is a picture of the Lord's dealings with a self-righteous Christian, for the purpose of emptying him of self, that he might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Psalms. -- The life hid with Christ in God. The soul that has been brought to the end of self in Job, is here seen walking in “newness of life.” The man who speaks here is the man of faith, and the life revealed is the life of trust. In Job it was all, I, me, my; here it is all, Thou, Thee, Thy. The Book of Psalms has sometimes been looked upon as a sort of diary kept as it were by our Lord, for Himself and His people, in which are revealed to us the deep inward emotions of His heart, under the varied aspects of His life as the Divine Man; and also the feelings proper to those in whom He dwells.

Proverbs. -- The submission of the sanctified heart to the teachings and leadings of Divine Wisdom. It is our Father teaching His children how to walk safely and wisely through this world of sin and danger. Its New Testament key-note is James i. 5, 6.

Ecclesiastes teaches us the vanity of all earthly things 24 to satisfy the sanctified heart. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” It is the record of the solemn conviction of a soul which has been taught by Divine wisdom, and has found that the world, even at its best and brightest, is only vanity and vexation of spirit. “He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again.”

The Song of Solomon is in wonderful contrast to the Book of Ecclesiastes. There the world is searched in vain for an object to satisfy the sanctified heart. Here the Object is found, and the heart has entered into the enjoyment of it. It is the Old Testament typical expression of the truth in Ephesians v. 23-33, of the wondrous union between Christ and the Church, which is set forth here. “He that drinketh of this water shall never thirst.”

Out of all that Solomon wrote and said, only these three books -- Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles -- are given us. I feel sure therefore that they are full of a far deeper wisdom than the church has yet appreciated. Some students of Scripture have thought that these three Books of Solomon's show us the three stages in the path of wisdom. The first being the purifying stage given us in Proverbs, where we are taught practical righteousness. The second being the illuminating stage, given us in Ecclesiastes where the eyes are opened to see the world as it is, and its hollow vanity is discovered to us. And the third being the uniting stage, given us in Canticles, where the prepared soul is joined to its Beloved in an everlasting covenant of life and peace.

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Concerning this progressive development of truth in the Books of the Bible, A. Jukes says, “The form of the Word, and the wisdom of its form, is a subject which yet waits to receive that attention which is its just due. Four gospels have forced some to notice the distinct purpose of God in each gospel. But for the rest of scripture, why its form is what it is, -- why like a man, and with man, it grew from age to age -- why it looks and is so human, -- what connection all this has with the mystery of the Holy Incarnation, -- these are questions seldom asked . . . . . But I would here notice one fact, namely, that the Word is given to us in many books or sections, each of which, I am assured is a divine chapter, with one special end, illustrating something in God and man, or the details of some relation between the Creator and the creature. . . . . Each book has its own end, and the order and contents of all, as they describe the progressive ways of God with man, answer to His ways in every soul, for within and without His ways are one, and His works the same from age to age.”

The Prophets

We come now to a distinct part of God's Book, which seems to me to be to the Old Testament what the book of Revelation is to the New. Like that, it is a prophecy of the glorious consummation of God's purposes for His people, revealing the future glory and blessing reserved for them. Each prophet has, I doubt not, a special part of truth to reveal, but I do not feel competent to speak 26 of these. The meanings of their names may perhaps suggest something to the thoughtful reader: Isaiah, salvation of God; Jeremiah, he who exalts or gives glory to God; Ezekiel, the strength of God; Daniel, the judgment of God; Hosea, salvation of God; Joel, he that commands; Amos, strong to bear; Obadiah, servant of the Lord; Jonah, he that oppresses; Micah, poor and humble; Nahum, a comforter; Habakkuk, he that embraces; Zephaniah, the secret of the Lord; Haggai, a solemn feast; Zechariah, memory of the Lord; Malachi, messenger of the Lord.

It is enough for our purposes to understand the general teaching of these wonderful prophecies. They refer mostly to the glorious time of Christ's second coming, when He shall appear to set up His kingdom of righteousness and peace upon earth, and “the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” At that time, which is called significantly “the day of the Lord,” as though all were night until then, great and wonderful blessings are promised to the children of Israel, which are, I feel sure, to be literally and gloriously fulfilled to them in this world, in their triumphant return to their own land, and their restoration to righteousness and true holiness before the Lord. The church has been too much inclined I think to monopolize these glorious prophecies to herself, and to give them only a spiritual application. But if the blessings belong to us, then the curses must also, for it is plainly the people who had been cursed 27 that are to be blessed: and it seems strange that such an unwarrantable separation could ever have been made, as to give all the curses to the Jews, and to appropriate all the blessings to the church. I shall never forget the indignation with which a converted Jew once called my attention to this; and I think it is very plain that God's chosen people have a glorious future in store for them on this very earth, which has been the scene of their bitter failure and downfall.

I believe, however, that while the primary application of these books is to the Jew, they have a very blessed typical application to Christians; and that we who now by faith enter into God's spiritual kingdom, enter also into possession of spiritual blessings that correspond very wonderfully to the temporal ones here set forth. There is a rest that yet remaineth for God's chosen people. But we which have believed may enter into that rest now and here, and may antedate the outward millennium, by an inward millennial experience, that can be described in no other language so well, as in that which is used by these old prophets to foretell the future glory of their own nation. The spiritual mind has always realized this, and from this cause perhaps has sprung the mistake of monopolizing to ourselves prophecies, which have so wonderfully expressed our soul's deepest experiences, that it has seemed hard to believe they could have been intended for anything else.

With these prophecies the Old Testament closes, and the dispensation of law is ended. God's first covenant 28 with His people has utterly failed because of the weakness of their flesh, and when next we open the Book we shall find that a new covenant has been introduced, which God Himself says is a “better covenant established upon better promises.” “For,” He says, “if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them He saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when 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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” . . . . “In that He saith, a new covenant, He hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

The first covenant failed, not because of any weakness in itself or its provisions, for the “law was holy, just and good.” But its purposes could not be accomplished, “in that it was weak through the flesh,” and God therefore sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,” that He might “condemn sin in the flesh,” and might make it possible for the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

The story of this new and better covenant will be found in the New Testament. But before entering upon its consideration, we will examine more in detail the lessons of the Old.

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