Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi." They were not to receive any estate in Canaan beyond the suburbs of certain cities. They were to take "the Lord as their inheritance." We have already seen that Palestine was a good land for training up a spiritual people; it was a land where dependence upon God was constantly enforced. Bat among this people, thus invited to depend upon God, there was a tribe whose dependence upon God was to be further stimulated by the absence of any tangible inheritance. Their life was thus to be a life of trust in God's continual care. In these circumstances the Lord made certain laws about the priests' due. He took good care of the tribe that trusted him. It has been supposed that the animals, of which the priests were to have a definite part, were not merely sacrifices, but also those privately slaughtered, and the words (לֺזבְחֵי הַזֶּבַח) translated "them that offer a sacrifice" will bear the rendering "those who slaughter animals." Still, it seems more probable that it was by the central altar that the priests and Levites were to live. Assuming this, then, the following lessons are here taught.
I. THOSE WHO TRUST GOD SHALL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED IN THEIR ALLOTTED PORTION. For as a matter of fact, "the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the maw" were deemed dainty portions of the animal. The best portions ascended to God in the altar fire, and then the second best were assigned to the priests and Levites, while the offerer was content with what was left. God and his ministers were regarded as the guests of the Jewish worshippers, and, as the guests enjoy the best which we can offer in the exercise of our hospitality, the support of the priests and Levites was amply secured. These dues of the priests and Levites seem to have been regularly paid while the people remained true to God; of course, their support would suffer in sinful and idolatrous times, yet, even when they suffered with the neglect of God's altar, it was suffering with God. And as a rule those who trust God are not disappointed with his provision. Even when it is limited in amount, he is sure to give sublime compensations. Though ministerial support is not what it ought to be, there is no class of men who enjoy life so much as God's servants.
II. THOSE WHO ARE THE LORD'S CHOSEN SERVANTS ARE CALLED PRE-EMINENTLY TO THE LIFE OF TRUST. There is a great temptation to encircle ourselves with so much worldly possession as that trust in God will be difficult and seem superfluous. In other words, there is an effort to be able to live by sight rather than by faith. But the Master whom we serve is realized by faith, and his kingdom must be propagated by faith. Hence he so arranges the lot of his servants that a loud call for faith is always ringing in their ears, and they should never neglect that call. The priests and Levites were at liberty to purchase land and leave it to their children, and doubtless many of them so far "made assurance doubly sure, and took a bond of fate." Yet the life of faith, the dependence upon God's altar, was better and wholesomer than the life of sight.
III. THE PEOPLE HAD NO RIGHT TO WITHHOLD THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES DUE BECAUSE OF ANY PRIVATE PATRIMONY INDIVIDUALS MIGHT POSSESS. A good deal of deficient ministerial support is due to the people very unfairly discounting private incomes and often exaggerating them, so as to save themselves. Ministers may inherit means through the kindly consideration of parents and friends; but this is no reason why people should hold their hand in the matter of ministerial support. The Lord specially provided that the Levite (ver. 8) should have like portions to eat beside that which cometh of the sale of his patrimony. The truth is that private means invariably go to make a public ministry more effective, if the ministry is true at all. They are not selfishly utilized, but used as a matter of' stewardship. In such circumstances, instead of being a hindrance to liberality, these private possessions should be a stimulus, as they are so much more in the line of things devoted to the Lord.
IV. DUE RESPECT SHOULD BE SHOWN TO A DEVOTED SPIRIT. The case of the Levite here referred to corresponds to a minister who has responded to a Divine call, against what one might call the dictates of worldly prudence. He has followed the inward impulse (ver. 6), and come to aid the priests at the central altar from his snug patrimony at home. Such devotion is to be considered and rewarded. The Levite, who was so interested as to relinquish his country life and patrimony, deserved the payment of the dues at the altar. So with the generous devotion of the ministers of God. When men relinquish good worldly prospects for the Church, their doing so should be considered. - R.M.E.
Psalm 16:5, 6). He is in this respect a "priest unto God" (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6).
I. THE MEANING OF THE EXPRESSION. Inheritance - equal to lot, part, share. Inheritance in families - the share which each receives of the patrimony. In the partition of Canaan, each tribe had its lot, its portion, its share. God's portion or inheritance was the tithes, with the prescribed parts of the sacrifices, the firstfruits, etc. Levi had as his portion God himself, involving a share of the provision from God's table (ver. 1).
II. THE GRANDEUR OF THE TRUTH.
1. The believer possesses God. God is a better possession for the soul than any of his gifts. "It is a thought which lies at the foundation of all true religion, that God himself is the Supreme Good, the true and real portion of the soul.... More intimately than light becomes the possession of the eye on which it streams, or air of the organs of breathing which inhale it, or the food we eat, assimilated and diffused through the physical system, incorporates itself with the nature of him who partakes of it, does he, that Infinite One, the Light of all our seeing, the Bread of Life, the nutriment of our highest being, become the deep inward portion of each soul that loves him" (Caird, sermon on 'The Christian's Heritage').
(1) God provides for him out of the fullness at his command. Possessing God, the Possessor of all, he knows that he will want "no good thing" (Psalm 84:11). Temporally and spiritually, he will be provided for, kept, saved, delivered (Psalm 37:3, 9, 11, 25, 34; Psalm 121.; Isaiah 33:16; Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 1:3).
(2) All things work together for his good (Romans 8:28).
(3) He perceives and enjoys God in all things, as none else can (Psalm 104.).
(4) He is one of the" heirs of God" in "the times of the restitution of all things" (Acts 3:24), when the redeemed enter on their glory (Matthew 25:84). Let the saint reflect on his inheritance in God.
(1) How surpassingly rich it is!
(2) How delightsome it is! (Psalm 16:6).
(3) How enduring it is - eternal! (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18).
(4) How all-satisfying it is! (Psalm 73:26). - J.O.
I. DIVINE CHOICE AND HUMAN DESIRE MUST COMBINE TO MAKE A REAL PRIEST. The man, though born a Levite, must "come with all the desire of his mind unto the place which the Lord shall choose" (ver. 6). The human will must co-operate with God's will. This is the product of the second birth. In this ancient arrangement, we see the forecast of the Christian life - the true priesthood.
II. THE PRIEST'S OFFICE IS, NOT FOR HONOR, BUT FOR SERVICE. "He shall minister in the Name of the Lord his God." In other words, he shall serve in the stead of God, and by his authority. This is the hardest work, yet the most honorable. No toil or self-sacrifice can he decline while appearing in the stead of God, for he serves the noblest part of man. In God's kingdom there is no honor apart from character; and character is attained by service.
III. THE PRIEST'S EARTHLY NEEDS SHALL BE MET WITHOUT ANXIETY ON HIS PART. "They that minister at the altar shall partake of the altar" (vers. 3, 4, 8). While we are employed on the King's errands, the King will provide our rations. We have a Divine guarantee that bodily wants shall be supplied, for God himself is our inheritance. It is surely better to trust the Fount rather than the stream, the First Cause rather than the intermediate channel, the Creator rather than the creature. The priest shall be supplied before other men, for the firstfruits of corn and wine and oil are his. They that serve God without stint shall never be forgotten.
IV. THE TRUE PRIEST OCCUPIES THE APEX OF THE SOCIAL PYRAMID. The true priest really rules. For him all other orders of men toil. For the priest to possess any earthly inheritance would be a burden, a care, an injury. Others till the ground for him, thresh his corn, and winnow his grain. As a god, he receives. For other men the inferior creation toils and groans. The unreasoning animals bear his burdens and do his will. Yet these men, served well by the subordinate orders of life, wait upon the priest, and minister to his human wants. And in return, the real priest ministers to the hunger of the soul, and supplies light and guidance and hope. The real priest is the greatest benefactor to the human race; the counterfeit priest is a pest. - D.
a kingdom of priests" (Exodus 19:6). This priestly character of the nation was represented formally in the tribe of Levi. The distinctive duties of the priesthood were discharged by the sons of Aaron, who were thus the priests strictly so called.
I. THE PRIESTHOOD IN ITSELF.
1. Chosen and set apart by God. "Chosen him out of all thy tribes."
3. Represented the people before God (Exodus 28:12).
4. Made propitiation for sins (Hebrews 5:1).
5. Gave forth oracles (Numbers 27:21).
6. Had for these purposes the right of approach to God.
II. THE PRIESTHOOD AS TYPICAL.
1. Of Christ. The high priest, in particular, was typical of Christ as
(2) Inherently holy, absolutely without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
(3) Representing the Church before God in his person, work, and intercession (Hebrews 4:14).
(5) In being the organ of Divine revelations (Matthew 11:27).
(6) For this priestly work - to which he was divinely ordained (Hebrews 5:5) - Christ has free and immediate access to the holiest of all, and has gained admission to the same for his people (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:19).
2. Of believers.
(1) Chosen (Psalm 65:4).
(2) Consecrated (1 Corinthians 1:2).
(3) Having freedom of approach to God (Hebrews 10:19).
(4) Offering spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5).
(5) Interceding for the world. - J.O.
I. LOVE TO THE SANCTUARY SEEN.
1. In desire for it (ver. 6).
3. In overstepping the bounds of bare duty in attendance on it (ver. 6).
II. LOVE TO THE SANCTUARY REWARDED.
1. By acceptance of those repairing to it.
2. By provision made for them (Psalm 63:5). - J.O.
I. OUR IDEAS OF REVELATION SHOULD BE WORTHY OF GOD. We have no right to expect God to degrade himself in the methods of revelation. Our own instincts should lead us to abhor such processes as have been adopted to secure the secrets of the Most High. All the mean and abominable ways which are here enumerated ought to have been renounced by thinking men instead of adopted. They are all unworthy channels for God's messages. Astrology, enchantment, necromancy, - all are miserable makeshifts for a decent mode of revelation. God has in "diverse manners" certainly made known his will to men (Hebrews 1:1). He has used dreams (Genesis 37:8; Job 33:15), revealing to the soul, whose avenues of sensation are temporarily closed, the information it needed. The dream was the condition of the communication (Genesis 28:12-22). God spoke when he had got man's ear shut to other things. And we can see this to be a most worthy way! Then by angelic visits he oftentimes revealed his will, instances of which are many in the Bible. This also was worthy. Last of all, by inspiring men, that is, through human nature, which is also eminently worthy of God. But the divination process is and should have been regarded as mean and contemptible.
II. IT IS EVIDENCE OF THE GREAT CREDULITY OF MEN THAT DIVINATION HAS IMPOSED UPON THEM. In connection with "spiritualism," for example, we have examples of credulity now corresponding exactly to the divination of the earlier times. As if such mean methods would be adopted by the Infinite Majesty, who has spoken in these last days by his Son! The power of belief is incalculable. Credulity is the believing power exercised on false objects and on insufficient evidence. We have ample faith in the world, if we could only get it rightly directed. And sometimes we find men who are most skeptical about religious matters, most credulous about the novelties of spiritualism. They yield to phenomena a credence that they deny to the well-authenticated Word.
III. GOD'S PRESENCE IS TO DETERMINE OUR CONDUCT. When Moses says, "Thou shalt be perfect with (עִס) the Lord thy God" (ver. 13), the idea seems to be that the overshadowing Presence is to determine our conduct before him. We will strive to be perfect as he is, and not look for mean methods from him. - R.M.E.
I. A STERN PROHIBITION OF CANAANITISH PRACTICES. The practice of magic is known to have been extensively developed in ancient Egypt and Chaldea. Numerous indications occur of its existence among the Canaanites (e.g. 1 Samuel 28:7-10). The lower kinds of magic are of rank growth in all barbarous and semi-civilized communities. The priests combine the functions of diviners, prophets, exorcists, thaumaturgists, physicians, and makers of idols and amulets. The magic of the ancients was distinguished as good or bad, according as it was exercised to conjure diseases and to combat demoniacal influences, or was abused to work harm. This last, which was avowedly diabolical in its character, was what was properly called "sorcery," and was universally regarded with horror. The noteworthy fact, however, is that the books of Moses make no distinction as to kind, but forbid absolutely the practice of every species of magical art. Moses recognizes no magic that is good; he classes all under the same category of "abominations." The text is in principle a prohibition of the use of all such arts, whether the pretender to magical power believes in its efficacy or not. It prohibits, further, resort to such as profess these arts. The "spiritualistic" delusions of our time in all their varieties (spirit mediums, rappings, planchettes, etc.), with "fortune-telling," and superstitious practices supposed to bring good or to avert evil "luck," are condemned by the passage.
II. A REASON FOR THIS PROHIBITION.
1. The nature of the practices as "abominations." They were:
Moses, as noticed above, recognizes no "good" magic. It is viewed either as imposture or, assuming its reality, as demonish (Satanic). It was connected with foolish and wicked rites.
2. The character of the people as "perfect (ver. 13). There could not be perfect love to God and communion with him, and trafficking with the devil at the same time. Love to God, faith in him, and entirety of devotion to him should preclude these superstitions. What he wills his people to know he will teach them by proper means; what he conceals they have no right to seek by means that are improper (Isaiah 8:19). - J.O.
I. MAN GENERICALLY CRAVES TO UNRAVEL THE FUTURE. In every sane mind the inquiry arises, "What is beyond phenomena? What is to happen tomorrow?" The present enjoyment may satisfy animals; it does not satisfy man. He has a faculty that lives in the future. He is ever forecasting life. This inquisitiveness, if repressed, becomes a passion - an insatiable fire. If there is no true oracle that will give reply to his queries, he will betake himself to false ones. If no reply is forthcoming, he is driven hither and thither by the demon of unrest.
II. THIS CRAVING FOR REVELATION LEADS TO CHILDISH SUPERSTITIONS. This conscious want of the soul clearly indicates that some provision has been made by God; but, lacking this, men betake themselves to a thousand subterfuges. The more shrewd and avaricious among them trade upon this prying curiosity, and invent a thousand frauds for self-enrichment. In olden times, every village had its self-anointed oracle; every nation has had its modes of divination. No price has been too great to pay for this envied knowledge. Parental feeling has been freely sacrificed at this blood-stained altar. Fathers have made their loved ones to pass through the fire, in order to avert supposed disaster. Without doubt, the devil has been the moving genius in these systems of enchantment.
III. CRUEL SUPERSTITIONS HAVE LED TO HEAVIEST DISASTERS. So deeply rooted had these systems of diabolic divinations become in the land of Canaan, that to extirpate them it was necessary to extirpate the people also. We are not at liberty to suppose that the Amorites were destroyed because of aberrations in intellectual belief. But the fruit of superstitious belief is soon experienced in sensuality, bestial excess, witchcraft, murder, war. Under such influences society is rent in pieces; every man's hand is red with rapine and blood. At length it becomes an act of necessity to remove such a people from the face of the earth. The deeds of the Canaanites had become a stench in Jehovah's nostrils - a detestation that could no longer be endured. Hence their extermination.
IV. OUR ONLY SAFETY IS IN LOYAL OBEDIENCE TO GOD. No resting-place can be found for intellect or heart of man between degrading superstition and religious faith. Who can solve mysteries but God alone? If God reveal to us our line of duty just to the extent that we really need it; and if, in addition, he give us the assurance that the soul's need shall be met as fast as that need arises; - this will satisfy every reasonable request. Men can and must trust the true God. As a child walks along the darkest road quite contentedly so long as its hand is in its father's hand, so with equal confidence may we confide in the safe and unerring guidance of our Almighty Parent. We have in God a perfect Friend; all that is needed for well-being is complete submission. "Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God." To have recourse to witchcraft or divination is practical treason! - D.
direct communion with God, without any mediation. God spoke to them from heaven at Sinai; but so afraid were they of immediate revelation that they implored Moses to mediate the message for them. He became consequently, with God's full approval, the human medium through which the Divine will was conveyed, which means God's prophet. They had had no difficulty in accepting the Divine messages through him. Now, Moses assures them that this method of mediation through human beings will continue. He puts the promise in comprehensive form, and says that through a Prophet like to himself will God continue to speak to them after he has gone, and his message they will reject at their peril.
I. LET US OBSERVE THE APPROPRIATENESS OF GOD REVEALING HIMSELF THROUGH A HUMAN BEING. For man is in the Divine image; if this be not the case, we can have no knowledge whatever of God. Man is the image of God; and hence God reveals himself to men through a man. The office of prophet is the most appropriate way of revealing God's will. And when we carry on this line of thought, we are landed in the idea that an incarnation of God alone could adequately convey to man the mind and nature of God. If any one wishes to follow out this line, he will get splendid help in Mr. R. H. Hutton's admirable essay on 'The Incarnation and Principles of Evidence.'
II. IT SEEMS CLEAR FROM THE PROMISE THAT A SINGLE PROPHET AFTER THE SIMILITUDE OF MOSES IS TO BE THE MEDIATOR FOR THE AGES. Now, only one Person answers this description, and this is Jesus Christ. He was and is incarnate God. His Spirit he alone could take, and through its gift to men in the different ages make them the channel of God's revelation. As a matter of fact, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy;" and the prophets were his instruments in the history of the Church. God has spoken in the last days by his Son; and the prophets between Moses and Christ were really the inspired messengers of the one Great Prophet of God. This is the idea of Peter that the Spirit of Christ spoke in the prophets. We thus see one Person embracing the mediating work of the different ages, and accomplishing it through holy men.
III. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JESUS, THEREFORE, BECOME THE CLIMAX OF DIVINE REVELATION. The previous revelations were but foreshadowings of this perfect manifestation of God. A human history became the embodiment of Divine thoughts, mercies, self-denials, and self-sacrifice. The blaze of divinity that was intolerable at Sinai becomes not only bearable but entrancing in the face of Jesus Christ. The blinding brilliance has been so toned down that man can rejoice in Jesus as "God manifest in the flesh." "We beheld his glory" - it did not blind or scare men as at the holy mount.
IV. THE DISREGARD OF THE WORDS OF JESUS IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH. This is the penalty pronounced. We see it in another form in the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." If disobedience to Moses was visited in many cases by death, how much more disobedience and disloyalty to Christ! (cf. Hebrews 10:28-31). The gospel has penalties of the severest kind for its rejection, as well as bliss beyond compare for its reception. The alternative is thus clearly set before us.
V. THE PROPHETS SENT OF GOD SUBMIT TO THE TEST OF FULFILLMENT, WHILE FALSE PROPHETS ARE TO BE DETECTED BY THEIR FAILURE. God's method being a human mediation, is liable to be imitated, and men from time to time will profess to be prophets, when they have no real commission. Now, God has such a control of the future that no unassisted, uninspired man can forecast it successfully. Sooner or later he is found out. Happy guesses soon run out, and the person is discredited. Hence it was the duty of Israel to weigh well the communication of the professed prophets, and to see wherein they were confirmed by subsequent events. The true prophets had their word fulfilled, and were Christ's messengers; the false prophets had their word discredited, and were acting presumptuously. Let us hear the Great Prophet, and give him credit for all the predictions of the minor and but human prophets. - R.M.E.
par excellence (see infra).
I. PROPHECY IN GENERAL. The prophet - what? Etymologically, one "boiling or bubbling over" with the Divine inspiration. No mere religious genius, but one truly and supernaturally inspired. A revealer and declarer of the will of God. Future events were foretold:
1. As signs.
2. In warnings and appeals.
3. In denouncing God's judgments.
4. In administering comfort.
5. In unfolding the Messianic hope.
6. In unfolding the Divine purpose underlying providential developments.
Prediction is thus a true and vital element in prophecy, but it is far from being of the essence of it. It is the function of the prophet either to declare new truth - truth gained by direct revelation, and given forth with the authority of Heaven as a "word of the Lord," or, taking up truth already revealed, to revive and enforce it with supernatural power and fervor, applying it to the circumstances, exigencies, and evils of his particular time. "The prophets were men who, when facing the people, stood as it were before God, and thus spoke fore and for him" (Morison).
II. PROPHECY AND MOSAISM. It is noteworthy that Mosaism contemplated the rise of prophecy from the first, and left room for it in the arrangements of the economy. It even required it for the carrying forward of its objects to completion. The dispensation was not a final one. The kingdom of God had a future which it was the task of prophecy gradually to disclose. The Law enclosed innumerable spiritual germs, which it was the function of prophecy to expand and develop. It had, moreover, underlying its ceremonialism, a spiritual basis, which it was the business of the prophets to bring to light, and to recall to people's minds when they appeared in danger of forgetting it. Prophecy was thus a standing witness to the life, freshness, and power which lay in the heart of a religion largely wrapped up in legal forms. Then there was the necessity for new light and guidance under the conditions of advancing national life, and in times of national emergency. The Law left not a little scope for extended applications of its fundamental principles, and it lay with the prophets to furnish the direction required. All this, in addition to their more general function of rebuking, warning, and testifying, in times of declension, which, with the carrying forward the development of revelation in its relation to Christ and his kingdom, may be regarded as the chief part of their work.
III. PROPHECY AND HEATHEN MANTICISM. The connection shows that prophecy is given in lieu of the heathenish practices that are forbidden. If God forbids divination, necromancy, consultation of familiar spirits, etc., he gives something better - some-thing that will lawfully supply the craving which these superstitions unlawfully sought to gratify. The soul:
1. Craves for a knowledge of God's will.
2. Desires guidance in critical times of life.
3. Ponders anxiously its relations to the invisible world and to the future.
4. Feels its personal unfitness for intercourse with God.
These cravings were the strength of heathen sorcery, etc., and they were provided for in prophecy. This, it may be noticed, is throughout a characteristic of revelation - it does not simply remove the bad, but provides for the supply of the cravings to which the bad appeals. - J.O.
Acts 3:22), Christ and Moses were alike -
I. AS FOUNDERS OF DISPENSATIONS. It was the greatness of Moses that he was employed by God in inaugurating a new era in the history of his kingdom - in introducing a new order of things - in settling the foundations of a new economy. In this respect he stood at the head of the Old Testament line of prophets, and in a sense stood apart from them. "The Law was given by Moses" (John 1:17). He had the ordering and settling of the "house" of God in the form in which it was to last till Christ came, who, "as a Son over his own house," would revise its arrangements and reconstitute it on a new and better basis (Hebrews 3:2-7). Prophets subsequent to Moses stood within the lines of the economy already established. They could enforce and maintain, but while predicting the advent of a new age in which great changes would be wrought, they had no authority of themselves to introduce such changes. It was reserved for Christ to "change times and seasons," and so to alter and remodel Mosaic institutions, or supersede them by new ones, or abolish them by giving the substance for the shadow, as to place the Church upon a permanent and moveless basis, and adapt it for the reception of the Gentile nations.
II. IN THE FREEDOM OF INTERCOURSE WHICH THEY ENJOYED WITH GOD. Moses enjoyed, as was necessary, the freest intercourse with heaven. God spake with him, not in a vision, or dream, or in dark speeches, but "mouth to mouth" (Numbers 12:6-9), "face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10). This is made, in the passage last quoted, a feature of distinction between Moses and later prophets in Israel. In Christ, this peculiarity of the relation of Moses to God reappears in higher form. Intercourse with the Father reaches the highest degree of closeness and intimacy, the Son being in the Father, and the Father in the Son (John 14:10). Christ's insight into his Father's will was perfect (John 5:20, 21). His communion with the Father was habitual and uninterrupted. The New Testament apostles, in an inferior degree, shared in this higher footing, were habitually possessed by the Spirit, and spoke and wrote under his calm and abiding influence.
III. AS MEDIATING BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND GOD. (Vers. 16-18.) It was when the people were deeply conscious of their need of a mediator that this promise was vouchsafed. It had only, as regards mediation, a very inferior application to the Old Testament prophets. The fullness of its meaning comes to view in Christ. These points involve others, as e.g. the resemblance between Christ and Moses:
1. In the degree of authority with which they were clothed, and in the mighty signs and wonders which authenticated their mission (Deuteronomy 34:11).
2. In the fullness and grandeur of the revelations made through them.
can they see him than as he truly is. In this circumstance of mutual estrangement there is need of a mediator - prophet.
I. GUILTY MEN DEBAR THEMSELVES FROM PERSONAL FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. There is nothing in common between unrighteous men and a righteous God. They are mutually repellent. The heart-language of such men is this, "Let us not hear again the voice of the Lord our God; neither let us see this great fire any more." To them, his voice is the thunder of war; to them, his presence is a consuming fire. They have no eye except to see his burning anger. Hence they flee to hide themselves. Their wish projects itself into reality; he removes himself.
II. MEN'S DESIRE TO HOLD COMMUNICATION WITH GOD THROUGH A MEDIATOR CONCEDED. The gracious disposition of God towards men yields to his creatures' necessity. Ask what they will, if righteousness be not dishonored, it shall be done. The all-wise God candidly admits that the Jews had, in this matter, spoken well. But the mediator must be a prophet. He must convey the thoughts and dispositions and will of God to men. Human obedience, to have any worth, must be intelligent - the fruit of choice and purpose.
III. THE PERFECT PROPHET IS INTRODUCED BY SUCCESSIVE STAGES. Our moral instincts often outrun our clear intelligence. The Jews desired an intermediate agent, who should convey God's will to them; but they scarcely knew what it was they asked for. Could any mortal man clearly reveal the mind of the Eternal? Would not the pure stream be defiled by the impure channel? Nevertheless, God will do the best for them in their present condition. As yet the perfect Prophet will not be understood nor appreciated. Knowledge of God's character and purpose sufficient for the present shall be revealed by imperfect men - types of the coming perfect Mediator. By easy gradations, the human family must be divinely educated.
IV. THE TRUE PROPHET IS A PERFECT VEHICLE OF GOD'S THOUGHTS. "I will put my words in his mouth." Unless the prophet be a mere mechanical automaton, his words must be the result of his thoughts. If God shall use a human person to reveal himself to men, he must use his mind, heart, and will: yea, his entire being. This has been realized only in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Hence he could say, "The words that I speak, I speak not of myself: but that Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." Hence, again, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also." For the advent of this real Prophet, humanity stood for centuries on the outlook, on the watch-tower of hope.
V. CONTUMACY OF THE TRUE PROPHET IS CONTUMACY AGAINST GOD. Such is the value of this Divine gift, that to treat it with indifference is heinous crime. No human penalty may be annexed, but God himself undertook to punish the deed. Hunger is God's voice within the body, and he who disregards that voice shall surely die. Pain is God's voice in human nerves, and he who neglects that summons shall die. Truth is everywhere the voice of God, and to turn deaf ears to truth is to deprive one's self of life. And, by parity of reasoning, the voice of God is heard more clearly and more authoritatively yet, in the person of his dear Son: it is his prerogative to give to men eternal life. Hence, to turn a deaf ear to him is folly, contumacy, despair, ruin. God will exact a most fitting retribution.
VI. GOD SUPPLIES A TEST BETWEEN THE FALSE PROPHET AND THE TRUE. The eagerness of men to discover the Prophet of Jehovah, led many to impersonate him for the purpose of personal reputation and gain. Every true prophet of God came with sufficient credential, so that no candid mind need have been deceived. They had the power to read the near future: this was a token of their heavenly commission. But better still, their message commended itself to the conscience of the hearers; and thus might every hearer find in an honest conscience that the herald was from God. If the prophet summoned men to repentance and assured them of a share in the mercy of God, they could readily ascertain for themselves whether relief came to their burdened consciences - whether better feelings arose in the heart. The truth is never very far distant if we really wish to find it. - D.
I. CERTAINTY OF FULFILLMENT IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD'S WORDS. If e.g. the prophecies of the Scriptures could be shown to have been falsified by events, it would, by the rule laid down in this fundamental prophetic charter, conclusively disprove their claims to inspiration. It is vain to think of defending the inspiration of the prophets, while conceding, with rationalistic writers, occasional failures in their predictions. The prophets themselves do not shrink from this test, but confidently appeal to it (Isaiah 34:16). This shows how different their inspiration was from the ordinary inspiration of genius, both in their estimation of it and in fact. No man of genius, however wide his range of vision, be he a Bacon, a Shakespeare, a Goethe, or a Carlyle, would like to rest his reputation on the absolute unfailingness of his words. While prophecy affords conspicuous instances of the certainty of fulfillment characteristic of God's words, it is to be remembered that this certainty inheres in all God's words alike. No word of God or of Christ will fall to the ground unfulfilled (Matthew 24:35). The thought should comfort God's people, and make his enemies tremble. Applies to promises and threatenings equally with predictions and doctrines.
II. THE PREDICTIONS OF SCRIPTURE ABIDE THIS TEST OF TRUE PROPHECY. The force of the evidence from prophecy can only be properly felt by those who have been at pains to examine the Bible predictions in detail. But it does not need more than an examination of the principal instances to convince us that here we have no chance guess-work, no mere forecasting of natural sagacity. We might point to the predictions in Deuteronomy respecting the future of the Jewish nation, and the punishment which would overtake them for their sins (Deuteronomy 4:25-29; Deuteronomy 28:45-68); or to the Messianic prophecies (e.g. Isaiah 53.); or to particular predictions delivered long before the events predicted occurred, or could have been foreseen, as when Amos ( B.C. 787) predicts of Israel at a time when the king and nobles were lying on beds of ivory, and indulging in every species of dissipation and amusement - "Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose Name is The God of hosts"(Amos 5:27), or when Micah ( B.C. 710), a hundred, years before the Captivity, foretells of Judah, "Zion for your sake shall be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps" (Micah 3:12); "Be in pain, and labor to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there shall the Lord redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies" (Micah 4:10). Discovery has not tended to discredit, but in several striking instances has confirmed the truth of prophecy, as in regard to Ezekiel's prediction of the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar (Deuteronomy 29:8-16), a prediction pronounced by Kueuen and skeptical critics to be a mere guess, falsified by the event, but now strikingly confirmed from a contemporary hieroglyphic inscription (see Expositor, vol. 10.). And while it is true that an isolated sign and wonder is not proof sufficient of Divine inspiration (Deuteronomy 13.), it is certain that, taking into account the character of the prophets, the kind and number of their predictions, the holiness of their message, and the coherence of what they taught with earlier revelations, the evidence of their Divine commission is as strong as could be wished - is, in fact, decisive. - J.O.