God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
I. THE GENERAL TRUTH THAT GOD SPEAKS TO MEN. The possibility is assumed of such a communication from God to men. Nothing less can be meant than this - that even as one man can clearly make known the thoughts and wishes that are in him to another, so God can communicate his thoughts and wishes to a being with a nature like man. It is quite allowable to say that a voice of God speaks forth from the things he has made, just as a voice speaks forth from our works and actions; but beyond all voices we thus infer there is surely a direct utterance of God. What an inspiring thought, that at any moment a voice may come to the heart of man out of the infinite depths, not heard indeed by the outward ear, but still making evident that it is not something imagined from within, or something that rises from a purely human and earthly level! Thus we may classify the words that are spoken to a man:
1. There is soliloquy. When a man listens to his own heart, to its suggestions, its apologies, its speculations, its putting of pros and cons. There are things said and listened to which dare not come out in audible speech.
2. The speech of men to each other, full of limitations and imperfections, only too often trifling, frivolous, barbed with sneering, contempt, envy, jealousy.
3. The speech of God to men, of which the first chief thing to be noticed is that it does come from above; not from the confusion within, or the confusion without and around.
II. GOD SPEAKING TO CERTAIN MEN BY PROPHETS. This Epistle went forth originally within the limits of a nation. The writer is writing to Hebrews; he at once bids them look to the past, the distant past, and yet the past out of which their present had come. They had to consider their fathers, and thus the succession in which they themselves stood. As they looked hack they looked along a line illuminated by a special and heavenly light. The sacred books, the Scriptures which they have to search, are pervaded by the recorded speeches and acts of Jehovah; so that if these speeches and acts be cut out, all the rest drops into incoherent fragments. Surely this description of God here gives us one of the rules whereby we are profitably to read the Old Testament. We have in the Old Testament God speaking to the fathers - to the fathers in many generations, to the fathers in different circumstances; we have words to Israel in its beginnings, words to it in its bondage, in its wilderness and tent-life, in its settlement, in its glory as a united kingdom, in its civil discord and separation, in its idolatries, in its time of desolation by foreigners, anti its final exile. Hence the opportunities for warning and threatening on the one hand, and consolation and promise on the other. It must also be considered how God spoke to each generation of the fathers by men belonging to that generation. What was true of the fathers was true of the prophets; one generation goeth and another cometh. We must not measure the prophetic work by the writings that have been preserved. There must have been many, many prophets beyond the few whose names we know, and some day all their faithfulness and usefulness may be revealed. In any case, we can estimate the class from the specimens, and while we estimate we glorify the class, seeing what God can do through the agency of brother men - picked men, it is true, but still entirely men of like passions with ourselves; and thus, while we see the glory of the prophets, we see also their limitations. The prophet lives, speaks, dies, and his work is done. When he dies another living man must rise, who has a sensible contact with his fellow-man. New times bring new needs, and new needs have to be met by new voices. Prophecy is in many parts and after many fashions, it is spoken to many generations by many prophets; but note behind all the uniting force. It is one God who speaks in all and to all. There is variety, advance, light, at the beginning, ever increasing toward the perfect day, but nowhere any discord, any contradiction. In studying the Old Testament it is wisdom to feel sure that there is harmony in its utterances, if only we can find that harmony out.
III. GOD SPEAKING TO US BY HIS SON. Jesus, of course, was a Prophet; One who came from God, had the Spirit of God in him, and spoke the words of God. But he was not a prophet as his predecessors were. The marks of frailty, ignorance, and sin are on them. Manward they may be faithful enough, speaking every word Jehovah has put in their mouths, whatever the peril, whatever the pain. But Godward, what a difference between the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus! Jesus never speaks out of such ignorance and despondency as does Elijah. The words of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5-7, how strangely they would sound if imagined ascending from Jesus! God has spoken to us by a Son. The one ever-living Son, as contrasted with the many-dying prophets. The prophet had his day, a glorious day if he was faithful, but brief at the longest. The day of Jesus, as God's Speaker to men, is described in that later expression of the Epistle - "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Jesus ever liveth, not only to make intercession for us, but as the well-beloved Son of God, to speak to us the words of his Father. The words of Jesus, inwrought as they are with the very substance of the New Testament, are ever to be taken as the word of a being still living, still in contact with men, still making one in every company gathered together in his Name, still saying, "Lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age." - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,