Thus says God the LORD--He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk in it--
Zechariah 12:1) (Cheyne).
I. THE RELATION OF GOD To THE WORLD. He is the God - the only God (cf. Psalm 85:9). He can admit no rival; he stands in a unique relation to the world - is alone to be worshipped. He is the Creator: his work is the heaven and the earth, and the people. The breath of life is by him breathed into his creatures. The universe is entirely subject to him, and he has the right to appoint whom he will to be the minister and channel of his favours to men. To the appointed Messiah, then, due reverence is to be paid.
II. HIS COVENANT WITH ISRAEL AND MANKIND. There is a covenant with the chosen people, and through them all nations are to own him as God. Generally the righteousness of God stands for the goodness of God, manifested to his world in the whole scheme and agency of salvation. "I have done this as a righteous and just God, and in accomplishment of my righteous purposes. I am the just moral Governor of the universe, and have designated thee to this work, in the accomplishment of those purposes."
III. THE MEDIATOR OF THE COVENANT. God holds his hand in his. What strength, then; what grace and Divine communication must there not be with the Mediator, who will be guided and guarded, will be visibly in the enjoyment of the Divine favour! And so the Mediator himself is called a Covenant - the personal realization of God's thought and purpose to the people - the embodiment of that spiritual relation announced in vers. 30, 31, etc. Another of his names is Light. Being Intelligence in himself, the Wisdom of God, he will diffuse it among the nations: bringing men out of their spiritual blindness and the prison-house and confinement of spiritual distress (Psalm 107:10; Job 36:8). "Such is the freedom the gospel imparts; nor can there be a more striking description of its happy effects on the minds and hearts of darkened and wretched men" (1 Peter 2:9).
IV. THE SOLEMN ASSURANCE. Jehovah now turns to the people, and assures them that he is the only true God, and jealously claims a sole and undivided homage. He is "the Eternal." The name includes "the unique reality, and power to confer reality, of the Divine Being." His glory he will not give to another; for were such a God's prediction to fail, he would sink to a lower level than the imaginary deities, who have, at any rate, not deluded their worshippers. But the earlier predictions have been fulfilled -those against the Babylonians or Assyrians; and the new things, later and more splendid - the deliverances of the Jews - will in like manner be fulfilled. The plant is contained in the seed; the event in the mind; the fulfilment in the Word of Jehovah (Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 55:10, 11; Amos 3:7). - J.
ture: — The analogy between these two departments of God's working discloses some striking resemblances of method in the details of His work.
Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens.
I. THAT RELIGIOUS INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE CHARACTERISED BY THE SPIRIT OF DOCILE INQUIRY. If there be one thing which more than another vitiates the methods by which men form their religious opinions, it is the want of the humility of inquirers after truth; and yet, if there be one thing more firmly settled than another in the methods of science, it is that the docility of inquiry after truth is the only spirit becoming to scientific discovery. How often are we compelled to note the distinction, that in religion men feel at liberty to create their opinions; while in natural science, and in all that domain of truth which lies outside of the realm of conscience, they feel bound to seek for their opinions. In the one case we assume that we know, in the other we consent to be taught.
II. THE PRESUMPTION THAT IN A REVEALED THEOLOGY WILL BE FOUND A DEFINITE AND POSITIVE SYSTEM OF TRUTH. Side by side with Christian dogmatism there grows up a Christianised scepticism, within the range of scriptural thought. We must presume, especially, that when we open this revelation of God in language, we shall come upon certain verities which shall be patent, on the face of the record, to unperverted inquiry. We do not so much find them here, as that they find us. They are verities which unbiassed readers in all ages will read here, and will believe; verities which infidelity will always read here; and verities which it is as unphilo-sophical for a believer in the inspiration of the Bible to deny, as it is for any sane mind to refuse credence to the elementary facts of geology, or of anatomy. Moreover, we must presume that these Scriptures contain a theology, not only of robust material, and of graphic outline, but of such firmness of construction that it can be positively preached. It must be free from self-contradictions, as other sciences are, so that an athletic faith can use it. And we must look for a theology which, when it is thus preached, shall prove itself to be a power in the earth.
III. THE CERTAINTY THAT THE PACTS OF THESE TWO DEPARTMENTS OF GOD'S WORKING WILL NEVER CONTRADICT EACH OTHER.
IV. THAT WE SHOULD EXPECT TO FIND THE REVEALED GOVERNMENT OF GOD TO BE A SYSTEM CHARACTERISED BY SACREDNESS AND UNIFORMITY OF LAW. In the natural world we find no such thing as caprice. Why, then, should we not expect to find in a revelation respecting the moral world, a similar omnipresence and omnipotence of law? It would be instructive to pursue this analogy between law in the natural world and law in God's moral government to certain other results. We might see —
1. How accordant with nature it is that the laws of religion cannot be violated with impunity.
2. How natural it is that fatal consequences in respect of religion should follow from apparently trifling disobedience of God's commands.
3. The foundation which is laid in the nature of things for that law of God's government by which sin often reaches over from the time when it is committed, and strikes its penalty in a remote experience of the sinner.
4. We might infer the credibility and the probability that the sins of one brief life on earth should pass on, beyond the grave, to reap their reward in eternity.
5. The naturalness of the faith that, if God has devised any remedial scheme to meet the emergency of sin, it must be one that shall honour delicately and rigidly the sacredness of law.
V. THAT WE HAVE REASON TO EXPECT THIS OCCURRENCE OF MYSTERIES IN A REVEALED THEOLOGY. The mysteries of theology always meet us before we have travelled far on any track of religious inquiry. But this is no anomaly peculiar to religious thought. Science in the world of matter is thwarted in all its investigations, sooner or later, by insolvable mysteries.
VI. A CONFIRMATION OF OUR FAITH IN THE CERTAINTY OF THIS WORLD'S CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY. We are too often unmindful that the creation of this world and the redemption of this world are, in a truthful sense, parallel acts of omnipotence. It is as certain that the one will occur as that the other has occurred; for the revelation of that which God will do in the one case is as worthy of trust as the history of that which He has. done in the other. This luxuriance of metaphor which the kingdom of nature yields up to the portraiture of the kingdom of grace, springs from no fortuitous resemblances. Our God is one God; and therefore it is that a mind inspired to foresee the success of omnipotence in redemption, carries over into this moral kingdom its conceptions of the working of omnipotence in nature. The mountains, rivers, seas, flocks of Kedar, sun, moon, in which God has wrought, become, not only the emblems, but the pledges of the mighty works which He will do for man's recovery.
(A. Phelps, D. D.)
1. A resemblance between the Divine methods of working in nature and in grace is seen in the law common to both kingdoms, that great results ensue from feeble beginnings.
2. It is also a law of the two kingdoms of God's working, that results are often for a long time suppressed from human view. Kepler said, when he published his system of astronomy, that the world had waited six thousand years for some one to read the heavens aright. The coal mines of Pennsylvania and the quarries of Quincy were forming before the garden of Eden existed. Who can tell us why the western continent lay for fifty-four centuries unknown to the dominant races of men? Our God is one God.
3. It is furthermore a law in the two kingdoms of God's working, that results often come to human view suddenly and by seeming accident. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. But have we not told our children of the falling apple, which was so instructive to the mind of Newton; and of the invention of the mariner's compass by an unknown genius; and of the gold mines of California, which a labourer accidentally discovered in building a sawmill? Our God is one God.
4. It is a law of the two kingdoms of God's working, that His work proceeds with great apparent waste. This work of the world's conversion is a costly labour. But God's plans have this evidence of their greatness, that they go on with that which to us appears like waste. The earth every year produces food sufficient for three times its burden of inhabitants. The sun wastes two-thirds of its beams on trackless waters and deserts. The stars are not put out, like your street lamps, when the traveller has no further need of them. Poets have sung of flowers that waste their sweetness. God works on a generous scale. Even of suffering He is not sparing in the laws of His providence. How much of apparently useless suffering is endured under the laws of disease! What a waste of life do we see everywhere in the death of the young! In this seeming prodigality of the Divine procedure, we see evidence that God has plans too deep for us to fathom. And these plans run under the two systems of nature and of grace alike.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
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