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CHAPTER V. - THE DAVIDIC PROGRAM

 

WE come now to the fifth section of the Divine program of universal history given to and through David, king of Israel.

 

That the writings of this remarkable man were largely prophetic there can be no question to any Christian believer, since the Apostle Peter calls him ?a prophet, ? and our Lord Himself asserts that David in the Psalms spoke by the Holy Ghost and wrote of Him a thousand years before the Christian era. {#Ac 2:30}

 

We hope in this chapter to justify these sayings, by showing the demonstrably prophetic character of the Davidic foreview, and its strict and most wonderful accordance with the facts of history, as far as these latter have as yet gone. Only a part of the program is at present fulfilled; one-third of it is still future. The evidential argument arises of course solely from the two-thirds which already are accomplished.

 

David was, not only a prophet, but a king; and this fact naturally colors the special revelations given to him. God selects for His varied service instruments equally varied; and just as He chose a patriarchal father to be the channel of the revelation as to ?the Seed? in whom the world shall be blessed, just as He chose the founder and lawgiver of the Jewish nation to receive and impart the foreview of that

 

#Lu xxiv, 44, people?s national history, so He chose a monarch to be the medium of His prophetic revelations as to the glorious kingdom of God and its King. The foreview given to David is not an indefinite or general one, like that presented to our first parents, not a mere ethnic outline, like that given to Noah; it is a more advanced and complex revelation, a right royal program for which a king was the fit channel. It consists of a promise about a kingdom and its king, and of a covenant confirmed by a solemn oath of Jehovah, as was the Abrahamic covenant previously. I-low appropriate, then, that this section of the Divine program of history should be given to the father and founder of a royal dynasty destined to reign and rule for centuries, to the first true king of God?s chosen people!

 

David was this, though he had, it is true, been preceded on the throne of Israel by Saul. But that son of Kish knew not how to obey, and could not therefore govern. God, xvhose word he rejected and despised, in due course rejected him from the throne he was unfit to occupy. Not from the tribe of Benjamin, but from that of Judah was to be the ruler of Israel. It was of this tribe that Jacob had foretold, ?the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.? David, unlike Saul, belonged to this royal tribe, and, with all his imperfections and failures, he had a right royal heart and did right royal work, faithfully shepherding, defending, and governing the people whom God committed to his care, subduing all their enemies, providing both for the ark and worship of Jehovah and for the Levitical service and priestly courses, as well as for the glorious temple to be afterwards built by Solomon.

 

David was a man of a large, powerful, and richly various nature; he had a mind keen to perceive, a heart quick to feel, a conscience tenderthough once, alas I seared as with a red-hot iron by sincapable of being aroused into vigorous action and of exerting mighty control; he had eyes to weep in bitter contrition, a tongue to utter confession and prayer, a voice and lips to sing songs of tender pathos, of humble trust, or of triumphant exultation; he had feet to dance before the Lord for joy, a soul to be awed into silent veneration or to thrill with magnificent triumph, as the occasion might demand. He had also a sensitiveness which rendered his loves and his friendships warm and intense, which made filial ingratitude an agony to him, which caused sorrows and fears in anticipation to be a very real torture to his spirit. He could sink to the very lowest depths of woe and rise to the highest heights of enjoyment. The human element was in him rich and strong, while the spiritual side of his being was even stronger; and the strange, varied experiences of his life called successively into play every part of his intense and vivid nature. Religious reverence, holy faith and courage, mental and moral superiority, tender affection, powerful passions, compassionate kindness, inflexible severity when demanded by justice, executive ability and ruling talent of the first order, all characterized in marked measure Israel?s first great king; and he had, in addition, the literary ability and musical skill which made him memorable as the sweet psalmist of Israel. He was no mere official monarch; no selfish, luxurious tyrant, oppressing his people, but a thoroughly natural, sympathetic, loving, large-hearted, God-fearing man, who underwent most remarkable and unique experiences. The events of his life were ordered in Divine providence that they might give occasion to thoughts, feelings, and anticipations, the natural expression of which would proveunconsciously to himself for the most partto be prophecy.

 

What was the state of thiugs when this fifth section of the Divine program was indicated to David, and to mankind through him? Some five hundred years had passed away since the days of Moses. Joshua had in the meantime divided to the people their Canaan inheritance, and during his life and the lives of his contemporaries Israel had answered the end for which it had been chosen of God, steering clear of idolatry and maintaining inviolate its monotheistic creed and worship. Among other peoples and nations polytheism and image-worship of the grossest kind everywhere prevailed, and had become systematized. Each country had its own special gods. The Zidonians worshipped Ashtoreth, the Ammonites Moloch, the Moabites Chemosh, and so on. After Joshua?s days defection had gradually set in among the Israelites. One after another the tribes fell into idolatry, and adopted the gods of their neighbours; and then, as Moses had predicted, came punishment and calamity: wars were waged on Israel by their heathen enemies, and the God whom they had forsaken suffered them to experience defeat after defeat, and servitude after servitude. Yet again and again He delivered them, raising up for them judges who governed and guided the people aright as long as they lived. These servitudes and deliverances alternated up to the days of Samuel the prophet, in whose old age the people first asked a king. Weary of their distinctive theocracy, they wished to be like their heathen neighbours. ?We will have a king over us, that we may be like all the nations.? God gave them their desire, foretelling at the same time that its gratification would bring them into future trouble, as proved to be the case. Overruling their evil for good, however, according to His wont, He revealed, in connection with the establishment of the Jewish kingdom and to its first great king, the grand outline we have now to consider, of the present and future kingdom of God.

 

The Adamic and Noahic programs were brief, occupying each but a few verses; the Abrahamic and Mosaic were longer and fuller, extending to entire chapters, and comprising many distinct and separate revelations given at considerable intervals. This Davidic program as to the kingdom and its king is still more ample. It is embodied, first, in certain direct revelations made to David, and, secondly, in the Book of Psalms, numbers of which are wholly devoted to it, while others contain features of it more or less amplified. It is consequently a very extensive and detailed program, and we must present it only in outline in an exceedingly condensed form, selecting the main, fundamental predictions alone out of the mass, and then comparing that part of the program which has been fulfilled with the history which has fulfilled it.

 

As given to David in its first brief and comprehensive form, it is found in 2 Samuel vii. The story is there related of how David had desired to build a house for the Lord, and of how Nathan the prophet was sent to the king to tell him that, for certain reasons, the erection of the temple was to be left to his son Solomon. This he did, and he then added, ?Also the Lord telleth thee that He will make thee an house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.... And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee thy throne shall be established for ever.

 

?I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.... My covenant, vill I not break, nor alter the thing that hath gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven? (Ps. lxxxix. 3, 4, and 34, 35, 36, 37).

 

?The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep My covenant and My testimony that I shall teach them, their ~hildren shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. For the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.... There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for Mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame: but upon himself shall his crown flourish? (#Ps 132:11, 12, 13, 14, and 17, 18).

 

Here is the first grand and simple outline, and we note in it

 

I. DAVID?S SEED WAS TO BE ENTHRONED FOR EVER, TO GOVERN AN ETERNAL KINGDOM; both his house and his kingdom were to he established for ever. The two things, let it be observed, are distinct: first, his house was to he established, that is his dynasty, a literal begotten son 01 David was to he the everlasting ruler; and, secondly, his kingdom, with its political capital, its definite geographical location and its national relations, was also to be established for ever. The eternal kingdom on the earth was to be ruled by a direct descendant of David, and was to be in some sense a continuation of David?s reign over Israel. The throne of Judah which had just been established in the house of David should be, it was promised, everlasting. Features both dynastic and political would be common to the kingdom of David and the eternal kingdomthough combined, of course, with many and wide differences which were subsequently indicated; so that the latter would be in the strictest sense an everlasting continuation of the former. Solomon and his kingdom and the temple he was to erect are mentioned, but only as occupying the nearer future. They were the lesser and comparatively unimportant introductory details of the program, and over and above and beyond them, reaching right out into an unknown eternity, was to be another and a greater kingdom, the longer and more glorious reign of a king who, though literally descended from David, should reign for ever.

 

This is foretold as clearly as words can express ideas, and Jehovah confirmed the promise with an oath; it became an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; and although David realized that his house was not what it should be in God?s sight, and that he and his sons were not absolutely just and God-fearing men, yet he rested believingly on this great and infallible covenant promise, and said of it in his last words: ?This is all my salvation and all my desire.? The revelation was clear, definite, repeated and solemnly confirmed, but it was unexplained and most mysterious. It suggested questions that could not be answered, and it must have given much food for reflection to the king. How could eternal sovereignty be associated with any son of David? Was not the very notion self-contradictory? A dynasty might indeed be perpetual, though history never yet knew such a one; but an individual? Had not Moses long since sung ?The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow for it is soon cut off and we fly away.?

 

How then could mortal man reign for ever? No further light was thrown on the problem; the revelation appealed to faith, not to reason; and David, like Abraham, knew God well enough to trust Him, though he could not understand how He would fulfil His great promise. ? He was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.? {#Ro 4:20, 21} We may well imagine his meditations would often connect this prediction about his own seed with that of Abraham?s seed, ?in whom the world should he blessed, ? and with the still earlier Eden promise about the woman?s Seed who should bruise the serpent?s head; and that he felt these three must be one. But he died in faith, not having received the promise, though having seen it afar off and embraced it ; and having been permitted to see his son Solomon seated on his throne, as a first instalment of the fulfillment of the Divine program.

 

But David was not only a recipient of prophecy, he was also a channel of prophetic revelation. He himself said: ?The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue, ? and his tongue was the pen of a ready writer. Through him, though not to him, much more about the coming kingdom of his great predicted son was revealed line after line was added to the first faint shadowy sketch, until at last a clear picture was produced on the page. We must note these lines one by one, and allow the conception to become gradually perfected in our minds as each successive feature is added to the previous ones.

 

We cannot tell whether David ever understood all the predictions of which he was the channel; very probably not. He was most likely one of those prophets of whom Peter speaks, who ?inquired and searched diligently what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.? Our concern, however, is not with what he understood, but with what he wrote. We do not pretend to prove that David foreknew or foresaw the future, but that He who does so used David?s mind, heart, and pen to write for subsequent generations the program of then future events, which the lapse of time has already largely fulfilled.

 

The features of the coming King and kingdom revealed through David are mainly seven-fold. We have seen the firstits eternal duration; and we now note

 

II. THE KINGDOM OF DAVID?S ILLUSTRIOUS DESCENDANT WAS NOT TO BE MERELY JEWISH, BUT UNIVERSAL.

 

?Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen (or the Gentiles) for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.? {#Ps 2:8}

 

?He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him.... His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall he blessed in Him all nations shall call Him blessed.... Blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory.? (#Ps 72:8, 9, 10, ii, 17, 19)

 

These predictions of the universality of the sway of David?s Son were no less astonishing than those of the everlasting duration of His reign. The Jewish people were essentially separate from all other nations. ?For what one nation in the earth is like Thy people, even like Israel, ? said David, ?which Thou redeemest to Thyself from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? For Thou hast redeemed to Thyself Thy people Israel, to be a people unto Thee for ever and Thou, Lord, art become their God.? ?Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, ? said Solomon, ?to be Thine inheritance.?

 

Israel was so emphatically a separate and peculiar people that the very conception of a world-wide kingdom, embracing all nations, was foreign to their ideas. ?In Judah is God known, ? was their creed; and in their day the limitation existed most strictly, for Israel alone possessed the knowledge of God and the light of revelation. David would therefore never have conceived of a universal kingdom, and yet the prediction of such a one shines forth clearly from the pages that he wrote. The coming kingdom was to be neither local in sphere, nor Jewish in character, nor temporary in duration; it was to embrace and bless all mankind throughout the whole earth, and it was to last for ever. It was, however, to be distinctly earthly in character, as we have seen; and great stress is laid on this point, which is repeatedly and distinctly mentioned in the predictions of the program itselg and confirmed by the allusions to it of later prophets. This point is an important one, as it is a very common and deplorable mistake to confound the prophecies of this literal kingdom of David?s son with the spiritual kingdom of Christ which now exists, as if the former were fulfilled in the latter. No such spiritual kingdom could by any possibility fulfil the everlasting covenant made with David, which was to the effect that his kingdom as well as his dynasty should be everlasting. Now, just as no king of another family could fulfil the dynastic part of this promise, so no kingdom of another and wholly different nature could fulfil the national part of it. Reason alone would suggest that the kingdom of David?s son must be of the same nature as David?s own kingdom; but revelation settles it. Not only is it spoken of continually in the Messianic predictions as extending to the uttermost parts of the earth, and filling the whole earth with blessing and glory, but it is always presented as succeeding and replacing the earthly kingdoms of all Gentile rulers. It is also spoken of as succeeding the restoration and national conversion of Israel.

 

?For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.? {#Ho 3:4, 5}

 

?I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God. And David My servant shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd: they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children?s children for ever: and My servant David shall be their prince for ever.? (Ezek. xxxvii. 2325.)

 

The context in these passages settles the earthly nature of the kingdom. This salient feature of the program gave shape to the Jewish expectations of our Lord?s day, and He never denounced them as false or mistaken, but, on the contrary, admitted that they were correct, though defective by omission of something else destined to come first. These expectations were, in fact, the great ground of the Jewish rejection of the claims of Christ to be the Messiah; He made no attempt at that time to found the earthly kingdom they rightly anticipated..

 

Now, one of the leading attributes of God is unchangeableness, combined with variation of plan for the attainment of His purpose, as the case may require. It is plainly stated {#Ro 11:29} that ? the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.? Hence, the land of promise is entailed for ever to the seed of Abraham, and the sceptre of this earthnot some other sceptreto the seed of David. An everlasting and universal kingdom on earth governed by a son of David, whose earthly throne is established on Mount Zion, is a fundamental feature of the Davidic program. The moral features of this kingdom are given with great fullness in the 72nd and other Psalms; it is to be marked especially by righteousness, by peace, and by unexampled prosperity, and also by universal diffusion of the knowledge of the Lord.

 

It was further revealed in the Psalms that

 

III. THE KING WOULD BE DIVINE* AS WELL AS HUMAN; HE WOULD BE GOD AND MAN IN ONE PERSONDAVID?S SON YET DAVID?S LORD.

 

* While Guinness had the common notion of the ?trinity? there remains truth in his general observations. Our Lord?s first advent humanity and then His post-advent divinity of nature were in sequence, not at the same time. It was as a perfect man that He paid the ransom for Adam, and as result of His faithfullness unto death He was GIVEN ?a name above every name...? and MADE ?a life giving Spirit? Being. -Ed.

 

A most marvelous revelation this, impossible almost of conception to a Jew of David?s day, and esteemed blasphemous by the Jews of our own day. It is not that incarnation is foretold as a doctrine, or that any dogmatic statement is made on the subject; but in various Psalms, and especially in three, expressions are used, statements are made, and pictures are presented, which admit of no other possible meaning.

 

In the 2nd Psalm we have a description of the enthronement of the Lord?s anointed King on His holy hill of Zion, in spite of the determined opposition of a league of inveterate enemies. The extent of the dominion and the nature of the rule prove that the Psalm does not refer to David, but to his greater Son, In the midst of this description occur the strange and most notable words: ?I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son this day have I begotten Thee.? The son and heir of David is then the Son of Godnot a mere man adopted as a son like Solomon, but the begotten Son of God. The statement embodied a strange, startling, new, and almost incredible idea when it was penned, though three thousand years later, in our nineteenth century, we can read it as an allusion to a familiar truth. Let us try and realize the marvel of the fact that it was placed on the page, as an item of the Davidic program, a thousand years before Christianity familiarized men?s minds with the doctrine of the Divine Sonship. It was placed there when it was not understood; the Jews never understood it, they do not understand it now, they cannot account for it. Yet there it isthe royal son ot David was to be the begotten Son of God. He who was to reign for ever was to share the Divine nature as well as the nature of man. This explains the possibility of an eternal rule, as well as many another apparent contradiction in the Davidic program.

 

The 45th Psalm confirms the 2nd Psalm on this point. The meaning of the Psalm is defined in the first verse: ?I speak of the things which I have made touching the king.? It treats of the person of the king, of his enemies and his victories, of his kingdom and righteous rule, In the midst of all this we find the following words addressed to him ?Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.?

 

Now here it is evident that the one who is anointed is a human being, since he is fairer than the children of men, and grace is poured into his lips, and God has blessed him and anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows. He is as clearly the great predicted son of David, since he is to reign for ever. This one is addressed as God: ?Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre.? Even if the words were not quoted and applied in the New Testament as having this force, there is no mistaking the construction of the Psalm when it is carefully studied. The one addressed in the sixth verse is the one spoken of in the seventh (?Thy throne is for ever?; ?Thy sceptre is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, therefore, ? etc.). In the former he is called God, in the latter he is spoken of as anointed by God. Here again was a mysterious intimation which might have prepared Israel for a Messiah who, without blasphemy, could lay claim to a Divine nature. It did not have this effect; yet the prediction is plain.

 

And once morein the 110th Psalm, which again treats of the great King, the rod of whose strength is to go forth from Zion, and who is to rule in the midst of His enemies and judge among the heathen, we have not only David speaking of his son as his Lord, bnt Jehovah inviting Hun to sit at His own rzght hand until His foes should be made His footstool. This wonderful vision again implies the Divine as well as human nature of the Messiah King. For ?to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?? Without a recognition of this double nature there is no solution of the question which silenced the Jews in the days of Christ: ?If David call him Lord, how is he then his son??

 

Though not properly part of the program as given to David himself, yet as part of the Old Testament program concerning David?s seed, and as amplifying gloriously the everlasting covenant, passages from some of the later prophets ought to be considered here. The combination of divinity with humanity is specially clear in the following:

 

?Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon I-us shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.?{#Isa 9:6, 7}

 

Here it is clear that the one who sits on the throne of David, and orders and establishes His kingdom for ever with judgment and with justice, is not only ?born? as a child into his family, but is also ?the mighty God, the Father of eternity.?

 

?Behold, the days shall come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.? {#Jer 23:5, 6}

 

JEHOVAH TZIDKENUa Divine titleis here given to a branch from the stem of David.

 

Again: ?But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.? {#Mic 5:2}

 

In these words it is evident that the Son of David, who is to issue from the town of David, and to be the foretold ruler in Israel, is one ?whose goings forth? have been from the days of eternity.

 

IV. THE DAVIDIC PROGRAM FORETELLS, FURTHER, THAT THE ANOINTED KING OF DAVID?S LINE WOULD, BEFORE HIS EXALTATION, UNDERGO A PRELIMINARY EXPERIENCE OF REJECTION AND SUFFERING, OF DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

 

The Davidic Scriptures which might be quoted in illustration of this point are legion. The Book of Psalms is full of passages in which the contrasted elements of the sufferings and glories of the King are presented in succession and always in this order. The attentive reader cannot fail to be struck with the constant recurrence of this theme. We must allude in detail to only two or three of the most conspicuous illustrations. The 22nd Psalm is perhaps the most perfect and typical specimen of these pictures of startlingly contrasted shadow and light, but the 69th and many others resemble it more or less closely. A careful perusal will show that it consists, first, of a long and bitter wail elicited by complicated sufferings, spiritual, mental, and physical; by soul distress and heart-breaking sorrow at apparent desertion by God; by shame and anguish of spirit; by cruel mockery and contempt of men; by agonizing conflict of mind caused by God?s dealings with His righteous servant; by the rough and brutal treatment of enemies; by bodily weakness and anguish; and by a sense of approaching death.

 

It is a blending of prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears which is absolutely unequalled in earth?s literature. It conveys a degree of pain, grief, and distress of body, mind, and spirit which are inconceivable to ordinary men. The strength of the poetic imagery labors in vain to embody the complicated anguish it strives to depict; the verses follow each other like the downward steps of a ladder which leads from the light of day to the depths of the bottomless pit. The expressions are singularly specific; definite speeches and gestures and actions of surrounding enemies are predicted. We meet, for instance, with the words: ?They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him. ... They pierced My hands and My feet.... They part My garments among them, and cast lots for My vesture.?

 

The mournful minor notes of this melancholy dirge of death follow each other with an ever-deepening tone of misery down to the middle of the twenty-first verse. Then comes a sudden change: the minor key is resolved into the cheerful major, and from the words, ?Thou hast heard Me from the horns, of the unicorns? (or out of death itself), starts a glad pæan of victory, a psalm of triumph, a vision of glory, and the description of a world-wide kingdom succeeds the graphic picture of rejection and cruel death. ?I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.... All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord?s: and He is the governor among the nations.?

 

The rejection and sufferings of Messiah prior to His exaltation are described also with much fullness and precision in Psalm lxix. He cries for deliverance from those who hate Him without a cause, and are wrongfully His enemies. He mourns that He has become a stranger to His brethren and an alien to His mother?s children; that, because of His zeal for God?s house, the reproaches of the ungodly fall upon Him; that He was the song of the drunkard, and a proverb to the people; that reproach had broken His heart, and none pitied Him; that He looked for comforters and found none; that the floods were about to swallow Him, and the pit to shut her mouth upon Him; and says, ?they gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.?

 

The 16th Psalm goes further than any otherspeaks of death not only as impending, but as accomplished. It presents the contrast between the blackest of all shadows and the brightest of all gloriesthat between the tomb and Hades, and the presence of God in heaven. We know the Psalm to be Messianicthat is, to treat of the great promised Son of David, from the apostolic quotations of it in the New Testament. But quite apart from this, its prophetic character is proved by its absolute non-applicability to David himself. He, of course, expected to die and to see corruption. He writes of one who, though he was to die and be laid to rest in a tomb, would never see corruption, but be raised to tread the path of life, and to enjoy the presence of God and the pleasures at His right hand. ?For Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.?

 

Apart from actual suffering and death, the Davidic program makes it plain that the anointed king would encounter incessant and tremendous opposition from enemies before his enthronement. The Psalms relating to him abound with complaints of the determined opposition of the wicked to this righteous ruler and man after God?s own heart. The idea of enemies and foes occurs incessantly.

 

?Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet I have set My king upon My holy hill of Zion.? {#Ps 2:6}

 

?Dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.? {#Ps 22:16}

 

?Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king?s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee.?{#Ps 45:5}

 

?They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty.? {#Ps 69:4}

 

?The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.? {#Ps 110:2}

 

This is the spirit that breathes through the Messianic Psalms, and, indeed, through the whole Book of Psalms, and it is evident from the context that moral antagonism is the cause of the opposition experienced by the Righteous Sufferer. He says, ?For Thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother?s children. For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me.? {#Ps 69:79}

 

The Righteous One destined to be the Ruler of the world is represented as experiencing, first, an opposition which gave Him an ever-present, all-pervading consciousness that He was surrounded by the wicked, and had to appeal to God?s righteousness against man?s iniquity. As a man, He is solitary among men, He is morally against the world, and the world against Him. He suffers from it instead of ruling it; endures its evil instead of putting a stop to itanticipating all the time a different state of things, when the meek shall inherit the earth, the righteous flourish, the fear of God be universal, and all the workers of iniquity be fallen, cast down and unable to rise.

 

The question, of course, occurs: Does the program assign any reason for the strange preliminary experience of the great KingHis experiences of cruel and successful opposition even unto death? Why should such a being stoop to such a life, and, above all, to such a death? If the double nature of David?s son was mysterious, not less so the double experience predicted. Why should He that was destined to rule and reign first suffer and die? Nay, why should the Son of God become man? Does the program go at all beyond facts, and hint at reasons? The 40th Psalm answers the question, and gives us the reply of the Messiah Himself to this inquiry. It is the one who, in verse 2, speaking of resurrection, says: ?He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings, and hath put a new song into my mouth; ? who in verse 6, adds, as accounting for his humiliation, ?Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast Thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart.?

 

This passage shows the unsatisfactoriness of the Levitical sacrifices and offerings to Him who had appointed them for a time. They were only temporary and only typical. It also shows that under these circumstances One whose ears God had openedor, as it is translated in the Septuagint, and quoted in Hebrews, for whom God had prepared a body comes forward expressly to accomplish His will. Moved by his delight in doing the will of God, Messiah volunteered to be a sacrifice, and to put away human sin by becoming a sin offering.

 

V. THE PROGRAM FORETELLS, FURTHER, THAT IN THE INTERVAL PRIOR TO HIS ASCENT TO HIS EARTHLY THRONE, THE SON OF DAVID WOULD BE CALLED TO OCCUPY A HEAVENLY THRONE, AND RULE FROM THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD IN HEAVEN.

 

?Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit thou at My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.? Here is a throne that is clearly neither on the earth nor of the earth; it is the throne of the majesty in the heavensJehovah?s throne. And yet David?s son, whom he calls here ?my Lord, ? is invited to take his seat thereon. It is not his own throne, not the predicted throne of David which he is to occupy for ever on earth. It is God?s throne, and the invitation to sit thereon at God?s right hand has its chronological limits. It is ?until? something else be doneuntil I make thy foes thy footstool. This temporary enthronement in heaven must not be confounded with the promised permanent enthronement on earth. The difference between the two is wide, conspicuous, unmistakable. The program presents, not two aspects of one kingdom, but two kingdoms, two reigns, two widely different exercises of power. The one rule is exercised on earth, from Zion, over Jews and Gentiles for ever. The other is exercised from heaven, and for a time only. The heavenly reign is at a certain point to give way to the earthly. David?s son is to leave Jehovah?s throne, and assume his own throne, receiving the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, and being established as king on God?s holy hill of Zion.

 

That the anointed king, after his preliminary experience of rejection and death on earth, and prior to his final enthronement, should enjoy a heavenly exaltation, is a distinct feature of the Davidic program. Psalm xxiv. gives another view of it. The question is asked, ? Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place?? And the answer is given: ?He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.? And then follows a vision of this righteous man ascending. The everlasting doors of heaven are swung open to admit him; he is welcomed as king of glory; he is hymned as having proved himself strong and mighty in battle, and welcomed to the world above as Lord of hosts and King of glory.

 

The same feature recurs in Psalm lxviii: ?Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.? The exaltation of the rejected one is again foretold in Psalm cxviii: the opposition of enemies, the deadly struggle with evil men, the sore thrusts of the wicked are described, and the delivering help of God. ?I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but He hath not given me over unto death, ? is the glad cry that follows; and then the challenge: ?Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord...

 

The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner. This is the Lord?s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.?

 

VI. IT IS ALSO REVEALED THAT THE KING WAS TO EXERCISE A PRIESTLY AS WEI, L AS A KINGLY SWAY.

 

To the one who sits at God?s right hand in heaven during his rejection on earth are addressed the words: ?The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.? Now this is an additional feature of the program quite distinct from any that precede it. It is also one not founded on any fact in the life of David. He was never a priest; he ordered the courses of the priests, but could never assume priestly functions; he belonged to the tribe of Judah, of which Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. Now, a priest is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer sacrifice for sins, have compassion on the ignorant and on them who are out of the way, and be a mediator between God and man. A priest is one who makes intercession for the erring, and bestows sympathy and benediction. The above words show that David?s royal son was to be a priest as well as a king, was to reign from heaven over human hearts, as well as from Zion over happy nations, was to bless men religiously and spiritually, as well as by a righteous rule; he was to be a kingly priest, a priestly king, like Melchizedek, who was a king ?first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace, ? and also priest of the Most High God. It was in this capacity that He blessed Abraham, the patriarch bowing as the less before the greater. So the coming king was to exercise priestly functions as well as a kingly sway. This is a very notable point, and as plain in the program as it is singular.

 

VII. IT FORETELLS THAT THE EARTHLY KINGDOM OF DAVID?S SON WOULD BE INTRODUCED BY HIS RETURN IN GLORY FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH, AND BY THE EXECUTION OF TERRIBLE JUDGMENTS ON HIS FOES.

 

Whatever else the Davidic predictions included, or did not include, whether on earth or in heaven, it is unquestionable that they did include one thingthe government of his glorious Son over His own people, the nation of Israel, and His everlasting dominion over the land of promise. Unless this its primary idea be ultimately realized, the program will not have been fulfilled. This was the special point solemnly confirmed by an oath of Jehovah, and it was this which David styled ?an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.?

 

It is perfectly clear, also, that the present spiritual kingdom of Christ does not include this distinctively Jewish element. It does not comprise any dominion over Israel nationally, or over the promised land territorially. The kingdom of God described in the 72nd Psalm has no resemblance whatever to the existing state of things, nor to any that ever has existed, or could exist, while the present dispensation lasts. The leading characteristic of these times is that they are ?the times of the Gentiles?; that during their course the kingdom of God is given not to Jews, but to Gentiles. No extension, therefore, of what we call Christianity, could ever answer to the promised kingdom of David?s Son over the people of Israel in Palestine. No conversion and incorporation into the Church of individual Jews, however numerous, could fulfil the distinctive, solemnly confirmed promises of the Davidic covenant. And, further, never yet, even in the most Christian countries in their best and brightest days, have the perfected righteousness, peace, and blessing that are to characterize the coming kingdom of David?s Son, prevailed. No one can read the description of this without feeling at once that it pertains to the future, and not to the past or present.

 

Now, this future universal and eternal reign of David?s Son and Lord is anticipated not only in the 72nd Psalm, but in many others, and especially in the series xciii. to xcix.

 

?It is well known that the Messianic interpretation of each and every psalm, which is claimed as directly and exclusively predictive of Christ, was received by the Hebrews long before our Lord?s coming, and without any misgiving, or any trace of antagonistic opinion. The Rabbins, who are recognized as most faithful to old traditions, carry this system to quite as great an extent as the early Christian writers. A belief in Messiah, founded upon the prophecies, and specially upon typical or direct predictions in the Psalms, was one of the fundamentals of faith. This point is not contested by any critics; they may treat it as a superstition, as a mere delusion, but the fact remains, and it is certainly without a precedent or parallel in the history of religions. We must also bear in mind that the system was retained for centuries after the Hebrew teachers were fully aware of the difficulty which it presented in carrying on the controversy with Christians.?(Speaker?s Commentary p. 164.)

 

A glance at these Psalms will show that their theme is the establishment of the theocracy in its final form on earth. Their keynote is the sentence, THE LORD REIGNETH, or ?has begun to reign.?

 

?O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: He shall judge the people righteously?. {#Ps 96:9, 10}

 

? The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne. A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the people see His glory. For Thou, Lord, art high above all the earth: Thou art exalted far above all gods?. {#Ps 97:16, 9}

 

? The Lord rezgneth; let the people tremble: He sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The Lord is great in Zion; and He is high above all the people.... The king?s strength loveth judgment; thou dost establish equity; thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob? (Ps. xcix. i, 2, ard 4).

 

It is the kingdom come at lastthe universal and eternal earthly kingdom of the Son of David. Its sphere is terrestrial, for the word is, ? Let the earth rejoice.? He is called ?The Lord of the whole earth, ? and it is stated that all people see His glory. All the earth is called upon to make a joyful noise to the Lord, the world, and they that dwell therein; the people are told to tremble, and the earth to be moved, because the Lord is great in Zion. There is nothing heavenly in the description. It is a vision of the realization of the universal earthly kingdom so long foretold.

 

Two prominent features must be especially noted in these triumphant Psalms. There is in them the element of a personal appearing to introduce the reign, and cause the joy and bliss described; and there is in them also the element of the execution of judgment on enemies.

 

1. The introduction of this kingdom is by the coming oj the King to earth. HE COMETH, He cometh to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth.{#Ps 96:13} And, again, it is repeated, ?He cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity.? {#Ps 98:9} The King who had ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, and who had taken His seat at God?s right hand in heaven, arises from that seatthe period until which He was to occupy it having been fulfilled and descends in glory to rule and reign, not as before, to suffer and die.

 

2. And, secondly, let it be noted that the establishment of the kingdom is effected by means of judgment. ?A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about.? ?Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Thy judgments, O Lord.? ?His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory.?

 

?Whatever historical allusions may be contained in #Ps 93:3 to the past or present assaults of the world-powers upon Israel, this psalm, the first of a remarkable series of theocratic psalms, anticipates the period of Jehovah?s personal manifestation of Himself as the King of the whole earth. (Cf #Re 11:15, 17, and xix. 6.)

 

The Lord reigneth. Rather, ?Jehovah is King, ? i.e. He now reigns His kingdom is visibly established, His foes being made His footstool LXX., ?0 KYPJOz i/3aa-LXevo-ev: Prayer-Book version, ?The Lord is King.? The verb in the same tense is commonly used to denote the beginning of a new rezgn. (Cf Kings i. i8: ?Adonijah reigneth.? Cf also #22:41 2Ki 3:1, 15:13; 2Ch 29.; in all of which places it is rendered in the Authorized Version, ?began to reign.?) The theocracy, as has been observed by Delitzsch in his introduction to this psalm, had its first manifestation when Jehovah became the King of Israel, {#Ex 15:18} and it will receive its completion when the King of Israel becomes the King of a whole world subdued, both outwardly and inwardly, to Himself. The verb which is here rendered ?is (or has become) King, ? or, as Delitzsch renders it, ?is now King, ? is here used in reference to the inauguration of the theocracy in its final and complete manifestation. This is the wa/cA word of the iheocra/ic ~saims.

 

(Cf Psalms xcvi. in, xcvii. m, xcix. i.)

 

Whether the first and second advents of the Messiah be or be not regarded here, as in other Old Testament prophecies, as parts of one connected whole, this psalm has reference to tiie coming of the iV/essiah as David?s Lordnot as David?s Son; as Jehovah, the Lord and King

 

of the whole earthnot as the ?man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.?.

 

The Psalmist is here again carried onward by the inspiring Spirit into the great day of the Lord, and calls upon the faithful to proclaim the personal advent of Jehovah, and His assumption of the kingdom.

 

The psalm itself contains conclusive evidence that it reaches forward not only to the first advent of Christ, but also from thence to ?the consummation of all things.?(? Speaker?s Commentary, ? 382, 389, 390I.)]

 

This is the period to which apply also the statements of the Messianic Psalms we have before considered.

 

?Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter?s vessel?. {#Ps 2:9}

 

?Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, 0 Most Mighty, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. And in Thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king?s enemies; whereby the people fall tinder Thee. Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre?. {#Ps 45:36}

 

?The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, He shall fill the places with the dead bodies; He shall wound the heads over many countries?. {#Ps 110:5, 6}

 

When we reach our last section, we shall see that this future earthly kingdom of Christ is by no means all that is foretold in Scripture. It is not by any means the highest or fullest conception which inspiration gives us of the ?ages to come.? We could not expect to gather the whole truth from the Davidic program, any more than from the earlier revelations. It was given three thousand years ago, in the midst of the Jewish dispensation. It revealed immensely more than had been previously revealed, but it did not reveal all that we now know. It presented a blissful future to the faith of believing Israelites, and taught, moreover, that in the Divine Messiah who should come and restore all things lay the hope, not of Israel only, but of humanity. It gave also a glimpse of the present reign of the priestly king from God?s right hand in heaven, but it did not make known what Paul calls the mystery of God?s will.{#Eph 1:9} The Messiah King is to wear ?many crowns, ? amongst which that of earth will be only one. Later on we shall see the outshining of this New Testament light. A clear conception of this revelation to David about the earthly kingdom of his Son will, however, prepare us to estimate with greater correctness the varied aspects of the many.sided kingdom of God.

 

Such then was the seven-fold program given to David. It foretold, first, the career of Solomon and the permanence of the Davidic dynasty on the throne of Judah; and then, passing from the near and easily credible future to a more distant and almost incredible one, it announced that a lineal descendant of David was destined, in the purposes of God, ultimately to succeed to his throne in Zion, and from it to exercise a righteous, peaceful, glorious, blessed, universal, and eternal sway over mankind; that this royal son of David would be also the begotten Son of God, uniting thus in His own person divinity and humanity, with their respective attributes and responsibilities; that He would experience inveterate opposition from the kings and peoples of the earth; and that, prior to His exaltation over His enemies, He would endure at their hands the utmost humiliation and suffering, be hated without a cause, betrayed by His own familiar friend, mocked, insulted, and persecuted by His foes; that He would at last be put to death by crucifixion, and laid in a grave, though His body would not remain in the tomb long enough for His flesh to see corruption; that, on the contrary, God would show Him the path of life, and, raising Him from the dead, invite Him to sit at His own right hand, and rule from heaven in the midst of His enemies, promising that ultimately they should be made His footstool, and His throne be established in Zion. It foretells that the risen, earth-rejected but heaven-accepted King would, when thus ascending on high, ?lead captivity captive, ? or take others also, redeemed from the power of death, with Him; that He would ?receive gifts for men, even for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them?; that He would be like a stone refused by the builders, yet made the head of the corner. It foretells that the rule He would exercise from heaven, and afterwards even for ever, would be that of a royal priest, or priestly king, like Melchizedek; and that, at last, leaving His position in the heavens, rising up from His seat at the right hand of God, He would appear in His glory on earth to build up Zion, assume the throne of His father David, destroy for ever all His foes, and establish His everlasting kingdom.

 

Now it is needless to say that the last part of this program is not yet fulfilled; for the manifested kingdom of God on earth we are still patiently waiting, praying daily, ?Thy kingdom come.? But it is equally clear that a very large part of this Davidic program has actually already become fact. Unlikely of fulfillment as it seemed when given, incomprehensible and almost inconceivable as were some of its particulars, they have come to pass, and the lapse of well-nigh two thousand years since they did this has so familiarized them to the minds of men that they scarcely realize or observe them as fulfillments of Davidic prophecy.

 

Some of the leading features of the program were fulfilled in the first advent of Christ, others are now being fulfilled in this Christian age, while others remain to be fulfilled at His second coming and kingdom. The evidential argument we are developing, arises, of course, exclusively from the past and the present fulfillments. In due time the future will add its confirmation, though for the present it is matter of faith rather than of sight. The accomplishment of two-thirds of the program is, however, good ground for expecting with calm confidence the fulfillment in its season of the remaining third.

 

And first as to the past events which have fallen out as indicated by the Davidic program. Solomon, we know, reigned in peace and prosperity, building, as foretold, the splendid temple of God at Jerusalem; a long series of nineteen kings of his lineage and blood succeeded him, and reigned in Jerusalem for nearly four centuries. The usurper Athaliah sought on one occasion to destroy the royal seed, but she miserably failed. David?s sons continued to occupy David?s throne until the day of the captivity of the land, when for their sins God allowed them to fall before Nebuchadnezzar, and the great week of ?The times of the Gentiles? began. But Israel knew that the covenant and oath of God could not fail, and they waited for the promised coming of ?Messiah the Prince? to restore the throne of David. In the fullness of time He came; ?Jesus Christ our Lord was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.? {#Ro 1:3} He was born of a virgin of the house of David, heralded beforehand by the angelic announcement: ?He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.?

 

The wise men inquired: ?Where is He that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him?? No mere king this! The Son of the Highest, the object of the worship of wise men! These angelic and human sayings identify the Babe of Bethlehem with the great hero ot the Davidic program. The predicted King came, the mighty and mysterious Son of David and Son of God was born in the city of David eighteen hundred years ago. Published 1888. Did the Jews recognize and receive their king? History unhesitatingly answers, No. ?He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.? The people sometimes doubted and queried: Is not this the Son of David? The suffering appealed to Him as the Son of David. But the nation rejected Him. Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people ~f Israel, were gathered together against Him, fulfilling the prediction: ?The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed.? The common people and the little children, with truer instincts, might indeed shout: ?Hosanna to the Son of David! blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.? ?Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh in the name of the Lord.? Pilate in mockery might announce the truth in the exclamation: ?Behold your King?; but the nation, represented by its chief priests, rulers, and scribes, denied the Holy One, and said: ?We will not have this man to reign over us.? They chose Barabbas the robber, and shouted: ?We have no king but Cæsar! As to this son of David, crucify Him. Whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Cæsar.? They were offended by Pilate?s inscription over the cross; alleging that the title, though claimed by Christ, did not belong to Him. Yet there it remained in spite of their protest, a public recognition that the rejected Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the King of the Jews.

 

Then lastly, and still in accordance with the Davidic program, even down to the minutest particularspiercing His hands and His feet, casting lots for His vesture, and in His thirst giving Him vinegar to drinkthey killed the Prince of life. And here their action and their power ended, and God?s action began. In harmony with the outline in the Psalms, Messiah?s soul was not left in Hades, nor did His body see corruption. God raised Him from the dead, and exalted Him to His own right hand in heaven. The earthly kingdom was postponed for a time, but only postponed, not finally set aside for something different. Jesus Himselt admitted that He was a king, and born to rule and reign on earth and over Israel; but He said to Pilate: ?Now is My kingdom not from hence?; and He bowed His head to receive from man the crown of thorns, and submitted to the soldiers? mockery, saying, ?Hail King of the Jews.? Earth offered Him no throne at that time, and still ?we see not yet all things put under Him? in this worldbut do we therefore see no exaltation? Have the predicted sufferings of Christ come true, and have the glories that should follow failed? Far, very far from it! ?We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour. {#Heb 2:9} ?When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down (as predicted in the program) on the right hand of the Majesty on high.? {#Heb 1:3} The apostles saw Him ascend: ?While they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.?

 

Stephen beheld heaven open, and saw the Son of man in glory at the right hand of God, Saul of Tarsus heard His voice from out the ineffable glory; John saw Him in His superhuman radiance, and was overwhelmed by the vision. The records leave no room to doubt that He ?ascended up on high? as predicted; and He led captivity captive when He did so. In proof of His power to rifle the grave and rob death of his victims, He said to the dying thief: ?To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.? When He died, the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints arose. He received also gifts for men; Peter said, ?Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins.? And He received a greater gift still, the supremest gift of all. Before His ascension He had said: ?It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.? Peter, speaking of the effusion of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, said of Christ: ?Being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He ha/h shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.? (Acts i. 911.) And it must be noted that these were gifts for ?the rebellious also, ? according to the program. They were given to those who had rejected and murdered Him; the first church was composed of Jerusalem sinners: and they were in order ?that the Lord God might dwell among them, ? by His Holy Spirit. He did so, and in a short time, through this mighty indwelling power, thousands and tens of thousands had become disciples of the ascended Savior, and the early Church had turned the world upside-down. In less than three centuries it had overthrown the paganism of the mighty Roman empire; in a few more it had evangelized the Gothic barbarians; and now the religion of Christ is the religion of the civilized world. Year by year it is spreading in the heathen world. Already a third of the human race has received it, and bows the knee to the once cruc~/led Jesus. Whence all this power and progress? Whence this strange spectacle of the creed of Christ spreading evermore by its own indestructible vitality, while other faiths are languishing and dying out? Is it not because the ascended Savior is working with and through His people according to His word: ?Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age?? His Divine co-operation alone can account for the spread of such a religion in such a world, in spite of all the obstacles that opposed and still oppose it. Christ is ruling even now in the midst of His enemies, This is usually applied to the reign of Christ in the millennium.- Ed. as well as governing His own people, who willingly obey Him. The second great feature of the programthe exaltation of the crucified Kingis as clearly fulfilled as the first. The sufferings have been followed by glory. Jehovah has appointed Him a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; for He is the ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MENthe great High Priest of humanity.

 

The third section of the program, the second advent in glory to govern the world in righteousness, is confessedly future; and we do not consequently treat of it here. He Himself said, ?I will come again, ? and the final revelations of the apostolic age confirm the unfulfilled part of the program in the amplest way. Our present theme is, however, fulfilled and not unfulfilled prophecy, so we do not dwell further on this.

 

There is thus no difficulty in demonstrating the marvelous fulfillment of the Davidic program to those who accept the Gospel narrative as true. There is both a broad general correspondence and a minute specific agreement between the predictions and the facts which, taken together, are irresistible. It is not merely that we have the inspired testimony of apostles to the fulfillment of some of the prophetic sayings, and the still more authoritative assertions of the Savior Himself, that David wrote of Him; but it is that the outline of the Davidic program as a whole is met by Christianity, and by it alone. Nothing else in the wide world has even the remotest resemblance to it. Consider! An individual man, member of a certain definite family, of a certain definite tribe of the Jewish nation, was to become the ruler of the world for ever, exercising first a spiritual, priestly power from the heavens to which He ascends from a cross and a grave, and then a regal power on earth to which He again descends in judgment and glory. This broad outline corresponds in all its strange sublimity with Christian doctrine, experience, and hope, and with nothing else. Yet David knew nothing of Christianity. Incarnation was a thing of which he never dreamed. The session of a risen man at God?s right hand in heaven was a conception impossible to the Jewish mind; and a spiritual, priestly reign over a people gathered out of all Gentile nations was a providence which no Israelite would have anticipated! How came the sweet psalmist of Israel to embody such conceptions in his prophetic poems? That is the first question. And, secondly, How came history to realize them?

 

The Jews did not intentionally frustrate their own Messianic anticipations by crucifying their King. Pilate and Herod little thought that they were fulfilling ancient Jewish predictions in their cruel and unjust treatment of the innocent Man arraigned at their bar. The Roman soldiers who pierced His hands and His feet, gave Him vinegar to drink, and parted His raiment among them, had never heard the twenty-second Psalm. There was and there could be no collusion in the case! A thousand years had intervened since the prophetic words were written. Empires had risen and passed away; the kingdom of David had become a province of the Roman empire; the temple of Solomon had been burned, that of Ezra and Nehemiah had arisen on its ruins, and in its turn fallen into decay, and been restored by Herod. Judah had been carried captive and had returned to her land, the ancient predictions were all the while read and sung in the synagogue of the Jews, and at last a startling and inexplicable series of events fulfilled them both in the letter and in the spirit.

 

As, however, not a few in these days hesitate as to the measure of credence which may be safely accorded to the Gospel narratives, and will scarcely feel the force of any proof of the fulfillment of the Davidic program drawn from the New Testament records, we must remind them that no events of Roman history are better attested than the events of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking at them simply as historical incidents which occurred eighteen hundred years ago, they are abundantly evidenced by just the same sort of proof as that on which we base our belief in other events of authentic history. And the fact that we have, besides all this, four copious and almost contemporaneous biographies of Christ, together with an original account of the acts of His apostles, may be regarded in this sense as so much superfluous evidence. If this latter did not exist at all, it would be easy to make out the whole of the Gospel story as to its outline, as well as that of the early spread of Christianity, from other writings of the periodpagan, controversial, and Christian; from monuments and imperial decrees, from ancient inscriptions in the catacombs and elsewhere, and from similar sources. Those who prefer doing so may therefore leave the Gospels out of account, and compare the Davidic program, which we have been studying, with the facts of the Christian era as attested by other authorities.

 

And there is even a simpler way still of regarding the subject. Christianity is unquestionably in the world to-day; it is the most widespread and influential religion that exists, or ever has existed, on earth; it commands the intelligent assent and the more or less sincere reverence of the foremost nations of the world; and it has done this for many long ages. It is the parent of modern civilization, and its influence in the earth spreads every year. Its existence is a fact of gigantic importancea very king of factsthe most conspicuous fact in the whole history of the human race; and it is, moreover, a fact which is evident to our senses, as well as to our intelligence. The foremost nations of the world, to the number of at least four hundred millions of mankind, bow at the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and confess it to be the only one given under heaven or among men whereby they can be saved. Speaking broadly, and passing over exceptions which only prove the rule, this is the case. Much of this widespread Christianity may be, and is, apostate in character; much of it may be, and is, a mere profession rather than a reality; but this does not alter the fact of its existence, which is the thing that has to be considered and accounted for.

 

However corrupt and apostate, its professors hold their own form of Christianity to be the primitive one, and vehemently repel the accusation that it is anything else, or anything new.

 

Now every effect has a cause, and every great effect a great cause. This is a great effectgreat, not only by reason of its extent, but by reason of its duration; for this fact is not observable now only, but it has been observable for the last fifteen hundred years. Christianity has been the leading religion of the world ever since Constantine proclaimed it the faith of the Roman empire. We have, therefore, to find an adequate cause for a fact which not only exists to-day but has existed for fifteen centuries, all through which the state of things has been in this respect what it is to-day. Since the time when the gorgeous and venerable, established and endowed paganism of the old Roman world, together with the benighted philosophies of Greeks and Romans alike, were overthrown by the young faith which less than three centuries previously had been born in Judeasince then, Christianity has unquestionably held the highest place among the nations that make history, and exerted the greatest power over them.

 

Now, as sensible and reasonable beings, we have to find a cause sufficient to account for this unquestionable and long-enduring fact. That cause must be sought in a comparatively short period of time; that is, between the days of Constantine (AD. 306337), when the supremacy of Christianity was evidenced for the first time to the world, and the days of its Founder and His apostles. This is not a very long period, it is one of about the same length as that which has elapsed since James the First reigned over England; and it must be borne in mind that these first centuries are no terra incognita, they constitute no dim region of mythical legends or vague traditions like the days of the flood. We are not dependent on the New Testament for a clear conception of what was going on in the world at that time. The eight writers in that book Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude were by no means the only writers of that great era. Historians, essayists, satirists, poets, and philosophers in abundance were living and writing, for the period was one of unusual intelligence. It was the Golden Age of Augustus. Cicero, Sallust, Virgil, Horace, Strabo, Philo, Seneca, Ovid, Livy, Tacitus, Plutarch, Pliny, Suetonius, all lived in, or immediately before, the first century, when Christianity came into existence; and many others only a little less celebrated, in the two succeeding centuries.

 

Now of these clever and observant writers, none who were contemporary with the birth and early growth of Christianity, deny or impugn in the slightest degree the Gospel narrative of its origin. Does not this look as if it were the true account? One of our strongest reasons for believing the Gospels to be true is that their story was never disputed by any of those who had the most ample opportunity to show up its falsehood, had it been false. No other account of the origin of Christianity was ever even suggested. The facts stated in the Gospels were public events, which occurred in populous places; the actors in the scenes described (especially in the Acts of the Apostles) were numbered by thousands; the witnesses, of course, by tens of thousands. Their lineal descendants must have been still living in the days of Constantine, their martyr tombs were ~till fresh; the churches they had formed all over the empire were still in existence, in many cases the very buildings in which they had worshipped were still standing; family and local traditions were still strong and clear; early copies, and even the very original manuscripts of the sacred writings were still extant, and preserved with the most scruptilous veneration; and secular writers not only do not deny but most clearly recognize the facts of the case. If it was im, ?5ossible to deny them then, is it not unreasonable to doubt them now?

 

Profane historians and secular writers naturally did not go into detail on the subject of Christianity, which was a comparatively obscure phenomenon in their day, and, to some extent, outside the scope of their writings; but they allude to it in precisely the way one would expect. Tacitus, for instance, in his annals (which were written A.D. 100), mentions the Christians incidentally in connection with the burning of Rome in the reign of Nero. He explains who and what they were by a retrospective glance in which he outlines the story, distinctly mentioning their connection with Christ as founder; His death, and the time, place, and manner of it; the wide and rapid spread of this faith throughout the Roman empire: and Gibbon, in quoting this testimony, admits that the most sceptical cannot question its authenticity or authority.

 

?But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration. Hence, to suppress the rumour, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished xvith the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. CHRISTUS, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of udea, in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow, from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly, first those were seized who confessed they were Christians: next, on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of hating the human race. And in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport, for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when day declined, burnt to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the habit of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. Whence a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving to be made examples of by capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but victims to the ferocity of one man.?(Tacitus, Bk. xv., ch. 44.)]

 

Tacitus says that there were already in his day a vast multitude of Christians scattered in various parts of the empire, even in Rome itself. Pliny again, in his well-known correspondence with Trajan, mentions the great number of Christians in his own jurisdiction, and the severe persecutions they had suffered. Indeed, it is evident, on careful examination, that nearly all the secular writers of the first three centuries, whose works have come down to us, make allusions more or less full to Christianity, its origin, its rapid growth, its distinctive tenets and practices, the opposition it encountered, and the sufferings of its professors. Nor are these writings the only proofs of the early and rapid spread of Christianity. The persecuting edicts of the emperors of these three centuries, the Christian literature of the time (controverting the false teachings of the heretics), the apologies addressed by the leading Christian Fathers to the reigning governors and emperors, the monumental remains, the catacombs of Rome and their inscriptions, all these and many similar proofs confirm in the fullest way the conclusion that the Gospel account of the origin of Christianity is the true and only one.

 

Now if this be so, if the New Testament as we have it presents the very story whose proclamation had already revolutionized the world in the days of Constantine, and has continued ever since to mould the development of our race, then the things related, however hard to believe, must have occurred; otherwise we should have a gigantic result without a causea mighty moral movement without any adequate initiatory forcea great fire kindled without even a spark to ignite it! This is impossible! If this Gospel story produced Christianity, common sense argues that the story must be a true one. What! Could a silly fable or a wicked lie accomplish the mighty results which Christianity has produced? Could a mere delusion, or a myth, magnified and distorted by human imagination, do what the Gospel has done and is doing in the world? Fact is mighty; falsehood is weak. The Gospel statements, regarded as facts, are enough to account for everything that has happened. They may be summed up in the two great leading doctrines of Incarnation and Resurrection and Ascension, the latter accompanied by the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Ghost. This means a personal revelation of God; it means that God has been ?manifest in the flesh? to redeem mankind. Clearly, if that is a fact, it is no wonder the world has been revolutionized! If that is a fact, we have a moral cause sufficient to account for the past and the present, and to lead to glorious anticipations for the future in full harmony with the Davidic program. And, that a religion the Founder of which was ignominiously executed as a criminal, and the apostles of which were thereby plunged into hopeless despair, should have suddenly and immediately after this fatal crisis risen up and gone forth with a courage and faith that braved shame and loss, suffering and danger, defeat and death, that it should have marched straight from the cross and the grave and the upper chamber in Jerusalem to the conquest of all-conquering Rome, and to a seat on the very throne of the Cæsars, that it should have gone on from that day to this subjugating the minds and hearts of the most intelligent races of men, changing human laws and customs, inspiring all that is good and true, pure and noble, and creating, in fact, a new moral world, that it should have done all this shows that it was a fact. If so, we may boldly say that two-thirds of the Davidic program were in a most astonishing manner fulfilled about a thousand years after it was given. Its mysterious and apparently contradictory prophecies were explained and reconciled in the person, character, and career of the Messiah of Israel, the Christ of the Gospel, the Savior of the lost, the priestly King who has already for eighteen hundred years reigned over myriads of willing hearts, and who shall yet reign for ever over the happy nations of a redeemed humanity, in tlme glorious kingdom of God on earth.

 

Now this is fulfilled prophecy on the greatest and widest scale. No one can question that the Psalms came down to us from the days of David. No one can read them without perceiving that they contain statements which were never fulfilled in David?s experience, and therefore are not history. He never had his hands and feet pierced, or his raiment parted among executioners, as in Psalm xxii.; he was never invited to sit at Jehovah?s right hand, or appointed to be a priest for ever, as in Psalm cx.; he was not raised from the dead, as in Psalm xvi. These statements cannot possibly be history. What are they, then? Mere imagination or poetry? They are far too peculiar and too definite for that. What should cause a Jewish poet?s imagination to take such a strange, non-natural form? David knew perfectly well that he himself would die, for on the death of his infant child he said, ?I shall go to him.? Could he then, even as a poet, express the anticipation that his flesh would never see corruption? Why should he in imagination picture himself as being put to death by having his hands and feet pierced? Crucifixion was not a Jewish form of punishment, but a Roman one; and his poems date from centuries prior to the foundation of Rome. Such an idea in David?s writing can be nothing else than prediction. They who refuse to recognize his character as a prophet, or to see inspiration in these utterances, are bound to suggest some explanation of the words, which has at least an appearance of plausibility which they cannot do. And even if they could, the difficulty would remain, because it is on record as a matter of history that a thousand years after he wrote, a great Son of David did actually undergo these ezperiences, fulfilled these very predictions, did suffer death by crucifixion at the hands of Romans, was raised from the dead, and was exalted to God?s right hand.

 

The predictions then do not fit David; they are not history, and they cannot be mere poetry. As such they would be utterly unnatural. They must be inspired prophecy, for they were fulfilled a thousand years after they were written both in the spirit and in the letter, fulfilled exactly and literally, and quoted as fulfilled predictions by the generations that witnessed the fulfillment.

 

Grasp clearly the argument. We have before us three things

 

I. The Book of Psalmsa collection of Hebrew poems, published three thousand years ago, and in constant use from that day to this in Jewish ritual worship. Most of these hymns proceeded, as is universally acknowledged, from the pen of David, king of Israel, though they describe experiences that he never tasted, and express anticipations which he can never have indulged. These poems are regarded by the Jews as prophetic.

 

II. We have a series of most remarkable facts which happened about two thousand years ago, and which were very fully recorded by reliable eye-witnesses at the time, in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles. These facts exactly fulfil the Davidic predictions embodied in the Psalms a thousand years previously.

 

III. We have a condition of things around us in the world now which can be accounted for only on the hypothesis that the story of the Gospels, which fulfils the Davidic program, is in the main true. Christianity as it exists at this daya vast and all-influential system, growing stronger year by year, and spreading continually among menrests on the basis of the Gospel facts, and is itself a reflex witness to their truth.

 

Hence we have palpable present evidence that the Davidic program was fulfilled. David spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, and the sufferings and glories of Christ were before the Mind that inspired the Messianic Psalms. This conviction should not be lightly accepted as a matter of opinion merely, but allowed to sink down into the heart. The scene on Golgotha, even to its minutest incidents, lay naked and open before the Omniscient Eye; every physical, moral, and spiritual featurewhether in the victim or the executioners or the crowdwas foreseen. The items foretold are but specimenssamples of what might have been predicted. All was noted. The self-sacrifice of Christ, oh, how deliberate! how long contemplated!how thoroughly anticipated! And as surely as the sufferings came in their season, as surely as the Melchizedek session at God?s right hand has succeeded them, so surely will the throne of David be hereafter re-established on earth, and occupied by the Lord?s Anointed.

 

Index Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Conclusion





About Me

Historicism.com is owned and operated by me, Joe Haynes, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I serve as a pastor in a church plant in Victoria since 2013. My wife, Heather, and I have five kids. In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Northwest Baptist Seminary at the Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries of Trinity Western University. Feel free to visit my blog at Keruxai.com.
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