Behold, the Weeping Prophet! 'How does one become a prophet of God? Although typically by training, this is not the case with some of God's most outstanding servants. From Samuel to Elisha to Amos as well as other prophets, the pattern is always the same: God directly calls his prophets to their special ministry.
It should not be surprising, then, some of these special prophets are reluctant to take on the repsonsibilities of moral leadership for which they are rarely appreciated and, more often than not, are actually persecuted.
An example of how God calls his prophets, and how they sometimes respond only with great reluctance, is seen in the call of Jeremiah in 626 B.C. In fairness to Jeremiah, he may have good reason to be reluctant: at the time of his call he is still a youth, though his exact age is not known. And had he known over the next 50 years, he would probably have tried to escape his calling, just as Jonah did. But God appeals to Jeremiah through two visions.
The first is a branch of an almond tree by which, through a play on words, God explains that he is "watching" the execution of his purpose on earth. (The Hebrew word for "watching" sounds like the Hebrew word for almond tree.) The second vision is of a boiling pot, which is an Oriental symbol of raging war. Through that symbol God reveals to Jeremiah the destruction coming from the north—that is, the invasion by Babylon. God tells Jeremiah that his mission is to be one of the rebuke and judgment on one hand and encouragement on the other.
Finally, God promises to be with Jeremiah through the many personal trials he will face. It may be that the persecutions Jeremiah will experience will be the result of the times in which he prophesies. When he begins his ministry, warning against impending national peril, Judah is resting complacently in an unusual period of peace and is soon to experience a brief period of spiritual revival.
While Jeremiah is predicting the fall of Jerusalem, the popular message of the priests and false prophets is "peace, peace." Naturally the people prefer to believe the more optimistic line, and so they turn against the prophet of doom. Little do they realize that the political scene is rapidly changing.
Even in this year of Jeremiah's call, Nabopalassar will rebel against Assyria and establish the Neo-Babylonian empire. Within 15 years Nineveh will fall under the Medo-Persian alliance, and seven years later Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt will clash at Carchemish, with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon emerging as the victor. Through it all Judah will stand in constant peril, and Jeremiah's thankless job will be to bring the message of judgment and national vulnerability to a people who do not want to hear it.
What an awesome responsibility for this young man from the little town of Anathoth, a few miles northeast of Jerusalem! How amazed he must be to learn that he was chosen for this special mission before he was ever born!'
Jesus Christ in Jeremiah.
Through Jesus Christs' sacrificial death and the inward regenerative power of the Holy Ghost, the New Covenant became a reality (Heb. 9:15).
Isaiah, the son of Amoz, seems to have come from a well-to-do and respected Jerusalemite family, for not only is his father's name recorded, but he also enjoyed intimate relations with the royal family and the highest officials of the government. 'Since at least 767 B.C., King Uzziah, also known as Azariah, has reigned over Judah with great success.
But his good fortune is about to go to his head, and he will suffer serious illness for his presumptousness state. Uzziah's illness will necessitate a co-regent to run the day-to-day affairs of religious man needed by this materialistic, immoral, unjust, and complacent people.
During Uzziah's reign, and in the year immediately following his death, perhaps the greatest evangelistic prophet ever known to God's people begins an active ministry which will last some 40 years. "Somewhat like the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, Isaiah serves as a compendium of the great doctrines of the pre-Christian age, and treats of almost every cardinal theme in the gamut of theology."
Isaiah will do for Judah what Joel, Hosea, and Amos have done for Israel: he will tell the people about God's judgment against religious formalism, idolatry, oppression, immorality, and pride, and also warn them of the captivity they are about to face. Throughout his prophecies Isaiah repeatedly refers to the final day of the Lord, when all people will face judgment like that being brought against Israel and Judah.
The imagery is exciting and visionary, Isaiah also looks forward to the coming of the Messiah and Savior, who will redeem all mankind from their sins. For this reason, much of what Isaiah has to say will be as meaningful to future generations as it is to those who live in Judah at this time.
Isaiah's message begins with a condemnation of Judah's many sins. He insists that Judah's sins will bring severe punishment, from which neither Judah's idols nor its leaders can save the people. He challenges the people to come to their senses before it is too late, and to look forward to the last days, when there will be a spiritual renewal and everlasting peace.
Jesus Christ in Isaiah.
Isaiah is very evangelistic. Jesus Christ is minutely described, especially in Isaiah 53. He is the Suffering Servant of Whom the prophet is referring. He bore our sins. He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted that we may be reconciled back to God through His atoning and perfect blood. The just wrath of God was laid upon Him for our sake, yea, that we may have eternal life (Jn. 3:16). Do you know Him? Has He died for your sins?
Should we not remind the proud man that he must die? Who, then, of whatever age they may be, flatter themselves that they shall be here in the next 200 years, indeed even closer, 100 years? Are you not a living corpse walking around and about? Consider then how you live for death is ever closer to you.
Away with folly that thou art young and are of great health! Anytime from now you shall fall and die! And soon, I tell you, dear friend, you shall be wholesome meal to the worms.
Let us make it a habit of ours that before we lay down in our beds—consider that it may be our last to awake in this world. Therefore, let us place our whole to God's care that when we arise from our deathbed, we shall at last, that is, those in Christ, "see him face to face" (Rev. 22:4).
Fool no longer. Fool no longer. You will die. In fact, you're presently dying but corpsly living. You're wise and know how to apply.
This book has received sundry interpretations. But it is not my business at this point to bring the whole thing here, as it were. We will however touch on them by way of passing. 'In addition to the proverbs which he authored and inspired, Solomon also wrote the lyrics of over a thousand songs. As a Psalmist, Solomon may have been surpassed only by his father, David.
Yet, unlike the many recorded psalms of David, only two, or perhaps three, of Solomon's psalms are preserved. One of these (Psalm 72) refers to a visit by the Queen of Sheba and has already been presented in an earlier article.
The second song attributed to Solomon (Psalm 127) does not easily fit into any single historical context and is therefore presented here as a further example of Solomon's lyrical work.
“A Song of degrees for Solomon.”
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”
Another special collection of lyrics which may also be Solomon's work is included at this time. The collection is known in most English versions as the "Song of Solomon" and in the Greek as the "Song of Songs."' The Puritans would call it the "Canticles." 'The title "Song of Songs" would suggest acceptance of the song as the most beautiful of all the songs or psalms. Unlike most of the preceding literature, the "Song of Songs" deals more with love than with wisdom, prayer or praise.
Because the speakers are not easily identifiable, it is difficult to make the writing unfold as any kind of drama. Furthermore, since the various parts of the song focus upon the speaker's innermost thoughts and passions rather than portraying what is actually happening to the people involved, it is not even a love story in the usual sense.
The song reflects the feelings of a lover and his beloved — that is, a bridegroom and his bride. Despite language which is unusually graphic and sensual in description, there is no hint of improper lust. And while the song dispels notions of celibacy and asceticism as an ideal, it does not presume sexual relations outside a marriage relationship.
On its face, the Song of Songs is a beautiful and striking statement about human love. It suggests that all life, including human sexuality, is holy because God has created it. There is in the song a celebration of life simply for its own beauty and experience.
Although the writing itself makes no reference to history, purpose, religion, sin, salvation, or even God himself, many have seen in its celebration an allegory representing the love relationship between God and man. For many Jews it presents God as the lover and the nation of Israel as the beloved. With the coming of the Messiah, it will be seen by many as an allegory of Christ and his church.
Whatever else its purpose may serve, the Song of Songs expresses unrestricted joy in a relationship of joy.' In this day and age of easy divorce and broken marriages, the Song of Songs is most needful.
Jesus Christ in Song of Songs.
The church is the bride of Christ, the Chief Bridegroom. His love is stronger than death (Jn. 3:16) in that "whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
What's the meaning of life? 'Despite his great sin — or perhaps because of it — Solomon may ultimately have gained the most valuable wisdom of all: a full appreciation or the emptiness of all that he had — even his own wisdom — when compared to things eternal. The book traditionally known as Ecclesiastes, meaning the Preacher or the Teacher, may have been written either personally by King Solomon or sometime later by a scribe in Solomon's honor as the patron of the wisdom movement.
In either case, Solomon appears to be the Teacher, and the observations about life which are the basis for the writing seem to be drawn from Solomon's own experiences. The central frame of reference indicates that the author has experienced the consequences of great sin, such that into which Solomon fell.
In this writing, Solomon's wisdom challenges the wisdom literature of other cultures in which truth is sought by empirical observation of life without reference to a creative God. The premise of Solomon's wisdom is that only the Creator of the universe can know the true needs of his creatures and provide for their ultimate fulfillment.
Ecclesiastes is a critical essay about the meaning of life. In its original organization several themes are woven together in an overlapping collage.
The book begins by posing man's ultimate question: what is the meaning of life? The Teacher first observes the cylical flow of life, in which human nature — like physical nature — never seems to change. The teacher then explores death — its certainty and unexpectedness. If Solomon is writing these reflections in his last years, it is not at all surprising that he confronts the issue of death. To Solomon the fact of death brings home the transience of life and gives urgency to the ultimate question: what is life's meaning?
When measured against eternity, the brevity of life makes it more important than ever to utilize the present time in the most meaningful way possible. The Teacher then considers what there is in this "life under the sun" that has any real or lasting meaning, and his search is both unproductive and discouraging. None of the things in which man normally puts his trust for happiness and fulfillment can really achieve those goals. In the final analysis, such things as wealth, power, pleasure, popularity, and human wisdom are all sheer vanity — meaningless and empty.
Human insight cannot give a clue as to what is meaningful; only "the wisdom which is from above" can imbue one's life with lasting purpose. To illustrate the value of divine wisdom, the Teacher then gives several proverbs and wise sayings of the type contained in the more complete book of Proverbs. In one of the most beautiful poems in the Scriptures, the Teacher shows that there is purpose and balance to all things, even in this present life.
Just as there is a time to die, there is a time to live. Just as there is a time for sorrow, there is a time for joy. And everyday life takes on significance in the enjoyment of one's work and the happiness of human love. The message is aimed directly at the young people for whom much of the wisdom literature is intended.
In conclusion the Teacher urges that all things find their fulfillment in acknowledging the Creator's purpose for mankind and in obeying his will.'
Jesus Christ in Ecclesiastes.
Without Jesus Christ life is vanity, meaningless! Has he (Jesus) not said, "Without Me you can do nothing?" He is our Summum Bonum, Chief Good!
“Our hearts are of that colour which our most constant thoughts dye into. Transient fleeting thoughts, whether of one kind or another, do not alter the temper of the soul. Neither poison kills nor food nourishes, unless they stay in the body; nor does good or evil benefit or harm the mind unless they abide in it.”
– William Gurnall.
Does he expect Christ (He Who is so pure than the radiance of the sun!) to abode in that arena where constant filth is entertained? Vain thoughts defiles the whole man, yea, the heart is prosituted. Remedy?
“The mighty streams of the evil thoughts of men will admit of no bounds or dams to put a stop unto them. There are but two ways of relief from them, the one respecting their moral evil, the other their natural abundance. The first is by throwing salt into the spring, as Elisha cured the waters of Jericho – that is, to get the heart and mind seasoned with grace…The other is, to turn their streams into new channels, putting new aims and ends upon them, fixing them on new objects; so shall we abound in spiritual thoughts; for abound in thoughts we shall, whether we will or no.”
We are a society of gas chambers. I'm afraid we're already there, alas! A state that fears (and chokes) opinion of its people is a state that does not care of any opinion(s) but theirs alone, however contrary it is to humanity, yea, God's rule. Plainly put, any state that cuts peoples' voice can at any time cut life. It is already here!
Whence there's no freedom of reason, logic and voice, there's no life but walking corpses waiting to be butchered for that one revolutionary act — truth!
Wisdom begins with God. 'Because Solomon had asked for wisdom instead of wealth, God promised to give him both—wisdom beyond all men, and untold riches. Over the years of Solomon's reign, God's promise has become reality. Solomon's kingdom has developed into the most peaceful and prosperous kingdom ever known. Solomon's glory is documented not only by official statistics but also by the visit of the Queen of Sheba.
The visit itself is altogether remarkable, particularly because the queen's home in southern Arabia (perhaps the modern country of Yemen) is a 1200-mile camel ride across hot desert territories inhabited by roving groups of bandits ready to relieve the queen of the treasure which she carries.
What motivates her to come so great a distance is far more than mere curiosity at Solomon's wealth. It is the search for wisdom and insight which compels her (as it has compelled people of all times), and she is not in the least disappointed.
As the historical record has indicated, Solomon the wise king is the author of literally thousands of proverbs. The proverbs are short poems, usually in the form of couplets, which set high ethical standards and give practical advice for daily living through the use of comparative,
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. or: The kisses of an enemy may profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Such poetic verses place high value on wisdom and sharply contrast good and evil, righteousness and wickedness, justice and injuctice. Both in style and content the proverbs ar somewhat typical of the wisdom literature prevalent during this time, not only in Israel but in other countries as well, including Mesopotamia and Egypt. Of particular similarity is the Egyptian "Teachings of Amen-em-opet."
It is not known which culture influenced the other, if indeed there is any connection at all. However, the Hebrew proverbs are distinct in that all wisdom is seen as flowing from the true God, rather than being a mere accumulation of human observation and experience.
Many of the proverbs and other wise sayings recorded in Scripture may have been written either earlier or even later than Solomon's time — including several by Agur and Lemuel, whose further identities are not revealed. "The wisdom of Proverbs is the Old Testament pendant to the many practical exhortations in the New Testament letters, a fact true of both the great fourteenfold discourse and the vast series of pithy instructions and observations of which most of this book consists, bearing on many apsects of daily life."'
Jesus Christ in Proverbs.
Jesus Christ is the full wisdom of God. In Him there is fulness of wisdom and knowledge.
“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:30.
“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
We have here the "Treasuries of David," as Charles Spurgeon would call them. What a treasure the Psalms have been and continue to be in the Church of Christ! 'The Psalms, half of which are ascribed by title to David, the sweet singer of Israel, by and large come from Israel's golden age, circa 1000 B.C. Some were doubtless written later, even in the Captivity (for example, Ps. 137).
They express great truths in poetic style, calculated to reach the deep springs of the heart. They should teach us that head knowledge is not enough; the heart must be touched by God's redeeming grace.
Hebrew poetry does not consist in rhyme, but principally in repetition of the thought in a parallel clause, thus: "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (Ps. 103:10). Attention to this parallelism will occasionally help to interpret obscure words by the clearer parallel. Another device frequently found in poetry is dramatization. David does not write just for himself: he writes for others.
Using the same poetic device, Shelley wrote "The Cloud," recounting the experiences of a cloud in the first person. The psalmists wrote for all of us, and we must remember that here too David sometimes would write in the first person, yet give in vivid detail the experiences of the Messiah.
About half of the Psalms may be classified as prayers in time of trouble. Such precious psalms as 23, 91, 121, and many others, sustain us in time of deepest need. We do well to memorize and recall these psalms often, so as to be fortified with the Word when testing comes. About forty more psalms are devoted to the subjects of praise. The note of praise to God should be a part of a Christian's very breathe, and such psalms as 100 and 103 should have large place in our devotions.
Detailed classification of the Psalms is difficult because they are highly poetic and our psalm may touch on different themes. But we suggest several categories: Psalms of the Righteous Man may be represented by 1, 15, 101, 112, and 133. Six may be called Royal Psalms, 2, 21, 45, 72, 110, and 132. Psalm 32 and 51 are usually called Penitential, along with parts of 38, 130, and 143. The Imprecatory Psalms ask vengeance on God's enemies: 69, 101, 137, and parts of 35, 55, and 58. These are at least four Historical Psalms: 78, 81, 105, and 106. Two emphasize Revelation, 19 and 119.
The Messianic Psalms applied to Christ in the New Testament are: 2, 8, 16, 22, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 89, 102, 109, 110, and 118. Some of these are typically messianic, that is, written of our general experiences, but applied to Christ. Others are directly predictive. Psalms 2, 45, and 110 predict the messianic King. In Psalm 45:6, the Messiah is God; in 110, He is the priest-king and David's Lord; in 2, He is God's Son to be worshipped. Other psalms speak of His suffering (22), His sacrifice (40), His resurrection (16:10, 11). In Psalm 89, He is the One Who brings to completion the Davidic Covenant in fulfilment of Israel's hopes.'
Other writers are associated with writing some psalms. Note: David wrote seventy-three psalms, Asaph of twelve, the Sons Korah, eleven, Solomon, two, and Moses (Psalm 90) and Ethan each one. "No author is mentioned in the case of fifty psalms. The Greek Septuagint adds Haggai and Zechariah as authors of five."
Jesus Christ in Psalms.
The New Testament authors and Jesus Christ often quoted the Psalm. The book explains the identity of the Messiah. The Book of Psalm bore testimonies about Christ Jesus, our blessed Lord and Savior (Luke 24:44).
“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
The author of this book is unknown. He must be an Israelite, though. 'Now, some 45 years (in the context of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as we shall later see) following the first deportation from Judah, God's chosen nation continues to be a dispersed people. By this time many of them wonder if there is still a God — not a "state God" attached to a nation which has been virtually destroyed, but a personal God who knows their personal misery and still cares.
Even the wicked and rebellious exiles, who by now must have bent their knees in prayer for deliverance, are surely thinking that God no longer hears them. For a nation in suffering, there are many questions to be asked: how can they believe in a God who would allow such suffering? On the other hand, how can they curse God in times of adversity when he has previously brought such prosperity? Is their faith to be contingent upon economic well-being?
The ones who must be the most perplexed, however, are the faithful ones who never understood their personal involvement in the first place. After remaining true to God while almost everyone else chased after idolatry and wickedness, their reward has been the same — sometimes worse. They too were taken captive. They too saw swords enter their children's bodies. In the siege of Jerusalem they had starved and been victims of pestilence and plague.
Here in captivity they still often go hungry and are poorly clothed. Whatever happened to the promise that the righteous would be blessed? Why were some of the wicked not taken into exile, but rather allowed to prosper under the same government that has enslaved their fellow countrymen? Where is the justice of God in these circumstances? And if punishment is for the wicked, what sin has led to the suffering of the righteous?
Of course these are the same questions which every generation asks about death, sorrow, pain, and suffering. But because his people are suffering so greatly at this time, it may well be that God chooses this context in which to give at least some insight into both the thorny theological issues and the intense emotional feelings of individual sufferers.
Although there is a wide difference of opinion about its date, one of the most outstanding masterpieces in all of literature is possibly written during this period. The writing is in the form of a historical poem. It is historical in that it is based upon the life of one of the early patriachs named Job. Job's steadfastness following more adversity than most people will ever face has been legendary. Even the prophet Ezekiel referred to Job, along with Noah and Daniel, as a man of great righteousness. And yet Job apparently struggled with the reasons for his adversity before coming to peace about it.
Therefore it is altogether fitting that this poem addressing the problem of suffering be based upon Job's personal struggle.
There is still another reason why Job is a most appropriate choice. At this time when people are in such of a personal God, the writer takes them back before their own prophets, before the teaching of the law, before the promises made to Abraham, to a man who is not even one of the children of Israel. He is just a lone human being who finds himself in terrible suffering for no apparent reason.
The first scene of the poem opens with a picture of Job's enviable prosperity, then turns quickly to a conversation between God and Satan. When God points to Job as an example of a righteous man, Satan suggests that Job remains righteous only because of his prosperity. God permits Satan to test this theory by removing Job's prosperity. Job's faith remains intact. So Satan next suggests that his personal suffering will bring curses against God. Once again Job dissapoints Satan.
In the second scene, Job still does not curse God, but he does put some hard questions to God. Why must he, a righteous man, suffer? What sins have brought on his pain? Why is God so inconsistent in his punishment of the wicked? Throughout the presentation of Job's case against God, three of Job's friends— Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar — argue against him. They try to convince him that the answer lies in a simple syllogism: God always punishes sin; suffering is the result of sin; therefore Job is more of a sinner than he is willing to admit.
Throughout it all, Job maintains his innocence and demands to know God's rationale.
The third scene introduces a young man named Elihu who claims that neither Job nor his friends are correct. God does not act capriciously, as Job friends claim. Elihu argues that suffering is often used by God to teach lessons and to strengthen a person.
In the final scene God himself speaks to Job and demands to know what right Job has to question the Creator of the universe about his ways. Job's humble response demonstrates the depth of his righteous character, and his prosperity is restored.' Job deserves a constant read and study.
Jesus Christ in Job.
Jesus Christ being God and Man, the God-Man, has suffered in the flesh. And in fact, "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He knows. He identifes with our sorrows and infirmities. Let us not hide in sorrow but bring our troubles to Him (Matt. 11:28).