Series - Covenants

The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Parts 4 & 5

This is the final installment of the excerpts from my book The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation, which I hope to get published by the end of 2020. I would be grateful for those readers of this blog who have derived some benefit from these posts if you would please pray for God’s blessing on the publication and reading of the book.

(The prophetic picture, broken down into basic categories, continued.)

g. The Rule of Righteousness, Justice, Peace, and Safety

When will this world know peace? When will things that could be fair actually be fair? When will justice stop being perverted? The answer to these questions is in the reign of the coming King (Isa. 32:1). He will judge righteously, “and decide with equity1 for the meek of the earth” (Isa 11:4). Only when His judgments are in the earth, will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isa 26:9). Once this occurs there will exist the wholeness and tranquility that is shalom, for the King is Himself, “Yahweh our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5-6), “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

In numerous places God has promised “peace and safety” to His people. In Hosea 2:18 “safety” is guaranteed because both human beings and the beasts of the earth become non-violent (cf. Ezek. 34:25). Micah 4:4 declares “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.” Isaiah 26:12 reveals a wonderful theological truth:

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 3

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(The prophetic picture, broken down into basic categories, continued.)

c. The Coming of the Great King

I have commented on this matter above, but here let us focus on the royalty of the Messiah. As far as the Old Testament is concerned this aspect of His person seems incompatible with His coming in humility as the suffering Servant (Psa. 22; Isa. 53). When He comes to reign, He comes with irresistible power (Dan. 2:44-45; Isa. 63:1-6). Much of the “Day of the Lord” language reflects His arrival (e.g. Isa. 34:8; Zeph. 3:8; Joel 3:9-16). Psalm 2:6, 9 has Him reigning on Yahweh’s holy hill (cf. Isa. 2:2). Isaiah 11:1-10 has David’s heir reigning in power and righteousness (cf. Am. 9:11; Mic. 2:12-13; Isa. 32:1a). Genesis 49:10 predicts this, as does Psalm 110:1-2 and Micah 5:2. The great prophecies of Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14-16 set this reign in an era when Jerusalem is the great city of God; or as Ezekiel calls it, “Yahweh is there” (Ezek. 48:35). Zechariah 14 has the great King ruling in Israel and all the peoples worshipping Him.

There is no doubt that this Figure is the main character in God’s Creation Project. All creation’s hopes are wrapped up in Him. All the promises to Israel wait for Him. The calling of the nations, depends upon Him. And the defeat of the great Enemy can only be achieved by Him. And because, as I believe, He embodies the New covenant, the coming King is even essential to the fulfillment of all God’s covenants with man.

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 2

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

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The Old Testament gives us a picture of a coming great Deliverer who will one day defeat the serpent and break his power (Gen. 3:15). We have seen that this prophetic picture is quite extensive, providing one puts the pieces of the “Scepter,” the “Star,” the son of David, the despised substitute Sufferer, the Branch, the donkey Rider, the Messiah, etc. together in one person. This portrait of the coming King of the Earth, who reigns in Jerusalem, is there so that He can be identified when He appears. And when He is identified through these prophecies it will eventually be seen that the Old Testament was spot on. The only question in light of for example, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12 would seem to be, when would His own people recognize Him? This problem deepens because of the perceived mismatch between the victorious Ruler and the suffering Servant referred to above.

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 1

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

From the forthcoming book The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation. Read the series.

If one surveys the contents of the Old Testament with both eyes upon the divine covenants, what one comes away with is a massive sense of expectation. The simply-worded Creation chapter (Gen. 1) displays a purpose and goal for the world which God is moving forward. The simplicity of the wording conveys an important hermeneutical truth; that what God does is directly in line with what He says (i.e. God’s words equal God’s actions). This can be tested in numerous points throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Gen. 1:3, 6-7, 11-12, 26-31; 6:7-13; 11:7-9; 2 Ki. 1:3-4, 16-17; 5:10, 14; Dan. 4:16, 25, 32-33).

This movement towards a goal is seemingly interrupted by the calamitous fall of our first parents and the autonomous thinking that it brought about. While seeming innocuous, this default of naive independence from the authority of God and His words has led mankind to every false notion and violent act in our bloody history. It has also caused God’s people to recalibrate what God has said by passing it through the apparatus of independent interpretation. In the long term this is what is chiefly responsible for the varied schools of thought in Christian theology. But in the Hebrew Bible it was a major cause, through reevaluation of God’s word, for Israel’s defection.

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Covenant Influences in Zechariah (Part 5)

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The Times of the Coming King1

The last three chapters of the book of Zechariah document circumstances surrounding the advent of the coming Ruler, the Messiah. The oracle opens with a battle against Jerusalem (Zech. 12:1-9). The text indicates that Jerusalem and its rulers will be used as a means of judgment against the surrounding nations (Zech. 12:9). Not that Jerusalem gets off scott free. But this scene emphasizes the Lord’s role in defending His people. The next scene (Zech. 12:10-14) shows God eliciting repentance in the several families of Israel through two corresponding events; the pouring out the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of grace and supplication,” and the people catching sight of One “whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10).2

It is worth noting that the advent itself, as stunning as it will be, will not be enough to turn the hearts of the Jewish people to this personage, their long-promised Messiah. The deep mourning that will result from the realization that Israel has “thrust through” (daqar) when He first came to them, will be wrought by the Holy Spirit. In the final analysis, such is the corruption of human nature that it takes the special conviction of God the Spirit to open eyes and hearts so that sinners both see and feel the truth.

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Covenant Influences in Zechariah (Part 4)

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The Prophet as Actor and Two Covenants

In various parts of the Old Testament some of the prophets were ordered to act out a scenario as a pictorial revelation to onlookers. In 1 Kings 20:35f. a prophet asked a man to strike him so that he could act the part of a careless guard who had lost his prisoner in order to make his tale a parable of the king’s release of the Syrian Ben-Hadad. Isaiah was commanded to walk around virtually naked for three years as a sign that the Egyptians would be shamed by the Assyrians (Isa. 20). Jeremiah broke pottery at Hinnom (Jer. 19). Ezekiel was to enact a miniature siege against the ten tribes for 390 days, lying on his left side, and then do the same for 40 days on his right side laying siege against a portrayal of Judah (Ezek. 4). And of course Hosea married an unfaithful woman to dramatize Israel’s unfaithfulness to her Husband, Yahweh (Hos. 1 – 3). Each of these actions, and others besides, had predictive elements which were central to their message.

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Covenant Influences in Zechariah (Part 3)

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The Ominous Visions of Chapter Five

There is without any doubt an eeriness about the two visions of Zechariah 5. The flying scroll he sees first (Zech. 5:1-4) is thirty feet long (which is somewhat out of the ordinary), and fifteen feet wide (which definitely is).1 Unger comments,

Since these measurements are the exact size of the tabernacle in the wilderness, as may be computed from the boards used to build it (Exod. 26:15-25), the indication is that the judgments proceeding were in accordance with the holiness of the Lord’s habitation in the midst of Israel.2

Surely Zechariah, as a priest (cf. Neh. 12:16) would not have allowed this fact to pass him bye. From verses 3 and 4 we see that the scroll represents a “curse” against the malpractices of the people. God after the Exile is just as relentlessly against iniquity as He was before. But some think that the vision best suits a post-second advent context; a time when Christ reigns in justice with “a rod of iron” (Psa. 2:8-9; Rev 2:27).3

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Covenant Influences in Zechariah (Part 2)

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The Branch Builds Yahweh’s Temple

But the scene changes when three visitors from Babylon leave a gift of silver and gold (Zech. 6:9-10).1 From these precious materials he is told to make a crown, and then do an odd thing with it; place it on the head of Joshua the high priest (Zech. 6:11).2 Then he is to utter certain words, words which cannot pertain to Joshua himself, but of which he plays a symbolic part in illustrating.

Then speak to him, saying, `Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD;

Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’ (Zechariah 6:12-13)

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