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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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its substantial truth is evident, namely, that God's original plan
in Creation for a Kingdom of God in humanity was not then
realized. When the alternative was presented to Adam and
Eve, either to refrain from eating of the forbidden fruit, and,
in so doing, to obey God's will, thus founding the Kingdom and
establishing His sovereignty over humanity, or, to eat of the
accursed tree, thus disobeying God's law and violating His
will, they elected to disobey, and thereby declined to render
that conscious and willing obedience which nature renders un-
consciously but spontaneously to the Creator. Consequently,
all hope of a Kingdom of God in nature and humanity alike,
bound together by a common obedience to God's will, for the
time vanished. The Kingdom of God in humanity, indeed,
became a future possibility rather than a present fact. This
far-famed refusal, initiatory and typical of humanity's course
in the future, also brought discord into a world in which har-
mony should have reigned, and issued in sin and death. Milton
rightly sings:

30 Jesus^ Idea

"Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden. Till one greater man
Restore us and regain the blissful seat."

Humanity had, indeed, selected its path ; but over and above
the rebellious subjects, according to the Biblical representation,
there vv^as still the considerate, yearning care of God. From
this point, indeed, the Old Testament gives a vivid, coherent
and fascinating recital of God's endeavor to deliver man from
the power of the evils, attendant and consequent upon his in-
subordination. While the story of the Fall may seem to occupy
but a trivial position in the Bible, outside of Genesis; and
while it must be admitted that the account to us so important
and suggestive, is passed by in almost entire silence, it does not
require argument to convince the thoughtful reader that the
idea, embodied in the story of the Fall, is the ever-prominent
idea underlying the subsequent course of events, and the very
raison d'etre of the history which follows.

The earliest note of deliverance, and the prediction of the
ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God — if so much can be
claimed from a passage, at best vague and inconclusive — is
sounded in Genesis 3:15: — "I will put enmity between thee
and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall
bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise its heel." Certainly if
there is no clear promise of the Messiah here, as is often alleged
by theologians, notably by Martin Luther, there is at least a
significant prediction of man's eternal warfare with evil, and a
slight foreshadowing, perhaps, of his ultimate victory. The
subsequent history of Revelation, however, is developed logically
from this promise, and reveals not only the painful struggle of
humanity with evil, but the gradually developing plan of a
God of Love for the utter overthrow of the Kingdom of Satan,
and the final establishment, through a mingled operation of
mercy and judgment, of the Kingdom of God upon earth. If
we bear this in mind, the Old Testament especially, valuable
as it is for its many ethical lessons, becomes a more vital Book,
disclosing not merely here and there some sublime moral truth,
but rather the Universal Plan of the God of all the Ages.

The Old Testament, indeed, graphically depicts the terri-

Origin and Pre-Christian Development 31

ble events which ensued upon man's refusal to conform to the
laws of God; how the knowledge of His will grew fainter and
more faint, until it bade fair to disappear entirely; how man's
desire and ability to obey became weaker and weaker, until the
future appeared dark indeed. While humanity was thus floun-
dering in the slough of self-invited mire, that all hope of a
future reclamation of mankind might not prove vain and the
effort futile, God determined to begin anew with man. The
rebellious race was to be destroyed, with the exception of the
righteous Noah and his family; the descendants of Seth were
to be preserved by the Ark (Gen. 6:5-8). Noah and his family,
indeed, were to represent the Kingdom of God, for they
acknowledged God's authority and obeyed His w^ill. Presently,
Shem, a son of Noah, and his descendants, were chosen as the
line of salvation, the agents of the contemplated deliverance
(Genesis 9:26-27). Later, the line w^as restricted to the fam-
ily of Terah, whose son, Abram, was a mighty instrument in
the hands of God for the achievement of His purpose. The
early endeavor, indeed, to keep alive allegiance to God, and to
preserve an adequate idea of the right of God to rule over men,
issued in the call of him who has been styled "the world-
historical figure." So great was humanity's impetus away from
God, that a strong personality and a very marked individuality,
seconded by the favor of Heaven, was necessary to check the
ruinous degeneration. The needed instrumentality God raised
up in Abraham; to him was entrusted the unique task of pre-
serving God's truth, which was ever more and more endan-
gered by the prevalent and rampant idolatry. Leaving Ur of
the Chaldees in obedience to the divine call, Abram journeyed
toward the land of Canaan, where, removed from the dan-
gerous distractions and the subtle temptations of the home-
environment, he might devote himself, with undivided atten-
tion, to the task imposed upon him. There, a covenant, or
agreement, was made with him by God. In virtue of his ready
obedience to the call, God promised: "I will make of thee a
great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great;
and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless
thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all the
families of the earth be blessed'^ (Genesis 12:2-3).

Whether Abraham was fully aware of the significance of

32 Jesus* Idea

his call, and his part in the gracious purposes of God, or whether

the Hebrews themselves were, in the earlier years of their his-
tory, or whether we have in this and similar passages appar-
ently descriptive of that earlier history, the prophetic interpre-
tation of the events of a distant past in the light of a splendid
and more clearly understood present, in which they know them-
selves to be the spokesmen of God and able, by divine inspira-
tion, to trace the slender thread of God's providence through
the labyrinthine, and apparently chaotic past, may be an inter-
esting question; but it does not affect, whatever may be our
conclusion, the significance of the part which the Father of the
Faithful played in the early development of the Kingdom of
God. And certainly, in subsequent ages, that part came to be
clearly understood and generally acknowledged by the He-
brews. The choice of Abraham, in fact, marked the beginning
of the outward or external development of the Kingdom. Truly
might the later Jews say: "Before our Father Abraham came
into the world, God was, as it were, only the king of heaven ; but
when Abraham came, he made Him to be King over heaven
and earth." Abraham, indeed, became ''the Father of the
Faithful," i. e., the progenitor of those of every age and clime
who, believing in God endeavor to fulfil His will. As such an
ancestor, the whole earth was to be blessed through him and
his direct descendants.

Later, this promise was confirmed to Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4).
Subsequently, a similar promise was reiterated to Jacob in the
dream at Bethel, when he was fleeing, at his mother's instiga-
tion, from his brother's wrath. In that sublime vision of the
Ladder which reached from earth to heaven, and upon which
the angels of God were ascending and descending, Jacob first
learned of a communication existing between heaven and earth;
nay, more, despite the untowardness of past events, and the
inauspicious surroundings of the present, he learned that he
was a rung in the ladder which connected the heavens and the
earth (Gen. 28:11-15).

So, step by step, may be traced the gradual advance in the
fulfilment of the divine intention, as it is depicted in the Old
Testament. Then with Jacob and his sons, there enter upon
the scene the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, whose
advent compels us, in tracing the idea of the Kingdom of God,

Origin and Pre-Christian Development 33

to deal with a nation, the nation of Israel, instead of with indi-
viduals primarily, as heretofore. One of the most interesting
portions of the Old Testament narrative, is that w^hich re-
counts, how, in the Providence of God, the descendants of
Jacob, through the base treachery of the jealous brethren, mani-
fested in the enslaving of Joseph, came to dwell in the land of
Egypt. This apparently trivial circumstance was of the utmost
importance to the future well-being of Israel. Had the paltry
tribe remained in Palestine, it must inevitably — at least, so far
as human eye can see, — have perished at the hands of the sur-
rounding peoples, or have lost its identity through amalgama-
tion with them. Time, peace, and prosperity were the impera-
tive necessities of the moment. These were secured through the
sojourn in Egypt; and there the Israelites were prepared for
national existence, through the unbroken prosperity, which, at-
tending their advent, characterized the reigns of many Pharaohs,
and assured the opportunity for needful growth, until the band
of strangers in a strange land had become sufficiently numerous
to arouse the jealousy and animosity of their Egyptian hosts.
This antipathy, leading to strong coercive and preventive meas-
ures, sufficed to alienate their love for Egypt during the closing
years of their sojourn, and filled them with an enthusiasm for
liberty. Thus did the vicissitudes of prosperity, on the one
hand, and of adversity, on the other, minister to the gradual
unfolding of God's purpose. The alienation from the fleshpots
of Egypt w^as soon followed by the Exodus, which, under the
leadership of Moses, marked the beginning of the national ex-
istence of the Israelites.

All of these steps, however, seem to have been preparatory,
and, while we can trace readily their obvious importance, view-
ing the history of the earlier age from the standpoint of the
later age, they do not appear to be closely related to the idea
of the Kingdom of God. Not so, however, is it with the next
step, to which the preceding stages were essential and prepara-
tory. Now that the Israelites were grown into a nation, and
had been delivered by Moses, a further and important advance
was to be made. Henceforth, God would deal with the na-
tion, as well as with the individual, in relation to the Kingdom,
or rule of God. But the incoherent elements must be welded
into a coherent nation. For this purpose the cowardly tribes,

34 Jesus^ Idea

but recently rescued slaves, were disciplined in the wilderness,
and a most solemn covenant made with them at Mt. Sinai.
There the nation received from God laws and institutions for
their use; there the nation was adopted as peculiarly God's
People. "And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called
unto him out of the mountain, saying, 'Thus shalt thou say to
the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have
seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore,
if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye
shall be a peculiar treasure unto me from above all people: for
all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of
priests, and an holy nation^'' (Exodus 19:3-6).

That Israel acceded to the agreement is evident from Ex.
24:4-9, where the solemn ceremonies which attended the ratifi-
cation of the covenant are described. The importance of this
step in the developing plan of the Kingdom of God cannot be
over-estimated, although it is commonly emphasized to the dis-
paragement, or neglect, of the origin of the idea of the Kingdom
and the essential and preparatory stages which have just been
considered. While the transition from what might be called
the individual, or tribal stage, to the national stage of the King-
dom of God, ought to be exceptionally emphasized: yet to lose
sight of the original conception as it existed in the mind of God,
and its feeble and struggling expression throughout the patri-
archal period, is to rob the idea of much of its majesty and
splendor. Instead of marking the beginning of the Kingdom
of God, the step under consideration should be regarded as the
most important step forward in an advance begun long since.

Thus Israel, by express covenant, was to be God's peculiar
treasure, — a Kingdom of God, and, further, — a Kingdom of
priests, and a holy (separated) nation. When the significance
of this expression is appreciated, the full meaning of this ad-
vance in the developing Kingdom of God becomes apparent.
A Kingdom of Priests! Now, a priest may be defined as one
who stands before men for God, and one who stands before God
on behalf of men. In other words, a priest is a mediator, a
reconciler: one who seeks to bridge the chasm separating God
and man, thus uniting man with God. This, then, was the
unique mission of Israel. Israel was to be a domain, or realm,

Origin and Pre-Christian Development 35

or obedience (for this is what we have found the word "king-
dom" to mean) of those who, in obeying God and serving
Him, were to act as Priests, seeking to bring God and man into
harmony. Israel was also to become a "holy," i. e., ^'separated"
nation. This is the significance of the word "holy" in this con-
nection. The word does not denote moral rectitude; it is not
an attribute of character, but denotes whatever is separated or
consecrated to sacred uses. It is in this sense that an Altar is
spoken of as the "Holy Table" : not that a Table, even if it be
an Altar, can be "holy" in the strict sense of the word, for
holiness is descriptive of character. The Altar is the Holy
Table, in that it is set apart for religious and sacred purposes.
Thus Israel, as a nation, was set apart, or separated of God,
for His own sacred purposes: to minister, in some marked
way, to the august plan of the Deity.

Thus the idea of the Kingdom of God is ever entering more
noticeably, and the rule of God becomes more and more a defi-
nite end. Hence the title applied by Josephus to the nation's
constitution is both correct and expressive. Israel was a the-
ocracy — a Kingdom of God.^

Unfortunately, this idea of a people wholly consecrated to
God was never fully realized, for, from the time of the insti-
tution of the covenant itself, rebellion and unfaithfulness were
rife. Yet the adequate conception of such a Kingdom had been
gained and was at work in the minds of men.

But now that God had a nation, the nation must have a
home: such w^as the land of Canaan. That the people, settling
by tribes here and there should lack a central authority and
present a memorable spectacle of anarchy and license, need not
surprise us, in view of their past history. Their state, or con-
dition, is aptly described as one in which "Every man did that
which was right in his own eyes," and "there was none in the
land possessing authority." Stability and security, indeed, were
alone gained at intervals through the various leaders, who
arose from time to time, and whose brilliant military exploits
commended them as suitable rulers of the people. They were
called Judges. To this era belonged Deborah and Barak,
Gideon, Jepthah, and Samson. The life of this time is dark

^ The word, theocracy, is derived from the Greek theos, meaning
God; and kratein, signifying "to rule."

36 Jestis' Idea

indeed ; its hues are mostly sad and somber, yet we cannot doubt
that some pleasing features were contributed by those in whom
the conception of the Kingdom was an illuminating force. It is
probable that the beautiful idyl of Ruth and Naomi reveals
the sweet and simple life of many of God's people in the time
of the Judges.

Manifestly, the continuance of so chaotic a condition por-
tended even worse degeneration. The people, indeed, actually
suffered more and more through Incompetent leaders, as, for
instance under Eli and his sons. While relief might be given,
from time to time, by the appearance of so capable a leader as
Samuel, yet the whole trend of events was from bad to worse.
Nor was the mind of Israel blind to the sad and disquieting
condition of affairs. The people, indeed, were fully aware of
the state of disunion and disorder which led to such results.
The logic of events, and the need of the hour, pointed to a
King. The nations about them were ruled by kings, and why
should not Israel have the same advantage?^

Thus the Idea of kingship entered naturally into the life
of the Hebrew people, and subsequent events were of such a
nature as to lend convincing eloquence to this Idea. The de-
sired stability and union, Indeed, could alone be obtained by
imitating the neighboring peoples in the Inauguration of a king-
dom. This conviction, shared, no doubt, by many, became
focussed, as it were, in the mind of the Heaven-enlightened seer,
Samuel. He, conscious of the imperative need and appreciating
thoroughly the situation, did not hesitate to act. In Saul, the
son of KIsh, he found the man, whose courage, youth, energy,
patriotism, and imposing mien, fitted him for the mastery.
Thus we have Saul anointed as leader over Israel, and sub-
sequently made Klng.^

In the institution of the Monarchy, an advance of decided
importance is made in the developing Kingdom of God. God's
people were no longer to be ruled by Him alone: they were

^ This question had arisen at an earlier time than that of which
we write. In the days of Gideon, the people were alive to the advan-
tages of a monarchical rule — even a hereditary monarchy. To
Gideon they said, "Rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and
thy son's son also."

^ See Appendix D, "The Institution of the Monarchy."

Origin and Pre-Christian Development 37

to be governed by a visible King, the representative or viceger-
ent of God, who w^as prophetic of God's Anointed, yet to come,
the ideal King of God's everlasting Kingdom. Thus the idea
of a single ruler over God's people is introduced ; an idea des-
tined to play a most important part in the later history of the
Kingdom of God.

The Monarchy, founded under Saul, was consolidated and
extended under David. King David, despite the shadows of his
later life, is spoken of as a man after God's own heart, and
when judged in accordance with the standards of his age, amply
deserves the title. It is to him that a promise, somewhat akin
to those recorded in the earlier portion of our narrative, is made
by God. "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.
... I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . .
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever
before thee; thy throne shall be established forever" (II Sam.

The intimate relationship that Israel's king was to bear
to God is evident from a careful perusal of such a passage as
II Sam. 7:12-16. The king is regarded as the mouthpiece of
God, representing Him in every respect, and ruling, not in his
own name and right, but in the name of God, and for Him. It
is hardly necessary to say that while there was a more or less
constant effort to realize the ideal of the nation as the King-
dom of God, and of the King, as the typical representative of
God, the ideal was very imperfectly realized, even under David ;
and less so under Solomon, with whom as sovereign the king-
dom attained the zenith of its earthly glory. Nor was it real-
ized under the best of the kings after the division of the King-
dom; even Josiah and Hezekiah did not adequately represent
the theocracy. This now brings us to the conception of the
Kingdom of God entertained by the prophets.

We have found that the idea of the Kingdom was restricted
to families or tribes during the Patriarchal period, and that it
was somewhat obscure; that it became national in extent and
more definite in idea during the Mosaic period; that to the
idea of the visible Kingdom was added the conception of a

38 Jesiis^ Idea

visible King, the representative of God, during the Monarchical
period. Let us now inquire as to the distinctive Prophetic con-
tribution to the conception of the Kingdom, during what may
be termed the Prophetic period of Israel's history.



That Israel was possessed of a magnificent ideal, which
Israel had never fulfilled, was perfectly apparent to the Proph-
ets. At the same time, the hope and the belief that Israel would
some day fulfil the ideal was grounded firmly in the prophetic
heart. No failure, however dire, could dispel it, no disaster
crush it. The most salient and amazing characteristic of the
prophets, indeed, is their sublime and invincible optimism, when
pessimism seemed more natural and sensible. Even when the
possibility of Israel's realizing her high destiny seemed least, the
prophetic conviction that Israel would fulfil her destiny, shone
brightest. One thing, however, was absolutely certain: the
coming consummation of their hopes would be in the future.
The disruption of the Kingdom, the evil days that overtook
the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah before their fall, the vio-
lence within as well as without, their final overthrow, and the
humiliation and captivity of the nation, caused the prophets to
look to the future for the fulfilment of that dream which was
dearer to them than life itself. God had promised and He
could not lie : His Kingdom would come. The perfect King
would appear: when, they did not know, but come. He would.
Such was the prophetic reasoning.^

^ Isaiah, for instance, declares. "Behold a virgin shall conceive,
and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," i.e., "God with
us" (7:14). Again we find him declaring with all the intensity of
his prophetic soul, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name
shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The ever-
lasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his gov-
ernment 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 forever. The zeal of the
Lord of hosts will perform this" (9:6-7). No better conception of
the King and the Kingdom, and no better witness to the prophetic
conviction that this splendid dream will be realized can be found
in the prophetic literature than that furnished to us by Isaiah in
the words just quoted.


40 Jesus* Idea

Further, when the King and the Kingdom have come, then
will Israel fulfil her destiny, becoming in very truth a Kingdom
of Priests who reconcile the nations to God. The universal
aspect of Israel's mission breaks forth clear and strong in the
prophetic literature. National insignificance and humiliation
could not break the vision. The prophets, indeed, looked for-
ward with the utmost confidence to the time when God's sov-
ereignty should be realized, not only over Israel but over all
the earth.^ More and more, however, did It become evident to
the prophets eagerly awaiting the consummation of the Mes-
sianic hope, that the true theocracy would not be inaugurated
by even such kings as Hezeklah and Josiah, and that it could
not be realized In the midst of the prevailing conditions. In
consequence, higher and more spiritual conceptions of the com-
ing Kingdom became apparent. The new covenant Is to differ
somewhat from the old. It Is to be an Inner rather than an
outer thing; upon the heart rather than upon tables of stone.^

^ Micah writes : "But in the last days it shall come to pass, that
the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established on the
top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills ; and
the people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come and say,
Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the
house of the God of Jacob ; and he will teach us of his ways, and
we will walk in his paths ; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, And he shall judge among
many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall
beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-

Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 3 of 27)