KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
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ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 7, No. 1
Seeking and Saving the Lost
The words of our text are Jesus' own commentary on the event described in the preceding verses. His meeting with Zacchaeus and, as a result of this, the publican's salvation, were in the last analysis due to the fact that the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. And in the light of this interpretation the event itself in turn becomes a commentary upon the Savior's ministry in the largest sense, both upon that which he now fulfills, walking through the lands and the ages as he once walked through the fields and cities of Palestine.
Neither this nor any other occurrence in the gospel history was a casual thing. It is true, these days of our Lord's flesh which he lived among his countrymen, acting and acted upon, were a real concrete piece of life interwoven with the life of Israel. They belong to that age and generation as truly as any section of human history can be said to belong to the times in which it happened. But it is also true that this is
not common history, but sacred, redemptive history, which means that there runs through it, from beginning to end, a special design, ordering its course, shaping its frame, and fixing its issues, so as to make of it a proper stage for the enactment of the great mystery of redemption, whose spectators and participants were not merely the Jews of that age but the inhabitants of all subsequent ages.
Nothing is casual here; every moment, every circumstance, every person that our Lord touched became fraught by that touch with a profound actuality and an eternal significance. How marvelously adapted was the setting of these scenes to serve their unique purpose! What sharp contrasts of human state and condition were here brought together! What pronounced types of sin, exhibiting in their development the root-principles of all evil, appear side by side! The Pharisee and the Publican come together to the temple of God! Truly, in this world of the Jewish land a microcosmic picture was presented of the realms of sin and suffering and sorrow and death. And because this is so, you and I can come to the story of two thousand years ago and find a present salvation there, an ever open door to the house of peace and hope. These are not strange, outlandish scenes and surroundings we are invited to; it is the familiar ground of sin and salvation; those who people it are flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, and the Savior, who comes to meet them in their persons meets us and transacts his business with us individually about matters of eternal importance.
Jesus Seeks Zacchaeus
For a few moments with the statement of our text in mind let us look at what passed between Zacchaeus and the Savior. The time is that of Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem shortly before the great Passover in which all things were to be fulfilled. These were the last hours of the day during which it is possible to work; closer and closer drew near for him that night of suffering and death in which it is not given to any man to work. Could one have wondered, if in this critical hour our Lord's thoughts had been wholly turned forward and inward; if, oblivious to his surroundings, he had been intent upon the
tremendous experience of his passion with which he was now almost face to face? We do find him faithful and busy in the outward duty until the last moment. As he loved his own until the end, so it may be said that he sought his own until the darkness of death closed in upon him.
But a moment ago he had helped the blind beggar at the entrance to Jericho, and, scarcely within the city, a publican becomes the object of his quest. Notice how vividly the sense of a specific duty, here and now to be performed, is present to the Savior's mind, for he announces to Zacchaeus: "Today I must abide at thine house." His times and ways and works were not his own but the Father's who had sent him. But let us further notice the precise expression that principle receives in the statement: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." There is no need of asking for the moment whence he came; the fact of his coming in itself sufficiently claims our attention. For this "coming" means his coming into the world; it covers his entire earthly life; he was born for this purpose, and this purpose only, to seek and save the lost.
Never in all human history was there such an absolute concentration of life upon a single specific task as that which our Lord here affirms of himself. Every man comes into the world to work out a design of God in his existence. But in the case of each one of us this design embraces a number of various ends, all of which we legitimately pursue, and in all of which we serve the will of God. Our Lord's life was a human life which derived its meaning from beginning to end from his vocation as a Savior; in seeking and saving, its significance exhausted itself. To that even the most sacred and private concerns of his soul with God, his prayer, his trust, all his intercourse with the Father, were wholly subservient. The personal was swallowed up in the one great devotion to the work of God. Into this the full stream of his strength flowed, from this its hidden sources were nourished: he made it his meat and his drink to do the will of his Father in heaven. He lived for this will and he lived on it. Thus only can we explain to ourselves the sensitiveness of our Lord, where his right to prosecute
this task was called into question, for then he felt himself assailed in the center and sanctuary of his being.
Hence on this very occasion, when after his entrance of the house of Zacchaeus the people murmured, saying, "He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner," our Lord did not content himself with pointing out the propriety and beneficence of the act, but vindicated his conduct by an appeal to the supreme law of life under which he stood and from which he could not free himself without ceasing to be what he was. With what sublime simplicity he takes for granted that his entering into a house could be for no other purpose than to introduce salvation there! Of course, there is in this something unique, incapable of reproduction in precisely that sense by even the most consecrated servant of God. He was made incarnate for the work of salvation, and we are dedicated to our ministry on the basis of a natural life we already possess. Paul perhaps in this respect approached nearest to the example of the Lord, having been separated from his mother's womb for the apostleship. In his words, "Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:16)," we imagine to hear an echo of our text and other similar declarations of our Lord. But surely, though with an almost equal distance between, we likewise ought to possess some reproduction of this mind of Christ within us. Pitiable indeed is the plight of the steward of Christ who cannot say from a conviction as profound as the roots of his spiritual life itself, that he came into the kingdom for the very purpose of seeking and of saving that which was lost.
Advent of the Son of Man
The Lord's statement, however, obtains a still richer and more forceful meaning by our enquiring hence and out of what state he came to enter upon this life-task. It may be in a certain sense true that in the synoptic gospels there is not that emphatic expression of his eternal pre-existence in the world of heaven, not that sublime consciousness of transcending the sphere of time, as are met with in the discourses recorded by John. But, surely, if we will only come to
them with believing minds, we shall not fail to find even in these simpler narratives indications of the great mystery of godliness sufficiently clear to satisfy us, when in the helplessness of our sins we cry out for a divine, an eternal Savior.
Such a message our text brings us, when it declares that "The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." The word "came" is in itself suggestive of a previous sphere and state which he exchanged for our world, a sphere and state wherein no seeking nor saving was required, because there all live secure and blessed in God. But much more suggestive is this word when coupled with the name "Son of Man." It is not accidental that our Lord makes use of this self-designation in a connection like this. Elsewhere also we read that "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give his life a ransom" (Mt. 20:28). And in a number of other passages the title is associated with his abode in the world of heaven, whence he descended to these lower regions of ours. In the prophecy of Daniel, where first the phrase "Son of Man" is used to describe the Messiah, twice a "coming" is affirmed of the Person so designated: "There came with the clouds of heaven One like unto a son of man, and He came even to the Ancient of Days" (Dan. 7:13). Now, while our Lord often identifies the "coming" thus described with his return to judgment, yet he likewise once and again retrospectively associates it with his first advent, when he came out of the glory he had with the Father before the world was.
Being told, therefore, that it was the "Son of Man," who came to seek and to save, our first thought surely should be of that unspeakable grace of our Lord, who, being rich as God alone can be rich, yet for our sake became poor as sinful man only can be poor, that by his poverty we might be made rich. The depth to which this seeking and saving brings him down should be measured by the distance there is between the highest in God and the lowest in man. To lodge with publicans and sinners might be condescension for a high-placed personage—what language will express its meaning in the case of the infinite God? The "Son of Man," who unites in himself all that Deity
and humanity together can lend of glory to the Messianic state, he it is who came to seek and to save the lost. It was such a glorious life that was wholly given up to its very last thought, poured out to the very last residue of its strength, and that for the task of helping us, the lowest of us, who would have turned away from one another, because the sinful felt it a degradation to stoop to such as were a degree more sinful than they acknowledged themselves to be. When we combine this consciousness of ineffable glory sacrificed with the consciousness of absolute surrender to the service of the most despised, then, and only then, do we begin to understand somewhat of the indignation with which Jesus repudiated the charge, brought by sinful men, that it was unworthy of him to associate with publicans and sinners. With superhuman dignity the one word "Son of Man" silences that voice of murmuring in the streets of Jericho, and every echo, we may add, of that same voice from any quarter, or any age, when it presumes to criticize the gospel of Christ on the ground that it speaks in accents of the sovereign grace of God.
Son of Man in His Advent
But the fact that he came as the "Son of Man" is important for our Lord's seeking and saving of the lost in still another respect. By reason of it, he retains even on earth the exercise of that divine knowledge and power which such a task calls into requisition. Love is farsighted and wields great influence, but love alone, even divine love alone, would not be sufficient to find and save the sinner. Seeking and saving are acts in which God puts forth his omniscience and omnipotence, as the searcher of hearts and the Lord of spirits. To these divine prerogatives the "Son of Man" lays claim in the pursuit of his task. He brings to it all the qualifications which its character as a strictly divine work requires. When making to Nathanael the marvelous disclosure of his supernatural knowledge, he declares, "Ye shall see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (Jn. 1:51).
It is in the "Son of Man" that the mystic ladder, which Jacob saw
at Bethel, has been truly set up, so that God visits man, and man is made aware of the saving presence of God. In healing the sick of the palsy, he demonstrated the authority of the "Son of Man" to forgive sins on earth by bidding him arise, take up his bed and go to his house. Here the very point in question was, whether during his sojourn on earth such power belonged to the "Son of Man." That he possessed it in his heavenly state even the Scribes would scarcely have doubted; what they disputed was that any person on earth should pretend to share this right with God. But Jesus claims, and by the miracle proves his claim, that he is on earth invested with the power of saying to a guilty soul, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," and to say it so that the conscience, which obeys no other voice than the voice of God himself, will acknowledge him as its Sovereign and be silent at his behest.
But what need to look for illustrations elsewhere, when the connection of our text itself gives the most striking example of how our Lord places these divine attributes in the service of his seeking and saving love? When Jesus came to the spot where Zacchaeus had stationed himself for observation, it was surely not by accident that his eye discovered the publican amidst the branches of the tree. His looking up precisely at that point may convince us that he acted deliberately; it was a step in that process of seeking for which he had come. He calls the publican by name, though to all appearance the two had never met before. Yea before that spot on the roadside was reached, he had not only discovered his person, but had read with omniscience the innermost thoughts of his heart. He who could say, "Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee" (Jn. 1:48), he had likewise seen Zacchaeus in advance of the latter's seeing him. Here is a look from which no man can hide himself, the same that saw our first parents behind the branches of the fateful trees, and has since that hour, wherever sinners seek to conceal themselves, penetrated into the recesses of their guilt and shame, called them up from their depths of despair and brought them down from their heights of pride, a look from the eyes of the Lord which are in all places and see the small no less than the great.
More than this, we need not hesitate to affirm that the publican, though unaware of the fact, was there at his station by the appointment of Jesus. In all probability Zacchaeus in his desire to see Jesus, who he was, was not so exclusively actuated by curiosity as is usually assumed. But suppose it to have been curiosity and nothing more, even that was in no wise exempt from the Lord's control. Open to him are a thousand ways to bring you and me to the very place and point where he desires to meet us. How many of us would have been saved, if the Lord had waited till we sought him out? Thanks be to God, he is a Savior who seeks the lost, who with eyes supernaturally farsighted discerns us a long way off, and draws our interest to himself by the sweet constraint of his grace, till we are face to face with him and our soul is saved. As once, in the incarnation, he came down from heaven to seek mankind, so he still comes down silently from heaven in the case of each sinner, and pursues his search for that individual soul, following it through all the mazes of its waywardness and the devious paths of its folly, sometimes unto the very brink of destruction, till at last his grace overtakes it and says, "I must lodge at thy house."
The Effectual Call
For, besides the divine omniscience here manifested, we are made witnesses of the Lord's sovereign and almighty power. Having found Zacchaeus, he addresses to him that call which makes the lame to leap, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, nay the dead to arise, a call like the voice of God at the first creation, "Let there be light, and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thine house." Note the instantaneous effect. Behold here Zacchaeus, who perhaps never before had encountered the Savior, who would have hardly ventured to approach Jesus, behold him at a single word transformed into a disciple of the Lord. He knows the voice of the Shepherd immediately, makes haste to come down and receives him with joy. This is that wonderful effectual calling by name which takes place wherever a sinner is saved, and which, while it may not always take place with such suddenness and
under such striking circumstances as happened here, yet is in substance everywhere equally supernatural and immediate.
The use of the divine word, not only does not detract from its immediacy, but serves the very purpose of expressing the fact that nothing but the omnipotent volition of God is at work in it. For it is characteristic of God, and of God alone, thus to produce effects by a mere word. He gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not, as though they were. Thus Lazarus was summoned from the grave, and thus Zacchaeus was brought into the Shepherd's fold. Of course, there is no cause for denying that as the result of, and simultaneously with, this call, many thoughts and convictions may be released and spring into action that were previously latent. Images may have floated before Zacchaeus' mind picturing Jesus in his ways and works. The gospel summons may have come to him through rumor or report of the Savior's life, for even in regard to these outward instrumentalities for conveying the knowledge of Christ, it is sometimes true which is written elsewhere concerning the inward birth itself, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the voice thereof, but knowest not whence it cometh, and whither it goeth" (Jn. 3:8). The Spirit of God which makes all things new, can so baptize an ancient fragment of truth, a dimly remembered shadow of knowledge, as to give it in our apperception all the radiant newness of a flash of light fresh from the womb of revelation. But, while all these old elements of consciousness may work, as out of the past, they are in no case the actual producers of the new creature. On the contrary it is only through the immediate impartation of the higher life that they can be roused from their dormant state to the active vitality of a heartfelt experience. Whatever antecedently dwells in our souls of religious knowledge, of reasonable persuasion of the truth, of recognition of God's claim upon us, of stirrings of conscience—it all needs to be regenerated and quickened by the touch of Christ before it can blossom into saving faith.
We speak of our saving men, but this, while conveying a legitimate idea, is a metaphor. At bottom it signifies no more than that through
the means of grace we arrange and prepare the situation in which it pleases God to perform the unique saving act. It is ours to let in the light and lay ready the garments which afterwards Lazarus will need, but we cannot wake the sleeper under the stone. Let us rejoice that this is so. Precisely that at the center there lies something that we cannot do constitutes the glory of our message. If the gospel-dispensation were a matter of mere intellectual enlightenment and moral suasion, such as fall within the limits of human power to produce, then indeed it might be urged that what is reserved for the divine action is subtracted from the scope of human opportunity, the intrusion of God, as it were, diminishing our glory. But on such a view of the gospel ministry its distinction is reduced to a level where it matters little whether the minister accomplishes more or less of it.
If, on the other hand, the gospel service is incorporated in a creative movement of supernatural character, involving at its core what lies absolutely beyond human power, then to feel this inevitable limitation as a drawback would evince a strange blindness to the most glorious aspect of the preacher's office. To move on the outermost fringe of a process of that kind, to have even the slightest connection with it, confers an unspeakable distinction, because it associates one with what is specifically divine. How much greater still is the grace, if we are permitted not a minimum but the highest conceivable degree of proximity to the wonder-world of God! Is not the underlying cause of the failure to perceive this, that we too much individualize and isolate ourselves, instead of feeling strongly our organic appurtenance to the mighty, supernaturalizing movement introduced by God into this world? If we could only more adequately realize the irresistible omnipotence of its momentum and the robe of splendor it casts around the smallest of its servants, we would exult with Paul and give thanks to God "who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).
The Lost Sought
But let us return to Zacchaeus and note how our Lord further
illustrates the nature of the saving act for which as "Son of Man" he claims to possess the full qualifications. It is an act of seeking and saving the "lost." What it implies can be ascertained from the state affirmed of its objects. There is a sure correlation between these two, and, if at any time we are apt to lose the proper perspective in regard to either of them, we should immediately rectify our view by reflecting upon the inherent significance of the other term. The "lost" are such as require a "Seeker" and "Savior"; when tempted to dilute or tone down the meaning of this word, it should suffice to remember that in the same proportion as this is done we also detract from the Savior-title of our Lord a substantial part of its significance. And conversely, if we allow ourselves to lose sight of even the smallest part of what the words "to save" and "Savior" connote, it necessarily modifies the sound which the word "lost" carries to our ear. There is no escape from this; it is the inherent logic of the structure of the gospel. To refuse to be bound by it puts one beyond the pale of consistent Christianity. It will therefore well repay us to scan most closely the exact correspondence of these two ideas in our text. There is perhaps no passage that enables us to do so to the same degree of definiteness and clearness as this saying of our Lord's. The reason is that here he has, in response to the peculiar situation of Zacchaeus, taken pains to resolve the Savior-function in its two component parts, so as to give us a double light for the purpose. The "Son of Man" came not merely to seek, but "to seek and to save." Nor is this in the nature of a mere addition of a second thing to a first: these two likewise mutually illumine each other; the seeking determines the saving, and the saving in turn the seeking, and both as thus joined together receive their interwoven significance from the "being lost."
Now it is not difficult to ascertain what the word "lost" expresses in the vocabulary of Jesus. "To be lost" in its simple, primary sense, which it scarcely needs knowledge of the original to understand, is "to be missing," to have passed out of the active possession and use of one's owner. The word, of course, in order to be intelligible, requires the supplementary thought of a definite possessor. It is not the vague general notion of forsakenness and misery Jesus has in mind when
using it, but very particularly the fact of the sinner's being missing to God, i.e., missing to the normal relations man sustains to God. Because these relations to God constitute in our Lord's opinion the fundamental thing in human life, the state of "being lost" acquires that sad connotation of total derangement and dissolution of all the factors and forces of spiritual existence; the word has about it the solemn, ominous sound of darkness and chaos. The light and health of life, which are religion, have departed with the departure from him who is the one source of both. The lost sinner is swung out of the orbit appointed for him by the central position of God, deprived of all the attractions of fellowship and trust and obedience and blessedness that were his birthright ever since God in infinite grace constructed the circle of religion around himself.
Furthermore, being out of harmony with God, man, as a sinner, has lost the rhythm of his own spiritual life; he is full of discords and inner conflicts, law clashing with law and in consequence the deepest self falling a prey to these disruptive forces which attack it at its core. The very moment the prodigal leaves the Father's house he carries this fatal disorder within him, he is beside himself in principle, so that, when in bitter repentance he begins to realize his desperate condition, this is described as a "coming to himself."
The Lost Brought
This, then, in the first place is "being lost," and to this in the first place addresses itself the task of the Son of Man. Hence its first part must of necessity be a "seeking" of the sinner. And the "seeking" must be such an act as will be able to undo the "being lost." We should, therefore, take a far too superficial view of it, were we to confine it to the bare effort at approach, or perhaps even to the search for locating the sinner, as the figure, taken by itself, might tempt us to do. No, the finding is not the mere discovery, it is the actual bringing back to God, something by which the sinner is restored to the blessed reality of what God is to him and he is to God: "And when he came to himself he said, I will arise and go to my Father" (Lk. 15:18).
Are we not made to feel by this, that not first in the saving but already in the finding begins the uniqueness of the Savior's work, that which differentiates it from any finding that we can do, however glorious the latter may be in itself. For, after all, our finding of a man can be only preparatory to his becoming partaker of salvation. In the case of Christ it is identical with the saving act itself. Yea already the seeking is a part of the finding, because with unfailing certainty and directness the feet and the arms of the Savior move to the point where the saving embrace is accomplished. In the last analysis the difference between this and our part appears due to the difference between Christ as God and ourselves as mere human instrumentalities. To be found by Jesus is to be saved for the simple reason that in his Person God himself restores the lost contact, gathers up the cords of life into his own bosom, and throws about us the circle of his divine beatitude, so that our soul, like a star in its native course, once more moves around him, and knows no other law or center. So far as Christ was a preacher he preached with the voice of God, and in his message salvation was not merely potential but incarnate. He silently takes this for granted in his whole treatment of sinners, when he deals with them sovereignly in the supreme issues of life and death. In a word he saves as God saves.
On this ground, and on this ground only, can we understand why so seldom in the matter of salvation he points beyond himself to God, but constantly places his own Person in the center of the sinner's field of vision, so as to focus belief and trust and hope and surrender and attachment in himself. Consequently it is true not only in the abstractly logical, but in the most realistic, one might almost say in the local sense, that where Jesus is, there is salvation, and away from him there is none. As he rebuked the disciples in the storm because they forgot this fact, and feared that with him on board they still might perish, even so he requires of us that in every tempest of life we shall be tranquil because our ship carries him. Was it not so in this very case of Zacchaeus? Because he had entered, salvation in him and through him had entered into the publican's house.
Lost—Given Over to Destruction
Salvation, however, according to our Lord's teaching, is not exhausted by restoring the sinner to a sense of the realities of his appurtenance to God. There is another equally indispensable side to it. What this is we may learn by considering the second element that enters into the state of "being lost." "To be lost" is more than to be missing to God. It has also the passive, even more terrible sense of "being ruined," "given up to destruction." The former sense remains within the sphere of the negative; it describes what is absent from the sinner's state; this other sense is positive, denoting the presence of something dreadful there.
If our Lord's discourse dwells chiefly, and with a noticeable predilection, on the first aspect of the matter, this is perhaps due to the vividness with which by very reason of the concrete, detailed picture of what is wanting, the glorious realities of religion are brought out. The rule that we do not clearly visualize a thing until through its departure and its consequent failure to function it recalls its image to our mind, is here put to practical use. Strange to say, the face of religion appears in our Lord's teaching most clearly in the form of a description of its opposite. "In my father's house there is bread enough and to spare, while I perish with hunger" (Lk. 15:17)—what glowing words could have more powerfully expressed the blessedness of spiritual satisfaction near the heart of God than this pitiful cry of want!
There is a lesson for us in this. We shall never succeed in impressing men, untouched by grace, with the riches and glory of religion, until we learn from Jesus to hold up to them the mirror of their sin and destitution. To say that there is no experience of redemption without the knowledge of sin sounds like a truism; perhaps it will appear less so if we go one step farther and add, that there is, as things are, no proper, no deep knowledge either of religion or of redemption than through the sorrowful journey into the far country of famine and husks.
But, while for this obvious reason the greater part of Jesus' teaching on the lost is concerned with the first aspect of their state, it would be wrong to infer that the other side only slightly or perfunctorily figured in his mind. The contrary is true. The subject possessed for him such a fearful reality, that, except on the most solemn and imperative occasions, he hesitated to contemplate or draw it into the glare of open speech. It is nonetheless there with the ominous darkness of untold, nay unspeakable things spread over it like a semi-opaque curtain. To be sure, it is something future, but this only deepens the gloom that covers it. It is born of the womb of the judgment. "Broad is the way that leads to perdition" and the lost are those walking on it. Only this should not be taken to mean that the loss contemplated is purely future. It overhangs and envelops the sinner even in this life. As the narrow path to the city of God, notwithstanding its straightness, is already bordered with some of the flowers and fruits of paradise, so the highway to the land of destruction, in spite of its seeming delights, has long stretches of shadow from the storm-cloud that is seen to thicken at the end. Even in this ultimate, more perilous, sense it is not sufficient to say that the sinner will suffer loss in the last day; according to the conception of Jesus he in principle is already lost. We feel something of the awful import conveyed, when in his high-priestly prayer the Savior declares: "Holy Father, I kept them in thy name which Thou hast given me; and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of perdition" (Jn. 17:11,12). For, although Judas' sin in degree was altogether beyond comparison, it was not in substance different from each sin of every one of us. Except for the intervention of God no one has ever turned back on the broad way to perdition. Herein verily is seen the uttermost divine grace, that Christ seeks and saves from the plight of that despair. If our eyes delight to see him as the friendly Shepherd on the trail of the lost sheep, let us not turn our looks away from him in this more solemn occupation of rescuing the lost from the judgment. Yea, let us see him in the darkness of the cross. For this part of the saving also takes place in no other way than the more gentle one we have already considered. Here too he not merely
announces or promises the salvation, but carries it in his own Person. He is the impersonation of the God who pronounces the judgment and of the God who sovereignly takes it away, the one who bears our curse, and, while bearing it, speaks peace to our souls. For this cause he came to the cross that he might be able to act for God in this solemn, anticipated judgment through which every sinner passes. When he speaks of sin and pardon and escape, the voice is the voice of God and the arms stretched underneath us are the everlasting arms of the Almighty himself.
That Which Was Lost
There is one other point on which we must briefly touch before closing. The text represents the object of the saving in the impersonal form as "that which was lost." The impersonal form of expression carries with it a generalizing effect. It amounts practically to "whatsoever is lost." The motive in our Lord's mind for this is not difficult to discover. A murmuring populace had excluded the class of publicans from the sphere that was worthy of his attention. To this Jesus replies with the emphatic declaration that all that is lost falls under the legitimate scope of his task, that, since the very fact of salvation is evoked by there being lost ones, no exception can be allowed from its grace on the mere ground that the object appears lost. Within the realm of sin distinctions between class and class or degree and degree of sinners become obliterated. In comparison with the one tremendous fact of sin as such they dwindle into insignificance, or if there is any differentiation observable it assumes rather the opposite, paradoxical form of those taking the precedence, in whom, by reason of excessive sinfulness and most poignant sense of guilt, salvation's opportunity for magnifying itself is increased. The harlots and publicans enter first into the kingdom of God. But we should surely misinterpret this if we took it to mean that Jesus, after precisely the same fashion, seeks and saves each single one that is lost. Grace knows no jealousy except for the honor of God. With wide generousness, such as only a renewal of heart can give, it yearns and prays for the ingathering of many. Nonetheless, when as saved sinners
we place ourselves individually before God, who would not feel it as a denial of salvation itself to forget that pointedly and with a special mysterious determination the search, which in its issue placed him among the saved, was instituted and pursued for him on the part of God and Christ?
Let us not from hyper-altruistic squeamishness allow ourselves to gloss this over, for, besides withholding from God the glory which is his due in it, we should lose for ourselves the most precious portion of God's saving grace. It is not as if Christ at random wandered through this world on the chance of finding some one upon whom to exercise his power of salvation. With reference to each one of the children of God there was with him from the beginning a unique compassion, a personalized love, and in result of this a singleness and determination of purpose that imparted to his seeking of the least one of us the glory of a private inclusion in the intimate circle of God's saved ones. Of such seeking Jesus was conscious, and with all the wideness of his compassionate heart, which no world of sinners could overcrowd, he was not ashamed to acknowledge the gracious privileges and distinctions that pertained to the Lord's people or to any individual child of God. On this very occasion, he gave expression to them in the words: "Inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham," words which trace back the blessed issue of Zacchaeus' encounter with Jesus to the covenantal promise made ages before to the patriarch, and ultimately to the sovereign election of which this promise was the outcome. It is with this as it is with the Pauline statement: no more than one can say, "Who loved me and gave himself for me," is it possible to say, Who sought me and saved me, except by a profound faith in the elective purpose as the ultimate cause of the personal inheritance of salvation.
Now what in conclusion are the lessons that we, seekers of the salvation of others, ought to draw from this episode in our Lord's life? They are chiefly two, and I shall indicate them with the briefest of words. The first relates to the specialized character we as servants of
Christ ought to make our work to bear. If his procedure is normative for us—and who would deny this?—then all our seeking and saving, that is, all our religious endeavor, ought to carry the image and superscription of Christ's. And here the salient point is undoubtedly this, that the purpose, the goal of seeking and saving were for our Lord pronouncedly religious. Seeking and saving meant for him, before aught else, seeking and saving for God. It had no humanitarian or world-improving purpose apart from this. It began with the thought of God and ended there. For that he came. And at that we should aim. This conception will not narrow our work any more than it did his; it will only centralize it. Beginning there we shall find that everything else will follow that ought to follow.
Was it not so in the case of Zacchaeus? Once Jesus had entered his house with salvation, he could not help taking his stand as one morally and socially reconstructed before the crowd of detractors: "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold." Provided the precious nard of religion be poured into it, no vessel is unworthy. But, on the other hand, the finest flagon of the world, when bearing a false trademark, and under the guise of religion offering some inferior substitute, has no proper place in the service of Christ. It belongs to the hidden things of shame which Paul had discarded. No servant of Christ should touch it. And even though other things be not positively deceitful or harmful in themselves, our duty of bringing salvation is so transcendently important and exacting that the Christian minister cannot afford to lose time or energy over them.
The second lesson relates to what our specifically religious task of saving should centrally consist in. It may all be summed up in the simple formula, to bring Christ to men and men to Christ. It sounds simple, but is in reality a most difficult and most delicate task. No painter portraying face upon canvass ever used more exquisite art than is his who in preaching the gospel succeeds in so delineating the face of Christ as to make him look out with his immortal Savior-eyes straight and deep into the hearts of sinners. Let your one concern be
to bring the two together in the house where salvation is needed, and having led the Savior in, go thou out and shut the door silently behind thee. I tell you they shall not come out thence until salvation has done its perfect work.
Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, New Jersey
Meredith G. Kline
In Zechariah's first vision the messianic angel appeared as a warrior mounted on a red horse, present in the midst of God's people (the myrtles). Under his command stood a squadron of supernal agents (the flame-colored horses), ready to execute the judgment which the Lord threatened against the evil world-empire (the deep), usurper of dominion over mount Zion. Here was a predisclosure that when Christ was manifested, it would be to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), to cast Satan down from heaven to hell (Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:10; 20:10), and so fulfill the primeval decree that God's champion should crush the draconic head lifted up against the holy mount in Eden (Gen. 3:15).
This theme of the ultimate divine avenging of Zion against her enemies is taken up again in Zechariah's second vision (1:18-21 [2:1-4 in Hebrew]).l The hostile nations are symbolized here by four horns and the inflicters of divine judgment by four specialist workmen.
I. Assaulters of Zion
The interpreting angel describes the horn-nations as having lifted up the horn against Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem, scattering them so that they could no longer lift up the head (1:18,21[2:1,4]). This language confronts us again with prophetic idiom: the prophets employed the typological situation of their time to represent the antitypical realities of the coming messianic age. Through Zechariah, the Spirit of prophecy speaks beforehand of Christ's church (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12) under the form of the restored covenant community of Judah, centering in Jerusalem on the temple mount.2
The offense of the horn-nations consisted both in putting down the chosen folk and in exalting themselves against the Lord God. Translated into the terms of John's portrayal of the horned beast in the Apocalypse: they made war against the saints and they blasphemed the name of God (Rev. 13:6,7). We will analyze in turn these two dimensions of their assault on Zion.
A. Enmity Against the Saints: Though the symbol of the four horns appears to be polyvalent, contextual indications suggest that the primary image evoked is simply that of horns borne by animals. Conjured up by the aggressive lifting of the horns (v. 21[2:4]) is an attacking bull, lowering its head and then thrusting its lethal horns upward. The verb used in v. 21[2:4] for frightening away the horns (hrd) is elsewhere used for scaring off birds of prey, lions, and other animals (cf. e.g., Dent. 28:26; Nah. 2:12). Also, the horns are equated with imperial powers hostile to Israel and the metaphor of monstrous beasts, like the multiheaded leviathan, is often applied to such nations in Scripture (cf. e.g., Ps. 74:13,14; Isa. 27:1; Ezek. 29:3).
Comparison with similar symbolism in the book of Daniel confirms the primarily bestial nature of the image of the four horns. In Daniel 7 and 8 the horns of various animals figure conspicuously in the depiction of empires ascendant over the realm covenanted to David. Medo-Persia is symbolized in Daniel 8 by a ram with two horns and Greece by a goat, which begins as a unicorn, then has four horns,
one of which sprouts the little horn whose career of antagonism against Zion is an Old Testament adumbration of the final antichrist episode. Daniel 7 presents a series of four bizarre beasts, the last of which, the terrible destroyer whose career terminates in the final judgment, has ten horns plus an eleventh, the little horn that symbolizes the antichrist spirit and program throughout church history. Marking the connection between Zechariah's horn-nations and the nations represented by the horned animals in Daniel 7 is their common place of origin. It is from the great stormy deep that the four beasts of Daniel 7 emerge (vv. 2,3). And if we appreciate the relationship of the second vision to the first within the unity of Zechariah's opening triad, we will recognize that the spawning place of the four horn-nations of vision two is the deep, which symbolizes the hostile world in vision one.3
In the first instance then, the horns of Zechariah's second vision are to be seen as belonging to animals. Indeed, the animal motif apparently extends to the picturing of God's people, the victims of the horns' attack, as a flock, a favorite image later in Zechariah (cf. 9:16; 10:2,3; 11:3-17; 13:7). For zrh, the verb denoting the dispersing of Judah (vv. 19,21[2:2,4]), is used for the scattering of sheep (cf. Ps. 44:11; Jer. 31:10). It is noteworthy that the theme of the dispersed flock is found in Zech. 10:1-4, the section on the second side of the over-all diptych structure of the book that corresponds to the second vision on the first side.4 Moreover, the afflicters of the flock are there also animals, goats (10:3), and once again, as in vision two, the Lord in his anger against the animal-powers provides deliverance for his flock (10:3,4).
By itself the image of exalting the horn signifies simply the exertion of power and achievement of success or attainment of glory, while the cutting off and casting down of one's horn symbolizes defeat and impotence. An equivalent image is that of lifting up the head (bearer of the horns), with its opposite, being unable to lift up the head. Combining the two forms of the metaphor, Zechariah introduces into the meaning of lifting up the horns the specific connotation of
ferocity, hostility and tyranny by qualifying the action as an animal-like attack against Judah that devastated it and rendered it helpless. Such then was the offense of the horn-nations: their exaltation involved a malicious trampling of the covenant people into the ground. Coming up from the dark deep at the devil's instigation, the bestial horn-nations exhibited satanic enmity against the saints.
B. Blasphemy Against the Most High: Inasmuch as the bull-like assault of the nations was directed against Judah, the lifting up of their horns becomes an image of persecuting the godly. But to attack Judah is also to defy the heavenly Protector to whom Judah cried, "How long"? Indeed to march against Jerusalem-Zion (Zech. 1:19[2:2]) is to storm the very mountain stronghold where the holy Lord is enthroned. Hence, the act becomes one of blasphemy against the God of Zion, a lifting up of the horn (or head) in vainglorious challenge to the Most High, an Har-Magedon event.5
Psalm 74 emphasizes this blasphemous dimension of attacking the Lord's heritage. The situation is much like that in Zechariah's vision. God's people, pictured as his flock (vv. 1,2), appeal to him, the one who broke the heads of the leviathan monster (vv. 13,14), to raise them from the ruins wrought by their adversaries (v. 3), who are referred to as animals (vv. 4,19). They lament that the foes "burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name" (v. 7) and they plead, "How long will the enemy mock you, O God?" (v. 10). "Rise up O God, and defend your cause" (v. 22). And in Psalm 75 such defiance of the God of heaven is described by the horn metaphor: "To the arrogant I say, 'Boast no more,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horns. Do not lift your horns against heaven"' (vv. 4,5a [5,6a]).
In the animal-horn symbolism in the Danielic background of Zechariah's visions the blasphemy aspect is again prominent. The little horn of the goat in Daniel 8 (representing Antiochus Epiphanes) magnifies himself to the hosts of heaven, even to the prince of the host (vv. 10,11,24,25). And the little horn of the fourth beast in Daniel 7 (symbol of the antichrist power in the church age, including the final
Har-Magedon) has facial features, eyes and mouth—it is a combined horn-head, and it is lifted up in defiance of heaven, for the mouth spoke great words against the Most High (vv. 8,20,25).
Within Zechariah's second vision itself the titanic, heaven challenging stance of the nations comes to expression in a second image of lifting up the head-horn, an image evoked by the symbol of the four horns that is different from the one so far considered. In this image the horns no longer rise from the heads or backs of beasts but project upwards from the corners of an altar. This altar image urges itself upon us compellingly for it is the four-horned altar that is usually in view when four horns are mentioned in the Bible (cf. e.g., Exod. 27:2; 30:2; 1 Kgs. 1:50). It accounts at once for the number four. If the symbol is interpreted simply as animal horns, the four can indeed be readily understood as signifying universality, as in the case of the four winds of heaven (Zech. 2:6) or the four chariot-spirits of heaven (Zech. 6:5). But the design of the altar provides a more immediate, concrete explanation of the number four. Also, while we have observed that certain details of the second vision are congruous in an animal scenario, the identification of God's counteragents against the horns as harashim points naturally (though not necessarily) to a fabricated object like an altar, since that term is most often used for craftsmen of some sort.6 Moreover, as we shall be discussing at length, the four-horned altar structure constituted a lifting up of the head, the action attributed to the horns in Zechariah's second vision. Interpreters need not choose between the two meanings of the four-horn symbolism. We may simply recognize that certain overtones are added to the basic animal-horn significance of this polyvalent metaphor by the import of the specific image of four animal horns crowning an altar.
Exploration of the symbolism of lifting up the head (horns) leads along a fascinating trail of altars and idols and ziggurats and mountains.7 We start by returning to the roots of Zechariah in the book of Daniel, focusing now on the vision of the world kingdom in the form of the colossus in Daniel 2. Here was a lifting up of the head,
the head of gold at the top of the image, representing Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon in the land of Shinar (vv. 37,38). Manifestations abound of the idolatrous spirit of this head of gold, exalting itself against the Lord God. Daniel 1:2 records that Nebuchadnezzar had carried off to Babylon the captives of Judah and treasures and furnishings of the house of God, which he relocated in the temple of his god. Daniel 3 tells of the gigantic golden idol, with dimensions according to the number of man, whose worship the royal beast and his false prophets demanded. Daniel 4 describes the self-glorying of Nebuchadnezzar as alpha and omega of the Babylonian kingdom (vv. 29,30) and portrays the king as a cosmic tree with its top reaching unto heaven (vv. 11,20). Daniel 5 narrates the judgment on Belshazzar for lifting himself up against the Lord of heaven and promoting the praise of idols (v. 23).
This was a revival of the lifting up of the head (horns) that occurred at Babylon's beginnings in the land of Shinar (Gen. 11:1-9; cf. Dan. 1:2; Zech. 5:11). Acutely aware of the loss of the original Har-Magedon, the mountain of God in Eden, the cultic focus that gave coherence to the mandated kingdom fulness,8 the ancient Babelites tried to regain humanity's lost ecumenicity by themselves erecting a cosmic mountain focus in the form of a tower that reached unto heaven.9 The ideology of the Babel enterprise is illuminated by Mesopotamian mythology. The Enuma Elish epic10 attributes the origins of Babylon to the gods at the founding of the world order. In honor of Marduk, their champion, they constructed his temple with its tiered tower, named Esagila. That name is of special interest to our present investigations for it means "the house of the lifting up of the head." Punning on that name, the text says that after a year of making the bricks for it (cf. Gen. 11:3) "they raised the head of Esagila on high" (Enuma Elish, VI, 62). Also of particular interest for our immediate purposes, the text notes that once Marduk was enthroned there, "they looked up to its horns" (Enuma Elish, VI, 66). The temple tower was crowned with horns. Similarly, ziggurats as later depicted in inscription and bas-relief have horns on the summit. Symbolized by such a crown of horns was the divine power and glory
of the resident deities. Elsewhere in iconographic representations of gods they appear with headpieces composed of paired horns, some with four or more horns. One wonders whether such multitiered crowns tapering toward the top imitate ziggurat form. Certainly, like the horns on the ziggurat, they symbolize divine might and majesty, the ultimate lifting up of the head.
Viewed as a whole, a ziggurat represented a mountain. The term11 was used for the summit of a mountain as well as a staged tower. Individual ziggurats had names that identified them more specifically as the cosmic mountain, the axis or access between earth and heaven: house of the mountain, house of the mountain of the universe, house of the link between heaven and earth, and (so the ziggurat at Babylon) house of the foundation of heaven and earth.l2 Ziggurats were then gigantic models of a terraced mountain, the mountain of the gods. By their tiered form with staircase ascents they were intended to serve as a way of ascent and descent between earth and heaven for men and deities. To aspire to fellowship with the living God, to seek access to him in worship and communion, is to appreciate the summum bonum of human existence. In the beginning the Creator provided for such sacramental divine presence and human approach in the mountain of God in Eden and after the Fall he restores this redemptively (cf. Jacob's staircase to heaven, Sinai, and Zion). But the Babel-tower tradition did not express a longing of the soul for the living and true God and his heaven. It was rather a rebellious attempt of fallen mankind, rejecting in unbelief God's redemptive offer of restoration, to regain heaven by human works. As a substitute for true religion it was an idolatrous venture, an antichrist affront to true Har-Magedon. It was from Nimrod to Nebuchadnezzar13 a lifting up of the head-horns against the Lord God.
The roots of Zechariah's symbolism in Daniel reach back to Babel, and this Daniel-Babel source lends support to our seeing an allusion to an altar in the image of the four horns. For there are strong points of correspondence between the altar and the templetower or ziggurat-mountain phenomenon that looms so large in this
Daniel-Babel tradition drawn on by Zechariah.
Most obvious is the fact that the altar in Israel's cult and the ziggurats are alike in being capped by four horns, bronze in each case, which are symbolic of divine power. This correspondence has prompted the inverse identification of the ziggurats as colossal altars.
Secondly, there is evidence that the altar form was a stylized stepped mountain. Thus, in Ezekiel's prophetic description of the antitypical restoration of the temple on the top of the mountain, the altar is depicted as a tiered structure, the topmost stage having four horn projections (43:13-17). Besides this ziggurat shape of the altar, certain terms in Ezekiel's description are evocative of the mountainous nature of ziggurats; namely, "the bosom of the earth" (with reference to the bottom of the altar) and "mountain of God" (with particular reference to the top with its four horns), if that is the proper understanding of har'el and 'ari'el.
This mountain motif is also associated with the particular four-horned altar alluded to in Zechariah's second vision, which is, of course, not God's altar but rather one that symbolizes the lifting up of the head by the hostile world power. For Zechariah employs the image of a mountain for that imperial opposition to the restoration of God's temple (Zech. 4:7; cf. 6:2), identifying it, moreover, in Genesis 11 terms with the land of Shinar (5:11). We shall also see that the fate of the four horns in Zechariah's vision is reminiscent of that of Babel's mountain-tower.
The Daniel-Babel connection of Zechariah is clear and it confirms the reference of the symbol of the four horns to an altar, in this case an altar erected by the pagan powers. Illuminated by the Daniel-Babel data, Zechariah's symbolism is seen to capture the ideological essence of the beast-kingdom in its antichrist, self-deifying defiance of the Lord's Anointed who reigns on the true Har-Magedon. It was a lifting up of the horn-head in enmity against God's people and in blasphemous idolatry against God himself.
II. Agents of Vengeance
According to Jeremiah's reading of the situation, the horn-nations had interpreted perversely their defeat of the covenant people and their dominion over them. Exploiting the fact that Israel and Judah deserved the punishment of exile because they had violated the Lord's covenant, the captor-nations declared themselves innocent, the instruments of divine justice (Jer. 50:7). Yet in their hearts they were maliciously glad that the Lord's heritage was destroyed (Jer. 50:11). For this evil God would send destroyers and spoilers against them (Jer. 50:2ff., 9f., 12ff.). In Psalm 75 God declares concerning those who lifted up their horns against heaven (v. 5): "I will cut off the horns of all the wicked" (v. 10).
A. Dragon Slayers: At his disposal the Lord had counteragents to dispatch against the smugly triumphant horn-nations (cf. Zech. 1:15). Zechariah saw them coming forth in the form of four harashim. As previously noted, these are craftsmen with various specialties, often smiths or carpenters. But here they are specialists in dealing with horns, experts in executing judgment—like those called "skillful to destroy" (lit. "craftsmen of destruction"), into whose hands the Lord threatened to deliver the Ammonites (Ezek. 21:31).
The theme of expert artisans in the service of gods is attested in ancient mythology. For example, in the Ugaritic epics, Kothar-and-Hasis (Skilled and Cunning) is the divine craftsman who fashioned two clubs by which Baal overcame adversary Yamm (Sea) and to whose workshop messengers were sent when a house was to be constructed for the victorious deity.
Likewise in the Bible, when God is creating his royal cosmic house, his own divine wisdom is portrayed as the expert builder who designs and superintends the construction (Prov. 8:22ff.). And when, following the Lord's triumph over the leviathan sea-dragon of Egypt, the tabernacle is being erected as a replica of his creation-palace, God's Spirit qualifies Bezalel and Oholiab as experts in all kinds of craftsmanship for the enterprise.14 But talents for destruction as well
as construction are imparted by the Lord. The psalmist says God had trained his hands for battle (Ps. 18:34) and the judges were gifted by the Spirit to be superheroes, experts at driving the oppressors of Israel from the land (cf. Heb. 11:32-34). Zechariah himself prophesies how God will turn his scorned people into mighty warriors who will trample their enemies (10:5), the feeble becoming like David in battle (12:8).
Other reminders are found in Zechariah that the resources for vengeance and deliverance must and do come from the Lord. In the final night vision it is from the two mountains of brass, the Zion command-post of the Glory-Spirit, that the four chariots advance towards all points of the compass with judgment against the nations (6:1,5). Zechariah 10:1-4 (the section of the "burdens" that parallels the second vision) directs the flock unto the Lord as the source from whom comes corner, peg, battlebow, and leadership for the battle against the foe. From his limitless resources he supplies forces competent to meet and match the enemy and prevail. If there are four horn powers lifted up, there are four counteragents sent, expert at terrifying and casting down (1:21[2:4]). If Babylon lifts up her head (horn) to heaven, yet from the Lord shall come spoilers with judgment that reaches unto heaven (see Jer. 51:9,53).
God's judgments feature the total reversal, the bringing low of what was high—as prelude to lifting the lowly up on high. Dramatic instances are contained in the Daniel-Babel background of Zechariah's imagery of lifting up the head (horns). As a result of the descent of the divine Angel and his angelic troops, the Babel project was turned upside down. Instead of the ecumenical coherence they coveted they were cursed with linguistic bewilderment and an intensification of the fracturing and scattering of their society. Where Esagila had raised its head majestically on high, only truncated ruins remained. Likewise in Daniel 2, the impressive colossus with head of gold lifted up in pride to heaven, being smitten by the messianic stone from the mountain, collapsed into dust and disappeared, dispersed by the winds of God. And in Daniel 4, the cosmic tree grown unto heaven, image of
Nebuchadnezzar's greatness, was felled at the command of the holy watchers come down from heaven (vv. 14,22,23; cf. Gen. 11:5,7; 18:21). God's visitation reduced deified human glory to bestial grovelling. Total reversal.
The actions of God's experts in Zechariah's second vision radically reversed the condition of the horn-nations in two respects. As reported by the surveillance troop those nations were at rest, arrogantly secure (Zech. 1:11,15), but the coming of God's avengers filled them with alarm and scattered them in a panic of terror.15 Second, the heavenly agents cast down the horns that had been raised high against the residents of Zion, and against its divine Resident. Though the verb for "cast down" is not well attested16 and various emendations have been suggested, the immediate context and the sources behind this vision call for the idea of bringing low the lofty and accordingly most of the suggested textual changes involve verbs for cutting down and the like. Jeremiah uses this image: "the horn of Moab is cut off" (Jer. 48:25). A more complete parallel is the Lord's threat through Amos: "On the day I visit the altars of Bethel with judgment, the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground" (3:14). This motif of reversing the enemy's dominant status reappears repeatedly in Zechariah. Instances within the visions are 2:9(13), where Babylon, spoiler of Zion, becomes a spoil to its former victims, and 4:7, where the great mountain of the hostile world lifted up to heaven is levelled into a plain.
The horn-nations missed the message that Israel's destruction held for them: "Behold, I begin to work evil at the city which is called by my name; and will you go utterly unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I will summon a sword upon the inhabitants of the earth, declares Yahweh of hosts" (Jer. 25:29; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). In the design of the ages, Israel under its covenant of works brought into focus the picture of all mankind in Adam under the original covenant of works. Let the nations of the ungodly consider the fate of Israel and see in Jerusalem's desolation the divine vengeance that will inevitably overtake them all as covenant-breakers in Adam, except they repent.
Through their own role of inflicting divine judgment on Israel, God was warning the horn-nations of their own impending doom. Why the Mosaic economy? Why Israel? Part of the answer is that old covenant history, especially its termination in the destruction of Jerusalem, was calculated to sound an alarm in a world oblivious to the wrath to come, and so capture the attention of the Gentiles for the church's witness to Jesus Christ and the way of escape offered in the gospel. Let them know that the fall of Jerusalem is, typologically, the beginning of the end of the world. Let them be advised that the anointed prince who sent his armies and destroyed the holy city and temple (Dan. 9:26) is the one by whom God will judge the world in righteousness on the day he has appointed (Acts 17:30,31).
Zechariah's four experts at executing judgment (vision two) act as the agents of the messianic rider of the red horse (vision one). Their mission of casting down the horns symbolically portrays the mission of Christ as the great dragon slayer. He comes to destroy the devil, the monstrous red dragon having seven crowned heads and ten horns (Heb. 2:14,15; Rev. 12:3). Already Christ with his angel army has prevailed, driving the dragon out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-11) and binding him in the bottomless pit for a season (Rev. 20:1-3; cf. Luke 11:29; Isa. 49:24,25). And on the coming day of the Son of Man he will consummate his work of vengeance against the dragon and the beast-powers (they too with heads and horns lifted up against heaven and the saints), hurling them down into the sea of fire forever (Rev. 20:10; cf. 19:20).
B. Precursors of Zion's Glory: After the threat, "I will cut off the horns of all the wicked," Psalm 75 closes with the promise, "but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up" (v. 10). The great redemptive reversal goes beyond the destruction of the currently exalted world power. Daniel 2 does not stop with the collapse of the colossus. It goes on to tell how, after demolishing the great image, the small stone from mount Zion is transformed into an exceedingly great mountain, the eschatological Zion, a cosmic mountain with which earthly empires can no longer co-exist. Isaiah foretold the same: at the
end of the days, when the Lord has put an end to nations lifting up swords against nations, the mountain of the house of God will be established as the highest of all, the focus of global pilgrimage (2:2-4).
This sequel to the casting down of the horn-nations is not presented within Zechariah's second vision, but in vision three. There the rebuilding of Jerusalem on a universal scale is prophesied.17 Vision two presents the necessary precursor: the driving away of the nations occupying Israel's territory.
Like vision two, vision six (its parallel in the structural chiasm) focuses on the holy land and portrays the clearing away of the unclean (5:1-11), the prelude to the perfecting of God's holy reign (vision seven). Similarly, Zech. 13:2-9 (the corresponding passage to vision six in the "burdens") deals with the removal of impurity from the land preliminary to the inauguration of the eternal theocratic order (Zech. 14). The scope of vision five is broader; it presents not just the prelude judgment but the whole reversal pattern of heads cast down and heads lifted up. It declares that the lofty world-mountain's fate is to be flattened into a plain (4:7a), then immediately adds the victorious announcement that the messiah-figure (Zerubbabel) will bring forth the capstone in completion of God's house of glory (4:7b). Satan's Esagila-Olympus will fall and the true Har-Magedon of the Lord's Anointed will lift up its head. Messiah's hands lay the foundations of the temple and, after he overthrows the dragon, his hands finish the holy construction (4:10). Then the triumphant cry sounds at the gates of the holy city: "Lift up your heads that the king of glory may come in." Hail Zion's royal architect and artisan, its divine author and finisher!
The mission of the four expert exterminators is the first act in the parousia of the rider on the red horse, precursor of God's taking up his permanent dwelling in the midst of his people gathered out of all the nations into their restored heritage. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel, who shall suffer eternal destruction when he comes to be glorified in his
saints (cf. 2 Thess 1:7-10).
The saints praise God as the One who lifts up their head-horn. "My horn is exalted in the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:1). "You, O Lord . . . are the lifter up of my head" (Ps. 3:3). "You [O Lord] have lifted up my horn like that of the wild ox" (Ps. 92:10).
God is also praised as the one who exalts the horn of the Messiah. ''[The Lord] will give strength to his king; he will lift up the horn of his anointed" (1 Sam. 2:10; cf. Pss. 89:17,18[18,19]; 148:14). Psalm 110 celebrates this eschatological event. It is Messiah's head that is exalted in victory (v. 7b), whether we understand the subject of the action to be Yahweh, swearer of the oath (vv. 1,4) or Messiah himself, David's Lord (v. 1), recipient of the sworn appointment as priest-king forever. And either way it is the Lord who lifts up the head. This psalm displays the full pattern of the great reversal, for the Lord's striking down heads in his wrath against the nations (v. 6) is the precursor to the lifting up of his own head in glory (v. 7).
Referring to Jesus, Zechariah (father of John) blesses God because "he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (Luke 1:68,69). Christ Jesus is the lifting up of the head-horn; it is in him, its head, that the church's horn is exalted. He is the original that was counterfeited in Babel's Esagila ziggurat (cf. Deut. 30:12,13; Rom. 10:6,7). He is the true mountain stairway to God and gate of heaven (cf. Gen. 28:12-17; John 1:51), the true altar and tabernacle, the true and only way to the heavenly Father. Jesus is the head lifted up. For God "raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:20-23).
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
Seminary in California,
* The present literary-theological reflections on Zechariah's night visions resume previous studies presented in Kerux 5:2 (Sept. 1990), pp. 2-20; 5:3 (Dec. 1990), pp. 9-28; 6:1 (May 1991). pp. 16-31: and 6:2 (Sept. 1991), pp. 23-42.
1. The third vision (2:1-13[5-17]) resumes the other theme found in the closing oracle of vision one, namely, the restoration and perfecting of God's kingdom under the new covenant.
2. The additional term "Israel" in v. 19[2:2] may identify post-exilic Judah as the continuation of the ancient nation of God. Otherwise, it broadens the historical range of the typological allusion to include the subjugation of the northern kingdom.
3. See Kerux 5:2 (Sept. 1990), p. 18 for comments on this imagery of a beast-kingdom arising out of the sea in Revelation 13. There, the marine source of the seven-headed, ten-horned draconic composite of Daniel's beasts signifies that it is a product of Satan's counterfeit creation efforts. In that same article other correspondences were noted between Daniel and Zechariah. A cluster of parallels between Daniel and the context of Zechariah's vision of the horns is discussed by Paul A. Porter (Metaphors and Monsters: A Literary-Critical Study of Daniel 7 and 8 [Lund, 1983], pp. 65-66), but he misdates, reversing the relationship between the prior Daniel and later Zechariah.
4. The correspondences noted here corroborate the analysis given in my "The Structure of the Book of Zechariah." JETS 34:2 (June 1991), p. 191.
5. Perhaps there is a deliberate ambiguity in the use of 'el (1:21[2:4]), which can mean "unto a limit" as well as "against", thus allowing the idea that the upward thrust of the horn-nations was unto the mountainous heights of Judah, and even up to Zion's peak.
6. R. M. Good ("Zechariah's Second Night Vision [Zech. 2:1-4]", Biblica 63:1 , pp. 56-59) grants that the altar belongs to the implicative field of the four-horns metaphor, but perceiving the
bucolic setting as primary, he interprets harashim (on the basis of a different parsing) as ploughman, who chase the horned animals back to their folds (lydwt being treated as preposition plus plural of yad, used for animal folds). He is obliged, however, to reject as a mistaken interpretive gloss all the rest of v. 21[2:4] after lydwt.
7. A mere sketch of all this as I presently perceive it must do, with acknowledgment of the lack of consensus on many a detail.
8. Cf. Kerux 5:3 (Dec. 1990), p. 20; 6:2 (Sept. 1991), pp. 32,35-36.
9. The continuity of the Daniel 2 and Genesis 11 situations is further evidenced in the coherence ideal by which the kingdoms are evaluated in Daniel 2.
10. Cf. Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of the Creation (University of Chicago, 1951). On ziggurats, cf. Andre Parrot, The Tower of Babel (Philosophical Library, 1955).
11. It comes from zaqaru, "be high", "raised up".
12. Agreeably, the Babylonian-Sumerian name of the city meant "gate of god".
13. Accenting the revival of Babel in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar is Jeremiah's identification of Babylon in ziggurat mountain terms as a "destroying mountain" that "mounts up to heaven" (51:25,53).
14. See Exod. 35:30ff. Cf. my The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids, 1975), pp. 86-87. The tabernacle belongs with the altar and ziggurat in the series of reproductions of the cosmic mountain of God. It was a portable Sinai, with the three vertical zones of base, mid-mountain, and summit (accessible respectively to the people, elders-priests, and Moses [cf. Exod. 24:1,2]) laid horizontal (with court open to the people, holy place to the priests, and holy of holies to the high priest). Cf. my Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids, 1980), pp. 37-41. Noah's ark is another mountain-house of God structure with the vertical sectioning of the latter replicated in the three-story design of this cosmic house. Cf. my Kingdom Prologue (S. Hamilton, 1991),
15. See comments above on the use of hrd for scaring away predatory animals.
16. In Lam. 3:53 it is used for casting down stones from above on Jeremiah in the pit below.
17. See comments in the introduction on the unity of the first three visions. Perhaps harash with its common meaning "craftsman" was selected for the agents of judgment in vision two in anticipation of the imagery of the measurer-builder in vision three.
The Structure of
The Present State of the Question
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Two years ago, we featured a highly complimentary review of a book which charted the structure of John's gospel in a new and refreshing manner. George Mlakuzhyil's The Christocentric Literary Structure of the Fourth Gospel was described as a book with which to be reckoned (cf. Kerux 5:1 [May 1990]: 47-50).
The responses are now beginning to appear. Last summer, the Scandanavian journal, Studia Theologia, featured a major critique of Mlakuzhyil by Gunnar Ostenstad entitled "The Structure of the Fourth Gospel: Can it be Defined Objectively?" (Vol. 45 : 33-55). While acknowledging the brilliant contribution of Mlakuzhyil, Ostenstad launches major criticisms of the work. His is the first significant interaction with the Indian scholar (to my knowledge), but
it will not be the last (in my opinion). Ostenstad has recognized that Mlakuzhyil's book is so important that it will serve as the point of reference for all future work on the fourth gospel. His critique is a tribute to the fact that Mlakuzhyil's fundamental thesis of a Christocentric literary structure pervading John's gospel cannot be ignored.
Fallout from this research will be refreshingly new approaches to this gospel which soars like the eagle (as the early church fathers were wont to portray the gospel of the Beloved Disciple). New commentaries will incorporate Mlakuzhyil's insights; Bible study materials will be different; and the preaching of this marvellous gospel will be revitalized in the hearing of those congregations whose pastors have "eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to understand." In all candor, it must now be said—any work (or even preaching) on the fourth gospel which fails to take account of Mlakuzhyil's work is irresponsible. Preachers of the word neglect this volume to the impoverishment of their flocks.
Ostenstad's positive evaluation of Mlakuzhyil's book leads him to several very "conservative" conclusions about the gospel. First, the unity of the gospel is staunchly defended on the grounds of its structural integrity. This means that from Prologue (Jn. 1:1-18) to Epilogue (21:25, according to Ostenstad), the gospel is a unified whole. Form critical and redaction critical analysis of the fourth gospel is dead! Passe! Hopelessly pedestrian and old fashioned! While we do not suppose that these advocates of liberal, higher critical methods will blithely roll over and play dead, we nonetheless predict that it will take nothing less than a critical resurrection from the dead to rekindle the old Bultmannian (form critical) and redaction critical (J. Louis Martyn) approaches. Even the recent 599 page volume by John Ashton, Understanding The Fourth Gospel (Oxford), is hopelessly out of step with these newer, more modern methods. Ashton continues to look to Germany and Rudolf Bultmann for his interpretation. Has no one told him, Bultmann is dead!! Nor does the Biblical world look any longer to Germany to dominate scholarly research. Like the Berlin
Wall, the German critical citadel is crumbling. Newer structural approaches are indirectly apologetic of a traditional (conservative) consensus: the fourth gospel is a unity, not a form critical patch-work of disparate community theologies (i.e., disciples of John the Baptist versus disciples of Jesus). Nor is it a hodge-podge of editors/redactors modifying and inserting their peculiar "Johannine" theologies into the gospel.
This modern shift in biblical studies debuted in the early 1980s. The monopoly of the historical-critical method eroded with a wave of new literary approaches: narrative criticism; rhetorical criticism (actually, older than the 80s); reader-response criticism. While still rooted in modern subjectivism and post-Enlightenment epistemology, these new methods were committed to exploring the text of Scripture as we have it (synchronic methodology), not attempting to reconstruct it from some hoary mythological past (diachronic methodology).
With respect to the gospel of John, contemporary scholars are saying (what conservatives have long said, but without the same penetration and acute literary-theological analysis) that the pericopes of John's gospel are coherent as they stand. Are we approaching a consensus re the structure and literary integrity of the fourth gospel? Ostenstad's dialogue with Mlakuzhyil is certainly a contribution towards that end.
Second, this unified composition is the work of the "Evangelist" whom Ostenstad dares to associate with John, the son of Zebedee. This stunning conclusion is undergirded by a careful analysis of structural patterns which reflect on the "Beloved Disciple." Describing him as a literary artist of the highest caliber, Ostenstad defends the well-conceived plan for his gospel as a work of consummate literary genius. Ostenstad dismisses reductional theories as "dubious," while noting that the patterns discovered in the gospel must be attributed to the design of the author. While qualifying slightly his endorsement of the son of Zebedee (cf. p. 52), he nonetheless unqualifiedly regards the gospel as the work of an "eyewitness."
Finally, theological consensus and unity is traced throughout the gospel in a magnificent pattern of backward and forward cross references. Ostenstad's indubitable contribution here is to focus the gospel Christologically upon the Bearer of Light and Life to the cosmos—i.e., the Logos/Word, Son of God, Messiah—he who is One with the Father. Taking Jn. 8:12-12:50 as the central section of the gospel, Ostenstad argues that the remainder of the book is oriented concentrically around this central section. Part One consists of 1:19-2:25; Part Two, 3:1-4:54; Part Three, 5:1-7:52. Part Four is the Central Section (8:12-12:50). Part Five spans 13:1-17:26; Part Six is the Johannine Passion Narrative, 18:1-19:42; Part Seven includes 20:1-21:24. The whole is flanked by the Prologue (1:1-18) and the Epilogue (21:25).
Ostenstad as well as Mlakuzhyil enable us to see the gospel as an organic whole, unfolding according to a carefully conceived literary and theological design. The incarnation of the Logos is not only retrospectively oriented towards the previous promises of the history of redemption; his incarnation is the narrative of Christological revelation in the fulness of time. From the call of his disciples in Part One (1:19-2:15) to the commissioning of those disciples after the resurrection (Part Seven, 20:1-21:24), this gospel displays "witness" in relation to the Witness to the Father. From the discourse with Nicodemus about water and the spirit (as well as the "living water" discourses with the woman at the well, Part Three, 3:1-4:54) to the Passion narrative in Part Six in which "water and blood" pour from the side of the lifted-up Savior-Messiah (19:34), rebirth through the fluids of the new age in Christ ("blood," "water") is the means of transition through which the Son of God himself enters into his glory (and his sons and daughters with him). From the Bread of Life discourse and the conflict with the Jews at the Feast of Tabernacles (Part Three, 5:1-7:52) to the Lord's Supper and so-called High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (Part Five, 13:1-17:26), feeding or feasting upon the Son of Man is represented in such a way as to be the focal mediation of his precious life. The Central Section (Part Four, 8:12-12:50) brings together light and dark motifs. Light for the blind; blind darkness for
the Pharisees (9). Life-light for the dead (Lazarus); death-darkness for the Jews (12). In between, the light-bringing shepherd contrasts with the death-bringing thieves and hirelings (10).
The structural analyses offered by Ostenstad and Mlakuzhyil converge in one central point. The heart of John's gospel is Jesus Christ, the very Son of the living God. Precisely this point makes the intricate structural analyses relevant to the task of the preacher. If we find Jesus at the center of every text of Scripture, it is because "our Lord and our God" is the very heartbeat of "all Scripture." Every text reveals Jesus Christ to us, and any preacher who thinks otherwise has made the Scriptures of "none effect." We may have all the preacher agendas we wish—church growth, health and wealth, save America, theonomy, cross-cultural relevance—it is all wood, hay and stubble if Christ is not the verbally explicit center and focus of our preaching. Ostenstad and Mlakuzhyil will not allow us to escape from the centrality of Christ in the fourth gospel. The structure centers on Christ; the literary movement centers on Christ; the theological development is Christocentric. Indeed the very barometer of preaching this gospel from every text in it may be measured by—did the preacher preach Christ as the center of his message?!
Dear readers, the Christians to whom John originally penned this magnificent gospel were in a world of religious/cultic growth, health and wealth, save the republic (or the empire), absolutization of Roman law, multi-national and multi-cultural hegemony. They did not go to church to hear more of these things; nor did they go to church to hear the pastor incorporate these things into his message. Those first readers (and hearers) of John's gospel were hungry and thirsty for Christ—their spiritual meat and drink. They were darkness seeking the Light of the World. They were guilty, unworthy sinners in need of a Lamb to bear their transgressions. They eagerly read this gospel of the Christ, the Son of God, because he gave them what their world could not!
The precious privilege of the modern pulpit is to declare this same Jesus Christ to the people of God of the end of the age. Ostenstad and
Mlakuzhyil enable us to preach him—to direct our people to him from Prologue to Epilogue. But the dimension of our Savior's person and work is enriched—marvelously enriched—by these new literary approaches. We conservatives ought to be ecstatic, in the main, about these new methods. Our preaching may once again put flesh on this stirring gospel. Our words may now be bursts of rich and tender displays of the Jesus who stands in the temple as the eschatological Temple; of the Christ who heals the blind man because unseeing eyes in union with him see all things in the new light of his glory; of the Jesus who greets his disciples at the close of this gospel (even as he greeted them at its beginning) in order to dispel the enigma of his wondrous incarnation and resurrection. Ostenstad and Mlakuzhyil will not permit us to preach bare doctrinal sermons on John's gospel; will not allow us to reduce the fourth gospel to moralistic topics; will not tolerate any kind of reductionism to any preacher's private agenda. For every attempt to reduce this gospel to any other than Christ is a prostitution of the gospel.
Preachers are increasingly without excuse. If they do not preach Christ from the fourth gospel, it is because they will not preach Christ. If they will not preach Christ, it is because they do not regard him as the center of the preaching task. Stubborn, willful, moralistic preachers must read these works by Ostenstad and Mlakuzhyil—and repent! And then, by the grace of God, they must resolve to preach no other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in order that their people may believe on his name and have life—life more abundant than they have ever known—the life of the age to come, in the here and now. That is what it is to preach Christ!
Gerard Van Groningen. Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991, 1018 pp., $39.95 cloth. ISBN: 0-8010-9307-4.
If Geerhardus Vos and his followers are correct, then the Bible is an organic revelation composed of a myriad of threads, the unifying story of which is the eschatological deliverance of God's people through God's Messianic Son, in both Covenants. Eschatology, considered redemptive-historically, is not just forward looking (typological), but also vertical or upward looking.
In this view God's Word is not a collection of moral tales which can rightly be disconnected from one another and used interchangeably with Mother Goose. Instead, the eschatologically sensitive reader wants to be faithful to Jesus' admonition, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"
Thus, a Vos-influenced hermeneutic sees Christ on every page of Scripture—not complete disclosure, nor strained typology, but organically, exegetically and eschatologically. We believe that the same Holy Spirit who "carried along" the gospel writers also carried along Moses and the prophets. The Spirit who moved over the face of the deep, who guided his people in Exodus, knew from before the foundations of history what he wanted to accomplish through his servants the prophets, i.e., to reveal the second person of the Trinity as the message and fulfillment of Abel's sacrifice (See Acts 10:43; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20,21).
Here is where, perhaps, a Vos-influenced hermeneutic differs from Van Groningen's. I believe the Son of God, preincarnate and incarnate, is revealed directly and consistently in Messianic imagery throughout the Old Testament; e.g., calling Abraham's attention not just forward in history, but upward to the Son of God in the heavenlies. Moses was confronted with the Messianic Son, not just through "symbols" or "types" in his existence, but in face to face confrontation!
In seeking to illumine God's disclosure of the Messiah in the Old Covenant scriptures, Professor Gerard Van Groningen has written a very large book indeed!
Van Groningen begins with a judicious word study of the Hebrew verb Meshach with related forms and cognates. However, it might have been better to open with a broader theological introduction explaining the author's methodology, especially since it is extremely hazardous to presuppose a common understanding of the nature, method and presuppositions of Biblical-theological studies.
Since this is obviously intended to be a major work (of one thousand eighteen pages!), it would have been helpful if Van Groningen had given a brief explanation of where he places himself in
the Biblical-theological tradition. This would also have been an appropriate place to briefly sketch the ideas behind the redemptive-historical approach.
Given Van Groningen's obvious commitment to the redemptive-historical method, I think he should have taken a few pages to place his word study in a broader biblical context. What does the New Testament "do" to the concept? How does the New Testament's use of the concept affect Van Groningen's conclusions? Perhaps the professor's concern to let the Old Testament speak for itself influences him too much in this regard. In the next edition I suggest putting chapter two first. Presently, Van Groningen appears to be embarking on a thousand page word study!
The primary way in which most pastors will likely use this book is as a reference guide to approaching a certain portion of Scripture. To this end, Messianic Revelation has useful Scripture indexes and extensive bibliographies. But it lacks a topical index which would also be very useful, especially for biblical-theological-thematic studies.
Style, Presentation and Corrections
One of the weaknesses of much systematic and biblical theology is its lack of clarity and popularity. How many of us hand out unadulterated Vos to our congregants? This book is accessible and even enthusiastic. Though Van Groningen has an obvious grasp of the literature and uses extensive footnotes, he gives the reader a taste of the scholarly literature without losing him in a thicket of citations. For example, his footnotes on the introductory literature to the Psalms are first-rate.
Full of text-critical notes and transliterated Hebrew, this book will be best used as a reference for specific sections of the word of God. Used thus, the book will be especially helpful for the pastor who is preaching through a passage. The historical context for each section of Scripture considered is stated dearly and briefly.
In some ways, because of the scope of this book, the amount of
contextual, historical, sitz-im-leben information contained, it could serve as a supplement, or in some instances a replacement, to the standard Old Testament introductions.
The typeface is clear and pleasant. The binding is strong, but the cover design is ugly. For future editions it would be well to see the author interact briefly with the "Bible as literature" school. How does the literature of Scripture contribute to its self-understanding of the Messiah? How does its literature affect our understanding?
I have one complaint about the size of the work. A book this size needs careful editing. A more assertive editor would have replaced sentences such as, "In 1916 B. B. Warfield deemed it necessary..." with "In 1916 Warfield decided..." (p. 83) and eliminated redundancies.1
Van Groningen establishes his conservative evangelical credentials early and is unafraid to engage the liberal critics (pp. 273, 333, 512-13) as well as other evangelicals who have naively adopted a higher critical methodology (pp. 97, 98, n. 122).
Followers of John Murray's construction of the covenant will find Van Groningen's approach familiar. Without a covenant of works in the garden, Van Groningen's understanding of the Messianic failure of the theocracy is (in my opinion) somewhat weakened. Van Groningen does give, however, a helpful discussion of Adam as Messiah (i.e., Mediator) and Adam's fall as the ruin of "royal humanity".
This discussion establishes Van Groningen's basic approach to each passage as he considers whether the passage at hand reveals the Messiah in the "wider" (someone who serves as Yahweh's agent on earth) or "narrower" (a strictly royal personage) conception. Adam, who serves as God's agent and Vicegerent, is a messianic figure in the "wider" sense.
Near the end of each chapter Van Groningen (under the heading "Eschatological Perspectives") explains how the messianic concept
unfolds and how redemptive history has moved closer to fulfillment. This approach to eschatology is a bit disappointing and misleading. It seems to me that the Old Testament is eschatological at its core. Van Groningen himself says: "eschatology is inseparable from messianic prophecy" (p. 247). However he seems to have a narrow conception of what qualifies as "eschatological".2
The anointing of David (undergirding David's combat with and triumph over the Philistine hero) is an eschatological event. It is the Holy Spirit who enables David to slay Goliath, not David's intelligence or native skill. Saul is not a truly anointed leader in this eschatological sense. He is the usurper, pretender, the proto-Judas.
Van Groningen does not draw very many startling conclusions. He defends the unity of authorship of Isaiah and seems quite comfortable with Roland K. Harrison and Edward J. Young's critique of higher critical liberalism. However, he does seem to say that he believes there was some sort of proto-virgin which fulfilled for Isaiah's contemporaries the prophecy of the virgin (Isa. 7:14; cf. p. 536). In much the same way as Elijah was a forerunner to John the Baptist, this anonymous virgin was a forerunner to Mary. This is a very strained and strange interpretation. The same is true of his interpretation of Ahaz. Van Groningen concludes that Ahaz should have believed that his son was going to be "divine and would serve as the Deliverer and King whose kingdom would never be overthrown or vanquished" (p. 553).
This is a highly subjective interpretation. It would have been better to say that Ahaz, Israel and Judah should have looked forward to the eschatological Servant-Messiah, Jesus. It is certainly true that evangelicals have sometimes given the historical context of the Old Testament short shrift. But by these interpretations Van Groningen tries too hard to contextualize the promises of God in their immediate setting.
Typology and Analogy
Van Groningen raises the question of the relation of typology to analogy and provides helpful definitions and distinctions regarding the two (p. 165). Following Richard Longenecker, Van Groningen says, "This use of typology by New Testament writers must be kept in mind as the correct guide for our understanding of messianic typology."3
But there is a certain tension in Van Groningen's presentation which is troubling. Van Groningen also says, "Care must be taken not to import New Testament revelation into the Old Testament text" (p. 217). And in interpreting the manna, Van Groningen says, "It is tempting to read the New Testament interpretation into the Old Testament gift of bread" (p. 237). What should we do with the New Testament interpretation of the bread? Why is using New Testament interpretation of Old Testament revelation reading the New Testament into the Old Testament? Apparently "reading into" means seeing an identification which harms the canonical integrity of the Old Testament revelation, whereas seeing an analogy (apparently) does not.
Certainly we do not want to presume that the Israelites understood the bread as extensively as we. The degree to which the average Israelite understood the bread to speak of the coming Living Bread who took on flesh, no one can say with confidence. So we must ask, "What does the text mean?" The answer to that question is undeniably supplied exclusively by the New Testament.4
Because of this methodological presupposition, Van Groningen, like Henry Krabbendam, is stingy in admitting typological relations. Van Groningen denies that Isaac, in Genesis 22, is a type of Christ, rejecting any direct connection with Jesus through the concepts of "only begotten", "lamb" or "chosen". In so doing, Van Groningen ignores the cross as the most natural place to find reference to the shedding of blood.5
It appears that Van Groningen is overreacting to a tendency to level out Scripture by forcing every text to refer explicitly to Christ.
Perhaps Van Groningen is reacting to natural evangelical tendencies not to pay enough attention to the Old Testament, failing to read it on its own merits, without rushing to the New Testament "punchline".6
In his discussion of the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 2), Van Groningen concludes that the son-king (his term) of Psalm 2 is not divine, but a representative of deity. Unfortunately Van Groningen omits reference to Acts 4:25,26; 13:33; and Heb. 1:5; 5:5. However, it seems clear to me that these New Covenant writers and speakers did not consider the figure of Psalm 2 just a representative of deity, but God himself! Van Groningen uses the same approach in his exegesis of Ps. 110:1. Elsewhere he speaks of the messianic figure of the Psalms as "the symbol—by and through which Yahweh is present."7
It is true that a passage should not be made to say everything. It is also true that a passage should be explained to teach everything it does say. Van Groningen does not account for the apparent distinction in persons required by the fact that, in Ps. 110:1, Yahweh says to Adonai, "Sit at my right hand". Certainly the New Testament consistently takes this verse to imply a personal distinction within the Godhead.8
This attempt to deal with the Old Testament "on its own terms," justified or not, creates its own set of problems. What happens to the organic principle of Scripture? What becomes of the analogy of Scripture? One gets the impression that certain Old Testament professors feel neglected because evangelical and Reformed exegetes give the New Testament its natural priority. If there were nothing wrong with the "first covenant" God would not have spoken to us in these "last days" through his Son!
Yet Van Groningen unavoidably treats Abraham as a type of sorts (however one translates typos in 1 Cor. 10:4) when he describes Abraham as the first "elect one who was first separated from all other humans, yet destined to save the many" (p. 133). Perhaps he is more comfortable calling this relationship analogical. When Jesus says he is the "Greater than," isn't Jesus treating Old Testament heroes typologically (Lk. 11:31,32)?8
Van Groningen describes Moses as a messianic character and helpfully reminds us that Moses must be "considered both retrospectively and prospectively" (pp. 197, 203). Van Groningen sees the Malak Yahweh as the preincarnate Son of God and messianic revelation. But there is much messianic revelation in the Mosaic epoch which is overlooked. Moses presents himself (consciously or not) as a royal figure and Moses and Aaron as messianic agents contra Pharaoh and his court. The Passover, sacrifices and feasts are full of analogies and types of the Messiah's priestly work.10
It is entirely natural to read the Old Testament as the New Testament writers themselves did, as a book of shadows, a collection of revelatory threads, tied together in the person of Jesus Christ. Instead of seeing Abraham's crisis on the mount as an intrusion of a recurring principle of substitution and judgment on sin, Van Groningen prefers to write about Isaac's "docile character" as a necessary quality in the Messianic seed and the ram as substitute for Isaac (p. 114). Van Groningen seems to go out of his way to ignore the Messianic implications of Abraham's priestly relationship to Melchizedek and Isaac. But if this is where Hebrews leads us in our understanding of Abraham, why shouldn't we follow obediently?11
Theodore Laetsch's view that "the goal of all the prophecies are the days of the Messiah," Van Groningen rejects as
"too broad and too narrow. It is too broad in the sense that the entire Old Testament is stated to be Messianic; working with this approach, every passage in the Old Testament should be interpreted as specifically messianic. It is too narrow in that the goal is said to be 'the days of the Messiah'; the scope of the messianic songs extends far beyond in time and intent the days Christ Jesus was on earth" (p. 452).
The second half of the statement is true enough, but the first half is problematic. What is wrong with saying that the entire Old
Testament is messianic? The writers of the New Testament seem to read the Old Testament thus with impunity. The issue seems to be whether or not New Testament use of the Old Testament is, for Van Groningen, consistent with the historic Reformed principle of one intended sense for every passage.
Many writers have acknowledged the need for a serious poor, and Van Groningen's discussion of Matthew's use of Hosea illustrates the need for a more complete sense understanding of the Old Testament as interpreted by the New. Without this principle, Van Groningen gives a strained explanation of Matthew's use of Hosea when Matthew makes God's Son Jesus to be God's Son, Israel (p. 486).
The same problem occurs in Van Groningen's discussion of the identity of the Spirit-anointed preacher of Isa. 61:1-3 (pp. 661ff.). Van Groningen distinguishes between the identity of the speaker in Isaiah's context and the identity of the speaker in a New Testament context (Lk. 4:18). Why can we not simply say that the identity of the speaker is Christ in both instances? In Isaiah's historical context the speaker is the preincarnate Son of God and in Luke the Son speaks in the flesh. Van Groningen is comfortable doing this elsewhere when discussing Cyrus as the Servant of Yahweh (p. 706).
In the same way, i.e., by consistently wanting to find a reference in the context of the Old Testament writer for most Messianic references, Van Groningen says rather offhandedly (viz., Jer. 31:33) that the cutting of the New Covenant "could be understood to commence with the return of the exile" (p. 719). This conclusion again ignores important New Testament revelation such as Heb. 8:8-10 and 10:16-18 which inaugurate the New Covenant at the crucifixion-circumcision of Jesus.
In his handling of Ezk. 34:23,24, Van Groningen says, "So David himself is not to be physically resurrected in person. Nor is the Davidic house to be reestablished as it had existed before. The predecessors and types are to be removed; the antitype will be set up.
He whom David expected—the last, final, and ever-serving shepherd-son—is held before the bewildered exiles listening to Ezekiel." As this passage proves, Van Groningen is capable of doing biblical theology in the tradition of Vos-Ridderbos, et al. It is just that he does not do it consistently.
These criticisms should not lead one to think that there is not a great deal of very helpful material here. Van Groningen gives an excellent explanation of Jesus as "the Messiah of David's house" (p. 474).
"The messianic task, however, will encompass more than a gathering of peoples from all nations; it will permit them to inherit the kingdom of the Messiah as members of his messianic house."
Van Groningen's explanation of messianic themes in Micah is equally rich. In fact, this may be the strongest reason for reading this book (pp. 495-508). There are very few current handbooks of this sort and little help for preaching the minor prophets. In part, Van Groningen fills that void for us. Likewise, in covering the Psalms, Van Groningen reviews several major Messianic Psalms and then gives a brief survey of the Psalms from a topical perspective. This survey is suggestive and worth reading.
As I read this book, I kept getting the impression that it was not written for me, a pastor faced with weekly preaching responsibilities. It seemed Van Groningen has in mind colleagues with whom he has had pleasant debates at the Evangelical Theological Society. At times, his target seemed to be his more liberal colleagues at the meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature.
I hope that in his forthcoming books on biblical theology Professor Van Groningen moves out of the circle of influence which sees a thorough-going eschatological view of the Bible as a denial of
the historicity and existential reality of the Old Testament writers and readers.
Should you buy this book? Yes. Will this book help you preach Christ more clearly? Yes. Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament will alert you to the prominence of the messianic revelational-strand in the Old Testament as a whole and the use made of the theme by the biblical author at hand.
1. "the Song of Songs has important implication for the messianic concept"—twice in two paragraphs (p. 407). Also the author incorrectly attributes The Self-Disclosure of Jesus to Geerhardus Vos's son, J. G. (p. 73, n. 16).
2. p. 286. It is frustrating to wade through pages of recapitulation of Biblical history only to get to a brief paragraph in which Van Groningen suggests a series of "eschatological perspectives" or themes which he finds in the historical books. I would rather see Van Groningen spend the section on the historical books giving us an analysis of eschatological-messianic themes in the section.
3. See p. 155. Van Groningen goes on to summarize the contributions of Vos, Meredith G. Kline and John Stek.
4. In his interpretation of the episode of the fiery serpents, Van Groningen ignores Jn. 3:14-17. While we need to come to grips with the Old Covenant narrative when Jesus interprets a narrative, we need to be obedient to that interpretation, do we not?
5. p. 137, n. 24; p. 144. Henry Krabbendam says of Genesis 22: "This implies, negatively, that this chapter does not intend to foreshadow the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and therefore should not be understood or presented that way. In fact, careful analysis of the chapter and its context indicates that such interpretation transcends the limits of any available clue. This is not to say that a message on this chapter may not contain a reference to the
substitutionary atonement, but only as one of the many, and on a par with all other possible applications of the universal principle enunciated by Abraham, 'The Lord will provide' (Gen. 22:14), and not as presenting the meaning of the text" (original italics)—"Hermeneutics and Preaching," in The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century. ed. Samuel T. Logan (Phillipsburg, NJ; Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986), p. 219.
6. Van Groningen interprets the "Shiloh" prophecy of Gen. 49 as the rider on the white horse of Rev. 19:11-16.
7. p. 369. Van Groningen gives a brief example of how he thinks we ought to handle the imprecatory Psalms (p. 389). If one dares ask for more detail in a 1000 page book, it would have been helpful to see how the imprecatory Psalms flesh out the messianic conception of the Old Testament.
8. The use by Heb. 1:8,9 of Ps. 45:6,7 is cited as though the interpretation given in Hebrews was just one option among many (p. 367). Interestingly, Van Groningen cites an appeal to the New Testament as the decisive factor in his interpretation of Ps. 110 on p. 390ff.
9. Regarding Matthew's use of the "Rachel weeping" passage of Mt. 2:18, Van Groningen says that it is not messianic in the narrow sense of touching on royalty; Matthew's connection is not a "mental fabrication" (p. 715). "The New Testament writers saw and proclaimed the organic unity of Yahweh's dealing with his people...." Amen! Van Groningen calls Herod's slaughter of the infant boys "typological by analogy" and sees the grief of the parents in both instances as the unifying factor (p. 716).
10. Van Groningen touches on the importance of the covenant to several writers, particularly Jeremiah. It would be interesting to know how the suzerain-vassal treaty structure of Deuteronomy informs the pentateuchal and prophetic concept of the messiah.
11. One of the most insightful remarks about Abraham's messianic
role is not from Van Groningen but from a quotation by Gerhard von Rad (p. 134, n. 18): "Abraham is assigned the role of a mediator of blessing in God's saving plan for all nations".
12. Van Groningen does seem to imply that some Psalms may rightly be understood as messianic while others may not. When Jesus quotes and applies Ps. 110:1 or Ps. 22 to himself, should we think then that he did not intend to apply the whole Psalm to himself? And if Ps. 22 applies in toto to Jesus, why can't we think of all the Psalms as "Messianic" in the broader sense? Even if they don't explicitly deal with a royal figure, all the Psalms touch on some aspect of the Messiah's kingdom, and they reveal a Kingly Shepherd-Redeemer who is Immanuel, whom we know to be Jesus.
—R. Scott Clark
Walnut Creek Presbyterian
Kansas City, Missouri