E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
We have seen in our last paper that the Old Testament prophets looked forward to the advent of the Messiah. Inspired by the Spirit of God, they wrote words that filled the devout Israelite with an intense longing. What a wonderful period would be ushered in when Messiah came, when " ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ' We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.' " (Zech. 8. 23). Gone then would be the foreign yoke, gone the anxieties, the troubles, the perplexities that were theirs in abundant measure. Thus ever does the human heart yearn for rest, for the wings of the dove to fly away from a scene of unending strife and turmoil.
Jesus came, lived, and died on a cross. Undeniably His brief career had been marked by wonderful signs. He had spoken wonderful words and had even been acclaimed, as in triumph He entered the city of Jerusalem, the people crying, " Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." It was true also that after His crucifixion His followers asserted that He was living again and that many Jews were owning Him and were consorting with His disciples. But the foreign yoke still remained, and graver perils than ever seemed to brood over the city of Jerusalem, perils that were destined to gather in ever-thicker clouds which burst in unrestrained fury on the place and people that knew not the day of their visitation.
In the days preceding the calamitous downfall of Jerusalem, there were placed on record by the three ' synoptic ' writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, accounts of the coming of Messiah, His life and death, His resurrection, and the commission He had given to His followers. Of these three accounts, Matthew's seems to have been written primarily for Jewish readers and is, therefore, full of Old Testament allusions. It is to Matthew's Gospel, accordingly, that we turn to see how the inspired writer found the fulfilment of prophecy in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We shall find those prophetical references relate to the birth of Christ, and its attendant circumstances; to His forerunner, John the Baptist; to His ministry of healing, His teaching by parable, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, and the gambling for His vesture after He had been nailed to the cross. It should be noted that these are references made by Matthew, and not quotations from the Old Testament made by the Lord Himself. Matthew introduces each reference by such words as, " that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet."
We might notice, too, the books from which Matthew quotes to show the fulfilment of the prophecies in the Lord Jesus. He quotes from Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, Jeremiah, the Psalms, and Zechariah. It is a profitable stud}' to go through the Gospels and refer carefully to the Old Testament prophecies, and see how literally the Lord Jesus could say, " Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life ; and these are they which bear witness of Me ; and ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life." (John 5. 39, 40, R.V.).
In addition to these many allusions made by the Gospel writers, there are those made by the Lord Jesus Himself, and quoted in the narrative. The earnest student of the Word of God may pore over the words of the Lord, and mark carefully the many times the Lord quoted from the Old Testament, telling His hearers that these things were unfolding before their eyes. Blessed, indeed, were those who with open ears and believing hearts heard the Saviour say, " This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears," and saw in His glorious life and ways the solution of many an enigma of Holy Writ. Blessed, indeed, were they ! " 1 should like to have been with Him then." But He has said, " Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."
Such exactitude in prophecy by different writers in different periods can have only one explanation. They were borne along by the Spirit of God to write of Jesus, who can be none other than the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Whilst, however, the Gospels emphasize the fulfilment of prophecy, we have already noted that much has not been fulfilled. The wolf has not yet lain down with the lamb ; the nations of the earth still learn the grim arts of war ; and the rule of the Prince of Peace is unacknowledged. Were Isaiah's song of coming glory, and Ezekiel's seraphic vision, mere dreams of the imagination, the ideal Utopia (Nowhere) which floats in the minds of men as an escapism from the grim realities of a tortured existence ? Can we expect literal fulfilment of these things, or must we regard these prophecies as poetic utterances of great beauty, the idealism of which, though beyond our reach, should spur us on in our endeavours on the principle that if progress is to be made at all, mankind must have a lofty aim, even though unattainable ? Are they mystical ideas such as were expressed by Blake when he wrote of " building Jerusalem, In England's green and pleasant land?"
If we approach the question reverently, and as reasonable people, there is surely only one possible answer. If God has spoken through the prophets, and what He has said has literally come to pass in the Lord Jesus, dare we say, " This has been fulfilled, but we are not sure about that. It might be, or it will not be, or it is only figurative and does not really mean what it says? " Far be the thought! He is faithful who has promised, and though men may scoff and say, " Where is the promise of His Coming ? " the believer cries, " Lord, I believe."