The Theocracy thus instituted would have been permanently established, if the people, in their national capacity, had been faithful in obedience.
PROPOSITION 26. The Theocracy thus instituted would have been permanently established, if the people, in their national capacity, had been faithful in obedience.
By this is meant, not that the typical and provisionary adjuncts would have remained unchanged, but that the direct, personal rulership of God (i.e., the distinctive features which constituted it a theocracy) would never have been, for a time, set aside, and that the blessings promised under a Theocratic rule would have been amply realized. No humble believer of the Word, reading the covenant made at Horeb and pondering the blessings and curses announced by Moses, can doubt this supposition. It is true God foreknew the nation’s defection, which is already freely predicted by Moses in his last addresses, but this does not prevent him from offering this Kingdom for their continued acceptance and retention in accordance with moral freedom.[*]
Note. What God would have done, in case the nation had ever proven faithful, in providing for the Salvation of man (i.e. by way of atonement), we are not concerned, for, while feeling that His wisdom would have been equal to the development of a plan to correspond with such faithfulness, we do know (and this confirms our faith) that this Theocracy itself is formed in an initiatory manner in view of the foreknown apostasy, and that out of it, in the royal line, might come the Saviour—thus vindicating the knowledge of God. We also are assured, that this same Theocracy—rejected by some—contains a divine plan for the accomplishment of great ends, reaching from and through the Jewish nation over the earth; and that the unfaithfulness of man, however it may delay the final result, cannot alter or reverse it. Objections based upon what might have been, or how, in certain contingencies, God would have ordered things, are always unsafe; seeing that we must take affairs as they have transpired and trace God’s overruling Providence in them. Taking this scriptural view, it is impossible to break the force, e.g. of Isa. ch. 58 or of Jer. 17:25, which sustain our Proposition. The expressive language e.g. of Ps. 81:13–16 is sufficient: “O that my people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him; but their time should have endured forever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
Obs. 1. The erection of the Theocracy, and the exceeding great promises annexed to it just before entering Canaan, where the matter was to be tested—promises, too, which, if experienced, would exalt the nation above all other nations in power, wealth, plenty, etc.—has been pronounced by unbelievers as exceedingly extravagant, full of Oriental hyperbole. Some late writers take the liberty of sneering at God’s “little Kingdom” as contrasted with the mighty empires of “the poor heathen,” and sarcastically compare the power and resources of the Jewish judges and kings to that of present Arab sheiks. This attempt at wit fails, because it does not allow the Record to speak. The comparison, unjust in several particulars, does not notice that the reason why such promises were not experienced and became history, lies in the non-performance of certain imposed conditions—in the recorded unfaithfulness of the Jews.[*]
Note. When obedient, sufficient assurances are given in the history of the Jews to indicate that, if they had continued so, God also would have been faithful to His promises in elevating the nation. And in justice to God Himself, it must be kept in mind, that the measure of their success was proportioned to His foreknown knowledge of the coming hardness of their hearts. It would have been unwise to exalt the Jews to a degree for which nationally they were unprepared; and, therefore, in all His dealings with them, He keeps in view the final purpose, viz.: to bestow without stint all blessings when the time had fully come that this same Theocracy, under the Rulership of an immortal King and subordinate rulers, would be established on a basis of stability and perpetuity, in which it would be impossible ever to pervert them. He, who sees the end from the beginning could not, owing to the depravity of man, and the moral constitution of man under government, shower His rich blessings profusely until He had first a reliable, tried, redeemed, God-fearing and serving race gathered out of the Jews and other nations, who, by their station, power, influence, etc., would insure a complete and perfect fulfilment of God’s own idea of government associated with Redemption. When we come to the final restoration of the Theocracy, this fact (as we shall show) exhibits itself prominently, and vindicates the wisdom, mercy, and justice of God in the past.
Obs. 2. The institution of the Theocracy with the claims annexed to it, and the laudation put upon it by God Himself, marks not only its desirableness, but that it is the settled purpose of God ultimately to establish its supremacy. Its development, final attainment, is conditioned only by the gathering of a people, who will “be willing in the day of His power.” God, too, cannot and will not violate His own character, His moral government, and man’s free agency, by forcing this Kingdom with its blessings upon an unwilling people. He may employ persuasion and correction to a certain limit, but beyond that He never proceeds. However we may explain this—for some things in this conection are probably beyond human comprehension, and honest differences of opinion may arise—the fact itself is historical.
Note 1. For God never fails in any of His undertakings. If we are to believe men who reject this Theocracy, then He failed to establish a Theocracy commensurate with the promises, being insignificant in civil and political power when contrasted with earthly empires. We are, however, content to await God’s own time for its re-establishment (Comp. Proposition 201).
Note 2. The Theocratic promises could not be realized, because the supreme love for the Ruler was lacking in the nation. However excited in individuals, the nation by its sinfulness showed itself unworthy of it. Hence God’s plan for developing it in the future, which plan we propose to follow to its consummation. The Theocracy was not simply preparatory but initial, in the sense of its being a real Kingdom of God, which was established in order to show forth to the nations of the earth the distinguished blessings flowing from it. Had the Jewish nation been faithful to its engagements to the Supreme King, had the subordinate rulers obeyed the Supreme Will, then the nation would—as promised—have multiplied its blessings, enlarged its advantages and power, secured a supremacy over all other people, and become the benefactors of the race in disseminating the knowledge and truth of God. The place of its manifestation geographically considered (centrally located), the form of government, the special promises given to it, the King at its head, etc., evidence this, but, alas! depraved human nature forbade its realization.
The student will observe the language employed by us in the previous Prop. and in this one respecting the Theocracy, viz.: that it was initiatory, by which we mean that in some of its laws and provisions it was susceptible of changes (but not in its fundamentals). Jesus Himself intimates only the relative goodness of some of the laws, Matt. 19:8; Mark 10:5; comp. Ezek. 20:25, which Wines and others claim as teaching that some of the laws were “not absolutely the best, though they were relatively so.” Montesquieu (quoted by Wines, Com., p. 119) sagaciously observes that this passage “is the sponge that wipes out all the difficulties which are found in the law of Moses.” The entire spirit of the Bible clearly indicates that while the Theocratic idea and its main supports are retained, special statutes and provisions were given because deemed the best adapted for the age and people. For some of the laws were changed and others annulled (see Wines, Michaelis, and others specially devoted to the Laws), as the advanced and altered condition of the nation made requisite. (The phrase “forever” appended to repealed laws—e.g. comp. Lev. 17:7 and Deut. 12:20, 21—simply indicates that laws remain only in force until repealed or annulled by the Lawgiver. Hence if the Jews had remained faithful, other changes, adapted to altered circumstances, might reasonably have been anticipated, just as changes will be introduced at the restoration, without affecting the Theocratic form.)
Obs. 3. The reader will carefully observe (as use will be made of it hereafter) that this Theocracy is very different from God’s universal, general sovereignty exercised by virtue of His being the Creator. Kurtz (His. Old Cov., vol. 3, p. 104) says: “As the Creator and Governor of the world, He was the Lord and King of every nation, but He did not base His kingly relation to Israel upon this foundation; He founded it rather upon, what He had done especially for Israel: it was not as Elohim, but as Jehovah, that He desired to reign over Israel,” etc.; He also distinguishes between a rule, the result of “unconditional necessity,” and one the “consequence of the free concurrence of the people”—one arising from Creation, the other from Redemption. Kurtz is right in thus discriminating; but to make it more accurate, it is proper to add, that God also founds this Theocratic rule upon His having produced this nation, as in Isaac’s birth, out of due course of nature, and He appeals to His Creatorship (e.g. Deut. 32:8, 15, and 30:20), as a reason why this Theocratic rule should be accepted; but the main consideration urged is, that through the Theocracy, God’s rule thus specially manifested through one nation, and finally embracing all nations, the Redemptive Purpose shall be accomplished and God’s Sovereignty in all its fulness be recognized by every creature. Attention is directed to this now to show: (1) that a special, significant Kingdom was instituted; (2) this Kingdom was pre-eminently the Kingdom of God, to distinguish it from mere earthly kingdoms; (3) such a Kingdom, differing from all others in that it had God Himself acting as earthly Ruler, was given to the Jewish nation as a special favor and blessing, with the idea of extending it, eventually, over the earth; (4) that if rejected or withdrawn from the nation, for a time, on account of unworthiness, the nation is still under God’s general sovereignty; (5) that anything less than such a Theocratic rule, in which God is personally accessible and rules over the nation, is a lowering of condition, the non-be-stowment of a most distinguishing privilege. The propriety and force of this, will be seen as we proceed in the argument.[*]
Note. Suppose e.g. that the Jewish nation is again restored to God’s favor and their land without a restoration of the Theocracy, then no matter what church privileges are bestowed, the nation, as such, forfeits its highest, dearest, noblest privilege and blessing. And yet such is the position accorded to it by various writers, over against—as will be shown—the most express promises to the contrary.
Obs. 4. The mournful comments and sad rebukes of the Prophets over the unfaithfulness of the nation, its lack of appreciating Theocratic privileges, and the resultant withdrawal of the Ruler, are sorrowful evidences of the truth of our Proposition. Nearly every one, in this connection, points out two things: (1) that a return to God with full allegiance to Him in the Theocratic order, would secure a return of God’s blessing (thus showing God’s purpose to be a continuous one), and (2) that upon such a return at some period, indefinitely stated, in the future, this Theocratic rule—a special, distinguishing privilege—is invariably connected with the nation, where God chose to place it. (Thus e.g. comp. Mal., chs. 3 and 4; Levit. 26, noticing v. 42; Deut. chs. 30, 31, 32, and 33.)[*]
Note. The Jews themselves, in e.g. “The Liturgy of the Jews” (Art. on, Littell’s Liv. Age, Oct. 7th, 1876), acknowledge their sinfulness: “We acknowledge that we have sinned; that we have acted wickedly. O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, we beseech Thee, let Thy anger and Thy wrath be turned away from Jerusalem, Thy City and Thy Holy Mountain; for it is on account of our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors that Jerusalem and Thy people are become objects of reproach to all around us,” etc.