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There is none like unto God, O Jeshurun,
1 Deut. xxxiii, 26 (Moses' Blessing).
ISRAEL'S SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
EHOVAH had spoken to his people through Moses,
through Samuel, and had established kings over them when judges no longer met the needs of growing nationality. He had spoken through his prophets to Israel's earliest kings, heartening, directing, threatening them as heads of the community, for whose misdeeds it could not but suffer also. Every Prophetic word spoken through a prophet had been revelation of Jehovah's law for men, had added to the ethical store of Israel. Thus Nathan came, and seared David's heart with the consciousness of a foul crime committed, and of punishment merited and sure to Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt do no murder; these precepts would be more vivid in Israel after this instance of Jehovah's word working itself out in retribution. Then came the time when in fire and blood was blazoned the command, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. "And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between twɔ opinions? If Jehovah be God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him." It is clear that Jehovah, if he exist at all, is such a god that he will have no god beside him. “Call ye on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Jehovah; and the god that answereth by fire, let him be God." There comes no fire from Baal. Elijah calls on Jehovah," Let it be known this day that thou art 1 I Kings, xviii, 21.
God in Israel
that the people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God." Then the answering fire comes. "And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, Jehovah, he is God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape."
Another lesson did Elijah enforce upon his time, Jehovah's hatred of injustice. He will punish man's wrongful act against his fellow, which is also sin, failure to know and imitate Jehovah. This is the lesson of Naboth, murdered for his vineyard: "Thus saith Jehovah, Hast thou killed and also taken possession? . . In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine."' And yet one more lesson from the prophet's own experience, foretelling of the times when, on the awakened heart of Israel, Jehovah should write his law, spirit speaking unto spirit. Elijah had fled to the wilderness: what could he do against Jezebel seeking his life, and all the people who still followed Baal? There, in his jealous despair for his God, he is bidden stand on the Mount of Horeb. "And behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks before Jehovah; but Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake; but Jehovah was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still, small voice." Yea, Jehovah hath all the might of nature in his hand-wind, earthquake, fire; but these are not he. He speaks with gentle voice; his nature is spirit; all of which this passage does not tell, but it points to the clear thoughts to come by later prophets.
So Jehovah had not left himself without witness in Israel of his sole divine regnancy, of his righteousness with its corresponding demands on men, his sublime power 11 Kings, xxi.
commanding the crashing forces of nature, but above them mind and spirit. His nature was not being apprehended speculatively by Israel, but was becoming revealed to her through life and its ethical exigencies. And in the coming centuries those of Israel who had eyes and ears, not for blindness and deafness but for sight and hearing, were to learn to know him better. In those centuries Jehovah should crush Israel through retributive evil, and humble and expand her heart; should bring down on her great nations from afar, make worldwide her vision, and teach her that in his holiness and hers, in his righteousness and in the righteousness of Israel, lay his supremacy and the superiority he desired for his people. Then would he teach her too his purposeful omnipotence till she should see Assyria to be a dumb axe hewing in the hands of God. Israel's own experiences and the doings. of the nations near and far, were object-lessons, which, pointed by the hand of prophets, should teach Israel's seeing remnant Jehovah's nature and Jehovah's will.
It was the office of Israel's prophets, those especially from Amos down, whose writings are contained in the Old Testament, to purify and expand the religion of Jehovah as it had come down from older times, bring it to definite monotheism, set forth the full character of God as shown in his relations to Israel, impress on Israel the righteousness which she must fulfil if she would be Jehovah's people, and pronounce her mission to the nations of the earth. The prophets were the spokesmen of Jehovah; their knowledge, wisdom, power, came from him. No prophet thought of himself as considering and by himself gaining any knowledge or principle of human conduct, or as deriving from himself anything whereby he should admonish king or people. He saw Jehovah's word and delivered it; he knew none other. Jehovah's word came to no prophet for his own enlightenment, but to be spoken. A Greek philosopher learned his wisdom of himself or
other men, and unto himself was wise, though he might not teach. No prophet was wise or righteous, or a prophet, to himself, but only as a true proclaimer of Jehovah's righteousness to men. Again, Greek philosophic thought of God was ontological, reflection upon divine, essential being. The prophets pondered on the ways of God. These were the reflex of his nature; but no Hebrew prophet, indeed no Hebrew canonical writer, not the authors of Job, the Proverbs, or Ecclesiastes, began with metaphysical consideration of Jehovah's being, and from the result deduced his ways of action and function in the world. They dwell upon the ways of God with men, the relationship between creator and creature, between the leader and the led, between divine covenantor and Israel the recipient of his promise. From these they reason toward Jehovah's nature, reaching a conception of his character, thereupon, it may be, to draw further inferences as to his demands.
So were the prophets very practical and very practically inspired. The main prophetic function was guidance of contemporaries. Wise guidance of the present could be such only with reference to the future, with which the present was united in the one righteous polity, obedience to Jehovah, the same for all time, though unfolding as the years went on. Prophetic inspiration lies in righteous guidance of the present, as much as in prediction of the future, which is disclosed for present need. Even the Messianic prophecies, which were not for Israel alone, nor solely for the centuries preceding their fulfilment, were uttered by the speakers with reference to Israel's supreme and ever-present need to see her mission among men and why God had chosen her.
Jehovah had been of a truth Israel's God ever since she had national existence. Many of the people might turn to idols, representing gods closer to the votaries' instincts; and Israel's kings might fail in exclusive worship of Jehovah, and follow other gods, led by their wives,