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Man was created in the image of God, and in the glorious works of creation was surrounded with ample proofs of his Maker's eternal power and Godhead. He was also reminded of his absolute dependence on God by receiving permission freely to eat of all the trees of the garden in which he was placed, excepting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was to be the test of his obedience. All this, however, did not prevent Adam from starting aside from God like a deceitful bow, thus bringing himself and his posterity under condemnation. But God, who is rich in mercy, was pleased to reveal Himself as the God of salvation, and it deserves attention that He did Song of Solomon, not in the form of a promise to Adam, but of a curse upon the serpent. It was, indeed, impossible for God to hold friendly intercourse, or make any direct promise to sinful man. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon sin; but in the curse pronounced on the serpent, which is the devil and Satan, He revealed the great Mediator between God and Prayer of Manasseh, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. 2 Corinthians 1:20. . He was described as the seed of the woman who should bruise the head of the serpent, while His own heel should be bruised in the conflict. It was at the same time intimated that salvation was not to be universal, for mankind were divided into two great families, respectively distinguished as the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; the seed of the woman being the children of that family, the members of which the Son of God is not ashamed to call His brethren, chap2:11; the seed of the serpent being the children of the wicked one, to whom the Judge will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you."
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.
God spake.—Whatever was communicated by the prophets is here said to be spoken by God. He spoke whatsoever was uttered by His prophets. The Scriptures are very jealous on this subject; how different from the language of many who seem desirous to exclude God from being the Author of his own word!
At sundry times.—The wonderful plan of salvation was gradually unfolded. God did not fully communicate it at once, but at sundry times, or, rather, in sundry parts, here a little and there a little. The first intimation of the Savior was made to Adam; His coming as the Judges, to Enoch; the covenant, or solemn engagement was renewed to Noah, and a visible representation of the salvation of believers was given in the preservation of Noah and his family in the Ark, which, being warned of God, he had prepared for the saving of his house.
We have seen that the Savior was first revealed as the seed of the woman; [Eve was the emblem of the Church of Christ, the mother of all believers. Galatians 4:21. She was first called woman because she was taken out of man. It is remarkable that the name of Eve, or Life, was given her after she had been the means of entailing death on all her posterity; but the Prince of Life, who hath abolished death, was the seed of the woman, hence the new name given to Eve.] He was afterwards described as the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; His descent was next limited to the tribe of Judah, and finally to the house of David.
The gradual manner in which God communicated His purposes of mercy to man correspond with the other parts of the divine procedure. He could have completed in a moment the work of creation, but He was pleased to accomplish it in six days, and here we see His wisdom and condescension. It enables us to follow the wonderful process; it presents to us the stupendous whole in its various parts, thus preventing our being overwhelmed with its magnitude. So likewise the herb of the field does not at once arrive at maturity; there is first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear. Thus, too, man has his age of infancy, youth, and manhood, through all of which steps the Savior passed, thus intimating that His salvation was not confined to any age.
Diverse manners.—Revelation was not only communicated in different portions, but in different ways, by angels, voices, dreams, visions; and similitudes. Such were the different modes in which the prophets received their revelations.
In times past (rather, of old).—Here there appears to be a reference to the fact that the spirit of prophecy had long ceased. No prophet had arisen in Israel for the space of three hundred years from the days of Malachi.
To the fathers.—Here the term fathers includes not only the patriarchs of the Jewish nation, but all the prophets by whom God had communicated His will from the beginning.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Song of Solomon, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
These last days.—This expression may, no doubt, refer to the present time contrasted with "time past," ver1; but it appears especially to apply to the last dispensation under the reign of Messiah. The expression is parallel to chap, "now in the end of the world." [The Apostle designates the kingdom of Israel as the world. "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" Colossians 2:20.] The same expression is used Isaiah 2:2; Acts 2:17, &c.
All the prophets declared that the days should come when the Lord would communicate His will in a clearer and more glorious manner than He had hitherto done, so that "the last days" appear to indicate the period of the new dispensation, to which those who feared God in Israel looked forward. Matthew 13:17.
Spoken unto us by his Son.—For four thousand years preparation was being made for the manifestation of the Son of God. Jesus is termed God's own Song of Solomon, His only begotten, and when the fulness of the time had come He was sent forth, "born of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem sinners from the curse of the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians 4:5. When He appeared, the darkness of the old dispensation fled before the beams of the Sun of Righteousness which arose with healing on His wings. The wages of sin is death, therefore as the head, the substitute, and representative of His people He was delivered for their offences; He was made sin for them, although He knew no sin, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him; and in token of the efficacy of His sacrifice He was raised from the dead, and became the first fruits of them that slept. No man took His life from Him, He laid it down of Himself; He had power to lay it down and power to take it again. Having offered Himself a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour acceptable to God, He rose to die no more, and because He lives His people shall live also. Adam was the source of natural life to all his children, but he forfeited it and they all died in him, but in Christ all His people are made alive; and when He who is their life shall appear, they also shall appear with Him in glory.
The name of the Savior is Immanuel, which being interpreted Isaiah, God with us. In His wonderful person the Divine and human natures are united, and thus we have a manifestation of the closeness of that union which subsists between the head and the members of Christ's mystical body.
The Word was in the beginning with God, and was God. [Thus the Apostle intimates the personal distinction in the unity of the Godhead, which is to us an unfathomable mystery, of which we can know nothing beyond the simple fact. Yet it is the basis of the Gospel. Each of the adorable persons takes an important part in the work of redemption. The Father chose his people in Christ, and sent forth His Son to redeem them from death; the Son willingly undertook their cause; and the Holy Spirit, which Christ received without measure, is through Him communicated to each of them. Thus they are led into the truth as it is in Jesus. Hence they are baptized into the name, or faith, of the Father, Song of Solomon, and Holy Ghost.] He was the Creator of all things visible and invisible, the fountain of life, and the only medium of communication of light to fallen man. . He was made flesh and dwelt among us. When the angels sinned they were cast down to hell and reserved in everlasting chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Sin had interposed an impenetrable vail between them and the only source of light and joy; but by the incarnation and sufferings of Christ God was pleased to cause the light to shine out of darkness upon an innumerable multitude of our fallen race which had also come under condemnation. And, inasmuch as the children given to Christ were partakers of flesh and blood, He Himself also took part of the same, that by death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and by showing to His people the path of life, and becoming the firstborn of many brethren, might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Thus He magnified the law which they had broken, and made it honorable. He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His cross. Hence it is written, "As by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming."
Whom he hath appointed heir of all things.— As God, the Lord Jesus had an independent right to the sovereignty of the universe; but as God manifest in the flesh, at once the Son of God and the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, the great Mediator, He is appointed heir of all things, He is termed the firstborn or heir of the whole creation. Colossians 1:18. This was the joy set before him,— "Arise, O God, judge the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nations." Psalm 82:8. [Abraham is termed the heir of the world, Romans 4:13, as being the father of Christ; just as it is written in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed, because this was to be fulfilled in his seed, which is Christ.] "Jesus, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a Prayer of Manasseh, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:6-11.
Thus, we are taught that as the reward of His obedience unto death all power in heaven and earth is committed to Him, and He employs this power in gathering in His blood-bought sheep. The exaltation of the Son of God at His Father's right hand, surrounded by a countless multitude delivered from the power of Satan and translated into His everlasting kingdom, was the grand end of the creation of the world, which was not only made by Christ, but for Christ as a theatre on which His glory should be displayed. Colossians 1:16. It was God's eternal purpose to make known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom by the Church redeemed with the Savior's blood. Ephesians 3:10.
Christ is the head of the Church, and all of its members are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. They are brought into a state of union so close and intimate that their sins are His, and His righteousness theirs. Hence, although He did no sin, nor was guile found in His lips, He says, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me," Psalm 40:12; while they who drank up iniquity as the ox drinketh up water are enabled with confidence to demand, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" arrayed in His unspotted righteousness, they shall all sit down on His glorious high throne and reign with Him for ever. He is their elder brother, their surety, their life. They were given to Him by His Father in the everlasting council; He undertook for them, has cancelled all their debt, and has entered into His glory to prepare for them mansions in which they shall for ever dwell. The Church of Christ, ransomed with His precious blood, shall abide an imperishable monument of the manifold wisdom of God, showing that with Him nothing shall be impossible.
By whom also he made the worlds.—That Isaiah, the universe; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. John 1:3. Such is the glorious Personage by whom God hath spoken to us in these last days. The prophets were employed to unfold the revelations which God thought fit to communicate, but the Son has completed the discoveries which are necessary for our instruction, and to Him alone we are directed to look.
This was strikingly exhibited on the holy mount. Moses and Elias, the two most illustrious prophets of the old dispensation, conversed with Jesus on His decease which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. The Apostles were desirous of detaining the heavenly visitors, but a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son: hear ye him. They lifted up their eyes, and Jesus alone remained, the great Prophet of His Church. The darkness was past and the true light now shone.
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Who being the brightness of his glory.—God has revealed Himself in the works of creation and providence, but the brightness or effulgence of His glory is only seen in His Son. In Him God has fully made known the glory of His character. Moses put a veil on his face when declaring the message from God to Israel, but we see the glory of God in the unveiled face of Jesus. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, intimately acquainted with all His counsels, He hath declared Him. John 1:18.
And the express image of his person.—Christ is the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15; and this image is so perfect that Christ Himself tells us, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." John 14:9. [It is unnecessary to state that this does not refer to seeing the Savior with our bodily eyes. It means a right apprehension of His person, character, and offices. Those who are thus enlightened behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and are changed into His image.] By contemplating in Him the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord. This is the new creation in Christ Jesus, which is essential to our being His disciples.
And upholding all things by the word of his power.—All power is committed to Christ in heaven and on earth. This is the reward of His obedience to death, all things are put under Him—all the vessels of His Father's house hang on Him. The Father judgeth no Prayer of Manasseh, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.
When he had by himself purged our sins.— Removing them by His atonement as far as the east is from the west, having washed His people from their sins in His own blood, they are whiter than snow. The priests under the law purified the people with the blood of bulls and goats, but Christ obtained eternal redemption for all believers by the shedding of His own blood. When their sins are sought for they shall not be found, He will present them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus demonstrated the perfection of His sacrifice. One generation after another had gone down to the grave, which had never said, It is enough; but the Son of God, who knew no sin, having by His union with His people, so to speak, appropriated their sin, was delivered for their offences. He went down into the lower parts of the earth, but it was not possible He could remain there; not only because He was the Prince of Life, having life in Himself, but because He had cancelled the guilt of His brethren. What, then, could retain Him under the power of death? Death had lost its sting, its power was gone, and of necessity the earth cast forth its dead. Jesus rose to the power of an endless life as the head of his body the Church, as the first fruits of an abundant harvest; it was the seal of His Father's approbation of the work which He had undertaken and accomplished. As our great high priest He offered the body which had been prepared for Him. This is the will of God which He came to do, by which, says the Apostle, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all. . He is the Captain of the salvation of a countless multitude, who, in virtue of their union with the Only-begotten, shall reign with Him in life for ever.
Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.—When the Jewish high priest entered the holy place, he stood while he performed the service, for he was to remain but for a short time, and only as a minister; but our great High Priest sat down as a Prince on the right hand of the Majesty on high. He occupies the highest place. To Him everything in heaven and on earth is subjected. He sits as a Royal priest on His throne, consecrated for evermore, —and His sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high, implies that all things are put under Him, excepting Him who did put all things under Him. 1 Corinthians 15:27.
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Being made so much better than the angels.— It is abundantly manifest that the title of the Son of God, who is said to be appointed heir of all things, to have been the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person, purging our sins, and sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, is descriptive of Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh. God is invisible, and could not be the image of Himself; and the Song of Solomon, in His Divine nature, is as invisible as the Father. Besides, where was the necessity for proving God to be superior to angels? But the Divine and human natures were united in the one person of Christ, and it is in this character that the Apostle establishes His superiority to angels.
As he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.—Angels are, indeed, termed by courtesy the sons of God, but to Christ this name belongs by inheritance. [This is illustrated by a passage in English history. Henry II, having admitted his son to a share of the sovereignty, caused him to sit at table while he waited on him, at the same time observing that never king was more royally served. The prince pleasantly replied, that there was nothing extraordinary in the son of a Count serving the son of a king. The son's rank came to him by inheritance, the father's by conquest.] He is possessed of the Divine nature, as a son partakes of the nature of his father, while from His mother Christ equally partook of human nature. Hence He is indifferently described as the Son of God, implying His Divinity, and as the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, implying His humanity. God does nothing in vain; He accomplishes His purposes by means exactly adapted to the end He has in view. In the first creation He spoke and it was done, He commanded and all things stood fast; but to reconcile justice with mercy, to destroy the works of the devil, the Son of God was manifested, and suffered, and died, and revived, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and the living.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Song of Solomon, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Song of Solomon, this day have I begotten thee?—Here the Apostle proceeds to prove his assertion, that Christ possesses by inheritance a more excellent name than the angels. This he demonstrates by a quotation from the second Psalm, which not only gives Jesus the title of Song of Solomon, but describes Him as begotten. The Apostle elsewhere applies this prediction to the resurrection of Christ, Acts 13:33, because He was thus declared to be the Son of God with power. Romans 1:4. In various ways had He been declared to be the Son of God, by His doctrine and miracles, the perfection of His character, and repeated testimonies by a voice from heaven; but His resurrection was the demonstration of His being the Son of God, the promised seed of the woman, the Judge of the world. Acts 17:31. Hence, the sign which He gave in token of the dignity of His person was the sign of the prophet Jonas. Jesus was to be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The temple of His body, in which dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, was to be destroyed, and in three days He would raise it up.
He appeared in our nature, that He might lay down His life. He came in the character of the Father's servant to accomplish the salvation of the children given to Him. He is the seed of the woman, the Head of God's elect; and having identified Himself with them, that He might raise them to life and glory, He in their nature endured the curse which they had incurred that they might inherit a blessing, and might all through union with Him be acknowledged to be the sons of God. He subjected Himself to suffering and death that they might partake of eternal life with Him. It was an easy service imposed on Adam to abstain from the fruit of one tree, but the service required of the second Adam included not only sorrow, shame, and grief in this world, but the pains of death. To all this He cheerfully submitted, knowing that His Father's commandment was life everlasting, not only to Himself, but to a countless multitude. As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. . The reason of all judgment being committed to the Son is very remarkable, "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father."
The Apostle adds another testimony to the Sonship of Christ.
And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.—It is evident that this passage refers primarily to Song of Solomon, 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:12, who was a remarkable type of Christ, but we learn from the Apostle that a greater than Solomon is here. Indeed, this is evident from the passage quoted, for God promises to establish His kingdom for ever. The Lord Jesus is frequently described both as David and the Son of David. David was a man after God's own heart, which denotes his zeal for the worship of God; but it has its full accomplishment in Christ, who is in all respects a man after God's own heart, for He always did those things which pleased His Father. He now sits on the throne of His father David, and is indeed the King of Israel. John 1:49.
We repeatedly find a double type in consequence of the different aspects in which Christ is presented to our view. He was in the form of a servant, engaged in a work committed to Him by His Father, which required Him to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, a stranger and pilgrim, a houseless wanderer in this world, and finally to be made a curse by hanging on a tree, thus becoming obedient to the death of the cross. Again, we behold Him a resistless conqueror triumphing over death, His foot on the neck of Satan, and invested with all power in heaven and on earth. Hence a double type was necessary to denote His sufferings and glory. The former was typified by "David and all his afflictions," the latter, by Song of Solomon, who enjoyed a long, glorious, and peaceful reign; a remarkable type of Him of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and of his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth and for ever. Hence the Apostle applies to Jesus what was primarily said of Song of Solomon,—I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.
Besides David and Solomon prefiguring Christ in His humiliation and exaltation, we find other instances of a double type. Thus, on the great day of atonement there were two goats, one of which, when the sins of Israel were laid upon it, was slain, while the other was set free, denoting Christ dying for the sins of His people and raised for their justification.
Again, in cleansing the leper, there were two birds, the one of which was slain, the other, after being dipped in its blood, was set free. This represented the great Shepherd of the sheep brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant. Hebrews 13:10.
Moses, the Mediator of the old covenant, was a remarkable type of our great Mediator, and in correspondence with the antitype, Israel could not enter Canaan till after his death. When the people sinned in the matter of the golden calf, and Moses had broken the tables in token of the covenant being broken, he said to the people, "Ye have sinned a great sin, and now I will go up unto the Lord, peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin." Exodus 32:30. He accordingly returned to the Lord, and said, "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book which thou hast written." Exodus 32:31-32. Thus he offered his life to atone for the sin of Israel. We know that God spoke to Moses mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches. Num. xii8. There is therefore reason to suppose that Moses communicated to Israel in parables what he had heard plainly in the mount. Israel was a carnal, stiff-necked people, and could not have home the truth of the Son of God dying, and reviving, and rising. The doctrine of Christ was a stumbling-block to their children, after they had received all the additional instructions contained in the Scriptures of the prophets, had seen His own mighty works, and heard Him declared to be the Son of God by a voice from heaven,—notwithstanding all this, they crucified Him as a blasphemer. Hence, it is not improbable that Moses concealed in parables what he had been taught in the mount, and that this was intimated by the veil which he put upon his face while speaking to the people, and which he took off when he went in before the Lord. Exodus 34:33-34. If this were the case, Moses knew that Christ was to die for His people, and as the mediator of the old covenant he offered to expiate by death the sin of which Israel had been guilty. But Moses, however eminent, was but a sinful Prayer of Manasseh, and a sin-offering must be perfect to be accepted—"There shall be no blemish therein." Leviticus 22:21. But, although the death of Moses could not be accepted as an expiation for the sin of Israel, it was necessary for the correspondence of the type and the antitype, that the mediator should die before Israel could enter Canaan. Hence it is written, "Moses, my servant, is dead; now, therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, thou and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." Joshua 1:2. Thus Moses and Joshua were each a type of Christ, who, having by His death expiated the sins of His people, rose from the dead as the Captain of their salvation, and puts them in possession of the eternal inheritance.
And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
And again...—There is a great difference of opinion with respect to the construction of the word rendered "again." It may be understood either as an additional proof of what had been asserted in verse5, or it may refer to Christ being brought again into the world by His resurrection. The quotation is taken from Psalm 97 :, which is descriptive of the reign of Christ. During His humiliation he was made for a little while lower than the angels, being exposed to suffering and death; but when at His resurrection He was brought again into the world, all power in heaven and in earth was committed to Him, and all the angels of God were commanded to worship Him. The passage, therefore, appears to refer to His resurrection. In our version Psalm 97:7 is rendered "Worship him all ye gods;" but the expression is elliptical, and may be rendered "All ye angels of God."
Jesus is here termed the firstborn, or first- begotten, while personally distinct He is one with the Father. The firstborn had various privileges,—he had authority over his brethren. Hence the Lord said to Cain, after testifying his approbation of his brother's sacrifice, "Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." Genesis 4:7. God's accepting Abel's offering was not to interfere with Cain's superiority as the firstborn. Again, Jacob describes Reuben, his firstborn, as the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power. Genesis 49:3. This privilege was forfeited and transferred to Judah, of whom came the "chief ruler." 1 Chronicles 5 : Another privilege of the firstborn was a double portion. This, also, Reuben forfeited, and the privilege was transferred to Joseph, who was the father of two of the twelve tribes; while from each of Jacob's other sons sprang only one tribe. Another privilege was the priesthood, which was also forfeited by Reuben and bestowed on Levi.
Christ, as the firstborn in all things, had the preeminence; to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The angels are all commanded to worship Him; He is exalted "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Ephesians 1:21.
And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
And of the angels...—The angels are here described as spirits, and as a flame of fire. The word "spirits" also signifies "winds," and some, therefore, understand the passage as teaching us that the Lord makes winds His messengers and flaming fire His ministers; but the Apostle does not here teach us the nature of winds and of lightnings, but the nature of angels. The best interpretation seems to be, that the angels when sent by the Lord to perform His will, do so in the form of winds and fire. When Elijah was taken up into heaven, "there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire." " Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." This seems to be a work performed by the ministry of angels, the chariot and the horses of fire appear to have been angels. We also read, that when Elisha was surrounded by the Syrian army, the mountain was full of horses of fire round about the prophet. That these were persons is evident from what Elisha said to his servant, "Fear not, for there be more with us than with them." This interpretation both suits the phraseology and presents the angels in a very humble situation. Or, perhaps the meaning may be that the angels serve their Maker with the rapidity of the winds and the resistless power of the lightnings.
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom,
Christ is described, Psalmxlv6, from which this is a quotation, as God sitting on His eternal throne, holding a sceptre of righteousness. This is eminently the characteristic of the Mediator's government, which is conducted on principles of the most perfect justice. While He has taken his redeemed from the fearful pit and the miry clay, He has magnified and made honorable the law which they had broken, they are clothed with a robe of unsullied righteousness. His Gospel, which proclaims God to be just while He justifies the ungodly, is the revelation of this righteousness, Romans 1:17; and when He has reduced the creation to order and harmony, He will deliver up the kingdom to His Father, and for ever remain the glorious Head of that Church which He hath purchased with His own blood, as well as of all principality and power. The kingdom here spoken of is that kingdom upon the throne of which the King sits who reigns in righteousness, Isaiah 32:1, and on which He sat down after having finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquities, and brought in everlasting righteousness. Daniel 9:24.
That the forty-fifth Psalm refers to Christ is evident, not only from the authority of the Apostle in this passage, but from the whole tenor of the Psalm. God promised David respecting him, "I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever;" and when Gabriel announced his birth to Mary, he said, "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Song of Solomon, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall he no end." . In the Psalm He is described as riding forth in majesty, vanquishing His enemies, and placing on his right hand the "Queen," the mother of a numerous offspring.
It is evident that the Apostle here speaks of Jesus in the character of Mediator, the Son of man. In this character alone could any comparison be instituted between Him and the highest of created beings.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. —This refers to the character of Jesus while in this world, not, as some have supposed, after His government is over. It was the perfection of the character of Jesus that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity. In the days of His flesh He always did the things which pleased His Father; the law was within His heart. His language was, " O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day." He challenges His enemies to convict Him of sin. Indeed one flaw in His character would prove the Gospel a fable, for He is God manifest in the flesh, and therefore must have been absolutely perfect. Again, He received the Holy Spirit without measure, which was inconsistent with the slightest deviation from the path of righteousness. The character of Jesus is in itself a demonstration of the truth of the Gospel. Man could not have imagined such a character; and, we may say with the infidel Rousseau, that to suppose the four Gospels a forgery is more incredible than the admission of its truth. [Why then did Rousseau remain an infidel? Because, as he tells us, the Gospel contains many things to which his reason could not assent. What a comment on 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."]
Such was the Lord's love of righteousness, that He gave Himself for His people to deliver them from all iniquity, that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. He walked in the perfect law of liberty. His undertaking was entirely voluntary; hence He said, "Lo I come, to do thy will, O my God!" Amidst all the discouragements He met with, He never swerved by a hair's breadth from the path of rectitude. Amidst all the shame and reproach which He encountered He set his face as a flint, nor did He fail or become discouraged till He set judgment on the earth. He had only to will it, and legions of angels were ready to vindicate His glory; but He endured the cross, despising the shame, and thus was His mediatorial throne established in righteousness. All His subjects are righteous, without spot and blemish.
Therefore—on this account.—The anointing was the reward of Christ's love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity while on earth. Some suppose that the anointing takes place subsequently to His government, but it is not connected with His government, which is spoken of before. The eighth verse speaks of Him as a king, and the ninth verse shows why the kingdom was given Him, consequently it was not the reward of His administration of the kingdom. This would imply that Christ has not yet received the anointing, for the mediatorial kingdom will not cease till He hath put all enemies under His feet.
God, even thy God.—Some render this "therefore, O God thy God." The difference is not material. Owen observes, that the phrase is generally translated as in our version.
Hath anointed thee.—What is the anointing here meant? Is it that by which He was consecrated to the kingly office? or, has it reference to the anointing which was usual in cases of festivity and joy? The latter appears to be the meaning. Christ was anointed to all His offices after His baptism, when He received the Holy Ghost without measure. The anointing here spoken of took place after the manifestation of His love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity while in this world. It was that happiness and glory which He received as Mediator after his ascension.
Above thy fellows.—Some suppose that "by his fellows" is meant the angels, because the Apostle is here proving His superiority to angels, but He never assumed the nature of angels. In this respect He never had fellowship with them. Others think that "by his fellows" we are to understand the prophets, priests, and kings who were anointed with oil to their respective offices, which were all concentrated in Him while He was anointed with the Holy Ghost. It appears, however, rather to mean His people, whom He is not ashamed to call brethren. He took part with them in flesh and blood. He is the connecting link by which the whole family in heaven and in earth is united to God. The closeness and perpetuity of this union is exhibited in His person as God- man. Hence he says, "I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God." His fellows, then, are those with whom, by His incarnation, He has fellowship; and so close is this fellowship, that both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one— children of one family. But in all things He hath the preeminence; all their well-springs are in Him. He is anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows, He received the Holy Spirit without measure, of which no creature was capable, which is therefore a conclusive proof of His Divinity. The Jewish prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil, which was the emblem of the Spirit; they were types of Him who is the Christ, or Anointed One, and His people are called Christians because they have all an unction from the Holy One. As the precious oil, poured on the head of Aaron, ran down to the skirts of his garments, so the Spirit, poured on the great Head of the Church, is conveyed from Him to all His people, and thus they are one spirit with Him, 1 Corinthians 6:17; they are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, 1 Corinthians 12:13; and we are taught, that if any man have not the Spirit, he is none of His.
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.
And, thou, Lord.—The102Psalm, from which this quotation is taken describes, in an address to His Father, the sufferings of Christ and the depth of His humiliation. Ver1-11. The sweet Psalmist of Israel then contemplates Jehovah arising in His might to favor Sion, and anticipates the universal spread of the Gospel. Ver16-22. He then adverts to His own suffering and death, ver23, and describes the supplications which He offered to Him who was able to save Him from death. Ver24. The concluding verses contain the answer to the prayer. Had the Psalm not been quoted by the Apostle, we should, probably, have understood the conclusion of the Psalm as the continuance of the prayer, but we learn from the Apostle that it is the answer which Christ received. In the depth of His humiliation He is acknowledged as the Creator of heaven and earth. John 1:3. The Apostle had previously stated that God had made the worlds by His Song of Solomon, ver2; and here, in reply to the expression of Christ's deep and overwhelming affliction, He is reminded that His years are throughout all generations:—"Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end." Psalm 102:25-27. It had been given to the Son to have life in Himself, although in connexion with his humanity He had received a commandment to lay it down, that He might take it again; and not only Song of Solomon, but the children of His servants should continue, and their seed should be established before Him, which exactly corresponds with our Lord's words—"Because I live, ye shall live also." John 14:19.
They shall perish; but thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth a garment.
They shall perish.—However glorious the work of creation, the heavens and earth shall perish. They are, so to speak, the scaffolding for the erection of a more glorious fabric.
. Here we may apply the Apostle's reasoning,—"Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." 1 Corinthians 15:46. So the visible heavens and earth are intended to introduce the new creation,—"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, "Write: for these words are true and faithful." Revelation 21:1-5. The heavens and the earth shall be changed; but Hebrews, the Messiah, remains; He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
They all shall wax old as doth a garment.— As a garment becomes unfit for being worn, so shall they wax old.
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall he changed.—The first creation shall, like a vesture, be folded up and laid aside.
But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.—This is a most decided testimony to the supreme Divinity of the Lord Jesus. He is the same. The word is used, chap. He is the unchangeable Jehovah. The years of the heavens and the earth are numbered, and shall fail, not so the years of the Son of God, the Ancient of days.
The expression "changed" merits attention. We know nothing of annihilation; probably there is no such thing in the universe. God created nothing in vain; annihilation means any substance being reduced to nothing. We have no experience of this; the body is changed to dust, fuel into smoke, water into steam, and here we read that the heavens and the earth shall be changed.
Even had the Apostle not applied to Christ, we might have been led to it by the last verse: "The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee." Applying the Psalm from verse24to Christ, all is plain and easy. In the depth of His humiliation He is acknowledged as the great Creator, and assured that the children of His servants should continue, and their seed be established before Him. This is very beautiful and consoling as applied to Christ, and exactly corresponds with many promises made to the Lord Jesus. Psalm 22:30-31; Psalm 45:16; Psalm 69:36. Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 59:21.
In this quotation we have another most explicit testimony to the supreme Divinity of Christ. He is not only declared to be superior to angels, but to be "over all, God blessed for ever." Romans 9:5. This is shown by His being represented as seated on His eternal throne, Hebrews 1:8; and not only having in His character of mediator the preeminence over all those with whom he had condescended to unite himself, but as the Creator of all things. Amidst all the changes which he would effect on the works of His hands, in order to adapt them to His infinitely wise purposes, He remains for ever the same, and with Him there is no variableness or shadow of turning. James 1:17.
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
The Apostle here returns to his argument to prove the superiority of the Lord Jesus to angels, of which, indeed, he had never lost sight; but had soared so high in describing the Divinity of the Son of God, as to leave every created being far beneath Him. The honor of sitting at the right hand of God is such, that it never was given to any of the angels. They are described as round about the throne; but Christ, in the character of mediator, sits upon the throne at the Father's right hand. Thus Christ is distinguished from all angels of every order, from the highest to the lowest.
Sit on my right hand, is a quotation from Psalm 110:1; Psalm 110:5; it was quoted by our Lord in the days of His flesh, as having been written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in reference to Christ. The great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, was hid from the scribes and pharisees, although plainly declared in the Scriptures; but, like many other predictions, was not understood till its fulfilment.
The reference to Psalm 110 : was exactly to the Apostle's purpose in proof of Messiah's superiority to angels. It also contained a powerful argument to induce the believing Hebrews to hold fast their allegiance to Christ, because all His enemies must be made His footstool. Isaiah 60:12. Psalm 72:9.
Enemies.—The devil and his angels are in a state of rebellion against God; and it would appear that their rebellion arose from the intimation of the exaltation of Christ, and that our Lord refers to this when He said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth" John 8:44. It was God's eternal purpose to make known by the Church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom. Ephesians 3:10. In furtherance of this design He seems to have revealed to the heavenly hosts His determination to put all things under the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, Satan, then an angel of light, and, it may be, superior to all other angels, scorned the thought of being subject to a creature formed of the dust. He therefore set himself to defeat bis Maker's purpose. He knew His justice and His truth; he heard the intimation, "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." If, then, he could lead man to transgress, the exaltation of Adam, or any of bis posterity, appeared absolutely impossible. He succeeded, he brought mankind under the curse; but there is no counsel or divination against the Lord. His purpose was accomplished by the very means employed to defeat it; for, in the fulness of time, the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and now in human nature is seated at God's right hand to gather in his redeemed, and to take vengeance on all his enemies. Satan bas thus become the dupe of his own subtlety, and has been made the unwilling instrument of accomplishing the Divine purpose.
Not only are the devil and his angels the enemies of Christ, but all the children of men who have not been chosen in Him—called by His grace, are among the number of His enemies. But all His enemies shall be made His footstool. They shall not only fail in their attempts to injure those who are called into the fellowship of God's dear Song of Solomon, but their enmity shall be overruled to promote the benefit of Christ's people. As a footstool is a convenience to one seated on a chair of state, so all the machinations of Satan and his adherents shall advance the glory of the Son of God.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Are they not all ministering spirits...—This form of expression may imply that the thing asserted was known and admitted by the Hebrews; yet our belief of it does not rest on this foundation, but on the authority of the Apostle. The question implies no doubt, on the subject of inquiry; it is a strong mode of asserting a proposition. The existence of angels was believed by the Jews, with the exception of the Sadducees. We have many instances in the Old Testament of angels being employed to convey messages to men, and in defending the people of God. Such is not now visibly the case: we have no reason to expect an extraordinary message to be conveyed to us by angels, or that they shall visibly come to our aid; but it is well that we should know that all the angels are employed by our Lord to minister to the heirs of salvation. It may be asked, of what use is this ministry? Had the Lord any need of such agents as instruments in taking care of his people? Certainly not; but can anything more clearly prove the dignity of the saints? They are despised among men, yet all the angels in heaven wait on them. Many of God's people may be engaged in the meanest offices among men, yet they have a retinue of angels to watch over them.
Heirs of salvation.—The saints have their privileges, not by works of righteousness, but by inheritance. They are joint-heirs with Christ. Adam was the heir of the world, , but he lost his inheritance. The second Adam is appointed heir of all things, and the inheritance is secured by his love and power to all the children of promise. Those who are saved inherit glory, therefore salvation includes, not only deliverance from misery, but also the possession of glory. Here it signifies whatever the people of God shall enjoy throughout eternity.
Shall be.—Hence it appears that the ministering of the angels belongs to the heirs of salvation from the earliest period of their existence. It is said of Jeremiah,—"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." Jeremiah 1:5. The Lord separated Paul from his mother's womb, and no doubt the angels were employed in ministering to him while breathing out slaughter and threatening against the disciples of Christ.
Such is the introduction of this most instructive epistle. The Apostle begins by referring to the revelations which God had given by that succession of prophets who were raised up from the beginning. He had now spoken by His Song of Solomon, whom He had constituted heir of all things. By Him and for Him all the worlds were made. He is the image of the invisible God, and has revealed Him to us, clearly exhibiting his glorious perfections. Having, by offering the body which had been prepared for Him, cast the sins of His people into the depths of the sea, so that they should be no more remembered, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, denoting His absolute and universal dominion. He is the Judge of the quick and the dead, to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. The name which He inherited, and which in its proper sense exclusively belongs to Him, was far more glorious than the name given to the angels. To none of them had God said,
Thou art my Song of Solomon, this day have I begotten thee. He had described none of them as standing to Him in the relation of a Son. On the contrary, when He foretold the appearance of the first-begotten, the Lord and heir of all, He commanded all the angels of God to worship Him.
The angels are described as executing His will with the rapidity of winds and the resistless power of the lightnings; but the Son is addressed as God sitting on his eternal throne, and as a King reigning in righteousness. He humbled himself, so that, although he was truly God, the Father stood to Him in the relation of His God; and, lest this should derogate from His innate dignity, He is described as the Creator of all things, who, amidst all their mutations, abideth ever the same. Once more, which of the angels was ever invited to sit at God's right hand until their enemies were made their footstool? So far from their being thus honored, they are all only ministering spirits, sent forth by their glorious Head to minister to the heirs of salvation.
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Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany