John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: April 30

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John Kitto Evening Bible Devotions: April 30


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The Sure Word of Prophecy

Isa_42:9

By the mouth of Isaiah the Lord says: “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare before they spring forth I tell you of them.” This corresponds with other intimations, in which the Lord describes himself as declaring the end from the beginning, and as speaking of things that are not as though they were. But in the text we have selected for particular notice this day, the known fulfillment of past prophecies is connected with predictions of things to come. It is as much as to say, ‘Now that things formerly predicted have come to pass, your confidence is the more imperatively demanded, that the future things now foretold shall in like manner be fulfilled, however improbable they may appear, and although there is not yet visible any trace of the circumstances which may be expected to lead to them.’

The evidence of truth from the fulfillment of former prophecies, delivered by the individual prophet himself, or by others similarly commissioned, and speaking in the same name, seemed in a great measure necessary to establish confidence in wavering minds, of the eventual fulfillment of prophecies relating to matters hidden in the distant future. A man who comes and tells us of things that are to happen when both the hearer and speaker will probably or certainly be no longer in the land of the living, must give us some evidence that he is entitled to our belief. There are two things to be established: first, That the prophecies of the Lord fail not of their fulfillment; and second, That the prophecies now uttered are from the Lord, and that he who delivers them is His recognized and commissioned servant.

The proof that the word of the Lord cannot be void, is easily afforded by a reference to the past generally; and there were indeed few of the prophets who could not refer to predictions uttered by themselves, which had speedily been fulfilled, and which, therefore, established at once the truth of their utterances, and authenticated their own commission. Isaiah could refer to many such—the most signal being the prediction that the kingdom of the Ten Tribes should cease before a child about to be born should “know how to refuse the evil, and choose the good;” the one respecting the frustration of the Assyrian king’s designs, which was almost immediately fulfilled; and that respecting the recovery of Hezekiah in three days, and the prolongation of his life for fifteen years. A man who could point to these instances might with confidence claim credence for things so seemingly unlikely and remote, as the downfalls of empires and the desolation of states then in their palmiest state, and the rise to greatness of nations scarcely known to exist; not to speak of those higher prophecies which launch forth into the wider space, and speak of Christ, his humiliation, his kingdom, and his glory.

This sort of evidence was of weight to the contemporaries of the prophets; and, so far as they believed, was calculated to afford them encouraging glimpses through the rent veil of time. But to us it is far more important than to them, and the scope it embraces is more extensive. In fact, prophecy seems to be of more value for encouragement and strengthening to the living, than it was to the dead generations of men. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy, which was but scanty, in comparison, to the people whose ears drank in the very voices of the prophets, is most full and abundant to us, who can, in these later times, look back upon a vast body of prophecy already accomplished. This cannot be gainsaid. It cannot be questioned, that certain prophecies were delivered long anterior to the events to which they manifestly referred; and every man of common information has constantly before him, in this our day, real and tangible signs—positive evidence, that much that the prophets foretold has been fulfilled. “Much,” but not all; simply because all prophecy—which extends forward to that day when the “mighty, angel,” standing upon the sea and upon the earth, shall lift up his hand to heaven, and swear by Him who liveth forever and ever, that “there shall be time no longer”—has not yet been accomplished.

To this paramount use of prophecy—in the future more than at the time of its delivery, and in the past rather than in the present—our Lord himself distinctly refers, when, after foreshowing his disciples the kind of life, so different from their calculations, that awaited them, he adds, “These things have I told you, that, when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them,Joh_16:4. When the circumstances he had foretold came to pass, the disciples would be encouraged and strengthened by the thought that these were not strange things, but parts of the plan which they were appointed, under the Divine Spirit, to carry out. They had been foreseen and foretold by Him, and therefore all that successively came to pass as he had foretold, became a new proof that all that He had spoken, all that they had believed, was indeed a truth, and no lie.

This kind of proof is the peculiar and essential characteristic of the evidence from prophecy, and in no slight degree contributes to its singular efficacy in gaining on our minds, convincing our judgments, and influencing our opinions, in removing our doubts, and strengthening our faith; and thus becomes a most effectual instrument in advocating the cause, and in confirming the truth and certainty, of the religion of the Bible. Its power in this respect has been often tested. It is, for instance, authentically recorded, that more than one unbelieving soul has been overcome, convinced, converted, by comparing the prophecy concerning the death and sufferings of Christ, contained in Isaiah 53, with its exact fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth.

If we consider it well, we find the evidence from prophecy, arid its convincing power, stronger, or at least more enduring, than that of miracle. The evidence of miracle is designed to operate chiefly for the immediate and powerful conviction of those who are the contemporaries of him by whom the miracle is wrought, and comes to after-ages in the fainter and reflected light of testimony, that such things were done. Prophecy is, in the moment of utterance, less forcibly convincing as a proof of the truth, and a test of the Divine will and interference unless in the instances of immediate fulfillment, in which case it partakes of the nature of a miracle, as when Moses predicted the fate of Korah and his rebellious company. “Like wine, prophecy improves, by age, and acquires with it not only ripeness and maturity, but strength and excellence. Time, which wears out and destroys almost everything else, only contributes to stamp the value, and to augment the influence and benefits, of prophecy; it is, therefore, from this circumstance alone, possessed of amazing powers; it is a motion continually accelerated; it is a weight perpetually descending, and therefore continually increasing its force and impulse as it descends. It is the cone, weak and narrow perhaps at top, but insensibly and incessantly enlarging itself, till it becomes a vast and solid mass, immense in weight and bulk, and irresistible in force and effect.” Note: Whitney Scheme and Completion of Prophecy, 1833.

This is quality of prophecy imposes upon us a high and solemn responsibility with regard to it, far greater than lay upon those to whom the prophecies were in the first instance given. We see more, we know more; the evidence is placed before us with accumulated force. If, therefore, they who saw but the commencing links of the mighty chain of evidences which prophecy offers, were not held guiltless for neglecting its intimations, of how much sorer punishment shall we be deemed worthy, who stand in the flood of light from its widening ray, if we neglect it, if we suffer ourselves to doubt in presence of it—if we fail to avail ourselves to the utmost of the ample means of strengthening and refreshing, which it in these hastening ages offers!

In this point of view, how solemnly come the words of the Apostle: “We have also the more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.”