God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…
Two critical remarks.
1. "Sundry times" — more literally, sundry portions — sections, not of time, but of the matter of the revelation. God gave His revelation in parts, piecemeal, as you teach a child to spell a word — letter by letter, syllable by syllable — adding all at last together. God had a word to spell — His own Name. By degrees He did it. At last it came entire. The Word was made flesh.
2. "His Son," more correctly, "a Son" — for this is the very argument. Not that God now spoke by Christ, but that whereas once He spoke by prophets, now He spoke by a Son. The filial dispensation was the last. I am to show, then, that the manifestation of God through a Son was implied, not realised, in the earlier dispensation. "Sundry portions" of this truth are instanced in the Epistle. The mediatorial dispensation of Moses — the gift of Canaan — the Sabbath, &c. At present I select these:
1. The preparatory dispensation.
2. The filial and final dispensation.
I. IT WAS IMPLIED, NOT FULFILLED, IN THE KINGLY OFFICE. Three Psalms are quoted, all referring to kingship. In Psalm 2. it was plain that the true idea of a king was only fulfilled in One who was a Son of God. In the 110th Psalm a new idea is added. The true king must be a priest. "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek." Further still. The Epistle extends this idea to man. The psalm had ascribed (Psalm 8:6) kingly qualities and rule to manhood — rule over the creation. Thus the idea of a king belonged properly to humanity; to the Jewish king as the representative of humanity. In Jesus of Nazareth alone all these fragments, these sundry portions of the revealed idea of royalty met.
II. CHRISTIANITY WAS IMPLIED IN THE RACE OF PROPHETS. The second class of quotations refer to the prophets' life and history (Hebrews 2:11-14; Psalm 22:22; Psalm 18:2; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 8:18). Remember what the prophets were. They were not merely predictors of the future. Nothing destroys the true conception of the prophets' office more than those popular books in which their mission is certified by curious coincidences. But in truth, the first office of the prophet was with the present. He read eternal principles beneath the present and the transitory, and in doing this of course he prophesied the future; for a principle true to-day is true for ever. But this was, so to speak, an accident of his office: not its essential feature. A philosopher saying in the present tense the law by which comets move, predicts all possible cometary movements. Now the prophet's life almost more than his words was predictive. The writer of this Epistle lays down a great principle respecting the prophet, "Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one." It was the very condition of his inspiration that he should be one with the people. He burned with their thoughts, and expressed them. He was obliged by the very sensitiveness of his humanity to have a more entire dependence and a more perfect sympathy than other men. The sanctifying prophet was one with those whom he sanctified. Hence he uses those expressions quoted from Isaiah and the Psalms above. He was more man, just because more Divine — more a son of man, because more a son of God. He was peculiarly the suffering Israelite: His countenance marred more than the sons of men.
III. THE PRIESTHOOD CONTINUED THIS IDEA LATENT.
1. The Jewish priest represented the holiness of the nation; he went into the holy of holies, showing it. But this great idea was only implied, not fulfilled in the Jewish priest. He was only by a fiction the representative of holiness. Holy he was not. He only entered into a fictitious holy of holies. If the idea were to be ever real, it must be in One who should be actually what the Jewish priest was by a figment, and who should carry our humanity into the real holy of holies — the presence of God; thus becoming our invisible and eternal Priest.
2. Next it was implied that his call must be Divine. But in the 110th Psalm a higher call is intimated than that Divine call which was made to the Aaronic priesthood by a regular succession, or as it is called in the Epistle, "the law of a carnal commandment." Melchizedek's call is spoken of. The king is called a priest after his older. Not a derived or hereditary priesthood: not one transmissible, beginning and ending in himself (Hebrews 7:1-3), but a priesthood in other words, of character, of inward right: a call internal, hence more Divine: or, as the writer calls it, a priest "after the power of an endless life." This was the idea for which the Jewish psalms themselves ought to have prepared the Jew.
3. Again the priests offered gifts and sacrifices. Only Christ's all-perfect sacrifice of Himself can avail in the sight of God. He is the only High Priest of the universe.
(F. W. . Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,