Date: December 4, 1930
The Scriptures must be fulfilled. – Mark 14:49
IMAGINE that we have before us this evening a large pile of the so-called “sacred books” of all the non-Christian religions in the world and imagine that quite apart from this towering stack of queer and curious writings you place a single copy of our Bible. Do you know that one of the most striking of the many and notable differences that you could find between our Scriptures and all of these allegedly “holy” books would be this, that our Bible is the only volume which definitely and convincingly proves itself to be the truth of God through the remarkable prophecies and the still more remarkable fulfillments which its pages contain?
Remember that no other book has ever torn aside the veil that enshrouds the future as the Bible has. Of course, men have repeatedly tried to penetrate into the mysterious course of coming events, and I mean men who have employed thoroughgoing personal research and investigation, not the brazen and fraudulent fortune-telling, which is indicted by the Law of God and condemned by the law of practically every self-respecting community in the country. But even the best of their predictions have proved to be only conjectures and usually poor conjectures. The records of the official pronouncements of recognized scientific groups and university faculties reveal that within the last one hundred years, to confine ourselves to that period of modem advancement, these august bodies have relieved themselves of predictions which have proved absurdly impractical or impossible. In a very serious moment Thomas Jefferson prophesied to his friend John Adams that the time would come in America when people would drink much more cocoa than tea and coffee combined. About a year ago a loss of thirty-five billions of dollars in security values was sustained by people who thought they could foretell the rise and fall of financial affairs. For several years traffic experts and economists have made careful predictions of the expansion of the Panama Canal tonnage, claiming that a new canal would be imperative by this time. Now a presidential commission reports that none of these predictions have been correct and that it will be some time before the new waterway will be necessary. In a recent week, in one of our large cities, the United States Weather Bureau, with all the facilities of our national meteorological survey at its disposal, daily made inaccurate or incorrect predictions on the weather conditions of the ensuing twenty-four hours.
If men cannot successfully predict the turn of such material affairs in life, it will be self-evident that they stand hopeless and helpless before the future as it involves their souls. Think of the disappointment and disillusionment that have followed in the wake of misguided prophecies that have been made in the name of religion. Remember how frequently end-of-the-world prophets have repeated their delusion by claiming to reveal the exact hour of the earth’s collapse. Recall the suffering and despair which swept over our country in the forties of the last century when hundreds of people sold their homes and property, draped themselves in white robes, and went up on the tops of hills and mountains to meet Christ, but in reality to meet a rude shattering of their hopes. These and other equally tragic instances demonstrate that humanity, far from being able to draw aside the curtain that veils the future, gropes about blindly, hardly able to understand even the past, heedlessly conjecturing a score of contradictory interpretations of the present. After all is said, with the atom of intuition that we possess, you and I cannot predict with any degree of certainty what may happen to us tomorrow or within the next five minutes.
But the Bible can pierce the impregnable bulwark of the future. According to the divine testimony of our Savior in the words of our text, given on the night of His betrayal, “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” And today, when men look for positive proof for the truth of the Word of God, when they cry out, in effect, “Prove it, and we shall believe it,” what better can we do than first of all hold up the remarkable and superhuman fulfillment of prophecy in the past history with which the pages of Scripture abound?
THE PROPHETIC PAGES HAVE BEEN FULFILLED.
Challenging the idol-gods of Babylonia, the prophet Isaiah demands, “Show the things that are to come hereafter that we may know that ye are gods.” But the only answer to this challenge has been the dumb and sullen silence of defeat. Yet those who disdain the Bible take one of its prophecies after the other and witness the exact and literal fulfillment which has followed in the course of past history.
Here is the proud city of Nineveh, the mistress of the civilized East. In the heyday of her power and glory, when her grandeur and luxury attracted the admiration of the entire world, a lone Hebrew prophet, Nahum, arose to predict, “God will make an utter end of the place thereof.” Her “palaces shall be dissolved.” “She is empty and void and waste.” What happened? Today, in the vicinity of Mosul, the exact fulfillment of each syllable of this prophecy rises up before every traveler who sees the huge mounds covering the ruins and debris of this haughty city with all but impenetrable oblivion. Or here is self-sufficient Babylon. In the day when its winged armies swiftly annexed country upon country, it suddenly felt the wrath of God to which Isaiah had given prophetic expression 150 years before, when he declared, “Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, . . . shall never be inhabited; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there, but wild beasts of the desert shall lie there.” 2,500 years later a pioneer archeologist looks at the ruins of ancient Babylon and writes, “Shapeless heaps of rubbish cover for many an acre the face of the land . . . and render the site of Babylon a naked and hideous waste. Owls start from the scanty thickets, and the foul jackal skulks through the furrows.” Here, in these and a hundred other instances of fulfilled prophecy we have abundant and compelling reason to rise up and defend the truth of the Old Testament in a day when it is fashionable, even in certain theological seminaries, to speak disdainfully of the Old Covenant and to brand its contents as half-savage morality and as historically incorrect and untrustworthy. After nineteen eventful centuries of human affairs we echo the Savior’s verdict, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
But far more vital and precious than these fulfilled prophecies, which pay their testimony to the power and the truth of God, is that sacred, golden chain of pledges which testify to the unfathomable and immeasurable love of God, the rich promises concerning the coming of our Lord and Savior to which the Advent season once more directs our attention. Christ says of the Old Testament pages, “They are they that testify of Me”; and who is there that can begin with Moses, as the Savior Himself began when He walked with His disciples on the Emmaus road, and not find unfolded there the divine forecast of His life and death of love? The gates of Paradise Lost swing closed upon the human race, but not before a Redeemer, “the Seed of the woman,” has been promised, to lead humanity to Paradise Regained. Centuries roll on, and a more explicit prophecy tells men that this Redeemer is to be a descendant of Abraham. Then, of Abraham’s posterity the tribe of Judah is chosen and of the tribe of Judah the house of David and of the Davidic lineage the little town of Bethlehem.
Again, when men strained their vision to the future and asked, “Who is this Redeemer?” the clear voice of inspired prophecy rang out to bring the assurance that this Christ was not to be a mere mortal human being like you and me, but that by His very virgin birth, by His superhuman nature, this Child that is born to us and the Son that is given to us must be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”; that He is, as the Second Psalm declares, none other than God’s Son, begotten of the Father from eternity. Nor was the life of our Savior so enshrouded in the haze of distant centuries that His career remained a mysterious enigma for those who yearned to know of His days in the flesh. We think of the beginning of the Savior’s public life, and we hear Isaiah’s prophecy of John the Baptist, the divinely ordained forerunner of Christ, as “the voice of Him that crieth in the wilderness”; and when we hear the prediction, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,” we have a prophetic indication of the Savior’s incipient ministry in the Galilean countries and along the coast. Or, to skip over the intervening prophecies, when we come to the end of His ministry and behold His triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, the cries of hosanna and welcome raised by the motley throngs at the roadside were but the echo of Zechariah’s prophecy five centuries before.
And when men tried to pierce the shrouded future and find the reason of the Messiah’s coming and the blessings of His advent into the flesh, the prophetic books of the Old Testament answered with definite beauty and precise promise. Those who saw His suffering and death with such clarity that centuries before Jesus was crucified they could predict that He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver, deserted by His disciples, mocked by His fellow countrymen, rejected by the Gentiles; that His hands and feet would be perforated by the nails of death, that the soldiers under the cross would cut up His garments and cast lots for the mantle that was without seam; that, although this Christ would be condemned as a common criminal and therefore destined to burial in the potter’s field, He was nevertheless to enjoy the repose of an honorable death in the rock-hewn tomb of a wealthy follower; and that finally He was to prove His divine power by His exemption from the corruption and disintegration of the grave;—those who saw all this and preserved it in their prophecies as an everlasting memorial to the power and truth of God knew that He came to bear our sins and carry our griefs, to be bruised for our iniquities and wounded for our transgressions, to offer us without money and without price the joy of our salvation and the certainty of our redemption. They knew, as Jesus knew, that “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”
THE PROPHETIC PROMISE WILL BE FULFILLED.
Now all this has been fulfilled. The fullness of time has come. All things are now ready.
What the fathers most desired,
What the prophets’ heart inspired,
What they longed for many a year,
Stands fulfilled in glory here.
Tonight, as we enjoy the priceless privilege of beholding that Christ face to face in His Word, as the great panorama of fulfilled Messianic prophecy unfolds itself before us, let us remember that, if there is one practical deduction that we can make from this remarkable harmony that exists between prophecy and fulfillment, it is this: The same God who so unmistakably proved His divine power and love in the past by keeping His pledged promise of the world’s Redeemer, will continue the demonstration of His faithfulness in the future. The assurance that the Scriptures have been fulfilled literally is the divine warrant and guaranty for this truth of personal and direct importance that they will be fulfilled with the same power and love in your life. The divine promise for all ages to come remains, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled.” For here, in the everlasting faithfulness of God in Christ, is the power that gives men “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Here is the great impulse that makes Christianity essentially the religion of supreme happiness, the practical solution to the difficulties and the complexity of modern life, the force that leads men to Christ and to heaven’s happiness.
Someone has counted the promises of Scripture and has found that they number more than 30,000. But how sorely this tired, aching, feverish world needs every one of these assurances of a God who has helped and who will help! We like to pride ourselves on the conquests of human ingenuity that have been recorded in this marvelous age; but I often think that deep below the veneer of smug self-satisfaction there is the aching heart of a disillusioned humanity that has plucked the last fruits from the tree of human ambition and achievement only to find that they crumble to dust beneath its greedy grasp.
Are you troubled with sin and disturbed about the selfishness that abounds in your life? Listen to this sacred promise of an ever faithful God, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Are you distressed by sorrow and worry and anxiety? Here is the promise penned by inspiration for you: “Cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Are you anxiously concerned about providing food and warmth and shelter for your family? Are you near the end of your resources, with no human agency able to help you? Tonight the Scriptures, which have never made a promise that has not been kept, tell you, “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Jesus Christ.” Are you lying on a bed of sickness and pain? Have you been shut in for years and shut off from much of the joy of life? Remember that it is to you especially that the gentle Savior, who devoted so much of His time and energy to the sick and the maimed, speaks these comforting words, “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy, . . . and your joy no man taketh from you.” Do you want a friend and counselor and guide when all human agencies have proved to be pitifully frail and faulty? Come to Christ; for He, who is the Truth, tells you, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Do you cry out in the night of sorrow and disillusionment and helplessness, as you plead for some one that is firm and everlasting, true and faithful, superhuman and divine, “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!”? Then prepare to make the pilgrimage of faith and hope and love to the manger in Bethlehem; turn your thoughts away from the distracting influences that are so frequently associated with much of the preparation for Christmastide, lift your hearts to God, and remember that, if there is any need that confronts you, any sorrow that oppresses you, any danger that besets you, you can trust God and find in His promise the divine serenity which gives you the confidence to tell yourself in Jesus’ name; “The Scriptures must be fulfilled,” and to confront a hostile and unsympathetic world with the challenge, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”—“all things” for time; “all things” for eternity; “all things” for life; “all things” for death; “all things” in Christ, through Christ, for Christ—the gracious King of His Church. Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.