Before we return to our discussion of the offices in the Church, I want to take this opportunity to extend to you the sincerest blessings of the Lord in your work in the year which lies ahead. We, in distinction from the world, do not see the beginning of a new year as a time to make a fresh beginning after a year filled with much failure and disappointment. It is not a time for “New Year’s resolutions.” Insofar, as we look back, it is for purposes of reflecting on God’s great goodness which He has shown to us. But we look ahead. And, while we do not know and cannot tell what the new year has waiting for us, we do know that the beginning of another year points ahead to the beginning of the rule of Christ with His Church in His kingdom of everlasting glory—just as the end of a year reminds us of the end of all things which is at hand. And because we labor by grace in God’s kingdom, we labor in the confidence that our work, under God’s blessing, will serve to bring about the day of final victory for the Church. In this assurance, I pray for a blessed new year for you.
In our last letter we discussed the various ways in which God took special care for the office which Adam lost through sin in the Old Dispensation. We talked briefly about the fact that the three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king was concentrated in the patriarchs prior to the formation of the nation of Israel. It is interesting to notice, however, that while the patriarchs really held all three offices in their families and clans, the offices were only dimly reflected in these men. Even in the Old Dispensation the offices came to clearer and fuller expression when the nation of Israel was brought into existence. We also talked about the unique office which Melchizedek held and how he pre-figured Christ in a unique way. But it was especially during the time of the history of Israel that the offices came to their highest typical manifestation. That is what now needs to be discussed.
Now the first point that needs to be emphasized is that the two offices of king and priest were kept rigidly separate in the time of Israel’s history. Kings and priests functioned in different offices and were not permitted to encroach upon the office which was not theirs. There are some instances of this happening in Israel, and Scripture tells us that this was a very great sin. One instance is recorded for us in II Samuel 13. Saul was fighting against the Philistines. Saul had been instructed to wait with entering the battle until Samuel had come to make the appropriate sacrifices. (By the way, Samuel could properly make these sacrifices because he was of the tribe of Levi, I Chron. 6:16, 23. This was why Samuel could serve in the tabernacle during the days of Eli. Sacrificing was limited to the tribe of Levi. Jeroboam committed a terrible sin when he “made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” I Kings 12:31.) But the people were deserting him because the battle seemed unnecessarily postponed and they were increasingly afraid. And so Saul made these sacrifices himself. “‘And (Saul) tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came.” I Samuel 13:8-10.
This was a grievous sin for which Saul lost the right to be king. “And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.” I Sam. 13:11-14.
We have another instance of this in the case of Uzziah, king of Judah. Although he was a God-fearing king, we read of him that he attempted to take over the office of the priesthood. “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a tenser in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him.”
The point of these incidents is that the office of king and priest were kept strictly separate in the nation. We may perhaps ask the question why this was so necessary. The Scriptures do not give us a direct answer to this question, but we may perhaps deduce at least a partial answer from what we know of these offices and their functions in the dispensation of shadows. In the first place, God had ordained that Christ should be a priest only after the order of Melchizedek. And He was a priest after the order of Melchizedek because Christ alone united in His person the offices of priest and king. It was uniquely Melchizedek’s prerogative to point ahead to Christ in this unique way. The second reason is that the whole development of types in the Old Testament must be looked at organically. We cannot go into this in detail, for it would carry us far afield. But it must be remembered that types developed. And they developed because through the various periods of Old Testament history, God caused the light of His promise to shine more and more clearly. He was constantly showing His people in a fuller way the riches of His promise soon to be realized in Christ. Thus, the patriarchs could, in a sense, hold all three offices. But these offices were only dimly reflected in the patriarchs. When the offices came to clearer typical manifestation, they had to be separated from each other. And they had to be separated from each other because it had to remain clear always that these offices were only types. They pointed ahead to Christ, but they were not the reality. They could not accomplish what Christ did. They were inferior. They were pictures. And because of their inferiority, the richness of the promise in Christ could only be shown by dividing the offices. David could scarcely (if I may put it that way) serve as a proper picture of Christ in the office of king. This was so true that he was refused permission to build the temple because he was a man of war and had blood on his hands. He could, at best, as king, reflect only one aspect of Christ’s work as king. It was impossible then that he also reflect Christ’s work as priest. His place in the organic development of types was very limited because of his inferiority.
At any rate, this was the truth of the matter. No king might function as priest and no priest might function as king.
The second element which was true of the idea of the office in the days of the nation of Israel was the fact that the office of prophet was both a separate office and was an office shared by kings and priests. The first idea hardly needs any proof. There were prophets in Israel from the very beginning of the history of the nation. And these men functioned exclusively in the office of prophet. They were not priests and they were not kings. We have to mention only such names as Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, etc. to show how true this was.
But that the office of prophet was shared by the kings and the priests needs perhaps a bit more proof. We must remember in this connection that the office of prophet is particularly the office through which God’s Word is revealed. Thus Rev. Hoeksema writes in hisDogmatics: “In general, we may say that a prophet is one that has the knowledge of God, speaks in His name, and thus declares his praises.” p. 366. But anyone who was an officebearer in Israel spoke this Word of God. Oftentimes the priests were consulted that an individual might know God’s Word. Sometimes this was through the Urim and Thummim and sometimes through the ephod. I Samuel 23:9-12, I Samuel 28:6, in connection with Exodus 28:30.
When Saul received the Spirit at the time of his anointing, he, prophesied, so much so that it became a saying in Israel: “Is Saul also among the prophets?” I Samuel 10:6, 10-13. David could not have written the Psalms unless he possessed the Spirit of prophecy, for the Psalms are not simply poetry for singing in the temple and are not only autobiographical, but are Messianic as they speak of the Christ Who was to come. In fact, it is a striking thing that Jesus quotes the Psalms as if they were His very own, as if He Himself had written them. And this is true, for it was the Spirit of Christ which inspired David to write them to begin with. The same, of course, is true of the writings of Solomon. We have a very striking instance of this truth in John 11:47-53. Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave and this had had a profound effect upon the people. The leaders of the Jews were frightened by Jesus’ popularity with the people and gathered together in counsel to ponder what could be done. In the course of the discussion, Caiaphas became impatient with the members of the Sanhedrin and suggested a course of action which would result in Jesus’ death. He said, “Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” Then John adds the significant words: “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” The point is that Caiaphas, though a wicked man, was able to prophesy because he was high priest. As high priest he was able to function in the office of prophet.
But we must discontinue our discussion for this time and continue it at a later date.
Fraternally in Christ,