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The principle of the authority of Scripture as given in Deuteronomy was accepted remarkably by the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and by our Lord for His Forerunner and Himself as prophets in the Gospels.
THE acceptance of the principles in Deuteronomy xvii. xviii. as to the authority and attestation of prophets can be well illustrated, as implied on page 18, by (1) the case of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and (2) the example of our Lord in relation to John the Baptist in the Gospel.
(1) Jeremiah's call to the prophetic office is given in words recalling the promise in Deuteronomy: "The LORD said unto me, See, I have put My words in thy mouth" (Jer. i. 9).
The test to which he appeals when his authority is called in question is given thus: Hananiah the son of Azur of
Gibeon foretold the return of the captives who had gone to Babylon with Jeconiah within two full years. He also took the yoke, which symbolised the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, from off Jeremiah's neck (Jer. xxviii.). Jeremiah said "Amen" to the prediction of Hananiah, "The Lord perform thy words. . . . Nevertheless . . . the prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." This is the very test appointed in Deuteronomy xviii. 22. That the Lord had not sent Hananiah was speedily proved by Hananiah's death, not within two years, but within two months. Needless to say, the captives did not return within the time that Hananiah specified. This is the attestation of the living prophecy. Its authority when written and read to the people and the king by the commandment of the LORD is well illustrated by the story in Jeremiah xxxvi. Incidentally, that story shows that the Word of God when "put in a prophet's
mouth" was never forgotten by the prophet himself. For Jeremiah wrote, or rather dictated, twice over to Baruch the scribe all the words that the Lord had spoken to him during more than twenty years, which he does not appear to have put in writing until then. This is not what is usually understood by inspiration, but it is a very peculiar mode of revelation, of which we have no experience. Unless the fact had been plainly stated, we should never have supposed anything of the kind. But it would entirely explain the Song of Moses as given him on the day he wrote it. See Jeremiah xxxvi. 2, and 17, 18, and 32.
The reliance of our Lord upon the rule given by Moses for the acceptance of His own claim to the position of a prophet in Israel affords a unique testimony to the validity of the enactment in Deuteronomy xviii.
The circumstances are familiar to every reader of the Gospels, but their bearing is often overlooked. In John i. we read of the "record" or "testimony of John" the
Baptist when "the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?" This was a formal deputation composed of Pharisees-the party in the State who would naturally be most exact in all legal matters-and they pressed John for a reply, "that we may give an answer to them that sent us." "What sayest thou of thyself?" was the first inquiry. Who art thou? The Christ? No. Elijah? No. That Prophet? No. Who then? voice of one that crieth, In the wilderness. . .," &c., as stated in Isaiah (chap. xl.). Why then do you baptize? That is but an outward sign of a greater baptism, by One who is already here, though you do not know Him, a Redeemer, whose shoe I cannot take from Him, though He will take all the responsibilities of the Redeemer and Bridegroom of Israel upon Himself (John i. 19-27).
This testimony of John the Baptist was, we cannot doubt, reported to the Jewish authorities by the deputation. We do not read of any formal pronouncement upon it
by the Sanhedrin. But, obviously, the question whether John was a prophet was the real question. The commissioners reported to the government of the day, but no action was taken. The imprisonment and death of John the Baptist within a year afterwards removed the question from the sphere of what the Jews regarded as practical politics. Our Lord's own words establish this much. The common people, however, did not wait for the Sanhedrin to make up their minds: "All men counted John the Baptist to be a prophet indeed" (Matt. xxi. 26). And they gave the true reason for their verdict: "John did no miracle: but all things whatsoever John spake of THIS MAN were true" (John x. 41). The subject of John's predictions, to come to pass in his own lifetime, if Herod had not cut it short, was the Person and work of the LORD Jesus. And the things which John said of Him followed and came to pass, as required by Deuteronomy xviii. 22 and Jeremiah xxviii. 9.
It remains to point out our Lord's own