Chapter 16 The Cross In The Law, The Prophets, And The Psalms

All things…were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me (Luke 24:44).

In this Scripture, our Lord apparently accepts the divisions of Scripture, made by the learned men of Israel, into three sections. The Law comprises the Pentateuch, the first five books written by Moses; the Prophets comprise all the major and minor prophets with the exception of Daniel; and the Psalms, or Writings, include the remainder.

The word of our Lord was that all the parts of the Old Testament spoke of His sufferings and death (Luke 24:25-27, 44). Happy are they who gather wisdom from these laden branches. The main lesson all the way through God’s Book is Christ. He is the heartblood of Holy Writ. Each of these three parts seems to emphasize one aspect of our Lord’s sufferings, but we must be careful not to overemphasize this. It may not be wholly so, but the emphasis is there.

The Emphasis of the Prophets

The emphasis of the prophets is our Lord’s sufferings in relation to sin. The prophets speak much of sin as the abominable thing which God hates. “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies,” cried the Lord through Amos (5:21). “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” asks Micah (6:7). Not while their hands were dripping with blood, and they were oppressing the poor.

But the finest exposition relating to sin, and to the substitutionary sacrifice for sin is Isaiah 53:4-6, where the prophet mentions these seven things borne by our Lord: (1) “He hath borne our griefs,” (2) “He hath…carried our sorrows,” (3) “He was wounded for our transgressions,” (4) “He was bruised for our iniquities,” (5) “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him,” (6) “with His stripes we are healed,” (7) “the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Thus, says the prophet, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,” that through His sacrifice sin might be taken away. In Him, His people suffer unto death. In Him, they exhaust the cup of wrath. In Him, they pay the uttermost farthing in the scales of justice. In Him, they endure until each attribute of God requires no more.

The prophets tell this out as God’s plan of salvation from the beginning. The promised Redeemer is willing to come and bear all for us. He will come in the flesh. When justice in God demands man’s life for his sins, the Lord Jesus answers, “I am of his nature; here is My life for his!” As the Son of man He would have a human life to lay down—and He laid it down. He would have blood to shed—and He shed it for the ransom of us all. That is the emphasis of the prophets.

The Emphasis of the Psalms

The emphasis in the Psalms is on the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus in relation to God. There is a great deal of detail in the Psalms about His physical sufferings, but the chief emphasis is His God-forsakenness. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1) is the epitome of that emphasis. Here is the ultimate expression of the grace of God. By substitution He appears as defiled and disfigured by the whole accumulation of our sins. He is verily accounted, and is treated, as the perpetrator of every evil deed, as the speaker of every evil word, as the harborer of every evil thought which has stained us all.

When the Lord Jesus thus appeared before God—“made … sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), then God, who is most holy, had perforce to turn His face, and the fellowship between Him and His beloved Son, as Son of man, was breached. Many martyrs have died cruel deaths and have been upborne in their sufferings by a plenitude of special and sufficient grace, but no such help could God give to His own beloved One. It was this which cut our Lord the most. This was the real heart of all His sufferings.

The Emphasis in the Law

The emphasis in the law is on the sufferings and death of our Lord in relation to faith. There are many pictures of the Redeemer’s death in the first five books of the Bible: the coat of skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, Abel’s sacrifice, the smitten rock, the brazen serpent, the red heifer, and all the blood sacrifices of the Mosaic ritual.

But the emphasis is always that these are to be used in order to make them effective unto salvation. The coat of skins must be put on—believingly! Israelites must strike blood upon the posts and lintels of their houses on passover night, and shelter beneath it—believingly! The wanderers in the wilderness must look to the brazen serpent to be healed—believingly! They must always look beyond the Mosaic ritual and peer down the telescope of time to see Christ and Him crucified and have personal faith in Him.

Faith is the only key to unlock the benefits of that substitutionary sacrifice. There must be more than outward ceremonial acting. There must be an inward trust in Christ. One who approaches must be aware of the holiness of God, and that vile nature must indeed shrink from His presence—that heaven must be hell to him.

But when he believes in the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, then the Holy Spirit dethrones his love of sin, takes the barren hardness out of him, and implants a new nature which delights God. Being clothed in purple and fine linen will not do! Having power to rule vast empires and command great armies will not do! Being fair and beautiful will not do! Belonging to a church fellowship, though it be pure and simple and Biblical, will not do! Living under the blaze of eloquent gospel preaching, will not do! Having the privileges of a Christian home and upbringing will not do!

Faith alone can make the sacrifice of Christ effectual in us unto salvation. Let there be faith in Christ and Him crucified—Christ embraced as personal Saviour—and Christ is yours, and Christ is salvation.

O blessed, living Lord,
Engage our hearts with Thee,
And strike within some answering chord
To love so rich and free!

To know Thy loving heart!
To cleave to Thy blest side!
To gaze upon Thee where Thou art,
And in Thy love abide.

Be this our one desire!
Thyself our object here!
The goal to which our hearts aspire—
To meet Thee in the air!

James Boyd