By: Dr. Ellet Waggoner | INTRODUCTION
Comfort and Hope Through the Scripture
In the fifteenth chapter of Romans and the fourth verse, the Spirit of God, through the apostle Paul, sets the seal of approval upon the whole of the Old Testament, in giving the object for which it was written. He says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
The reason why we find comfort and hope in the Old Testament is plainly revealed by Christ when, in His reply to the Jews, He gave the divine sanction to it, and especially to the writings of Moses, saying, “Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of Me.” “For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” (John 5:39, 46, 47, R.V.). We may find comfort and hope in the Scriptures, because Christ is in them.
The spirit of the Old Testament is the Spirit of Christ. We read of the ancient prophets that they searched “what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” (1 Peter 1:11).
Not only so, but the Old Testament contains the gospel. In the verse following the one last quoted we read, “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” That is, the prophets, Moses among them, ministered the very same things that were preached by the apostles, namely the gospel. Since the gospel of God is “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-3), and the Jews would necessarily have believed in Jesus if they had believed Moses, because Moses wrote of Christ, it follows that what Moses wrote was the gospel.
The first thing that Moses wrote, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God, was the story of creation. That, therefore, is one of the things through which we are to receive hope and comfort. Why is it that we can receive hope and comfort through the story of the creation? Because that story contains the gospel. A few words will serve to establish this fact before we proceed to study the lessons in detail.
The declaration of the apostle, that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16), is familiar to all who have ever heard the gospel preached. The gospel is the manifestation of God’s power put forth to save men. The same thing is stated in substance by the apostle Peter when he speaks of the inheritance reserved in heaven for those “who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).
But what is the measure of the power of God? Wherein is it seen in a tangible form? Read Romans 1:20, where we are told that ever since the creation of the world, the invisible things of God, even His eternal power and Godhead, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. It is in creation, therefore, that the power of God is to be seen by everybody. But the power of God in the line of salvation is the gospel. Therefore the works of creation teach the gospel. This is declared in Psalm 19, where we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language; without these their voice is heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
I have given the rendering of the margin, as conforming more closely to the original. The idea is, that no matter what language a people speak, all can understand the language of the heavens. Their message can be read much more easily than if they uttered an audible sound; for all people on earth cannot understand the same articulate speech, but all who have reason can read the simple language of the works of God.
This thought is expressed in the following beautiful lines by Addison:
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue, ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim;
The unwearied sun, from day to day
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale;
And nightly, to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
‘The hand that made us is Divine.'”
The gospel is the power of God, and the power of God is manifest in the things that He has made; therefore, the psalmist is speaking of the gospel, which the heavens teach. That this is so is shown by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:15-18. “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.” The apostle is here speaking about the gospel, which, he says, all have not obeyed. Then he declares all have heard, and as proof that they all have heard, he quotes from Psalm 19: “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Their words concerning what? Why, concerning the gospel, of course. Thus we have a plain statement that the heavens do preach the gospel. There is no man so illiterate that he cannot read the gospel; no man so deaf nor so isolated that he cannot hear a gospel sermon. This truth will be more evident as we proceed.