We turn to page 234 of Vos’s book, Biblical Theology, to speak about the understanding of monotheism which the biblical prophets possessed. On pages 206–211 of the book, Vos dealt with the modernist conception of the issue, adding a footnote that his positive treatment would be saved for later. Now we arrive at that later portion. As we begin to address this new section, we revisit some of the ground we covered in Vos Group #55, while expanding that material.
On pages 206–211, Vos gives us the key conception of the modernist critics:
The prophets, from Amos and Hosea onwards, are credited with the discovery and establishment of the great truth of ethical monotheism, in which the distinctive and permanent value of Old Testament religion is to be found.
To explain this as crisply as possible, Vos is saying that a particular ethical conception of Jehovah gives rise to the monotheism of the later prophets in the 8th century. It is a monotheism of a particular kind–a monotheism of a specific variety. There is a concrete, historical, situated, ethical dilemma that forges an ethical conception of Jehovah that otherwise would not be formed.
In contrast, Vos emphasizes that the prophets are God-centered. They are religious—meaning they find their delight in spiritual (Spirit-wrought) communion with God. The ethical aspect of monotheism is itself subservient to the glory of God and delight in fellowship with God.
The “prophetic orientation” does not view God as a means to an end, but rather delighting in God himself, as he has revealed himself as sovereign Judge and condescended Lord and Savior of his covenant people. The prophets delight in the God they proclaim and do not re-conceive him as a means to an end other than the glory of God himself as the chief end and delight of his people.
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