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Vos Group #64 — The Prophets and Monotheism

We turn to pp. 235–238 of Vos’s book, Biblical Theology, to speak about the Old Testament prophets and varying views of monotheism. The prophetic era begins with Samuel and the introduction of kingship in the theocracy, and the fundamental conflict between the prophets and the kings is between those who are fundamentally theocentric and those who are fundamentally political.

And the kings concerns, representative in Saul, is a carnal, earthly concern to maintain political power. The kings long to maintain the appearance of royal splendor. They do not have a fundamentally theocentric concern about them. The increasing propension of the kings is to gain and maintain political power, outward glory, and the prestige and praise of man. Saul is the prototype of this thing. The theocracy, for the kings who follow in the pattern of Saul, do not perceive the spiritual and theocentric core of the kingdom of God. And they wind up persecuting not only David, but as Stephen makes clear, they persecute and even kill the prophets. But in Isaiah we find the theocentric concern coming to its full fruition in the Old Testament.

Vos notes that there are three unique features that stand out with Isaiah, and these, taken together, comprise the eschatological intensification of the prophetic office—these become a prolepsis of the nature of the true religion that will come by the Spirit of the ascended Messiah. First, a vivid perception of divine majesty. Second, transcendence and majesty of Jehovah in contrast to the creature. Third, unqualified service to the divine glory, which is a common theme pre- and post-exile.

The monotheism of the later prophets such as Isaiah is a sign of the great advancement of the kingdom toward the original heavenly telos that was held out to Adam under the covenant of works. The monotheism of the later prophets such as Isaiah is the movement toward the great realization of the heavenly kingdom in the person and work of Christ.

As we discuss monotheism it is not the “ethical monotheism” of the critics but the eschatological monotheism of the true religion whose center of gravity is God’s glory in heaven that comes into view. That is the fundamental concern—the central importance—of the development of monotheism. The “gods” are absolutely powerless to deliver from judgment on earth or to enable entrance into the glory-heaven of Jehovah.

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