Searching the Scriptures
“Search the Scriptures…They are they which testify of me.” John 5:39
Author: Bob Moses
Interpreting the Scriptures
Contrast and Comparison
We embark upon one of my favorite subjects of Scriptural Study. I am intrigued how the Holy Spirit reveals comparative alliances between the Old and New Testament through examples of people, places and things; as well as the contrast supplied between the same. You will more readily understand as we peruse this topic. I could not possibly capture all of these in such a short “Study” but we shall entertain but just a few.
This principle of Comparison and Contrast is accorded a prominent place in the Word. This view has been termed “the pair of opposites” which confront us in every sphere, it should occasion us no surprise to find this theme receiving much frequent illustration and exemplification in the Scriptures, and in several ways. God and the Devil, time and eternity, day and night, male and female, good and evil, heaven and hell, are all set one over against the other. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth has its two hemispheres, the northern and the southern. There are the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Jew and the Gentile, and after the days of Solomon, the former were split into two kingdoms; which throughout all Christendom we find the genuine possessor and the graceless professor. Whatever be the explanation, we are faced everywhere with this mysterious duality: the visible and the invisible, spirit and matter, land and sea, centrifugal and centripetal forces at work, life and death.
Truth itself is even twofold, and hence the Word of God, is itself likened to a two-edged sword. Not only is it, first, a revelation from God, and, second, addressed to human responsibility; but a great many passages in it have a twofold force and meaning, a literal and a spiritual; many of its prophecies possess a double fulfilment, a major and a minor; which promise and precept, or privilege and corresponding obligation, are ever combined. Cases of pairs are numerous. The two great lights (Gen. 1:16); two of every sort entering the ark (6:19). The two tables on which the Law was written. The two birds (Lev. 14: 4—7); the two goats (16: 7—10); the two-tenth deals of fine flour and the loaves (23: 13—17). The repeated miracle of water from the smitten rock (Exodus 17: 1—7: Numbers 20: 2—13), Note: please read these two regarding the smitten rock as I hope to come back to them in another “Study”. They are very significant as to why Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the “Promised Land”. Regarding this episode God said unto Moses and Aaron; “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation to the land which I have given them.” (Num: 20; 12). Also verse 24.
Let us come to the New Testament which most of you will be more familiar with. The two masters (Matt. 6:24); the two foundations (7: 24—27). The two debtors (Luke 7: 40—50); the two sons (15: 11—32). The two false witnesses against Christ (Matt. 26: 60); and the two thieves crucified with Him. The two men who witnessed the ascending of Christ into heaven (Acts: 1: 10—11). The two beast of Rev. 13; the Beast and the False Prophet. Additionally Christ sent forth His apostles in pairs, so all through the Bible two individuals are more or less closely associated.
Then there appears the contrast. Thus we have Cain and Able, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Lot, Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob And Esau, Moses and Aaron, Caleb and Joshua, Naomi and Ruth, Samuel and Saul, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha, Naomi and Ruth, Martha and Mary, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Annas and Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod, Paul and Barnabas. All of which have their contrast but much too lengthily for us to delve into as a part of this article. I would encourage the reader to seek them out as a part of his personal study.
Sometimes a series of antitheses come together, let us consider but just a few. First the case of Moses. He was the child of a slave, and the son of a princess. He was born in a hut, and lived in a palace. He was educated in the court, and dwelt in the desert. He was the mightiest of warriors and the meekest of men. He had the wisdom of Egypt, and the faith of a child. He was backward in speech, and talked with God. He had the rod of the shepherd, and the power of the infinite. He was the giver of the law, and the forerunner of grace. He died alone on mount Nebo, and appeared with Christ in Judea. No man assisted at his funeral, yet God buried him”. (I.M. Haldeman).
A.T. Pierson points out another series of paradoxes found in that remarkable prophecy of the Messiah in the Book of Isaiah; Chapter 53. Though the Son of God, yet His report was not believed. He appeared to God as “a tender plant,” but to men as “a root out of dry ground.” Jehovah’s Servant, in whom His soul delighted, but in the esteem of the Jews possessed of no form or comeliness. Appointed by the Father and anointed by the Spirit, yet despised and rejected of men. Sorely wounded and chastised by sinners, yet believing sinners healed by His stripes. No iniquity found in Him, but the iniquities of many were upon Him. Himself the Judge of all, yet brought before the judgment bar of human creatures. Without generation, yet possessing a numerous seed. Cut off out of the land of the living, yet alone for evermore. He made His grave with the wicked, nevertheless He makes many righteous. He was spoiled by the strong, yet He spoiled the strong, delivering a multitude of captives out of his hand. He was numbered with and mocked by transgressors, but made intercession for them.
It is indeed remarkable to find the twofoldness of things confronting us so frequently in connection with the plan of redemption. Based upon the work of the great federal heads, the first Adam (Adam) and the last Adam (Christ), with the fundamental covenants connected with them: The covenant of works and the covenant of Grace. The last Adam (Jesus) with His two distinct natures, constituting Him the God-man Mediator. Two different genealogies are given of Him, in Matthew 1, and Luke 3. There are His two separate advents; the first in deep humiliation, the second in great glory. The salvation He has provided for His people is twofold; objective and subjective or legal and vital, the one which He did for them, and the other which He works in them; a righteousness imputed to them, and a righteousness imparted. The Christ life is a strange duality: the principles of sin and grace ever opposing one another. The two ordinances Christ gave to His churches: baptism, and the Lords supper.
Let’s observe the many points of contrast between the first two books of the Bible. In the former we have the history of a family: in the latter the history of a nation. In the one the descendants of Abraham are but few in number; in the other they have increased to hundreds of thousands. In Genesis the Hebrews are welcomed and honored in Egypt, whereas in Exodus they are hated and shunned. In the former we read of a Pharaoh who says to Joseph, “God hath showed thee all this” (41:39), but in the latter another Pharaoh says unto Moses, “I know not the Lord” (5:2). In Genesis we hear of a “lamb” promised (22:8), in Exodus of the “lamb” slain and its blood sprinkled. In the former we have recorded the entrance of Israel into Egypt: in the latter the exodus of them is described. In the one we behold the patriarchs sojourning in the land which flowed with milk and honey; in the other their descendants are wanderers in the wilderness. Genesis closes with Joseph in a coffin, while Exodus ends with the glory of the Lord filling the tabernacle.
I would certainly be remiss if I did not site at least an example or two of our subject in the light of the New Testament. Our principle of the law of comparison and contrast holds true. Consider the striking antitheses between what is recorded in Luke 18; 35-42, and 19:1-9. Luke 18: 35-43. “And it came to pass that, as he was come near unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the wayside, begging. And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they who went ahead rebuked him; that he should hold his peace; but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him, and when he was come near, he asked him. Saying; What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.” Next we come to Chapter 19:1-9; “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man, named Zacchaeus, who was the chief among the tax collectors; and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus, who he was, and could not because of the crowd; for he was little of stature. And he ran ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him; for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying that he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him; this day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Notice the first episode; Bartimaeus (the blind man) occurred as Christ approached Jericho (Lk.18:35) notably the city of the curse—Joshua 6:26. Whereas the latter took place after He had passed through it (19:1). The subject of the first was a blind beggar; that of the second was “chief of the publicans, a Tax Collector (19:2). Bartimaeus occupied a lowly place, for he “sat by the way side”; Zacchaeus assumed an elevated position, for he “climbed up into a sycamore tree.” Bartimaeus was poor, seeking alms from the passers-by; the other, rich and was determined to “see Him” – Christ. Bartimaeus took the initiative and cried “Son of David” (which was His proper title from a Jew), have mercy on me. Christ took the initiative with Zacchaeus, bidding him “come down.” The former supplicated for his sight; of the latter Christ made a peremptory request: “today I must abide at thy house.” The multitude rebuked Bartimaeus for crying to Christ; all “murmured” at Christ for going to be the guest of Zacchaeus. In each, Christ was placed in the man-made paradox of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But spiritually, Christ threaded the needle and brought each to the glory of God.
There is much to learn in contrast between what is recorded in the opening verses of John 3 and John 4. I will quote from each to demonstrate my point, as I have learned that some who read these “Studies” do not have Bibles.
John 3: 1—21. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Verily, verily (of at truth, of a truth), I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it willeth, and thou hearest the sound of it, but canst not tell from where it cometh, and where it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, how can these things be? Jesus answered, and said unto him, Art thou a teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We (Christ and his disciples) speak that which we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man (Jesus the Christ) who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man (Jesus the Christ) be lifted up (upon the cross). That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Then John 4: 5—30. “Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there, Jesus, therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat by the well; and it was about the sixth hour (3:00pm). There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy food. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, how is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered, and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from where, then, hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle? Jesus answered, and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come here to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come here. The woman answered, and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, thou hast well said, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband; that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what. We know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh, who is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He. And upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman. Yet no man said, what seekest thou? Or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, who told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.”
Several things are worth of note. What is recorded in the former (John 3), occurred in Jerusalem: in the latter the scene shifts to Samaria. In the one we have “a man of the Pharisees, (a Jew) named Nicodemus”; in the other, an unnamed woman (obviously Gentile). Nicodemus was a man of distinction, a “master of Israel, a teacher”; she was of the lower classes, for she came to the well “to draw water”. He was a favored Jew, she a despised Samaritan, a semi-heathen, Gentile. Nicodemus was a man of high reputation, a member of the Sanhedrin; the one with whom Christ dealt in John 4 was a woman of dissolute habits (with five past husbands and living with a sixth man). Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking salvation. Whereas, Christ waited for the woman at the well, having no thought of meeting her Saviour. The former incident took place “by night”; the latter at midday. To the self-righteous Pharisee Christ said, “Ye must be born again”; to the sinner of the Gentiles He told of “the gift of God”. Nothing is said of how the former interview ended—apparently Nicodemus was, at that time, unconvinced; the latter went forth and bore testimony unto Christ. She went and told others. Nicodemus slip away in darkness, she broadcast in the middle of the day that she had met the Christ.
Let us consider yet one more of this rule of comparison and contrast. John 12: 1—8. “Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, who had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who should betray him, why was not this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag (the money pouch), and bore what was put in it. Then said Jesus, let her alone; for the day of my burial hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always.” Now John 13: 2—17. “And supper being ended (this is the Lord’s supper, different from John 12), the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments, and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter; and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said unto him, what I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth except not to wash his feet, but is entirely clean; and ye are clean, but not all of you (referring to Judas). For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was seated again, he said unto them; Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
Now that we have reviewed these passages, we shall observe some interesting comparisons and contrast. In John 12 we read that “they made Him a supper”; in the latter, there is a supper which He appointed. There He is seated at the table; here He arose from it. There He is honored; here He performs the office of a menial. In the one we behold Mary at the feet of the Saviour; in the other we see the Son of God stooping to attend to the feet of His disciples. The feet speak of “the walk”. Christ’s feet were anointed with costly ointment; those of the apostles were washed with water. As Christ passed through this world He contracted no pollution; he left it as He entered (holy, harmless, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26) That His feet were anointed with the fragrant aroma of the spikenard tells us of the sweet savor which ever ascended from Him to the Father, perfectly glorifying Him in every step of His path. In sharp contrast with His, the walk of the disciples was defiled, and the grime of the way needed to be removed if they were to have “part” or communion with Him (13:8). His feet were anointed before theirs where washed, for in all things He must have the “preeminence” (Col. 1:18). In connection with the former, Judas complained that the ointment should have been sold, in the latter, Peter said; “Thou shalt never wash my feet”. In the first, with the fragrant ointment upon His feet, we see His burial in view. In the other we note His present ministry from Heaven, carefully guarding the “walk” of His chosen.
I think we have illustrated enough to make the point of comparison and contrast, not exhaustive by any stretch, but sufficient to cause our readers to ponder and perhaps explore more of the riches embodied in the Scriptures. I must give due credit to several writers whom I have quoted within this Study. First, of course A.W. Pink who inspired this article and whose penmanship and insight have truly gained the respect of most modern commentators. The Holy Spirit was very gracious in revealing the “hidden things of Scripture” to Bro. Pink. Credit must also be given to the writings of I.M. Haldeman and A.T. Pierson. Two of what I call “The Old Timers” of written Biblical material, whose manuscripts have mostly been discarded, forgotten, or otherwise faded away. May God bless them in their current heavenly journey.
God Bless you and yours: