Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: May 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

II. The Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Biblical Zionism
II. The Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Kingdom Age rule is also the subject matter of Isaiah chapter twenty-nine to which we must add the context of Malachi chapter two, so we can understand what Paul is saying in Romans chapter eleven.  Notice, as we look at Malachi chapter two, that God’s communication is specifically directed toward the corrupted and defiled Levitical priesthood.  This is important in that God was setting aside this Mosaic Covenant priesthood.  God is also putting the Mosaic Covenant on Sabbath (Hosea 2:11) until the beginning of the Kingdom Age.  At the beginning of the Kingdom Age, Christ will rule on earth as Prophet, Priest, and King through a new priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, not Levi.  All Church Age believers become this new priesthood.

1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment {mitsvah; precept or governing principle} is for you. 2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give {or bring; it was the responsibility of the priesthood to preserve the Law in order to maintain the sanctity of God’s Name, which revealed His holy character} glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse {literally; a defiling execration, see Zechariah 3:3 where the word “filthy” regarding the garment of the High Priest Joshua is literally “excrement covered garments”} upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will corrupt {chide or rebuke} your seed {most probably refers to their progeny; the priesthood was passed down to male children of priests}, and spread dung {excrement; the priest were responsible for preparing the sacrifices; they were to take extreme care in the slaughter of the animals in not defiling the sacrifices by carelessness in spilling the contents of the intestines upon the meat or mingling it with the blood} upon your faces {so everyone could see their defilement}, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it {the entrails, intestines, and the contents of the intestines, were to be carefully separated from the sacrifice and burned outside the camp; Lev. 8:17 & 16:27; therefore God is stating that He will cast away the priesthood, i.e., ‘without the camp,’ with these defiled parts of the animal in that they were equally defiled} (Malachi 2:1-4)

          These “solemn feasts” (Malachi 2:3) were intended to offer pure worship and adoration of God, but they had become the means merely to supply the priests with meat.  Thousands of oxen and sheep were sacrificed.  “. . . they {the people} shall give unto the priest the shoulder, and the two cheeks, and the maw {the stomach; considered a delicacy} (Deuteronomy 18:3).  The priests became careless in the slaughter of the animals and the cleaning of the entrails thereby defiling themselves with the filth of the animals’ waste. 

          It is easy to become careless when repetition is involved.  This is certainly true when it comes to water baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances of the church.  They can quickly become just repetitive rituals with little meaning absent of any real cognizance of God or what He is doing in our lives.  This is true of other interactions with God as well.  Prayer becomes word spoken to the ceiling.  Singing becomes focused on the sound of the music and how pleasant and entertaining it is to us, rather than worship and praise of God.  We become more concerned with how music is to our ears rather than what it is to God’s ears. 
It is easy to become careless in our approach to God.  We begin to give more consideration to convenience in our coming before God than to conviction.  There is little or no consideration that entering into the worship of God is to enter the presence of God and thereby to “stand upon holy ground” wherever that worship happens.  People forget that to become careless is the outcome of caring less.  Becoming careless is an easy thing to slip into when worshiping an invisible God.  When the sacrosanctity of God is kept in focus, carefulness in worship, service, and prayer will remain centered upon the awesomeness of the One we worship
This carelessness was the source of the fall of the Levitical priesthood.  This carelessness was evident when the priests faces became covered with the waste of the sacrificed animals.  How many would eat in a restaurant where the chefs and servers were covered with excrement?  Yet, this is the picture before us in the careless preparation of the sacrifices to be offered to God.  How guilty are we of similar carelessness in our preparation of our own hearts, minds, and bodies for worship?  Can we speak about and discuss worship without consideration of the One being worshiped? 

The message of Malachi chapter two is to the descendants of Levi as a priesthood representing God to the people and the people to God.  Do we see the corruption of this representation in these first three verses of chapter two?  God saw the children of Israel represented in the carelessly defiled excrement covered priests.  The children of Israel saw God represented in the carelessly defiled excrement covered priests.  Instead of white garments of pure linen, the children of Israel’s image of purity and holiness in the worship of God became a stinking slaughter house full of filth and wretchedness.  Why would the priests think it was appropriate to allow this corruption to represent God to the people?  Secondly, why would the people allow this corruption to go on, whereby the filth covered priests were representing what they were like to God? 

Why did God choose the family of Levi to be the priests of Israel?  Malachi 2:4-6 tells us that Levi’s worship of God was birthed from pure reverence/awe/fear of God.  No one will ever worship God properly if he does not reverence and fear God properly.  Somewhere in the generations of Levi’s descendants, they became commonly familiar with God and lost their fear of God.  When worshipping an invisible God, it is easy to begin to see all the things we do as mere formalities and responsibilities. 

4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 5 My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. 6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity” (Malachi 2:4-6).

These few verses describe the central qualification for God’s choice of Levi as the High Priest of Israel.  These few verses describe the primary characteristic of a heart prepared to worship God and serve him – AWE!  When we begin to see all that we do in worship as mere formalities and responsibilities, worship of the Person of God will soon become the worship of the ideology of God.  When we retain the understanding of the anthropomorphisms (use of human physical characteristics and attributes to explain how God experiences His creation) of Scripture that God is a Person with eyes that see all, ears that hear all, a mind that knows all, and a heart that loves and feels, we are humbled before His awesome presence wherein we tremble before Him. 

30 And when forty years were expired {to humble Moses}, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight {curiosity}: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him {to inform}, 32 Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. 33 Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground” (Acts 7:30-33).

In most part, Moses’ knowledge of the God of Israel was nothing more than stories and rumors.  For hundreds of years, while the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, these historic stories about God were all they had to sustain their faith.  God had not given the inspired Books of the Law to Moses yet.  There were very few personal encounters with God by anyone during those hundreds of years of captivity.  Faith that the promises of God to Abraham were given by a real and genuine Being called Jehovah was all that held the children together.  Although the children of Israel believed in this Being named Jehovah, they knew little about Him except what they had learned from these historical reminiscences of their elders, none of which were any longer personally familiar with what took place.  Unfortunately, this reality is what is common to all people who have no personal experiences with God of their own.  Most people become dependent upon the testimonies of those who have genuine faith and who have had personal experiences of God’s grace.  Most people will spend much time talking about faith while living without having any experiential knowledge of a God’s operations in their lives.  

The prophecy and rebuke of the Levitical priests of the Mosaic Covenant Malachi chapter two are very sobering truths.  The statements to the Levitical priests of Malachi chapter two are even more sobering considering the warnings to the Melchisedecan priesthood of the New Covenant in Romans chapter eleven.  The Melchisedecan priesthood of the New Covenant consists of every “born again” believer of the Church Age.  The warning is about being faithful to the obligations wherein the Levitical priesthood failed.  These obligations are spelled out in no uncertain terms in Malachi 2:7-9. 

7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they {the children of Israel} should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But ye {priests} are departed out of the way {‘the way’ is salvation as a gift through the way of faith in the Abrahamic Covenant; the responsibilities of the priesthood as described in verse 7}; ye have caused many to stumble {falter or fall} at the law; ye have corrupted {destroyed or ruined} the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial {see Lev. 19:15; the priests were not to be uneven in their application of the Law to give preferences to gain political or personal favors; God declares this to be injustice, not justice} in the law” (Malachi 2:7-9).

          “The way” of faith in the Gospel of the Abrahamic Covenant was an ongoing problem in the understanding of the Jews after the Levitical priesthood had corrupted it.  Even the disciples struggled with this truth requiring Jesus pointedly explain it to them.

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:1-6).

Christ is explaining that the Abrahamic Covenant was an immutable promise from God.  Christ is explaining that the Messiah would completely satisfy God’s wrath upon sin (“propitiate” God) and would gift God’s righteous to the believing sinner (justification) through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Salvation by faith in the Messiah’s propitiation of God and His justification of the believing sinner is “the way” of faith.  Therefore, Jesus is “the way.”  The ministry of every believer-priest is the PRESERVATION and EXPLANATION of “the way.” 

Therefore, the first failure of the Levitical priesthood was in failing to preserve and explain the promise of salvation as a gift of grace given through faith in the Promised One and what He would accomplish in His death, burial, and resurrection.  Therefore, the warning to Church Age believer-priests is to be very careful with the Gospel and what defines saving faith (Romans 10:1-13).

Secondly, the Levitical priests failed in the administration of the Law by compromising its judgments.  This second level of failure corrupted the sanctification and separation from worldliness of the children of Israel.

10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers {the Mosaic Covenant through unjust, partial, prejudicial judgments in judicial matters thereby corrupting the sanctification of the children of Israel}? 11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. 12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him {the priests} that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts {for those described in verse 11 and who bring an offering without accompanying repentance from that which is described}” (Malachi 2:10-12).

Preferential treatment is prejudicial treatment.  The great corruption of prejudice is that injustice is its progeny.  Injustice creates bitterness and mistrust.  Prejudicial injustice is one of the quickest ways to destroy a government and bring about revolution.  The Levitical priesthood became corrupt and was known for prejudicial judgments, bribes, graft, double standards. 
Israel was not a secular government.  Israel was supposed to be a Theocratic government where the king of Israel and the priesthood of Israel ruled in the place of God over God’s people.  The Law was God’s instrument of governance administrated primarily by the High Priest and his circuit of the priests and their courts of justice in every city throughout the country.  This will be established perfectly in the Kingdom Age with a new Melchisedecan priesthood of glorified, sinless, selfless, believer-priests ruling under Christ with a “rod of iron.”  The “rod of iron” metaphor does not mean that mercy and forgiveness will not be available to the repentant sinner, but that the truth, the law, and justice will not bend to any level of prejudice by the judging priests. 
The level of the corruption of the priesthood, addressed in Malachi 2:10-12, was simply their viewing every breach of the Law as an opportunity to capitalize on someone’s failure by using the failure to enrich and promote themselves through bribes and graft.  Isaiah chapter fifty-nine describes God’s view of the all-encompassing outcome of the despicable corruption of “judgment” and justice. 
9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11 We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment” (Isaiah 59:9-15).

There is a false repentance that weeps before God because God’s blessings have been withdrawn and His protection removed.  However, there is no turning from the corruption that brought about these consequences in the first place.  There is no repentance if there is no turning from the sin and failure.  A chance of heart and a change of mind about the sin is not Biblical repentance if there is no turning from the sin. 

13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out {the priest could not repent for someone else or offer an acceptable offering for someone else if that person has not genuinely turned from his sinful acts}, insomuch that he {the LORD} regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore {Why does God not accept the priest’s sacrifices}? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. 15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. 16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously {The priests were to be the models of righteousness before the people.  Their failure to be just with their own wives brought about a false dichotomy that gave permission to the people to do the same.  Therefore, not only did the people of Israel need to repent for their failures regarding God’s commandments, but the priesthood had a higher culpability because it was their failures that gave permission for the injustice.} 17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he {the LORD} delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment {pragmatically determining what is right and wrong by the fact that God did not immediately and apparently judge wrong doing when, in fact, God had delegated the responsibility to judge wrong doing to the priesthood}” (Malachi 2:13-17)?

          These transitional issues regarding the priesthood of all believers during the Church Age impacts almost every post-salvation doctrine regarding the believer’s life, formal church membership, the emphasis of water baptism, personal sanctification, congregational polity, and the accountability of each believer in his priestly responsibility to maintain purity and holiness in the “body” through church discipline.  The priesthood of Israel was “cut off” for failure in these responsibilities and the warning of Romans chapter eleven is that Church Age believers are subject to the same judgment of God should they fail in their moral responsibilities to their corporate and vocational election (Ephesians 4:1-32). 

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias {Isaiah 29:9-16}, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:10-15)

          Year after year and century after century God patiently sent prophets to call the priesthood of Israel and the rebellious children of Israel to repentance from their ongoing apostasy.  Like Noah, who preached righteousness for one-hundred and twenty years while he built the Ark, the lost apostates of the world would no longer hear the voice of God in God’s prophet.  Although Noah proclaimed for one-hundred and twenty years what God was going to do, when the flood began, they “knew not.”  Why did they not know? They “knew not” because, “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matthew 13:14).  The point is that there comes a time when a person’s heart becomes so closed in unbelief to what God says, that such a person hears without hearing and sees without seeing. 

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

          Apostasy within Christianity is as prevalent as it was in the days of Noah.  Professing Christians intermarry with heathens and raise heathen children who live in rebellion and unbelief.  Their hearts grow so hardened to the truths of God that they are angered at the very mention of righteousness.  This is the judge me not generation.  They will not hear about God’s definition of sin, nor its consequences.  These souls reject the God of the Bible and therefore refuse to hear or heed His warnings.  Hearing they will not hear and seeing they will not see.
Someone once told me they did not like the God I preached.  They believed in a god of love who would never send anyone to hell.  The point is that such a god does not exist anywhere except in that person’s mind, because that god is manufactured in that person’s mind. 


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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, May 21, 2018

I. Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

Biblical Zionism
I. The Fulfillment of the Prophecy of Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

          This text continues to answer the question of Romans 11:1; “Hath God cast away {according to historical context; thrown away all of} His people?”  Paul has already answered this question by the statement: “5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant {Church Age believers} according to the election of grace {Abrahamic Covenant}. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works {Mosaic Covenant}: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:5-6).  The “works” referred to are the “works” of the Mosaic Covenant (the Law). 

“Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it” (Isaiah 48:6)?

God’s election is vocational in its scope and purpose.  God’s election of the nation of Israel was not conditioned upon their obedience to the Mosaic Covenant (Law keeping).  God’s election of true Israel was conditioned upon a faith decision to trust in the Promised One in the exact same way that Abraham became the father of elect Israel.  Therefore, the continuum of God’s election was conditioned upon a continuum of faith, not the “works” of the Law.  Abraham was “born again” by grace through faith in the Promised One and a continuum of that faith is the determining factor regarding vocational election.  The Promised One is the Seed promised in the Abrahamic Covenant and faith in that coming Seed, and what He would accomplish at His coming, is what determines a person’s election as part of true Israel.  

          For what did Israel still seek (Romans 11:7) that had not yet been fulfilled in the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant?  This is the subject of Paul’s question in this text?  What was it that the Abrahamic Covenant promised to true Israel and what was the one condition to receive the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant?  To answer these questions, we must understand the six-fold promise of the Abrahamic Covenant and to which aspect of that six-fold promise to which Paul is referring.  The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary gives us the details of this six-fold promise:

“Abraham was the recipient of an important covenant involving not only himself, but his posterity, natural as well as spiritual.  The Abrahamic Covenant as originally given (Gen. 12:1-4) and reaffirmed (Gen. 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-8), contains the following elements:

1. ‘I will make you a great nation,’ fulfilled:

a. in a natural posterity, ‘as the dust of the earth,’ the Hebrew people (13:16, John 8:37)
b. in a spiritual progeny (John 8:39; Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:6-7, 29), comprising all persons of faith, whether Jew or Gentile
c. in the descendants of Ishmael (Gen. 17:18-20)

2. ‘I will bless you,’ fulfilled in a double sense:

a. temporally (Gen. 13:14-18; 15:18) and
b. spiritually (Gen. 15:6; John 8:56)

3. ‘And make your name great.’  In three world religions – Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – Abraham is revered as one of the eminent men of all time.
4. ‘And you will be a blessing.’  By his personal example of faith and that faith as manifested in his descendants, Abraham has been a worldwide blessing.
5. ‘I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.’  This has been remarkably fulfilled in the Jewish dispersion.  Nations who have persecuted the Jews have fared ill, and those who have protected them have prospered.  Prophecy, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, substantiates this principle (Deut. 30:7; Mic. 5:7-9; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 14:1-3; Jer. 50:11-18; 51:24-36; Ezek. 25:2; 26:2-3).
6. ‘In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’  This is the great messianic promise fulfilled in Abraham’s descendant, Christ (John 8:56-58; Gal. 3:16).”[1]

          The sixth of this six-fold blessing aspect of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant is the one Paul addresses in Romans chapter eleven.  With the beginning of each new Dispensation, God begins with a new faithful remnant of believers and a new Covenant describing how God would govern those believers during the new Dispensation.  Some aspects of the previous covenant of the previous Dispensation usually transition into the next Dispensation.  

This was true in the transitioning from the Age of Promise and the Abrahamic Covenant into the Age of the Law and the Mosaic Covenant.  This was also true of the transitioning from the Age of the Law and the Mosaic Covenant into the Age of Grace and the New Covenant.  

What Paul addresses in Romans chapter eleven is the transitional issues from the Age of Grace into the Kingdom Age as these issues relate to both national Israel and the new Melchizedecan priesthood ruling over Israel with Christ ruling as Prophet, High Priest, and King.  Jesus does this to fulfill and establish the Palestinian Covenant and the Davidic Covenant.  Both national (natural) Israel and true (spiritual or faith) Israel continue throughout the Church Age in their corresponding posterities to Abraham.  National (natural) Israel consists of the physical progeny of Abraham.  True (spiritual or faith) Israel consists of those who have placed faith in the Promised One and become, by that faith, the progeny of Abraham in the Seed, which encompasses the saved of “all nations” (including Jews) during the Church Age. 

Within the vocational election of national Israel, there was another vocational election in the Levitical priesthood of Israel.  The Levitical priesthood of Israel was especially made aware of these pending days of judgment that were laid into their future by several prophecies.  Natural Israel had not obtained the complete fullness of the promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant.  The Jews, as physical descendants of Abraham, received a partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promises.  However, only the true, spiritual, faith descendants of Abraham would fully receive these promises as their faith connected them to the Promised One just as did Isaac’s faith.  Only those connected to the Promised One by faith were the elect (the Faith Seed) of God.  Two nations would descend from Isaac in his two sons, Jacob and Esau.  This fact is not just pulled out of a hat.  Paul has already established this fact, as we have discussed in our studies of Romans chapter nine.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise {Abrahamic Covenant} are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:6-13).

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith {the Abrahamic Covenant}, but as it were by the works of the law {Mosaic Covenant}. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone {the Promised One/Seed}; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him {the Promised One/Seed} shall not be ashamed” (Romans 9:30-33).

These verses from Romans chapter nine lay the context for what Paul is saying in Romans chapters ten and eleven.  In chapter ten, Paul defines the necessity of a faith decision for individual Jews to be “born again” and become part of true Israel and the eternal, spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic covenant.  Within the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s unconditional promises, God initiated the “blessing and curse” conditional Mosaic Covenant.  God was going to do what He promised in the Abrahamic Covenant regardless of what the children of Israel did.  However, if they were unfaithful to Him as defined by the Mosaic Covenant, “added because of transgressions,” God would deal with them within time by withdrawing His blessings and protection upon them as a nation.  It is this withdrawing of blessings to which Paul refers in Romans 11:7-11.   These verses define the specific outcomes of the withdrawal of God’s blessings.  These promised judgments were not things of which Israel should have been ignorant.  

God had spoken of these judgments upon national Israel repeatedly by His prophets over many years and throughout numerous generations.  Paul quotes those prophecies here in Romans chapter 11:7-11.  What Paul refers to in Romans 11:8 was revealed to national Israel through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 29:9-16.

9 Stay yourselves {the idea of the word is to hesitate in order to question, enquire -why?}, and wonder {be amazed or astonished}; cry ye out {in confusion}, and cry {same phrase used twice for emphasis}: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep {of lethargy, apathy, indifference, spiritual unawareness or carelessness}, and hath closed your eyes {refers to taking away spiritual understanding or the illumination of revelation}: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered {to clothe in secrecy; referring to what God had revealed to them from these various people through which He brought His revelations}. 11 And the vision {the look; the idea is that which God allows us to see of Himself, His will, and His pending actions in time} of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed {closed up and forbidden to be opened}, which men deliver to one that is learned {trying to find someone who knows how to read and can explain the meaning of the written words}, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13 Wherefore the Lord said {in explanation}, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me {lip service}, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men {intellectually, but without any real practical reality}: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous {amazing, miraculous to the point of being impossible to explain; most probably refers to ‘the time of the Gentiles’} work among this people {national Israel}, even a marvellous work and a wonder {miracle}: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. 15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? 16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding” (Isaiah 29:9-16)?

          Religion without relationship naturally produces a hardening of hearts towards God’s will.  At the very best, religion without relationship creates a mere ideological faith and not a living faith, because real faith always generates a real, vibrant relationship with God.  The very notion of such a false kind of faith is an abomination to God.  To what is God referring?  He is talking about prayer that does not consider the character and nature of the One to whom we pray.  He is referring to being preoccupied with talking about God and establishing His will for our lives as if God is a mere ideology of moral attributes or some impersonal force Who is without a personality that includes His own emotions. 

To talk about God out of a mere intellectual knowledge of Him is a sham compared to those who can talk of Him from a knowledge that flows from an intimate relationship with Him.  Anything else is just self-delusion that borders upon the boundaries of complete reprobation.  What God speaks of in Isaiah 29:9-16 is the point in time when He gives these people over to live in their delusion of a real relationship with Him.  God will do this by shutting down any further enlightenment of Himself to them.  At this time, they will be given over to the darkness of their own blindness regarding their pretentious delusion of a real and living faith.  To understand the Bible is to understand Who God is and His will for how we live life.  To profess this faith knowledge of God without changing the way we live before the eyes of God is the epitome of self-delusion regarding faith.  

          This fiasco of faith was status of national Israel during the four-hundred years between the prophecy of Malachi and the coming of John the Baptist.  The prophets and priests of Israel were intended to be the eyes and ears of God for the faithful remnant of Israel.  These were the men through whom God spoke and through whom God’s will was revealed and explained.  Although there were other forms of knowledge, all true knowledge came to Israel through the sieve of inspired revelation (prophecy) and enlightened explanation (the prophets and priests).  Christians need to understand this because this is what every believer-priest is to the world during the Church Age. 
During these four-hundred years of silence between Malachi and John the Baptist, God would begin a dispensational and transitional change in the way He would reveal His will and give understanding of His previously given written revelation.  Instead of revealing Himself through the prophets and priests, God would begin to give spiritual understanding of His written, inspired Words directly to anyone who genuinely believed that God existed and who began to seek to know Him personally (II Peter 1:20).  Christ spoke of this in John chapter seven as He rebuked the arrogance of the false theological notions of the “learned” of Israel.

14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will {a decision to obey before God illuminates}, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (John 7:14-18).

          This is a remarkable text when we understand it in the context of the history of Israel and the prophecies we have just read from Isaiah.  Simply stated, John 7:17 requires that an expression of faith towards God must precede God’s illumination of His Word or His revealed will as given in His inspired Word.  The willingness or desire to do God’s will that comes from a faith relationship and a desire to glorify God in worship and service must exist before God will give someone knowledge of doctrine.  If a person’s desire is merely a desire for intellectual knowledge to give himself status before men, rather than rightness before God, God will not give that person enlightenment. 

This is the substance of Malachi chapter two in God’s rebuke and warning to the Levitical priesthood regarding casting that priesthood away to establish a new priesthood with the qualities just mentioned.  Therefore, understanding what God has said in Malachi chapter two is critical to our understanding of the transitional period called the Church Age between the Dispensation of Law and the Mosaic Covenant and the Kingdom Age and God’s warning in Romans 11:15-21. 

[1] Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, Revised and Updated Edition, 1998; pages 14-15

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.