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: I. Reprobation of the Corrupted Levitical Priesthood

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.

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