Monday, August 30, 2010

A Remnant Shall Be Saved

Romans 9:27-28 “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.”

Now Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 10:21-22 “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.”

I included verse 21 to help make the connection between the word return in Isaiah and the word saved used by Paul. In both cases the context is that of turning to God in faith and repentance, which results in salvation.

Interestingly enough, some of the other translations of Isaiah 10:22 seemed to make a better connection to verse 28 than the KJV.

Darby – “for [he] is bringing the matter to an end, and [cutting [it] short in righteousness; because] a cutting short of the matter will [the] Lord accomplish upon the earth.”

Young – “for a matter He is finishing, and is cutting short in righteousness, because a matter cut short will the Lord do upon the land.”

I think there is a direct connection to Matthew 24 with these two verses.

Matthew 24:21-22 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

In these verses from Romans, Isaiah, and Matthew the context is concerning the remnant of Israel (referenced as the elect in Matthew) that will be restored in fellowship to Jehovah at the end of the tribulation period, the 70th week of Daniel (still future and described in great detail in Revelation). In looking at the Greek for “cut it short” I get a picture of the LORD completing Israel’s restoration with one decisive act—His return in victory as King of kings at the end of the 70th week. In other words, upon the completion of the execution of God’s refining judgment of the 70th week, the 7-year tribulation period, He will immediately establish the believing remnant of the nation of Israel in righteous standing before the nations.

“finish the work” – This is referencing the completion of God’s plan. I think Daniel defines it most clearly.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

Romans 9:29 “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

Isaiah must have been one of Paul’s favorite books (as it is mine). Again, he quotes the prophet.

Isaiah 1:9 “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”

Scripture tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed by God never to be inhabited again. In fact, we have yet to identify exactly where those cities were located; the general location is at the southern end of the Dead Sea.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because evidently Lot was the only righteous man living there. He was delivered before their destruction. Israel has always had a preserving body of righteous men of faith. Paul is emphasizing that this remnant was and is a result of the work of God in His people.

I think point needs to be made that it is God who has preserved “a seed” (a remnant, a group of physical descendants of Israel) according to His covenant promises.

“Lord of Sabaoth” – Seems to be equivalent to the title “Lord of hosts…a military epithet of God.” “Sabaoth” = armies

Friday, August 27, 2010

God’s Sovereignty and Our Choices

Continuing from the last post regarding God choosing to harden the hearts of some…

Romans 9:19 “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? “

Again, Paul is anticipating the questions of the readers of this letter. The question--If God hardens someone’s heart, how can He condemn that person for something over which he had no control?

Romans 9:20-21 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Paul is firm in his reply that we have no right to question the authority of God. God Himself answered this thought through the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 18:3-6 “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”

And the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 29:16 “…. 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?” (Note: This is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer—NO.)

God creates every person according to His own purposes. That purpose includes the ability to choose whether or not to follow God in faith and obedience. Each person has an inner understanding of God’s declaration of Himself through creation.

Romans 1:19–20 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,”

These verses just build on the thoughts presented above in my opinion. It is important to note that the word “what” is not in the original; sometimes the translators make understanding more difficult by the words they add. In fact, it sounds like Paul is saying that God “endured with much longsuffering” the wickedness of those who chose to reject Him. Those are vessels “fitted to destruction”—condemned for eternity.

John 3:18 “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.”

Why was He so longsuffering? To make use of these wicked vessels to demonstrate His wrath (punishment, vengeance, anger) and His power in order to declare Himself and draw to Himself “the vessels of mercy,” those who would turn to Him in faith and repentance.

There has to be a contrast between good and evil for man to recognize his need for a Savior. God purposed through men of faith to demonstrate the contrast of blessing for following Him in faith and obedience and judgment for those who choose to reject Him.

“afore prepared unto glory” – This takes us back to Romans 8:29-30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

Romans 9:24 “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.”

“Even us” = vessels of mercy
Paul is saying that the children of faith, the vessels of honor, would consist of Jews and Gentiles. Through the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul declares this to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea.

Hosea 2:23 “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people [the Gentiles], Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” [brackets mine]

Romans 9:26 “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.”

Another quote from Hosea: Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”

I tend to think this verse is emphasizing the restoration of the people of Israel to relationship with Jehovah. He had scattered them to the far ends of the earth and this is a promise that they will once again be brought back to the place from which God dispersed them—the land of Israel—as children of the living God, part of the family of faith.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God is Sovereign

Continuing from the last post regarding the declaration of God’s choice of Jacob over Esau…

Romans 9:14-15 “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Paul is trying to anticipate the questions of those who would be receive this letter. He assures them that God’s choice of Jacob was not an act of unrighteousness. God is Sovereign. He has the authority to make choices as it pleases Him. These choices don’t involve right or wrong; EVERY choice God makes is right. God was very clear with His people regarding His sovereignty from the very beginning, and Paul quotes from the Torah to establish that truth.

Exodus 33:19 “And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”

Romans 9:16 “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

I liked the Complete Jewish Bible translation of this verse: “Thus it doesn’t depend on human desires or efforts, but on God, who has mercy.”

The obvious question, “Who are the people to whom God shows mercy?”

Psalm 25:10 “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

Psalm 86:5 “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

The Psalmist declares that those who obey the word of God and those who come to God seeking forgiveness always receive His mercy. As he continues to develop his thoughts, Paul will eventually emphasize that last point. Any unbeliever who comes to God in faith will receive His mercy.

Romans 11:32 “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”

Romans 9:17 “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. “

“the scripture saith” – The scripture is the word of God as inspired to the writers through the Holy Spirit.

2Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (inspiration = divinely breathed in)

The scripture being referenced is found in Exodus.

Exodus 9:13-16 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”

God knew Pharaoh’s heart before He ever created him. Knowing his heart, God raised him up specifically to a position of power in order to accomplish His purposes in magnifying His name as He performed mighty miracles that finally caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Even without modern technology, the news spread quickly of God’s miracles on behalf of Israel. When Rahab hid the spies in Jericho, she gave evidence to this truth.

Joshua 2:9–11 “And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”

Romans 9:18 “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

It is God’s sovereign choice to be longsuffering in mercy and allow the door of opportunity to remain open for one to respond to Him in faith. It is God’s sovereign choice as to when to close the door of opportunity for any individual to respond to Him in faith and repentance. It is God’s sovereign choice to “harden” a person’s heart so that he/she will stubbornly reject any opportunity to turn to Him in faith. The opportunity for faith and repentance is available for all for a period of time. This has to be true for God’s word to be true.

Ezekiel 33:11 “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live:”

2Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Some have their hearts “hardened” by God according to His divine plan, and others harden their own hearts.

Psalm 95:8 “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”

Again, I firmly believe that election is based on God’s foreknowledge as stated in chapter 8:29 (“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son….”), and I strongly believe that His choice to “harden” one’s heart is based on that same knowledge. (But I’m just a simple believer and not a great theologian.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Children of Flesh vs. Promise

Romans 9:6 “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:”

As Paul looks at the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel at the time of this letter, it would seem that God’s word had been proven not true. He makes clear that is not the case. Now he begins to elaborate on the truth he presented in chapter 2. Not everyone who is an Israelite by birth is a true Israelite—a part of that chosen family of God.

The following quote is from Arnold Fruchtenbaum and makes an important point.

“It is important that this verse is not misunderstood. Paul is not distinguishing between Israel and the Church or between Jews and Gentiles. Rather, he is distinguishing between Jews who believe in the Messiahship of Yeshua and Jews who do not believe or between the Remnant and the non-Remnant. The first expression, all Israel, refers to the believing Jewish Remnant, which is the believing, natural seed of Abraham. The second expression, of Israel, refers to the entire nation, the whole natural seed. There is one Israel which comprises the entire nation and, within the whole of physical Israel, there is a spiritual Israel. Spiritual Israel is never stated in Scripture to be the Church. Spiritual Israel is always those Jews, within the nation as a whole, who believe.”

Romans 9:7-8 “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

It would seem that these verses are defining the difference between the spiritual heritage of Israel and the physical heritage of Israel. Abraham was God’s chosen man to father the children of faith. Abraham had other children in the flesh. Isaac, however, was unique in that he was the child of promise that was birthed through the supernatural provision of God.

Isaac represents the father of the physical seed of the people of Israel. You can’t be born by flesh into the family of God; you can only become a child of God through faith. The physical descendants of Israel through Isaac/Jacob represent those who will eventually experience the fullness of the physical “seed” as promised in the verses from Genesis 28 above (comments on verses 3-4). Isaac was the child of promise to Abraham and Sara that was born through faith; therefore, all his descendants who become followers of God through faith are considered the true children of Abraham.

Romans 9:9-12 “For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.”

Isaac was born in due time according to the direct revelation of God to Abraham (Genesis 18). Isaac fathered twins, Jacob and Esau, through Rebekah. It was God’s choice that Jacob would be the son through whom the covenant with Abraham and Isaac would continue. Paul makes it clear that this decision was made before the babies were born—before they had done either good or evil. Jacob wasn’t better than Esau—he was just privileged to be God’s choice.

From the beginning God was clear that salvation was a matter of grace through faith and not works. Salvation is a gift according to the will and plan of God.

Romans 9:13 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

This whole chapter is difficult and this verse one of the most difficult. I finally feel like I got some understanding when I first really studied the story of Rachel and Leah. We automatically associate the word hate with the most horrible of thoughts; the Greek, however, includes the thought of “loving less.” This understanding is supported by the scripture concerning Leah.

Genesis 29:30-31 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”

That really solidified my thinking in this area. I know that according to His word, God is not willing that any should perish. God chose Jacob to a position of privilege and honor, just as Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. It doesn’t mean He didn’t love Esau at all—just that He loved him less. That is a choice we have no right to question of our Creator. The prophet Jeremiah declared this truth.

Jeremiah 18:6 “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Close Look at Romans 9-11

Having established that God has had a plan for the nation of Israel and for the “church” since the beginning of the world, I think it will be best for us to go through Romans 9-11 verse by verse in understanding the position of each in relationship to one another. I will jump from my journal in Romans making revisions and/or corrections as needed.

Romans 9:1 “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,”

This verse is a statement emphasizing the truth of what Paul is about to say. Truth is according to Christ and the word of God—not the word of Paul or of men.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

When we speak the truth, our conscience is clear and we experience no guilt or conviction of the Holy Spirit—unless we are speaking with a wrong attitude.

Romans 9:2 “That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.”

What Paul is about to say is a source of great sadness and continual grief to him. It’s not just of general concern or something that bothers him once in a while. This is a very convicting statement to me regarding my “burden” for my people and my nation.

Romans 9:3-4 “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;”

Paul is grieving over his people, the Israelites, those to whom he is related physically by blood. He is so concerned that he would rather be accursed from Christ (condemned in judgment without eternal life) himself than for his own people to be spiritually lost. I don’t think I could honestly ever make a similar statement.

It was the nation of Israel that God first chose as His own peculiar people.

Deuteronomy 14:2 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

The process of choosing a child as your own is adoption. God’s choice placed the people of Israel in a position of glory (dignity, honor) before the other nations of the world.

After He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt, the nation of Israel was privileged to have the “glory” of the Lord dwell with them physically through the cloud that led them in the wilderness and rested over the tabernacle when they were camped. That glory was later manifested in Solomon’s temple.

1Kings 8:10-11 “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.”

The nation of Israel was singled out for a covenant relationship with the Lord beginning with Abraham and on to Moses and David. God’s final covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:33-37) is yet to come. It is important to note that God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional. Once Abraham stepped out in faith to leave his land, God’s promise was sure.

Genesis 12:1-3 “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

This unconditional covenant was confirmed to Jacob.

Genesis 28:13-15 “And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”

The Israelites were privileged to receive the revelation of God’s law—the oracles of God (as stated by Paul earlier in 3:2). They were singled out for the privilege of serving God; the Greek identifies this service as “worship.” This service included the responsibility of presenting God to the Gentiles and demonstrating how submission and obedience to Him would result in blessing.

“the promises” – At first you might think this is a repeat of the Abrahamic covenant and the promises it included. I think it goes on to embrace all the promises in scripture associated with the conditional covenants and promises related to specific acts of love and obedience such as delighting in God’s word (Psalm 1). These promises will culminate for Israel with the eventual establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom and the establishment of the nation under the new covenant.

Romans 9:5 “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.”

Several of the translations I read for this verse reference the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This makes sense to me. This nation came from specific physical descent as designated by God. He often refers to himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Exodus 3:6 “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Exodus 4:5 “That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.”

Matthew 22:32 “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Paul is clear that Christ, Jesus the Messiah, was descended from these same fathers. As he speaks of Christ, he can’t help but acknowledge that He is LORD as blessed by God the Father.

“Amen” = What Paul has said is just said is firm, trustworthy and sure.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mystery of the Church

After His resurrection and before returning to heaven to await the time determined for His return, Jesus answered a question from His disciples regarding the establishment of the kingdom.

Acts 1:6–8 “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

In other words, they were not to be given this information; the kingdom would be established according to the plan of the Father. Until that time they were to serve as His witnesses in Jerusalem and all over the world. Matthew gives us a more detailed account of that charge.

Matthew 28:18–20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

The body of believers that accepted Jesus in faith as the Messiah, their Savior, eventually became known as “the church” (ekklesia in the Greek). This name was actually used by Jesus when responding to Peter’s insight on His identity and when giving instruction as to how to deal with sinful actions between Christians.

Matthew 16:15–18 “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Matthew 18:15–17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

The Apostle Paul was the one through whom God revealed the “mystery” of the church. This “mystery” makes reference to something that has been hidden and is now being revealed. I think he explains it best in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 3:1–12 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Coming Kingdom and the New Covenant

Isaiah is not the only prophet to foretell of the future reign of Messiah on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

Daniel 7:13–14 “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

Jeremiah 23:5–8 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.”

Hosea 3:4–5 “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.”

Zechariah 14:9–16 “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one….Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited….And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.”

I know I am including lots of scripture, but it is far more important to hear what God says in His word than it is to hear what I say.

Most of the scripture we have utilized in this study so far has been from the Old Testament scriptures. Throughout the Old Testament the focus has been on God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. After approximately 400 years of silence, a prophet (John the Baptist) once more emerges on the scene in Israel declaring a message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. He eventually identifies Jesus as that Messiah.

John 1:29–31 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.”

Jesus made clear that He was sent to once again minister to the house of Israel.

Matthew 15:24 “But he [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [brackets mine]

Before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel appeared to His mother Mary and affirmed that He would one day assume the throne of David for eternity.

Luke 1:30–33 “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Scripture is clear in revealing that the people of Israel as a whole, led by their spiritual leaders, did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. This eventually led to His death, burial and resurrection.

During His ministry He often made reference to His kingdom. The following verses make it clear that He was promising the twelve disciples positions of leadership in a literal nation of Israel when that kingdom is established.

Luke 22:29–30 “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The Lord also made clear that He was establishing a New Testament (or Covenant from the Greek) through His death, burial and resurrection.

Luke 22:19–20 “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

God’s plan to introduce a new covenant to Israel was also revealed by the Old Testament prophets. Though Ezekiel doesn’t mention the word covenant, it is obvious that he is talking about a time that is still in Israel’s future.

Jeremiah 31:31–33 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Ezekiel 36:24–28 “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Promise of the Remnant

After having studied each of the covenants individually, it is easy to conclude that the existence of the nation of Israel is necessary to the fulfillment of each. Though the people broke covenant with the LORD and ended up scattered among the nations in judgment (as foretold), God always preserved a remnant through whom those covenants would eventually find fulfillment. The first use I could find of God declaring His preservation of a remnant was related to His sparing of Jerusalem from the invading Assyrian forces. Hezekiah made all the right physical preparations for defense, but He went to the LORD in prayer as His primary defense. This is part of the answer that Isaiah relayed to him.

2 Kings 19:30–34 “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts SHALL DO THIS. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.”

It is interesting to note that the LORD is determined to save Jerusalem not only according to His own purposes, but also in consideration of His servant David. Though God protected “the remnant” at that time, He would not long thereafter determine that this remnant required a refining fire of judgment.

2 Kings 21:10–15 “And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols…I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.”

The prophet Isaiah declared that God would again preserve a remnant and Ezra records his response in thanks to God for allowing that remnant a fresh start in the land of Judah.

Isaiah 10:20–21 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.”

Ezra 9:8–9 “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.”

In the very next chapter Isaiah declares the return of a second “remnant” to the land of Israel.

Isaiah 11:1–12 “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

I think it was necessary to include such a large section of scripture to establish the context of the return of this second remnant. This remnant will return from “the four corners of the earth” or from all over the world. This return will be facilitated by One described as descending from Jesse (the father of David) and possessing the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He will rule over the earth in righteousness and supernatural power. During His reign children can safely play with snakes, lions will no longer be carnivores and cows and bears will graze side by side. During His rule the earth will be “full of the knowledge of the LORD.” This is a prophecy regarding the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth in literal fulfillment of His covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David.

No one who accepts the scripture as the word of God can dispute that this is describing a time a yet future, for there has never been such a time since Isaiah made this prophecy. I am sure that for hundreds of years people had a hard time believing this prophecy could be literally fulfilled. Since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, I don’t see why anyone should deny that God intends to fulfill this prophecy according to His covenant promises.

Friday, August 6, 2010

God’s Covenant with David

Before moving on to the prophecies regarding the preservation of a remnant and the future establishment of the kingdom, we need to look at one more covenant—the one God made with King David.

2 Samuel 7:8–16 “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts….I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime….And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom….And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”

The most important points in this covenant are that the throne of David is eternal and will always be occupied by a descendant of David. That wording used to puzzle me since there obviously hasn’t been a king on the throne in Israel for thousands of years. I remember learning at one time that the validity of the position is not dependent upon whether or not it is occupied. The next king that takes the throne of David in Jerusalem will be a descendant of David. When Jesus Christ establishes His kingdom, He will take the throne of His forefather David. The prophet Jeremiah confirmed the promise made to David.

Jeremiah 33:14–17 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel”

It is also important to note that this promise declares that the time is coming when the people of Israel will dwell in their own land never to experience wickedness at the hands of their enemies again. Jeremiah describes it as a time when Jerusalem shall dwell safely. I don’t think that anyone can argue that this must be referencing a time yet future since Israel has never dwelt safely in peace under her own king since the Babylonian captivity.

God’s covenant to David is also affirmed by the psalmist.

Psalms 89:3–4 “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.”

Both the covenants with Abraham and David were unconditional. Though the covenant made with the people through Moses was conditional regarding possession of the land and experiencing God’s blessings, it does not negate either of the other two. It also provides for restoration of covenant and blessing when the people respond to the LORD in repentance and faith.

The LORD has revealed to us through His prophets that that time is coming.

Hosea 3:4–5 “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.”

Zechariah 12:8-10 “In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

The Lord Jesus also affirmed this truth. When talking to the Pharisees, He declared that His return was predicated upon their accepting Him as their Messiah and King.

Luke 13:35 “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Jacob Inherits the Covenant Promises

As the narrative continues, we find out that Isaac fathers twin sons, but that God chooses Jacob, the younger son, to inherit the covenant promises. The LORD speaks to Jacob one night in a dream as he is traveling to Haran to take a wife from among his kin. His message—to confirm the covenant made with Abraham and Isaac.

Genesis 28:13–14 “And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

Jacob, who was renamed Israel by the LORD, eventually fathered twelve sons whose descendants would form the nation of Israel.

Exodus 1:1–5 “Now these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt; every man and his household came with Jacob. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, Dan, and Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already.”

As referenced in a previous post, the LORD delivered the people out of Egypt with miraculous power. He then went on to establish a conditional covenant with them through Moses before allowing them to take possession of Canaan. This covenant was directly connected to their maintaining possession of the land and continuing to experience God’s blessings. Leviticus 26 gives a thorough explanation of the conditions of this covenant. Most of the book of Deuteronomy is an emphasis on the importance of not breaking covenant with Him once they are in the land. Obedience will result in great blessing and disobedience will result in great cursing. The LORD reveals to Moses that He knows the people will break covenant and even declares that He will remove them from the land and scatter them among the nations in judgment.

Deuteronomy 30:1–6 “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”

Important—God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was unconditional; God’s covenant with the nation of Israel through Moses was conditional but did not negate the covenant with Abraham. Though Israel would incur judgment and eventually be dispersed among the nations because they broke covenant with the LORD, scripture is clear in declaring that the LORD will preserve a remnant and bring them back into the land and a position of blessing before Him in honor of His original covenant with Abraham.

The LORD also declares through scripture that He retains ownership of the land though He has given it to His people to bless them.

Leviticus 25:1&23 “And the LORD spake unto Moses in mount Sinai….The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”

2 Chronicles 7:19–20 “But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.”

Jeremiah 2:7 “And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.”

Ezekiel 36:4–5 “Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about; Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.”

Joel 3:1–2 “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”

It’s tempting to digress at this point, but I will refrain.