*warning: extremely long post*
In Leviticus 27, we find that God says anything vowed or pledged to the Lord is His, and in order to take it back, you must purchase it. Now, this is somewhat obvious in the context of how to interpret. When you give something to someone, it is no longer yours. It is theirs. When you give something to God, it is now God’s. In order to get it back, you must buy it from God. This has a couple implications. The first is the obvious one: don’t be a taker-backer. Don’t be that person that will always remember what it is that you’ve given to someone and hold it over their heads forever. You gave it away, so it is no longer yours. The second implication is in reference to this vowing unto the Lord. Ecclesiastes 5:4 says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vows. It is better not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.”
I’m sure we’ve all prayed those “if you will” prayers. “God, if you will get me out of this circumstance, then I promise that I will never (fill in the blank).” It would be better to not vow than to at that moment make a hasty vow only to not fulfill it. It reminds me of a joke that I heard about a wealthy Jewish man. He wasn’t observant, never really went to synagogue, didn’t perform the regular traditions. One day he is supposed to be at this important meeting. It’s the most important meeting of his career. This will either make him very wealthy or will sink his company. He does everything that he can to make sure that he will be at that meeting on time and prepared. The day comes, and the man’s alarm doesn’t go off. But, no big deal, he woke up early enough anyway. He just didn’t wake up as early as he had hoped. He gets out into traffic, and there is unexpected roadwork to prevent him from being on time. Frustrated, he eventually makes it through the roadwork and to his office. As he is circling the parking lot, he realizes that because he is later than usual, there are no spaces available. Panicked, the man prays, “HaShem, I know that I’m not a very good observant Jew. If you will come through for me this one time, I will…” At that very moment a car pulls out of their parking spot, and the man says, “Never mind!”
Honestly, it truly is better to keep our mouths shut, even when we’re repenting and saying we’ll never commit that sin again. It is better to be found in honesty before God than to speak sincere lies. You might be sincere and truly detest what you’ve done, but it is not good to confess and say you’ll never do this again only to recommit the same sin a few days or a week later. This is vowing to the Lord only to take it back.
At the end of the chapter, which is really what I want to focus on this time, is this mention that the firstborn is the Lord’s. Only if it is unclean may it be bought back. We looked at Exodus 4:22 multiple times in this series. Israel is God’s firstborn son. And, they are unclean. So, God has established an end time payment for His people. We read in the New Testament of how we have been bought by the blood of Jesus. There is still a future redemption to come, though. I want to lay out as concisely as I can some of these prophetic words.
When Jesus returns, he sets up shop in Jerusalem. It is from Zion that the law goes forth, and out of Jerusalem goes the word of the Lord. Israel is at that time finally knowing the Lord their God, and we will fulfill our purpose of being the priestly nation to the nations. More Scriptures than I can quote speak of the ingathering of Israel, and it is interesting that with many of these Scriptures comes a re-gathering as well. When they are “ingathered” to Christ, they will then also be gathered again from all nations unto which they have been sifted. This implies a final sifting, and that Israel’s current occupancy in the Land will not remain forever.
If the Jewish people dispersed even currently throughout the world, and to be sifted again through all nations, are to come back to Jerusalem, what are some of the terms of that gathering? I think of the Exodus where God told Israel that they will not flee. They will go out with joy like royalty (Exodus 3:21-22, 11:2-3). Isaiah 11:11 that says that God will gather His people a second time from “Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonian, from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah fro the four quarters of the earth”.
My mind flashes to that verse that is later in Isaiah where the prophet foretells of the nature of their coming. “See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will carry your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on your shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who home in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:22-23). Just like in the Exodus, Israel does not return in gloom or despair. Contrary to that thought, it is written, “The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will be upon their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). God will do great things in their midst. They will see miracles before their eyes as they wander the wilderness of the nations. Isaiah 35 states earlier that “the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped” – obviously an undoing of Isaiah 6:9-10 – “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”
Israel will survive their time of trouble because of the providence of God. Miracles will burst forth, both through the Church as well as in the literal wandering of the wilderness. The divine character being manifest to Israel is what God meant when saying: “I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
Ezekiel saw the devastation of Israel. God speaks to Him about how He will strike their hearts with fear and terror. By the time they come to this point in the narrative, God has already been striking at that heart of stone. Here in Ezekiel 36 we have cogent and precise words. These are calculated. God gathers them from the nations – even upon the shoulders of kings and queens – and it is in this divine manifestation of love that Israel breaks down and weeps. At the coming of Christ, the people of Israel have already gone through torture. What is a judgment upon them is an act of mercy and love, for Jesus even told the Church in Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” When the power of that people is broken, as is mentioned in Leviticus 26:19, they have finally come to the place where they can see God and accept Him. It takes ruthless breaking upon them for it to come, but so it is with us all.
This is why Isaiah 14:1 starts with the words, “I will have compassion on Jacob.” Jeremiah 3:18 states that “in those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.” That divided house that has been at enmity with one another since the time of Rehoboam will be joined once again. Christ will break down the wall of hostility between them. Yet, Isaiah 14:1 goes a step further in even adding the detail, “Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.” Not only will Israel and Judah be united, as Ezekiel 37:15-28 also suggests, but even the foreigners and Gentiles will be added to them. Guess who that is!
Zechariah 10:10 tells us that “there will not be room enough for them.” We find the same sentiment in Isaiah 49:20-21 when we read, “The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who has brought these up? I was left all alone, but these – where have they come from?’”
Jeremiah tells us that among those who return will be “the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. They will come weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them besides streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son” (Jeremiah 30:8-9).
We see in Ezekiel 20:41: “I will accept you as a fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered.” This, no doubt, comes from the pleasing aroma of God’s sacrifices in Leviticus, which Paul also states that we are the “fragrance of Christ.” We have been brought out of our own nations and unto Zion through Christ. The fragrance of Christ will in that day be at work in Israel, which will cause them to also have “singleness of heart and action” (Jeremiah 32:39). This also reminds me of something Paul said to the Corinthians, where he encouraged them to be one in spirit and heart. Do you see how the new covenant Scriptures affects the way that we live? And yet we also know there is a coming time where the new covenant shall be fulfilled to the uttermost.
The importance of recognizing the return from the nations is critical. We spoke briefly about how the return in 1948 could not be this final return. Do you see why? Though Israel returned with gladness and joy, Isaiah 51:11 tells us that “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Sorrow and sighing has not fled away, and indeed Israel’s enemies are on every side. The Gentiles did not bring Israel back. Ezekiel 28:26 says that the Israelites will live safely and build houses and plant vineyards. The abundance of Scripture on this subject is simply embarrassing. The fact that we as the Church have pretty well not even recognized this tells us just how Scripturally nonliterate we are. We have every ability to read the Bible, but we don’t.
“So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.” This passage from Jeremiah 23 shows us that this final sifting and deliverance will be greater than the very exodus itself!
Isaiah 31:5 has an interesting phrase. God says that He will come down upon Mount Zion to do battle, but it says that He will “pass over it and will rescue it.” This, of course, should have us immediately think of Exodus. The Lord came with the spirit of death, and those who had the blood upon their doorposts were “passed over”. What is the blood upon the doorposts? God says, “Like birds hovering overhead, the Lord Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it.” Think back to Isaiah 4:5. “Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.”
The blood on the doorposts is the Lord Almighty. We know this to be Christ, our Passover Lamb. Yet, in Isaiah 4, we find some more interesting information here. Christ is the Passover Lamb, and His blood is sprinkled upon the doorposts of our lives. Yet, that same Lord Almighty that will be over Mount Zion as a shield to protect her in Isaiah 31 is described in Isaiah 4 as the cloud by day and fire by night. Above all of this glory is a canopy. What does that mean? This is no doubt a chuppa. Once again we see the redemption of Israel takes place at the marriage of the Lamb.
When Israel is regathered from the nations unto the Land, she is given the obligation to destroy all of her idols. By this time, since the coming of messiah has already taken place, Israel and all the Jewish people are believers. The idolatry in the heart has been eradicated. The outworking of that heart transplant is the destruction of the idols that fill Israel – whether graffiti, occult temples, whore houses, or the abomination of desolation. God gives the clear charge to destroy the idols. In Isaiah 27:9, we read about the altar stones being like chalk stones ground to pieces. No Asherah poles or incense altars will be left standing. The children of Israel will destroy all of her idols, and in that they find their full redemption.
Romans 11:26: “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.’” Here we have a quotation from Psalm 14:7. However, this could also be a quotation from Isaiah. Isaiah 59:20 reads, “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins…” We discussed briefly the destruction of the idols. Isaiah 27:9 speaks of the destruction of the idols, but the first part of that verse reads, “By this, then, will Jacob’s guilt be atoned for, and this will be the full fruitage of the removal of his sin.” It is not simply that the idols need to be cleaned up because God wants to have the Land purged. The destruction of the idols signifies the full redemption of Israel. This gets back to Leviticus 27.
“Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3) “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
We find that Isaiah prophesied about the time of their regathering, “The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.” (Isaiah 32:14-15) The Spirit is poured out from on high upon the whole house of Israel. As it is written, “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” (Jeremiah 31:31) What does it mean that they will not break this New Covenant?
Paul answers that in Romans 7. They who are dead are no longer bound to the Law; therefore we who have died with Christ are no longer bound to the Law, but instead are bound to Christ. Israel, while they are currently bound to the law, and therefore bound to death and sin, will be released from their oppression to be made new in Christ. Jeremiah continues: “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Compare this with Ezekiel 36: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart” – the same heart mentioned before by Jeremiah with the Law written upon it – “and put a new spirit within you” – the sealing of the Holy Spirit unto Christ – “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Isaiah 12:3 speaks of Israel drawing water from the wells of salvation with joy. We know that this water is the living water mentioned in John 7:37-38, of which we as believers of the New Covenant. This baptism of the Spirit for Israel takes place at the return unto a land filled with “vile images and detestable idols” which Israel will have to remove. Ezekiel 11 continues from that phrase to say, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and given them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.” (Ezekiel 11:18-21)
Zephaniah 3:11-13 adds, “On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from this city those who rejoice in their pride. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill. But I will leave within you the meek and humble who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid.” Israel shall at this time have a spirit of humility, which is the spirit of Christ. No longer will they be prideful or haughty, not because God will destroy all who have pride and haughtiness, but because God will pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication upon the remnant (Zechariah 12:10). All men are prideful and haughty, thus we cannot say it is somehow that these who survive are not.
We know that it is not because of their lack of pride that they are spared, but rather that God will “judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.” (Ezekiel 34:17) For this reason we have a verse in Zechariah 9:11-12 about God freeing the prisoners from the waterless pit and restoring twice as much to them. It is “because of the blood of my covenant with you” that God redeems Israel. What exactly is that “blood of [His] covenant”? “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The very wine that we drink, the bread we break, as ministers of the New Covenant is the symbol of Israel’s redemption. Not because of their humility, but rather because of Christ’s atonement will God restore them.
They will meet with God in the wilderness, where God has set a table for them, and that table is Christ. We break the bread and we give them the wine of the New Covenant. We display to Israel during her final calamity the reality of the New Heaven and New Earth at work within us – not because God has already established them, but because though we are in the world we are not of the world. While the earthly Jerusalem is currently the son of the slave woman, the heavenly Jerusalem is free (Galatians 4:24-26). We are not under the bondage of the earthly Jerusalem, but have been freed for freedom’s sake (Galatians 5:1) to drive the Jew to envy. By our mercy they shall obtain mercy (Romans 11:31). For this reason, we lay down our lives as living sacrifices. We are the offering. We are the bread broken for them. Our blood is the wine poured out, because Christ is in us, and we are His body. This isn’t to diminish the work of Christ, but all the more to exult it.
When Israel shall taste of that New Covenant wine for the first time after she has been restored, “a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more.” (Zechariah 13:1-2) What day is this? It is the day of the return of Christ. Up to this point, Israel has been fed with “the bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3, Isaiah 34:20), but now “your teachers will be hidden no more.” (Isaiah 34:20-21) Who are these teachers Isaiah is speaking of? They are the ministers of the New Covenant – the Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ Jesus our Lord. They are the wise mentioned in Daniel 11:33-35. “With your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will defile your idols overlaid in silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, ‘Away with you!’”.
It is for this reason, because their teachers are no longer hidden from their eyes, and because they drink deeply from the well of salvation the eternal Spirit, that Isaiah later says, “But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.” (Isaiah 45:17) Obadiah 17 declares, “But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will by holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.” Of this inheritance, Paul writes concerning the believers, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Moses asks, “Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?” (Deuteronomy 4:34) Zechariah 8:6 then continues this thought by comparing it to the end time exodus back to the Land: This is what the Lord Almighty says, “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of the people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” This reminds me of a question that Jesus asked in Luke 18:8. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
We saw in Isaiah 10:20-23 that there would come a time when Israel will no longer rely on him who strikes them down – the Antichrist – but now returns to the Lord. In the verses leading up to this statement, we find verse 17: “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and briers.” In a single day… There are few verses that speak of this, but many that speak of “the Day of the Lord.” Why the “Day” and not the “Days”? Some have speculated that the Day of the Lord is a period of time, and that the Hebrew word yom can have that loose translation. I’m not entirely convinced. There are some references to the Day of the Lord that seem to be outside of the return of Christ, this is true. However, the vast majority can all be found in a single day, or maybe to better word it, can be the result of a single day.
The return of Christ is the Day of the Lord. It is upon that one day that all of history pivots. The two advents of Christ are the two hinges that we understand the entirety of the Bible to swing upon. While we understand that there is more that happens before and after the return of Christ, it does seem as though the defeat of the Antichrist, the locking up of Satan in his prison, the redemption of Israel, and the banner set up for the nations to behold the glory of God are all accomplished in a single day. From that day, there are other things that might take longer, such as the rebuilding of the ruins, the bringing back of the Diaspora, the destruction of idols, etc. Yet, those things that might take longer than a day to accomplish in no way should be considered factors to speak against the notion of the Day of the Lord being a single day.
For example, we read in Ezekiel 36:33-36 that “on the day I cleanse you from all your sins,” God will resettle their towns, the ruins will be rebuilt, the desolate land will be cultivated, the cities will be fortified, and the land will be replanted. Do we conclude that because it says, “On the day” that all of these things take place in a single day? Of course not. Yet, we also do not consider that because these things take multiple days that God is intending that “on that day” would actually refer to a period of time. When it says in Zechariah 3:9, and is also repeated in 9:16, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day,” we can be confident that the removal of sin is indeed accomplished in a single day.
One day, and the whole of the creation is restored back to its original intent in God. Isaiah 66:8 asks the question, “Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” Yet, no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Does God bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery? There is a travail that takes place in the people of God. That travail is the impregnation and birthing of the nation of Israel. This delivery doesn’t take ages, but only moments. It is upon the return of Christ, of which we can hasten His return according to the apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:12). One thing is certain: we cannot hasten that day by “doing”. It is not about what we do, nor about attaining higher righteousness. Such mentality is still under the bondage of the law. Our hastening of Christ’s coming can only be done in our intercession on behalf of Israel.
To sum up, then, we see that the ultimate redemption of Israel comes about through their resurrection. The payment must be made for them to go from clean to unclean. God Himself made payment for them in His own blood, and just like we as believers have also had to go through death to taste resurrection, the whole nation of Israel will go through death to taste resurrection. This is the beauty and logic of God. We see the Scriptures attesting for us the immense prerogative of God. For God to redeem His firstborn, He must pay for them in His own blood, and then they must also pass from death to life. For, the wages of sin is death, and no one can be set free from those wages. We all taste death. We will either taste it in this life or in the next life, but we will all pay those wages. The difference between the two is that to taste of death in this life will result in the power of God unto resurrection, but in the next life there is no remedy.
This concludes our study of Leviticus. It begins with the means of salvation for the people of God, and it ends with their redemption. Everything in between is the answer to that perplexing question of how we go from the Garden to Zion. The question to ask at this point is: Have you come unto Zion? If not, what is retraining you? If so, is there anything that you now better understand that you need to begin to live out? Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, even though we know that this prayer cannot ultimately be fulfilled until the Lord plants Israel that final time. Until then, we wrestle not with flesh and blood…