The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 3

Read the series.

(The prophetic picture, broken down into basic categories, continued.)

c. The Coming of the Great King

I have commented on this matter above, but here let us focus on the royalty of the Messiah. As far as the Old Testament is concerned this aspect of His person seems incompatible with His coming in humility as the suffering Servant (Psa. 22; Isa. 53). When He comes to reign, He comes with irresistible power (Dan. 2:44-45; Isa. 63:1-6). Much of the “Day of the Lord” language reflects His arrival (e.g. Isa. 34:8; Zeph. 3:8; Joel 3:9-16). Psalm 2:6, 9 has Him reigning on Yahweh’s holy hill (cf. Isa. 2:2). Isaiah 11:1-10 has David’s heir reigning in power and righteousness (cf. Am. 9:11; Mic. 2:12-13; Isa. 32:1a). Genesis 49:10 predicts this, as does Psalm 110:1-2 and Micah 5:2. The great prophecies of Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:14-16 set this reign in an era when Jerusalem is the great city of God; or as Ezekiel calls it, “Yahweh is there” (Ezek. 48:35). Zechariah 14 has the great King ruling in Israel and all the peoples worshipping Him.

There is no doubt that this Figure is the main character in God’s Creation Project. All creation’s hopes are wrapped up in Him. All the promises to Israel wait for Him. The calling of the nations, depends upon Him. And the defeat of the great Enemy can only be achieved by Him. And because, as I believe, He embodies the New covenant, the coming King is even essential to the fulfillment of all God’s covenants with man.

d. The Salvation of Israel through the New Covenant

Israel was established to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exod. 19:6). They never attained their high calling. But when the King comes to rule the earth “the Gentiles will seek Him” (Isa. 11:10 cf. Isa. 2:2), in part because Yahweh has redeemed Israel (Zech. 8).

But while they languish under the strictures of the Mosaic covenant, Israel can never be what they ought to be. Israel needs salvation. In those Israelites designated as the “remnant” the covenants of Yahweh will find their eventual fulfillment. In Jeremiah God speaks positively to Israel as “Virgin of Israel” (Jer. 31:4).1 This is the same chapter as the promise of the New covenant with all Israel (cf. Jer. 31:1, 31). This New covenant will change the remnant (Isa. 37:31-32; Jer. 31:7; Zeph. 3:13; Joel 2:32). It will make them godly and obedient from the heart (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-30 cf. Isa. 46:13). They will want to go up to Zion to worship God (Jer. 31:6; Isa. 35:10).

In point of fact, God will make Israel a blessing to the nations:

And it shall come to pass
That just as you were a curse among the nations,
O house of Judah and house of Israel,
So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. – Zechariah 8:13

This is when Israel can rightly act as “witnesses” for God (Isa. 43:9-12). In Micah 4:2 the nations decide to come to Yahweh. Isaiah tells us that the wonder of what Zion has become provokes this turning (Isa. 62:1-2). The New covenant is first and foremost the covenant of reconciliation of a lost humanity and a cursed earth to the Creator. It revitalizes the ground and redeems the elect of all ages. In so doing it clears the way for Yahweh to make good on what He has sworn to perform in His covenants to Noah, Abraham, Phinehas, and David. God’s covenants stand firm. They are to be trusted till the end. They cannot be changed out of recognition due to our impatience and near-sightedness. The New covenant is the key that will open them up in all their fullness and specificity.

e. Jerusalem, the City of Righteousness

There is little doubt that in the Prophets Jerusalem or Zion is beloved by Yahweh (see e.g. Isa. 62:1, 3; Zech. 1:17; 8:2). It is “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:7-8). Psalm 132:13 declares “the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place.” After Yahweh purges away all of its dross, He will redeem it with justice, and shall call it “the city of righteousness” (Isa. 1:26-27; 4:2-5). Zechariah refers to the future Jerusalem as “the City of Truth” (Zech. 8:3). This will be the center of the Kingdom of God (Mic. 4:7-8). Jeremiah says it this way:

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. – Jeremiah 3:17

Zion is to be comforted (Isa. 51:3), and favored as the dwelling-place of God on earth (Zech. 14:16). A capital city is to be expected in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (Psa. 89:27, 34-37).

f. The Rebuilding of the Temple

Perhaps the most controversial teaching of the Old Testament is that the sanctuary of Yahweh, the temple at Jerusalem, will be rebuilt in the times of Messiah’s worldwide reign. From the perspective of many readers of the New Testament, particularly of the book of Hebrews, this is intolerable.

But I am not here concerning myself with the conclusions of those who “correct” the Old Testament picture with their understandings of the New Testament. Lord willing, at a later date I will be able to show that there is no contradiction between the covenant requirement of a new temple and the finished work of Christ at Calvary. But here we looking at the Old Testament and are allowing it to speak to us clearly in its own voice. Once this is permitted one runs into passages such as this:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it. – Isaiah 2:2

Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. – Ezekiel 37:26

Many will instinctively turn the House of Yahweh and the sanctuary into Christ and the Church, but that is not what a Jew of the 8th or 6th Century B.C. would do. No reader of Haggai 2:6-9 (let alone the prophetic author!) would do that. In fact, no one familiar with Numbers 25 would have expected anything else but a new temple in the Kingdom of the Branch, just as we see in Ezekiel 37; 40 – 48; Zechariah 6 and 14. A rebuilt kingdom-temple is covenantally assured. Any accurate account of Old Testament theology must admit this fact.

Notes

1 There are places where this term is used to show regret at what Israel has become (e.g. Am. 5:2; Jer. 18:13), but Jeremiah 31 is a crucial eschatological setting.

2593 reads

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.