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Blog Series - Isaiah, Prophet of Salvation, Book 9View All Parts
Isaiah 61:5, 6 says,
5 Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. 6 But you will be called the priests of the Lord; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
Who is the prophet addressing? First and foremost it is the Messiah whose calling is described in the first two verses—the passage which Jesus quoted and applied to Himself. Secondarily, it is addressed to Christ’s body, the sons of God, those who qualify as “priests of God and of Christ” (Revelation 20:6). So the word says, “you will be called the priests of the Lord” and “ministers of our God.”
The carnal interpretation, which has been dominant in Jewry for a long time, is that this refers to non-Jews being a servant class to those “chosen” by their physical biology. Many in the Church have come to agree with this since the 1850’s, ignoring the apostolic interpretation of the law and prophets. Jews and Israelites may indeed be priests of God, but only if they are also priests of Christ. No one who rejects Jesus as the Christ can qualify.
Laws of Priesthood
The law consecrates, or sets apart, those who minister to God from the rest of the population. Under the Old Covenant, God chose Aaron and his sons, who were of the tribe of Levi, to be His priests. The descendants of Aaron were allowed to enter the sanctuary, and only the high priest was allowed to minister to God in the Most Holy Place. The rest of the Levites were limited to the outer court, ministering to the people.
Hence, there was a class distinction between the high priest, the priests, and the Levites. That distinction was based on physical genealogy. That requirement was never seen in the Melchizedek priesthood, for both David and Jesus were of Judah and yet they were both priests of that order (Psalm 110:4). Neither qualified as a priest of the Aaronic order.
Likewise, only men could minister to God as Levites, priests, and high priests of the Old Covenant order. But under the New Covenant, God removed that distinction (Galatians 3:28) when Christ spiritually tore down the dividing wall in the temple (Ephesians 2:14), which had long separated Jewish men from women and from non-Jews.
When the Old Covenant was broken (Jeremiah 31:32), the genealogical and gender requirements of priesthood was also abolished and replaced by the terms of the Melchizedek priesthood. The fact that Melchizedek came on the scene without any record of his genealogy (“without father, without mother, without genealogy” Hebrews 7:3), was interpreted to mean that this order of priests was not dependent upon fleshly genealogy or gender. Instead, Melchizedek was “made like the Son of God.”
This implies that the priests serving under our great High Priest, being also of that order, are the sons of God.
The Sons of God
This, then, is how we ought to interpret Isaiah 61:6 when it says, “You will be called the priests of the Lord.” Isaiah was not prophesying about the rise and restoration of a Levitical order of priests, but those of the Melchizedek order. It is a priestly order in which Jesus was qualified to minister.
The carnal notion that Jesus will somehow minister in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, presiding over Levitical priests and make animal sacrifices, is foolishness and even blasphemous. Not only does it replace the blood of Christ as the true Sacrifice, it also is a violation of the law itself, which forbids those from the tribe of Judah from being Aaronic priests.
Nonetheless, the Aaronic priesthood established certain prophetic patterns for Christ. All of the Levites were types and shadows of the sons of God. Numbers 3:11-13 says,
11 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. 13 For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord.”
We see here how the Levites represented the sons of God in an Old Covenant setting. This was established at the time of the tenth plague on Egypt, when God delivered Israel at Passover. The priesthood came into existence at that time, although this had not yet been revealed. They were then consecrated as priests at the base of Mount Horeb, which was where God spoke to the people directly on that first Pentecost.
When the feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled, a new priesthood will be consecrated. These are the ones described in Revelation 20:6 as “priests of God and of Christ,” who will reign with Him. They will be king-priests of the order of Melchizedek, and this older priesthood will then fully replace the later Aaronic priesthood that was given temporary authority during the time of the Old Covenant.
Who are these priests? They are the people who are begotten by God, those who have the quality of faith that their spiritual father Abraham had (Galatians 3:26). John 1:13 tells us,
13 who were born [gennao, “begotten or born”], not of blood[line] nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
These priests are not of any particular physical genealogy, for they are not children of the flesh, nor do they identify any longer with the “old man.” They are children of God, begotten by the Holy Spirit, and they now identify with the “new man” that is not of flesh and blood.
The Levites prophesied of the sons of God, but they were not actually the sons of God unless they, like Abraham, believed God and were “fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21). Their physical genealogy did not qualify them as sons of God. They could only serve as prophetic types that pointed to a greater priesthood yet to come.
Eating the Wealth of Nations
Isaiah 61:6 says, “you will eat the wealth of nations.” The Aaronic priesthood ate the wealth of Israel, so to speak. Levi was not a land-owning tribe. They depended upon the tithes and offerings of the people for whom they ministered. Deuteronomy 18:1-3 says,
1 The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or [land] inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them. 3 Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people from those who offer a sacrifice…
To “eat the Lord’s offerings” was to eat that which the people had brought as offerings to the Lord. The people gave according to their own wealth and increase from the flocks and from the fields. So also the Melchizedek order—the sons of God—was to “eat the wealth of nations.” This was not meant to convey servitude but support for rendering divine services.
The Levites, priests, and high priest were not to oppress the people under the Old Covenant—though there were times when they did so. Neither will the sons of God oppress the world in the age to come. It is a travesty to interpret Isaiah 61:6 with a carnal, Old Covenant mindset. God will not have oppressors ruling in His Kingdom. They must have a heart of love and not be motivated by greed or by thinking of themselves more highly than they ought to think.
There have always been sons of God. Anyone who shared the faith of Abraham was a son of God, for his faith was of the New Covenant. The sons of God have been called from the beginning and have ministered in the world according to their giftings. Even so, much of the Sonship revelation was unknown or not well understood until Jesus revealed it and His apostles taught it in the first century.
Unfortunately, the revelation of Sonship was soon lost as the Church became carnally minded and as it sought power and wealth in place of the riches of the Holy Spirit. Hence, throughout the Age of Pentecost, the Melchizedek priesthood was largely forgotten as the Church began to mimic the Aaronic priesthood once again. The stewards of Pentecost largely failed to teach the principles of Sonship, and the seeds of error eventually brought forth its sour fruit.
In the 1850’s a new teaching began to emerge through Darby and later, Scofield, known as Dispensationalism, which pretended to be spiritual but in fact taught that to be chosen, one had to be of a particular genealogy traceable to Abraham. They prepared the people to accept the earthly Jerusalem as the mother of the Kingdom, and thus paved the way for political Zionism, as if it were the fulfillment of the promises of God.
With this came the rapture doctrine, based on near total ignorance of the feasts of the Lord. Out of this came the notion that there were two paths of salvation. They said that the Jews are saved by being good Jews and by following the law by the power of their Old Covenant vow; the Gentiles, they said, are saved by grace apart from the law. Somehow the Jews are chosen apart from faith in Christ, and God will soon bless another physical temple with Aaronic priests and animal sacrifices. This is the blindness in the end-time Laodicean church (Revelation 3:17).
Such Old Covenant mindsets interpret Isaiah 61:6, 7 as if Jews or Israelites are called to rule the Kingdom on the basis of their fleshly genealogy. The earthly Jerusalem, which Paul calls “Hagar,” is set forth by Jews and Christians alike, as they petition the throne of God to make Hagar the one chosen to bring forth the promise of God.
But it is Isaac who is the child of promise (Galatians 4:28). The children of Hagar are children of the flesh who must be cast out (Galatians 4:30). Paul himself cast out Hagar when Jesus revealed Himself to him on the Damascus road. Paul is a prime example of how to do this. By revelation, he changed his spiritual mother from Hagar to Sarah and thereby changed his identity from Ishmael to Isaac.
Whereas Paul had been persecuting the church (as Ishmael persecuted Isaac), Paul joined the ranks of the persecuted ones. Ishmael was the son of Abram. Isaac was the son of Abraham. The difference is the hey that God added to his name, for it is the breath of God representing the Holy Spirit. The true sons of God are the Isaac company. They are not the children of flesh and blood but are begotten according to the promise of God.
If we continue in the mindset of the Isaac company, we will be able to understand the revelation of Isaiah and all of the prophets.
Blog Series - Isaiah, Prophet of Salvation, Book 9View All Parts