“For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers” (Jer. 33:17-21).
The question that was submitted with this text is, "How has the promise regarding the Levites been fulfilled?"
Jeremiah prophesied during very dark days in Judah. Because of the terrible apostasy of the nation, manifested especially in idolatry, God had sent the Babylonian armies against Judah. These Babylonian armies would soon break into the city, destroy the temple and fortress of Zion, and lead the people of Judah into captivity far from the promised land. God’s anger would be poured out upon His people who had forsaken his law and committed all the sins of the heathen.
It must be remembered that within the nation of Judah was a remnant according to the election of grace. Although the nation had become apostate, nevertheless, God preserved unto Himself a small number. Isaiah calls this remnant, a hut in a garden of cucumbers, a very small remnant, and a besieged city (1:8-9).
When Judah was taken into captivity, the whole nation went, both elect and reprobate. All went because the nation could only be purged and the elect saved through the judgment of the captivity: "Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness" (Isa. 1:27). The elect remnant, while in captivity, penned the words of Psalm 137: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows ..."
The captivity was an unparalleled tragedy, not simply because the glorious nation of Israel now existed no longer, but also because Israel was the nation from whom Christ would come, a coming impossible when the nation was destroyed. That is why, in Psalm 137, Judah could not sing the songs of Zion in a strange land, for all the songs of Zion spoke of Christ.
With the captivity, the two pillars on which the nation had been built were broken down. These two pillars were the monarchy of David and his descendants and the Levitical priesthood. Israel was a theocracy. It was a nation whose God was the Lord. That theocracy was established on the pillar of the throne of David and the worship of God in the temple. A son of David on the throne and continual sacrifices in the temple were essential. Without those two institutions, the nation could not exist as God’s people. Hence the despair of the captives.
But now, during the dreadful time of the siege of Jerusalem, when defeat was inevitable, Jeremiah must bring a word of comfort to God’s people within that apostate nation. That word of comfort is found in the text.
As is true of many prophecies in the Old Testament, this prophecy also has a twofold fulfillment: the first is the historical fulfillment in Israel itself, and the second is a future fulfillment in the new dispensation. For example, the prophecy of Hosea 1:10 had a fulfillment for Israel in the history of the nation when, from that nation, God saved a remnant according to His eternal election. But Paul, in Romans 9:25-26 calls attention to the fact that Hosea’s prophecy is fulfilled in the gathering of the Gentiles into the church of Christ: "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. 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."
This prophecy of Jeremiah 33:17-21 was historically fulfilled when the nation of Judah was brought back from captivity. As Jeremiah spoke the Word of God to Judah that God’s wrath was to destroy the nation by bringing the nation under the yoke of Babylon, so he was also given the word of the gospel to the remnant according to God’s election. That word was that God would not forget His promises made to their fathers, but would restore the nation. Isaiah was so explicit as to name the king who would give the command for Judah to return (Isa. 45:1-4). Jeremiah even prophesied the exact number of years that Judah would be in captivity (Jer. 29:10).
God would, in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, restore the throne of David and the worship of the nation in the temple. What a comfort that was to the remnant of God’s people who, apart from that promise, saw only black despair. And, as the Scriptures tell us, this was also done.
However, it is obvious that this was not the complete fulfillment of the prophecy. It is obvious for the simple reason that the nation of Judah, though the line of David was preserved, never did have a king on David’s throne again. Except for a short time under the Maccabees, Judah was ruled by foreign nations, and the sons in the line of David, though rulers in Judah, ruled only under foreign kings.
The complete fulfillment had to wait.
- Volume: 9
- Issue: 18
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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