Dispensational Theology and Isaiah 66 – #2
I suggested in the previous installment that when one sees the connection between Romans 5 and the Song of Moses, the presence of Israel’s last days, and the fulfillment of the last days prophecies being underway when Paul wrote, becomes undeniable.
The Song of Moses is one of the most paradigmatic of all Old Covenant prophecies. Deuteronomy, and the Song, served as the template for Jesus’ ministry and message, and that of Paul as well. N. T. Wright calls the Song of Moses “a vital chapter in this great story” i.e the Story of Israel (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Righteousness of God, Vol. 1, (Minneapolis; Fortress, 2013), 77).
Ross Wagner says that the Song played a tremendous role in the eschatological thinking of the NT writers. He comments on the connection between the Song, Romans 10:19f and Isaiah 65: “Speaking with their own voices, as it were, Moses and Isaiah come forward in Romans 10:19-21 to testify that the present situation, in which Gentiles enjoy what Israel has not yet attained, far from representing a surprising development, has been part of God’s plan all along.” (J. Ross Wagner, Heralds of the Good News, Boston; Brill Academic Press, 2003), 189f– Wagner’s comments on the Song are insightful and helpful).
The reason why the Song is so critical is because it was a prediction of Israel’s last days. Twice in the chapter, YHVH said that it was a prophecy of Israel’s “last end,” her latter end” (v. 20, 29). So, the Song of Moses, that served as the template for Jesus’ ministry and Paul’s, foretold Israel’s last days. What is so powerful is that Paul repeatedly cites the Song as the justification for his Gentile mission, due to the rejection of the gospel by Israel (Romans 10). He also quotes from Isaiah 65-66, the prediction of the New Creation, within the same identical context. Take note of the following:
In the Song of Moses, we have the prediction that in Israel’s last days she would be indolent and rebellious (32:15f). In verses 19f the Lord said He would turn His face from them and turn to another people “who are not a nation” (v. 21f) spurring Israel to jealousy. Paul quotes these very verses in Romans 11:10f, as predictive of his Gentile ministry and his desire to spur Israel to jealousy to “save some.”
So, in the Song, we have YHVH appealing to Israel to obey Him. They would reject that call, and as a result, He would turn to the Gentiles / the nations and create a new people.
Not only does Paul cite the Song to justify his mission, he likewise directly quotes from Isaiah 65-66.
When we turn to Isaiah 65-66 we find the exact same motifs.
In Isaiah 65:2, the Lord said He had spread out His arms, inviting Israel to Him, but they refused.
In v. 1 He said that as a result of Israel’s rejection of His call that He would be “found of those who did not seek me” i.e. “A nation that did not seek me.” Once again, Paul quotes from this very verse in Romans 10:20f as the impetus and justification for his Gentile mission.
These identical motifs are found in Isaiah 66, where the Lord reiterates His reference to Israel’s refusal to obey His voice (66:4).
In the ensuing discussions of both Isaiah 65-66 we find the prediction of the coming destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem. Notice Isaiah 65:13f:
Therefore thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit. You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord God will slay you, And call His servants by another name; So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing.”
So, in Isaiah 65 the New Creation would come about as a direct result of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord and the subsequent and consequent destruction of the Old Covenant people! I should point out that the birth of a people and a “land” in “one day” (Isaiah 66:8) goes back to Isaiah 43 and 65:13f. The idea of the “birth” of a land, is an indication of a radical change in the very nature of the kingdom of God. This is the “new creation”).
The same is true in Isaiah 66. See Isaiah 66:4-6. Because Israel would not respond to YHVH when He called, “I will bring their fears on them” (v. 4).
This is highly significant. When Paul, in Romans 10-11, cites the Song of Moses and Isaiah 65-66 and applies those prophecies to Israel of his day, his ministry then it seems hermeneutically untenable to ignore that application. What is the uptake from that? We will examine that in our next installment of this series, so be sure to stay tuned!
Be sure to get a copy of my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for a great study of Isaiah 65-66. That book is a thorough refutation of Dispensational Theology.