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Monday, February 9, 2009

Isaiah 66 and Meats

In my continuing investigation into clean/unclean meats, I would like to take a serious look into Isaiah 66. I had a friend who agreed with everything I said about meats, but because Isaiah 66 confused him so, he could not accept it.

In order to move forward into this section, one absolutely must keep in mind the whole body of evidence on this topic. Temper that with the fact that prophecy cannot undo the New Covenant made in Jesus' blood. If it appears to, then we can be fairly certain that we are understanding something very much incorrectly.

In the COGs we would spend the better part of an entire sermon hearing about clean and unclean meats, then we were pointed to a place where “clean and unclean” are mentioned, where the minister would hope we would think that all instances of the words “clean and unclean” can mean only meats.

(EZE 44: 23) And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.

After such a verse, the minister would follow up with, “The teaching is that God clearly shows in the future there will be a keeping of the meats laws, therefore, they are in effect now.”

This is very much something Armstrong did often – sleight of hand. Notice the redirect. This helps set up the illusion which exists only in the properly distracted mind, that meats laws will be in effect - not that Jesus Christ pointed us to the spiritual meaning of “clean and unclean”.
Now notice another thing Armstrong does often – only giving part of the story. The verse is given, you look it up, you find it, you see the word 'unclean', they tell you what to think about it, then you feel like you’ve proven it and you are a Berean. Is that really proving it for yourself? Is that really, “Don’t believe me, believe your Bible”? No.

Ezekiel 44 refers to the Levitical teachers of the Old Covenant church. Not for everyone, nor for the Gentiles, but: “the Levites, the sons of Zadok” (EZE. 44: 15). Yet no one in Armstrong teaches the Levites are still commanded for our day (except where tithes are involved, of course).

(EZE. 44: 10-11) 10 And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity. 11 Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.

Armstrong never taught that animal sacrifices are currently commanded. How then can we possibly think that since we see the phrase “clean and unclean” here (in prophecy) it can mean nothing else than the meats laws are still in force (right now)? This assumes this is even referring to meats.

After a good long sermon on meats laws, the ministry would point out Isaiah 66: 17.

(ISA. 66: 17) [AMP] Those who [attempt to] sanctify themselves and cleanse themselves to enter [and sacrifice to idols] in the gardens, following after **one in the midst, eating hog's flesh and the abomination [creeping things] and the [mouse--their works and their thoughts] shall come to an end together, says the Lord.
**Some commentators also suggest that this may refer to the cultic leader in the center who shows by his example how to conduct the ceremonies.

“See?” they say, “God still yet believes pork, creeping things (abominations), and mice to be unclean, eaten by pagans, and contrary to His faith.” And thus conveniently forget their own oft-used argument: "The context of this verse is idolatry, not clean and unclean meats." If Paul can be speaking of eating meats but they say he is only speaking of idolatry, then how can this clearly be speaking of idolatry but they say it is speaking of meats? We always wanted it both ways! And let us never forget that ALL prophetic interpretation is but speculation. When does shifting speculation become certain doctrine? It should not!

We must start at the beginning. This prophecy starts a few chapters beforehand in chapter 63 around verse 11. Isaiah (on behalf of Israel) is praying for God to return. He makes Israel’s case. God then spends the next 2 chapters making His own case in response to Israel. This is very much towards Israel; very specifically for them only. And it was written in the words that were meaningful for them at that time (those meats were condemned at that time).

In Isaiah 65: 1, God is referring to the calling of the Gentiles and the New Covenant. Paul confirms this in Romans 10: 20. That was 1,900 years ago! And why did God (temporarily) reject His people? Isaiah 65: 2-5 talks about the Jews committing idolatry. Baal worship, necromancy, witchcraft – you name it, they did it.

God was always trying to be with Israel. God wasn’t far from them; they were far from Him. Is it any wonder God hates idolatry? These were the practices of certain Jews who profaned themselves among the Gentiles. They practiced more than just eating of swine’s flesh. Even the most foul and ungodly things that men did to debase themselves to idols are implied here in this verse. It is these ones, these idolaters, towards whom the wrath of God is directed, that we see referenced in Isaiah 66. There is absolutely no way this verse is undoing the great and tremendous sacrifice of Christ in ending the Old Covenant.

What would God have loved to see from His people?

(ISA 66: 2) But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.
God wanted moral excellence, but the people, the ones who weren’t outright idolatrous pagans, only gave Him legal excellence.
(ISA. 66: 3) He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck; he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.

So, how do we understand ISA. 66: 17? It so closely matches ISA. 65: 4, they must be tied together. In chapter 65, God makes His case against Israel. In chapter 66, He judges. Who is He judging? All people who eat pork? No. Idolatrous Israel! Pictured in these verses are people secreting away for an idolatrous worship service in a grove, for crying out loud, yet all Armstrong ever saw was meats. But it goes much farther than that.

What is God’s focus? Animal sacrifice? Physical meats? Not at all! But the inward man is what God looks on. Exactly as Christ teaches:

(MARK 7: 18-23) 18 So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" 20 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

This is the magnified relationship; the New Covenant! God is not pleased with physical temples and physical sacrifices (ISA. 1: 11-14), nor is He displeased with physical meats (I COR. 8: 8). This is why it is so important to keep in mind my whole series about meats through this. God is not pleased with the Old Covenant worship, much less a cherry-picked version of it, but Armstrong uses this prophecy to say that is the only worship God accepts.
God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit, not in physical (JOHN 4: 23-24; ROM. 2: 29, 7: 6; II COR. 3: 6; PHP. 3: 3). God’s temple is inside us (I COR. 3: 16; HEB. 3: 6). God’s requirements are a humble and faithful mind (I TIM. 1: 5). God’s approval is not on those who keep outward rituals, like avoiding meats; most especially if those outward rituals do not come first of all with faith in Jesus and moral excellence (PHP 3: 7-11). Clean is what is spiritually pure, unclean is what is spiritually impure. Nothing like pork defiles us, but idolatry, pork or no pork, is contrary to God. How dangerous it is to idolize a man!

This really gets to the heart of two arguments that hold no merit. The first is “we see it before Sinai, therefore it is in force,” the second is “we see it in prophecy, therefore it is in force.”
We speculate (all prophetic interpretation is speculation) from Ezekiel that in the future there will be a Levitical priesthood with their proper clothing and ceremonies, a physical temple, animal sacrifices, and all sorts of such things that were done away with in the New Covenant. That's not now, that's future. How on earth, then, can we say the meats laws are any different? No Levites today, no commanded garb, no sacrifices, no temple worship.. but meats laws-- that's today! It doesn't make any sense.
We know that from the time of Cain and Abel there were animal sacrifices, and from Abraham we had circumcision. Both gone in the New Covenant. How on earth can we say those things are gone but meats are still in effect? They were a shadow from the day they were instituted. “The Kingdom of God is not in meats and drinks”! “Circumcision is of the heart”! We are “living sacrifices”! Why do we refuse to accept that moral excellence trumps legal excellence? It always has (EZE. 33: 12-20)! It always will! That is the very nature of the New Covenant. The old shadow is revealed for what it is – merely a shadow. The reality is now clearly available to us! We (as Gentiles) are no longer unclean. We are no longer to enter the temple of God through washings and blood of animals. The veil is taken away. We are the temple! We are clean! By the blood of Christ Himself, not by animals. Christ said "It is finished." And it is finished. By faith, not by law. If by law, then Christ died in vain!

(GAL. 2: 21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain

And no prophetic MIS-interpretation can undo this New Covenant.

9 comments:

xHWA said...

I only wish I had my friend Seeker from As Bereans Did to help me out here. I know his insight would be invaluable here.
Where are you, old friend?

Raccoon said...

Ah the prooftext. The classic maneuver where a preconceived notion of the outcome exists - so we take a scripture, isolate it from the context, and we can make it support our claim.

It's perfect when the evidence points to a different result than you want. Sadly, it's not limited to HWA (though he is certainly an avid user of the technique), but to many who would claim to have the market cornered on truth.

xHWA said...

I think what HWA did with this prophecy, above most all others, is sad. There are people out there who are so confused about this one small section of verses. It stands like a prison guard in their path to understanding... and by extension the New Covenant itself.

James Pate said...

Hi XHWA,

You may find these posts of mine useful. They deal with various Christian views on law-keeping in the millennium/new heavens and new earth. I wish I knew how to post a link, but you can access these titled by typing or pasting them in the "search" part of my blog.

"Eschatological Sabbath: The Literal Interpretation"

"Eschatological Sabbath: The Spiritual Interpretation"

xHWA said...

Hi James!

Any help you can offer, buddy, is welcome and much appreciated! Link or no link.
I'll get right on those.

I feel this one topic is so important that it needs any attention I can get on it.

Byker Bob said...

I particularly like your second paragraph, the one regarding prophecy being incapable of undoing the New Covenant made in Jesus blood. That is a good new principle to undo some of the old embedded false precepts which tend to linger in the minds of Armstrongites years after they have recognized the falsity of the cult.

I still pretty much adhere to the clean and unclean meat laws, not because I believe that they are in force, but because I've never been able to undo the aversion therapy which WCG regularly administered to us through the sermons, booklets, and articles. And, it's been over thirty years since I left! I've occasionally eaten seafood, but actually get nausea and a headache when I so much as smell pork or ham cooking anywhere nearby. I'd just as soon smoke a cigarette (something I have not done in many years), as eat a pork chop!

Still, I believe that this series you are doing is very valuable, because it once again demonstrates the many leaps in logic and false premises inherent in Armstrongism. People often wonder why some of us even bother with this. We could easily be indifferent and keep our studies to ourselves. But, Jesus not only embraced the lost and the unbelievers when they came to Him, He actually sought them out, and made a special effort to visit and communicate with them.

BB

Anonymous said...

How can you allow yourselves to think any new covenant from God would reverse the laws of clean and unclean meats? Jeremiah quotes God saying that the new covenant will be a renewal, with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, of the Torah in Jewish hearts.

Jesus supported the perfection of Torah with unparalleled eloquence when he said it would be easier to dissolve heaven and earth than to alter one letter of Torah's perfection until all things are fulfilled. King David had earlier said that the Torah is perfect, converting the soul. What could be better than perfect?

The perfect Torah is the source of the kosher laws, which are therefore as permanent as the Torah itself, so long as the universe not yet perfected through the complete infusion -- fulfillment -- of Torah throughout its vast range of existence.

That Jesus fulfilled the Torah is nothing more nor less than the goal and the LIFE of every Jew. All Jews come to fulfill the Torah. Not all Jews recognize their calling, but it is there nonetheless.

Jesus' brother, James, stated that non-Jews are obligated to abstain from sexual vice, things strangled, blood, and idolatry. This different set of rules for non-Jews had been in operation, essentially speaking, from Adam forward, and doesn't include the more expansive kosher laws incumbent on Jews. But Jews have been bound to the laws of kashrut from Sinai. Israel is called to become a Kingdom of Priests, and as such must live within a priestly culture. So long as the sun, moon and earth continue their cycles this will not change.

No covenant proceeding from the mouth of God will ever lose so much as a yod or a letter-crown from its original perfection, including the Noahide or "rainbow" covenant for non-Jews. Its laws, as stated earlier and referenced in abbreviated form by James, constitute the basis of the legal system required of non-Jews.

Your ministry was unaware that the world beyond the family of Israel was and is beholden to a different legal system than that required of Jews, and for that reason erred by insisting that non-Jews are required to observe the Biblical kosher laws. But it seems that the bottom line of this discussion should be the fact that so long as the family of Adam lives on earth, it will be accountable to Torah, which in the days of Messiah will be enforced globally by the Messiah himself. At that time the Torah will go forth from Zion, and the Word of God from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3).

xHWA said...

Bob, thanks again for sharing. You always have something to say that I find helpful.

"I still pretty much adhere to the clean and unclean meat laws"
And I don't have a single thing to say against you for it, Bob. I agree entirely that if you're uncomfortable with a thing, then you should (as a point of morality) not do that thing. Even if there is no law against it - if you believe you shouldn't do it, don't. If in time you move away from that discomfort, then fine; if not, then fine. Just keep your conscience clean between you and God, and you do very well.

My largest and most overarching beef with meats laws is not with the meats at all but with the condemnation that HWA put into it. Why condemn? Who is anyone to judge another's servant? And over something like what goes into the mouth? Ridiculous! So, if all I ever accomplish with this study is to get people who regard meats laws to stop condemning people for their diet (or vice versa), then I've succeeded completely.

xHWA said...

Anonymous, thank you for commenting.

I do not require anyone to agree with me, and you are no exception. If you disagree, and your conscience is clear with God, what more should I ask of you? I would however politely request that you indeed read my whole series on meats laws, since some of the things you mention were dealt with earlier. And also, some of the things you say are not things I am disagreeing with.

I take it you are Messianic Jewish? If that's the case, then your background isn't the same as mine and obviously I'm not Jewish so I don't even deal with these issues from that perspective. This blog is geared mainly for people of an Armstrongist Gentile background.

I do believe the Torah was perfect (minus a few scribal errors). The catch to that is Paul states we are imperfect. But the mix-up here is that Torah and Old Covenant are not interchangeable. They are two separate things. If the first Covenant was all God intended, then why bring in a second?

One place I would disagree with you is where you said "Jeremiah quotes God saying that the new covenant will be a renewal" but when I check the verse I believe you are mentioning I see:

(JER. 31: 31-32) Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers

Perhaps I'm just misunderstanding you. And if so, please excuse me. I would ask you, do you see the New Covenant as a covenant with Israel and Judah only, meanwhile the Gentiles are (for lack of a better phrase) along for the ride?

When you say this: "Your ministry was unaware that the world beyond the family of Israel was and is beholden to a different legal system than that required of Jews, and for that reason erred by insisting that non-Jews are required to observe the Biblical kosher laws", I agree. I've mentioned that in the past. I'm glad we have common ground here.

Once again, thanks for commenting.