Day 145: A Difficult Verse

Jeremiah 33:17-18

For Yahweh says: “David will never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel. The Levitical priests won’t lack a man before me to offer burnt offerings, to burn meal offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.”

This can be a challenging passage. The Bible says that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice and this passage appears to be talking about a time when Jesus, who is the Branch of David, will reign on earth in Jerusalem. It makes a lot of sense to us that because Jesus will reign forever after that point, that “David will never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel,” but what in the world does it mean that “the Levitical priests won’t lack a man before me to offer burnt offerings, to burn meal offerings, and to do sacrifice continually?”

I’ve read a few commentaries and talked to a few people at this point. Some of my most trusted commentaries actually skip verse 18 and only comment on the ones around it. God has shown me that this is usually a sign that there’s something very important that God wants us to know. What is it that God is telling us by making sure that we know this fact about the Levitical priests and offering sacrifices?

I need to discuss some of the things that it can’t mean. As we have been reading, we can’t say that this is all spiritual and it’s talking about the Church. Once you “spiritualize” a narrative, you can pretty much make it say anything. It leaves the interpretation up to the reader which would allow you to make the Bible say anything. So that’s not a good option. Another option I read from a prominent commentator was that this is referring to Jesus making intersession in Heaven. The problem with this is that it promotes the idea that Jesus suffers eternally for us. The Bible is clear that “it is finished.” It doesn’t solve the problem about having Levitical sacrifices after Jesus has already been the final sacrifice.

I want to make it clear that there’s only one thing I know at this point and that is that whatever God meant by this, will happen no matter how hard it seems to me. That’s the point God has been making to Jeremiah. With that being said, here’s what I believe it means. I think that when it says “never” in the passage above, that it’s not talking about eternity, but about the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth. There are a couple of big reasons for this. First, it’s clear in the Old Testament that when you separate the terms burnt offerings from meal offerings, you are talking about both killing animals and burning grain. That means this will be a time on earth when animal death still exists. When death still exists, so does sin because death is sin’s punishment. We also know that Levitical practices were intended for formal temple worship. It’s easy to miss but in Revelation 21:22, the Bible tells us that the New Jerusalem won’t have a temple. My understanding is that without death and without a temple, Levitical sacrifice would have to stop. So, because God is logically consistent, it only makes sense to me that this is a comment about the Millennial kingdom of Jesus. That tells me that during that time there will be a temple and in that temple animal sacrifices will be burned for the sins of the Jews in recognition of what Jesus had already done for them. Sin will still exist among those born during the 1000 years by natural, unredeemed mankind that lasted through the tribulation.

Why would this be important? Well, it certainly throws out a lot of bad doctrine doesn’t it? There isn’t any perpetual death of Jesus. Israel isn’t just spiritual and the Millennium is a time on earth when death still exists. Jeremiah 33:18 appears to force us to have a better eschatology, or understanding of the end of things. It also produces hope in us. There will be a time when this old earth will be run by a new Administration that will correctly govern it for 1000 years. We will see the world work like it was supposed to before it is ultimately recycled.