Haftarah – Nitzavim

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At first read, some verses in this week’s Haftarah (Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9) are just so marvelous that they should be read without comment:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God,
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (61:10)

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch. (62:1)

Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth:
say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your salvation comes;
behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” (62:11)

These three verses are phenomenal proclamations of hope and restoration – of the loving concern and care, which ADONAI exhibits and extends to His chosen people Israel. After all the years of exile, of warranted discipline, He still is concerned for His covenant people. But possibly a fourth verse is even more phenomenal as it relates to the LORD’s care for His people.

In all their affliction He was afflicted,
and the angel of His Presence saved them;
in His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. (63:9)

This verse is often interpreted as referring to the Messiah, which might well be a valid interpretation. However this passage, as do many of the prophetic scriptures, has layers of understanding and fulfillment. Yeshua stated, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:10) as well as “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise,” (John 5:19). In other words, the Son not only is one with the Father but he does and experiences what the Father does and experiences. Throughout Israel’s long exile and discipline, the Father never left His chosen people, His am segula, and He felt their pain and suffering. Yeshua shared this attribute as he wept over Jerusalem, knowing what she would soon experience “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation,” (Luke 19:41-44). But this was not to be the end; the day of visitation would not be the capstone to total destruction. Yeshua also said, “Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’,” (Luke 13:35). Just as Isaiah saw and realized that there would be a day in the future when ADONAI would restore and redeem Israel, Yeshua reemphasized that reality with the promise that one day Israel will see and recognize their King and Redeemer. Until that day, ADONAI remains by their side, Yeshua continues to weep over Jerusalem, awaiting the time when her eyes will be opened. Rav Shaul likewise awaits that day, when all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26) as he remembered the words of the Psalmist “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad,” (Psalm 53:6). Until salvation comes, the LORD remains by Israel’s side, even though it is His holiness which demanded the discipline that Israel is going through.

In next week’s parasha we read these words of comfort, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) which are echoed by the writer of the Book of Hebrews “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6). Rav Shaul takes this understanding even further when he wrote these words to the believers in Rome, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Rom. 8:31 & 38-39). With this assurance, we, like Israel, can weather with confidence whatever comes our way.

Something to chew on…

  • The Apologetics Study Bible notes on Isaiah 63:9, “Interpreters have had difficulty with the idea that God suffers, which seems to contradict His divinity.”[1] Does this really contradict His divinity or does it in fact make Him more approachable than the other deities of the Ancient World?
  • If ADONAI truly feels our pain and suffering (affliction – Isaiah 63:9), how should we emulate His empathy and concern for those around us; even those we might find disreputable or undeserving?

Shabbat Shalom

[1] The Apologetics Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, 2007, hypertext prepared by Oak Tree Software Inc., v 1.2

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