This week’s Haftarah, the sixth of the “Haftarot of Consolation” is found in Isaiah 60.1-22,[i] which begins, “(You, Israel) Arise, shine, because your light has come!” But it is not Israel who is generating the light, but it is the light of the LORD Himself, “But Adonai will arise upon you, and His glory will appear over you” (60.2b). Israel’s reflection of the glory of Adonai is not because of her righteousness but because of His faithfulness to the Patriarchs.
“It is not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that Adonai set His love on you and chose you—for you are the least of all peoples. Rather, because of His love for you and His keeping the oath He swore to your fathers, Adonai brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7.7-8)
But it is not only the promise to the Patriarchs that maintains Israel, it is the LORD’s promise to David as well. The LORD spoke through the psalmist
“Once for all I have sworn by My holiness—surely I will not lie to David—his descendants will endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me, and as the moon, established forever, and a trustworthy witness in the sky.” (Psalm 89.36-38)
So as the moon reflects the sun, so Israel’s very existence reflects the glory of Adonai. In an earlier section of Isaiah, the LORD called upon Israel to
Remember these things, Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant. I formed you, you are My servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” Sing, O heavens, for Adonai has done it! Shout, depths of the earth! Break forth into singing, mountains, forest, and every tree in it! For Adonai has redeemed Jacob and will be glorified through Israel. (Isaiah 44.21-23)
Adonai will continue to be glorified in Israel and Israel will continue to reflect that glory. The light of the Eternal to the nations of the world will cause them to be drawn to His glory and salvation (Isaiah 60.3).When the nations that Adonai used to chastise Israel for her disobedience are drawn to Adonai’s light which is reflected by Israel, these nations will become one of the venues of the LORD’s blessing and restoration. The prophet Zechariah saw this when he wrote
Indeed, many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Adonai-Tzva’ot in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of Adonai. Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, “In those days it will come to pass that ten men from every language of the nations will grasp the corner of the garment of a Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’” (Zechariah 8.22-23)
Again, note that it is not Israel specifically to which the nations are gravitating; it is the God of Israel they are seeking. Israel’s uniqueness among the nations is that she has been chosen by Adonai thereby causing her to reflect His glory and grace. Therefore, the nations are not trying to “be Jewish,” rather they are trying to come alongside the One who called Israel out to “be Jewish” as it were.
When the LORD finished the initial work of creation at the end of the sixth day, He looked over everything with all of its distinctions and said, “it is very good” (Genesis 1.31). Every part of creation working together was very good. Rav Shaul in his first letter to the believers at Corinth described this unity in diversity as a body.
For the body is not one part, but many. If the foot says, “Since I’m not a hand, I’m not part of the body,” is it therefore not part of the body? And if the ear says, “Since I’m not an eye, I’m not part of the body,” is it for this reason any less part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the parts—each one of them—in the body just as He desired. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But now there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12.14-20)
We must always remember that all mankind, both Israel and the nations, was created in the image of God (Genesis 1.27). Therefore, all mankind is worthy of honor just as all the various parts of the body are worthy of honor – though each part has its own part to play. The key to the diversity in both the body as well as all mankind is seen in 1 Corinthians 12.18, “But now God has placed the parts—each one of them—in the body just as He desired”. Returning to our Haftarah, if everyone was Bnei Israel, who would help with the rebuilding. If all were from the nations, who would reflect the glory of the LORD to draw men unto Him. We all have our parts to play. We all have our own unique skills and callings that Adonai placed both in us individually and in the community according to His desires.
When we recite the Amidah we pray, אֶת צֶמַח דָּוִד, “May the Seed of David Thy servant flourish speedily and may You exalt in Your salvation. For in your salvation do we hope all the day. Blessed are You, Lord, who brings forth the Horn of our salvation.” Cephas wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3.9). We anxiously await and hope for the salvation of the LORD when truly all Israel will “arise and shine” to clearly reflect the glory of God to all creation.
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.