This week’s haftorah, Isaiah 54:1-10 is the fifth of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” The first of the seven was read on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and the seventh will be read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah. In the prophet’s sight, Jerusalem is no longer viewed as forsaken and childless. Now is the time of rejoicing, rebuilding, and repopulating.
“Sing, barren one, who has not given birth. Burst into singing and shout, you who have not travailed. For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married one,” says ADONAI. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out your tabernacle curtains. Do not hold back—lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. (Isa. 54:1-2)
It is important to note that Jerusalem’s disobedience and sin had not been overlooked, rather HaShem’s forgiveness and grace were greater.
“For ADONAI has called you back like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of one’s youth that is rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment, I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger, I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you,” says ADONAI your Redeemer. (Isa. 54:6-8)
Isaiah’s mention of HaShem’s kindness and compassion brings to mind the affirmation spoken to Moses from Mt. Sinai,
“ADONAI, ADONAI, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, showing mercy to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means leaving the guilty unpunished, but bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exo. 34:6-7)
In both Isaiah and Exodus compassion, kindness, and grace are highlighted, as well as the potential for HaShem’s anger as the disobedience of his children. However, there is an important qualifier to HaShem’s anger that is often overlooked, that of his slowness to act upon it, and the quickness of said anger running its course. Granted HaShem’s accounting of time is different from ours as the psalmist noted.
For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day just passing by, or like a watch in the night. (Psa. 90:4)
In his second letter, Peter reaffirms the psalmist’s observation,
But don’t forget this one thing, loved ones, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 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 3:8-9)
Once again, the word slow appears this time not in relation to the onset of HaShem’s anger, but in relation to his keeping his promises to his people, whether they be Bnei Israel or those who have become followers of Messiah, Yeshua; especially noteworthy is the qualifier that he is NOT slow in keeping his promises. Just as sure as disobedience will be dealt with, so will be the appearance of his compassion and forgiveness for all to come to repentance.
The haftarah then ends with these words of assurance and comfort,
“Though the mountains depart, and the hills be shaken, My love will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be shaken, says ADONAI who has compassion on you.” (Isa. 54:10)
The prophet Jeremiah resonated with these words of Isaiah, was he wrote before Jerusalem’s judgment and exile,
Thus says ADONAI, who gives the sun as light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars as a light by night, who stirs up the sea so its waves roar, ADONAI-Tzva’ot is His Name: “Only if this fixed order departs from before Me”—it is a declaration of ADONAI—“then also might Israel’s offspring cease from being a nation before Me—for all time.” Thus says ADONAI: “Only if heaven above can be measured, the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then also I will cast off the offspring of Israel—for all they have done.” It is a declaration of ADONAI. (Jer. 31:34-36)
Not only is the assurance of HaShem’s relationship with his people confirmed in these two passages (as well as numerous others), but Jeremiah also predicated the assurance of the relationship with these words,
“For I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:33b)
So, what is the takeaway from this week’s gleanings from the fifth Haftarah of Consolation? The first would be that HaShem is a loving, compassionate, forgiving God, who is slow to anger and who desires our repentance, our return to the right path, and choices. The second is that when discipline and judgment do come, there is an endpoint, HaShem’s love, and covenantal fidelity will not cease—the people of Israel will remain. And as assuredly as the people of Israel will remain, so will those who have entered the family of God through Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua affirmed this fact when he proclaimed,
My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life! They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
We all can rest in the assurance that our relationship with our heavenly father is assured. Even though there may be times of discipline brought on by our own disobedience, his love and compassion remain and our position in the family is secure because of his great love for us.
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
* All Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.