Wednesday, September 18, 2019
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The scripture reading is from Isaiah 54:1-10
During these last few Sabbaths, called the Sabbaths of comfort, we have been reading many of the passages that God gave to Isaiah to bring comfort to His people in their exile. Chapters 42 through 53 focus on the coming of the servant of the LORD who would be the redeemer of His people and bring justice to the Gentiles. Last week’s haftarah, Isaiah 51:12 through 52:12, depicts the servant of the LORD as the redeemer who brings the exiles back to the land in triumph. This week’s haftarah picks up in chapter 54 with a message of hope and jubilation based on the completion of the work of the servant of the LORD. Strikingly missing from the haftarah readings about the servant is the description of the servant and how He accomplishes His task which Isaiah relates beginning in the verse right after the previous haftarah and continues through chapter 53. The passage concludes that it is this Servant of the LORD who bears the sin of many.
Isaiah 53:11-12 NKJV 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
God’s righteous servant justifies many. Who does He justify? Is it just the Jewish people or are others included in this justification? What is the result of the labor of this servant? Isaiah begins to describe the results of His labor in our haftarah reading this week.
Isaiah 54 opens with the expression of great joy from the woman who had been barren.
Isaiah 54:1 NKJV 1 "Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of the married woman," says the LORD.
The barren woman will be so happy that she can’t help but break forth into singing! She is so excited that she will bear, not just one child, but many children—More children than the woman who is married. Who are the barren and the married woman? There are three very different opinions about these women. One position is that the barren woman is depopulated Jerusalem and the Judeans exiled to Babylon. Her offspring are those Judeans who return to Jerusalem after the seventy years of exile and repopulate the cities. In this interpretation the married woman with lots of offspring are the cities of the heathens which seem to continue on without judgment. This explanation seems to be one that Isaiah’s original audience would understand and embrace. In this explanation, those whom the servant of the LORD justifies are just the Jews.
In a second explanation, the understanding of the first woman is the same, but the married woman is Israel before the exile. In this interpretation, it could be said that Israel after the exile would become greater and more numerous than Israel before the exile. In the short term this did not happen. Israel after the Babylonian captivity never reached the grandeur of David and Solomon’s reigns. However, if we look at these two women as Israel before and after the coming of Yeshua, the servant of the LORD, Israel after Yeshua’s coming, will be much greater than Israel before His coming. This idea leads into the third interpretation which is the most common one held by commentators including Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole. This interpretation is that the Gentiles are the barren woman. Before the coming of Yeshua, they are desolate having no husband or offspring. Afterwards, they bear a great many spiritual offspring to God. The married woman represents Israel who, also, bore offspring but not as many. They are represented by the remnant of the faithful in every generation.
These last two interpretations are encompassed in Paul’s quotation of this verse in his letter to the Galatians.
Galatians 4:26-27 NKJV 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written: "Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband."
Jerusalem is the mother of both Jew and Gentile believer. The offspring of Jerusalem after Yeshua’s coming is more numerous than the offspring of the Jerusalem born in bondage to sin. The offspring of the Gentile who once was barren, as far as fruit for God, now bears more than the Jewish nation among whom only the remnant bear fruit.
As Isaiah continues, he reinforces the idea that the barren woman refers to the Gentiles and the married woman refers to Israel by declaring that the descendants of Israel will inherit the nations. All of the children, Jew and Gentile alike, are to be brought into the tent. In fact, the tent will need to be enlarged!
Isaiah 54:2-3 NKJV 2 "Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes. 3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.
The place of Israel’s tent is Jerusalem and, more generally, the land that God promised to give to Abraham. Even at the time of Abraham, God said He would enlarge the borders of the Promised Land to include both Egypt and Assyria!
Genesis 15:18 NKJV 18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates-
Moses refers to this promise three times, first in Exodus in relation to the faithful observance of God’s pilgrimage feast days.
Exodus 34:23-24 NKJV 23 "Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the LORD God of Israel. 24 "For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.
Moses returns to the topic of the enlargement of Israel’s borders in Deuteronomy 12:20 in reference to where the children of Israel can slaughter animals to eat if they live far away from the place where God would place His name. Finally, in Deuteronomy 19:8, Moses explains that the number of the cities of refuge will increase based on the expansion of the land.
Isaiah prophesies about this inclusion of Egypt and Assyria into the Promised Land.
Isaiah 19:23-25 NKJV 23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. 24 In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria-a blessing in the midst of the land, 25 whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
Paul tells us that the Gentile believers, who were once barren and desolate, are included in this covenant of promise.
Ephesians 2:11-13 NKJV 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
This promise to include the Gentiles goes back to the prophecies about Noah’s sons. Shem is the line to whom Yeshua would be born. He establishes the tent. Japheth will be enlarged and brought into Shem’s tent.
Genesis 9:26-27 NKJV 26 And he said: "Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant."
Isaiah goes on to declare that Israel’s past idolatries and unfaithfulness will be forgotten. He refers to Israel symbolically as a widow.
Isaiah 54:4 NKJV 4 "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
In English, a widow is a once married woman whose husband has died. However, the concept of a widow is broader than that in the Hebrew culture. A widow is a woman whose husband is not present to take care of her and, thus, her care falls to the greater community under the command to take care of the widow and the orphan. A widow, then, includes a woman living apart from her husband. First Fruits of Zion in Torah Club Volume 3: The Haftarah comments about the woman whose husband has left her.
“Herein, then lies her shame and humiliation. If her husband had left her (a cause for shame all in itself) she would be extremely vulnerable and at the mercy of the Israelite society around her for her care.”[i]
While Israel was in exile, she no longer lived in the “tent” of her husband. She lived out from under the protective covering of her husband; and, thus, was vulnerable to the enemies around her. Moses prophesied about that day saying that God would turn His face away from Israel.
Deuteronomy 31:17-18 NKJV 17 "Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' 18 "And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
However, God would not turn His face away forever. Israel’s exile was temporary. Although they were living apart from Him, God was still, and is still, Israel’s husband.
Isaiah 54:5 NKJV 5 For your Maker is your husband, The LORD of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth.
God reminds Israel of His relationship to them by referring to six names or titles by which they know Him. The first is that of their Maker. Moses explained how God “made” them.
Deuteronomy 32:10-12 NKJV 10 "He found him in a desert land And in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, 12 So the LORD alone led him, And there was no foreign god with him.
Moses goes on to explain how Jeshurun, the upright one God made, would forsake Him.
Deuteronomy 32:15 NKJV 15 "But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
By using this title of Maker, Isaiah is referring back to this time in the wilderness when God first chose Israel as His people. He reminds them of their special relationship with God.
Isaiah 44:2-3 NKJV 2 Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you: 'Fear not, O Jacob My servant; And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;
The second title is that of husband. Just like a husband enters into a covenant agreement to care for his wife, so, too God is in covenant with Israel and cares for her. The third name, LORD of hosts, reveals God’s power over the Babylonians among whom they lived in exile. The next three names all tie together. God is the Redeemer, the Holy One in Israel, and the God of the whole Earth. We usually see God referring to Himself as the God of Israel. In this passage, God refers to Himself as the God of the whole Earth. Now that the Gentiles are joined to Him as well, God is truly the Redeemer, the Holy One in Israel and the God of the whole Earth.
Isaiah assures Israel that they still belong to Him; that the covenant God made with them at Mt. Sinai is still in force!
Isaiah 54:6-8 NKJV 6 For the LORD has called you Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, Like a youthful wife when you were refused," Says your God. 7 "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. 8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
God contrasts their time of exile with His mercy and kindness. Their time of exile was for only a moment. The word “moment” is the Hebrew word “reh’-gah,” number 7281 in Strong’s Concordance meaning a wink of an eye. God turned His face away from Israel for only a wink of an eye. In contrast, He has great mercy on them and everlasting kindness.
The words “mercy” and “kindness” are covenant words. The word “mercy” in verse seven is the Hebrew word “rach’am,” number 7356 in Strong’s Concordance meaning compassion, tender love, or the womb. The word “mercy” in verse eight is “raw-kham’,” number 7355, the root word of the word used in verse seven. Raw-kham’ means to fondle, love, or have compassion. The word “kindness” is the Hebrew word “chesed,” number 2617 in Strong’s Concordance meaning kindness or favor. It comes from the Hebrew word “chasad,” number 2616 meaning to bow the neck as courtesy to an equal. Chesed frequently refers to God’s covenant loyalty. The New King James Study Bible explains about the uses of these two words in this passage.
“Great mercies speaks of the affections of God in nurturing, maternal terms. Kindness may also be translated “loyal love.” I will have mercy: that is, “I will love you as only a mother can love.”[ii]
This passage concludes with an emphasis of the enduring promise of God’s everlasting kindness or “loyal love.” Isaiah refers to two covenants.
Isaiah 54:9-10 NKJV 9 "For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. 10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
God equates the covenant He made with Noah and all living creatures with His covenant of peace. In the time of the flood, water covered the whole earth and the mountains and hills were all thrown down and tossed up again. The whole geography of the earth changed in this cataclysmic event. Afterwards, God promised that He would no longer destroy the earth in a flood.
Genesis 9:11 NKJV 11 "Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
Although God may again remove the mountains and hills, He will not destroy the earth with a flood, nor will He remove His covenant of peace from them. This seems to promise that Jerusalem would not be destroyed again. However, we know that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in seventy CE when the temple was destroyed, and again in 135 CE when all the Jews were exiled from the land. We can only conclude that we are still waiting for this prophecy to be fulfilled.
What is this covenant of peace? The first mention of a covenant of peace is the covenant God made with the priest Phineas when Phineas was zealous for God’s name and removed idolatry from the camp of Israel. As a result of Phineas’ zeal for God, God made an everlasting covenant of peace with him.
Numbers 25:12-13 NKJV 12 "Therefore say, 'Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; 13 'and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'"
Ezekiel describes a covenant of peace that God will make with the nation of Israel when God’s servant David is established as the true shepherd over Israel.
Ezekiel 37:24-26 NKJV 24 "David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. 25 "Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. 26 "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
The covenant of peace establishes that God’s holy presence would dwell with them permanently. In this situation, there is no room for idolatry or harlotry. We all must be zealous for the sanctity of the camp.
The servant of the LORD is the son of David who will rule as a shepherd king. He is also the shepherd servant Isaiah described in chapters 42 through 53. He is the one who justifies many. He not only justifies the remnant of the Jewish population; he justifies those of the Gentiles who believe in him. The result of His labors is an enlarged tent housing both Jew and Gentile. It is a community of believers living together under God’s covenant of peace. For both Jew and Gentile, acceptance into the community comes through receiving the atoning work of Yeshua.
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Ki Tetze, Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19.
2. What is the significance of the “tent”? Where else does the Bible refer to people dwelling in a tent or tents?
3. Chapters 42-53 in Isaiah are about the suffering servant. What is the role of the suffering servant in relation to the Gentiles?
4. How does God view the barren woman in scripture? What are some examples?
5. What light does this teaching shed on how God views the widow? What are some examples?
6. What new insight did you gain from this teaching? How do you respond to this new insight? How will you realign your life based on this new understanding?
Bonus Question: In Jewish literature Sarah’s tent was seen to be a model of hospitality. How does this idea compare with Isaiah’s description of stretching out the curtains of your dwellings?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All Rights Reserved.
[i] Torah Club Volume 3: The Haftarah. First Fruits of Zion, Inc. ©1999. Page 761.
[ii] New King James Study Bible. Thomas Nelson. ©1997, 2007. Page 1125
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
By Dan and Brenda Cathcart
The scripture reading is Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Our Haftarah reading this week is near the end of a portion of the book of Isaiah known as the “Song of the Servant.” This passage contains some very familiar verses that have been incorporated into some popular worship music. In this section, Isaiah speaks of the returning exiles, not only from Babylon, but a future return to the land which is unprecedented in its scale. Unlike much of the words of the prophets, Isaiah opens this prophecy with words of encouragement rather than words of judgment.
Isaiah 51:12-13 NKJV 12 "I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? 13 And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?
In the first section of our Isaiah passage, God makes a contrast between fearing God and fearing man. He makes the distinction between the mortality of Man and the greatness and majesty of Himself as creator. Could the people really trust God? Is God truly the omnipotent God of the universe? This is the question expressed by the people throughout the book of Isaiah.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God is showing the people of Israel that He is indeed above the manmade idols that they had been worshiping. That he alone is the one who is capable of delivering the comfort which they are seeking. Israel was acting as if they were more afraid of man than of God. They feared their idols made of stone and wood; they feared their oppressors who, like themselves, were mere men destined to die and are “made like grass” which dies in the parched desert. The word translated as man in this verse is not “adam” or “ish” but is “enowsh” number 582 in the Strong’s Concordance implying the humanity, commonness and mortality of man.
Isaiah ends his opening statement with his usual literary vehicle, a rhetorical question, “Where is the fury of the oppressor?” Even their oppression is for only a season as Isaiah points out in the very next verse.
Isaiah 51:14 NKJV 14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail.
Here we see that the exile will not be permanent. Some scholars believe that this verse refers to their change in status when Babylon fell to king Cyrus nearly overnight and the people of Israel gained some freedoms under this empire and did not waste away in a dungeon or pit. But I see this verse as speaking of a return from exile yet to come, far in the future from their Babylonian exile. Again, with this verse, we see that their deliverance happens quickly as in an instant. This is reminiscent of a verse at the end of the book of Isaiah which we read last week.
Isaiah 66:8 NKJV 8 Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.
Next, God spoke through Isaiah with some amazing words of comfort. God again declares that they are His people.
Isaiah 51:15-16 NKJV 15 But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared-The LORD of hosts is His name. 16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"
These are amazing promises that God made to His people. One of the more interesting things in these two verses is the two names or identities of God. The first is where God says, “I am the LORD your God.” The Hebrew phrase is “Yahovah Elohekah” which implies God’s personal and covenant keeping nature. The second is “the LORD of Hosts,” Yahovah Tsa’va’ot, which implies a military leader. A variation on this name first appears when Joshua prepares to take the city of Jericho and encounters the Captain of the LORD of Hosts.
Joshua 5:14-15 NKJV 14 So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" 15 Then the Commander of the LORD'S army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.
Isaiah reminds the people that even though they have been afflicted with human oppressors, God, with His army, would deliver them and He would keep His covenantal promise to them.
Isaiah now turns to another aspect of God’s deliverance of the people from their oppressors. God will now remove the cup of judgment or “anger” from His people.
Isaiah 51:17-18 NKJV 17 Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD The cup of His fury; You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, And drained it out. 18 There is no one to guide her Among all the sons she has brought forth; Nor is there any who takes her by the hand Among all the sons she has brought up.
Isaiah calls out to Jerusalem to wake herself up as if she has been sleeping. But why had she been asleep? From the broader context of the Song of the Servant, we can conclude that this was a kind of drunken sleep. Not a literal drunkenness, but a kind of spiritual drunkenness from the “cup of trembling.” The word translated as trembling is “tar-ay-law”, number 8653 meaning reeling or astonishment. It is from the root word, raw-al number 7477 meaning to reel, to brandish. The word implies anger. They were sleeping from their drunkenness on God’s anger or judgment. It was now time for them to awaken from their stupor; time for them to arise because God had removed His judgment or anger from them.
Isaiah then reminds them of the devastation and destruction that had befallen them due to their disobedience.
Isaiah 51:19-20 NKJV 19 These two things have come to you; Who will be sorry for you? -Desolation and destruction, famine and sword-By whom will I comfort you? 20 Your sons have fainted, They lie at the head of all the streets, Like an antelope in a net; They are full of the fury of the LORD, The rebuke of your God.
Here God explains in no uncertain terms what has happened to them. God made them drink from the cup of His anger: devastation and destruction. The devastation had to do with famine and other natural disasters which they faced. These were a direct consequence of disobedience and were part of the covenant described in Deuteronomy chapters 27-29. Such devastation was supposed to lead the people back to repentance. The second was destruction from warfare and sword. They faced this when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, leaving the land desolate.
In the next two verses, God explains that He has removed this “cup” from them and will, in turn, give it to their former oppressors.
Isaiah 51:21-23 NKJV 21 Therefore please hear this, you afflicted, And drunk but not with wine. 22 Thus says your Lord, The LORD and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: "See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it. 23 But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Who have said to you, 'Lie down, that we may walk over you.' And you have laid your body like the ground, And as the street, for those who walk over."
Here is where there is an interpretive difficulty. Up until now, all of Isaiah’s prophecy could easily be attributed to fulfillment at the time of the Babylonian exile and return. But the phrase “You shall no longer drink it” clearly does not apply to that day. This “cup” of God’s judgment fell on them again several times including the repeat of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans, not to mention the terrible devastation the people faced in the holocaust of the last century. Clearly this portion of Isaiah’s prophecy is speaking of a time yet to come. It is not unusual for the prophets to intermix prophetic events both near and far off. This practice clearly demonstrates the repeating patterns found in prophetic fulfillment.
In the opening verse of chapter fifty-two, it seems Isaiah repeats fifty-one seventeen.
Isaiah 52:1 NKJV 1 Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you.
There are several things to take a closer look at in this verse. First of all, besides awakening from her drunken stupor, Isaiah now calls Jerusalem the “holy city.” This is a reference to Jerusalem used eleven times in the scriptures with Isaiah using it twice. By referring to the city as now holy, Isaiah is stating the God will cleanse the city of her unrighteousness. She will be transformed from a city of idolatry and harlotry, to a city like a beautiful bride and a place where God will be worshiped.
The phrase about the uncircumcised and the unclean not entering the city is about the enemies among the nations. They will no longer oppress the city and its inhabitants; they will no longer be able to storm her gates.
Having this amazing promise come to them, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are then given a special instruction to rise up and shake off the dust of their oppression.
Isaiah 52:2-3 NKJV 2 Shake yourself from the dust, arise; Sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion! 3 For thus says the LORD: "You have sold yourselves for nothing, And you shall be redeemed without money."
In judgment, God gave Israel over to her enemies and it is God who will redeem Israel. The word “redeem” in verse three is “Gaw-al” number 1350 a primitive root word meaning literally to redeem as in the next of kin buying back a relative’s property or marrying his widow, such as we read in the book of Ruth. The word always seems to imply the exchange of money. But in the case of Isaiah fifty-two verse three, there is no monetary exchange. God will redeem them but not with money. This give a hint of redemption by Messiah Yeshua.
In verses four through six, God speaks to some specifics.
Isaiah 52:4-6 NKJV 4 For thus says the Lord GOD: "My people went down at first Into Egypt to dwell there; Then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. 5 Now therefore, what have I here," says the LORD, "That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them Make them wail," says the LORD, "And My name is blasphemed continually every day. 6 Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: 'Behold, it is I.'"
Several of Israel’s oppressors are mentioned; first is Egypt where the Children of Israel sought refuge from the famine and were welcomed by Pharaoh. Later, under another Pharaoh, they were placed under oppressive slavery for no cause.
The second is Assyria who were particularly skilled at harassing Israel and Judah but took it so far as to attack Jerusalem. The third oppressor is not mentioned by name but is alluded to in verse five as those who carries them away. Babylon came against Judah but perhaps went beyond God’s purposes of judgment on the people, oppressing them sharply causing them to wail and blaspheme the name of God. Then in verse six, Isaiah is telling them of the promise that God will redeem His people even before they are taken into captivity in Babylon.
At verse seven, Isaiah’s prophecy begins speaking of a time in the distant future when the Davidic kingdom is reestablished and Messiah reigns.
Isaiah 52:7 NKJV 7 How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
This paints a picture of runners hurrying up the mountains to proclaim the arrival of the king! Verse seven speaks of four specific announcements. First there is the announcement of peace. Israel’s enemies are no longer at their gates. In fact, they are nowhere to be found. Second is the good news of the restoration of the Davidic dynasty and with it, the coming of Messiah. The third thing proclaimed is salvation, not only a spiritual salvation but a physical salvation where the righteous remnant is rescued from destruction and returned to the restored land. And fourth is the announcement of the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth. First Fruits of Zion in their work “Torah Club Volume 3: The Haftarah summarizes:
“When the announcer of good news in Isaiah proclaims peace, good news, salvation, and the arrival of God’s kingdom, it is understood that none of those wonderful things will happen apart from the atoning work of Messiah. It is because of Him that true peace will come upon the earth”[i]
As we see portions of prophecy being played out in our day, God will one day, when the time is right, literally save His people from their enemies that surround them. Next Isaiah speaks of watchmen.
Isaiah 52:8-10 NKJV 8 Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the LORD brings back Zion. 9 Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.
In the ancient world it was a common practice to place watchmen on the hill tops and other high places to safeguard the cities from would-be intruders. These watchmen of Judah and Jerusalem will witness firsthand the multitude of returning people to the land and will rejoice with singing.
In relating what the watchmen see, Isaiah uses language that recalls the exodus from Egypt. However, Isaiah is describing an event that will far exceed the exodus from Egypt and is well beyond the scope of the returning refugees from Babylon. They would not flee Babylon as refugees but would leave escorted by God. This massive future return will be similar to that of Egypt and Babylon but on a grander scale and at the calling of God.
Isaiah 52:11-12 NKJV 11 Depart! Depart! Go out from there, Touch no unclean thing; Go out from the midst of her, Be clean, You who bear the vessels of the LORD. 12 For you shall not go out with haste, Nor go by flight; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
There is an urgency to this call of God. The implication is that they have, or will have, received their spiritual cleansing while still in the far-off places. They are to depart and remain clean. The levites charged with the carrying temple vessels are to purify themselves. And they will not have to leave in hast as they did from Egypt.
The last thing that Isaiah tells them is that the LORD will go before them and will guard their rear. Very reminiscent of the Children of Israel at the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit, when God place Himself at their backs preventing Pharaoh’s army from even seeing them and allowing Israel to cross the sea on dry ground.
With this Haftarah reading, we have reached the penultimate point in the Song of the Servant. Up until now Isaiah has detailed the story of the plight of God’s people. Much of which is still in the future and yet to happen. Isaiah, like all the prophets, interspersed his prophecy with both near future and far distant events.
Immediately beyond our Haftarah reading, beginning with chapter fifty-two verse thirteen and continuing through chapter fifty-three, we are given the identity of the ultimate redeemer of Israel. He is none other than Messiah Yeshua who would be the atonement needed to restore the people and the land. Yeshua is the redeemer, the Gaw-al, who would purchase back the inheritance which was sold or taken from the people. This redemption cannot be purchased with money. Isaiah showed the people that they can truly trust God and that He alone has the power to redeem them. It is only through Messiah Yeshua and His blood that redemption, salvation, and restoration is achieved.
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Shoftim Deut. 16:18-21:19.
2. Compare the apostle Paul’s quotation of Isaiah in Romans 10, how does it differ from Isaiah’s own usage?
3. Isaiah speaks of the “cup” of God’s judgment. Compare the cup as described by Isaiah with the “cup” Yeshua speaks of while praying in the garden.
4. At the end of our Haftarah reading, Isaiah 52:11-12, God calls His people to depart, to “go out from the midst of her.” What are they departing from? Compare this call with God’s call to “come out of her” found in Revelation 18:4.
5. With what is Jerusalem to clothe herself with in Isaiah 52:1?
6. What new insight did you gain from this teaching? How do you respond to this new insight? How will you realign your life based on this new understanding?
Bonus Question: What does it mean for the LORD to “bare His arm” in Isaiah 52:10?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
By Dan & Brenda Cathcart
The scripture reading is: Isaiah 66:1-24
The haftarah reading for this week is a special reading for when a new moon falls on the Sabbath. The new moon, Rosh Chodesh, is the start of each month on the biblical calendar. It signals the renewal of hope as each month begins anew. This haftarah, Isaiah 66:1-24 is the final chapter in the book of Isaiah. It concludes the entire book of Isaiah, as well as concluding the second part of the book with its message of comfort to Israel because God is coming! The next to last verse in this reading prophesies about a time when all mankind will come to worship God “from one new moon to another.”
Isaiah 66:23 NKJV 23 And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD.
This will be a time when God’s enemies will be destroyed and His servants return to the restored land of Israel. This message of hope is especially relevant at this new moon as we begin the month of Elul.
The meaning of the word Elul is uncertain. Some say it comes from an Akkadian word for the harvest. Others say that it’s derived from an Aramaic word meaning to search. Both possibilities shed light on this month of Elul. During Elul, the late summer harvest is in full swing in Israel. The grapes are ripening and the fruits of the trees are being harvested. The late wheat harvest is ripening in the fields. It is said to be a time when the king is in the field.
The month of Elul, also, coincides with the beginning of Moses’ second sojourn on Mt. Sinai at the end of which the children of Israel received the new set of tablets of the Ten Commandments. While Moses is on the mountain, the children of Israel are at the base of the mountain searching their hearts. They are hoping that at Moses’ return, he will bring the tent of meeting, along with the presence of the glory of God, back into the midst of the camp.
This haftarah speaks of the waiting period as the children of Israel wait for the return of God’s glory to Jerusalem. It opens with a declaration of God’s sovereignty.
Isaiah 66:1-2 NKJV 1 Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? 2 For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the LORD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.
God is the creator of both heaven and earth. He is so much bigger than even the earth; how could man possibly build a house, no matter how big and grand in earth terms, that could possibly serve as God’s dwelling place? Solomon reflected on this as he dedicated the house he built for God.
1 Kings 8:27 NKJV 27 "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
Yet, in spite of how small the earth is in relation to God and how small we are in relation to the whole earth, God sees even the lowest of His people. He looks on those who have a humble heart. Solomon continued in his prayer to ask that God see and hear His people.
1 Kings 8:28-30 NKJV 28 "Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: 29 "that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, 'My name shall be there,' that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. 30 "And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.
As Isaiah’s ministry ended, the northern tribes of Israel had gone into captivity into Assyria. In Judah, God had heard Hezekiah’s plea and destroyed the Assyrian army. However, just over one hundred years later, Judah would, also, be taken into captivity and the temple which Solomon built and dedicated to the LORD would be destroyed. The house that Solomon built for God would be gone, and God’s question that He spoke through Isaiah echoes, “Where is the house that you will build me?” The house that Israel and Judah tried to build for God was not one over which God delighted. Isaiah explains:
Isaiah 66:3-4 NKJV 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. Just as they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, 4 So will I choose their delusions, And bring their fears on them; Because, when I called, no one answered, When I spoke they did not hear; But they did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight."
The children of Israel chose their own way and delighted in doing so! Because of this, God allowed them to believe in their delusions. He let them think what they wanted to think which was that what they were doing pleased God. They acted on their delusions refusing to hear and accept the prophets who truly spoke God’s word. Isaiah spoke words of encouragement to those who fear God and proclaimed His word. They would be vindicated and judgment would fall on those who twisted God’s word.
Isaiah 66:5-6 NKJV 5 Hear the word of the LORD, You who tremble at His word: "Your brethren who hated you, Who cast you out for My name's sake, said, 'Let the LORD be glorified, That we may see your joy.' But they shall be ashamed." 6 The sound of noise from the city! A voice from the temple! The voice of the LORD, Who fully repays His enemies!
The judgment on God’s own people who rejected Him comes upon them as the sound of noise. The word “noise” is the Hebrew word “sha’own,” number 7588 in Strong’s Concordance meaning an uproar, destruction and tumult. This noise is the uproar caused by the destruction of the city and the temple which was accomplished twice—first by the Babylonians and later by the Romans. The “enemies” that were destroyed by Babylon and Rome were not the Babylonians and the Romans; they were God’s people who had turned away from following Him and, instead, followed after idols.
Yeshua speaks of the judgment coming on the leaders of Israel for the rejection of the prophets God sent to them throughout their history.
Matthew 23:34-35 NKJV 34 "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 "that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
This judgment was and is inevitable, but those who fear the LORD receive vindication. God promises to restore the nation. He uses the metaphor of a woman giving birth.
Isaiah 66:7-8 MKJV 7 Before she travailed, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a man child. 8 Who has heard a thing like this? Who has seen things like these? Will the earth be brought forth in one day? Or will a nation be born at once? For Zion travailed and also brought forth her sons.
The image that Isaiah conveys here is that the birth occurs so quickly that it is painless. As a woman who has given birth in a very fast labor, I know that a fast labor means one pain right on top of another with no letting up between pains. So, this description of a fast labor is one that is miraculously pain free. I think of the time before the fall of Adam and Eve when birth was pain-free. Is God looking at the time of the restoration of all things including the restoration of the Garden of Eden? This is perhaps the deeper meaning of this verse, but clearly, the plain meaning of the text is that we are looking at the rapid and unexpected birth of the nation of Israel. Right up until 1948, world opinion was that the nation of Israel no longer existed and would not exist in this world. Isaiah says the opposite; that the rebirth of Israel was a certainty and no one could stop it from happening!
Isaiah 66:9 NKJV 9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?" says the LORD. "Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?" says your God.
We are to rejoice at the re-establishment of Israel just like we rejoice with a mother at the birth of her child! But Isaiah takes this further; all those who rejoice and have mourned with Jerusalem will be blessed at the birth of this child and the nation!
Isaiah 66:10-11 NKJV 10 "Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; 11 That you may feed and be satisfied With the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory."
Isaiah writes of the peace God extends to that kingdom and the comfort He extends to Jerusalem. He, again, uses the metaphor of a woman and her child.
Isaiah 66:12-13 NKJV 12 For thus says the LORD: "Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem."
This establishment of Israel will not come without judgment on His own people. Isaiah says to look for that coming judgment when we see Israel restored and Jerusalem comforted.
Isaiah 66:14-16 NKJV 14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies. 15 For behold, the LORD will come with fire And with His chariots, like a whirlwind, To render His anger with fury, And His rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For by fire and by His sword The LORD will judge all flesh; And the slain of the LORD shall be many.
In this passage, those slain by the LORD are those enemies of God that have gone after idols and delude themselves that they are following after God as we saw in verses three through five.
Isaiah 66:17 NKJV 17 "Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, To go to the gardens After an idol in the midst, Eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse, Shall be consumed together," says the LORD.
Those who delude themselves about pleasing God are the ones who cast out the real followers of God. These are the leaders who rejected God’s prophets. They are the ones who rejected Yeshua that led to the Roman destruction of the temple. God says that He knows their works and will call on all the nations to observe the judgement of His enemies and the return of His people.
Isaiah 66:18-20 NKJV 18 "For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory. 19 "I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles. 20 "Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD, "as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
Those of God’s enemies who escape His judgment will be sent to retrieve the very people they rejected. They will go to the nations and spread the word of God’s glory. They will go to the nations and bring back all of God’s people! Some of these people will be of the tribe of Levi and the house of Aaron. God will know their lineage!
Isaiah 66:21 NKJV 21 "And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites," says the LORD.
The Levites and the priests will be needed to restore the worship of God for all those who come to before Him.
Isaiah 66:22-23 NKJV 22 "For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me," says the LORD, "So shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD.
These words of Isaiah were partially fulfilled when Hezekiah took the throne of Israel. The temple had been closed during the reign of his father, but Hezekiah opened it as soon as he became king. He gathered the Levites and the priests charging them with the task of restoring the House of God.
2 Chronicles 29:3-5 NKJV 3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, 5 and said to them: "Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place.
Hezekiah explained that many of their people had died and been taken into captivity because they had turned away from God.
2 Chronicles 29:6 and 9 NKJV 6 "For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the LORD our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and turned their backs on Him. 9 "For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity.
Hezekiah charged the Levites and the priests to be faithful servants of God.
2 Chronicles 29:10-11 NKJV 10 "Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. 11 "My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense."
From those who escaped this judgment, Hezekiah chose and sent out runners to all of Israel to bring them back to worship the God of their fathers.
2 Chronicles 30:6 NKJV 6 Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king and his leaders, and spoke according to the command of the king: "Children of Israel, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; then He will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.
All the days of Hezekiah, as long as he followed after God, he and Judah prospered.
2 Chronicles 31:20-21 NKJV 20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. 21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.
We can look at the fulfillments of Isaiah’s prophecies at the time of Hezekiah to understand how these prophecies will be fulfilled in the future. Isaiah prophesied about a time when not only Jerusalem and Israel would worship God, but that all flesh would come to worship at Jerusalem! Then, from out of Jerusalem, all flesh would look on those who were slain because of their sins against God.
Isaiah 66:24 NKJV 24 "And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."
This did not happen at the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah. Nor has it yet happened! Yeshua quoted this last verse in Isaiah in the context of His followers causing others to stumble. He warns that it would be better to cut off a hand or foot or even gouge out an eye than to face the judgment coming to those who cause one of the little ones, that is, a new believer, to stumble.
Mark 9:42 NKJV 42 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.
Yeshua then quotes Isaiah 66:24 three times to emphasize the certainty of this judgment against tolerating those in the body who sin and cause others to sin also. Yeshua concludes in Mark 9:49 and 50:
Mark 9:49-50 NKJV 49 "For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. 50 "Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another."
The seventeenth century theologian Matthew Poole explains the meaning of this statement:
“It is true, the Lord's sacred fire of his Holy Spirit will, like fire and salt, cause smart while it purgeth out our lusts, like the cutting off of a right hand or foot; but judge you whether it be not better to endure that smart than to endure hell fire, for every one must endure one of these.”
As we enter into the month of Elul, it is a time when our King Yeshua is in the field and the harvest at the end of the year is ripe. It is the time of separation between the enemies of God and the servants of God. It is the time of the establishment of Yeshua’s reign in Israel when all flesh will come to worship the LORD. Let us examine ourselves and have “salt in ourselves” as we seek to remove anything that causes impurity in our lives so that we might be accepted as servants and followers of God through our messiah Yeshua.
1. Discuss the connection of this teaching to the Torah Portion Va’etchanan Deut. 3:23-7:11.
2. Isaiah refers to those who are cast out for the sake of God’s name in Isaiah 66:5. What does Yeshua say about those who are cast out for His name’s sake?
3. What are the arguments for and against the child described in Isaiah 66:7 being the Messiah. Compare the description of this child with the description of the child in Isaiah 9:6-7 and Revelation 12.
4. Isaiah says that God knows the works and thoughts of those who identify as His followers. What does Yeshua say about knowing the works and thoughts of those who report that they follow God?
5. Has the restoration of Israel that Isaiah prophesied about been fulfilled in the present state of Israel? Why or why not?
6. What new insight did you gain from this teaching? How do you respond to this new insight? How will you realign your life based on this new understanding?
© 2019 Moed Ministries International. All rights reserved.