Torah reading: Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19
Haftorah reading: Isaiah 54: 1-10
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and the massive devastation, it is no ‘coincidence’ that this week’s Haftorah reading from Isaiah cries out: It’s time to rebuild. Verses 1-3 speak of ‘enlarging your place’ and verses 4-10 are a call to ‘start fresh’. The message, however, reaches far beyond what has happened in Houston this week. Let’s not miss the spiritual intent that is enclosed in the physical events.
Enlarge your house, build an addition. Spread out your home and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. Vs. 2-3
After a major disaster like Hurricane Harvey there will be those who will leave Houston forever and make their home elsewhere, just as many did after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Isaiah 54 is God’s promise to those who decide to stick it out and trust God.
There has been a period of devastation, moments where it looked hopeless, but our haftorah tells us how God intends to rebuild afterwards. He doesn’t tells us to close ranks and lick our wounds. Instead he calls us to Enlarge our tents, Start Fresh, and lay a rich foundation.
Perhaps the ‘hurricane’ in your life is not about wind and water but circumstances that have shaken you, threatened your sense of well-being and introduced a new level of fear.
The Babylonian exile and captivity meant more than oppression for Israel; it meant shame, disgrace, and humiliation. Through Isaiah, God promised Israel a glorious release from not only the exile and captivity, but also from the shame, disgrace, and humiliation. That same promise is extended to you today.
The remnant of Israel is looking at a rebuilding process that is hopeless. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t leave one brick on top of another in Jerusalem. But God is commanding the Jews to go back and rebuild the temple and the city.
Typically most rebuilds of cities in ancient times consisted of completely demolishing the city and then building a new one on top of it. They are know as “Tells” or cities built upon previous cities. In Israel there are many man made mountains of demolished cities and this is where most of the archeological digs take place.
God called the exiles to rebuild from the ashes because though it looked desolate to the people, God saw something different.
If your situation looks desolate, remember that God doesn’t see it that way. He can resurrect and rebuild any life that has been devastated.
How does he do that? Vs. 2-3 Enlarge your tent
Often times the counsel that God gives goes against all logic. He is telling Israel to enlarge its tents. How do you enlarge something that is so devastated? At that time, Israel wasn’t even at place to rebuilt yet alone a place where tents can be enlarged. But God says that the curse and shame of barrenness would be so completely broken, and Israel would be so fruitful, that they would have to expand their living space. This was of particular comfort to the returning Babylonian exiles, who felt themselves small in number and weak. This promise certainly strengthened them just as it can strengthen us today.
And…this is a recurring promise in the scriptures.
1 Chron 4:10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
We too can pray for God to enlarge our tents even though it doesn’t seem possible. That’s because it’s a work that only God can do.
Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
It is easy when mistakes have been made to focus on those and get stuck but verse 4 says: Forget the shame of your youth. God did not ignore the reason for the exile – the sins of Israel – but He calls them to look forward, not backward. He had forgiven them and the time had come to move ahead, unhindered by past mistakes.
In Tune with Torah this week = Regardless of what we may be facing, looking back is never the right move. If you have repented of past sins and failures, God has forgiven you. His word to you now is Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Take courage! Look forward! Press on!