Weekly Torah Commentary – Ki Tisa March 16, 2017

Torah reading: Exodus 30:11-34:35

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 36:22-36

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them.  And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.  Ezek. 36:22-23

Grace

This week’s Haftorah reading opens with a powerful declaration by God Himself.  It is a definitive explanation regarding His plan and purpose and removes any and all thought that His miraculous intervention on behalf of Israel was somehow connected to their good deeds, but rather it is God Himself, vindicating His own holiness and His exalted name.  The benefits to Israel are a byproduct but the central message is God’s vindication of Himself.

Vindication for us human beings is simply the need to feel right.  At an extreme, vindication translates to “I win; you lose.”  This is an identity-based need and relates to face-saving.

At some point, all of us have been hurt to the point that we want to retaliate or at the very least, make the other person feel something close to what we feel. We are naturally prone to desire vindication if we have been misunderstood, maligned or slandered.  If we are wrongly accused we vehemently defend ourselves and actively seek to prove the accuser wrong. We do not want people thinking evil of us, nor do we tolerate unjust speech about us that could damage our reputation in the eyes of others. In a word, when anything like that happens, we want to be vindicated, we want to be proven right.

However, God is not a man like us. When He speaks of ‘vindicating His Holy name’ it’s an entirely different issue.  The human desire for vindication is self-centered; it’s about ‘me’. Not so with God. Ezekiel’s passage above tells us:

God created us for his glory:  ‘Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.’ (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God called Israel for his glory:  You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified (Isaiah 49:3).

I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. (Jeremiah 13:11)

God rescued Israel from Egypt for his glory:  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works . . . but rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea. Yet He saved them for His name’s sake, that he might make known His mighty power. (Psalm 106:7-8)

God raised Pharaoh up to show his power and glorify his name:  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you, and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)

God defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea to show his glory:  And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord . . . And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen. (Exodus 14:4, 18; cf. v. 17)

God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of His name:  I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. (Ezekiel 20:l4)

God gave Israel victory in Canaan for the glory of his name:  Who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? (2 Samuel 7:23)

God did not cast away his people for the glory of His name:  Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake. (l Samuel 12:20, 22)

God saved Jerusalem from attack for the glory of his name:  For I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake and for the sake of my servant David. (2 Kings 19:34; cf. 20:6)

God restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name:  Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name.. . . And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name. . . . And the nations will know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 36:22-23; cf. v. 32)

Vindication from God’s point of view is that all men everywhere might know His love, His goodness, His faithfulness, His power, His might and His strength.  He doesn’t need vindication to make Him feel good!  He IS God, after all.  The vindication of His holiness is when God Himself displays His wondrous goodness to an unbelieving world.

In Tune with Torah this week = human vindication is self-centered; God’s vindication is redemption centered.  God wants all men everywhere – every nation, tribe and tongue – to recognize Him for Who He is – Creator, Sovereign King, Heavenly Father, Caring Shepherd, Abundant Supplier of all we need, Healer, Deliverer, Redeemer.  He is all that and more and His love for mankind is boundless.  May our individual lives reflect that love to those around us that men and women, boys and girls who have yet to appreciate the goodness of God may learn of it through our lives.

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Noach November 4, 2016

Torah reading:  Noach  Genesis 6:9-11:32

Haftorah:  Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5

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As chapter 54 of Isaiah opens, the prophet announces future blessings: the expansion of Israel, the blessings of safety and peace, and the portion of righteousness.

This chapter anticipates the ultimate salvation and restoration of Israel, begun in part at the restoration of the exiles from Babylon in 536 B.C. but for the most part yet in the future, for as this chapter unfolds it will become clearer and clearer that the return from Babylon did not fulfill all the promises of God. There yet remains the final culmination of the entirety of God’s covenant promises at the end of the age. In fact, as these chapters progress to the end of the book, the vision gets more glorious, and the hope for what we will see in the end of days that much more strengthened.

We have here Isaiah’s glimpse at the promises of the new covenant God promised to make with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. He does not provide the details of Jeremiah 31 or Ezekiel 36, but he complements what is there.

The verses describing the new covenant promised: a restoration to the land for Israel and to the pure worship and spiritual service as priests, the long awaited arrival of King Messiah to Israel,  the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh so that the Torah will be written in their hearts, the end of war and oppression in the land and in the world, and the reign of the Messiah in righteousness. Beginning with the restoration from exile, some of this was fulfilled, but not all; only with the coming of Messiah will all these things be completely fulfilled. Isaiah 54 lays out some of the promised blessings, but does not say when they will be fulfilled in part or completely.

But this chapter is also immediately practical as much for us today as it was for ancient Israel. The prophet describes clearly the plans God has for His holy people in this world; but the clues in the chapter, and the related contexts of the time, let us know that attaining these promises to the full called for spiritual service—which is why the chapter ends with the reminder that this is the heritage of the righteous servants of the LORD.

In verses 5 and 6 we are reminded that the promise is based on the relationship that the nation has to God; in His faithfulness to His covenant.

For your Maker is your husband,

the LORD of armies is His name;

and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,

the God of the whole earth shall He be called.

In creation He is our ‘Maker’ but now the prophet reminds us that not only did He create us, but, as clearly proclaimed in the book of Exodus, God is also our ‘husband’, a covenant term which calls to mind a marriage. The ‘husband’ is described as the sovereign Creator, the LORD of armies, the Holy One of Israel, the Redeemer, and the God of the whole earth. Any people related by covenant (marriage) to such a One need not fear anyone—except God Himself.

The condition of Israel is addressed as a wife that is bereaved, grieved in spirit, forsaken, and cast off. But will she be cast off forever?

The following verses affirm that the exile was a temporary manifestation of God’s wrath to purge the rebels and faithless from the nation.

Verses 7-10 record the speech of the LORD to assure Israel of future peace. The poetry is exquisite:

For a small moment I have forsaken you,

but with great mercies will I gather you;

In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment,

but with everlasting love I will have mercy on you.

The whole Babylonian captivity is referred to as a “small moment” when God turned His back on Israel. Seventy years may not seem like a ‘moment’ to us but in the context of God’s eternal plan of redemption, it is indeed but a moment.

The regathering of the Tribes will be with tender mercies. The exile is described as God’s wrath when He hid His face, a very human description to convey withholding mercy, but the restoration is a display of His everlasting loyal love and His absolute dependability. God is speaking to the nation as a whole; His anger was against sin, the exile was for the purpose of purging the rebels and drawing contrition and faith from the remnant. Now the restoration would show that the judgment time had passed, that there would be a new beginning.

The announcement is similar to the Noachide Covenant. So the comparison is made with the “waters of Noah”. Here too the LORD seals His promise with an oath, just as He did in the days of Noah.  And therein is the connection with this week’s Torah portion about Noah and the great flood.

It is noteworthy that the end of days is described elsewhere as being ‘like the days of Noah’ and as we look around our world today, it’s not difficult to see the connection.  While Noah built the Ark, the people around him scoffed, mocked and ridiculed him for obeying God, oblivious to the judgment that was about to be poured out on them for their national sins and rebellion.  In the end, eight people – only EIGHT – survived the Flood, a tiny remnant.

In Tune with Torah this week: we would do well to read Genesis 6 along with all of the Haftorah and consider the message as it relates to our world at this very moment in time.

What does it say personally to you, to your family?  If you had been alive at the time of Noah, would you have joined the mockers in belittling Noah for acting in faith?