Haftarah Mikkeitz

Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.

Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?


Haftarah Mikkeitz

“Leadership Dreams”

1 Kings 3:15-4:1


by Mark Huey

Why is a passage describing King Solomon associated with this week’s Torah portion, Mikkeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)? One distinct possibility is that “the Hebrew verb used to open this passage (va-yiykatz) is the same one used to describe Pharaoh’s awakening from a dream at the outset of the parashah (Gen. 41:4).”[1] Our selected passage has prompted me to considerable prayer, reflection, and examination—specifically because when reading I saw some contrasting differences in the character traits of Joseph in Egypt, and King Solomon of Israel. Even though God had providentially chosen them for leadership responsibilities in their respective generations, their approaches toward Him were not the same, but rather, distinctively dissimilar. While the righteous Joseph became a Messiah-like figure, directly responsible as viceroy of Egypt for saving his extended family, the eventually-debauched King Solomon was directly responsible for the division of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and subsequent judgments.

The fact that dreams, or the interpretation of dreams play pivotal roles in both Joseph’s and Solomon’s ascension to leadership, is something for us to seriously consider. Much later, after both of these men, the Prophet Daniel proclaimed that God is ultimately responsible for placing people in positions of leadership:

“Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him’” (Daniel 2:20-22, NASU).

Knowing that God places people in positions of leadership, and that dreams have been used down through the centuries as a means to move the hearts of kings and decision makers, many questions arose in my spirit. These concerned not only the accounts in the Bible, but also leadership changes and transitions that I have witnessed (and we may witness in the future) here in the United States, and also in Israel (2008). Making connections between the Biblical past and today’s present can be exciting—but it is only useful if we are able to properly consider the record as preserved in Holy Scripture first.

One of the many blessings of studying the Torah and Haftarah selections on a consistent basis is the fact that you are often confronted with the humbling realization that your recollection of different passages in the Bible is either incomplete or possibly forgotten. This week, as I re-read 1 Kings 3:15-4:1, I saw that Solomon’s choice of wisdom to rule Israel was not a conscious waking thought, but rather something he related to others upon rising from a dream. For years when contemplating the choosing of Solomon, I was under the mistaken impression that Solomon’s decision to choose wisdom over long life, riches, and power was a conscious request. However, the record from 1 Kings states that Solomon received all of these gifts from above in a dream after offering sacrifices at Gibeon, just before returning to Jerusalem:

“The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar…God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.’ Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants” (1 Kings 3:4, 11-15, NASU).

Having previously overlooked when and how Solomon’s request for wisdom took place made me dig deeper into the relationship between dreams and leadership—especially in light of youthful Joseph’s obviously recognized gift for interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh. Clearly in Genesis, where others testify of Joseph’s proven ability to interpret dreams, Joseph gave all credit for his ability to interpret dreams to the God he serves:

“‘Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer’” (Genesis 41:12-16, NASU).

In a somewhat like manner, the young King Solomon—having just been anointed as King David’s heir—recognized that his dream was from the Holy One of Israel, because his expansive explanation about the dream takes place after he wakes up in Gibeon (1 Kings 3:15). Solomon wanted his entourage to know that God had come to him in a night vision and given him a choice. Solomon repeated what he asked of God,

“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9, NASU).

King Solomon obviously recognized the awesome responsibility that he had as heir to David’s throne. His desire at this early juncture in his reign was to seek the wisdom necessary to rule effectively. His request appears to be quite sincere.

Yet, when we take a look at the context of what had transpired prior to the dream, we see that King Solomon was well on his way to disregarding the ways, statutes, and commandments of God in which his father David sought to walk. In fact, it is recorded that prior to the dream, King Solomon had just formed an alliance with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. He had also just completed a major sacrifice of a thousand offerings at pagan high places around Gibeon. Take important note that sacrificing and burning incense at pagan high places was contrary to the prescribed ways of the Lord as followed by his father King David:

“Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her to the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you’” (1 Kings 3:1-5, NASU).

Gibeon was the traditional stronghold of the House of Saul. Before all the sacrificial altars were ultimately moved to Jerusalem after the construction of Solomon’s Temple, these ceremonial sacrifices, at this particular time, could have been part of consolidating allegiances to the chosen heir of David’s kingdom. Historically speaking, we need to remember that relationships among the various factions after the death of David were fragile. The graves of rebellious Adonijah, traitorous and treacherous Joab, and curse-hurling Shimei were still fresh from justified executions (1 Kings 2).

It is providential that right after the declarations about his dream were made, Solomon returned to Jerusalem to stand before the previously relocated Ark of the Covenant, in order to offer up more burnt and peace offerings at a feast with his servants. The text does not state that the famous judgment of the two harlots, which dominates our Haftarah reading (1 Kings 4:16-27), took place at this specific feast. However, it is obvious that Solomon was back in the king’s court in Jerusalem, when his God-given wisdom to discern justice was exercised, and most importantly, recognized by all Israel. King Solomon’s leadership position was being solidified.

Confirmation that King Solomon had received God’s wisdom to rule over Israel came in relatively short order. He recognized and/or appointed his priests, his cabinet of secretaries, advisers, and various officials over the twelve tribes of Israel. The ability to wisely establish order after the succession of power was critical, to help organize and ultimately finance many of the projects of his peaceful reign (1 Kings 4).

Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams quickly resulted in him being granted a high position in Egypt as viceroy. This served as confirmation that Pharaoh actually believed in Joseph’s interpretations. In a dramatic explanation about how to work through the survival techniques of seven prosperous years followed by seven lean years, Pharaoh was convinced that the Spirit of God is present in Joseph:

“‘Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.’ Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:32-41, NASU).

Pharaoh and his court and servants recognized God’s hand upon Joseph, especially when the next seven years produced abundant crops before the anticipated famine began to create serious survival challenges in the region.

In both the examples of Joseph and King Solomon, which we are considering this week, the ability of dreams to affect change is seen. Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams elevated him to a position of power, and the revelation of a dream from King Solomon to Israel helped solidify his reign.

Another excellent example you may wish to investigate this week, as dreams are used in relation to leadership, is found in the testimonies of the Prophet Daniel. When contemplating Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, declaring that he was receiving the interpretation from the Almighty, a much more obvious comparison of somewhat similar circumstances came to my mind. While Solomon received a dream, would not the Prophet Daniel—as he faithfully interpreted the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar—be a better example to consider? After all, the life experiences of Joseph and Daniel are fairly similar. Daniel, a captured Jew in the courts of Babylon, is very much like Joseph. Both Joseph and Daniel were removed from their domiciles, by being forcefully taken against their will to foreign countries. However, both maintained an allegiance to the God of Israel, and accordingly, He orchestrated events so that they would eventually be close to the ruling monarch.

When the local magicians and wise men were totally baffled by Nebuchadnezzar’s request to not only interpret his dream, but actually tell Nebuchadnezzar what his dream was (Daniel 2:1-13), they were in danger of losing their lives. The various soothsayers concluded that such a request was impossible to fulfill and that only “gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh” (Daniel 2:11), could know the actual dream. However, faithful Daniel, aided by the solicited prayers of his companions, appealed to his God for assistance.

Ironically, the Prophet Daniel—even more so than Joseph—first supernaturally received knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and then had the understanding of what the dream meant (Daniel 2:14-45). Correspondingly, we see King Nebuchadnezzar elevating Daniel to a high position within his kingdom (Daniel 2:48).

Within the Biblical record, we find substantial examples of how God has used dreams and/or the interpretation of dreams, to establish or guide the leadership of nations. What does this mean to you today, given the inevitable nature that political regimes change, and that new kings and queens, prime ministers, and presidents will come to power given a little time? When I think about it, it gives me great comfort in knowing that our Sovereign God is still—and will forever be—in absolute control of who He places in leadership positions throughout the world. I do not fear the selections He makes, but simply pray that I am instead in the right position He has predetermined for me!


NOTES

[1] Nahum M. Sarna, “Haftarah for Mi-Ketz,” in David L. Lieber, Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2001), 271.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yeishev

Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.

Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?


Haftarah V’yeishev

“Visions, Dreams, Prophecies”

Amos 2:6-3:8


by Mark Huey

When you contemplate different aspects of the Scriptures beyond the basic historical accounts that have been conveyed, you realize that much of the revelation is a reiteration of various visions, dreams, and prophetic utterances that have been recorded for posterity’s sake. V’yeishev, this week’s Torah portion (Genesis 37:1-40:23), begins to concentrate on specific actions of the sons of Jacob. We see particular attention given to the consequences of Joseph’s dreams and the activities of Judah. Increasingly as the balance of the Genesis text reveals, these two sons of Jacob become the dominant characters of their generation. However, it is the recollections of Joseph’s various trials, and eventually how he was used to preserve the extended family of his father, that receives the most attention.

When the Sages searched for a complimentary Haftarah selection for this parashah, principally about Joseph, verses from the warning messages of Amos to the Northern Kingdom of Israel were chosen. Amos was a Southern Kingdom Israelite who tended sheep and dressed fig-bearing sycamore trees in Tekoa (Amos 1:1; 7:14-15), a small village located some twelve miles south of Jerusalem. The two vile actions in which Judah participated, the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders (Genesis 37:26-28) and impregnating his daughter-in-law (Genesis 38:1-26), are described in this parashah. In Amos, we see the selling of the righteous for money (Amos 2:6) and a man and his father having relations with the same woman (Amos 2:7) both mentioned, which are obviously aspects of V’yeishev:

“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless also turn aside the way of the humble; and a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name’” (Amos 2:6-7, NASU).

Since this week is the only time when the prophecy of Amos is considered throughout the traditional annual Torah cycle, it is good for each of us to look beyond just the selection, and perhaps to read and contemplate the entire book. After all, the historical accuracies of the prophecies in Amos that have already been fulfilled, are so precise that those yet to be fulfilled can be confidently anticipated.[1] Here, Amos makes an often-quoted statement that many self-proclaimed prophets throughout the ages have clinged to in order to justify their declarations:

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, NASU).

There are great distinctions between the Biblical Prophets and those who may flippantly and somewhat arrogantly claim a “prophet status” and authority today. (Much of this is based on a misunderstanding that the Prophets of the Tanakh solely gave predictions of the future, whereas a prophet is also to call the people of his generation to repentance before God.)[2] Take a look at the context of this statement, from one of the obvious mouthpieces of the Lord, based on his proven track record of declaring His words to an ancient generation:

“Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt: ‘You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.’ Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all? If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it? Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:1-8, NASU).

After declaring that the Lord “roars” from Zion (Amos 1:2) His irrevocable judgments on the transgressions of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and both Judah and Israel[3]—Amos says that a fear for the Lord has compelled him to prophesy. His analogy of roaring like a lion likely comes from his experience of shepherding and protecting sheep, but it is also reminiscent of the Spirit of God simply using a willing servant as a mouthpiece to proclaim His Word given the circumstances of blatant transgression.

The significant problem Amos confronts is that all of Israel—which then was divided into the two Kingdoms of Judah and Israel—is guilty of great sin before the Lord. Among many transgressions, they were not walking together in agreement and must be punished for their iniquities. As Amos asks, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (NIV). In His mercy, God chooses to send a spokesperson to forewarn. In this case, the Northern Kingdom must be told that judgment due upon it is coming.

As you read the balance of Amos’ prophecy, the accuracy of the iniquities is contrasted by the various punishments to come. Historically speaking, the judgment that God brought about via the Assyrian hordes upon the Northern Kingdom is not only foretold, but confirmed by accounts of what actually transpired. This roaring lion named Amos from Tekoa—while not turning the Northern Kingdom Israelites to repentance so they might avoid the explicit ravages of God’s judgment—gives us today some thought provoking descriptions of why God is compelled to judge obvious transgressors. The hope today is that those who are considering the punishment of Ancient Israel will recognize that prophetic words, sent visions, and induced dreams from God do eventually see fulfillment.

We get a glimpse of such a reality in the story of Joseph’s dreams, which God ultimately brought to fruition. Of course, the most famous dreams include Joseph’s foreknowledge about ruling over his family as related in this week’s parashah:

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?’ His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind” (Genesis 37:3-11, NASU).

In this passage, the immature Joseph—not necessarily recognizing the jealous hearts of his older siblings—relates categorical statements about his dreams in which he will one day rule over them. By the time a second dream is related, which expands his rule to include even his parents, Joseph is rebuked by his father Jacob for inciting rage and fomenting bitterness in the family. However, centuries later as the Psalmist records some of Israel’s history, Joseph is not only considered an anointed prophet along with the Patriarchs, but the very dreams or words he received are considered to be Divine revelations that he had to cling to during dire circumstances:

“‘Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.’ And He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler over all his possessions, to imprison his princes at will, that he might teach his elders wisdom” (Psalm 105:15-22, NASU).

Here we can read in a positive and instructional way, that Joseph endured the afflictions of prison and confinement waiting for the dreams from God that he knew were to be fulfilled. He did not necessarily know how those words of ruling over his family were going to come to pass, but he was faithful to the Lord through the trials that came his way in the interim. We discover in a unique way that the Lord actually tested him by those words. Since Joseph knew in his heart that those words or dreams were from the Holy One, was he simply going to trust in Him through all the trials and tribulations of life to look for their completion?

How about you? Have you had any words, visions, or dreams that you (absolutely) know are from the Lord? Are you waiting for “the word” from Him to come to pass? Have you been, or are you being tested, by such a prophetic word, vision, or dream?

What about some of the final words given to Ancient Israel by the Prophet Amos, which have not been completely fulfilled? Are you confident—with Amos’ proven track record—that such words will be fulfilled? The prophetic words which await fulfillment speak specifically about raising up the fallen booth of David, something that the returning Jews to the Land of Israel in the past century have embraced with great faith:

“‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD. ‘For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, “The calamity will not overtake or confront us.” In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God” (Amos 9:8-15, NASU).

Even though God has punished Israel, either of the Northern or Southern Kingdoms, scattering many into the nations of the world—ultimately in the Last Days the fallen tabernacle will be restored. Israel will return to the Promised Land in fulfillment of prophecy.

One hint that this prophecy has been in the process of fulfillment is seen in the deliberations of James the Just at the Jerusalem Council. There was debate over what to do with the new, non-Jewish Believers turning to the God of Israel in Asia Minor. In Luke’s record of what takes place, James quotes passages from Amos (quoted by Luke in their Septuagint version):

“All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, ‘Brethren, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,” SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO [Amos 9:11-12, LXX].[4] Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles…’” (Acts 15:12-19, NASU).

Of course, James saw more than just Amos’ prophecies being fulfilled. His remarks also include allusions to other prophetic words seen in the Tanakh (i.e., Deuteronomy 28:10; Isaiah 45:21; 63:19; Jeremiah 12:15; 14:9; Daniel 9:19). James was as convinced in his time—as we should be today—that God will ultimately fulfill His declared Word from His prophetic voices.

As we continue to approach the End of the Age and the return of Messiah Yeshua—when “in that day” or the Day of the LORD is spoken of with increasing frequency—it is incumbent upon each of us as followers of the Most High to study His Word and seek instruction from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Remember how the Comforter or the Helper has been sent to bring us into understanding of all things spiritual by the Father of Lights:

“Yeshua answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:23-27, NASU).

If you encounter some visions, dreams, or prophecies that do not come from the ancient texts of Scripture, or are being distorted in order to manipulate an audience—be on guard! Some punishments for following after false gods, or serving your flesh rather than the Holy One of Israel, are articulated by Amos for time in memoriam. Those judgments have and will in the future take place according to Amos’ declarations.

Do you need to study various prophecies in Scripture again, being reminded that God will test each of us by His Word—whether we know it or not? It is better to know the Word so that we can avoid its judgments, than to be judged by it. Ignorance of the Word might be bliss, but the consequences of denial will not prevent the Word from testing all to whom it is directed!


NOTES

[1] Consult the entry for the Book of Amos in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee.

[2] Consult G.V. Smith, “Prophet: Message of the Prophets,” in Geoffrey Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 3:997-1000.

[3] Amos 1:3-5 (Damascus), 6-8 (Gaza), 9-10 (Tyre), 11-12 (Edom), 13-15 (Ammon); 2:1-16 (Judah and Israel).

[4] The key difference here is how the Hebrew sh’eirit Edom, was rendered by the Greek LXX as hoi kataloipoi tōn anthrōpōn, meaning “the rest of mankind/humanity.”


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yishlach

Haftarah V’yishlach

“Sibling Rivalry Distress”

Hosea 11:7-12:12 (A)
Obadiah 1:1-21 (S)


by Mark Huey

By the time the Torah student arrives at V’yishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43), describing the return of Jacob to Canaan—after an estimated twenty years in Haran building a family and establishing a sizeable estate—the reminder that a sibling rivalry is still simmering with Esau comes as no surprise. When you recall the circumstances of Jacob’s surreptitious escape from the potential clutches of the swindled Esau, ill feelings understandably persisted (Genesis 27:41). The opening passages of this parashah demonstrate that Jacob is definitely not finished with what modern theologians label the “sanctification process”:

“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: “Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight’”’” (Genesis 32:3-5, NASU).

Fear of the justified retribution of Esau prompts Jacob to send waves of gifts, seemingly bribing his brother for mercy, knowing that he had threatened earlier to kill him when Isaac dies:

“Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; or he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,” I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, “I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.”’ So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.’ He commanded the one in front, saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, “To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?” then you shall say, “These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us.”’ Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, ‘After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, ‘Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.’” For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me’” (Genesis 32:7-20, NASU).

It is at this point, after Jacob has divided his camp and done everything humanly possible to manipulate the potential confrontation with his twin brother, that an incredible wrestling match with a supernatural being takes place (Genesis 32:24-32). It is from this stressful set of circumstances that Jacob is not only renamed Israel,[1] but the crippling aftermath of a permanent limp will now remind him of his human frailty and encounter with God until his death. While the offerings of flocks might have moved Esau to forgiveness, it could have been the sight of his limping brother stooping to his knees that actually triggered a merciful exoneration for stealing Esau’s blessing as the eldest son.

Yet one problem remained: the prophetic word heard by Rebekah during her pregnancy was more than simply a message about two twins in a womb. It was also about two peoples which would come from the descendants of the two men who were Isaac and Rebekah’s only children:

“But the children struggled together within her; and she said, ‘If it is so, why then am I this way?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’ When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb” (Genesis 25:22-24, NASU).

It is possible that by the time this delicate reunion was to take place, both Jacob and Esau were very aware of what motivated Rebekah to take the actions she did to secure the blessing of Isaac for Jacob. But after some twenty years of separation, and the obvious differences in relative strength as Esau was commanding a band of 400 warriors, compared to Jacob’s much smaller company of family, livestock, and servants—the stronger Esau was in a position as the eldest to offer help to the younger. In fact, when you read through the rest of the parashah you discover that Jacob, after an unpleasant experience in Shechem, does make it to the encampment of his father Isaac. Then we find, in what had to be a somewhat similar scene to Ishmael and Isaac burying Abraham decades earlier, Esau and Jacob burying their father Isaac in the same cave at Machpelah that was the final resting place for Abraham. Some time after the burial, it is recorded that because of the relative overcrowded conditions of the livestock, that Esau chooses to leave Canaan and resettle in what becomes known as Edom, in the hills to the east:

“Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land away from his brother Jacob. For their property had become too great for them to live together, and the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom” (Genesis 36:6-8, NASU).

We are beginning to see some of the fulfillment of Rebekah’s prophetic word taking root. The stronger budding nation of Esau’s descendants, as evidenced by all of the children and grandchildren listed in Genesis 36, is actually serving the younger nation by leaving the area they occupied and moving to the east. When reading the prophecy of Obadiah that the Sages chose to reflect upon as they considered the messages contained in this parashah, we can see how these passages can instruct us about the course of history that God has ordained for Israel (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11).

As our Torah readings will later lead us to look at the sojourn of Ancient Israel from Egypt back to the Promised Land, we are told a number of times that Israel wanted to travel through Edom. This was a land occupied by their cousins, the offspring of Esau:

“From Kadesh Moses then sent messengers to the king of Edom: ‘Thus your brother Israel has said, “You know all the hardship that has befallen us; that our fathers went down to Egypt, and we stayed in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians treated us and our fathers badly. But when we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out from Egypt; now behold, we are at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard; we will not even drink water from a well. We will go along the king’s highway, not turning to the right or left, until we pass through your territory.’” Edom, however, said to him, ‘You shall not pass through us, or I will come out with the sword against you.’ Again, the sons of Israel said to him, ‘We will go up by the highway, and if I and my livestock do drink any of your water, then I will pay its price. Let me only pass through on my feet, nothing else.’ But he said, ‘You shall not pass through.’ And Edom came out against him with a heavy force and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; so Israel turned away from him” (Numbers 20:14-21, NASU).

The animosity that was inbred into Edom from the womb of Rebekah takes on greater strength. Here in Numbers, the threat of warfare with Edom actually turns the fleeing Israel to many more years in the wilderness.

It is at this point of contention, that when you read the prophecy of Obadiah, you get a foreshadowing of not only what is going to happen at some time in the future—but also a reiteration of what the Edomites did to Israel when the Babylonians took away the Southern Kingdom exiles. Because the absolute date of when the prophecy was given is not possible to determine, you can discern that some of the admonitions to Edom from Obadiah concern how it is not to react in Judah’s days of distress:

“On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem—you too were as one of them. Do not gloat over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction; yes, do not boast in the day of their distress. Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity in the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth in the day of their disaster. Do not stand at the fork of the road to cut down their fugitives; and do not imprison their survivors in the day of their distress. For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed. But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions. Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,’ for the LORD has spoken” (Obadiah 11-18, NASU).

When you consider this passage, you are reminded of not only the Babylonian exile of the Southern Kingdom and the destruction of the First Temple, but perhaps also the Roman siege that came in 70 C.E. when Jerusalem and the Second Temple were destroyed. Additionally, the significant references, to the day of destruction and day of distress, are possibly an indication of what Jeremiah refers to as Jacob’s distress (Jeremiah 30:7)—the Great Tribulation.

Obadiah’s references to the holiness of Mount Zion and the escape of the House of Jacob is reminiscent of some Tribulation scenarios. The description of the House of Jacob being a fire and the House of Joseph being a flame is somewhat indicative of all Israel coming back together, involving the considerable reduction of Edom to stubble. How this all manifests itself is up to conjecture and speculation, but it is interesting to note that the concluding verses indicate that this all transpires at the End of the Age when the Lord’s Kingdom prevails:

“Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain; also, possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria, And Benjamin will possess Gilead. And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel, who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negev. The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom will be the LORD’s” (Obadiah 19-21).

Here as the prophecy concludes, even specific people groups are declared the ultimate residents of various parts of Edom and Canaan. You may be reminded of some later words from the Apostle Paul, written to the Roman Believers as he was attempting to clarify how God sovereignly chooses certain peoples for certain destinies. In the case of the descendants of Esau or Jacob, the final choice is the Great Potter’s as He selects some vessels for glory and others for destruction:

“And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER [Genesis 25:23].’ Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED [Malachi 1:2-3].’ What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!…On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles” (Romans 9:10-14, 20-24, NASU).

The sibling rivalry established from the conception of Jacob and Esau is going to persist to the end-times. Why it is going to persist is a legitimate question. I believe the answer is only understood when you recognize your position before the Creator God. If you have to wrestle with Him for understanding what this means, then please start now! It is a good sign if you are concerned about whether you are going to ultimately be a vessel for His mercy and glory, or a vessel prepared for His wrath and destruction. As Jacob eventually discovered, going through life with a limp is far more desirable than separation from the Holy One.

Esau seems to have regretted his decisions about selling his birthright and despising the blessing. He weeps bitterly about this, and you get the distinct impression that there was genuine remorse from him:

“But Isaac replied to Esau, ‘Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?’ Esau said to his father, ‘Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ So Esau lifted his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, ‘Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck.’ So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:37-41, NASU).

Based on what transpires in the generations following Esau’s death, and even with what is depicted in Obadiah, there is every indication that this particular sibling rivalry persists through time as the inclination for evil remains in the human heart. The warning for Believers today is that if you find yourself in a position when you are ambivalent toward your inherited blessings—or the birthright of another Believer who has come to salvation via the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua—let me urge you with all my heart to cry out for mercy! The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reminds us that His mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). The problem is that you have to ask, plead, beg, implore, beseech, and entreat Him with all your heart to receive this mercy. Now is better than later, because we cannot be sure when later might turn into never!


NOTES

[1] Meaning, “he contends with God” (J. Barton Payne, “yiśrā’ēl,” in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament [Chicago: Moody Press, 1980], 2:883).


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yeitzei

Haftarah V’yeitzei

“Return, Restoration, Resurrection”

Hosea 12:12-14:10 (A); 11:7-12:12 (S)


by Mark Huey

The story of Jacob leaving Beersheba and heading to Haran to find a wife, after he and his mother Rebekah had conspired to steal the blessing of Isaac from Esau, continues a pattern in Scripture of sibling rivalry that goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. In that previous case, Cain’s anger toward his brother erupted in murder. Many generations later, the half-brothers, Ishmael and Isaac had similar rivalry issues, but their wise father Abraham handled their problems with great aplomb. When Abraham’s time to die arrived, whatever differences which existed between these two sons were sufficiently resolved, so that they could both participate in the burial of their revered father.

Arriving at the generation of twins from the union of Isaac and Rebekah, we see that the rivalry blossoms once again between more than just brothers, but two companions in the womb during Rebekah’s pregnancy. Although the same age, these two men were very different in their predilection toward the Almighty: Esau followed his fleshly inclinations, and Jacob sought after the spiritual aspects of life. Certainly the Sages were considering these peculiarities when they selected the Haftarah passages from Hosea to reflect upon, in light of this Torah passage (Genesis 28:10-32:3) which highlights some of Jacob’s struggles with his father-in-law Laban. Hosea was a notable prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was in constant tension with the Southern Kingdom of Judah. One can see the parallel of sibling rivalry manifesting itself on a much larger scale with the division of Israel into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.

The opening verses begin with a summation of not only Jacob’s departure to find a wife, but are followed by references to Moses as a prophet and the Exodus, with a conclusion that speaks specifically to the transgressions of Ephraim:

“Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram, and Israel worked for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. But by a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt, and by a prophet he was kept. Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and bring back his reproach to him” (Hosea 12:12-14, NASU).

When you read these passages in the final chapters of Hosea, much more than sibling rivalry is being discussed. In many regards, the contrasts between those who seek after the temporal, physical pleasures—versus the eternal, spiritual pursuit of God—are made. The negative consequences of seeking after human kings or alliances with foreign powers are declared over Ephraim by Hosea. Death by sword and devastation to children and pregnant women come as a result of not trusting in the Lord.

“It is your destruction, O Israel, that you are against Me, against your help. Where now is your king that he may save you in all your cities, and your judges of whom you requested, ‘Give me a king and princes’? I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is stored up. The pains of childbirth come upon him; he is not a wise son, for it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb. Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. Though he flourishes among the reeds, an east wind will come, the wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness; and his fountain will become dry and his spring will be dried up; it will plunder his treasury of every precious article. Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open” (Hosea 13:9-16, NASU).

Weaved into this description is a reference to the power of Sheol, and God’s ability to redeem people from the realm of death. God has the ability to resurrect His people from the dead, even if they have perished due to their unwise choices like those of the Northern Kingdom living in Samaria. Death in the Scriptures has many aspects, ranging from a cessation of physical life processes, to exile, to being removed from God’s presence.[1] Here in Hosea, the issue is the impending judgment upon the Northern Kingdom and the captivity that will follow. This is a realm of exile.

Hosea 13:14 is referred to by the Apostle Paul in his teachings to the Corinthians about the resurrection, many of whom did not understand that physical death was not the end for Believers. You may recognize how this passage may be quoted to comfort family and friends at funerals:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, NASU).

Paul describes the resurrection of the dead and how “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50, NASU). The Northern Kingdom would experience exile via the punishment God was required to place upon it for sin, but is promised to be restored by God (Hosea 14:4-8). Judah and Ephraim stand as proxies for all humanity (Hosea 6:7), whose salvation is to be found in an event encompassing three days (Hosea 6:1-2; cf. Romans 6:3), which we may assume refers to the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. When the general resurrection comes in the future for Believers who have died in faith, our Father’s masterful plan for the ages will move ahead and the exile will finally be over!

When this happens, one’s perishable mortal body will be transformed into an imperishable immortal body—a truly awesome reality to contemplate! In Titus 2:13 Paul describes this as “the blessed hope.” Knowing that this is to come in the future should be great encouragement as you live your life here on Earth, and hopefully try to capture some elements of that future to come right now. However, there is a severe admonition that must be considered as you contemplate resurrection from the dead.

Within the scope of Hosea’s prophecies, God in His mercy toward the wayward Northern Kingdom pleads for them to return to Him. Confession of iniquity and transgressions, and appealing to God for His mercy with praise on one’s lips, is what the Holy One wants from His people. He does have the ability to raise people from the dead and usher them into His Kingdom—but do you recognize this fact by giving Him glory and serving Him with all of your being?

“Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips. Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, “Our god,” to the work of our hands; for in You the orphan finds mercy. I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:1-9, NASU).

If you wisely choose to serve Him, then you will learn to understand and discern His ways. You will not only seek Him like Abraham, and increasingly seek Him during your life like Jacob/Israel—but you will learn to actually walk in His ways. Of course as we know from reading V’yeitzei this week, it often requires a lifetime to finally get our priorities straight. Jacob had to go through many trials during the course of his life before he came to the point of total surrender. For the Northern Kingdom, God had to use the Assyrians to send them into exile. Yet, there is a promise that in the end, all of Israel will be restored.

Where do you find yourself? Do you trust in your human abilities to navigate the vagaries of life? Do you rely upon your temporal, physical abilities and talents for enjoying life? Or is it your God-given talent that you rely upon to make life work, with Him being the source of your strength? If you rely upon Him, then you should be able to experience some of that future Kingdom of God now on Earth. Call upon the only One who can restore you from exile. Desire to know Him and His ways, sincerely desiring to serve Him.

Jacob eventually saw the way. Hosea was given a glimpse. Paul experienced it up close and personal. Each of them testified to this with their lives! And so may each of us seek a return and restoration that the resurrection will ultimately bring us into!


NOTES

[1] Editor’s note: N.T. Wright describes in his book Surprised by Hope, “In Genesis, and indeed for much of the Old Testament, the controlling image for death is exile. Adam and Eve were told that they would die on the day they ate the fruit; what actually happened was that they were expelled from the garden” (New York: HarperCollins, 2008, p 95).


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Toldot

Haftarah Toldot

“Twin Decisions”

Malachi 1:1-2:7


by Mark Huey

Each time Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9) is reviewed, we are once again reminded of God’s sovereign choices for who will serve Him and who will not. In previous weeks the preferential distinctions between Ishmael and Isaac are far more obvious than other distinctions that will be seen. After all, Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son of the handmaiden Hagar as a result of impatience on the part of Sarah and Abraham. For well over a decade, Ishmael captured the adoring love of the aging Abraham, until God specifically declared to Abraham that his union with Sarah would produce offspring which would inherit the blessings earlier promised to him:

“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.’ When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham” (Genesis 17:17-22, NASU).

After absorbing the reality and peculiarity of God’s choice for receiving His blessing, the offspring of Isaac and Rebekah were considered. However, rather than the obvious difference of two different mothers, the twins Esau and Jacob were born to the one couple which had received the promise after another extended wait for a viable pregnancy. Following nearly twenty years of barrenness, Rebekah was not only pregnant with twins, but during her pregnancy, she also received a declaration from the Lord which essentially foretold the future for not only the next generation—but perhaps for certain segments of humanity down through the ages:

“The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’ When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb” (Genesis 25:23-24, NASU).

In the Torah’s descriptions of how Esau and Jacob conducted their respective lives, we are given an overview about how two different people, no matter how close they might be genetically or culturally, approach the Creator God. The contrast can be reduced to one who follows after the dictates of the flesh, and another who pursues life from a spiritual perspective. Much of the balance of the Scriptures describe different aspects of this constant struggle between the flesh and the Spirit, as it manifests itself throughout the history of God’s chosen people and the other nations of the world.

By the time one considers the words of the Prophet Malachi, delivered about four centuries before the ministry of Yeshua, many of his statements simply summarize the problems inherent in a group of imperfect people who attempt to worship the Almighty. Malachi points out some of the very hypocrisies that one might observe today in the modern era.

As you reflect on some of Malachi’s terse statements, try looking into your own heart and ascertain whether you are approaching God as a result of your fleshly wants and desires, or whether you are being led by the Spirit of the Most High. Remember that just as God omnisciently chose Isaac and Jacob to be the recipients of His blessings, His infinite wisdom and knowledge pierce right through to the motivations of our hearts. He knows whether it is our flesh seeking His blessings, or whether it is our heartfelt love for Him which brings us into obedience to Him. Imagine what happens in your own heart when your offerings to Him are sincerely given to Him to gain His pleasure, or whether they are just mechanical so that He can be appeased. Is He not greater than a parent or master?

“‘“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised Your name?” You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, “How have we defiled You?” In that you say, “The table of the LORD is to be despised.” But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6-9, NASU).

Here, we see that God was not pleased with just token obedience and the appearance of compliance to His ways. Listen to how Malachi describes His desire for just one who would stand up for truth, and stop the charade of presenting offerings that are an abomination:

“‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the LORD of hosts. But you are profaning it, in that you say, “The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised”’” (Malachi 1:10-12, NASU).

This pleading should naturally remind us of faithful figures like Phinehas, Elijah, or John the Immerser who in their respective generations had an unquenched zeal for God—a zeal which resulted in feats and declarations that pointed their peers to righteousness. On the other hand, Malachi points out that even in the nations there will be those who have sincere heartfelt praise for God, perhaps even without knowledge of the specifics described in His Word (cf. Romans 2:14-15). God will receive His praise even if those chosen to bring it to the nations succumb to fleshly actions that ultimately result in curses upon them and their progeny:

“‘But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations’” (Malachi 1:14, NASU).

Thankfully, the Prophet Malachi declares that God does have a faithful remnant, here described as the priestly Levites, who will faithfully continue to preserve knowledge and teach those who are seeking instruction:

“‘Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts’” (Malachi 2:4-7, NASU).

As you consider the lives of Esau and Jacob, concurrent with the perspective of Malachi who analyzed the realities of his day, perhaps some self reflection would be appropriate. Esau despised his birthright. He was not concerned about the blessing of his father Isaac until it was too late.

What about your birthright as a child of the Creator God? What about the blessings He has promised for a thousand generations to those who love Him (Exodus 20:6; 34:7; Deuteronomy 5:10)? Are you thankful for those inherited blessings?

Have you thought about your approach to the Holy One and His ways lately? Are you seeking Him and His Instruction out of fleshly motives, or do you really love Him so much because of what He has done for you—that you are pursuing Him with a passion to be like Him in all of His ways (Ephesians 5:1)? Search your heart and be absolutely honest with yourself.

If you find yourself in some sort of religious rut or routine for the sake of appearance, or because it has become comfortable—then wake up, shake off the dust, and beg the Lord to have mercy on you as He changes your heart (Isaiah 52)! Consider the destiny of Esau and his progeny (cf. Hebrews 12:16), versus those who cling to the God of Jacob. Who do you choose to serve: your flesh or the Spirit of the Most High?

We each have the capacity to choose one or the other as the twins have displayed. The decision is yours. As always: choose wisely!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Chayei Sarah

Haftarah Chayei Sarah

“Life’s End: Triumphant or Tragic?”

1 Kings 1:1-31


by Mark Huey

What has always seemed an ironic twist to the Torah portion entitled, “Sarah’s Life” (Genesis 23:1-25:18), is that the beginning and the end of this selection actually record the deaths of Sarah and Abraham, the esteemed predecessors of Ancient Israel. In between their life-ending moments, the Scriptures record some revealing aspects of why the Holy One perhaps chose Abraham to be father of the faithful. Additionally, the linkage to the Haftarah selection from the opening words of 1 Kings 1, declaring King David to be “old and advanced in age,” with the parallel comments about Abraham in Genesis 24:1, gives the reader an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast not only their lives—but the concluding events surrounding these two figures of our faith. When analyzed objectively and applied personally to your own walk of faith, one can conclude that the results of choices made during a lifetime can definitely impact whether a person’s inevitable transition from life to the hereafter can be either triumphant or tragic.

Both Abraham and David received unconditional, unilateral covenants from the Creator God. The Abrahamic Covenant is conveyed and expounded upon in different promises made to him seen in Genesis chs. 12-15, essentially establishing Abraham and his descendants as the human vessels through whom the Redeemer would eventually arrive on Earth to atone for the sin of the world. Abraham and his descendants were also promised material and spiritual blessings, as well as land for future generations. Since Abraham was totally aware of God’s blessings, as he got older and saw death approaching, he made some explicit instructions so that the Promised Seed, coming through the line of the chosen Isaac, would be directed toward seeking the Almighty. The following request was made by Abraham of his servant Eliezer:

“Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, ‘Please place your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac’” (Genesis 24:1-4, NASU).

Abraham knew that Issac was the recipient of the Lord’s blessings and not Ishmael, the firstborn son of the handmaiden Hagar. After the death of Sarah, Abraham has six more sons with Keturah, another wife he took to himself.[1] Abraham made explicit plans for his death, seeing to it that he not only gave most of his material wealth and lands to his designated heir Isaac, but that he also passed blessings and gifts on to his other sons, including Ishmael and the six birthed by Keturah:

“Now Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of his concubines, Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the east. These are all the years of Abraham’s life that he lived, one hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people. Then his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth; there Abraham was buried with Sarah his wife” (Genesis 25:5-10, NASU).

As a result of Abraham’s actions during his lifetime and proper estate planning (if you will), the incredible fact is that when Abraham finally died, his first two sons by Hagar (Ishmael) and Sarah (Isaac) actually came together in a period of mourning, and they buried their father Abraham without any noted conflict. Somehow down through the years, despite the estrangement that certainly came when Hagar and Ishmael were sent away from the family compound (Genesis 21:9-21), Abraham was still respected by Ishmael. The ultimate respect was shown when at his father’s tomb, he was able to be at peace with his half-brother and accept his station in life. This could be termed a triumphant departure to the next life.

On the other hand, as one reviews the life, and particularly, the waning days of David’s life, the adjective to describe his last days would be tragic rather than triumphant. Still, King David was the recipient of an unconditional, unilateral covenant, as summarized by the Prophet Nathan:

“When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14, NASU).

The House of David, according to this covenant, was “established forever” (nakon ad-olam). A descendant of David would rule over the world forever, thus identifying the Messiah Yeshua and His ultimate role as King of Kings, ruling and reigning from the right hand of the Father. Once again, this unconditional covenant does not necessarily require anything of David, just like Abraham’s promises. However, what one does notice is that David’s approach to life was significantly different than the Patriarch Abraham. Take a look at the parallel passage that links this Haftarah passage to our Torah portion this week, and note the differences that emerge:

“Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm. So his servants said to him, ‘Let them seek a young virgin for my lord the king, and let her attend the king and become his nurse; and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may keep warm.’ So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and served him, but the king did not cohabit with her. Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, ‘I will be king.’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him. His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’ And he was also a very handsome man, and he was born after Absalom” (1 Kings 1:1-6, NASU).

Here we discover that rather than the peace which was surrounding Abraham’s final days, instead we have turmoil that is on the verge of outright rebellion by the offspring of David. Many of David’s problems came as a direct result of him having multiple wives and sub-families during his years as king of Israel.[2] Adonijah, the son who attempted to declare his kingship as David was dying, was actually born of David’s fourth wife Haggith (2 Samuel 3:4).

The more you study the life of David and the multiple wives he married undoubtedly for political, military, and strategic partnership purposes—you realize that King David did not spend much time in raising children who would respect their father as his life came to a close. In fact, just the opposite occurred as different sons vied for succession rights. One can imagine how tough it would have been on David as in his old and increasingly feeble age, he found himself mediating between different factions established by his different sons. But the blame for these circumstances rested clearly on David who took the many different wives with whom he had multiple children. The ultimate disgrace came when Adonijah proclaimed his kingship before David had even succumbed to death. This action was actually used by God to firmly establish Solomon as the heir that David proclaimed would build his Temple to God (1 Chronicles 28, NASU).

It is instructional to consider these two examples, for those of us living today who might have either aging parents whose death we may have to witness, or children who will be there to oversee our own funerals and burials sometime in the future. As you contemplate the differences between the events of Abraham’s death and David’s waning days, consider the following questions:

  • How are you going to handle the death of your parents (if you have not already)?
  • Will you show them the respect they should have as your parents, regardless of whether or not they have been “perfect”?
  • Are you going to make their final days a blessing to them, or make it difficult by treating them disrespectfully?

Take a look at the Fifth Commandment and recognize that honoring your parents includes a promise attached:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12, NASU; cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2).

Despite any perceived or real inadequacies as parents, the clear Biblical command is to honor one’s parents (and all of your forbearers) regardless of their character flaws, or perhaps what they have done or not done to you during your lifetime. In demonstrating their honor due to them, the result is prolonged life and blessings from the Lord. Considering your possible relationship to your parents today, what kind of a parent do you want to be toward your offspring?

  • What kind of a legacy do you want to leave your children?
  • Have you been conducting your life in such a way as to warrant their respect?
  • Have you been training them up in the way that they should go, so that in the end, they will not depart (Proverbs 22:6)?
  • Do you want to leave in a triumphant way where your children stand up to bless you, or do you want to leave children who will be bitterly and tragically fighting as you are buried?

Take some time to remember this simple reality: life often will end much sooner than any of us plan for it to end. We can choose to have it end triumphantly by choosing to honor our parents, and training our children up in the ways of the Lord so that they respect our departure. Or, by choosing to do nothing when it comes to honoring our parents or training our children, we can expect the results of our neglect to be accompanied by tragic consequences by ourselves or by our descendants.

When the end comes is not a choice, but how it comes is a choice. Choose now and expect a triumph like Abraham rather than tragedy like David.


NOTES

[1] Genesis 25:1-6.

[2] Consult the article “Is Polygamy for Today?” by J.K. McKee.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yeira

Haftarah V’yeira

“Hospitality Blessings”

2 Kings 4:1-37 (A); 4:1-23 (S)


by Mark Huey

As you ponder this week’s Haftarah reading and contemplate why the ancient Sages attached it to V’yeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24), the connective reasons appear to be the two common threads of hospitality and the blessings of offspring. In the case of the account of Elisha and the Shunammite woman, and Abraham and the Divine messengers, there is every indication that both were inherently hospitable without any hidden motivation to receive anything for their hospitable acts. There is a suggestion that the woman perceived that Elisha was a holy man of God, and we do know that Abraham showed reverence for the three men when he bowed before them.

Reacquaint yourself with these two complimentary passages, and note that between Elisha, and earlier the Divine messengers, that both eventually get around to making a declaration that in approximately one year from their visits—a son would be born to the Shunammite woman, and a son would be born to Sarah:

“Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food. She said to her husband, ‘Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he can turn in there.’ One day he came there and turned in to the upper chamber and rested. Then he said to Gehazi his servant, ‘Call this Shunammite.’ And when he had called her, she stood before him. He said to him, ‘Say now to her, “Behold, you have been careful for us with all this care; what can I do for you? Would you be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the army?”’ And she answered, ‘I live among my own people.’ So he said, ‘What then is to be done for her?’ And Gehazi answered, ‘Truly she has no son and her husband is old.’ He said, ‘Call her.’ When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, ‘At this season next year you will embrace a son.’ And she said, ‘No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.’ The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her” (2 Kings 4:8-17, NASU).

“Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, ‘My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.’ And they said, ‘So do, as you have said.’ So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.’ Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. Then they said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ He said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ And the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?” Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah denied it however, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh’” (Genesis 18:1-15, NASU).

While some might want to conclude that you are only to be hospitable to godly or holy people in order to receive the blessings of the Lord, the balance of the Holy Scriptures actually indicate that hospitality should be a common trait of all who serve Him. The Apostolic Scriptures are replete with telling us that the gift of hospitality, or simply being hospitable, is a recognizable attribute of a godly person. Consider the following statements from the Apostles, as you sort out in your mind the blessings of being hospitable:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13, NASU).

Love without hypocrisy practices hospitality to the saints. Additionally, according to Paul, hospitality must be an attribute of the overseers of the assembly:

“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the [assembly] of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-6, NASU).

“For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:7-9, NASU).

Peter indicates that hospitality is one sure way to exhibit love and serve one another:

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:8-10, NASU).

Paul says that godly widows should express their piety by being hospitable:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Messiah, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge” (1 Timothy 5:8-12, NASU).

Finally, it is critical to note this statement from the author of Hebrews, who points out that indiscriminate hospitality has its rewards. Unlike determining whether someone else is godly or holy, in this case simply extending hospitality to strangers just might result in hosting angels:

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:1-2 NASU).

Reviewing these passages and applying them to yourself, how would you rate your current level of hospitality? Are you only hospitable to persons who are perceived to be godly or holy? Are you expecting something in return for your generous hospitality? Or have you discovered the joy of giving freely expecting nothing in return? This form of hospitality epitomizes the agapē love of the truly born again followers of the Messiah Yeshua.

I believe that when the Lord sees an hospitable heart at work, genuinely extending hospitality to whomever a Believer encounters, I am confident that the blessings will flow. Whether such blessings are in the form of offspring as considered in the Genesis and 2 Kings passages, or are simply a personal attribute of an overseer or godly widow, it is obvious that our Heavenly Father desires His people to be hospitable when appropriate. Inevitably, His blessing will come because you love the brethren!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Lekh-Lekha

Haftarah Lekh-Lekha

“Choices That Renew Our Strength”

Isaiah 40:27-41:16


by Mark Huey

Lekh-Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), our Torah portion for this week, begins by familiarizing the reader with the exploits of the great Patriarch Abraham. In Romans 4 the Apostle Paul later described him as the father of the faithful. While Abraham is noted for his faith in the Almighty, we need not overlook the declared promise of God to bless those who bless Abraham, or contrarily to curse those who curse Abraham. Many of his physical descendants and spiritual onlookers down through the centuries have claimed to build their personal faith and trust in the God of Creation based on His dealings with Abraham:

“And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NASU).

Did you note in this often-quoted phrase, which delineates blessings and curses to Abraham’s respective benefactors or enemies—that God also says that in Abraham that all of the families of the Earth will be blessed? Is it possible that this reference is to the literal Seed of Abraham who would one day arrive as the Messiah Yeshua Himself? It is absolutely true that Paul appealed to Genesis 12:3 in Galatians 3:8, saying, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU’” (NASU). The ultimate blessing for all of humanity is the Redeemer and His accomplished work at Golgotha (Calvary). About eighteen-hundred years after the promise was made to Abraham, the blood sacrifice required to atone for the sin of humanity is completed. There can be no greater blessing for all the families of the Earth!

However, about seven centuries prior to the crucifixion, the words of the Prophet Isaiah to Ancient Judah—now considered in conjunction with Lekh-Lekha—were delivered to a people who would be in exile. Isaiah declares the eternal promises of God, and the choice that He has made to be faithful to His people who follow the patterns established by the life of Abraham. Just consider how the words of Isaiah 40:28-31, another frequently quoted set of verses, are great reminders of the faithfulness of God to His chosen nation of priests:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NASU).

Isaiah provokes his audience by asking simple rhetorical questions that force them to remember just who it is they are serving. He is an everlasting God, the Creator of the Universe—One who does not contend with human frailties evidenced in either weariness or being tired. Instead, the Lord actually gives strength to the weary and gives power to the tired. Even the youth who become tired and weary are given new strength. In fact, as Isaiah waxes eloquent with poetic terms, he describes people gaining enough strength like an eagle that soars high above or those who run without getting tired or walk without being weary.

How many times have you turned to these verses when you needed a lift as the challenges of life may have weighed you down? Have you ever meditated about soaring like an eagle above all of your cares and troubles, giving such cares and troubles over to your Heavenly Father?

Likewise, have you also reminded yourself of your inherited blessings promised to Abraham by our Creator? Are there times when you have been subjected to curses or cursing, and you simply remind yourself that because you are one who worships the God of Abraham that anyone who casts ill intentions your way will have to contend with the omniscient Creator?

As you read through the balance of our Haftarah portion as it extends into Isaiah 41, you should note that Isaiah repeatedly reminds his audience of just who it is they serve. The Lord is the one who is the first and the last:

“Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He’” (Isaiah 41:4, NASU; cf. Revelation 22:13).

Notice the similarity to the promise made to Abraham about being blessed in this passage, versus what God will do to those who contend with Israel:

“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish” (Isaiah 41:8-11, NASU).

Also be reminded that God continues to admonish His people that we are not to fear. After all, the Holy One is our Helper and Redeemer:

“For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you. Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; you will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, and will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, and the storm will scatter them; but you will rejoice in the LORD, you will glory in the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 41:13-16, NASU).

The concluding statements in this passage relate that Israel will be like a thresher which will chew up those who oppose them. This is a critical part of Israel’s destiny before the other nations of the Earth. Ultimately in being God’s instrument to declare His glory to the nations, Israel will naturally rejoice and glory in Him.

Of course the ultimate declarations come when His people went forth after the resurrection of His Son, declaring the good news of the accomplished work of the Messiah. Everything that God has purposed for His people in ancient times, He is accomplishing through them to this very day! Let us rejoice in not only the blessings, but confidently rest in God’s plan for the ages, trusting in His choice. After all, He continues to renew our strength and faith in order to proclaim Yeshua to our family, our neighbors, our fellow workers, and with whomever else we encounter who needs His love.

Let us thank the Lord for not only choosing us, but renewing our strength—so that we can choose to share Him with others!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Noach

Haftarah Noach

“Walking by Faith”

Isaiah 54:1-55:5 (A); 54:1-10 (S)


by Mark Huey

The cataclysmic Flood described in Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32) is undoubtedly the most memorable event that most of you will be considering this week. However, it is the post-deluge Noahdic Covenant that God unilaterally established with Noah and his progeny, which is reflected upon by the Prophet Isaiah as he attempted to encourage his contemporaries in Ancient Judah. Ultimately, it is the reference to a “covenant of peace” that the Holy One unilaterally instituted with His people, which is something worthy of shouting for joy.

If you will recall, God was so aggravated with the corrupt and violent direction of the human race that He had to destroy all the people of the Earth, except Noah and his immediate family:

“Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth’” (Genesis 6:11-13, NASU).

Further illumination about how an angry God was going to handle evil in the future is recorded after righteous Noah offered up sacrifices to Him as the Flood waters recede. Note that God declared what the evil heart of humanity is, promising to extend grace even though He knew unrighteousness would continue among people:

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’” (Genesis 8:20-22, NASU).

In a comparative manner, the blessing that God would never forsake Israel is what Isaiah describes as he foresaw and understood the brief moment in time when the Lord in His anger, would hide His face from His idolatrous people, allowing the Babylonian exile to take place. However, as this section of the prophecy declares, the punishment upon Israel would only be temporary. After briefly forsaking His people, He would eventually restore them with great compassion:

“‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. ‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer. ‘For this is like the days of Noah to Me, when I swore that the waters of Noah would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you. For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:5-10, NASU).

Here, Isaiah looks back to the ancient Flood in Noah’s time—and then into the future when an eternal covenant of peace will be instituted and never be shaken. These verses are promises that the Jewish people have held onto for millennia. Down through the centuries, whether sent off to Babylon or dispersed into the nations after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, these words have always brought great comfort and hope to many people. We eagerly look forward to their fulfillment some time in the future!

A few verses later, Isaiah describes not only Israel being established in righteousness, but the promise that the Almighty is sovereign over the affairs of His Creation. He not only creates the circumstances that refine His people, but He assures them that no weapon formed against them will prosper:

“‘In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the LORD” (Isaiah 54:14-17, NASU).

For Believers today, it is extremely comforting to know that the immutable Creator is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He does not change and His promises remain forever. “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6, NASU).

As our Haftarah reading concludes, the first six verses of Isaiah 55 also remind us that another unilateral covenant, one established with King David, is something that God’s people can look to in order to recognize that the Almighty always keeps His word and promises. This everlasting covenant ultimately points us to the Son of David—our Messiah Yeshua—who will one day rule and reign from Zion over the whole world (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-17):

“‘Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David. Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, and a nation which knows you not will run to you, because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.’ Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:1-6, NASU).

I have one, very interesting final thought. As you come to the end of this passage, Isaiah states that Israel “will call a nation you do not know” and “a nation which knows you not will run to you.” What is Isaiah talking about? Is it an ancient nation, or one that during his time did not even exist? Is it possible that Isaiah is referring to a modern-day nation or is he looking into the Millennial Kingdom? Is this a reference to Isaiah’s expectation of the restoration of Israel involving more than just Israel (Isaiah 49:6)?

The key to answering these questions may only come at that future time when Israel has finally been glorified. In that glorified state, the people will be seeking the Lord and calling upon Him while He is near. Let us make sure that we are all a part of this restoration, something which requires us to diligently follow Yeshua and obey our Heavenly Father. When we all arrive in His Kingdom, there are doubtlessly going to be many unknown things that He will finally reveal to us!

Our challenge in the meantime is to be a people who seek that place of glorification, recognizing that no matter how far we fall short in our pursuit of Him, God will never forsake us or leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). He will eventually and unilaterally bring us into His eternal covenant of peace. Such has been God’s promised pattern for dealing with His people since the days of Noah. May the Holy One hasten the day when His covenant of peace is finally realized!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.