“A Trembling Word”
2 Kings 4:42-5:19
2 Kings 7:3-20
by Mark Huey
Traditionally, during non-leap years on the Hebrew calendar, the Tazria-Metzora Torah portions are combined into one reading that extends from Leviticus 12:1-15:33. The subject of ritual impurity is often the primary focus, as the teachings deal with issues of: childbirth, post-childbirth prohibitions, menstruation, seminal discharges, and skin afflictions. (There is debate as to whether or not the skin infections actually involve “leprosy.”) Rabbinical teaching on Tazria-Metzora have often concluded that the skin eruptions specified are actually to be associated with the spiritual affliction of lashon ha’ra, or the evil tongue (gossip, slander, etc.). The remedy for these physical outbreaks has been separation from the community for an established period of time for remorse, repentance, and reflection.
When the Tazria reading is considered by itself, the Haftarah selection comes from 2 Kings 4:42-5:19. This details the story of Naaman, the commander of the marauding army of the Arameans, who was afflicted with leprosy. When both Tazria and Metzora are considered together, the Haftarah selection turns to 2 Kings 7:3-20, which details the miraculous adventures of the four lepers who discovered much needed provisions in the abandoned camp of the fleeing Arameans.
Whenever the Shabbat reading coincides with a Rosh Chodesh, as it does this week (24 April, 2009), the emphasis shifts to the final chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1-24), primarily because this prophecy communicates awesome statements about not only the future restoration of Israel, but also some of the actions of all humanity which will take place in the future:
“‘I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,’ says the LORD. ‘For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 66:21-23).
Just as the future New Heavens and New Earth that God promises to create will endure, so will selected priests and Levites during the Millennium be able to perform their responsibilities at New Moons and during Sabbath gatherings. The fact that “all flesh” (RSV) will come to God’s mountain in Jerusalem with their offerings is mentioned in the preceding verses:
“‘Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the LORD, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD’” (Isaiah 66:20).
For modern-day Messianic Believers, who recognize the sacrificial atonement of the Lamb of God, we see more details of how people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation will be affected by His plan of redemption as it unfolds:
“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth’” (Revelation 5:8-10).
This past week I read a book entitled Who Made the Moon? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008) by Sigmund Brouwer, and I was utterly amazed by the enormity and power of our Creator! Sometimes via another perspective—in this case from a scientific viewpoint—the grandiosity of God is communicated. All week long, I have been meditating upon His Creation, and how God brought it all into being. A genuine fear of the Lord, or what is included two times in Isaiah as “who trembles at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2, 5), kept coming into my spirit throughout the week. When finally I started to concentrate on this week’s Haftarah reading, I was delighted that His Word could communicate timely truths for those desiring answers!
Rather than try to overwhelm you with personal interpretations on Scriptures that speak of the future, please take time to read through Isaiah 66. I believe you will be blessed by all of the prophecies, which you can already see have been fulfilled to some degree such as a nation born in a day (Isaiah 66:8), or future words which will be accomplished in the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 66:19-23). As Messianic Believers, you will also note some of the statements regarding punishing those who eat unclean meats (Isaiah 66:15-17) as last week our Torah reading dealt with the kosher dietary laws. Yet among the different prophecies issued—and with them a certain variance of interpretation—we should all be quite aware of how all are admonished,
“Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: ‘Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, have said, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” But they will be put to shame’” (Isaiah 66:5).
We often encounter many religious people in today’s world, who while giving lip service to God, are not really “concerned about His word” (NJPS). To tremble at God’s Word is a privilege that unfortunately not all people demonstrate. As you make the effort to meditate upon what has been communicated to us by chosen vessels like Moses, Isaiah, and John—may we give thanks that our Creator loves us so much that He would not expect us to conduct our lives without some loving instructions! A loving Father so powerful as He, continually sustaining the cosmos, is beyond human ability to fully understand.
So with fear and trepidation, as we call upon Him, let us all praise Him for not only who He is—but that by His mercy, we have come to know Him who is life eternal!
This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.