For the week of August 28, 2004 / 11 Elul 5764
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
First published the week of August 17, 2002 / 9 Elul 5762

Forgetting the Shame

You will forget the shame of your youth (Isaiah 54:4).

In this week's Haftarah, we read words of encouragement and hope given to the nation of Israel. Very strong relational language is used. Israel is pictured here as a woman who married young, only to be quickly abandoned by her husband who is God. Without husband and children, she is left to live like a widow the rest of her life.

In those days to be a childless widow was to be at the very bottom of society. With no sense of purpose and no hope for the future, childless widows were completely dependant on others for survival. It would have been better for them not to marry than to be in this condition.

Now, of course, God is not really a husband and Israel is not really a childless widow. But this word picture was chosen, because it so accurately describes the condition of Israel and the nation's relationship with God. Israel had been chosen as the object of God's great love and compassion. As his closest companion, Israel was to be a light to the nations of the world, a channel of blessing to all.

But as it turned out, and as it is the nature of human kind, Israel turned to its own way, thus distancing itself from God, and falling from a place of privilege and blessing.

But that is not the end of the story. Even in the midst of their dismal condition, they are told to sing and shout for joy (54:1), because God's kindness and compassion will be theirs (54:8).

The plans and purposes of God for Israel will be fulfilled no matter how things might look. The blessings of the future will be so great, that Israel will forget the shame of the past. All the years of desperation will seem like nothing once the people experience God's compassion in its fullness.

Note that they are not to wait until life gets better before celebrating - they are to celebrate now, because of what is coming.

And this is as true for the nation today as much as it was true in Isaiah's time.

And what is true for the nation is also true for the individuals.

So many people today live with a sense of shame since youth. We struggle day after day because of situations of the past or choices made during the early days of our lives. But with God there is hope. Difficult situations and bad choices need not control our lives forever. If we would cooperate with God and his purposes for our lives, he will cause us to forget the shame of the past.

Sometimes we think we owe it to the past to carry its pain. But while we need to deal with the painful events of the past, there comes a time when we need to look ahead to our glorious future that God has purposed for us because that is our destiny.

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