For the week of September 9, 2006 / 16 Elul 5766
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Delineation of Responsibility
The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the pine, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place of my feet. (Isaiah 60:13)
The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures paint a picture very different from the ones that cover the front pages of our daily newspapers. One such example is found in this week's Haftarah. Isaiah speaks of a time when the nations, including those who historically (and currently) are antagonistic toward Israel will bless her and worship her God. There is even a reference to Lebanon, which tells us that some of the best that Lebanon has to offer will be used to adorn God's house in Jerusalem.
The ongoing antagonistic situation between Israel and her neighbors makes it difficult for us to see how the words of the prophets will come to pass. I hesitate to speculate how God will accomplish his purposes in the world. I know he will do what he says he will do, but how he does what he does is beyond my understanding. The Bible contains many examples of God's working out his purposes in the lives of individuals and in nations. If we would read these stories from the perspective of the people involved at the time, I think we would see that they rarely were able to anticipate how God would do what he said he would do. Even those who believed he would do what he said he would do, were often amazed at how he did it.
So as we read the predictions of the prophets, we need to be careful not to speculate over how God will do what he said he would do. What we need to do are those things that God has told us to do. He will take care of the things he said he would do.
Understanding this delineation of responsibility doesn't mean that God doesn't want us to know what he is going to do. For example, in this case he wants us to know that Israel's enemies will experience a change of heart. He wants us to know that the nations of the world will one day submit to him. But we also need to know why he has revealed such things to us.
Before we try to answer that question, there is a very important part of the overall picture that we need to see first. It is something that is also found in this week's passage. Not only will Israel's enemies experience a change of heart toward Israel and Israel's God, but Israel herself will also experience a radical transformation. For example, referring to the people of Israel:
When Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East relate to Israel in the way Isaiah describes, it will be with an Israel who truly knows God. It will be an Israel of a changed heart. An Israel who shines with the light of God.
So God will bring about radical changes among all the nations of the world including Israel. That's what he is going to do. But what is our part? What in the meantime are we supposed to do?
First, we must pray. Yeshua taught us to pray like this: " Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." God's will for the Middle East is found in the writings of the prophets. God's will is not being done in the Middle East of today. We need to pray that the changes God said he would do, will happen. But as we pray, let us remember to pray for all parties involved: for both Israel and the other nations. It is not God's will that anyone perish, but that all may come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Second, we need to accept that only the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, can establish peace and that this predicted change of heart will only come about as we introduce people to him. All other works and strategies will only accomplish so much. Until the nations, Israel included, receives Yeshua the Messiah, things will continue in a way much as they are now.
Sadly there are others, who while claiming faith in Yeshua, think there is an alternate way of salvation for Israel without him. Equally tragic is the tendency to think that while accepting that Yeshua is the only path to peace and to God, he will make that happen without our being involved in the process.
While God is the author of salvation, he has determined that we will experience that salvation through the preaching of the good news of Yeshua's coming. It was a small group of Yeshua's Jewish followers two thousand years ago, who were told to teach the nations about him and his ways.
The events of our days might discourage us. That the nations involved in these events are resistant to the truth and love of God offered us in Yeshua might also discourage us. That is precisely why we need to know that God will do what he said he will do. Knowing that, we can be encouraged to keep on doing what we need to do - the proclaiming of the reality of Yeshua the Messiah to all people.
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