UNITY: WITHIN ISRAEL, AND BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND JEWS
Last week I explored some of the implications of the phrase "People of the Way" as it was used to designate the early followers of Yeshua. Far from suggesting they were a new and separate entity from the Jewish People, they were identifying with the task Isaiah spoke of in chapter 40, where he hears "A voice of one calling". The context indicates that the voice is the voice of God calling to Isaiah with a message for the people.
This voice is calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.... And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken".
Isaiah's "What shall I cry?" indicates that he will not speak on his own, assuming that he knows the content of the message; he understands that it is the LORD's word that must be spoken. So we can trust that Isaiah will open something of the mind of the LORD to us as he continues. This oracle begins by establishing a truth that is absolutely necessary for us to understand and act upon if we are to understand ourselves, the world around us and the Creator of all things, ourselves, of course, included.
Isaiah is given these words to "Cry out":
"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." 9 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
The emphases above highlight the truth of which I speak: we are created in the image of God, He has knit us together in our mother's womb, but when compared to the LORD God Almighty, our Creator, we are like grass that withers, that has a very short life span. On the other hand, however, "the word of our God stands forever".
This Eternal, Almighty LORD God of Israel "tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." When Israel is in the Shepherd's care, there will be unity. The Torah reading for last Shabbat included Numbers 32 in which the unity of the people is of utmost importance to Moses.
Sondra Baras, who was with us here in Winnipeg recently, and who regularly publishes a meditation on the Torah portion for the week, points to the emphasis on unity among the tribes, particularly Rueben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh who were given permission to settle on the land conquered on the East side of the Jordan, and the other tribes who needed to cross the Jordan to conquer what the LORD had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob's descendants.
Take a break, click on the link and listen to Sondra's words:
In its crisis with Hamas, Israel, although there are many opinions, is experiencing a growing sense of unity. Pray that this will continue to grow and strengthen.
In conclusion, I take you back to last week's thoughts on "the Way". As we see ourselves more and more as people of the Way, who are called to "prepare the way for the LORD" so that all the world will know that: "15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. 16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. 17 Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. 18 To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? 19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it. 20 A man too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot. He looks for a skilled craftsman to set up an idol that will not topple. 21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. 25 "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. 26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing"
As this chapter concludes, we have a very clear indication that, if we accept the above call to "prepare the way for the LORD", we are working together with Israel, we are partners in this PREPARATION:
"27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint"
So, together with Israel, we Christians say, "The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth", and we will keep preparing the way till: "The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2: 14)