SINAI, TORAH AND THE PRESENCE
Torah and Haftorah readings for Shabbat coincide with an extremely significant time in Israel's history. Israel has embarked on an election process in which the world is very interested. The US is so interested that they, quite illegally, have dispatched personelle and money to fund V15, a group under the umbrella of ONE VOICE, and dedicated to work toward Netanyahu's defeat. This is clearly foreign US interference in Israel's elections; at the same time Mr. Obama refuses to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he comes to address the joint US Congress in March because he does not wish to appear to be meddling in Israeli elections.
Sounds hypocritical to me.
Our Torah passage begins with the account of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law suggesting to Moses that he "choose", (Hebrew "hazeh"--to watch, envision see prophetically, foresee) "men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain"; men with this mindset will help him lead/judge the people.
Precisely those qualities are needed in Israeli leadership today; in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. Israel needs leaders who will stand firmly against external pressure to give in to what is not in Israel's long term interest.
Having made the appropriate selections, Moses and the people arrive at Sinai. Here YHVH tells them that He has brought them to Himself. In the Deuteronomy retelling of this event, it sounds like this: "In a desert land [God] found him [Israel], in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The LORD alone led him". God brought Israel, "the apple of his eye", through the desert to the place He selected to speak personally to Moses, and to the people, giving them the Torah from the flaming top of Sinai.
Torah was their guide for all of life; it would, if they followed it, keep them on the straight and narrow way of blessing; if they strayed, they would pay the price.
The rest of their story underscores that principle; they know about paying the price; ironically, sometimes at the hands of Christians!
The Haftorah passage, Isaiah 6:1-7:6 and 9:6-7, brings a wonderful new insight into the Sinai Presence out of which YHVH speaks His Life-Giving and Life-Guiding WORD, TORAH.
Isaiah describes his own commissioning in terms that sound very much like the atmosphere on Sinai when YHVH came down on the mountain, in fire, lightning, smoke and thunder, to speak to Moses and the people; His Presence was frightening.
The Hebrew word, translated here as "Lord", the King sitting on the throne, is "God" or the "suffering Servant" in other passages. Whoever we understand Him to be, the train of this King's robe fills the temple where Isaiah sees Him. According to the Seraphs, however, this Holy LORD Almighty's glory fills, not just the temple, or mount Sinai, but the whole earth.
Isaiah feels "unclean" in the presence of this Holy Being; but, after an angel purifies his lips with a burning coal taken from the alter, he declares, " Here am I. Send me", in response to the King's, "Whom shall I send?". Once cleansed, he is prepared to take up his commission.
Isaiah quickly launches into prophecies of "the last days" (chapter 2) when "the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established...and all nations will stream to it...[and] The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem"; much is said about judgment and signs; and that brings us to the next piece of the Haftorah reading, Isaiah 9:6-7.
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."
Reading this together with Zechariah 8, where we again hear the LORD say, "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her....I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain", brings an astounding TRUTH into focus: we are living in a time when God is on the move in ways that are fulfilling explicitly prophesied events.
So, even when things sound negative, and violence abounds in and around Israel, we can be confident that YHVH's purposes are unfolding; He is on the throne, and His LAND, Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and all the rest of it, is in GOOD HANDS!