PESACH WEEK; PROPHECY'S ON-GOING FULFILLMENT
A week ago, Pesach week began with the Haftorah reading from Ezekiel 37; the Prophet is brought by the power of the Spirit of the LORD into a valley of dry bones and told to prophesy; as he is prophesying, the bones rattle and clash as they come together, become covered with sinew and finally with skin.
At this time he hears the LORD say: “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
This amazing resurrection story fits very well, for us Yeshua followers (I have come to prefer the original Hebrew version of our LORD's name to the Greek version, Jesus; He was, after all, a Hebrew not a Greek), into this particular Pesach time because it coincides with our celebration of the death and resurrection of the Sacrificial Lamb of God.
(I have written in previous blogs already about the wonderful CONVERGENCE that the Sovereign LORD, the Almighty Creator and King of the Universe, has been bringing into being right now in our time; HALLELUJAH!)
Before I continue with reflections on this Haftorah reading, let me give you the reading for today, the Shabbat that brings Pesach week to its conclusion; Isaiah 11 & 12:
It begins with: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord."
We Christians like to think that Yeshua, our Savior, is this Branch; I believe we are correct in this understanding, but may not realize the extent of the vastness beyond our understanding that is contained in this identification of the Branch and the Messiah.
I am personally exploring what I have believed about this equation of Branch with Messiah, and what I am coming to see as huge limitations in that understanding. I am humbled by the realization that the Sovereign LORD, the Creator and King of the Universe, the God of Israel, through His Holy Spirit is opening my eyes to see something of what He is beyond these limitations.
Yeshua himself, when He stood up in the Synagogue in Nazareth, His home town, to read from the Prophet Isaiah, terminates the reading in mid-sentence, and then declares to the listeners that this Scripture is fulfilled before their very eyes as He reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4)
We find when we read the passage in Isaiah 61, it continues on to describe a great deal more about this same person that Yeshua claims to be Himself. Why does He stop where He does?
Let's look at how that Isaiah passage continues:
"to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast."
Is it possible that He could not continue reading and still say, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” because, although it is all about Him, He would be lying to say that it was fulfilled on the day He read it?
I believe that to be the case.
The day in which,
"They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations",
is a day that is unfolding in the 19th, 20th and in the 21st Century, today, that is, some 2,000 years after Yeshua stood in that Synagogue in Nazareth to proclaim that He was here to fulfill what Isaiah was Prophesying; so, today, our today, He is saying to us that we are seeing this Prophecy being fulfilled in our hearing. That does not in any way detract from His declaration in Nazareth, it simply tells us that not all of His Messianic work was "fulfilled in [their] hearing".
Today we see "ruined cities" like Shiloh, seen in the photograph accompanying this blog, as archaeological sites with a re-establish and thriving modern community nearby; in this case, on the hill overlooking the ancient city, in the foreground, and site of the Tabernacle which housed YHVH's PRESENCE and where Samuel ministered to the LORD.
This restoration I suggest can be understood to mean that we, Yeshua followers, are, today, anticipating the coming of Messiah together with our Modern Orthodox Jewish friends, and probably, just as passionately as they.
To return now to the passage from Isaiah that is today's Haftorah passage, I want to reflect for a few minutes on the relevance of this passage to Yeshua followers.
"He will raise a banner for the nations
and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah
from the four quarters of the earth.
13 Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish,
and Judah’s enemies[g] will be destroyed;
Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,
nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim.
14 They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;
together they will plunder the people to the east.
They will subdue Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites will be subject to them.
15 The Lord will dry up
the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand
over the Euphrates River.
He will break it up into seven streams
so that anyone can cross over in sandals.
16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from Egypt"
When Isaiah says, "He will raise a banner for the nations", "nations" could read "Gentiles". We are to see, in the re-gathering of the "exiles of Israel", both from the House of Judah and the House of Ephriam, a re-united Israel. ("Ephriam" is used as the head of Northern Israel after the separation.)
Probably most of the Israeli citizens today are Jews, that is, from the House of Judah; but the Bnei Menashe, from India, and the Ethiopian "Jews", from the tribe of Dan, are already there to represent the House of Ephriam; so the process of Aliyah, return to the Land, today includes the return of members of both Judah and Ephriam in one Israel. All of them together are modern Israel; and this process continues.
But we must also see the involvement of the Gentiles in this process. The Prophets declare this, and it is happening. Many Gentile Christian Organizations are presently at work in Israel and around the world facilitating this move of God as He restores His people to His Land, the land that He covenanted to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants.
Grace and I, volunteering with BRIDGES FOR PEACE, participated in this process in Israel, and continue to do so now that we are back in Canada.
I will publish this for now with the promise to continue these reflections in the next blog. I'm intrigued by the fact that when the Ezekiel 37 bones receive God's breath and come to life, the stand "up on their feet--a vast army"; I take that to mean that the Sovereign LORD raises them up as "a vast army", rather that a community of farmers, the Prophecy includes awareness of the situation surrounding Israel as they return; their enemies necessitate the "vast army" designation.