WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING
Torah Portion: Parashat Ki Tavo
Shabbat: Sep. 2, 2023 | Elul 16, 5783
Torah: Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Prophets: Isaiah 60:1-22
New Covenant: Eph. 1:3-6; Rev. 21:10-27
TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT
Jesus’ Prayer For All Believers
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me”.
Coming Glory of Zion | Further Thoughts on Parashat Ki Tavo
[ The following concerns the Haftarah reading for parashat Ki Tavo. This is the sixth of the seven prophetic readings between Tishah B'Av and Rosh Hashanah that focuses on consolation for Israel in the eschatological future. ]
The Haftarah reading for this coming Shabbat describes the future salvation of the nation of Israel. The LORD promises to shine His glorious light upon the Jewish people and to reveal His glory, despite the hour of darkness and tribulation that comes upon the earth:
"Arise and shine (קוּמִי אוֹרִי) for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD (כְּבוֹד יהוה) has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine upon you (וְעָלַיִךְ יִזְרַח יהוה), and his glory will be seen upon you (וּכְבוֹדוֹ עָלַיִךְ יֵרָאֶה). And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip" (Isa. 60:1-4).
Sometime during the "plague of darkness" that represents the time of the Great Tribulation (i.e., the Day of the LORD and the judgment of the world), Israel will finally turn to the LORD and receive Yeshua as their long-lost Messiah (Zech. 12:10). The veil will finally be taken away, and all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26; Isa. 59:20). The Light of Salvation (אור הישועה) will be revealed and the glory of the LORD (כְּבוֹד יהוה) will radiantly shine (זָרָח) upon the Jewish people. The land of Israel will be like Goshen during the times of the plagues of Egypt as the world powers are all judged and destroyed. Then the survivors of the nations will understand that the LORD is indeed with Israel and will turn to Him in surrender as well. "And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 40:5). Yeshua will return to Zion to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth (Zech. 2:10-13).
(In this connection, it is tragic that most mainstream Christian denominations have fooled themselves into believing that they are the true recipients of ethnic Israel's blessings. In general, these denominations confuse God's plan for the nations (and for Israel) with God's plan for the Church. To verify this statement, check the "ecclesiology" of the largest Christian denominations in the world today. The creeds of Catholicism, Episcopalianism, Methodism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, etc., all suppose that the Church constitutes the "true covenant people of God" (i.e., "reconstituted Israel") and that ethnic Israel has therefore been displaced from her privileged position and even relegated to the dust heap of history. Of course theologians of these denominations might not overtly state that the church "replaces" Israel, but their ongoing disregard of the covenantal promises of God to the Jews and their systematic reinterpretation all the prophecies given to Israel suggest otherwise. What is mystifying about all of this is that there is clear teaching on the subject of ethnic Israel from the pages of the New Testament itself. As the Apostle Paul taught, the mystery (μυστήριον) of God's great plan of worldwide salvation includes the future restoration and glory of Israel (see Rom. 11:11-36). The mainline church leaders need to rethink their theological assumptions, especially since the world is fast approaching the Day of Judgment. Yeshua warned "the first will be last, and the last will be first" (Matt. 20:16). God's salvation was first given to the Jews, who were partially hardened (πώρωσις) by the sovereign hand of God so that the blessing of the new covenant might be extended to the Gentiles. This is the "first will be last" aspect. However, the Scriptures are emphatic that the Jewish people will indeed accept God's salvation at the end of the age and the prophetic utterances for ethnic Israel and Zion will be entirely fulfilled. This is the "last will be first" aspect.)
After the Great Tribulation period (i.e., Yom Adonai), Yeshua will establish the Millennial Kingdom on earth and all the exiled Jews will be regathered in Israel. Interestingly, the Jewish sages state that this will involve techiyat ha-metim (תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים), the resurrection from the dead (60:4). In addition, all the surviving nations will flow to land bringing gifts in praise and worship of the God of Israel (60:6-9). Rashi notes that the reference to the "camels of Midian" may allude to the patriarch Joseph who was restored to his father after exile. (In this connection, we see that Yeshua will be disclosed to the Jewish people, though He was disguised from them for a season.) "Those who fly like clouds" may refer to the souls of deceased Jews that are returned to Israel at this time (60:8). The walls of the City of Jerusalem will be rebuilt by other nations and foreign kings will serve God's people and give tribute (60:10). The gates of the city will be open for the wealth of the nations to be poured into Zion, and all the world will be subject to the Messiah's rule (60:11-12). "You shall suck the milk of nations; you shall nurse at the breast of kings; and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior (מוֹשִׁיעַ) and your Redeemer (גּאֵל), the Mighty One of Jacob (אֲבִיר יַעֲקב)." "Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation (יְשׁוּעָה), and your gates Praise (תְּהִלָּה).
"The Haftarah ends with the vision of the New Heavens and Earth, a place where God's glory will illuminate Zion forever: "the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your beauty" (60:19-20). This statement recalls Isaiah's earlier prophecy: "The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow" (Isa. 30:26). This statement perhaps alludes to the Millennial Kingdom, whereas the prophecy that God Himself will be the Everlasting Light (אוֹר עוֹלָם) pertains to "Heavenly Jerusalem from above" (see Rev. 21:23, 22:5). In either case, the imagery of intense light suggests an increased apprehension of God's Presence. "Now we see through a glass darkly (i.e., in enigmas: αἴνιγμα), but then, face to face" (1 Cor. 13:12). This is the image of eternal comfort, where Zion will be established upon the earth, just as God had always planned. "Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified... I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it" (60:21-22).
In short, this glorious haftarah portion describes the consummate salvation of the Jewish people (see Rom. 11:26; Isa. 59:20-21; Jer. 3:17; Ezek. 37:21; 39:25, Hos. 3:5; Joel 3:16, Amos 9:14-15, Mic. 7:15, Zech. 10:12; etc.). There can be no heaven until "all Israel is saved." God has promised Zion to become a praise in all the earth, and He will fulfill His word to the Jewish people. Therefore it is our earnest heart's desire to see Israel "arise and shine" because of the glory of God's salvation given in the Messiah Yeshua.
קוּמִי אוֹרִי כִּי בָא אוֹרֵךְוּכְבוֹד יְהוָה עָלַיִךְ זָרָח
koo'·mee oh'·ree kee va oh·reikh
ookh·vohd Adonai a·la'·yeekh za'·rach
"Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you."
God's Faithfulness to Israel
Did you know that the Brit Chadashah (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה), or "new covenant," is described in only one place in the entire Old Testament? Here is the relevant passage:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD (יהוה), when I will make a new covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה) with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my Torah (תּוֹרָה) into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, "Heed the LORD"; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me -- declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquities, And remember their sins no more. (Jer. 31:31-4)
Many Christian theologians stop here and ignore the surrounding context of this passage, namely, the remarkable promise that ethnic Israel would continue to exist as a unique people as long as the laws of nature are in operation:
Thus saith the LORD (יהוה) who gives the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, Who stirs up the sea into roaring waves, Whose name is LORD of Hosts (יהוה צְבָאוֹת שְׁמוֹ): If these laws should ever be annulled by Me -- declares the LORD -- only then would the offspring of Israel (זֶרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) cease to be a nation (גּוֹי) before Me for all time (כָּל־הַיָּמִים). Thus said the LORD: If the heavens above could be measured, and the foundations of the earth below could be fathomed, only then would I reject all the offspring of Israel (זֶרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) for all that they have done -- declares the LORD. (Jer. 31:35-37)
From this passage -- the only in the Old Testament that explicitly mentions the New Covenant of Yeshua -- it's clear that the continuation and perpetuity of the physical descendants of Israel (zera' Yisrael) is to be reckoned as sure as the very "laws of nature" that are upholding the physical universe. In other words, so long as there is a sun shining during the day and moon and stars during the night, Israel will continue to be a nation (goy) before the LORD for all time (kol-hayamim). Using another analogy, it is as likely for someone to accurately measure the extent of the heavens and earth than it is to suppose that the LORD will cast off all of the seed of Israel. Note especially the last qualifying clause of this verse, "for all they have done," indicating that the unconditional faithfulness of the LORD is not based on the conditional behavior of national Israel.
Have you seen the sun, moon or stars today? If so, you can be assured that the ethnic nation of Israel retains a place in God's plan. The gift and the calling of God is irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). עַם יִשְׂרָאֵל חַי / am Yisrael chai: "The people of Israel live!" Israel is God's "super sign" that He is faithful to His covenant promises. And since God keeps His promises to Israel, Christians can likewise trust that God's sovereign hand works all things together for good - even if at times things appear bleak and desperate (Rom. 8:28).
Addendum: I especially love this haftarah because it clearly proclaims God's faithful love (chesed) for the Jewish people.... One day the LORD will make Zion a praise in all the earth... That is part of the "burden" for this ministry, too: to encourage Christians to rejoice over God's faithful love for Israel: "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch" (Isa. 62:1). As followers of Yeshua, our prophetic destiny with Israel is linked. Ultiamtely there will be one "olive tree," one flock, and one people of God... God's faithfulness to Israel is directly related to His faithfulness to the church. After all, if God will not keep His covenant promises to ethnic Israel, what makes Christian theologians believe He will keep His promises to the "church"?
For those who read the Scriptures without an anti-Jewish bias, however, it is clear that God's love for Israel is constant and sure. "You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth" (Isa. 62:6-7). Indeed, when Yeshua read from the Haftarah of Isaiah regarding His ministry to Israel (Luke 4:18-19), he stopped short before reading about Yom Adonai - the day of God's vengeance - and of the future glory of Zion. His ministry was first to come as the world's Redeemer and then to come as Israel's Deliverer. In that coming day, Yeshua will "appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified" (Isa. 61:3).
May that great day come soon, chaverim!
John J. Parsons