Haftarah Reflections 17
Torah portion Exodus 18 : 1 to 20 : 23
Haftarah portion Isaiah 6 : 1 to 7 : 6 and 9 : 6,7
Listen to the Prophets
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”
What a triumphant exclamation to begin our parashah this week. Why? Because Isaiah “saw the Lord, high and lifted up”. An experience rare in our day I suggest.
Isaiah makes note of the timing of this word “In the year that King Uzziah died”, so it would be possible to spend a lot of time ‘reflecting’ on that king. In Judah, 19 kings ruled after Solomon’s death. Only 8 of them are described as ‘good kings’. Uzziah was one of them. He reigned for 52 years, starting when he was just 16 years old. He was successful. He brought prosperity to the land. He built cities, and fortified others to increase the security of the people. BUT ... there’s always a ‘BUT’ isn’t there?
Uzziah overstepped the mark. He grew proud of his considerable achievements, and, it seems, he thought himself ‘above the law’. He went into the Temple to offer incense on the altar. A role specifically forbidden for anyone other than the priests, who, to their credit, stood against the king. albeit unsuccessfully. The dreadful outcome for Uzziah was that as he argued with Azariah, the Chief Priest, God instantly struck him with leprosy in the very presence of the priests in the Temple, a condition which remained with him until his death.(see 2 Chronicles 26)
Jewish tradition has it that Isaiah was a cousin to Uzziah. In which case they would have known each other well. Maybe it was Uzziah’s death that caused Isaiah to see the Lord “high and lifted up” confirming that God will not be mocked, mistrusted or treated with contempt, by anyone, even a king. It was certainly a defining moment in Isaiah’s life. It heralded the beginning of his highly regarded prophetic ministry.
We are provided detail of the amazing encounter Isaiah experienced. Paraphrasing this experience, Isaiah thought he was finished. He had seen the King, the Lord of hosts. He might have recalled the time when Moses, that great servant of the Lord had asked the Lord to ‘Please, show me Your glory’ , and then he would have remembered the Lord’s reply “you cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). But in this unique experience, God commissioned Isaiah to speak for Him to the people of Judah, who, as the first 5 chapters of Isaiah makes clear, were again in a dark place regarding their commitment to the covenant promises made by their forefathers. Promises of which they were all aware (Deuteronomy 31:9-13). The Torah was publicly declared to all the people, by the priests, once every seven years (the ‘shemittah’ year) at the ‘mo’ed’ of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).
Furthermore, God instructed Isaiah to speak, not only to the people but also to kings. The fearful Rezin, king of Syria, was camped in Samaria, and moved to make war against the Judeans at Jerusalem. King Ahaz, Uzziah’s grandson, was terrified at the prospect. The Bible tells us that his heart, and the hearts of the people, fluttered like trees in the wind. But Isaiah met the king (just near what is the Mamilla Centre today), to encourage and strengthen him.
This whole story is interesting, but we need to find the lesson which is contained therein, by which we can benefit and learn.
As we stated at the commencement of this ‘reflection’, the experience Isaiah had of seeing the Lord was, and is, very rare. For that reason it is difficult to translate that encounter into modern day terms. But what we can take from it is the way that Isaiah dealt with his experience. So real was that experience, and his reaction, that God later entrusted Isaiah with the announcement of the coming of Messiah. A most accurate depiction of His coming.
Most, if not all the people who read this ‘reflection’, are doing so because there was a time when we had an encounter with God. The circumstance of each of us will be many and various. But every one of us came “through the same door”.
The first lesson then is to note that Isaiah took careful note of that which God spoke to him. And he acted upon it. It was not just an emotional, head knowledge experience. It was life changing. It was real. It struck at the very heart of his being, and became much more than mere verbal assent to what had happened.
I wonder how many of us, having had that encounter with the Lord which brought us to the place of acknowledging Yeshua as Messiah, and trusting Him as our Saviour, have experienced the inner drive to behave, act, think, speak, listen and generally conduct ourselves differently to the way we lived those things prior to our encounter. In simple terms, what differences are obvious in our life and lifestyle? What differences do our friends and family see?
Please understand, that as I ‘reflect’ on the Scriptures, I receive a challenge, every time, without fail. In love I pass on my challenges for your ‘reflection’.
You will be blessed as you ponder these things.