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Haftarah for Yitro: Vision and Reality

Vision and Reality

Further thoughts on the Haftarah for Yitro

by John J. Parsons

When Isaiah was given his awesome vision of the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, with the seraphim crying out to one another: "Holy, Holy, Holy... " so that the walls of the sanctuary tottered and the place was filled with Clouds of Glory, the LORD asked, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Isaiah then boldly replied, "Here I am! Send me!" (הִנְנִי שְׁלָחֵנִי). God then commissioned the prophet with these words: "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed" (Isa. 6:9).

קדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת
 מְלא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ

kadosh · kadosh · kadosh · Adonai · tzeva'ot
 me'lo · khol · ha'aretz · kevodo

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!"
(Isa. 6:3

Yeshua often spoke in the form of a parable (παραβολή) to "code" his meaning, to make it accessible only to those who were genuinely willing to make comparisons, to reason analogically, and so on (Isa. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:13). He used "indirection," allusion, allegory, and "figures of speech" (παροιμία, lit. "[speech] beyond the usual way"), in order to provoke people to explore and ask the hard questions about life... The message given to Isaiah was ultimately a prophecy of the rejection of the gospel message of Yeshua: "Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive" (Matt. 13:14-15; Luke 8:10). This was a dark saying, a mystery, since "God so loved the world" that He disguised himself as a bondservant to die in shame upon a cross; "God so loved the world" that he became entirely unesteemed -- "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). Yet even Moses foresaw the stupor of the people in relation to the truth of God (Deut. 29:4). Regarding the "hiding of face," in His sovereign judgment God decreed: "They know not, nor do they discern, for he has smeared their eyes so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand" (Isa. 44:18). God "gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own devices" (Psalm 81:12; Rom. 1:24); they went "backward and not forward" (Jer. 7:24). This was not a blindness induced by the "god of this world" as much as it was a darkness induced by the flesh and its apathy toward God. The mind became dull and sleepy because it ceased to believe in the miracle - and to realize that God's truth is always something extraordinary, spectacular, and wonderful...

Before he offered himself for our sins, Yeshua plainly explained the plan of salvation to his followers apart from "figures of speech" (παροιμία) he often used. His disciples then said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech. Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God" (John 16:29-30). Upon hearing this, Yeshua then rhetorically asked, "Do you now believe?" Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone..." (John 16:31-32).

We have to want healing before we will be given it, and that implies that we understand who we are and how desperate our condition really is... When Isaiah saw the LORD, he abandoned his "flesh" (i.e., his ego and all its trappings) and realized his inherent impurity. He saw the infinite distance between whatever story he told about himself and Reality... It would require a miracle on the order of creating the world yesh me'ayin - "out of nothing" -  to produce the boldness and grace for the heart of a sinful human being to speak on behalf of God. Likewise, the illusions of the disciples themselves had to be dashed before they could become true witnesses of the glory of Yeshua and His resurrection....

But what if you were so asked, as was Isaiah? What if you said to God, "Hineni, shelachteni!" (Here I am, send me!), only to be told to go tell others to "keep on hearing, but do not discern; keep on seeing, but do not understand." Would you be up to this task? Would you have passion to follow through with this call of God? And yet is that not precisely our task to this benighted and moribind generation, chaverim?

This line of thinking leads to the rather obvious question as to whether we really want to serve God - in the truth - or whether we are only interested in the good things He provides... I realize this is not necessarily an "either-or" proposition, but our motives before God need to be checked on occasion.  Do you really want to serve the LORD, to follow Yeshua, to take up the cross? Are you willing to give up everything to know Him?

May God help us never to "trifle" with Him, to play "religious games," and thereby fool ourselves... "God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (πίστει ἀληθείας) - 2 Thess. 2:13. It is the truth that sets us free, and for the truth Yeshua gave Himself up for us: "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37).

By the grace of God "we are what we are" (1 Cor. 15:10), and therefore God perfectly understands that we can't give away what we don't have ourselves... "God chooses what the world thinks is foolish to put to shame the so-called wise, and God chooses what the world thinks is weak to put to shame the so-called strong. And God chooses what is insignificant and despised in this world - even things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast in the Divine Presence" (1 Cor. 1:27-29). Contrary to the propaganda of this evil world, God helps those who can't help themselves, chaverim, and therefore our hope is in Him alone for all that really matters. Shalom.

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