Supplement to Hope Faithfulness and Joy
Dear P. J.
Thanks for your thoughtful questions. Your questions encourage us to try to find more light and more clarity in our search for truth.
You asked me if Isaiah really predicted that the Jews will remain faithful to God throughout this long exile.
My response: Yes, he did.
Look my friend. Isaiah tells us that the one who bears the glad tidings to Israel will just say one phrase: “Your God has reigned” (Isaiah 52:7; see also 40:9). That is all he will have to say to bring joy to the heart of Israel.
Furthermore, Isaiah describes how the nations will serve Israel in the Messianic era. Isaiah tells us that the purpose of this is: “so that you know that those who hope to Me will not be shamed” (Isaiah 49:23). It is clear that Israel will be identified as the people who had been hoping to God.
The verses I quoted in my original article (Isaiah 25:9; 26:2,9,13) all put words of hope and yearning for God in the mouth of Israel.
Yes, Isaiah does describe Israel as a nation that yearns for God.
Let us now focus on the revelation of God’s arm described in Isaiah 52:10.
The prophet associates this revelation with the consoling and the comforting of Israel(52:9). This concept is mentioned by Isaiah several times – 12:1; 49:13; 51:3; 54:4, 66:11,13, – all in relation to the final redemption.
This revelation is associated with the joy that Israel experiences in the Messianic era (52:9). Another theme that Isaiah keeps coming back to – 12:3,6; 35:10; 41:16; 51:3,11; 54:1; 55:12; 61:3,7; 66:10,14.
The revelation of the “arm of the Lord” is associated with a return to Zion, a return that will take place on a path that is pure (52:11). Isaiah provided another vivid description of this same return (35:8 – see also Psalm 126).
Throughout Isaiah we learn that the revelation of God’s glory will remove Israel’s shame, bring her glory before God, and bring shame upon her enemies – 24:23; 25:8; 41:11; 44:23; 45:16,17,24,25; 46:13; 49:23; 51:7; 60:15; 61:3,7; 62:3.
So how could you accept the Christian interpretation which propounds that a prominent theme of the Messianic era will usher in period of shame and embarrassment for the Jewish people for not accepting Jesus?
Do you really think it is just a wild coincidence that the very same term: “arm of the Lord” appears twice, just a few verses apart (52:9 – 53:1)?
“But is there no shame for Israel?” you ask. “Doesn’t Ezekiel speak of Israel experiencing shame in the Messianic era (Ezekiel 20:43; 36:31)?”
That is another good question, and I am glad you raised it. It will bring more clarity to our discussion.
On a simple level we can say that the Jewish people are divided into two camps; the righteous remnant and the rest of the people. We would then say that Isaiah was referring to the righteous remnant while Ezekiel was referring to the nation as a whole.
That is not a bad answer, and there is truth to it, but I think it runs much deeper than that. Please read Micah 7:7-10. The prophet speaks on behalf of Israel, an Israel that has sinned before God – but an Israel that still longs and yearns for God. An Israel that will be glorified by the revelation of God’s glory – to the utter consternation of her enemies.
Let me give you a parable.
In a village in the far reaches of the kingdom lived a people who were very far from the king. Not only were these people far in the sense of geographical location, but they were so coarse and unrefined, that they had no connection to the King’s cultured and refined ways. They all feared the King and had a grudging respect for him, but they did not try to follow his rules.
One day a new kid appeared on the block. He too, was not that refined and not that cultured, but this fellow tried to keep the King’s laws in his own uncultured way. The villagers gathered around this newcomer and asked him: “what are you doing?” The newcomer answered: “I am the King’s son, and this is what I do”. The villagers burst out in laughter. “You are the King’s son?!” – “No way!” The newcomer stuck to his story, and the villager’s resentment for this newcomer grew. They taunted him day and night and they made life difficult for him in every way they could imagine. They spread rumors about him that he is actually the son of the King’s greatest enemy (John 8:44), and after a while began believing the rumors that they themselves had spread. Every time this newcomer would violate one of the King’s rules, which would happen once in a while, the villagers would exaggerate the violation and announce it from the roof-tops so as to shame the newcomer. As time went on, and the newcomer’s suffering increased, the villagers argued that if he would really be the King’s son, the King would never allow him to suffer like this – but the newcomer ignored their taunts.
The day came, and suddenly the King himself appeared in the village and there they were in the village square – the King and the newcomer in a loving embrace – an embrace that could only mean one thing – he really is the King’s son.
The King of my parable is the God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth. The newcomer is Israel, God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:8). The villagers are those who pointed to Israel’s suffering as “evidence” that they are not God’s elect.
Yes, perhaps God will rebuke Israel, His son, for not doing a better job – but that is something between a Father and a son – and it is that limited rebuke that Ezekiel was talking about. That does not compare in the slightest to the shame that the persecutors of Israel will feel for their rejection of the King and his son, neither does it diminish the joy of the son’s ultimate vindication – the vindication that Isaiah described.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Parables can be misinterpreted and are only valid within the given parameters or context of the story. Christians might say that the son in your parable (which has similarities with parts of some NT parables) is like Jesus who was a newcomer who suffered because people did not believe him and his “unique” relationship to the king. They may say he did not actually sin, it was only that the people who were mistaken and thought he sinned.
But your parable said he did indeed make mistakes. And he did not show up in town teaching or preaching about following the king’s rules. He obeyed those same rules and he acted as an example, as a light. Nor was he there to judge the town folks. Nor was he there as a spy for the king. Now a heavenly king will not die some day, so he does not need a heavenly son. But the son of your parable, did have an unique relationship with his king, who was the same as the town’s king. And, again, he obeyed the king’s rules as any servant was supposed to and he did not bring nor did he make-up new rules.
Now, the people of Israel rejected the way of their neighbors (in more ways than 1), so they accepted Mono-theism and their God (unlike some gods of their neighbors) did not have or need a divine wife nor wives, nor many heavenly sons and daughters. But the nation as a whole had an unique relationship with God; as a nation of priests and a son (just like their man-king). The nation was sometimes seen as a son or as daughters (Judea & the Northern Kingdom, Iarael), and even as a “lover” and as a bride. But never did their relationship make them into divine beings. Their “sonship” was not earthly or biological, but it was a spiritual relationship. And most rules applied to even the “strangers in the land” and those strangers could become sons as well (or a daughter, like Ruth).
Although some hate to think of Israel (even a righteous remnant) as a “son” or as a “suffering servant, but there are very few, who even now before the Moshiach has come, who will deny that Israel and/or Jews has suffered unjustly (especially “innocents”, even if often many want to see it as “punishment” and even though they may say “a loving God doesn’t work that way and doesn’t punish” us while we are still living on earth.
Those who deny Israel is (Jor ews are) a son of God want to read certain of God’s words “out” of the bible and want to read their own ideas “into” the bible. But there is hope and joy for the faithful.
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My one point is that you may use a few sentences from Rashi or other commentators to try to use their “authority” or prestige to support your beliefs, however they wouldn’t have agreed with your arguments and it fact, they would be disputing with and would refute Christian messianic beliefs. You have failed to truly understand the Tanach and the commentators that you use.
You also try to discount verses in Tanach that were specifically written about David and other kings or other human beings. In some cases, you wouldn’t even apply them metaphorically to the individuals that the text were actually written about, but then you will turn around and claim them for Jesus who came perhaps 600 years later, although he never was a king or priest, except “metaphorically”. You say such deeds never happened & they are too unbelievable or too supernatural to be about the people those texts were written about (God can’t do anything He wants), but you do accept unsupported, unbelievable claims about Jesus, just because you want to (because now, God can do anything).
So, according to you a Psalm concerning King David isn’t about David (ignoring the words like “ask”. But to you supposedly the verse is about “the messiah” in the distant future (although why would that intended messiah need to ask God to do “the messiah’s” job?). So, I quoted Matthew 21.21, which supposedly says that Jesus gave to ordinary people (like me or you, no one special), these tremendously miraculous powers, such as being able to throw a mountain into the sea. If we ask. Did Jesus lie? Or were we deceived because he was only talking metaphorically again? Everything he said was a parable, but people naively take his words literally. Was he perhaps really talking about himself 2000+ years later? There are several other verses that makes no one a true believer of Jesus or else it makes Jesus a storyteller or else a straight-out liar. You are not being consistent; too much special pleading for Jesus, because you want to although you can’t move a mountain.
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