When God spoke to Moses from out of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, He gave Moses instructions on how to draw near to Him through the five different offerings. The important thing to remember is that this occurred after God brought them out of Egypt, from their bondage to slavery, and after He took them for His people through the covenant mediated by Moses. This system of offerings was designed to allow God’s already chosen and covenant people to draw near to Him. When we accept Yeshua as our offering that allows us to draw near to God, we need to realize that this happens after we are taken out of our slavery to sin. It is after this that we enter into the New Covenant.
How does this work? Are the offerings and sacrificial system instituted at Mount Sinai a shadow of salvation through Yeshua? How exactly are we redeemed from our slavery to sin? And how do we enter into the New Covenant? It all begins back in Egypt with the original Passover sacrifice.
Our haftarah portion this week tells the story of four lepers who brought good tidings to the besieged city of Samaria. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. At this time, Ahab’s son Jehoram, who is, also, called Joram, is king of Israel. Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, had been trying to take over Israel since the death of Ahab. After Elisha stopped an attempted assassination of Jehoram by Ben-Hadad, Ben-Hadad brought his army against Samaria and quickly surrounded it.
The inhabitants of Samaria were slowly starving to death and many of them had even resorted to cannibalism. The Samarians were in desperate need of good tidings of salvation! The improbable messengers of this good news were four lepers. Why did God choose four lepers to bring this news? Why did God wait so long to bring deliverance?
Most of us are familiar with the story of Yeshua traveling in the Galilee region, healing the sick and lame, and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. On one particular Sabbath, Yeshua was in the Synagogue at Nazareth and was invited to read from the book of Isaiah. After reading, Yeshua then goes on to tell those present that this scripture is now fulfilled in their presence. This is one of the most powerful and provocative claims Yeshua makes as to His office of Messiah!
After Yeshua finished further teaching, the Scribes and Pharisees present became very angry with Yeshua. What were they angry about? Were they angry at Yeshua for not finishing the Isaiah passage? Were they angry at His claim of Messiahship? Or was it something else? Was it something between the lines that set them off?
David faced many “giants” in his path to becoming the king of Israel. He faced lions and bears while he was a shepherd over his father’s flock. He faced the Philistine giant Goliath who held all Israel hostage to his demands. He faced the giant of rejection by his beloved King Saul. After Saul’s death, David faced rejection again when the leaders of the tribes of Israel rejected him from being their king even though they knew God had chosen and anointed him as king. Finally, David overcame and defeated the Philistines who tried to snatch the kingdom away from him after he had taken Jerusalem. The Philistines came at David from the Valley of Rephaim meaning the Valley of Giants and David drove them back almost to the Sea. When it was time to celebrate his victories, what better way to do that than to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the new capital city of Jerusalem?
The Ark of the Covenant was on the move to its new home in Jerusalem escorted by specially chosen men of Israel. This is reminiscent of the journey of the Ark of the Covenant to the Promised Land. Like with the journey in the wilderness, there were difficulties along the way. What were the difficulties and victories that David experienced in bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem? How does this journey warn and encourage us in our journey to God’s Promised Land?
Our Haftarah reading this week is perhaps one of the saddest passages in all of scripture. The prophet Jeremiah is delivering a sharp rebuke from God to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. The people had gone far astray into idolatry and adopted the worship practices of their neighbors. They had forsaken the covenant that God had made with them and rejected the prophets that God had sent to them.
They had perverted the sacrificial system and at best were just going through the motions in their offerings and sacrifices to God. They may have been doing what was commanded and bringing the proper sacrifices, but were they doing it for the right reason? Were the offerings coming from their heart in love for God?
One of mankind’s perpetual quests is to answer the question of “What is my purpose in life?” Mankind wants to know that who they are and what they do have significance and meaning. God says that, specifically, the nation of Israel, more generally, His chosen people, and by extension, all of mankind were formed for and by God. Our purpose is to declare God’s praises. This sounds like God wants us to be like robots predictably and on command shouting out praises. Can you imagine making and programming a robot to tell you how wonderful you are whenever you push a button? While this might be kind of cute and somewhat gratifying at first, the words themselves would be empty and without meaning. Alternatively, God could take the route of some of our more infamous dictators who demanded allegiance and praise which their subjects give out of fear of torture and death.
But, God doesn’t want either of these methods of praise. So, what kind of praise does God want? What are we to give Him praise for? How can we declare His praises if we haven’t called on Him and experienced His answers?
We have spent the last few weeks studying various aspects of the House of God or the Temple. We looked at King David who had a vision and desire to build a house for God. We looked at Solomon, David’s son and heir to the throne of a unified Israel, who was the actual builder of the House of God.
This week’s Haftarah is, in a non-leap year, part of a double portion called Vayak’hel/Pekudei. The two words mean assembled and accounts. Although this Haftarah officially begins with 1 Kings 7:40, the story of the House of God really begins with chapter six and continues through chapter eight.
Why spend so much time, three full chapters of 1st Kings on the building of the Temple? What is the significance of the Temple to us as believers in Messiah Yeshua?
This haftarah portion, 2 Kings 11:21 through 12:16 is about the offerings taken for repairing the temple of God during the reign of King Jehoash. Jehoash became king when he was seven years old and set his heart on repairing the temple.
The book of Exodus relates that in the wilderness, the offerings were immediately used to build the Tabernacle which was completed within six months. However, in King Jehoash’s time, the offerings were not immediately used for the needed repairs.
Why did it take so long to repair the temple? Why was the temple in need of such major repairs? How does the state of the temple reflect the state of the throne of Judah? What does this tell us about the time that Yeshua takes the throne?
The time period of this week’s Haftarah reading is a rough one for the prophets of the God of Israel. Ahab was king and we are hard pressed to determine whether he or his wife Jezebel are the worst of the pair. Undoubtedly king Ahab was one of the most powerful and successful kings of the northern kingdom. He expanded the political and commercial interests of the kingdom during his twenty-two year reign. However, Ahab also earned the reputation of being the most sinful and evil king to rule the nation of Israel.
This Haftarah reading contains one of the most well-known of the many miraculous stories involving the prophet Elijah. It is the story of the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah. But we will see that they were no match for the one prophet Elijah and the God of Israel.
Ezekiel was a priest and prophet who lived in Babylon at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God. Although Ezekiel wasn’t in Jerusalem to physically see this destruction, he saw it in a vision. Ezekiel also saw a vision of a new temple or house of God. In this portion of the scriptures, Ezekiel 43:10-27, God commands Ezekiel to describe this temple to the house of Israel.
Ezekiel 43:10 NKJV 10 "Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern.
A description of the altar follows this interchange, not a description of the temple. Further, why would describing the temple to the house of Israel make them recognize and be ashamed of their iniquities? And what patterns were they to measure?