Last week at our Shabbat Service, our discussion questions included one about how we sanctify or hallow God’s name. Since, because of time constraints, we didn’t get to it to any degree, we assigned the question as “homework” for our congregation. It just so happens that this week’s Haftarah reading from the prophet Ezekiel is all about how God’s name will be sanctified or hallowed in Israel and the nations. Ezekiel is telling his readers, and us, that Israel will be regathered from their exile and reestablished in their land. Through this restoration, God will be sanctified or hallowed before the entire world. Everyone will see that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the creator of the universe. How is this sanctification accomplished by God’s actions and dealings with these other nations? Ezekiel’s prophesy in this Haftarah reading is primarily dealing with Egypt, however Egypt is often a metaphor for the nations in general.
Isaiah was a prophet to the kingdom of Judah during the reigns of four kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. During the seventy or so years that Isaiah prophesied in Judah, Judah was at odds with Israel. In the kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam the second ruled when Isaiah began to prophesy. At the time of Isaiah’s prophecies in chapters 27 and 28, Israel still existed as a nation, but judgment was quickly coming. In the midst of prophesying about judgment, Isaiah brings God’s words that judgment won’t be forever; restoration will come.
But this restoration was for a future time and Isaiah turned his attention to what was going on in Israel and Judah in the present. We know that the kingdom of Israel from the time of its inception under Jeroboam did evil in God’s sight. They continued to do so during the time of Isaiah. But what about the kingdom of Judah; were they following in the ways of David or doing evil like the kingdom of Israel? In what way did Isaiah chastise Judah in this passage What judgment was in store for Judah?
David was arguably the greatest Israelite since Moses, yet his passing is barely mentioned in the Book of 1st kings. In this week’s haftarah reading we see that David is about to die and we read of David’s last words to his son Solomon whom he had chosen as his successor.
Through all of David’s struggles, his victories, his defeats and his personal triumphs and failures, David had a heart for God and a deep desire to serve the LORD in spirit and truth. As he reached the end of his life, David desired to pass on this great legacy to Solomon; to see that his covenant with God would continue through his chosen heir, and that there would always be a Son of David on the throne of Israel.
Ezekiel was a priest who was taken into captivity with the first wave of captives as Babylon began the takeover of Judah. He prophesied during the entire time of the fall of Judah with his final prophecy fifteen years after the fall of Jerusalem. As a prophet among the captives, God sent Ezekiel to warn the children of Israel about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, to exhort them to repent of the acts that led to their exile, and to encourage them that God had not abandoned His people. The subject of this passage in Ezekiel, chapter 37 verses 15 through 28, is the reunification of Israel and Judah under one king of the lineage of David.
At the time of this prophecy, the northern tribes of Israel had been in captivity for over one hundred years, and the city of Jerusalem had recently been taken. The nation of Israel was no more; their leaders had failed them! However, God assured His people through Ezekiel that He still cared for them.
What did the future hold for the children of Israel? How could this deeply divided people become a nation once more? Who could they trust to lead them?
As believers, we should all pray for God’s wisdom to guide us each and every day. There is no better Biblical example of someone seeking God’s wisdom than King Solomon. God came to Solomon in a dream and Solomon asked God for an understanding heart. In the Hebrew the meaning of the phrase is closer to “a heart that listens.” What was he actually asking for and what was he specifically given? In our understanding, Solomon was the greatest example of a wise king. Our reading portion this week contains one of the best-known stories in the Bible. Even those who are not believers have most likely heard the story of the two women who claim that a single child is theirs, and how king Solomon solved this dilemma. But there is much more to this story than most people realize.
Amos was a prophet during the later years of the Kingdom of Israel. He prophesied during the same time as Jonah, Isaiah and Hosea, but Amos was not the typical prophet. He was by profession a breeder of sheep and a tender of the sycamore fruit.
Amos didn’t come from an established line of prophets, nor was he trained in prophecy at the school for prophets. He was an average man who tended his flock in Judah when God called him to become His prophet—His mouthpiece to Israel. The name Amos means burden or burdensome. It comes from the Hebrew word, aw-mas, #6006 in Strong’s Concordance meaning to load or impose a burden. In many ways, the theme of bearing a burden works its way through Amos’s message starting with the burden God laid on Amos.
Obadiah is an obscure prophet who most likely lived in the Sothern kingdom of Judah. The author of this book is generally identified as the same Obadiah spoken of in 1st Kings chapter 18, a contemporary of Elijah and a kind of chief of staff to Ahab the king of Judah. Jewish tradition says that Obadiah was a proselyte from Edom. It is quite interesting that the prophecy of Obadiah would speak of the destruction of Edom. However, judgement of Edom is often a biblical metaphor for judgement of the nations of the world as a result of their treatment of the nation of Israel.
The prophet Hosea prophesied during the later years of the kingdom of the northern tribes of Israel. Judgment was soon to fall on the kingdom by the hand of the Assyrian Empire. This passage in Hosea opens with God reminding Israel about Jacob’s journeys outside the Promised Land and God’s presence with him during those journeys. After Jacob’s death, God delivered his family from the slavery imposed on them by Pharaoh and made them into the nation Israel.
Why did God remind Israel of these particular events at this time? What message did He want backslidden Israel to take from the words of Hosea? How does this message encourage us today?
The book of Malachi may be very short, but it is full of prophetic significance. Malachi may not even be the proper name of the author of this book because the word is often used as a title and is from a root word which means ambassador, angel, king, or messenger.
The prophecies of Malachi were given during a time of relative peace in the land of Israel. Many of the Jewish people had returned to the land from captivity in Assyria, and then, later in Babylon. Although the people didn’t have complete autonomous rule of their historic homeland of Israel, the temple had been rebuilt, the priesthood was in place once again, and all was looking well… Or was it? The book of Malachi contains some very specific warnings to the priesthood and the people who have again failed to uphold their obligations under the Mosaic Covenant. And, once again we see the curse of Esau rise up as a thorn in the side of the nation of Israel. We see in the book of Malachi, in yet another generation, we see that the battle and animosity between the twin brothers of Jacob and Esau continues.
When David was old, two of his sons plotted to take the kingship after David. These two sons were full brothers sharing the same mother. The older of the two, Absalom, was killed when he attempted to overthrow and murder David to obtain the kingship. The second son was Adonijah whose efforts were more subtle but no less devious. As the oldest surviving son of David, Adonijah decided that he was the rightful heir to the throne of David.
This portion of the scripture is read alongside the Torah portion Chayei Sarah which includes the death of Abraham and the passing of the promise to his son Isaac. What do these passages tell us about the coming and the reign of God’s chosen Son?