שׁובה אלי כי גאלתיך׃
Like a thick cloud, I wipe away your offenses; like a cloud, your sins. Come back to me, for I have redeemed you."
(Isa 44:22 CJB)
Parasha Vayikra introduces us to the five main types of offerings to be brought on the Temple's altar. These offerings are to be brought with a sincere and true heart desiring to approach HaShem in a clean, honoring manner.
A SEMBLANCE OF RELIGION
The time of the prophet Isaiah is a time of moral corruption. The ceremonial aspects of the Torah were performed but only in a perfunctory manner in order to retain their standing with HaShem; externally correct, internally corrupt. This is a perfect example of "religion" resembling what Yeshua told some of the Torah-teachers of His day:
"Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P'rushim! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead people's bones and all kinds of rottenness.
(Mat 23:27 CJB)
In his training of young leader Timothy, Paul foresees the same happening in the days preceding the return of Yeshua. He says:
Moreover, understand this: in the acharit-hayamim will come trying times. People will be self-loving, money-loving, proud, arrogant, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, uncontrolled, brutal, hateful of good, traitorous, headstrong, swollen with conceit, loving pleasure rather than God, as they retain the outer form of religion but deny its power. Stay away from these people!
(2Ti 3:1-5 CJB)
Even so today, we can eat kosher, stop working on Shabbat, do a Passover Seder, but if our hearts are not cleansed from the negative attributes mentioned above, as well as from every intolerance, grudge, unforgiveness, and desire of revenge, we are no better than the hypocritical Torah teachers Yeshua was addressing and have become in the words of Peter and Jude:
... Waterless springs ...
(2Pe 2:17 CJB)
Filthy spots at your festive gatherings meant to foster love; they share your meals without a qualm, while caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; trees without fruit even in autumn, and doubly dead because they have been uprooted;
(Jud 1:12 CJB)
In such a way was the Torah practiced in Israel so that HaShem had to send Isaiah to put them in front of the mirror of Torah so that they may take a look at their own selves.
About the mirror of the Torah, James warns us:
For whoever hears the Word but doesn't do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror, who looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
(Jas 1:23-24 CJB)
The very definition of a hypocrite is that of a person who professes to believe in something but doesn't act on it (correct on the outside but corrupt inside).
The man James refers to is one who watches his face as the Torah shows it to him, sees that he has "egg" on his face and says, "So what; everybody has egg on their face. It's the new fashion!"
As we see how the Torah reflects us, we must take action to "clean up our act." As we study and learn everyday, the Torah will also gradually reveal more of that "egg" on our face:
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining ever brighter until full daylight.
(Pro 4:18 CJB)
HASHEM'S REACTION TO HYPOCRITICAL, INSINCERE SERVICE (or how NOT to serve HaShem!)
The people I formed for myself,
so that they would proclaim my praise.
(Isa 43:21 CJB)
The primary purpose of our existence is to give HaShem praise and glory, just as Paul reminds us:
Whatever you do, whether it's eating or drinking or anything else, do it all so as to bring glory to God.
(1Co 10:31 CJB)
Israel was like a wife who did the cooking and the cleaning but only in a perfunctory manner. She never called on her husband for simple, intimate fellowship. She was like a bored wife, ungrateful for the bounties of her husband.
But you haven't called on me, Ya`akov; because you have grown weary of me, Isra'el.
(Isa 43:22 CJB)
Worship and offerings were continually offered in the Temple but because of the spirit in which they were offered, for HaShem, they were the same as Israel offering a "burden of sin."
You have not brought me sheep for your burnt offerings, you have not honored me with your sacrifices. I didn't burden you by requiring grain offerings. or weary you by demanding frankincense. You have not spent money to buy me sweet cane or filled me with the fat of your sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your crimes.
(Isa 43:23-24 CJB)
HASHEM, THE FAITHFUL COVENANT KEEPER
In spite of Israel's unfaithfulness, HaShem retains His faithfulness to the covenant He made with the patriarchs, not because of Israel's perfunctory prayers and offerings, but for His own sake, and to show what it means to be faithful to a covenantal promise.
I, yes I,
am the one who blots out your offenses for my own sake;
I will not remember your sins. Remind me when we're in court together -- tell your side, make the case that you are right.
(Isa 43:25-26 CJB)
Isaiah continues making the case about Israel's sin. He continues to exposes their corrupt, degraded, and decadent situation. Neither Abraham nor any of the patriarchs and prophets are spared in the expose. Israel is made to sound hopeless and subject to divine rejection.
Your first father sinned,
and your spokesmen rebelled against me.
Therefore I repudiated the officials of the sanctuary, delivered Ya`akov to the curse of destruction, and subjected Isra'el to scorn.
(Isa 43:27-28 CJB)
THE "SERVANT" CHAPTERS or the Book of Consolations (Isaiah 40-66)
Many scholars call that part of the Book of Isaiah Deutero-Isaiah, or Second Isaiah.
This whole section is meant as an encouragement to the exiled sixth century BCE Judean community. Instead of judgement, the prophets tell us of the fall of Babylon, the return, and the hope of redemption in the Messianic Age.
Throughout Isaiah 40-66, the "Servant" seems to have a double identity. Sometimes he is Israel, as is the case in Isaiah 43, and sometimes He is the Agent of Israel's redemption (Messiah), as is the case in Isaiah 53, the passage that Matthew, John, Luke, Peter, and Paul describe as pertaining to Yeshua (Mat 8:14-17; John 12:37-41; Luke 22:35-38; 1 Peter 2:19-25; Acts 8:26-35; Romans 10:11-21).
The difference between the times when Isaiah refers to Israel as whole or to one person can often be found in the singular or plural pronouns used in the Hebrew text, a detail which is lost in the English translation.
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
In this prophecy, HaShem addresses Israel as His chosen favored servant.
"Now listen, Ya`akov my servant,
Isra'el whom I have chosen:
Thus says Adonai, who made you,
formed you in the womb,
and will help you:
Don't be afraid, Ya`akov my servant, Yeshurun,
whom I have chosen.
(Isa 44:1-2 CJB)
The picture is of a father crying for the destitute, desolated fate of the prodigal son. "Yeshurun" is a Hebrew word of endearment that could be compared to saying, "my beloved one." HaShem is encouraging his wayward son with the comforting words of a brighter future.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring. They will spring up among the grass like willows on the riverbanks.
(Isa 44:3-4 CJB)
HaShem speaks of a time when people will be proud to mention that they belong to Him. Even adoptees!
One will say, 'I belong to Adonai.' Another will be called by the name of Ya`akov. Yet another will write that he belongs to Adonai. and adopt the surname Isra'el."
(Isa 44:5 CJB)
According to Jewish texts (Bamidbar rtabah 8:2), this represents four sections of the greater messianic Israel:
- One will say, 'I belong to Adonai.': represents the godly person of the nation of Israel who walks according to the Torah of HaShem
- Another will be called by the name of Ya`akov: represents the Gentile proselyte who has undergone a full formal conversion to Judaism.
- Yet another will write that he belongs to Adonai.: represents the penitent Jew returning to Torah.
- and adopt the surname Isra'el.: represents the God-fearer Gentile who adopts Israel as his own.
In this interpretation of Isaiah 44:5, early Jewish sages saw a time when Gentiles, proselytes, and God-fearers would adopt the God of Israel as their own. The same idea can also be found in the Keil Delitzsch commentary of the Old testament.
HASHEM'S CASE TO ISRAEL AGAINST MAN'S IDOLS
I was first and will be last:
Thus says Adonai, Isra'el's King and Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva'ot:
"I am the first, and I am the last;
besides me there is no God.
(Isa 44:6 CJB)
They can't talk nor understand. Let them talk to you, tell you the past, and the future, if they can!
Who is like me? Let him speak out!
Let him show me clearly what has been happening since I set up the eternal people; let him foretell future signs and events.
(Isa 44:7 CJB)
HaShem reminds the people of His warnings at Mt Horeb, of the Rock of His promise which gave them water, as well as the ein-Gedi rock that protected King David from King Saul.
Don't be frightened, don't be afraid --
Didn't I tell you this long ago?
I foretold it, and you are my witnesses.
Is there any God besides me?
There is no other Rock --
I know of none."
(Isa 44:8 CJB)
The futility of idolatry when you have HaShem as God
A jab at idolatry!
All idol-makers amount to nothing; their precious productions profit no one; and their witnesses, to their own shame,
neither see nor understand. Who would fashion a god
or cast an image that profits no one anything?
All involved will be ashamed, but more than anyone else, the people who made them. Let them all be assembled, let them stand up; let them fear and be shamed together. A blacksmith makes a tool over burning coals; with his strong arm he shapes it with hammers. But when he gets hungry, his strength fails; if he doesn't drink water, he grows tired. A carpenter takes his measurements, sketches the shape with a stylus, planes the wood, checks it with calipers, and carves it into the shape of a man; and, since it is honored like a man, of course it has to live in a house. He goes to chop down cedars; he takes an evergreen and an oak; he especially tends one tree in the forest, plants a pine for the rain to nourish. In time, when it's ready for use as fuel, he takes some of it to keep himself warm and burns some more to bake bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, carves it into an idol and falls down before it. So half of it he burns in the fire; with that half he roasts meat and eats his fill; he warms himself; says, "It feels so good, getting warm while watching the flames!" With the rest of the log he fashions a god, a carved image, then falls down before it; he worships it and prays to it. "Save me," he says, "for you are my god!" Such people know nothing, understand nothing. Their eyes are sealed shut, so that they can't see; their hearts too, so they can't understand. Not one thinks to himself or has the knowledge or the discernment to say, "I burned half of it in the fire, baked bread on its coals, roasted meat and ate it. Should I now make the rest an abomination? Should I prostrate myself to a tree trunk?" He is relying on ashes! A deceived heart has led him astray; so that now he won't save himself, just won't say, "This thing in my hand is a fraud!" "Keep these matters in mind, Ya`akov, for you, Isra'el, are my servant. I formed you, you are my own servant; Isra'el, don't forget me.
(Isa 44:21 CJB)
A Point About idolatry
A person from a religion that uses idols as a form of worship would probably reject this biblical simplification of idolatry. Devoted idolaters do not worship the statue or the material the statue is made of. The statue is a mere physical representation of the demonic spiritual reality and authority that they are devoted to. This agrees with Paul's idea of idolatry:
No, what I am saying is that the things which pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice not to God but to demons; and I don't want you to become sharers of the demons!
(1Co 10:20 CJB)
In His prophecy to John on the Isle of Patmos, Yeshua uses the same jab at idolatry:
The rest of mankind, those who were not killed by these plagues, even then did not turn from what they had made with their own hands -- they did not stop worshipping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.
(Rev 9:20 CJB)
This idea that idolatry is not to worship wood or stone but rather spiritual powers and authorities of the spiritual realm should make us take a closer look at what it means in our days. It should make us check our hearts as to what authorities we serve.
Do we serve Mammon, the god of money? One doesn't have to be rich to do that. It is found in the desire, greed, and lust that Yeshua said is found in our hearts and make us unclean (Mk 7:21-23). Or Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry by excessive drinking? Do we serve Mars, the god of war, through lust for power and inability to keep from vengeance? Or Janus, the two-faced god of hypocrisy, by not walking our talk? Edon, the god of pleasure, by an innate desire to feel good? Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual pleasure? There are many others we can ask ourselves about. The main one may be the god of self, which we serve in our innate sense of individuality, wanting our own way and complaining when HaShem takes over our lives to do things we don't like.
I read an interesting article written by an orthodox rabbi called: THE PAGANISATION OF WESTERN CULTURE. Click HERE for a link to it.
REDEMPTION IS STILL ON THE TABLE!
Like a thick cloud, I wipe away your offenses; like a cloud, your sins. Come back to me, for I have redeemed you." Sing, you heavens, for Adonai has done it! Shout, you depths of the earth! Mountains, break out into song, along with every tree in the forest! For Adonai has redeemed Ya`akov; he glorifies himself in Isra'el.
(Isa 44:22-23 CJB)
This promise reiterated by Jeremiah:
I will cleanse them from all their sins, through which they offended me; and I will pardon all their sins, through which they offended and rebelled against me.
(Jer 33:8 CJB)
"LIKE A THICK CLOUD"
Here is an excerpt of a commentary on that passage by commentator John Gill:
"Sins and transgressions are compared to clouds, for the number of them, ... as clouds are vapours rising out of the earth and sea, so these arise out of the earthly and corrupt heart of man, which is as a troubled sea; and, like the clouds, they reach up to the heavens, and the cry of them calls aloud for vengeance from thence; they cause darkness, even all that darkness, both in unregeneracy, and after conversion; they intercept the light of God's countenance, and interpose between God and the souls of men, and cause him to hide his face from them; they come between them and the sun of righteousness, and cover him out of their sight; ... and they portend a storm, and threaten with a tempest of divine wrath and vengeance; but HaShem graciously forgives them; which is meant by "blotting" them out. Clouds are blotted out either by the wind dissipating and scattering them; or by the sun breaking through them, conquering and dispersing them, which perhaps is alluded to here."
Yeshua truly is the Sun of Righteousness that dissipates Israel's cloud of sin.
But to you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will break out leaping, like calves released from the stall.
(Mal 4:2 CJB)
MAY HE DISSIPATE SIN FROM OUR HEARTS LIKE A CLOUD AS WE DISSIPATE THE LEAVEN FROM OUR HOUSES IN PREPARATION FOR PASSOVER.