Light from the Sidra

Re'eh ('Behold'') 23 August 2014. 27 Av 5774.

Torah: Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. Isaiah 54:11-55:5

Please note that unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from Tanach (The Artscroll™ Series/Stone Edition, April 2013. Published and Distributed by Mesorah Publications, Ltd, 4401 Second Avenue / Brooklyn, New York 11232)

The return of David

David was the greatest of all Israel’s kings. He was the man ‘after God’s heart,’ loving justice and mercy, and walking humbly with his God. Future kings of Israel were compared to him and just as no prophet arose in Israel like Moses, no king arose like David. In 2 Samuel 7, God established a covenant with David under which he promised to establish his kingdom and the kingdom of his son forever.

The Babylonian exile appeared to put an end to the kingdom and throne of David but the prophets foresaw a day when David would once again reign over the fragmented tribes of Israel. Pious Jews have always understood the promise of David’s future reign to be a reference to a descendant of their greatest king.

Covenants are crucial to understanding the message of the Bible. When HASHEM redeemed Israel from Egypt he entered into a covenant with them, of which Deuteronomy is the covenant document. In Isaiah 55:3 God promises to make an ‘everlasting covenant’ with Israel. Jeremiah calls that covenant, a ‘new covenant’ that will ‘not be like the covenant [he] made with their fathers, when [he] took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, so that [he] rejected them’ by exiling them to Babylon (Jeremiah 41:31f. Tanakh – The Holy Scriptures, The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, ©1985).

This week’s Parasha in Deuteronomy instructs the Jewish people about how God is to be worshipped and how they were to punish false prophets; how they were to treat their fellow Israelites and how they were to keep his festivals.

Isaiah writes prophetically to the nation in exile; a nation suffering because it has disobeyed had disobeyed the Torah by following false gods, tolerating false prophets and mistreating their fellow Jews. But Isaiah’s message is one of hope. In chapter 55 HASHEM comforts Israel with the announcement that redemption is going to take place; a greater exodus is going to happen.

There was to be a return to Zion, a new exodus with a new, everlasting, unbreakable covenant that would bring Israel into the ‘enduring loyalty promised to David’ (Isaiah 54:3). The enduring loyalty was the promise of 2 Samuel 7:16 in which God promised that David’s kingship would always be secure and his throne would be established forever.’

Israel’s persistent unfaithfulness to the Mosaic covenant resulted in the nation being exiled but God’s covenant with David was a source of hope for the prophets because of its unconditional nature. Although David’s lapse of faithfulness to God and his people in the Bathsheba affair resulted in the king being severely chastised, God’s covenant with him and his family remained intact.

Furthermore, in Isaiah 55, HASHEM expands his covenant with David. David will rule not only over Israel but he will also be ‘a leader of peoples [not just Israel], a prince and a commander of peoples’ (verse 4). Israel will be brought into this new covenant under which ‘David’ will rule the world from an enduring throne.

But at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy David was long dead. How would the ‘enduring loyalty promised to David’ manifest itself? The Soncino Chumash interprets the verse as a Messianic promise; ‘David’ is a reference to the Messiah, Israel’s supreme representative.

How is Israel to enter into the ‘enduring loyalty promised to David’? The answer is in the preceding verses: ‘Ho, all who are thirsty; come for water, even if you have no money; come, buy food and eat; buy food without money, wine and milk without cost…’ (Isaiah 55:1. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures)

The blessings of Messiah’s new covenant are free to all: Jews and non-Jews. The only condition for entry into its benefits is that you are spiritually thirsty, hungry and penniless.

For Jewish people this passage is extremely problematic because since the Babylonian exile no descendant of David has ever sat on the throne of Israel. Furthermore, no would-be Messiah could possible prove descent from David because Israel’s genealogical records went up in smoke, literally, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The last Messianic claimant who was able to prove descent from David was Jesus of Nazareth.

Around the world today, thousands of Jews and millions of Gentiles acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messianic son of David. They follow him as their ‘Leader’, ‘Prince’ and ‘Commander’ and enjoy the blessings of the ‘enduring loyalty promised to David’ in Isaiah 54:3; the Messianic new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. They have taken at face value the invitation to buy water, food, wine and milk without money. This is a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Thank God that the invitation to partake of the ‘enduring loyalty promised to David’ remains open and it’s an offer you can’t refuse.

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