Haftorah Portion: Lech Lecha (Isaiah 40:27-41:16)
Gospel Reading: Romans 8:18-39
Commentary By: Matthew Day
Remnant Israel stands in Babylonian captivity. They cry out, “Why is my way hidden from the LORD? Why is justice denied to us by our God?” (paraphrase Isa. 40:27). Seventy years they have waited in captivity for the time of the exile to end. Seventy years they have waited under the oppression of foreign power in conditions we can only imagine, crying out for a Redeemer. The LORD responds,
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? (Isa. 40:28a ESV)
Not like the gods of the nations, created with human hands (41:7). Israel’s God is the Creator God who has no beginning and no end. The LORD continues,
He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. (Isa. 40:28b ESV)
The nations try in vain to strengthen each other saying “Be strong” (41:6). But, for us who wait on the LORD, it is our Creator and Redeemer who gives us power and renews our strength.Even the youth and most fit of the nations will grow weary, but we who wait on the LORD shall “run and not be weary...walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29-31).
The LORD raised up Cyrus king of Persia to rescue Israel from the captivity of Babylon (Isa. 41:2-4). This same Cyrus issued the edict for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of captive Israel to the land (as documented in the book of Ezra).
Five hundred years passed, and nations came and nations went, but still, even with the rebuilding of the Temple Israel never returned quite to their former glory. Now, we come to the time of the Apostles when Rome has become the occupying power. All Israel waits for a messiah who will rise up and rescue them from their newest oppressor. But, will it be enough? Even if Rome is cast off, will not another nation come and take their place? Is not the problem within the hearts of men--this lust for power? Indeed, even the very priesthood of Israel had been infected with this disease. The problem was not just without; it was within. Furthermore, it’s not just the nation of Israel in bondage, but all men (whether under oppression or to the forces of sin that drive us to curse our brethren and afflict our neighbor). Indeed, all of “creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20). The passage continues,
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
Our God is our strength and our comfort. He is our Hope, the hope for all of creation. We need not fear death nor man who has the power to kill. We need not despair under the weight of our oppressors. We need not surrender the battle to sin. For,
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good [that is, toward the final redemption when all things are renewed], for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers….
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Messiah Yeshua is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Messiah? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?....No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Messiah Yeshua our Lord. (Rom. 8:28-39)