Haftarah Portion: Shemot (Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:3-30, 36-43
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant
The flying seeds land in the soft soil. With sunlight and rain, the seeds send out spidery roots that push their way through the yielding yet anchoring earth. Green heads spring up, gaining strength as the roots dig deeper and deeper. After a long season of growth, the thick, healthy stalks of wheat hang their heavy heads. Their task is over; their fruit is ready; all that remains is for the farmer to come and reap . . .
In the days to come Jacob will take root,
Israel will blossom and sprout,
And they will fill the whole world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6, NASB)
In that day the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. (Isaiah 27:12)
Our Haftarah portion describes Israel letting go of everything that drew them away from the one true God. Once they do so, it’s as if the soil of their land is cleared, and they can take root and flourish. The Lord becomes their Crown (Isaiah 28:5), their Holy One (29:23). Although they are weak and stumbling, He will gather them like a farmer gathers wheat from the good soil that He sowed.
But the crop is a remnant of what was sown. It’s like Yeshua’s parables of the four soils (Matthew 13:3-23) and the wheat and tares (13:24-30, 36-43). Seed might be sown, but not all soil will grow something—if we connect the four types of soil to the Haftarah portion, the hard soil might allow idolatry to steal away the seed; the shallow soil might let disaster scorch whatever sprouts; the thorny soil might choke the stalk with riches and worldly cares. And like the parable of the wheat and tares, the ground might be tended, but not all plants may be wheat.
In Matthew 13:13-15, Yeshua quotes another passage in Isaiah (6:9-10) that expresses how so many people in His day had shut their eyes and ears to receiving and understanding the message of the Gospel. This same thing shows up in the Haftarah portion, in Isaiah 29:10-13, where Yahweh explains how He will speak to disobedient Israel because they would not hear: order on order, line on line, a little here, a little there. Ironically, these people appear in Yeshua’s parable of the soils . . . we could probably categorize them as any of the three unproductive types.
Yeshua’s parable of the four soils even goes back to the Beginning. (The Bible has always used agriculture to explain spiritual truths!) When Adam and Eve sinned, the ground was cursed because of them. No longer would soil be fertile and pliable . . . it would reflect the stony heart that now belonged to mankind. Genesis 3:19 even says mankind (Hebrew, adam) will return to the earth (adamah) because he is essentially dust. Because of sin, it is now difficult, at least in human terms, to receive the Good News.
Thanks be to God, however, that in Yeshua we are given a soft heart and the capacity to be good soil that produces fruit. Though things may look bleak and barren for longer than we expect, crops will produce fruit, even if it’s only a remnant of what was sown. The Gospel will reach Israel (and the nations) and transform them into fruitful servants of our King. May we be good soil and fill the face of the world with fruit!
Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale;
But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst,
They will sanctify My name;
Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
And will stand in awe of the God of Israel. (Isaiah 29:22b-23)