Haftarah Portion: Breisheet (Isaiah 42:5-43:10)
Gospel Portion: 2 Corinthians 4
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant
In days of increasing darkness, followers of Yeshua can get discouraged by the lack of effectiveness their ministry seems to be having. Fewer people seem to be responding to the call of the Gospel, more seem to be falling away from the faith. When we see this, it’s easy to blame ourselves. Ironically, those who work the hardest for the Gospel are often the ones who berate themselves for not doing enough. And then they get burned out and withdraw from the struggle, asking, What’s the use?
Paul and the other ministers of the Brit Chadashah faced these issues. Their world was every bit as black as ours. The believers in Yeshua formed one of the smallest communities in existence, and every other religious system tried to stamp them out. The faithful servants who carried the Good News of Messiah were special targets of life-threatening persecution from God’s enemies, as Paul describes from personal experience in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12. Verse 11: “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (NASB). Not many of us in first-world countries are constantly facing death for our belief in Yeshua. Death is the ultimate discouragement. If we get discouraged in our life or ministry, it’s mostly because of fear, lack of results, being overwhelmed, or even just lost perspective…not a death threat.
And yet Paul and the other early believers didn’t let anything discourage them. Their secret is written in 2 Corinthians 4. Every time they were almost killed, they picked right up and went on doing what the Lord called them to do:
Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (verse 16)
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. (verse 17)
Every time they were tempted to think their ministry wasn’t bearing any fruit, they remembered who was in control:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart. (verse 1)
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (verses 3-4)
For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (verse 6)
Every time they were faced with their human weaknesses, they took the focus off themselves and planted it squarely on Yeshua:
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. (verse 5)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (verse 7)
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (verse 18)
As we read this encouraging chapter, it sounds like the mandate in our Haftarah that passed from Yeshua to His representatives:
I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations, To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the dungeon And those who dwell in darkness from the prison. (Isaiah 42:7-8)
This passage (and a similar prophecy in Isaiah 49:6) is clearly speaking of Yeshua, (Luke 2:32; Acts 26:23), but it also passes on to His disciples (Acts 13:47 and 26:18). It, and the rest of this week’s Haftarah portion, can empower the downhearted, especially if read alongside 2 Corinthians 4. Both passages remind us that Yahweh is the Creator, the One who formed the light; that He called us to be His servants and gave us certain tasks to do, but He, the Omnipotent One, is ultimately who accomplishes it. That because we are weak, earthen vessels, His power is made more clear. That He rescues and renews us day by day. That “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” That “when [we] pass through the waters, [He] will be with [us]; and through the rivers, they will not overflow [us]” (Isaiah 43:2a).
So how do we overcome discouragement? Basically, these passages are saying to take the focus off ourselves and put it on the One who is capable of opening blind eyes and shining light in the darkness of prisons, the One who gave us the mandate and who will see it accomplished.