The Original Love Story

Haftarah Portion: Ki Tetze (Isaiah 54:1-10)
Gospel Reading: Revelation 21:1-27
Commentary: Kelsey Bryant

We can all agree that God is beyond our understanding. However, because He wants to have a relationship with us, He reveals Himself in tangible ways that we can grasp hold of. The Scriptures themselves are an example of His desire to connect with us, translating spiritual truths that could be abstract into human words and human terms. Our haftarah portion in Isaiah 54:1-10 is full of parables and symbols that help us understand the relationship between Israel and our Maker.

It’s an absolutely beautiful passage. It uses the most precious of human relationships to show us how Israel’s God loves them.

“For your Maker is your husband – Adonai-Tsva’ot is His Name … For Adonai has called you back like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of one’s youth that is rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion.” (Isaiah 54:5-7, TLV)

Ideally, marriage lasts a lifetime. “Though the mountains depart and the hills be shaken, My love will not depart from you…” Isaiah 54:10a sounds like a romantic vow a groom and bride would make to each other at their wedding.

The husband-wife relationship comparison with God and His people is widespread throughout Scripture. In Revelation chapter 21, John sees bridal imagery in his vision of the new heaven and earth and the new Jerusalem:

“I also saw the holy city – the New Jerusalem – coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (v. 2)

“Then came one of the seven angels…and he spoke with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb’…and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God – her radiance like a most precious stone, like a jasper, sparkling like crystal.” (v. 10-11)

Revelation 21 goes on to describe Jerusalem (symbolic of God’s people) decked in the splendor given by God. The city wall was jasper and the city itself and its streets were glass-like gold. The foundation stones were twelve different precious stones; the twelve gates were twelve pearls. (Verses 18-21) This sounds a lot like the two verses following the close of our haftarah portion in Isaiah 54, where God comforts His storm-tossed people by promising to rebuild their afflicted city with gemstones (Isaiah 54:11-12).

The comfort God gives His people is another theme that Isaiah 54 and Revelation 21 share.  “For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more,” proclaims Isaiah 54:4. “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away” declares Revelation 21:4.

We’ve been enthralled with love stories since the beginning of memory. The more heartache the couple endures before they come together, the more we care for them. We can view the love story between Adonai and humankind as the prototype of these tales, the most epic, most beautiful of them all. It spans the ages and involves everyone who responds to Adonai’s proposal. In the human experience of love and romance, we can see a significant aspect of our relationship with our Maker.

And how was this relationship reconciled? Through Yeshua’s selfless sacrifice, which Paul illustrates in Ephesians 5:25-27 – “Husbands, love your wives just as Messiah also loved His community and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community – not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless.”