Samuel’s Farewell Address

This week’s haftarah passage is very dramatic: A leader challenges the people of Israel, explains why their choice of leaders in the future will be wrong and will change everything, and finally says farewell to national political office. It could be Moses; it could be Joshua; it could be Ezra; it could even be Gideon; but it is actually Samuel.

Read More
Russ Resnik
A Future Full of Promises

We all are grateful to have second chances.

Twenty-two years ago I was hit from behind by a truck at 100 kilometers an hour; my car was crushed. Yet I was not cut even once, nor did I have a piece of glass on me. I was not even bruised. I knew I had been given a second chance at life.

Our haftarah records a second chance for the people of Israel.

Read More
Russ Resnik
A Brand Plucked from the Fire

This week’s haftarah reading concludes with one of the most familiar and beloved verses in Scripture: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech 4:7b). It’s such a rousing conclusion that we might overlook the rest of Zechariah’s vision. But there’s much more in this vision, which we need to see afresh today.

Read More
Russ Resnik
Leaders We Deserve

I certainly do not want to retell the story of Samson in detail. You know it. You’ve heard it before. It is almost impossible to have lived in Western society without having encountered this story, even if it comes to us with diverse embellishments. What differs is how we perceive and think of the person of Samson, and how this biblical star informs our own biblical understandings.

Read More
Russ Resnik
Don't Follow Your Heart

Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young. (Bob Dylan, Planet Waves)

Have you ever wished that you could start over? That you could be “forever young”—going back to your earliest years of life to erase all your mistakes, cancel all your debts, undo all your sins? This may sound like wishful thinking, but it was a reality in the Torah legislation of the Jubilee.

Read More
Russ Resnik
Back to the Basics

Growing up as a teenager on the Mississippi gulf coast, I could not wait to finish high school and spread my wings and fly. I was operating under the youthful understanding of freedom as being free of restraints. It did not take me long, however, to discover the error of my thoughts. You see, my choice for expressing that freedom was to join the US Marine Corps.

Read More
Russ Resnik
The Gift That Bears Responsibility

In Amos 9:7, God is telling Israel that he is concerned for all peoples, not just them. Therefore Israel should not assume that she will go unpunished for her sins. Amos points out that chosenness is not just a gift, but a gift that bears responsibility.

Read More
Russ Resnik
God Has Bigger Plans

After David was crowned king in Hebron, he conquered Jerusalem and defeated the Philistines. Our haftarah picks up just following these events, when King David decides to bring the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem from the home of Abinadav, where it had remained since being returned to the Land of Israel by the Philistines in the time of Samuel. Thus, our haftarah begins with the Ark at rest in the home of Abinadav and ends with the promise of its future home in the Temple.

Read More
Russ Resnik
Messiah’s Job Description is Also Our Own

We are a community excited about Messianic prophecy. It fortifies our faith in our claims about Yeshua, and we look to texts like this week’s haftarah reading to equip us for propagating and defending our faith. All of this is good.

But it would also be good for us to realize that we who are intimately joined to him through repentance, faith, and immersion in his Spirit, are also meant to bear his image.

Read More
Russ Resnik
The One Who Doesn’t Change

One of the most compelling verses in the Prophets comes in this week’s haftarah reading: "Since I, ADONAI, have not changed, so you sons of Jacob have not been annihilated” (Mal 3:6).

This verse certainly had great meaning in its peshat (plain sense) to Malachi’s hearers in the 5th century BCE. Yet I cannot help but think that it reveals a general principle that has held true for our Jewish people throughout our entire history.

Read More
Russ Resnik