Messiah’s Job Description is Also Our Own
Haftarah for Shabbat Pesach VIII, Isaiah 10:32–12:6
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD
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. After all, we are reminded, “as the Messiah is, so are we in the world” (1 John 4:17). Yeshua himself reinforced this radical identification when he told his disciples,
If the world hates you, understand that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would have loved its own. But because you do not belong to the world—on the contrary, I have picked you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember what I told you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they kept my word, they will keep yours too. (John 15:18–20)
The Apostle Paul applied this principle even to a Messianic prophecy which he referenced by extension to himself and his team at Pisidian Antioch.When the synagogue there rejected their message, he responded by citing Isaiah 49, which applies to Messiah:
It was necessary that God’s word be spoken first to you. But since you are rejecting it and are judging yourselves unworthy of eternal life—why, we’re turning to the Goyim! For that is what Adonai has ordered us to do: “I have set you as a light for the Goyim, to be for deliverance to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:46–47, CJB, emphasis added)
All of this being true, let’s ask and answer this question: “How, if at all, ought the description of the Messiah in Isaiah 11, part of today’s haftarah, also be true of us?” The description opens with these words:
But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai,
a shoot will grow from his roots.
The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and power,
the Spirit of knowledge and fearing Adonai. (Isa 11:1–2)
This passage is almost universally recognized as referring to Messiah, as Avraham Ibn Ezra reminds us in his 12th century commentary. How it applies not only to Messiah but also to us is an important issue which, when taken seriously, sets a demanding job description before us individually and collectively. I suggest strongly that we take it seriously, for the same one of whom Paul said “Adonai has ordered us to do (this)” is ordering us as well. What then is he ordering us to do, out of our Spirit-embodied solidarity with the Risen One? As God’s obedient servant-children, we will:
- walk in understanding that the same Spirit rests upon us as rested upon him
- manifest wisdom and understanding in all relationships and circumstances of life
- embody sound counsel wedded to spiritual power
- be characterized by both knowledge of holy things and reverence for Adonai
- judge not by what our eyes see or our ears hear, which can be deceptive, but judge justly and fairly for the disenfranchised and powerless
- deal decisively and appropriately with social evils and wickedness as we encounter them
- have a reputation for justice and fairness.
And if we will consistently and increasingly do these things, inspired by the example of Yeshua our risen King, and imbued with his very own Spirit, we will make an irreplaceable contribution to a world where
- characteristic animosities will be reversed (11:6–8)
- peacefulness and wholeness will replace the spirit of violence and opposition so prevalent today (11:9)
- relational knowledge of and experience with the Divine Presence will become richly and universally manifest
- and the fullness of Israel and of the nations for which all creation awaits will be accomplished (11:10–16).
Or, on the other hand, we can let things continue as they are, exacting from ourselves no uncomfortable demands, while not bothering to be agents of change in the world. We can just let tikkun olam be somebody else’s job.
What choice will we make? And how will that choice be embodied in what we plan and what we do from this time forward?
We are accountable for whatever may follow.