This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon (“Vision”). There are two reasons for this special name for this special Shabbat. The first reason is that the reading from the prophets is from Isaiah chapter 1:1-27. The first words of this chapter are,
“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” – Isaiah 1:1
The second reason is that this Shabbat is the day before the 9th day of the month of Av. This day is one of the most unusual days in the Hebrew calendar, and my guess is that it is the most unusual day in any calendar of any nation in the history of mankind.
From the Torah we are starting the reading of the last book of the Pentateuch (The five books of Moses) the book of Deuteronomy (in Latin “The Second Law”). Why is the book of Deuteronomy named “Second Law”?
The reason is that Moses repeats a major part of laws from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. In Deuteronomy almost every law written in the earlier books is very different. Before Moses goes up the mountain to see from afar the land promised by the Lord to Israel as an eternal inheritance, Moses repeats many of the laws given earlier with changes.
Even the Ten Commandments that were spoken by the Lord Himself from the top of Mount Sinai are a little different in Deuteronomy. The explanation for this phenomenon is already given in the Bible itself.
“Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, ‘Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king.” – 2 Kings 22:8-10 [NKJV]
According to 2 Kings 22:8-10, King Josiah makes a major religious reform in Israel that adjusts all the religious practices even the size of the altars in the land and even the practice of who can serve in the Temple. Just about every religious practice is changed according to the book of Deuteronomy.
The major change was the centralization of the worship in Jerusalem only and the destruction and defiling of every other place in the land that was used for worship of the God of Israel.
The reading from the prophets is also one of the strongest chapters in the prophets, Isaiah chapter 1. From the New Testament it is Acts 9:1-21.
I am tempted to concentrate on the reading from the prophets, Isaiah chapter 1, but I have to say a few words from Deuteronomy chapter 1-3. Moses himself explains what is about to happen now:
“On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying, ‘The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates.”’” – Deuteronomy 1:5-7 [NKJV]
According to the text, Moses knows that he is not going to cross the Jordan river with the camp of Israel and that the conditions and situation in the land of Israel will be totally new and different from all that the children of Israel have experienced before this mega move. So, he is giving them a reinterpretation of the law that God gave them at Mt. Sinai.
According to Moses ,this giving of the law is for the equipping of the nation of Israel to live as a normal nation in permanent dwellings on their own God-given territory like every other normal nation.
For this the laws given to Israel in the desert of Sinai need slight tweaking and adjustments to make their religious orders and practices fit their new circumstances. One of the first things that Moses realizes is that he couldn’t lead these people alone and therefore as they enter the land there needs to be in place administration,
“‘Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes.’” – Deuteronomy 1:13-15 [NKJV]
Now I would like to go to the Haftarah, the reading from Isaiah chapter 1. There are few chapters that are as important to me as Isaiah chapter 1. The reason for the excitement is that God here gives us a taste of His real attitude toward our religious practices, worship, sacrifices, holidays, prayer, and in fact all of what religious institutions, synagogues, churches, and all other so called “places of worship” the whole world over.
The easiest thing to do for God and for our faith is to build buildings, temples, places of worship, “holy places.” The second easiest thing to do is to appoint a “holy man,” “rabbi,” “pastor,” “juju man” spiritual leaders of every possible kind, and to place these men in the place of Moses, and King David, or at least to endow them with the authority of the apostles…
The third thing that is also easy to do is to create semi-professional worship leaders that know how to make a show with wonderfully talented musicians, dancers, decoration, wonderful sound systems. All these things are wonderful and well-orchestrated and invested with both good actors and singers and stage furniture.
As I said above, these are the things that churches like to invest in and like to believe that these are the things that please God. But Isaiah chapter 1, and Acts chapter 17, and Jeremiah 7:21-23, Hosea 6:6, and many other places in the Bible tell us differently. Or to put it in the words of Paul, from Acts 17:24-29:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” – Acts 17:24-29 [NKJV]
In summary we all need to refresh and refocus and put the emphasis on our life and relationship with God as a much more personal and intimate thing. This is what God wants from us, this is what the end of chapter 1 of Isaiah recommends to us.
On purpose I don’t want to keep quoting. I want you to go and read Isaiah chapter 1 from the beginning to the end of this chapter and spend five minutes in meditation and seek to locate where your treasured relationship with the Creator is. If you come to the conclusion that you don’t have any, that you have been very religious but without real personal faith in and a relationship with God, please start reading the Bible from Genesis, verse after verse, after 15 minutes stop and pray: “God please help me to know you better!”
Remember that God has many thousands of angels with angelic voices singing His praises and prostrating themselves by day and night before Him in worship. Yes, we must worship God! Yes, we must sing His praises!Yes, we must sacrifice our lives, our money, our time, and our talents and gifts for His glory and for our identity as God’s children!
But it all must be done from faith and based on a relationship. Remember that God is not a prostitute that can be purchased with money or beautiful buildings or gifts of gold or silver…
Please forgive me for my crudeness but essentially this is what Paul, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea are saying! I am just interpreting it in a language that the common man can understand.
The thing that we all need to do if we feel that our prayers don’t rise above our ceiling is to ask ourselves what we can do to change and improve our relationship with the Almighty God of Israel and with Yeshua our Messiah. I am sure that through prayer and reading the word of God you will find the answer!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.