Thoughts and Teachings: Haftarah Ha’azinu

As we come to the end of the reading cycle, Ha’azinu[i] records the so named “Song of Moses” that ADONAI commanded Moses to write and leave with the children of Israel as a warning not to stray from the mitzvoth of the LORD. Interestingly, the majority of the “song” records Israel’s future disobedience and consequential discipline. The Haftarah passage paired with this Parasha is the Song of David from 2 Samuel 22. Where as the Deuteronomy passage records communal disobedience and discipline, the Samuel passage records David’s protection and victories at the hand of ADONAI. Rabbi Scherman notes in his introduction to the Haftarah, “[i]t is typical of David that he focuses not on the travails, pursuits, sufferings, and rebellions that marred his life. To him, everything, even the difficulties, were signs of God’s kindness, because he was firm in his belief that everything that God does is for the good even though we do not understand how.”[ii] It would appear that Shaul was on the same page when he wrote to the believers in Rome:

For I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us. …Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:18 & 28[iii])

David, as well as Shaul, apparently recognize that the bumps along the road are less important than the smooth, secure areas and even less important than the final destination.

There is another important observation that should be made at the beginning of this Haftarah. David proclaims that, “…ADONAI delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul,” (1 Samuel 22:1). According to David, Saul was not his enemy; he was the LORD’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:6). David’s men did not understand why David would not strike down Saul, but David understood the admonition of the LORD, “[t]ouch not My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm,” 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalm 105:15). And as Shaul affirmed, “…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” (Romans 11:29), the anointing remained upon Saul even though David would replace him.

Though the main thrust of David’s proclamation is praise to the LORD, he does acknowledge some of the rough places, but more in a spiritual or metaphysical manner than exact definitions. One such example is the water imagery in both 2 Samuel 22:5 and 17. In personal correspondence in response to a question I posed in a class I was taking with Rabbi Mark Kinzer, he noted, “I see the waters/sea as a biblical image that has slightly different meaning in various biblical texts. It is almost always related in some way to chaos and evil; sometimes the relation is one of equivalence, but sometimes it is one of source/result or potential/actualization.” In light of this deliverance from the waters, or possibly from the chaotic situations that happens in our lives, either as a consequence of our own actions or just because we live in a damaged world, consider the words of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah, “[w]hen you pass through the waters, I will be with you, or through the rivers, they will not overflow you,” (Isaiah 43:2a). In the chaos of daily life, the LORD will be with us if our hearts are attuned to Him.

Returning to King David’s larger perspective on his life, and knowing what the Scriptures reveal about some of the bumps on his journey through life, listen to his statement:

ADONAI rewarded me for my righteousness. For the cleanness of my hand He repaid me. For I kept the ways of ADONAI, and did not turn wickedly from my God. For all His judgments are before me. As for His rulings, I do not turn away from them. I also had integrity with Him, and kept myself from my sin. So ADONAI rewarded me for my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His eyes. (2 Samuel 22:21-25[iv] emphasis is mine)

Even with the sin and transgressions that David committed, he still considered himself righteous before God. Beginning the first of Elul and continuing through Hoshana Raba (August 16th through October 4th) we read Psalms 27. In this psalm, David acknowledges that it is the LORD that is his salvation, his protection, his life and strength. It is not David’s own righteousness in which he boasts; it is the LORD’s righteousness within him. And why is it that David could boast in “his righteousness”? It is because the LORD delighted in David or was pleased with him, (2 Samuel 22:20b). It was because, regardless of his faults and shortcomings, he was a man after the LORD’s heart.

But now your (Saul) kingship will not last. ADONAI has sought for Himself a man after His own heart (David). So ADONAI will appoint him as ruler over His people—because you have not guarded what ADONAI commanded you. (1 Samuel 13:14)

After removing him (Saul), He raised up David to be their king. He also testified about him and said, ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do My will. (Acts 13:22)

Did bad things happen to David, of course they did. Did he suffer the consequences of his transgressions? Again of course he did, but because of his overall heart attitude, one that was attuned to his God, he was “rescued because He (the LORD) delighted in me (David). David knew he wasn’t “perfect” or unblemished. A reading of Psalm 51 shows the anguish of his heart over his condition, his separation from his Creator. David knew and did not deny his shortcomings. But his trust in ADONAI was even greater.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence – take not Your Ruach ha Kodesh from me. …A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:12-13 and 19b)

We just finished the mo’ed of Yom Kippur. Time and time again the prayers acknowledge that we have sinned against the LORD, and in ourselves we have no good thing to bring Him. It is only dependence upon His faithfulness and grace that we can stand before Him. Like David, we must approach Him acknowledging our shortcomings and trusting in His grace and restoration.

With the idea that David was rescued because the LORD delighted in him, we should ask ourselves:

  1. Does ADONAI delight in us?
  1. Are our actions and attitudes pleasing in His sight?

Briefly, in Matthew we find one of the most difficult teachings in the Apostolic Writings, Yeshua’s warning against false shepherds or prophets:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23, expanded upon in Matthew 25:31-46)

It is not necessarily what we do. Ultimately it is not even what we believe. It is the attitude of our heart toward our Father and His Messiah, Yeshua. So again I ask; if we were to examine ourselves, would ADONAI delight in us?

Shabbat Shalom

[i] This week’s readings are: Torah: Deuteronomy 32:1-52; Haftarah: 2 Samuel 22:1-51; Apostolic Writings: 2 Corinthians 1:3-12; Philippians 4:10-13

[ii] Rabbi Nossom Scherman, The Prophets: Samuel, Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002, 359.

[iii] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life Version of the Bible, Snellville, GA: MJFB, 2014.