Thoughts and Teachings: Haftarah Vayeira

This week’s Haftarah portion is from 2 Kings 4:1-37. The commentators of the Life Application Bible aptly notes that “This chapter records four of God’s miracles through Elisha: providing money for a poverty-stricken widow (4:1-7); raising a dead boy to life (4:32-37); purifying poisonous food (4:38-41); and providing food for 100 men (4:42-44). These miracles show God’s tenderness and care for those who are faithful to him.”[i] The last two miracles are beyond the scope of this Haftarah, but go far in showing ADONAI’s character and compassion dealing with those who desire to serve Him. LAB goes on to explain, “When reading the Old Testament, it is easy to focus on God’s harsh judgment of the rebellious and to minimize his tender care for those who love and serve him. Seeing God at work providing for his followers helps us keep his severe justice toward the unrepentant in proper perspective.” (Ibid) What saddens me is that the commentators choose to focus on “the Old Testament…God’s harsh judgment of the rebellious…his severe justice toward the unrepentant.” Yes, I know I cut up the quotation, but it shows the automatic inclination to see the God of the Tanakh as vengeful and harshly judgmental compared with the grace, love and forgiveness of the Father of Yeshua in the New Testament (Apostolic Writings). In John’s Prologue we read, “Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace. Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah,” (John 1:16-17). Normal Christian dogma contrasts Torah and grace, Old Testament and New (Christian terminology), usually ending with grace being good and preferred opposed to law and bad being something to be avoided. What came through Moses cannot be as good as what comes through Yeshua.

What is usually not understood, is that these verses from John do not set forth an “either/or” situation, that one is better than the other. In reality they are just different, accomplishing different goals. The Torah coming through Moses was never meant as a means of obtaining “eternal salvation” however one defines that. The purpose of the Torah was to set apart a people unto the LORD, defining the parameters that cause this people to “be holy as He is holy.” Furthermore, it is through this set apart people that Messiah entered the world and provides atonement for all creation. This provision for all mankind is the manifestation of the grace of ADONAI. In reality, were it not for the Torah and the Jewish people it defines, there would have been no Messiah. Likewise, the perceived harshness of the temporal judgment of ADONAI for breaching the practical dictates of the Torah is nothing compared to the eternal judgment of the Father for ignoring the atonement the Son provided.

Returning to the Haftarah, we see not only the compassion of the LORD but also the compassion of the servant of the LORD. Elisha did not have to get involved with the widow; he could have assigned another member of the community to assist her or to find a close kinsman. Instead he stepped in, “”What should I do for you?” This is a wide open question, indicating his willingness to help. The widow then learned, or maybe relearned, the same lesson that Yeshua was trying to convey to His disciples when He taught them, “Whatever you ask in prayer, trusting, you shall receive.” This neither was nor is a talisman, guaranteeing that we will receive anything we want. Jacob (James) later told his community, “you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives (the wrong kavanah),” (Jacob 4:3). Again, Yeshua teaching His disciples reminded them, “your Father knows what you need before you ask Him,” (Matthew 6:8). In the parallel passage (Luke 11) the fact that the Father desires to give good gifts to His children in emphasized.

Considering that the LORD knows what we need before we even ask Him, look again at Moshe in Exodus 4. “What do you have in your hand Moshe?” Did the LORD not see what was in his hand? No, in reality the LORD did see and know; what He wanted was for Moshe to see beyond the staff in his hand and see the instrument of ADONAI’s choosing to manifest His presence and glory. What about Adam in the Garden; “Adam, where are you?” Was the LORD unable to find Adam and Chavah (Eve) as they hid among the bushes? Of course He knew where they were and what they had done. I would propose that what He wanted was for them to come to Him, acknowledging their disobedience, asking for forgiveness. One has to wonder, what would have happened if instead of hiding, instead of passing the blame, what would have happened if Adam and Chavah had simply said LORD, “we blew it. We disobeyed Your command. Can You forgive us and restore our broken relationship?” We cannot know the “what if” of Adam and Chavah but we can be assured of the Father’s forgiveness and grace when we come to Him as His children.

The following Benediction is prayed daily in synagogues around the globe. Notice that the prayer is not made because of anything we have or do, it’s made trusting in the LORD:

Listen to our voice, LORD our God. Spare us and have compassion on us, and in compassion and favor accept our prayer, for You, God, listen to the prayers and pleas. Do not turn us away, O our King, empty-handed from Your presence. For You listen in compassion to the prayer of Your people Israel. Blessed are You, LORD, who listens to prayer.[ii]

Just as the widow was provided for via the word of the LORD through Elisha in 2 Kings 4:1-7 or how the Shunem woman received back her son via the same word (4:25-37); we too can trust in the word of the LORD in our daily lives as we seek His care and His provision. Reiterating the LORD’s desire to take care of us, Yeshua told His disciples, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him,” (Matthew 7:11b)! Similarly Jacob reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” (Jacob 1:17). Truly rest this Shabbat, trusting in His care for you.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Life Application Study Bible, NIV, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, 2004. Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by Oak Tree Software, Inc. ver 1.2

[ii] Sixteenth Benediction in the Amidah, taken from the Koren Siddur

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.