Parashat Shemot (Names)
Shemot (Exodus) 1:1–6:1
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6–28:13, 29:22–23 (Ashkenazi); Jeremiah 1:1–2:3 (Sephardic)
You may wonder why, this week, we have two different readings from the Haftarah portion. The Ashkenazi Jewish people (those in the diaspora who lived in countries such as Germany, Poland, Russia, etc.) and the Sephardic Jewish people (those who lived in Spain and in various Arab countries) sometimes have separate readings due to their different sects of Judaism. Historically, each sect of Judaism adopted its own tradition of weekly Scripture reading which explains the different readings between the two people groups.
For those of you to whom those terms may be new, or wonder why I even mention this, I would like to offer an interesting point: Did you know that one of the earliest — if not the earliest — recorded accounts of reading from the Haftarah is found in the New Covenant? In Luke 4:16–21 we read:
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.”
And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all the people in the synagogue were intently directed at Him. Now He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Yeshua our Messiah followed the beautiful tradition of reading aloud the Haftarah portion in the synagogue; we, His followers, get to follow in His footsteps and learn together that which He did. Reading the weekly Scripture portions not only shows us the consistency of the word of God, but also reveals to us the depth and richness of what is written in the New Covenant.
For example, in this week's Parashah, we read of God’s supernatural calling of Moses:
So Moses said, “I must turn aside and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burning up!” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. And the LORD said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their outcry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. And now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. And now come, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
And later on when Moses doubted God’s call, we read:
Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”Then He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it turned into a serpent; and Moses fled from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out with your hand and grasp it by its tail”—so he reached out with his hand and caught it, and it turned into a staff in his hand— “so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand inside the fold of your robe.” So he put his hand inside the fold, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then He said, “Put your hand inside the fold of your robe again.” So he put his hand into the fold again, and when he took it out of the fold, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. ”
In the Haftarah portion, we find God’s supernatural calling of Jeremiah:
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Oh, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to save you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a branch of an almond tree.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.” And the word of the LORD came to me a second time, saying, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.” Then the LORD said to me, “Out of the north the evil will be unleashed on all the inhabitants of the land. ”
It is interesting that in both cases, Moses and Jeremiah looked at themselves from a human point of view, yet God saw something else in them. At the end of the day, it was not about them, their talents, or their limitations. Rather, it was about God’s call on their lives and what He would do in and through them.
In the New Covenant, we see another kind of supernatural call in the calling of Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul):
Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,and asked for letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them in shackles to Jerusalem. Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Yeshua whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
And later in Acts 9:10–19a, we read of Ananias whom God called to pray for Saul and, although he was fearful, chose to trust God:
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer in behalf of My name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like fish scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was immersed; and he took food and was strengthened.
The important thing for us to take away from these four men's supernatural callings is that God purposed them to accomplish His plan. We are all called by God to accomplish His plan. It is all for His namesake!
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