For the week of October 9, 2004 / 24 Tishri 5765
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 1:1 - 6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 - 43:11
Something from Nothing
This is what God the LORD says - he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles" (Isaiah 42:5,6).
This week begins the yearly cycle of the reading of the Torah, the five books of Moses, which is also the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Each week on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, a new portion (Hebrew: parsha) of about five chapters is read. On Saturday - the Sabbath - there is also an additional reading from one of the other books of the Bible. This additional reading is called the Haftarah, which while sounds like half a Torah, actually means "completion." The various Haftarah readings were chosen because the ancient scholars found in them something relevant to the weekly Torah readings. The passages selected as the Haftarah readings are the same each year.
This week's Haftarah was obviously chosen because of its reference to creation found in the first two chapters of the Bible. God as creator is fundamental to everything else that we learn about God in the Scriptures. The invisible, eternal and self-existent One brought all things into being with a word from nothing. God is not a simple concept that we aspire to, nor is he a human invention whom we can control. The physical world is not itself eternal. It did not create itself or develop itself by itself. Human beings are not the result of an evolutionary process. We are the special creation of a loving God, who made us in his own image, so that we might fulfill his purposes on earth.
If we can accept that God is truly the creator of all things, if he has spoken the stars and planets into existence, is there anything he cannot do? What obstacles are there that can thwart his purposes?
This being the case all we need to know is, not what God can do, but what he wants to do. This is one of the reasons for reading the Bible, for in its pages we discover the will of this creator God. Through the Scriptures we encounter the lives of many people who lived their lives believing in him. They are our examples of his reality, so that we too can relate to him properly.
This week's Haftarah reading contains a promise – a promise from the creator God. In fact he bases this promise on his being creator. While we can trust any promise of God on his supreme and infinite creativity, he chose to emphasize this aspect of himself to impress upon the hearers of the message the absolute certainty of his ability to carry it through. Perhaps the importance or the seemingly impossibility of its fulfillment called for this emphasis.
These words were spoken through the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was saying through Isaiah that these people would one day have a transforming impact upon the nations of the world. Here we find one of the expressions of God's will for humankind – his desire to free us from oppression and suffering, from ignorance and sickness. Not only is it God's desire to transform the nations of the world, he has chosen his people to be the instruments of this transformation.
As the story of the Bible unfolds we learn that the reality of God that was revealed to the people of Israel has been made available to anyone who turns to him through the Messiah. Those who believe in Yeshua become part of God's great plan of transformation.
Maybe you don't think that your life is worth much. You might doubt that you are making any significant difference in the little part of the world in which you live. It is time to remember who God is and what he wants to do through you. He who brought the world into existence from nothing wants to bring transformation to the world through you. You might think of yourself as nothing. That's OK – God has been making fantastic things from nothing for a long time.
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