The word “idolatry” may seem far removed from us today, especially its literal practice in our the western-modern world. Ancient middle eastern forms of idolatry involved fertility gods in which the worshipers would seek help with their crops or with having children. The core issue with these things is not simply that God had commanded Israel and all who are faithful to turn from idols, but that idolatry has been a means for control, where one creates a god after their own image in which they can manage and control and get the things they desire. Baal for example was a god who controlled the weather. The people believed through their sacrifices they could cowers him to create good weather for their crops, along with a good harvest. The idea is that through sacrifice, the people believed they could appease their idol god and get something of value in return. The point of discussing this today, is that many who trust in idols today have the same thought process, that they will benefit in some way from holding onto their god. This is significant today by reason of the definition of idolatry:
The definition of idolatry
“anything we serve, love, desire, trust, fear, and worship…apart from God to give us love, joy, peace, freedom, status, identity, control, happiness, security, fulfillment, health, pleasure, significance, acceptance, and respect.”
Notice how in the definition we find “give and get.” This is different from the approach provided in the Torah, such as what we read according to the Shema in Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-10.
ספר דברים פרק ו
ד שְׁמַע יִשְֹרָאֵל יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָֹה | אֶחָד: ה וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ: ו וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם עַל-לְבָבֶךָ: ז וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ: ח וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל-יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ: ט וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזֻזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ:
Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4–9
6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 6:8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 6:9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (KJV)
What we notice here is how our love for God is the motivating factor. Because we love the Lord our God, we will practice His holy and righteous ways, and teach them to our children, write them upon our houses and gates, and make them an integral part of our lives always! This is different from the “give-get” relationship of idolatry. One of the first examples of idolatry that comes to memory is from the Torah according to Parashat Ki Tisa (Shemot / Exodus 30:11–34:35) the sin of the Golden Calf. The narrative in the Torah describes how God called Abraham from his homeland which was filled with idolatry, to a new land to serve and worship the One True God. Abraham had a son, Isaac, and Isaac had a son, Jacob, and Jacob had 11 sons, and then due to a famine they moved to Egypt and were enslaved by the Egyptians, and approximately 400 years later God delivered them from their bondage, and brought them before His holy mountain, and there while the people waited for Moshe on the mountain, they sinned by creating their own god. The major issue here is that the people grew impatient with Moshe and His leadership. Because of this, the people approached Aaron in Shemot / Exodus 32:1-6 and asked him to make for them gods that would lead them. We note something from the NT text that speaks to these things from Acts 7:39-42.
7:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 7:40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 7:42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? (KJV, 39 ⸀ᾧ οὐκ ἠθέλησαν ὑπήκοοι γενέσθαι οἱ πατέρες ⸁ἡμῶν, ἀλλʼ ἀπώσαντο καὶ ⸀1ἐστράφησαν ⸂ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν⸃ εἰς Αἴγυπτον* 40 εἰπόντες τῷ Ἀαρών·* ποίησον ἡμῖν θεοὺς οἳ προπορεύσονται ἡμῶν· ὁ γὰρ Μωϋσῆς οὗτος, ὃς ἐξήγαγεν ἡμᾶς ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, οὐκ οἴδαμεν τί ⸀ἐγένετο αὐτῷ. 41 καὶ ἐμοσχοποίησαν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις καὶ ἀνήγαγον θυσίαν τῷ εἰδώλῳ καὶ εὐφραίνοντο ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν.* 42 ἔστρεψεν δὲ ὁ θεὸς καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς* λατρεύειν τῇ στρατιᾷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν βίβλῳ τῶν προφητῶν·* μὴ σφάγια καὶ θυσίας προσηνέγκατέ μοι ἔτη τεσσεράκοντα ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οἶκος Ἰσραήλ;*)
Take note of a few specific lines here from the book of Acts that speak concerning idolatry, (i) idolatry is something that happens in the heart, (ii) idolatry is a trust issue, (iii) idolatry is misplaced worship, (iv) the idol worshiper gives him or herself to the idol, (v) idols do not satisfy and always leave one wanting and (vi) God gives the worshiper over to their idol so they are fully given to their idolatry. We note how in Acts 7:39 the text states ἐστράφησαν ⸂ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν⸃ εἰς Αἴγυπτον “turned their hearts back to Egypt.” We note how this parallels what Ezekiel wrote in Ezekiel 14:3 when he said that in their hearts they have set or established a stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. These things speak concerning something that occurs in the heart coupled with desire, hope, and trust. So, the idolater pushes God aside and turns from trusting in Him and turns to trust in something else. (See Isaiah 42:17, Habakkuk 2:18) The description in Acts also describes idolatry as rejoicing and worship, this means that the idols that are established in the heart are not an internal thing only but have an outward expression. (See Isaiah 44:15-17) We note what the Tanakh states according to Hosea 11:2 and Jeremiah 7:30-31, that idolatry requires sacrifice, their idol gods in fact demand sacrifices and take everything that one has. This truth parallels the effect of sin in our lives, always asking for more, never ending, and even to the point of sacrificing relationships, family, and friends. These things parallel the human sacrifice that took place in the ancient Canaanite religions. Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (KJV) This suggests how idolatry always leaves one wanting, as in the idea of a broken cistern that cannot hold water. This is the analogy of the idolator always being left thirsty! We note how God is the only lasting source for strength, hope, and love. The Torah describes HaShem as having unconditional steadfast love for His people (See Shemot / Exodus 34). When men serve idols, they bring their sacrifices, all that is in their lives, their desires, and hopes, and their idols leave them empty and thirsty! We note the modern-day form of idolatry as described according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:24-25.
1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (KJV, 24 Διὸ ⸆ παρέδωκεν* αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῶν καρδιῶν αὐτῶν εἰς ἀκαθαρσίαν τοῦ ἀτιμάζεσθαι τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐν* ⸀αὐτοῖς·* 25 οἵτινες μετήλλαξαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ ψεύδει καὶ ἐσεβάσθησαν καὶ ἐλάτρευσαν τῇ κτίσει παρὰ τὸν κτίσαντα*, ὅς ἐστιν εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν*)
The root of idolatry is being all about self, me…me…me. The idolator takes what is self-focused and tries to use what he can to gratify his desires which are centered in self. This is why we are told in many places, to put to death what is earthly in you, such as sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desire, covetousness, etc. (see Colossians 3:5) The reason being these things are rooted in idolatry, and idols never satisfy, they continually want more. So, the conclusion is that the one who makes himself king as opposed to God, tries to gratify self with other things, the works of the body, sexual sin, covetousness, etc. The Scriptures describe these things because the human heart has the capability to make an infinite number of idols that are capable of distracting us from whom we should be looking to, the King of the Universe, the God of Israel! The idol of self considers the kind of car we drive as important, looking for praise from others, being interested in houses based upon social status, marriage, athletics, politics, achievement, sex, bank accounts ($$), material things, all of these can function as idols in our lives. The point is that idolatry severs one’s relationship with God as the idol itself becomes all-consuming for the purpose of giving the worshiper something he desires. Again, everything we have is given from God, and only the Lord God Almighty can give us what we truly need! Some of the ways that we avoid idolatry is through embracing the ways of God, recognizing his love for us, and walking in that love trusting He will provide everything we need for our lives! The next step is to dethrone ourselves, to die to self, this is what Paul emphasized so often because self-sacrifice, humility, and servant attitude, all have the capability of destroying the idols that are in our lives! We note this is what Isaiah has been saying thus far in his book. When we consider these things in relation to the Torah, it is possible to approach one’s faith in God in the form of idolatrous worship, from the sense that one believes he or she can manipulate God through obedience to the Torah. Is this why we obey God’s Torah today, so that we can manipulate Him into doing something for us? Heaven forbid! The major reason for obeying God’s word is primarily because of our love for Him!
The next thing is to try and recognize idolatrous behavior in our lives, we ask the question “why do I do this?” Many examples may be given in relation to why, for personal control, for a feeling of love, or that emotional or chemical high, each of these are done to control something that we have no control over. We understand then the words of Paul who said according to 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV) Can we see how all of these things are paralleling what Paul is trying to emphasize here? According to God’s word we must become convinced to live for a greater purpose than simply for self, but to live for God and for Him who died for us (Yeshua)! The Scriptures function to renew our minds, to learn about God and His promises, and to apply His words to our lives for the greater purpose of living for the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel! Here in Isaiah 29:13-14, we read how the people have fallen into this “manipulative style of religion” which parallels the manipulative worship style of the pagan religions. It is interesting to consider, for those who turn from their faith in Yeshua the Messiah, to take a Messiah-less Torah-Judaism approach to their faith; those who do this are in danger of putting Torah in the wrong position in his or her life and falling into the same situation that we find here in the book of Isaiah and to that of having an idol of self! This is why Solomon wrote that the fear of the Lord is the way of life for God’s people! The Fear of the Lord is the accurate understanding of who God is and places a correct ordering of God’s word in our lives. We note again that the Torah is not just about a set of do’s and don’ts. The Torah is about having a way of life that loves God and His holy ways and chooses to walk in God’s holy ways because of that love that we have for Him and for all that He has done for us. This is why we draw near to God in His Word and imagine ourselves as standing at the foot of the mountain just as the people did so many hundreds of years ago. We enter into a relationship with God through faith, and then the Lord God enters into our lives to empower us to overcome this world, and to live our lives according to His Holy Word!
Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 29:13.
ספר ישעיה פרק כט
יג וַיֹּאמֶר אֲדֹנָי יַעַן כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְֹפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי וַתְּהִי יִרְאָתָם אֹתִי מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה:
Isaiah 29:13 states, “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (וַיֹּאמֶר אֲדֹנָי יַעַן כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְֹפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי וַתְּהִי יִרְאָתָם אֹתִי מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה)” This is actually a very powerful statement that Isaiah is making! Yeshua uses this verse according to Matthew 15:8-9 and Mark 7:6-7. There are a few interesting points that are made in regards to this statement based upon what Yeshua says.
15:1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, who were of Jerusalem, saying, 15:2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 15:3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 15:5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 15:6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 15:7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (KJV, *15 Τότε προσέρχονται τῷ Ἰησοῦ* ⸆ ἀπὸ Ἱεροσολύμων ⸉Φαρισαῖοι καὶ γραμματεῖς⸊ λέγοντες·* 2 διὰ τί οἱ μαθηταί σου παραβαίνουσιν τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων;* οὐ γὰρ νίπτονται τὰς χεῖρας °[αὐτῶν]* ὅταν ἄρτον ἐσθίωσιν. 3 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· διὰ τί καὶ ὑμεῖς παραβαίνετε τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ θεοῦ διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν;* 4 ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ⸀εἶπεν· τίμα τὸν πατέρα ⸆ καὶ τὴν μητέρα ⸇,* καί· ὁ κακολογῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα θανάτῳ τελευτάτω.* 5 ὑμεῖς δὲ λέγετε· ὃς ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ πατρὶ ἢ τῇ μητρί· δῶρον ὃ ἐὰν ἐξ ἐμοῦ ὠφεληθῇς ⸆, 6 ⸆οὐ μὴ τιμήσει τὸν πατέρα °αὐτοῦ ⸇· καὶ ἠκυρώσατε ⸂τὸν λόγον⸃ τοῦ θεοῦ διὰ τὴν παράδοσιν ὑμῶν. 7 ὑποκριταί,* καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσεν περὶ ὑμῶν Ἠσαΐας λέγων· 8 ⸂ὁ λαὸς οὗτος⸃ τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ,* ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ⸀ἀπέχει ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ 9 μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.*)
Mark 7:1-7 speaks to the disciples not adhering to netilat yadayim the ritual washing of the hands before eating and the Pharisees chidded them for not obeying the tradition of the elders. We note that this is the entire point of Yeshua’s statements in Mark 7. He was not setting aside the Torah; he was setting aside the tradition of men. Similarly, here in Matthew 15:1-9 Yeshua points out a similar thing, and draws in the idea of sacrifice, how they state that their excess which should be given to help family, is dedicated to God and so they get around helping others through the tradition of men. Yeshua then quotes from Isaiah 29:13 and says כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְֹפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me.” This statement that Isaiah is making, is a way of describing the people how they glorify God with their lips, while at the same time violating the command of God! Paul draws this out according to Romans 2:21–25 when he said, 2:21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 2:22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 2:23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 2:24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. (KJV) The idea here is the same, when teaching on the Word of God does the teacher do this very same thing and thus doing as Isaiah states, כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְֹפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me.” This is synonymous to the one who teaches musar to others while at the same time violating all of the ethical aspects of what musar requires from the life of a believer. The one who does these things is a hypocrite and a liar just as Yeshua and Isaiah are pointing out to the people! Because of these things, Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 29:14.
ספר ישעיה פרק כט
יד לָכֵן הִנְנִי יוֹסִף לְהַפְלִיא אֶת-הָעָם-הַזֶּה הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמָיו וּבִינַת נְבֹנָיו תִּסְתַּתָּר:
Isaiah 29:14 states, “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, Even a marvellous work and a wonder: For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (לָכֵן הִנְנִי יוֹסִף לְהַפְלִיא אֶת-הָעָם-הַזֶּה הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמָיו וּבִינַת נְבֹנָיו תִּסְתַּתָּר)” These words remind us of what the Torah states according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:9-10.
ספר דברים פרק כח
ט יְקִימְךָ יְהוָֹה לוֹ לְעַם קָדוֹשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע-לָךְ כִּי תִשְׁמֹר אֶת-מִצְוֹת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו: י וְרָאוּ כָּל-עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ כִּי שֵׁם יְהוָֹה נִקְרָא עָלֶיךָ וְיָרְאוּ מִמֶּךָּ:
Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:9–10
28:9 The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. 28:10 And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. (KJV)
We note that the Lord God will perform a powerful and mighty work in our lives, if we are willing to walk with him in the path of life on this earth! We note that modern theologians take these verses to suggest that man is earning something here in regard to receiving a blessing from God. The way I look at this is that God has given us what he expects from us as His people. So, we choose to walk in God’s ways because of our love for Him. Notice how this choice to walk in God’s ways, is synonymous to walking alongside God. Remember how we had discussed previously that when one chooses to walk in their own ways, one is choosing to turn from God’s ways, and more specifically walk in a strange way, a way that is foreign to God. When one does this, one chooses not to walk with the Lord God of Israel. On the other hand, when one does choose to walk in God’s ways according to the Scriptures, one is choosing to walk with the God of Israel. When we choose to walk with the God of Israel, then He sees us, He knows us, He loves us, and He blesses us to perform a powerful and mighty work in our lives! It is important to realize that this powerful and mighty work in our lives goes both ways, either for good or for bad. This is why Moshe wrote “I set before you today life and death” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 30:19) and Moshe says, “choose life!” The reason being, when one turns from the ways of God, one is turning from the Lord God Almighty! Isaiah says וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמָיו וּבִינַת נְבֹנָיו תִּסְתַּתָּר “For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” meaning that way which seems right to a man will be shown for what it is worth, nothing! In addition to these things, what the Lord God is saying through the prophet Isaiah is that He is able to do anything! For example, he brought Israel to Egypt, and there they multiplied and became a vast people. God delivered Israel from the midst of the Egyptian nation and destroyed that nation at the same time. Later when the people sinned, God brought a power and mighty nation against her, the Babylonian nation. The people were exiled to Babylon, and the Lord God worked powerfully to bring the people back to Israel again! These things were powerful works for the nation. On an individual basis, we are betzelem elohim (made in the image of God) and so we are to be representatives of the Lord God in heaven, we note how walking in God’s ways we do this very thing! The wonder and power of God in our lives as individuals, the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in us, the Lord God causes the world to see His mercy, grace, and love. It was precisely in this vast power of God, that he brought His Son Yeshua the Messiah into the world. This idea of the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) of God creating a baby in the womb of the woman (Mary) and bringing forth His Messiah, this is difficult to understand based on conventional wisdom. In fact, some find this impossible to understand and handle because they are relying upon their own conventional wisdom as opposed to seeking the greater revelation of God through His word. We note that PaRDeS (פַּרְדֵ״ס) a pneumonic for the four types of rabbinical biblical exegesis, פשת – Peshat (“the simple, literal historical narrative meaning”), רמז – Remez (“hint,” i.e., veiled allusions such as gematria, etc) , דרש – Drash (“homiletical interpretation”), סוד – Sod (“mystery,” i.e., the esoteric interpretation), each of these are vital for understanding the mysteries of God in the Scriptures. Taking the virgin birth, this mystery of God is manifested in the higher levels of rabbinical interpretation, the remez, drash, and sod, as opposed to peshat, the simple historical narrative of the text. This is the point that Isaiah is making when he said, וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמָיו וּבִינַת נְבֹנָיו תִּסְתַּתָּר “For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” We note that as we choose to walk and live up to our potential as the children of God, as we believe in Yeshua the Messiah and receive the Holy Spirit of God inside of us, God literally is incarnating Himself in us, note the parallel principle here, so that the world will see the way we live, the love that we have, and the mercy and grace of God through all of these things! It is precisely this very thing that conventional wisdom finds difficult to handle. True wisdom, one that is from God Himself (from above) recognizes that the meaning of life is to walk in God’s ways and allow the Lord God to work in our lives, to give him freedom in us, and to live in radical trust in him. (1 Corinthians 2:1-13, James 1:5-8, 3:13-18).
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 29:15.
ספר ישעיה פרק כט
טו הוֹי הַמַּעֲמִיקִים מֵיהֹוָה לַסְתִּר עֵצָה וְהָיָה בְמַחְשָׁךְ מַעֲשֵֹיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִי רֹאֵנוּ וּמִי יֹדְעֵנוּ:
Isaiah 29:15 states, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, And their works are in the dark, And they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? (הוֹי הַמַּעֲמִיקִים מֵיהֹוָה לַסְתִּר עֵצָה וְהָיָה בְמַחְשָׁךְ מַעֲשֵֹיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִי רֹאֵנוּ וּמִי יֹדְעֵנוּ)” We note here that Isaiah opens verse 15 with הוֹי “woe” saying woe to those who seek to hide their counsel from the Lord. This is the very thing that speaks to one choosing to turn from the Lord, to turn from His holy ways and His Holy counsel according to the Scriptures. We understand that true wisdom comes from above, and that true counsel is taken from the Word of God itself and it is wise then to apply God’s word to our lives! We remember earlier, the previous woe Isaiah spoke was to the drunkards in Isaiah 28:1. The second woe was to אֲרִיאֵל Ariel, the city of David in Isaiah 29:1. This third woe here in verse 15 speaks to walking in the darkness, to hiding oneself from the Lord and turning from God’s righteous ways! It is highly likely that what Isaiah is referring to here is that of the leaders making an agreement or plan to seek the help of a foreign nation and government, and not seek the help of God, but seek their own means for saving themselves. This is analogous to a secret political plan, similar to the idea of globalism today in the modern world. The nations have agreed together to conspire against the inhabitants of the earth for the purpose of control. The idea here is to the nations collaborating together making secret pacts with one another for an evil agenda. This is the very idea behind Isaiah’s words הַמַּעֲמִיקִים מֵיהֹוָה לַסְתִּר עֵצָה “they go deep to hide their counsel from the Lord.” This is what the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem were doing to save themselves from invading foreign nations and doing so without reliance upon the God of Israel! Note how hiding from the Lord started from the very beginning, with Adam and Eve in the garden after they had sinned. Looking at the Drash level of interpretation, these things speak to our own minds being darkened by sin and our own sinful determination to walk in our own ways as opposed to God’s ways. Doing this darkens our minds and locks us into repetitive and habitual sinful behaviors. The greatest joy however is to repent and turn from our sins and find a way to cooperatively work out our salvation as Paul spoke of in His epistle concerning these things! (See Philippians 2:12)
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 29:16.
ספר ישעיה פרק כט
טז הַפְכְּכֶם אִם-כְּחֹמֶר הַיֹּצֵר יֵחָשֵׁב כִּי-יֹאמַר מַעֲשֶֹה לְעֹשֵֹהוּ לֹא עָשָֹנִי וְיֵצֶר אָמַר לְיֹצְרוֹ לֹא הֵבִין:
Isaiah 29:16 states, “Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? (הַפְכְּכֶם אִם-כְּחֹמֶר הַיֹּצֵר יֵחָשֵׁב כִּי-יֹאמַר מַעֲשֶֹה לְעֹשֵֹהוּ לֹא עָשָֹנִי וְיֵצֶר אָמַר לְיֹצְרוֹ לֹא הֵבִין)” This is a verse that is a well-known quotation in the NT Text according to Romans 9:20. Here Isaiah points out how the people have turned the way things should work upside down. The idea is one of idolatry, where one tells their god what to do rather than seeking to discern what the God of Israel means to do. As the Creator God, is it not the way things should be that God is the one who is directing and determining how things should be? We have read previously in the book of Jeremiah that God does have a plan. This is not so for the pagan gods, since their forms of idolatry, first is that the pagan gods are made after the image of men, and second that the rites and rituals are meant to manipulate their god into doing something for them. The text comparison of the LXX, MSS, and TgJ interprets the outcome of those who hide their counsel with the potter having the final say.
The TgJ translates saying, “15 Woe unto them that purpose to hide counsel from before the Lord, that their works may be in darkness, and they say, None sees us, and none takes cognizance of our works. 16 Why do ye seek to pervert your works? Behold, as the clay in the hand of the potter, thus are ye accounted before me. Is it possible that the clay should say to its maker, Thou hast not made me? or should the creature say to its creator, Thou dost not understand me?” (TgJ) The major premise is that a pot, which is obviously made to be a pot, would then turn around and claim that it was not meant for cooking and such. Similarly, here for each of us who are made betzelem Elohim (in the image of God) claiming that we were not made in the image of God, or we were not made to walk in God’s ways, etc. Are we also able to see a parallel here to men who want to be women and women who want to be men in the LGBTQ community? The LXX translation states, 15 οὐαὶ οἱ βαθέως βουλὴν ποιοῦντες καὶ οὐ διὰ κυρίου, οὐαὶ οἱ ἐν κρυφῇ βουλὴν ποιοῦντες καὶ ἔσται ἐν σκότει τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν καὶ ἐροῦσιν Τίς ἡμᾶς ἑώρακεν καὶ τίς ἡμᾶς γνώσεται ἢ ἃ ἡμεῖς ποιοῦμεν; 16 οὐχ ὡς ὁ πηλὸς τοῦ κεραμέως λογισθήσεσθε; μὴ ἐρεῖ τὸ πλάσμα τῷ πλάσαντι Οὐ σύ με ἔπλασας; ἢ τὸ ποίημα τῷ ποιήσαντι Οὐ συνετῶς με ἐποίησας; 15 Woe to those who make a plan deeply, and their deeds will be in darkness, and they will say, “Who has seen us, and who will know us or what we are doing?” 16 Will you not be reckoned as the clay of the potter? Surely the shape will not say to the one who shapes it, “You did not shape me.” Or the thing made to the one who makes it, “You did not make me intelligently.” (LES) Again this speaks to the heaviness of polytheism and idolatry, since these things are made in rebellion to seeking the counsel of God. We note that Isaiah speaks to these things in his commentary on idols according to Isaiah 41:21-24, 42:8-9, 43:8-9, 44:7-8, etc. The false gods are objects of stone, metal, and wood, and those idols in our hearts, they do not know the origin of things nor what their end will be. We also note what this potter and clay analogy implies, that one has forgotten the one who created him. When one forgets the creator, or never knows the creator from the beginning, one easily turns to moral and ethical relativism. Just like the one who teaches musar turning around and violating at the same time all of the ethical imperatives that are upon one’s life as a faithful man of God! So, Isaiah is saying here that God wants to be involved in our lives, but we must be willing to walk humbly before Him! The potter and the clay analogy mean that the God of Israel is either a part of our lives or He is not. We must make that choice to walk with Him, to repent, to turn from our sins, and seek His Messiah Yeshua! Without this approach to our faith, what kind of faith does one really have?
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 29:17-18.
ספר ישעיה פרק כט
יז הֲלֹא-עוֹד מְעַט מִזְעָר וְשָׁב לְבָנוֹן לַכַּרְמֶל וְהַכַּרְמֶל לַיַּעַר יֵחָשֵׁב: יח וְשָׁמְעוּ בַיּוֹם-הַהוּא הַחֵרְשִׁים דִּבְרֵי-סֵפֶר וּמֵאֹפֶל וּמֵחֹשֶׁךְ עֵינֵי עִוְרִים תִּרְאֶינָה:
Isaiah 29:17 states, “Is it not yet a very little while, And Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, And the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? (הֲלֹא-עוֹד מְעַט מִזְעָר וְשָׁב לְבָנוֹן לַכַּרְמֶל וְהַכַּרְמֶל לַיַּעַר יֵחָשֵׁב)” Isaiah29:18 “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. (וְשָׁמְעוּ בַיּוֹם-הַהוּא הַחֵרְשִׁים דִּבְרֵי-סֵפֶר וּמֵאֹפֶל וּמֵחֹשֶׁךְ עֵינֵי עִוְרִים תִּרְאֶינָה)” Here Isaiah appears to speak of redemption by being planted in a fruitful field, etc. We remember in ancient times, cedar wood was especially desirable for its aromatic qualities as well as its resistance to decay and bugs. Lebanon was known for its magnificent cedars and was once heavily forested with them. Cedar was a major export and source of wealth. Cedar is mentioned throughout the Old Testament as an item of luxury and wealth. David used cedar wood in building his palace (2 Samuel 5:11; 7:2), and it was also used in building the temple (1 Kings 5:6, 2 Kings 19:23), which was almost completely paneled with cedar (1 Kings 6:6-36). Solomon used it in his Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, with cedar columns, beams, and roof (1 Kings 7:2). It was also used in the construction of the second temple (Ezra 3:7). The abundance of cedar was seen as a sign of prosperity (1 Kings 10:27,; 2 Chronicles 1:15.) David and Solomon acquired their cedar from Hiram, king of Tyre, a city in Lebanon (1 Chronicles 14:1, 2 Chronicles 2:3-8) where the best cedar was to be found. The Bible also talks about the Cedars’ healing properties. For example, the priests used Cedar wood for the ritual cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 14:3-4). For example, in Bamidbar / Numbers 19:6, the priest mixed Cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet with the ashes of a heifer to form a mixture. This ritual symbolized a cleansing from sin (vs. 9). The Cedars of Lebanon were not only a symbol of God’s power, but also of His judgment (Zechariah 11:1, Isaiah 2:12-13, 14:8, Jeremiah 22:14-23). The King Sennacherib of Assyria boasted of his power to destroy Israel and he proclaimed that he would go so far as to cut down the tall Cedars of Lebanon (Isaiah 37:24, 2 Kings 19:23). He was allowed as a threat to Israel due to Israel’s sin. However, God’s people prayed and the Lord pronounced destruction on this king which soon came to pass (Isaiah 37:36-38). We read throughout the Tanakh how God’s people would return to their rebellious ways serving foreign gods. Because of this Israel was likened to the cedars of Lebanon and judgment was pronounced. Again, the cedars are mentioned as a source of strength, prestige, majesty, and pride. With this background information, these cedars that are mentioned here in Isaiah 19:17 may suggest that there is humbling taking place while prior to the Lord God planting them into a fruitful field to grow into a forest again. This language provides a hopeful expectation of redemption, and this is the God that we serve, a merciful God full of grace and forgiveness of sins!
Isaiah writes וְשָׁמְעוּ בַיּוֹם-הַהוּא הַחֵרְשִׁים דִּבְרֵי-סֵפֶר וּמֵאֹפֶל וּמֵחֹשֶׁךְ עֵינֵי עִוְרִים תִּרְאֶינָה “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” These things mean that the helpless will be empowered, those who lived by injustice will disappear, and the blind will see, and the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, the word of the Living God. We note again how the Lord God Almighty is on the side of the weak, the helpless, those who need help, because these are they who trust in Him. This echoes the idea that Yeshua taught in Matthew 5:5, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. These things reveal to us how the proud, the arrogant, the leaders of this world will perish, and the common people will prevail, those who trust in the Lord will live! This is a general biblical truth, expressing what the Lord God will do for those who trust in Him. A text comparison reveals the following when comparing the LXX, MSS, and Targum translations.
The TgJ translates close to the MSS stating, “17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall turn into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be inhabited by many cities. 18 And at that time those that are like the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” It is obvious that the trees of Lebanon are an analogy for the people of Israel by the language that many cities will be inhabited in them. The LXX writes saying, 17 οὐκέτι μικρὸν καὶ μετατεθήσεται ὁ Λίβανος ὡς τὸ ὄρος τὸ Χερμελ καὶ τὸ ὄρος τὸ Χερμελ εἰς δρυμὸν λογισθήσεται; 18 καὶ ἀκούσονται ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ κωφοὶ λόγους βιβλίου, καὶ οἱ ἐν τῷ σκότει καὶ οἱ ἐν τῇ ὁμίχλῃ ὀφθαλμοὶ τυφλῶν βλέψονται, 17 It is no longer a little while and Lebanon will be changed as Mount Carmel, and Carmel will be considered a forest. 18 And on that day deaf people will hear the words of a scroll, and the eyes of blind people will see in the darkness and in the fog (LES) It is interesting how Mount Carmel is mentioned in Isaiah 29:17 in the LXX. There is much imagery that is drawn in by this, such as idolatry in Baal worship, and Elijah, how the prophets of God were persecuted and needed to be hidden so as not to be killed by Baal worshipers, etc. We note again how these words of Isaiah speak to the faithfulness of God who is there for the downtrodden members of society, all of those who hold strong to their faith in the God of Israel. The Lord God promises here that there will be a day for when the blind will see, and the deaf will hear. We note how there is something very powerful here in Isaiah’s words concerning the future expectation of what God is going to do, specifically in His promised Messiah! We note that in all of the Tanakh, there is no mention of anyone receiving sight (making the blind see). This idea of receiving sight to see was completely a prerogative of God (see Shemot / Exodus 4:11, Tehillim / Psalms 146:8) The point is when we read the NT text, we see something that only the Messiah of God can do in regards to make the blind see and the deaf to hear. In Luke 4:18, Yeshua gave sight to the blind we are told, because the Spirit of God was upon him! Isaiah says this is something the Messiah of God would do (Isaiah 29:18, 35:5, 42:7). This example provides us with a clear claim to Yeshua being the long-awaited Messiah of God that Israel and the world has been waiting for! This miracle of healing the blind and the deaf is a clear demonstration that Yeshua was the anointed Messiah of the God of Israel! We note that there was no disciple that were involved in giving sight to the blind, outside of Ananias and his involvement in praying for Paul so he could see, and it says that something like scales fell from his eyes after Ananias had prayed. This is the point here, of the promised hope that Isaiah is providing here, and is exactly what we have today in Yeshua the Messiah, a promise of hope, or peace, of life, and of power in the spirit to live for the Lord and bring glory to His Holy Name! We are able to truly see, to truly hear, to read and listen hearing the words of the scroll of life, the word of the Living God for those who place their faith in Yeshua the Messiah!
The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the Hebrew bible and therefore is a very valuable resource for our study of the book of Isaiah.
תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק כט:יג-יח
יג וַאְמַר יוי חְלָף דְאִתרָרַב עַמָא הָדֵין בְפוּמְהֹון וּבסִפוָתְהֹון מְיַקְרִין קֳדָמַי וְלִיבְהֹון אִתרַחַק מִדַחלְתִי וַהְוָת דַחלַתהֹון קֳדָמַי כְתַפקֵידַת גֻברִין מַלְפִין׃ יד בְכֵין הָאְנָא מֹוסֵיף לְמִמחֵי יָת עַמָא הָדֵין מַחָן מְפָרְשָן וְתֵיבַד חָכמְתָא מֵחַכִימֵיהֹון וְסֻכלְתָנוּתָא מִסֻכלְתָנֵיהֹון תִטְמַר׃ טו יֵי דִמדַמַן לְאַטמָרָא עֵיצָא מִן קֳדָם יוי וְהָוַן כִד בְקַבלָא עוּבָדֵיהֹון וְאָמְרִין לֵית דְחָזֵי לַנָא וְלֵית דְיָדַע בְעוּבָדַנָא׃ טז הַלְמִהפַך עוּבָדֵיכֹון אַתוּן בָעַן הָא כְמָא דְטִינָא בְיַד פַחָרָא כֵין אַתוּן חְשִיבִין קֳדָמַי הְאִפשָר דְיֵימַר טִינָא לְעָבְדֵיה לָא עְבַדתָנִי וּבִריְתָא דְתֵימַר לְבָרַהָא לָא חָכַמָת לִי׃ יז הְלָא עֹוד צִיב חַד כִזעֵיר וִיתוּב לִבנָן לְמִהוֵי כְכַרמְלָא וְכַרמְלָא קִרוִין סַגִיאִין יְתִיב׃ יח וְיִשמְעוּן בְעִדָנָא הַהוּא דִכחַרשִין מִלֵי סְפַר וּמִקְבַל וּמֵחְשֹוך עֵינֵי סְמַן יִחזְייָן׃
Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 29:13-18
29:13 Wherefore the Lord hath said: Because I am magnified by the mouth of this people, and with their lips they do honor me, but their heart is far from my fear, and their fear towards me is as the commandment of men teaching them: 29:14 Therefore, behold, I shall again strike this people with wonderful strokes; the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden. 29:15 Woe unto them that purpose to hide counsel from before the Lord, that their works may be in darkness, and they say, None sees us, and none takes cognizance of our works. 29:16 Why do ye seek to pervert your works? Behold, as the clay in the hand of the potter, thus are ye accounted before me. Is it possible that the clay should say to its maker, Thou hast not made me? or should the creature say to its creator, Thou dost not understand me? 29:17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall turn into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be inhabited by many cities. 29:18 And at that time those that are like the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. (TgJ)
What kind of people are we supposed to be before the Most High God? This is a significant question because it is central to everything Isaiah has been saying in the first 29 chapters in the book of Isaiah! We are called to be humble, to have mercy, to love one another, to walk in God’s ways of justice, truth, and life. We are not to be users of people for our own profit or benefit functioning in selfishness as a dictatorship lording over other people, controlling, and narcissistic. These things are characteristics of the evil one, and is why Isaiah wrote what he did concerning these things in Isaiah 29:13 according to the TgJ, יג וַאְמַר יוי חְלָף דְאִתרָרַב עַמָא הָדֵין בְפוּמְהֹון וּבסִפוָתְהֹון מְיַקְרִין קֳדָמַי וְלִיבְהֹון אִתרַחַק מִדַחלְתִי וַהְוָת דַחלַתהֹון קֳדָמַי כְתַפקֵידַת גֻברִין מַלְפִין׃ 29:13 Wherefore the Lord hath said: Because I am magnified by the mouth of this people, and with their lips they do honor me, but their heart is far from my fear, and their fear towards me is as the commandment of men teaching them. (TgJ) We note the condition here of those who honor God with their lips but they do not truly love the Lord to fear Him and His Word. The Jewish Commentary “Duties of the Heart” speak about these things saying the following:
Duties of the Heart, Third Treatise on Service of God 4:46
Of the fourth degree are those in whose consciousness the genuineness of the Torah and the truthfulness of reward and punishment in the world to come are firmly established. But their disposition inclines them to love of the world and its lusts; and they use the practices of the service of G-d as snares with which to obtain worldly advantages. They accept the Torah outwardly but not inwardly, with their tongues and not with their hearts. Of such people it is said, “One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart he waits in ambush for him” (Yirmiya 9:7). Further, “With mouth and lips, they honor Me; but their heart is far from Me” (Yeshaya 29:13).
Here the rabbis speak of the genuineness of the one who is faithful to the God of Israel. There are some whose disposition is to the love of the world and its lusts, and who use the service of God as a snare to obtain worldly advantages over others, for financial gain, and for power. These are those who accept the Torah outwardly, but this is not so inwardly! This is synonymous to the one who teaches musar and does not actually practice musar in one’s own life. The commentary writes that this is why Isaiah said what he did regarding “With mouth and lips, they honor Me; but their heart is far from Me.” The Baal Shem Tov interprets this verse from Isaiah in the following way:
Baal Shem Tov, Noach 59:1
There are some who pray in melancholy, from an excess of black bile, and think that they are praying with great awe. So too, there are some who think that they are praying out of great love for the Creator, on account of their blood, the red humor. When, however, one is in a state of loving God, and as a result shame falls upon them, and they want to glorify the Blessed One and defeat the evil urge on God’s account – this is very good. One is not considered a worshiper of God without the qualities of awe and love. One should allow awe to fall on them, and not arouse themselves to awe, which would be drawing up the mayim nukvin, the feminine waters. Real awe is when fear and terror fall upon you, and out of fear you have no idea where you are, and the mind clears and tears fall on their own. When it is not like this, even though it may seem that one loves the Creator, it is surely not so for “This is the gate to God” (Psalms 118:20): awe is the gate that leads to love, and if one does not go through the gate of awe, how can one be in a state of love? Such a person is not even a servant, much less a person on the level of having awe fall on them – they are not worshiping in a way that befits a Jew at all, only serving God out of automatic reflexes (Isaiah 29:13) and fooling themselves that they are actually serving God and worshiping God with joy. This is nothing but flippant joy, and one should return to God with their entire heart and soul.
Melancholy is “a feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.” The rabbis suggest that one can pray with melancholy and yet not be properly praying to the Lord in truth repentance. The idea is that which characterizes true faith, is one who fears God which leads to love, the love of God and of others. This is a very important concept that the NT text draws out concerning those who are faithful and are called the children of the God of Israel. We consider what Paul wrote according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.
1 Corinthians 13:1-7
13:1 IF I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 13:2 And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 13:3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 13:5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 13:6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 13:7 abears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NASB, 13 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον.* 2 καὶ *ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν καὶ* ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη ⸀μεθιστάναι,* ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 κἂν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου ἵνα ⸀καυχήσωμαι,* ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι. 4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ,* χρηστεύεται˸ ἡ ἀγάπη˸1, οὐ ζηλοῖ, ⸋[ἡ ἀγάπη]⸌ οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ⸀ἀσχημονεῖ,* οὐ ζητεῖ ⸁τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, 6 οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ, συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ·* 7 πάντα στέγει,* πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει.)
Here Paul is speaking about ἀγάπη (love). In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul summarizes saying that love stands over every power and authority, introducing and encircling the entire life of those who are faithful. Love also encircles prophecy, faith, hope, and knowledge (see 1 Corinthians.13: 2, 13:7-8) and these things are subordinated to love as the motivating factor for each of these things. According to Paul, in the context of 1 Corinthians, love is the greatest of the gifts of the Spirit, as well as the motivation that holds a faithful community together and builds it up. If one does not have love for another, then can one say they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit? Without love, no fellowship or shared life is possible! (See 1 Corinthians 16:14, Ephesians 1:15, 3:17–19). This is such a significant aspect of the life of the faithful, that we are told we are all built upon love (see 1 Corinthians 8:1, Ephesians 4:16, Philippians 2:1–2, Colossians 2:2, and 2 Thessalonians 1:3). When Paul offers the ekklesia (Body of believers) as an example of his own love, he is calling believers back to their fellowship in the love of God (2 Corinthians 2:4 and 8:7). Moreover, the apostle views love for neighbor as the fulfillment of the Torah according to Romans 13:8-10 and Galatians 5:14. When we study the Torah according to Devarim / Deuteronomy, the Torah expresses similar ideas. We note that the love of God is expressed from the context of our love for Him to draw near and walk in His holy ways (See Shemot / Exodus 20:6, Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-8, 10:12-13) and in our respect and love for others (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18). We notice how the Torah always exhorts Israel to love and obey God (Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:6-11) which is a theme that is summarized in the Shema (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-8). We note again how Paul based his teachings upon the Torah, since within the Torah is the central concept of God’s relationship with his people, that God loves His people and those who believe and are faithful reciprocate God’s love as they walk in His ways, emulating the Lord God by living according to His commandments. The Torah calls for one to remain true in faithfulness to the God of Israel, even unto the point of death! The Qumran community believed that they had been chosen in God’s love, but that this love referred only to the “children of light.” Indeed, God hates all who belong to the company of Belial, and the community is instructed to “love everyone whom God elects, hate everyone he hates” (1QS I, 3–4). We note also that Yeshua told us to love our enemies, raising the bar on what it means to express our love of God towards others. And since we enter into God’s love, we take on and become loving towards others. Note that the Spirit of God that indwells us does not cause us to be spiteful, vengeful, liars, or people who break up marriages, covetous for money, and controlling of others! It is in these things that we are able to see those who belong to the God of Israel, and those who belong to the evil one, that ancient serpent called the Devil or Satan. Love is the human response to the saving power of God in our lives which is coupled with the indwelling Spirit of God who shapes our lives and causes us to walk in God’s ways in authenticity! (Romans 5:5, 15:30) Through the Spirit, knowing God and being known by him are two sides of the same coin (1 Corinthians 13:12, Galatians 4:9); similarly, those who are loved by God love him. In those who recognize that they are loved (Romans 8:37), faith is active through love (Galatians 5:6). Thus, love is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and faith and love in fact are often mentioned side by side (Ephesians 6:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 3:6, 5:8, 1 Timothy 1:14). Can we see the significance of love and who we are as the children of God?
Rashi writes the following concerning this verse.
Rashi on Isaiah 29,13 Parts 1-2
יען כי נגש העם הזה. יונתן תירגם חלף דאיתרברב עמא הדין כלומר נגשו להגביה עצמן עד לשמים הם מראין עצמן כמכבדין אותי בפה ושפה ואת לבם הרחיקו ממני: Because this people has come near Jonathan renders: Because this people has aggrandized itself. I.e., they have come near to raise themselves up to the heavens. They show themselves as though honoring Me with mouth and lip, but their heart they have drawn far away from Me.
ותהי יראתם אותי. לא בלב שלם כי אם במצות האנשים המלמדים אותם התראו כנכנעים מלפניו כדי לפתותו בפיכם: and their fear of Me has become not wholehearted, but by the command of the people who teach them, they show themselves as humbled before Him in order to entice Him with your mouth.
Rashi writes about those who raise themselves up to the heavens, which is a description of pride and arrogance, and those who honor God with their lips but their hearts draw far away. Notice how this concept of drawing far away, this is the idea of walking in our own ways and not in God’s ways. When we walk in our own ways we choose a path of our own making, a path that God is not walking upon. This is why it is said that when we live our lives according to God’s word we are walking with God in heaven! So the one who chooses to not walk in God’s ways is walking alone and is on his own. Rashi writes that when a person is not wholehearted they are simply trying to say words or do actions that are meant to entice God to do things for them. Note how this is completely the opposite manner in which we approach our faith. This is how the evil one operates in the lives of His servants! The spin and twist the truth, to confuse and live in the pride of life.
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ, יד בְכֵין הָאְנָא מֹוסֵיף לְמִמחֵי יָת עַמָא הָדֵין מַחָן מְפָרְשָן וְתֵיבַד חָכמְתָא מֵחַכִימֵיהֹון וְסֻכלְתָנוּתָא מִסֻכלְתָנֵיהֹון תִטְמַר׃ 29:14 Therefore, behold, I shall again strike this people with wonderful strokes; the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden. טו יֵי דִמדַמַן לְאַטמָרָא עֵיצָא מִן קֳדָם יוי וְהָוַן כִד בְקַבלָא עוּבָדֵיהֹון וְאָמְרִין לֵית דְחָזֵי לַנָא וְלֵית דְיָדַע בְעוּבָדַנָא׃ 29:15 Woe unto them that purpose to hide counsel from before the Lord, that their works may be in darkness, and they say, None sees us, and none takes cognizance of our works. (TgJ) Those who have lips that honor God but hearts that do not, Isaiah says that they will be struck with strokes. This means that God is going to take them out and in a way that will demonstrate this is a work of God. The statement, wisdom of “their” wisemen will perish along with the understanding of “their” men. This explains what is happening, men choose their form of wisdom and understanding, as opposed to seeking and teaching the wisdom of God which is found in His Word. Isaiah explains in Isaiah 29:15 that these men hide the counsel of God because their works are in darkness. The idea of walking in darkness as opposed to walking in the light, and those who choose to walk in darkness along with their teachers, causes one to not be able to recognize the works of the evil one and the works of the servant of the evil one. This is the danger of sitting under a teacher who is not just living a lie, but also teaching a lie, such as those who reject Yeshua as the Messiah of God, leads to this belief system or ideology being acquired by the one who sits under such teachers and the outcome is not being able to see the truth. Note how Midrash Rabbah on Bereishit 1:6 expounds upon these things.
Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 1:6
Rabbi Yehudah Bar Simon opened with (Daniel 2:22): “He reveals the deep and secret. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” “He reveals the deep”–this is Hell, as it says (Proverbs 9:18): “He does not know there are spirits there,” and it says (Isaiah 30:33): “deep and large”. “And secret”–this is Paradise, as it says (Isaiah 4:6): “for a cover and refuge from storm and rain,” and it says (Psalms 31:21): “You hide them in the cover of Your presence.” Alternatively, “he reveals the deep and secret”–these are the acts of the wicked, as it says (Isaiah 29:15): “Woe to the ones who seek deep from God to make their counsel secret.” “And secret”–these are the acts of the wicked, as the verse states. “He knows what is in the dark”–these are the acts of the wicked, as it says in Isaiah: “Their acts are in the dark.” “The light dwells with Him”–these are the acts of the righteous, as it is written (Proverbs 4:18): “The path of the righteous is like the light at dawn,” and it says (Psalms 97:11): “Light is sown for the righteous.” Rabbi Abba Srungia said: “The light dwells with Him”–this is the Messiah, as it says (Isaiah 60:1): “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Rabbi Yehudah Bar Simon said: From the beginning of the creation of the world, “he revealed the dark and secret”. “In the beginning God created the heavens,” but it is not explained. Where is it explained? Here (Isaiah 40:22): “He stretches out the heavens like a curtain.” “And the land,” but it is not explained. Where is it explained? Here (Job 37:6): “For He says to the snow: ‘Fall on the earth.'” and (Job 38:38) “When the dust runs into a mass, and the clods cleave together.” “And God said: ‘Let there be light,'” and it is not explained. Where is it explained? (Psalms 104:2) “You cover Yourself with light like a garment.”
The rabbis in the Midrash expound upon the concept of “deep and secret” and speak to the way of the wicked is revealed by God. This is an important concept, as the Spirit of God which indwells us can give us discernment of the wicked schemes of the servant of the evil one! A significant interpretation on the light and darkness, is that “the light” dwells with God according to Daniel 2:22. The rabbinic interpretation on this is “the light dwells with Him” is the Messiah, and the rabbis quote from Isaiah 60:1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” We note The נמשל (Nimshal) expands upon the משל (mashal) through a series of answers and responses speaking again of the deep and the secret. The final explanation is using Tehillim / Psalms 104:2 saying “You cover Yourself with light like a garment.” This is interesting with the light being the Messiah, then a logical conclusion is that God our Father covers Himself with the Messiah. So in order for us to draw near to the Lord God our Father in heaven, we need to draw near to the Messiah of God. With this in mind, we consider how the NT text speaks extensively on these concepts, such as in Hebrews chapter 1, and elsewhere. In order to draw near to our Father God in heaven, we need to draw near to Yeshua the Messiah, because God covers Himself with Yeshua the Messiah! How important then is it to maintain our faith in Yeshua the Messiah. Consider what it means then when one rejects Yeshua the Messiah? What is the outcome? The outcome is what we have been talking about thus far, Yeshua we are told shows us the way, how to live our lives according to God’s Torah, etc. When one chooses to reject Yeshua, he is walking away from Torah, and away from God!
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ, טז הַלְמִהפַך עוּבָדֵיכֹון אַתוּן בָעַן הָא כְמָא דְטִינָא בְיַד פַחָרָא כֵין אַתוּן חְשִיבִין קֳדָמַי הְאִפשָר דְיֵימַר טִינָא לְעָבְדֵיה לָא עְבַדתָנִי וּבִריְתָא דְתֵימַר לְבָרַהָא לָא חָכַמָת לִי׃ 29:16 Why do ye seek to pervert your works? Behold, as the clay in the hand of the potter, thus are ye accounted before me. Is it possible that the clay should say to its maker, Thou hast not made me? or should the creature say to its creator, Thou dost not understand me? יז הְלָא עֹוד צִיב חַד כִזעֵיר וִיתוּב לִבנָן לְמִהוֵי כְכַרמְלָא וְכַרמְלָא קִרוִין סַגִיאִין יְתִיב׃ 29:17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall turn into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be inhabited by many cities. יח וְיִשמְעוּן בְעִדָנָא הַהוּא דִכחַרשִין מִלֵי סְפַר וּמִקְבַל וּמֵחְשֹוך עֵינֵי סְמַן יִחזְייָן׃ 29:18 And at that time those that are like the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. (TgJ) What we read here is speaking to the purpose of our creation, betzelem Elohim (in the image of God), how we were made to bring glory to God, to seek Him, to walk in His holy ways, and to live for His glory and praise! The potter and the clay has the vessels that God had made saying to Him that they were not made betzelem Elohim, and that they were not made to bring glory to the Creator. This is counter intuitive to the whole point of what it means to be a Creator, a Maker of something! Rashi writes the following concerning these things.
Rashi on Isaiah 29,16 Parts 1-4
הפככם אם כחומר היוצר יחשב. תהפוכות שלכם הזאת אתם יודעים שהוא כחומר היוצר שאין החומר יכול לומר לעושהו לא עשאני כך אינכם יכולין לומר שאיני מבין מעשיכם: Shall your perversion be regarded like the potter’s clay (Heb. הָפְכְּכֶם) Your perversions. Do you know this, that it is like the potter’s clay? Just as the clay cannot say of its maker, “He did not make me,” so you cannot say that I do not understand your deeds.
כחומר וגו’. ל’ תמיה הוא ויש תמיהות המתקיימות: Shall…like the potter’s clay, etc. This is an expression of a question, but there are questions to be answered in the affirmative.
לעושהו. כמו על עושהו ודוגמתו ואמר פרעה לבני ישראל (שמות יד), פן יאמרו לי אשה הרגתהו (שופטי’ ט): of him who made it (לְעֹשֵׂהוּ, lit. to him who made it.) Like עַל עֹשֵׂהוּ. Comp. (Ex. 14:3) “And Pharaoh shall say of the children of Israel (וְלִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל).” (Jud. 9:54) “Lest they say of me (לִי), ‘A woman killed him.’”
ויצר אמר ליוצרו לא הבין. אמר על יוצרו לא הבין מה ביצרו והלא הוא בנה את המטמוניו’ והחדרי’ והמחשבות: and the impulse say concerning the One Who formed it, “He does not understand”? Did he say concerning the One Who formed it, “He does not understand what is in my impulse”? Did He not build the hidden recesses, the inner chambers, and the thoughts?
Rashi discusses the idea of the potter and the clay, how God knows and understands everything about His creation, including us as individuals, our needs and our sins. The argument of the one who sins is to question whether God knows the source of one’s impulses and the idea is that “the Lord God does not know” which is absolutely not true. He knows the struggles that we have, the questions we have, and the things that we need to overcome in our lives in relation to sin! The point of these things is that we seek the help of the Lord God in heaven to be overcomers! Midrash Rabbah Bereshit writes the following concerning these things.
Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 24:1
זֶה סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדֹת אָדָם (בראשית ה, א), רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ רַבָּה פָּתַח (ישעיה כט, טו): הוֹי הַמַּעֲמִיקִים מֵה’ לַסְתִּר עֵצָה וְהָיָה בְמַחְשָׁךְ מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִי רֹאֵנוּ וּמִי יֹדְעֵנוּ, לְאַרְכִיטִיקְטוֹס שֶׁבָּנָה אֶת הַמְדִינָה חֲדָרִים וּבִיבִים וּמְעָרוֹת, לְאַחַר יָמִים נַעֲשָׂה גַּבָּאי, הָיוּ בְּנֵי הַמְדִינָה מַטְמִינִין מִפָּנָיו בְּתוֹךְ הַחֲדָרִים וּבְתוֹךְ הַמְעָרוֹת, אָמַר לָהֶן אֲנִי הוּא שֶׁבָּנִיתִי אֶת הַמְעָרוֹת וּמִפָּנַי מָה אַתֶּם מַטְמִינִין עַצְמְכֶם בָּהֶן, כָּךְ הוֹי הַמַּעֲמִיקִים מֵה’ לַסְתִּר עֵצָה וְהָיָה בְמַחְשָׁךְ מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם. (ישעיה כט, טז): הַפְכְּכֶם אִם כְּחֹמֶר הַיֹּצֵר יֵחָשֵׁב, מְדַמִּין צוּרָה לְיוֹצְרָהּ נְטִיעָה לְנוֹטְעָהּ, (ישעיה כט, טז): כִּי יֹאמַר מַעֲשֶׂה לְעוֹשֵׂהוּ לֹא עָשָׂנִי וְיֵצֶר אָמַר לְיֹצְרוֹ לֹא הֵבִין, הֲלֹא עוֹד מְעַט מִזְעָר וְשָׁב לְבָנוֹן לַכַּרְמֶל, לְבֵית מַלְכוּת, (ישעיה כט, טז): וְהַכַּרְמֶל לַיַּעַר יֵחָשֵׁב, לְחֻרְשֵׁי דִבְנֵי אֵינָשׁ. (ישעיה כט, יח): וְשָׁמְעוּ בַיּוֹם הַהוּא הַחֵרְשִׁים דִּבְרֵי סֵפֶר, זֶה סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדֹת אָדָם.
This is the book of the Generations of Adam, It is written, Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, etc. (Isaiah 29:15) R. Levi said, This may be compared to a master builder who built a country with (secret) chambers, canals, and caves. Subsequently he became a tax collector, and the inhabitants of the country hid from him in those chambers and caves. Said he to them, It is I who built all these chambers and caves; to what purpose then is your hiding? Similarly, Woe unto them that seek deep! … And their works are in the darkness, etc. (ib.). O your perversity! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay (Isaiah 29:16)? You liken the created object to its creator, the plant to its planter! That the thing made should say unto him that made it, He made me not, etc. (Isaiah 29:16). Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field (Isaiah 29:17) – i.e. as a forest – i.e. as a forest of men. And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of a book (Isaiah 29:18), viz. The book of the generations of Adam; hence it is written, This is the book of the generations of Adam.
The Midrash speaks to the generations of Adam, this is a reference to all of mankind, and he singles out those who try to hide their sins from the Lord. A parable is given of a king who built in his kingdom chambers and canals and caves, and even secret places, and the king became a tax collector, and the people hid in the places that he created. It is interesting as God is paralleled to a tax collector, meaning that he calls upon mankind to pay for something. Tax collectors are often portrayed as being evil, and in the modern world share a similar stereotype to that of lawyers. This falls back on the idea of how we were created, b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. We note the Torah centric gospel describes the centrality of God’s relationship with His people, that God loves His people, and how He offers mercy even to the nations for the opportunity for repentance. For those who have faith, they reciprocate God’s love and walk in His holy and righteous ways emulating the living God by living according to His commandments. This is the perspective of the parable, that parallels the creative king and the tax collector, not as someone evil but as someone who is merciful, kind, and loving. This isn’t exactly too much to ask from the God who created us! The Midrash also speaks of a day of redemption that is found in the words of Isaiah 29:18 “the deaf shall hear the words of the book” which speaks to the Word of God, the Bible, where the blind and the deaf will see and hear and have understanding. All of these concepts remind us of Isaiah 6:10 and Yeshua quoting from these words saying:
ספר ישעיה פרק ו
י הַשְׁמֵן לֵב-הָעָם הַזֶּה וְאָזְנָיו הַכְבֵּד וְעֵינָיו הָשַׁע פֶּן-יִרְאֶה בְעֵינָיו וּבְאָזְנָיו יִשְׁמָע וּלְבָבוֹ יָבִין וָשָׁב וְרָפָא לוֹ:
6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, And make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. (KJV)
13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (KJV, 15 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου,* καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ⸆ βαρέως ἤκουσαν καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν, μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.*)
We note again how those who close their eyes and stop up their ears are those who are the servants of the evil one, who are users of people for our own profit or benefit functioning in selfishness as a dictatorship lording over other people, controlling, and narcissistic. We note again how the Torah (see Devarim / Deuteronomy) expresses the great mercy and love of God, that He delivered a mixed multitude who stood before Sinai, and entered into a covenant relationship with God, and then God gave them His word in love and mercy. (Shemot / Exodus 20:6, Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-8, 10:12-13) This context of love is drawn out by the NT authors, to love God and to love others (see Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18). This is why the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), faith, faithfulness, and love (Ephesians 6:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 3:6, 5:8, 1 Timothy 1:14) are often mentioned together (side-by-side). The union of these concepts from the biblical text, from the Torah, the prophets, and the NT, drive forward the weightiness of both Isaiah and Yeshua’s words regarding the eyes and the ears. We must strive to be seers and listeners to God’s call on our lives! We must examine our own path in this life and measure whether our lives are consistent with the Word of God or not! If our lives do not measure up, then we are left wanting, and if we do not confess our sins and repent, we are as the people described here in these ancient texts! The most significant point is that we need the Lord God in heaven and His Messiah Yeshua to open our minds to these truths! Without the help of the God of Israel none of these things are possible, that is of our remaining faithful, to apply God’s word to our lives, and to even have faith! Remember the Midrashic interpretation, how the light of God is His righteousness, and how the light of God is the Messiah, and how God wraps Himself with light (righteousness) concluding how our Father in Heaven wraps himself with the Messiah. This speaks to the need to draw near to the Messiah in order to draw near to our Father in heaven! B”H for the salvation that God has provided, and how He has incorporated all of these things together for our understanding of who we are as God’s holy People, to know that we are to repent and turn from sin, and the importance of seeking the God of Israel and His Messiah!