STAYING ALIVE (ISAIAH 54:1-10)
Two beggars are sitting on a park bench in Ireland. One is holding a cross and the other a Star of David. Both are holding hats to collect contributions. People walk by, lift their noses at the man with the Star of David and drop money into the hat of the man with the cross. Soon, the hat of the man with the cross is filled and the hat of the man with the Star of David is empty.
A priest watches for a while and then approaches the men. He says to the man with the Star of David, "Don't you realize that this is a Catholic country? You'll never get any contributions holding a Star of David."
The man turns to the one with the cross and says, "Moishe, can you imagine, this goy is trying to tell us how to run our business?
Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of God. Pascal answered, ¡¡¡ÓWhy the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!¡ÆØ
Who are the Jews? They are supposedly the smartest and stingiest of folks, the most unwelcome and unsafe people in the world, and the most persecuted and powerful race in human history. They are the chosen people and the light of the world. Why did they survive against all odds? It is widely accepted that approximately 5.7 million of Europe's 7.3 million Jews perished during the war. What is God¡¦s role and relationship with them?
Rejoice with Might
1 ¡¡¡ÓSing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,¡ÆØ says the Lord.
[the constable enters Anatevka]
Tevye: Welcome, your honour, what's the good news in the world?
Constable: I see you have company.
Tevye: [looks at them nervously] They are my friends.
Constable: It's just as well. What I have to say is for their ears also. How much time do you need to sell your house and household goods?
Tevye: Why should I sell my house? Is it in anybody's way?
Constable: I came to tell you that you have to leave Anatevka.
Tevye: How did I come to deserve such an honour?
Constable: Not just you of course, but all of you!
The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah are unlike in unique ways. If Jeremiah is considered the crying prophet, Isaiah can be considered the singing prophet. Right out of the bat in the chapter is the verb ¡¡¡Ósing¡ÆØ (v 1) in the imperative that makes a glorious appearance as the first word of the chapter. The verb makes only three occurrences with fellow prophets such as Jeremiah and Zephaniah and none in Ezekiel and Daniel, but 14 times in Isaiah, out of which six are imperatives (Isa 12:6, 26:19, 44:23, 49:13, 52:9, 54:1), double the imperative ¡¡¡Ósing¡ÆØ in Psalms (Ps 32:11, 33:1, 81:1). Sing is more than activity, ability or availability; it is one¡¦s attitude, affection, adoration, acknowledgement and acclamation. Sing can be translated as shout (Lev 9:24), rejoice (Deut 32:43), sing out (1 Chron 16:33), sing for joy (Job 29:13), shout for joy (Ps 5:11), sing aloud (Ps 51:14), crieth out (Ps 84:2) and triumph (Ps 92:4).Those who are commanded to sing in Isaiah include the inhabitants of Zion (Isa 12:6), the heavens (Isa 44:23, 49:13), and the barren (Isa 54:1).
The translation for the second imperative ¡¡¡Óburst forth into joy¡ÆØ are make a loud noise (Ps 98:4), break forth (Isa 14:7) and break forth into joy (Isa 52:9). Sing is the vigor, but break forth is the volume ¡V the liveliness versus the loudness. Isaiah previously commanded mountains, forest, every tree (Isa 44:2) and waste places of Jerusalem (Isa 52:9) to break forth into joy; now he addressed people, people who are without status, security, significance, stability, solace and support. It is specific to the Jews, but applicable to the despised, downtrodden, deserted, denounced and discriminated.
The last imperative ¡¡¡Óshout for joy¡ÆØ is the vibrancy to the vigor and volume of the previous two imperatives. It is to be luminous to the liveliness and loudness. Translated as rejoice (Est 8:15), make one¡¦s face to shine (Ps 104:15), lift up (Isa 10:30), cry out (Isa 12:6), cry aloud (Isa 24:14), shout (Jer 31:7), neigh (Jer 5:8) and ¡¡¡Óbellow¡ÆØ as bulls (Jer 50:11), it is to be emotional, excitable and enjoyable.
Return No More
2 ¡¡¡ÓEnlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.