The High Holy Day season is always a powerful time of reflection and assessment. The Scripture passages chosen to accompany these holidays contribute to the spiritual depth of the season.
I was particularly struck this year by a section of the Haftarah portion that is read every year on Yom Kippur:
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell. If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord…and honor it…I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. (Isaiah 58:12-14)
Here we are initially provided with the image of the Jewish people rebuilding ancient ruins and raising up age-old foundations. As I search for meaning in this verse I see it fulfilled, or on its way to fulfillment, in multiple avenues today. First, I see it correlating to the return of Jews to the land of Israel and rebuilding it, making it flourish. I also see it fulfilled through our movement, where Jews have become disciples of Yeshua and are rebuilding the seemingly demolished ruins of Jewish faith in Messiah.
Partnership and Collaboration
This spiritual reconstruction is not just a Jewish task. Isaiah speaks of the collaboration of the nations:
Foreigners will build up your walls, and their kings will minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, and in My favor I have had compassion on you. (Isaiah 60:10)
This is a prophecy that we are seeing fulfilled every day in our movement. Many Gentiles have caught this vision, whether they attend a messianic congregation or a church, and they realize the centrality of Israel and recognize their role in the partnership of true tikkun olam. Many see their own important and divine calling as Gentile followers, and are stabilizing their Jewish brothers and sisters, whether through support of the State of Israel, supporting Messianic Jews, or through their unflinching devotion to spreading the gospel. The prophecy of the regeneration of Israel depends upon this dual partnership.
The verse in Isaiah 58:12 also calls us the “repairer of the breach.” As Messianic believers we are repairing the image of the Messiah. Yeshua’s name has been disgraced for too long, either inadvertently by his followers or deliberately by his opponents. We are bringing to light his true identity and character, and doing our best to live it out as Jewish and Gentile disciples respectively. The word “breach” in this verse is the Hebrew word peretz, which is also the name of Judah’s son through whom Messiah comes. This verse tells us that we have the distinct ability to repair the Son of Peretz—or his perceived image, rather—and return him to his Jewish people and the world as the true Son of David.
Sabbath as a Catalyst
These verses in Isaiah come with a promise of blessing and prosperity, not just in terms of wealth, but in spiritual terms. It is as if this is a promise of full return amongst our Jewish people as the leaders, not the rejects; as the standard, not the pariah.
If this is truly the promise, then it comes with a stipulation. If we refrain from doing our own desires on the Sabbath. If we honor the Sabbath and call it a delight. We may recognize that at the inception of our movement, ours was a Temple sect. Our first leaders and rabbis met in the Temple and worshiped in the Temple. Now that we no longer have a Temple, and many of us are outside of the land, the Shabbat has become our Temple, or Sanctuary, in time.
According to the verse, it would appear that observing the Sabbath is an essential part of entering into our identity and leading our people in faith. As Messianic Jews it is incumbent upon us to consider our relationship to the Sabbath and how we will approach it each week. It would not be inappropriate for us to be renowned for our Sabbath celebrations, for we have the Lord of the Sabbath as our Rabbi, and as such, our expectation of rest and joy in the Messianic Era can be evident in our weekly lives.
For the Gentiles, it is important to remember the Sabbath, and honor it as HaShem’s rest and as his covenant with the Jewish people. While a Gentile’s relationship to the Sabbath is different, it is no less precious or significant. Isaiah even proclaims much blessing for the Gentiles who remember HaShem’s Sabbath (56:5).
Living in the Revolution
My personal takeaway from Isaiah 58:12-14 is that as a revolutionary movement, we must continue to work for the reconciliation of Israel and the Messiah. We must reconstruct these destroyed ramparts and take our place as leaders in all of Israel and amongst the nations, and it would appear that the catalyst that launches us to this foretold headship correlates to our relationship with the Sabbath.
This work does not come without difficulty, but this move was spoken of thousand of years before it occurred, and we are reading our very own involvement within ancient texts written by those figures we venerate. We are no flash-in-the-pan, we were on the minds and hearts of the great prophets of HaShem!
As Jewish ruin-repairers and Gentile wall-builders let us see our prophetic significance and be awed at the fact that HaShem has brought us here. Let us not get waylaid in our mission of spreading light to this world, rather let us live in the revolution, unfalteringly walking the paths of Torah and the Testimony of Messiah.