Alongside my daily reading of the psalms and the Gospel of John, I have been reading Isaiah. Today I got to chapter 55. More about that shortly.
But first, I must mention the novel that I’ve just finished. ‘In the Beginning’ by Chaim Potok. The story concerns David, who is only a small boy at the start of the novel. His family, orthodox Jews, have arrived in New York in the 1920’s from Poland. Like other novels by Potok, you get an insight into the daily life and religious observance of orthodox Jews, which I found fascinating. It impressed on me how little I know of Judaism, past and present, and prompted me to read some Jewish commentaries on the Bible (Old Testament).
In Synagogue worship, the reading of Torah – The Law of Moses – (The first five books of the Bible) is central, and in the course of a year, the whole of the Torah will be read in the Sabbath morning worship. (In some traditions there is a three year cycle of Torah readings). The reading of Torah is followed by a Havtarah, a reading from another part of the Old Testament that is thematically linked to the Torah reading for the day. The Havtarah reading completes the Bible readings for that day.
So to Isaiah 55. The following verses are part of the Havtarah reading on the Sabbath called Noach, when the story of Noah is read as the Torah reading.
1 “All you who are thirsty, come to the water!
You without money, come, buy, and eat!
Yes, come! Buy wine and milk
without money — it’s free!
2 Why spend money for what isn’t food,
your wages for what doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and you will eat well,
you will enjoy the fat of the land.
3 Open your ears, and come to me;
listen well, and you will live —
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the grace I assured David.
These verses are an invitation to come to God, the source of all that is good, and lifegiving. The significance of water is clearly to do with the necessity of water for life. This is understood also to tell us of the necessity of God’s law for us to live fully. So water is a symbol of Torah, and like water, we need Torah’s influence in our lives continually.
In the account of the Israelites’ journey after the Exodus, it tells us that they travelled for three days in the desert without finding any water. After three days, they found water, but it was bitter. When the people complained and asked, “Moses, what are we going to drink?” Moses asked the Lord for help and the Lord told him to throw a piece of wood into the water. Moses did so, and the water became fit to drink.
So as the people could not go more than three days without water, and water is a symbol of Torah, we must not go more than three days without a public reading of Torah. It became the custom not to let more than three days pass without a public reading of Torah. So readings from the Torah are read on Monday and Thursday, as well as on the Sabbath.
And for me as a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, I see these verses from Isaiah as an invitation to come to Jesus, God’s promised one. In John’s Gospel chapter 4, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, and in the course of the conversation, Jesus says these words “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
For me, the whole of Torah is fulfilled in Jesus, who came to do God’s perfect will, and to lead us to the Father.
Grace and Peace.