This coming shabbat is one of the special Shabbats in the traditional Jewish calendar. It is known as Shabbat Nachamu (Shabbat of Consolation), based on the opening words of the Haftorah (Isaiah 40:1-26): “Nachamu, nachamu, ami – Comfort, comfort my people” (v. 1). Shabbat Nachamu is always read on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) and coincides with the Torah portion V’etchanan.
Tisha B’Av is a day marked by sorrow on which many of the most tragic events in Jewish history have occurred, including the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples. So if there is ever a time on the Jewish calendar to bring comfort and consolation – this is it.
Shabbat Nachamu is the first of a series of seven haftarot (haftorah portions) of consolation announcing Israel’s redemption that continue until Rosh HaShanah. All seven of the haftarot are taken from Isaiah 40-66.
Isaiah 40:1-26 proclaims comfort and hope for Zion and its inhabitants. It is especially appropriate after reading the Book of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av. This haftorah serves as a counter balance to the book of Lamentations. The writer of Lamentations cries out “there is no one to comfort her” (Lam. 1:2, 9), yet Isaiah proclaims, “Comfort, comfort my people.” Lamentations continues, now “the roads to Zion mourn” (1:4) and the exiles “have fled without strength before the pursuer.”
Isaiah announces, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3) and “He [ADONAI] gives strength to the weary,” but “they who wait for ADONAI will renew their strength. They will soar up with wings as eagles. They will run, and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (v. 29, 31) While these last two verses are outside of the haftorah for Shabbat Nachamu, they demonstrate the heart of the passage—the hope of Zion and of Israel. Isaiah relates that a new era has dawned; the complete realization of the words in Lamentations that “their punishment is accomplished; He [ADONAI] will exile you no longer.” (Lam. 4:22)
Isaiah boldly proclaims “…that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed.” (Isa. 40:2) This chapter in Isaiah is full of amazing pronouncements of hope as well as teachings on the profound nature of God, including His majesty and might. There is also an emphasis on the reliability of God’s word, which reinforces the prophecies of consolation.
The haftorah ends with the charge “Lift up your eyes on high and see! Who created these things?” (Isa. 40:26). Isaiah is urging the people to focus on ADONAI, who is the Creator, and not on their situation. “The people are thus urged to renew their wonder at God—a wonder that will awaken assurance in ‘His great might and vast power,’ and thus inspire trust in His promise of redemption.”
Though these words were spoken to Israel, and will come to complete fulfillment in ADONAI’s timing, they are also applicable to each one of us. No matter our situation—how much we have sinned, how downcast we are, how we feel God is far away and the heavens are silent, or how much we are ready to give up, etc.—we are to lift up our heads, look to the Creator and trust in His great might and power. He will redeem every situation.
Let creation inspire you to trust in His promise of redemption. ADONAI‘s words to Israel not only demonstrate care, love, comfort, encouragement and hope, but they show His relationship with His people. The same is true for all who have been grafted into Israel through belief in Yeshua; He has a relationship with us. So lift up your heads, look to the Creator, awaken assurance in His might and power, and be inspired to trust His promises for you!