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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

God's Dream . . . And Ours

God’s Dream
A Sermon on the Haftarah of Parshat Bamidbar - Hosea 2:1-22
By Rabbi Stuart Dauermann

The Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King is justly famous for his stirring speech, “I Have a Dream.” It is one of those moments of greatness, one of those classics of rhetoric that does not wear out with the repeating. Like all true classics, the deeper we delve into its details, the greater our satisfaction.

Of course, one of the benefits of Martin Luther King’s dream is that it was not his alone. By speaking forth his dream, it became for countless others their dream too. Such is the power of prophetic dreams---they energize God’s people.

Perhaps, like me, you grew up in a place and time where being called “a dreamer” was something of an insult. The first time someone is called a dreamer in scripture, it is no compliment. Joseph’s brother used the term of him scornfully. Yet, it was Joseph’s dreams, and his facility with the dreams of Pharaoh, that were to become the means of delivering the entire family of Jacob, and a host of others, from the gruesome death of famine. Joseph demonstrated that being a dreamer can be a good thing, a life-giving thing. Indeed, being a dreamer can be a God thing.

We are told by the Prophet Joel that after a time of judgment, the people of Israel will experience a time of blessing, a divine visitation. And one of the signs of that visitation will be dreams and visions, for young and old, men and women.

25 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.
28 "And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

God’s Spirit poured will out so that young and old, rich and poor, men and women prophesy, dreaming dreams and having visions.

Shimon Kefa, Simon Peter, speaks of this kind of visitation on the Day of Pentecost [Shavuot], which we ourselves are soon to celebrate. He borrows this text from Joel confirming that this dreaming of dreams from God is a sign of divine visitation, and is characteristic of God’s people during these days of the Newer Covenant.

Acts 2:15 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Rather than despising dreamers as some are wont to do, we should be eager to have the kinds of dreams and visions God sends during his times of visitation. But what kinds of dreams should they be? And how will we know that our dreams from the Spirit of God?

One measuring rod to gauge whether a dream is God-given is to see if one’s dreams are compatible with God’s dreams. It may surprise you to know that God has dreams, but today’s Haftarah, the second chapter of Hosea, makes it unmistakably clear that God has a dream, and even what that dream is like.

Just as people have recurring dreams, so this dream of God reappears again and again in Scripture. Sometimes certain details predominate, at other times, other details. Sometimes the dream is complete, and sometimes partial. But if one reads the Scriptures carefully, one can easily identify details of God’s dream for Israel His people, especially, as in today’s reading,

In Hosea 2:1-3 we read that God dreams of Israel being multiplied, unified, and joined in warm and lasting reconciled relationship with the Holy One,

1 The number of the people of Israel shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; and instead of being told, "You are Not-My-People," they shall be called Children-of-the-Living-God. 2 The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall assemble together and appoint one head over them; and they shall rise from the ground--for marvelous shall be the day of Jezreel!

3Oh, call your brothers "My People,"
And your sisters "Lovingly Accepted!"

He speaks also of the means he will use to bring this dream to pass, means which might be termed his nightmare, and Israel’s as well, for yes, before the dream comes to pass, first there will be a nightmare,

4 Rebuke your mother, rebuke her--
For she is not My wife
And I am not her husband--
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts.
5 Else will I strip her naked
And leave her as on the day she was born:
And I will make her like a wilderness,
Render her like desert land,
And let her die of thirst.
6 I will also disown her children;
For they are now a harlot's brood,
7 In that their mother has played the harlot,
She that conceived them has acted shamelessly--
Because she thought,
"I will go after my lovers,
Who supply my bread and my water,
My wool and my linen,
My oil and my drink."

8 Assuredly,
I will hedge up her roads with thorns
And raise walls against her,
And she shall not find her paths.
9 Pursue her lovers as she will,
She shall not overtake them;
And seek them as she may,
She shall never find them.
Then she will say,
"I will go and return
To my first husband,
For then I fared better than now."

10 And she did not consider this:
It was I who bestowed on her
The new grain and wine and oil;
I who lavished silver on her
And gold--which they used for Baal.
11 Assuredly,
I will take back My new grain in its time
And My new wine in its season,
And I will snatch away My wool and My linen
That serve to cover her nakedness.
12 Now will I uncover her shame
In the very sight of her lovers,
And none shall save her from Me.
13 And I will end all her rejoicing:
Her festivals, new moons, and sabbaths--
All her festive seasons.
14 I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees,
Which she thinks are a fee
She received from her lovers;
I will turn them into brushwood,
And beasts of the field shall devour them.
15 Thus will I punish her
For the days of the Baalim,
On which she brought them offerings;
When, decked with earrings and jewels,
She would go after her lovers,
Forgetting Me

--declares the Lord.

There will be a time of estrangement, rebuke, barrenness and suffering, as means to cause Israel to return to the One from whom they had departed.

And finally, there is the happy ending of the dream itself, so glorious, it makes all that came before it worth the pain and suffering.

16 Assuredly,
I will speak coaxingly to her
And lead her through the wilderness
And speak to her tenderly.
17 I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
When she came up from the land of Egypt.

18 And in that day

--declares the Lord--
You will call [Me] Ishi,
And no more will you call Me Baali.
19 For I will remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth,
And they shall nevermore be mentioned by name.

20 In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land. Thus I will let them lie down in safety.

21 And I will espouse you forever:
I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,
And with goodness and mercy,
22 And I will espouse you with faithfulness;
Then you shall be devoted to the Lord.

God’s dream, his longing is most aptly expressed in the second part of verse 17, where he states of Israel, “There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, When she came up from the land of Egypt.” But what does this mean? How did Israel respond to God when she up from the land of Egypt. To what is the text alluding?

This is the heart of God’s dream. The return of Israel to covenant faithfulness, to a life ordered by Torah, which our tradition refers to as Israel’s ketubbah, her marriage contract with the Holy One,

God longs for the restoration of Israel, and for our return to covenant faithfulness.

We are the Bridegroom’s friends. Can we long for anything less?

Renew our days, as of old.