Living Up to Our PotentialJuly 3, 2012 - 5:00 am
“Many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us His ways,
so that we may walk in His paths’.” — Isaiah 2:3
In this passage, Isaiah relays a prophetic vision of the end of days — in particular, a revelation of God’s power and grace taking place throughout the world. At the centre of it all, states Isaiah, will be the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. And in this Temple all of God’s creatures will be welcome as one.
Pretty inspiring stuff! But interestingly, Isaiah doesn’t simply speak of “the Temple,” or even of “the house of God,” or something along those lines. Instead, Isaiah names this holy place: “the temple of the God of Jacob.” Why, we are left to wonder, does Isaiah associate this climactic future event with the biblical patriarch, Jacob? What’s so special about Jacob that makes him different from any other person in the Bible?
In a collection of traditional Jewish explanations of the Bible known as Yalkut Shimoni, the ancient sages offer a beautifully poignant answer to our question. Well, say the Jewish sages, the answer is because Jacob was the first of the patriarchs to recognize the exact spot in the land of Israel where God would eventually command the Temple to be built. Even though the Temple would not be built for hundreds of years, Jacob perceived that God would one day choose the city of Jerusalem as the site of his holiest place.
This then is why the coming together of all people – from all over the world – to worship God is identified with the character of Jacob. More so than any other person in the Bible, Jacob was able to sense the potential in any person, any place, or thing to serve God in its own special way. Jacob could look at anyone – at you, me, or even the most unlikely of people – and say, “I know you have it within you to be a true servant of God – a force for kindness and justice in this world!”
We can emulate Jacob when we look for the good in others and encourage them to be the best people that God has created them to be. And hopefully, others will be like Jacob in our lives as well.