What G-d Wants —
  The Prophet Isaiah's Summary of the Seven Noahide Commandments

The Spirit of the Law

  

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By the grace of G-d 
Copyright © 2014, 2016 Nathaniel Segal 

G-d did not create [the earth to be] a waste land.
He formed it to be settled . . .
— Isaiah 45:18 

The full verse in Isaiah reads:

For so says the L-rd Who creates the heavens.
He is the G-d Who forms the Earth and makes it.  He prepares it.
He did not create it to be a waste land.
He formed it to be settled.
I am the L-rd, and there is nothing else.

Comments and Notes:

The negation comes first:  the Almighty, at the very least, does not want the human world to be a waste land.  With this bit of knowledge and awareness, we come to realize that He desires us humans to live civilized lives.  "He did not create it to be a waste land because He formed it to be settled."

How is it possible for us to live civilized lives?  Because He prepares the world for us with everything that we need.

In this one verse, the prophet reminds us of the One G-d, Creator of Heaven and Earth.  He alone prepares the world for us with everything that we need.  "He is the L-rd."  It is only fit to serve Him.  "There is nothing else."  There is no power in heaven (not to mention anything earthbound) which has any degree of independence from its Creator.

Using the Present Tense

Notice that the first four verbs are in the present tense – creates, forms, makes, and prepares.  G-d is constantly creating the universe.  Since the first moment of creation, G-d has ceaselessly been willing the universe into existence.  If He no longer wanted the universe to exist, without Divine action it would cease to exist.  "Unwilling" the universe spells the absolute end of the universe.  In the middle ground, if He wishes to change the nature of the universe – let's say "fine tune it" – so it would be.  In the language of Scripture, when G-d says "Let there be . . .",  Scripture continues ". . . and it was so."

Then we read two verbs in the past tense – did not create (it) and formed.  These correspond to a decisive stage of will.  In human terms, this corresponds to making a resolution.  We want to . . . (fill in the blanks).  We have been wanting to do this for a while.  Finally one day, perhaps even at one moment, we decide to commit ourselves.

For example, I've been intending to post this web page to my web site ever since I was satisfied with its content.  The fact that you're reading it on the Internet means that I finally decided to actually upload this page.  If I may say so, "I have been creating (I create) and have been forming (I form) and have been making (I make) this web page.  I have been tweaking it (I tweak) and have been preparing it (I prepare) for posting."  Finally, I posted it for you to read.  I did that once.

On the other hand, if I "unwill" the posting, I do almost nothing – I simply delete it.  I did "almost nothing" as a matter of comparison.  Compared to my effort in writing, adding, and revising this page, deleting it is virtually nothing.

The Unique Creator

On the other hand, G-d's creating or uncreating is effortless.  He is the same before creation as He is during creation.  If He were like a person, He would get tired.  He would undergo a change.  However, change is not a Divine quality.  He never changes.  What He creates changes endlessly, but He Himself is not subject to the consequences of having been created.

"I am the L-rd. . . ."  In Hebrew, the letters of the L-rd's proper name contain the same letters that, when rearranged, spell "was, is, will be."  However, we never pronounce this name.  "This is My name forever, but this is how you recall Me in every generation" (Exodus 3:15).  The second 'this' refers to a Hebrew word substitution that means 'L-rd'.  We also have another verse.  "O, L-rd, Your name is forever.  ['Your name is:  was, is, and will be.']  O, L-rd, Your recollection is in every generation" (Psalms 135:13).  [You Yourself are in Your name: 'was, is, and will be'.  But we, as human generations, recollect – refer to You – with a Hebrew word substitution that means 'L-rd'.]

This second verse in the Book of Psalms is King David's announcement.  The verse in Exodus is G-d's own declaration.  Both verses complement each other.

Sufficient Resources?

I wrote that G-d prepares the world for us with everything that we need.  Therefore, it is possible for us to live civilized lives.  One rule of civilization, though, is not to steal.  If one nation exploits another, it's hard for me to call this stealing.  Just the same, it makes for a disharmonious world – not the world that Isaiah describes.

Some people today go hungry while others sustain themselves and then consume luxuries.  This hardly seems to support the premise that G-d has been preparing a world with everything that everyone needs.

There are two sides to this problem of hunger in the world.  On one side, nations possessing well-developed technology to feed themselves, although exporting surpluses, they also raise luxury food stuff.  Also, they generally fail, though, to devise strategies to teach unfortunate people who are hungry how to become self-sufficient.  To a great extent, they delegate the task of improving agriculture to non-governmental organizations and to the United Nations.  Neither is supported with sufficient resources.  I am making an observation, not a judgment.

Alongside this, the business model of agribusiness is to sell its products in a way that makes customers dependent on ongoing outflows of capital.  The rich get richer, but the poor do not.  (This even seems to be a U.S. domestic policy.)

On the other hand, many starving countries behave irresponsibly.  At times, the best and the brightest of their population leave for developed countries, for example.  I am not advocating dictatorships and closed borders.  I am merely noting a lack of social responsibility and cohesion.  Ask yourself.  How many people, both in the undeveloped world and the developed world, have heard Isaiah's message and taken it to heart?  G-d did not create the world – any part of it – to be a waste land.

And furthermore, how do so many nations get powerful elites who are the meanest and most selfish people of the region?  I refuse to believe that some people deserve to be exploited by their own members.

Wars – my god is better than your god

Beyond all this, the hungriest people in the world are often engaged in wars.  Those who could be raising food bear arms instead.  One can argue that people on one side of a battle are fighting self defensively.  It is the other side who are, generally, aggressors who start and sustain war based on false beliefs.  Sometimes they subscribe to an idea that their religion is superior or that they themselves are superior to their enemy.  The aggressors claim to believe in the One and Only G-d, but nevertheless attack people who also believe in the One and Only G-d.  This is a subtle belief in two gods – ours and theirs.  So Isaiah quotes G-d Almighty's declaration, "I am the L-rd, and there is nothing else."

I am not blaming victims in any way.  I am making observations.  In fact, to a certain extent some people in developed countries also believe in two gods – ours and theirs.  In this case, as often as not, people in developed countries are now only giving lip service to this belief system, except concerning some ethnic or religious minorities.  Within the nation's belief system there is room for blaming a new minority group for the problems in society that arise elsewhere.  These minority ethnic groups are made into scapegoats.