Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #3 Lekh L’kha (Get yourself out) B’resheit (Genesis) 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:27-41:16
B’rit Chadashah: Acts: 7:1-8
An early example of G-d’s grace and consistency is found in this week’s parashah. We saw the first example of G-d reserving a remnant to set an example for the rest of the world on how G-d expects us to act toward Him and toward our fellow humans when He saved/delivered Noach from the flood that destroyed all remaining humankind. Because Noach was found to be one righteous human among all others including his wife, sons, and their wives, G-d protected them as well. This first remnant was given the command to repopulate the earth. Yet, as we learned in the last parashah, the innate evil in human beings was expressed through Ham and his progeny, one of whom was Nimrod, the mastermind of the Tower of Babel.
Now along came Abram, the descendant of Shem whose name translates as “name.” The name Abram translates as “exalted father.” We can see an example of G-d’s sovereignty and omniscience in that Abram was named as such before any of the events that took place as a result of nature and nurture. G-d had a plan for this man and would accomplish it regardless of human circumstances.
Initially the Torah does not reveal why G-d “chose” Abraham out of the other members of the land of Ur, a culture of people who were idol worshippers. But Abram responded to G-d’s command to leave everything familiar to him, his native land and his father’s house to an undisclosed destination. G-d knew from the beginning how Abram would respond to the call out of the secular lifestyle. G-d promised Abram that a great nation would descend from him; that his name will be great; that those who curse him will be cursed, and that all of the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3).
This blessing along with the covenant that every male be circumcised at 8 days including those who were brought in from the outside who were not from Abram’s offspring must have caused some confusion in Abram’s mind at this point. He had no sons by Sarai, and he was 100 years old(Gen. 17:17)! Indeed, he laughed to himself at this prospect. G-d made it clear that it would be the son from Sarai (name changed to Sarah by G-d) who would be the chosen son with whom G-d would maintain His covenant( Gen. 17:15-19). Sarai translates as “princess” but with the “Heh” added to her name, we know that she was indwelled/protected by G-d. We see the use of the Name “El Shaddai” in Genesis 17:1 pulling together the meaning of that Name meaning “the breasted one” indicating G-d’s role as a nurturer and provider of progeny that would come forth from Abram’s loins. As part of the covenant G-d reiterates that Abram, now called Avraham (father of many) that he will be the father of many nations, that kings will descend from him, that G-d will be G-d (not a god) for him and his descendants; that he and his descendants will the land which at the time they were foreigners much as we are on this earth today (Gen.17:1-14). The addition of the “H” to Abram’s name indicates the indwelling of G-d just as in Sarah’s name and a future fulfillment of G-d’s plan for them.
There are two other verses which beg further analysis. The first is Genesis 17:1 where G-d says, “ Walk in my presence and be pure hearted.” This alludes to the Seven-fold Witness found in the Book of Revelation that describes a true believer according to YHVH/Yahshua. We are to carry the testimony of Yahshua and guard the commands of HaShem. We may deduce that “walking in my presence” equates to emulating Yahshua’s life on earth while “being pure hearted” equates to guarding the commands of HaShem. As we can see, these two concepts cannot be separated, any more than we can separate the complex unity of the G-dhead into a trinity. “Walking in my presence” mandates “being pure hearted.” From the Hebrew, this verse translates as “ walk before me and be thou blameless.” The word for “before” means “according to” or “with regard to.” We are to emulate Yahshua’s lifestyle and witness according to G-d’s Torah with a pure heart.
The second verse inviting further investigation is genesis 17:12 addressing the mandate for circumcision for slaves bought from a foreigner not directly descended from Avraham. This verse provides an early example of Jew and Gentile being included or “grafted in” to the covenantal relationship Israel has with G-d. In were 13 slaves born within the household and those bought with Avraham’s money were to be circumcised as well. This thorough involvement in the covenant sets the precedent for those who consider themselves part of the house of Israel or Judah must play by the same rules commanded by G-d in many other scriptures throughout G-d’s Torah. These requirements for inclusion into the covenantal relationship with G-d span from Genesis to Revelation and cannot be simply ignored or taught as “nailed to the cross” by many Christian clergy.
For those who still wonder why G-d chose Avraham with whom to make a covenant, we can find the answer in Hebrews 11:8-11:17-19:
“ By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which G-d would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz’chak and Ya’akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is G-d. By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise trustworthy. Therefore, this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.
17 By trusting, Avraham, when he was put to the test, offered up Yitz’chak as a sacrifice. Yes, he offered up his only son, he who had received the promises, to whom it had been said, ‘ What is called your “seed” will be in Yitz’chak.’ For he had concluded that G-d could even raise people from the dead! And, figuratively speaking, he did so receive him.”
Now if we go to verses 13-16, we get an even clearer idea of how we are supposed to live and react to our trials as we progress toward the “land” we have never seen but have been promised : All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return; but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why G-d is not ashamed to be called their G-d, for he has prepared for them a city.”
And what about this place? We have scripture in the B’rit Chadashah (Refreshed, renewed Covenant) that echoes the promises of G-d to Avraham and the Book of Hebrews in John 14:1-4:
“ Don’t let yourselves be disturbed. Trust in G-d and trust in me. In my Father’s house are many places to live. If there weren’t, I would have told you; because I am going there to prepare a place for you. Since I am going and preparing a place for you, I will return to take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also. Furthermore, you know where I am going; and you know the way there.”
In 1 Corinthians 2:9 we are given another piece of the puzzle concerning what awaits those who like in the days of Avraham were circumcised physically and walked in G-d’s ways, and those who become spiritually circumcised on the heart described in Romans 2:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no one’s heart has imagined all the things that G-d has prepared for those who love him.” The City is described in more detail in Revelation chapter 21. Indeed, true believers have no idea what awaits them as the prize that awaits at the end of the earthly race about which Sha’ul (Paul) spoke so many times.
May we be counted among those who win the victory (Rev. 21:7), are included as the Bride of Yahshua (Rev. 21:9) and who trusted G-d without yet reaching the Land yet holding to the promises of G-d as did Avraham.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:27-41:16
In this Haftarah, the prophet Yesha’yahu consoles the people who think G-d has deserted them. The prophet explains that what makes the Jewish people successful is their confidence in G-d. As long as the people are confident of their relationship with G-d, they shall overcome all obstacles. This is not an arrogant assumption that we have a saving relationship with G-d; it is one of confidence that we see Avraham developed later in his walk with G-d.
Recall the incidents where Avraham, not yet renamed by G-d, asked Sarai to lie for him in order to save his life when they went to Egypt because of the famine (Gen. 12:11-13). This was the actions of a man growing in his relationship to G-d; not yet having the confidence that G-d would protect his life even though he trusted G-d enough to leave his home and father’s house. When we are faced with the real possibility of death, our faith and trust may wane. Only by developing a greater trust and faith through trials and testings can we gain the confidence needed to get us through all obstacles placed before us. As the Torah reads “ … the everlasting G-d, Adonai, the Creator of the ends of the earth. Does not grow tired or weary? His understanding cannot be fathomed, He invigorates the exhausted, he gives strength to the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, even the fittest may stumble and fall; but those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength, they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running, they won’t grow weary, and when they are walking, they won’t get tired ( Isaiah 40:28-31).
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews: Acts: 7:1-8 This is a narrative of Stephen whose face is described as looking like the face of an angel as he testified before the Sanhedrin of G-d and G-d’s relationship with Avraham. Stephen brings out the fact that although G-d promised the very land the Sanhedrin was standing in at the moment to Avraham, Avraham never stepped foot in it and was childless at the time of the promise. Yet, G-d promised the Land would be given to him as a possession and to his descendants after him. Stephen had been accused of having taught against Moshe, G-d, the Temple, and the Torah; in other words, everything Judaism stands for. Demonstrating that the best defense is a good offense, he indicts the religious leaders after the manner of the Prophets, saying it is they who have abandoned each one of these four sacred trusts. He addresses the Sanhedrin as fathers and brothers, speaking as a fellow Jew, one of the family. His critique is no more anti-Semitic than those of his predecessors, the Prophets. His first words refute the charge that he has “spoken blasphemously… against G-d” (6:11). His regard for the one true G-d is demonstrated consistently throughout his speech. Stephen paints a picture of the majority of Israel refusing to honor those whom G-d chose to bring them into salvation he had promised them- especially Yosef (vv.9-16), who was recognized by Pharaoh, a Gentile, but not by his own brothers, and Moshe (vv.17-44). Interestingly, we as Messianic Jews who most closely follow the teachings of YHVH/Yahshua as did the disciples who were the first Messianic Jews, are considered “non-Jews” by those in other Jewish sects. We must take our queue on how to respond to such injustice and condemnation from the prophets and Yahshua himself. We must continue to walk in His ways and trust Him to straighten our paths. (Proverbs 3:6).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart