Moored to the Rock
Our parashah for this week begins with the word, “Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac” (Genesis 25:19). Just consider a few of the thoughts in your mind when you hear the names “Isaac” and “Abraham,” and what these two figures of our faith are commonly known for. Do you at all consider some of the trials that they endured, or when presented with difficult situations, how they had no choice but to place their complete trust in the Holy One?
Sometimes the Father gives us personal challenges and trials to test us, forcing us to remember where our anchor must be secured: in Him. Born again Believers have been firmly moored to the Rock of Salvation, Messiah Yeshua, and what He has accomplished for us via His sacrificial atonement. And, since He is the Word made flesh, I believe that it is quite beneficial that we strive to see what we can learn about the Messiah from the weekly Torah and Haftarah readings (cf. Luke 24:44), parts of the Bible that too often get overlooked by many people.
Consider the possibility that our Heavenly Father is like a huge transmitter in the universe, broadcasting His blessings that can be gleaned through a consistent study of the Torah portions on a weekly basis. I have certainly experienced the blessing of committing myself to a discipline of reading the weekly parashah for many years, meditating upon these passages of the Bible and integrating their distinct messages into my heart. With the added discipline of actually putting words to paper—with my TorahScope reflection commentaries—the process of delving into where He has my heart as Shabbatapproaches becomes an exciting process. Of course, I do not want to be the only person blessed by examining the weekly parashah, and so one of my distinct prayers is that someone who might read these thoughts would be ministered to in a special way.
Perhaps some of the circumstances in which you presently find yourself—even some testing you might be enduring at this moment in time—needs clarity and understanding. Hopefully, you will be inspired to turn to Yeshua, the Living Word, for the answers to all of life’s circumstances. We know that when we can rely upon the Lord and Him alone, because His answers to our prayers and supplications will be the perfect anecdote for seasons of consternation and affliction. James the Just sums up the trials and tribulations of life very succinctly:
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have itsperfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-12).
The life of faith is indeed one that includes many tests, trials, and tribulations. We know from our reading of Scripture that we should endure through whatever we face. One thing that is clear, from reading through Toldot this week, is that we have an intimate record of the details of a very traumatic time in the history of Abraham’s descendents. In this Torah portion we see the struggle between Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-46), and how Isaac and Rebekah acted and reacted to their two sons (Genesis 28:1-9).
Great lessons about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility can be weighed in our meditations. Why did the Holy One select Jacob for His blessings? Why is Esau hated? Considerable theological debates have emerged from the accounts recorded in our portion. These, and many other questions, should simply drive us to our knees when we recognize that God is ultimately in control of His Creation. He chooses whom He will choose, to do whatever He has predestined them to do. And while I do not believe we are necessarily robots or mindless pawns, because personal human responsibility does have a role in this incredibly complex dichotomy of actions, we are eventually subject to the will of our Creator. We are often reduced to the dirt from whence we came, when we realize that the finite cannot even begin to comprehend the Infinite. But we must try, because He clearly states that if we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us and we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 51:1; 55:6; Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 9:10; Hebrews 11:6).
I would submit that Paul adds a little clarity to this complex question about Divine sovereignty versus human responsibility. In his letter to the Romans he explains his pain over the unbelief of his fellow Jewish brethren, appealing to the account of Jacob and Esau:
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named’ [Genesis 21:12]. That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son’ [Genesis 18:10, 14]. And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger’ [Genesis 25:23]. Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ [Malachi 1:2-3]. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’ [Exodus 33:19]. So then it doesnot depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth’ [Exodus 9:16]. So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, ‘I will call those who were not My people, “My people,” and her who was not beloved, “Beloved.”’ And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,” there they shall be called sons of the living God’ [Isaiah 10:22-23; Hosea 1:10]” (Romans 9:6-26).
This passage should humble us with the understanding that the Holy One of Israel is in total control of His Creation, and those He has chosen to be a part of His family. Whether one thinks that God has predestined the events of every second from eternity past, or thinks that God knows the decisions people are going to make given His Divine foreknowledge—or you simply throw your hands up in the air and consider yourself a small mortal and do not really know what to think about this passage—further study into the Tanakh passages Paul alludes to is probably in order.
The Apostle Paul lamented over the fact that in his day, there was a widescale Jewish rejection of Messiah Yeshua, using some foundational accounts seen in the Torah to teach the Romans. How this intertexuality actually plays into Paul’s argument is something that has to be taken very seriously, and may require you to not only read Romans a little closer, but also each of the series of verses he quotes from. Romans chs. 9-11 are undeniably one of the most important sections of the Bible for today’s Messianic movement.
As this passage continues, Paul not only describes how those of the nations have the opportunity to come to grace through their trust in the Messiah of Israel, but are those who are largely going to benefit from it, given how the Jewish people have largely decided to reject Him:
“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed’ [Isaiah 28:16]” (Romans 9:30-33).
The Apostle Paul summarizes his thoughts about his fellow Jewish brethren and their zeal, without knowledge of Yeshua as the Savior. This passage clearly speaks to the need to demonstrate the gospel of Israel’s Messiah to the people from whom He came:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for theirsalvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Messiah is the [or goal; culmination, TNIV] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Messiah down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ [vs. 6-8: Deuteronomy 9:4; 30:12-14]—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed’ [Isaiah 28:16]. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ [Joel 2:32]. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ [Nahum 1:15] However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ [Isaiah 53:1] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah” (Romans 10:1-17).
A few of you might be asking, what does this specifically have to do with the Torah portion Toldot? Well, as stated earlier, the intention of these writings is to reflect upon our weekly readings in the Torah and Haftarah, and a principal part of the modern Messianic movement is to connect these texts with the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), and let the Holy Spirit minister to the personal needs of individuals. Sometimes my writings might take tangents into areas that need deeper meditation for personal repentance and reflection, and to probe where our understanding of some passages needs improvement or more investigation. May His words have their perfect work in all of our hearts!
This week, I would also encourage you to take a look at what the Sages for centuries have seen as an appropriate parallel passage to Toldot. This week’s Haftarah selection is Malachi 1:1-2:7, and details some of God’s dealings with the descendants of Jacob and Esau:
“The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.’ Though Edom says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins’; thus says theLord of hosts, ‘They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.’ Your eyes will see this and you will say, ‘The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel! A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ ‘You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of theLord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will begreat among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts. But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,’ says theLord of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says theLord. But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,’ says the Lordof hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations. And now this commandment is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,’ says theLord of hosts. ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts’” (Malachi 1:1-2:7).
This section of Scripture, from the last of the Prophets, no doubt left many Jews in quite a quandary. They knew that the Holy One of Israel loved them unconditionally, but they also knew that there were obvious consequences should they sin and disobey. How many people simply go through religious motions without their hearts being in the right place? How easy was it for the ancients to promise a choice lamb to God, but bring a blemished one instead? After all, who was really going to know or care as long as the appearance of godliness was evident to one’s neighbors and family?
Considering these questions from Malachi, how easy is it for modern-day followers of the Messiah to do just the same with their offerings? How many do not give what they should to those who minister to them? How many Believers do not strive for spiritual maturity? Should we be examining our heart intentions? Just how are we guarding the utterances from our lips? As an assemblage of those who serve God, our actions, words, and the mediations of our hearts should be pure and holy. Remember that the Lord is looking at our hearts and He is not impressed with our outward appearances. King David understood these challenges intimately:
“Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:13-14).
Now imagine this reality: Do you remember that there are books which record the history of humanity in Heaven? These are recordings that go into much greater detail than this week’s Torah portion of Toldot about the lives of Isaac, Rebekah, and their twin sons Esau and Jacob. Here is a glimpse as to some of what transpires at the final judgment, when those records are considered at the Great White Throne judgment presided over by Yeshua Himself:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every oneof them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
For 3,300 years, we have had the testimony of the Torah to be used as an instructional tool for life. The Lord has used the lives of the Patriarchs to reveal to each of us the reality of our human condition. If we do not learn from the previous examples of those recorded for us in the Scriptures, will we face condemning judgment from the King of Kings? Or will we learn, and not have to face the damnation of the Great White Throne?
Esau made choices that he regretted years later. Jacob also made some choices that he probably questioned over time, but for some reason, the Most High made a choice and He decided to love Jacob more than Esau. To the carnal mind this does not seem fair and equitable. And logically speaking, it is not impartial. Paul states the following in Romans 9:18-23:
“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”
The bottom line to this saint with clay feet, after the whirlwinds of trial and testing, is a simple plea:
Please, Heavenly Father, do not discard this lump on the trash heap of worthless clay. Instead, mold me into a vessel that has usefulness in Your Kingdom’s work. You are the Potter and I am the clay. Let me be more moldable in your hands. Please, let me persevere so that I will receive the crown of life. Please, let my name be found in the Book of Life. Please have mercy upon me! And for those who choose to follow the inclinations of sinful flesh—have mercy on them too—and may they see the light of Your salvation.
I Bless You O Lord, my King of Kings, my Protector and my Shield! For You alone are worthy to be praised! Amein!