EMPOWERED BY GOD’S PRESENCE

David Wilkerson (1931-2011) – July 26, 2019

 

Scripture provides endless examples of how the presence of the Lord empowers his people to live for him. Take Moses, for example. He was convinced that without God’s presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything. When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he stated boldly, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). He was saying, “Lord, if you’re not with us, we are not going to make it. We will not go a single step without the assurance of your presence.”

God’s presence is what sets us apart from nonbelievers. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of great blessings that came to those who had God’s presence with them. For instance, God’s presence was so evident in Abraham’s life that even the heathen around him recognized the difference between their lives and his. The heathen king Abimelech said, “God is with you in all that you do” (Genesis 21:22).

God promised Joshua that no enemy could stand against him when his presence was with him: “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:5-6). When God’s Spirit is present in your life, you can be a conqueror because you trust his promise to be with you in everything you do.

God shared with Isaiah a special promise he makes to those he loves: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine … I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:1, 3, 5). With God’s presence abiding in you, you can go through any fire and not just survive, but be kept safe and protected through it all. Just as it was with Moses, Abraham and others, you have a powerful testimony of God’s presence in your life today. (Click to Source)

 

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God’s Presence is the Difference

Gary Wilkerson April 22, 2019

 

When we look at Abraham in the Old Testament, we witness a man whose life was so filled with the presence of God that even the heathen around him recognized the difference between their lives and his: “Abimelech … spoke to Abraham, saying, ‘God is with you in all that you do’” (Genesis 21:22). This heathen king was saying, “There is something different about you, Abraham. Surely God is with you wherever you go.”

In another example of the presence of God, an angel told Gideon, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12). And the Lord himself told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (6:14). Gideon considered himself a coward, but God called him a “mighty man of valor.” The Lord wanted to prove what one can do when his presence is with that person — even if the person considers himself to be insignificant.

God makes a special promise to those he loves, as we see in this word to Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God. The Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

What a wonderful promise. When the Lord’s presence abides on you, you can go through the fires of life and not just survive, but you will be kept and protected through it all.

These accounts from the Old Testament are not just dead-letter stories. They are meant to encourage us to trust God for his presence at all times. Like Abraham, Gideon, Isaiah and many others, we have a powerful testimony of what God’s presence has done for us.

I encourage you today to seek the Lord’s presence and allow him to guide your steps, open doors, move obstacles, and lift your cares and fears. (Click to Source)

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LECH LECHA – Abraham’s Great Reward

Life will place us in situations where we stand to make a profit by sacrificing our principles. The person who refuses to compromise his values may lose out financially, but his ultimate reward is God Himself.

God promises Abraham a numerous offspring in a dream. (Image: Wikimedia commons, public domain, art by Wenceslas Hollar)


In the days of Abraham a great war swept through the land of Canaan. The invading armies captured the Canaanite city of Sodom and took the inhabitants captive. A fugitive survivor escaped and came to Abraham. He told him that his nephew Lot was among the captives.

There was little that Abraham could do about it. After all, he did not have an army at his command. Besides, Lot had it coming. Abraham could have said, “That’s what he gets for claiming the best of the land for himself. The LORD has repaid him for his greed.” But he did not. Instead he demonstrated courageous loyalty. He immediately gathered the able-bodied men in his household and the Canaanite neighbors who would assist him and set off in pursuit of the invaders. That’s the kind of person Abraham was.

God honored Abraham’s selflessness. Though Abraham went up with only 318 men against a much larger army, God delivered the enemy into his hands. Abraham rescued his nephew and all of the prisoners. He returned from the battle with the prisoners and all the plunder the invaders had taken.

The evil king of Sodom offered Abraham a handsome reward for his efforts. “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself,” he said. It was a generous offer and would have made Abraham very wealthy. Abraham refused the proposal. He knew the king of Sodom was cunning and wicked. Abraham did not want to owe any allegiance to such a man. He said, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich’” (Genesis 14:22-23).
Some people are tempted to sacrifice their principles for the sake of money. Abraham stood fast because his faith was in the “possessor of heaven and earth.” He did not need the rewards of the wicked king of Sodom, no matter how tempting.

When God saw how Abraham refused reward from the king of Sodom, He appeared to him and said, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1).

Life will often place us in situations where we stand to make a profit by sacrificing our principles. The person who refuses to compromise his values may lose out financially, but his ultimate reward is God Himself. (Click to Source)

 
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Torah Commentary – Joined To HaShem – Yitro (Jethro) – Words To Live By – SCRIPTURES FOR February 3, 2017

Torah Commentary
Yitro (Jethro)

jesus-in-the-synagogue

Exodus 18:1-20:23
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Matthew 5:21-30; 15:1-11
Hebrews 12:18-29
James 2:8-13
Words To Live By
The Hebrews are free from life in Egypt. Pharaoh is among the dead on the sea shore. It is time for their journey to continue. In their minds, it is time to move on and make a bee line for the Promise Land. Not so fast though. There is a very important stop they have to make, and that is Mount Sinai. What is the purpose of this stop?
In Egypt, the Hebrews had for the most part forgotten who they were and lost their identity as Israel. Though they could have recited their lineage back to Abraham, they had forgotten what that lineage was all about. They had forgotten the responsibilities associated with their lineage. For this reason, they needed a stop to get their foundation set.
At Mount Sinai it is not that the Hebrews will be given the words of Torah, but rather these words will be reinstated into their lives.  The words of Torah go all the way back to the beginning, it is not just a new thing that Father makes up on the spot and gives to them. No, these words were alive and ingrained into the world already, but the people certainly needed to be reminded of them in a powerful way. It is these words which set them apart from all peoples of the earth. And guess what? They do the same to this day!
What are these Ten Words, the Ten Commandments, all about? Are they the “end all,” as some would think? Should they be looked at more as suggestions for life? Is Father really serious about these words? A look at these words from the angle of marriage may give us more insight.
The Ten Words are like the day a bride and groom stand before one another, share their vows and sign a document of marriage. The vows and document contain a foundation for their marriage, but does it spell out every response to every situation which will arise in their years of marriage? Of course not! When situations arise, the couple has to figure out how to walk out the marriage based upon the foundation that was agreed upon on the wedding day. Let’s try an example:
In most traditional marriages, a bride takes on the name of her husband. She states in her vows she will honor him. If, after her honeymoon, she goes to her friends and tells them how stupid he is because he does not know how to squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom or put a roll of toilet paper on the holder the right way, what has she done? She has brought dishonor to his name in the eyes of her friends. What about if he decides to contact some of his old girlfriends? Could he say he thought “faithfulness” was just a suggestion?
The Ten Words provide a foundation for the covenant we enter into. The balance of Torah, the words of the prophets, apostles and even Yeshua Himself build upon this foundation.
Here is an interesting exercise you may want to try one day. There are 613 commandments in the Torah and over 1050 in the Renewed Covenant. Lists of these can be found on a web search. Print those lists and begin to read through them. You will find that every commandment can be linked to one of the 10. One example is the kosher diet.
Many will say they do not see a commandment in the Ten Words concerning what we eat. If you were asked the question of where kosher eating is in the Ten Words, what would you say? Give up? The answer is number 2, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” When a person says, “I don’t care what HaShem says, I will eat whatever I want,” food has become a god before Him. How about, “I can worship on whatever day I please?” Go back and read Ex 20:8-11. The word is Shabbat which can only be translated into one day of the week, the seventh. Is that just a suggestion or did He mean it?
I could go on and on with this, but to put it in the way of an old board game, “Now it is your turn to move your Monopoly piece.” Remember, you don’t pass “go” to get to the Promise Land and you don’t get to “collect” milk and honey until you once and for all settle the fact in your own heart that the word “commandment” does not mean “suggestion.” (Click to Source)

 

Torah Reading – V’yechi – He lived – “Blessing Israel” – 25 December, 2017

V’yechi

He lived

jesus-in-the-synagogue

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Blessing Israel”


by Mark Huey

This week, the final parashah for the Book of Genesis is studied, as the period of the Patriarchs and details about the unique family chosen by God to receive His faithful blessings, finally comes to a dramatic close. Here in Genesis’ last three chapters, the similar dying requests of both Jacob/Israel and Joseph, to be buried in the Promised Land, may be said to simply “bookend” the specific blessings that Jacob bestowed upon his immediate progeny. Apparently, belief in the promises of God for the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, for them to multiply and reside in Canaan, was genuine for Jacob and Joseph—or the preferences to be buried among their relatives would not have been a priority. Additionally, the desire to pass on to future generations, some of the blessings received, was of paramount importance to Jacob/Israel. So as we study V’yechi, it is important to consider how we can individually follow the practices and examples of our forebearers in faith—by not only believing in God’s promises, but also in passing God’s blessings down to our own future generations.

V’yechi begins after Jacob and his entourage had relocated to Egypt, to avoid the ravages of the regional famine. His family was well received by the ruling Pharaoh, and they were living in the choice land of Goshen, tending to their herds. The name of our Torah reading comes from its opening verse, where it is recorded that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt. In V’yechi, Jacob/Israel’s time to die was drawing near. He called upon his favored son Joseph, to faithfully return him to the land of his fathers, knowing that Joseph had the authority to make this happen:

“Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:28-31).

Blessing Manasseh and Ephraim

While being returned to the burial grounds of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah was important to Jacob, the desire of Joseph to have his own sons receive the blessing of their grandfather was most crucial to him. Joseph knew the power of blessings from his ancestors. After all, there is an indication that he attempted to retain some connectivity to his forebearers when he significantly named his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, despite their mother being an Egyptian:

“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ He named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Consequently, upon learning that his father Jacob/Israel was sick and about to die, Joseph took his two sons to his father, to seek his blessing upon his sons. But more than receive just a blessing, Jacob/Israel literally adopted them into his family, giving them equal status with their uncles and Joseph. However, another interesting thing occurred when the nearly blind Jacob/Israel went to place his hands upon the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim. He actually crossed his arms, and placed his right hand of blessing upon the head of the younger Ephraim, and his left hand upon the elder Manasseh. This did not go unnoticed by Joseph, who pointed it out to his father. Yet, the Lord ordained these blessings, as Jacob/Israel was simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit:

“Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.” Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’ When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ He blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:1-22).

There is something extremely powerful about acknowledging the blessings of any of our predecessors, which was something certainly true for Jacob/Israel and Joseph in ancient times. However, the irony that the younger would be greater than the older must have taken Jacob back to the time when he was in a similar predicament with his older twin brother Esau. He probably recalled the blessings of Isaac, and the fact that once the blessing was uttered and bestowed upon him, it could not be rescinded (Genesis 27:33). Ephraim received the more powerful blessing of his grandfather. Despite a momentary startlement with the disposition of the blessings, Joseph did not protest but simply accepted and embraced the blessings as they were uttered.

Israel Blesses His Sons

In Genesis 49, we see a selection of text that is devoted to relating all of Jacob/Israel’s blessings, to his natural born sons. The prophetic picture of this aged patriarch, proclaiming the blessings and/or prophecies over his sons, is a majestic scene for each of us to contemplate. Imagine your own father or mother, speaking insightful words such as these. Or, perhaps imagine yourself—at sometime in the distant future—declaring words like these to your own children. After decades of watching his sons mature, Israel’s ability to speak prophetically into their lives was set. Without going into the specific statements about each of the sons, note the greater amount of explicit details regarding the future of Judah and Joseph, the two sons who rose to prominence in their generation:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk. Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon. Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor. Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.’ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (Genesis 49:1-28).

Much speculation has been compiled, which has been devoted to analyzing these final words of Jacob/Israel directed toward his sons. In fact, when one couples the blessings of Israel found in Genesis 49, with the blessings of Moses to the tribes of Israel found in Deuteronomy 33, one can discern that these great servants of God were given a glimpse of the future—regarding some destiny of the descendants of Israel. Particular attention to the blessings or prophecies uttered toward Judah and Joseph, indicate that these tribes which bear their names would surely have prominence, as can certainly be seen in the Historical Books of the Tanakh.

In the case of Judah, a definite ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah, there appears a statement that the tribe Judah and/or his descendants was going to be in a position of leadership or prominence, at least somehow until His arrival (Genesis 49:10). Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, after all, is the quintessential Jew (Revelation 5:5). For Believers in Him, that there is Messianic expectation interwoven into Jacob/Israel’s blessings in Genesis 49, means that we have to exhibit much confidence that all of his pronouncements have been coming to pass over the centuries.

Joseph’s Insight

After the death of Jacob/Israel, the sons of Israel had a genuine fear that Joseph might then take revenge on them, for their heinous acts toward Joseph years earlier. It is here, where we witness a definite contrast between the faith of Joseph and his brothers. Despite seventeen years of living in Goshen, the brothers were still concerned that Joseph might be harboring a grudge toward them. But, Joseph was not only sincere in his actions toward his family, but most critically, he truly understood the circumstances of his extraordinary life from God’s perspective:

“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:18-26).

Joseph was not only used by the Almighty to save his family during the regional famine, but he was also able to see the hand of God upon the incidents that led him to be in the position to save his family. This is a great lesson for each of us to consider when we are disappointed with some of life’s inevitable challenges. When things do not necessarily go as we hoped or expected—but they inadvertently take a turn for what might have seemed the worse at the time—are we able to recognize that God is still sovereign? Can we have enough trust in the Lord to understand that what happens in our lives is a part of His will for each of us? Joseph certainly did, and perhaps, his own brothers might have learned the same life lesson.

Faith and Blessing

So what can we glean from the concluding Torah portion from the Book of Genesis, regarding faith and the power of blessings? We need to each recognize that the Holy One is truly faithful to His chosen vessels. Despite the circumstances of life that might seem difficult, God is faithfully accomplishing His will. If we, as limited mortal humans, could better understand things from His perspective—then we would have the wisdom and discernment to see His fingerprints on all that occurs in life, whether good or bad.

For a reflection back on much of Genesis, we can look and compare the lives of Jacob/Israel and Joseph, and note how each one learned to be faithful to God in very different ways. We can recall how at relatively young ages, they each had encounters with the Almighty through dreams or visions. Yet, we can also see from their personalities that the level of faith was not the same throughout their lives. Still, when the end of their lives came, their faith was quite strong, and they each wanted the blessing of burial in the Promise Land along with their relatives. They each wanted God’s blessings to be passed on to their progeny.

Jacob/Israel and Joseph knew the power of blessings. They not only desired the blessings of their elders, but they also gladly participated in extending blessings to their descendants. For modern-day followers of the Messiah, these examples are something to emulate. However, in order to even want to extend blessings, we each must have faith in the ultimate Provider of blessings. The two go together hand in hand. After all, the Almighty chooses human vessels to extend His blessings to others, but He requires faith as one of the critical ingredients to not only give blessings but also receive them. So, let each of us seek more faith—so that in being blessed with it, we will in turn be able to pass on the blessings we have received from the Lord! (Click to Source)

Weekly Torah portion from the One New Man Bible – Vayeira – Nov 3, 2017

Vayeira

Genesis 18:1 – 22:24

jesus-in-the-synagogue

18.1. And the LORD* appeared to him in the plains of Mamre and he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. 2. And he lifted up his eyes and looked, and there were three men standing by him. And when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and he bowed toward the ground 3. and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, do not pass by, I pray You, from Your servant:4. let a little water, I pray you, be brought and wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree.

5. And I shall get a morsel of bread and comfort your hearts for you. After that you will pass on, for that is why you have come to your servant.” And they said, “So do as you have said.” 6. And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it and make cakes.”

7. And Abraham ran to the herd and fetched a good, tender calf and gave it to a young man and he hastened to dress it. 8.And he took butter, milk, and the calf which he had dressed and set it before them, and he stood by them under the tree and they ate.

18:9. And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There – in the tent.” 10. And He said, “I shall certainly return to you at this time next year and, see, Sarah your wife will have a son.” (Rom. 9:9) And Sarah listened in the tent door, which was behind him. 11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well up in age: the manner of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, “After I have grown old will I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” 13. And the LORD* said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, ‘Will I, who am old, of a surety bear a child?’ 14. Isanything too hard for the LORD*? (Matt. 19:26, Luke 1:34) At the time appointed I shall return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Rom. 9:9) 15. Then Sarah denied it saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

18:16. And the men rose up from there and looked toward Sodom and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17. And the LORD* said, “Will I hide from Abraham that thing which I am about to do, 18. seeing that Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him? 19. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the Way of the LORD*, to do acts of loving kindness and judgment, so the LORD* may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.” 20. And the LORD* said, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous, 21. I shall go down now and see whether they have done everything I told them, which has come to Me. And if not, I shall know.”   22. And the men turned their faces from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD*. 23. And Abraham drew near and said, “Will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24. If there are fifty righteous within the city will You also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are there?

25. Far be it from You to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked and that the righteous should be like the wicked: far be that from You. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26. And the LORD* said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I shall spare the entire place for their sake.” 27. And Abraham answered and said, “Behold now, I, who am but dust and ashes, have taken upon me to speak to the LORD*. 28. If by chance there will lack five of the fifty righteous, will You destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And He said, “If  I find forty-five there, I shall not destroy it.” 29. And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “If by chance there will be forty found there?” And He said,  “I shall not do it for forty’s sake.” 30. And he said to Him, “Oh do not let the LORD* be angry, and I shall speak: If by chance thirty will be found there?” And He said, “I shall not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31. And he said, “Behold now, I have taken upon myself to speak to the LORD*: If by chance twenty will be found there?” And He said, I shall not destroy it for twenty’s sake.”  32. And he said, “Oh please, let not the LORD* be angry, and I shall speak yet but this once: If by chance ten will be found there?” And He said, “I shall not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

18:33. And the LORD* went His way, as soon as He had left speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

Lot Rescued

19.1. And two angels came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. And when Lot saw them he rose up to meet them and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2. And he said, “Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house and tarry all night and wash your feet and you will rise up early and go on your way.” And they said, “No. But we will stay in the street all night.” 3. And he pressed upon them greatly and they went in with him and entered his house and he made a feast for them and baked unleavened bread and they ate.

19:4. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. 5. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came in to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so we can know them.” 6. And Lot went out to them at the door and shut the door behind him 7.and said, “I pray you, brothers, do not behave so wickedly.

8. Behold now, I have two daughters who have not known a man: let me, I pray you, bring them out to you and you do to them as is good in your eyes. Only to these men do nothing, for therefore they came under the shadow of my roof.” 9.And they said, “Stand back!” And they said again, “This one came in to sojourn and he thinks he is  a judge. Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” And they pressed sore upon the man, Lot, and came near to break the door. 10. But the men put forth their hand and pulled Lot into the house to them and shut the door. 11. And they struck the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 12.And the men said to Lot, “Do you have here any besides yourself? Sons-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whoever you have in the city, bring them out of this place, 13. for we will destroy this place, because their cry has become great before the face of the LORD*, and the LORD* has sent us to destroy it.”

19:14. And Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place, for the LORD* will destroy this city.” But he seemed like one who teased to his sons-in-law. 15. And when the morning came, then the angels hastened Lot saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters that are here, so you will not be consumed in the iniquity of the city.” 16. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand and upon the hand of his wife and upon the hand of his two daughters. The LORD* had pity on him and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17. And it was, when they had brought them out, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you! Do not stay anywhere in the plain! Escape to the mountain, so you will not be consumed.” 18. And Lot said to them, “Oh, not so, my lord. 19. Behold now your servant has found favor in your sight and you have magnified your loving kindness, which you have shown to me in saving my life. And I cannot escape to the mountain, lest something bad overtake me and I die. 20. Behold now, this city is near to flee to and it is a little one. Oh, let me escape there, (is it not a little one?) and my soul will live.” 21. And he said to him, “See, I have accepted you concerning this thing also, that I shall not overthrow this city of which you have spoken. 22. Quick! Escape there, for I cannot do anything until you have come there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

19:23. The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. 24. Then the LORD* rained brimstone and fire from the LORD* out of heaven upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah. (Rev. 14:10; 20:10; 21:8) 25. And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain and all the inhabitants of the cities and that which grew upon the ground.

26. But his wife looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt.

19:27. And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD*, 28. And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the plain and there it was! The smoke of the country went up like the smoke of a furnace.

19:29. And it was, when God destroyed the cities of the plain that God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelled.

19:30. And Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the mountain and his two daughters were with him, for he feared to stay in Zoar and he lived in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31. And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on the earth to come in to us according to the statute of all the earth. 32. Come, let us make our father drink wine and we will lie with him so we can preserve our father’s seed.” 33. And they made their father drink wine that night and the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not perceive when she lay down, or when she arose. 34.And it was the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, last night I lay with my father. Let us make him drink wine this night also, and you go in and lie with him, so we can preserve our father’s seed.”

35. And they made their father drink wine that night also and the younger arose and lay with him, and he was not aware when she lay down or when she rose.

19:36. Both the daughters of Lot were thus with child by their father. 37. And the firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moab to this day. 38. And the younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon to this day.

Abraham Again Calls Sarah His Sister

20.1. And Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, the south, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. 2. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech (Avimelekh) king of Gerar sent for and took Sarah. 3. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are but a dead man for the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4. But Abimelech had not come near her and he said, “Lord, will you slay also  a righteous nation? 5. Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.” 6. And God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I AM knows that you did this in the integrity of your heart, for I AM also withheld you from sinning against Me, therefore I did not let you touch her. 7. Now therefore restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live, but if you do not restore her, know that you will surely die, you and all that are yours.”

20:8. Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told all these things in their ears, and the men were very much afraid. 9. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And bywhat have I offended you, that you have brought a great sin on me and on my kingdom? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.” 10. And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see that you have done this thing?”

20:11. And Abraham said, “Because I thought, ‘Surely reverence for God is not in this place and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.’ 12. And yet indeed she is my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13. And it was when God caused me to wander from my father’s house that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness which you will show to me: at every place where we will come, say of me, He is my brother.’”

20:14. And Abimelech took sheep, oxen, men servants, and women servants and gave them to Abraham and restored Sarah his wife to him. 15. And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you. Stay wherever it pleases you.” 16. And to Sarah he said, “Behold I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver: here, it is eye-covering for you, for all that are with you and you are vindicated before all.”

20:17. So Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his maid servants and they bore children. 18.For the LORD* had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Sarah and Isaac

21.1. And the LORD* visited Sarah as He had said and the LORD* did for Sarah what He had spoken. (Gen. 18:10) 2. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. (Heb. 11:11) 3.And Abraham called the name of his son that was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5. And Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

21:6. And Sarah said, God has made me laugh, so that all who hear will laugh with me. 7. And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah should be given children to nurse? For I have borne him a son in his old age.” 8. And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast the day that Isaac was weaned. 9. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scornful. 10. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman will not be heir with my son, with Isaac.” (Gal. 4:30, Heb. 11:17)

21:11. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. 12. And God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed in your sight because of the lad and because of your bondwoman. In all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice because your seed will be called in Isaac.  (Rom. 9:7, Heb. 11:18) 13. And of the son of the bondwoman I shall also make a nation, because he is your seed.”

14. And Abraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a skin-bottle of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder and the child, and sent her away. And she left and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. 15. And the water was spent in the bottle and she put the child under one of the shrubs. 16. And she went and sat down opposite, a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not see the death of the child.” And she was sitting opposite him and lifted up her voice and wept. 17. And God heard the voice of the lad, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be in awe! God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him in your hand, for I shall make a great nation of him.” 19. And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the lad a drink.

21:20. And God was with the lad and he grew and lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21. And he lived in the wilderness of Paran and his mother took a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.

21:22. And it happened at that time that Abimelech and Fikhol the chief captain of his army spoke to Abraham saying, “God is with you in all that you do. 23. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my son, or with my son’s son, but according to the kindness that I have done for you, you will do to me, and to the land in which you have sojourned.” 24. And Abraham said, “I shall swear.” 25. And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away. 26. And Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing: neither did you tell me, but I heard of it just today.” 27. And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them to Abimelech, and both of them made a covenant. 28. And Abraham set seven ewe-lambs of the flock by themselves. 29. And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What do these seven ewe-lambs mean that you have set by themselves?” 30. And he said, “For you will take these seven ewe-lambs from my hand, so they may be a witness to me, that I have dug this well.” 31. Therefore he called that place Beer-Sheba because both of them swore there.

21:32. Thus they made a covenant at Beer-Sheba, then Abimelech and Fikhol the chief captain of his army rose, and they returned to the land of the Philistines

33. And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-Sheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD*, Eternal God. 34. And Abraham stayed in the Philistines’ land many days.

The Ultimate Test

22.1. And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham.” And he said, “Here I am.” 2And He said, “Now take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love! Get yourself into the land of Moriah! Offer him there as an offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you!”

3. And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the offering and rose up and went to the place of which God had told him. 4. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5. And Abraham said to his young men, “You stay here with the donkey and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” 6. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand and a knife, and they went, both of them together.7. And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father.” and he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8. And Abraham said, “My son, God will see to it, providing a lamb for a burnt offering for Himself.” so they went, both of them together. 9. And they came to the place which God had told him about, and Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10. And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

22:11. Then the angel of the LORD* called to him out of heaven and said, “Abraham. Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12. And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad! Do not do anything to him! For now I know that you revere God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.”

22:13. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behind him there was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14. And Abraham called the name of that place “The LORD* Will See to it” as it is said to this day, “The LORD* Will Show Himself on the mountain.”

22:15. And the angel of the LORD* called to Abraham out of heaven the second time 16. and said, “By myself I have sworn,” says the LORD*, “For because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17. that I shall greatly bless you, and I shall multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand on the seashore, (Heb. 6:14; 11:12) and your seed will possess the gate of his enemies, 18. and in your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.”

22:19. So Abraham returned to his young men and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba and Abraham stayed at Beer-Sheba.

22:20. And it was after these things that it was told Abraham saying, “Behold, Milkah has also borne children to your brother Nahor, 21. Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, 22. Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. 23. And Bethuel begot Rebeccah (Rivkah).” These eight Milkah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. 24. And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore also Tebah, Gaham, Thahash, and Maachah.  (Click to Source)

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Lekh-Lekha – Get yourself out – “The Father of Faith” – 23 October, 2017

Lekh-Lekha

Get yourself out

1977-jesus-of-naz-synagogue1

Genesis 12:1-17:27
Isaiah 40:27-41:16

“The Father of Faith”

by Mark Huey

By the time one turns to the third Torah reading, Lekh-Lekha, the recorded story of humanity indicates how the Almighty God has had direct contact with certain noted individuals. Despite the fact that considerable history is covered in a relatively short space (Genesis chs. 1-11), we see that after the scrambling of the languages to encourage migration (Genesis 11:7-8), there remained a growing population in Mesopotamia. As Genesis 11 closes, the genealogical trails recorded narrow down to one chosen family, and eventually one individual in Abram/Abraham, who will dominate a great deal of the Scriptural message for future generations (Genesis 11:27-32). Noting the significant amount of faith demonstrated by Abraham, the Apostle Paul would call him in the First Century, “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

The Lord Calls Abram

Abraham and his family were natives of the Mesopotamian city of Ur (Genesis 11:28), located in what is today Southern Iraq. Located adjacent to the Euphrates River, Ur was undoubtedly an important commercial center, which received a wide amount of trade extending down into the Persian Gulf. While Lekh-Lekha informs us of how Abraham’s family, presumably including his father Terah and others, had some kind of connection with the Creator God—it is also true that idolatry was rampant in their native land. As Genesis 11 concludes, we find that Terah, his son Abram with wife Sarai, and grandson Lot, departed Ur and moved northward, ultimately settling in Haran on the way to Canaan (Genesis 11:31). Why they settled in Haran is unknown, but it was here where Terah died and left his oldest son Abram with his estate, and perhaps the inclination to continue the journey to Canaan with his wife and nephew.

It is at this juncture that the account turns dramatically to the voice of the Lord commanding Abram to leave not only his country, but his relatives and his father’s house, in order to journey to a special land that He was going to show him:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

At the time of this command from the Lord, Abram was seventy-five years old and childless (Genesis 12:4-5). He had been an obedient son in leaving Ur. The Lord obviously had His eye upon Abram, and when this dramatic communication came, he must have been overwhelmed with fear. Not only was Abram commanded to leave all of the comforts of his country, but he was given a significant blessing that has been repeated numerous times down throughout the ages (i.e., Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8).

Can you imagine hearing this list of blessings from the Creator God? Here was a seventy-five year old man, who was living in what seems to be a remote part of upper Mesopotamia, who heard that the Almighty was going to make him—a childless husband—into a great nation (l’goy gadol, Genesis 12:2). On top of promising Abram many descendants, God said that He would bless Abram, and make his name great, in order to be a blessing to others. Also stated is how those who blessed Abram would be blessed, and that those who cursed him would be cursed. Perhaps the most important remark made is v’nivreku b’kha kol mishpechot ha’adamah, “and all the clans of the earth through you shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, Alter). In spite of the complications of his being reared in Ur, with its many temptations and having seen many other gods worshipped, Abram knew who this One God was, and heeded His word when it was delivered.

Upon hearing the audible voice of God, and the incredible blessings communicated, Abram was required to exercise some faith or trust in this promise. Abram not only embarked on his journey forward from Haran with his wife Sarai, nephew Lot, and their accumulated possessions—but upon arriving in the Land of Canaan, we see that the Lord appeared to him with another promise, which is that his descendants would be given this land. Abram’s response was to build an altar and worship the Lord, confirming how he was dedicated to the Creator God and wanted his fellow travelers to recognize his faithfulness:

“Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:5-8).

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

Upon arriving in the land of Canaan, the faith that Abram had demonstrated in God began to be tested. Almost immediately, Abram had to survive a regional famine (Genesis 12:10), which required him to actually relocate to Egypt in order to find food for his entourage. While in Egypt, Abram had to contend with the possibility that the Egyptian Pharaoh would admire the beauty of his wife Sarai, and want to include her in his harem. This dilemma caused Abram to take some measures that seem somewhat contradictory to him being a man of faith, indicating that Abram did have a few faults:

“Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev. Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife”; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.’ It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house” (Genesis 12:9-15).

Departing Canaan, after all of the promises delivered from the Almighty, had to be difficult. After all, God had dynamically affirmed to Abram significant promises to give his descendants such territory. They arrived in Canaan, there was a famine, and to complicate matters, the only known source of food was in Egypt. The customs of the Egyptians were known to Abram, who feared that knowledge of his marriage to Sarai was going to jeopardize his personal survival. Rather than introduce Sarai as his wife, Abram chose to refer to her as his sister, being less than honest. One might justifiably ask why a man of God would subject his wife to such an ordeal.

It is detectable that there was a lack of trust on the part of Abram, in telling Sarai to say that she was his sister. While the ruling Pharaoh thought that Sarai was only Abram’s sister, he was treated well and was given livestock and servants from him (Genesis 12:16). We further see how a plague hit the Pharaoh because of him keeping Sarai, who then found out that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Consequently, Abram and his company were escorted out of Egypt (Genesis 12:17-20).

To many modern-day followers of the Holy One, the actions of Abram in Egypt are quite perplexing. The person commonly regarded to be “the father of the faith,” was not sternly admonished for his decisions in the Scriptural text. Did God condone Abram’s actions in telling Sarai to call herself his sister, considering the real possibility of Abram’s execution by Pharaoh? While speculation has surely been offered over the centuries by both Jewish and Christian readers, the key promise delivered by God (Genesis 12:1-3) would undoubtedly have to override whatever human or mortal actions might intervene. It would be fulfilled no matter who would try to stop it. Abram would have multitudes of descendants. If he were killed by the Pharaoh, then it would prove that the Creator God was untrustworthy.

Still, one can only imagine the conversations that took place as Abram and Sarai, after the uncomfortable situation in Egypt, journeyed back east toward the Negev and Canaan (Genesis 13:1). They might have had additional wealth and an expanding entourage of servants (Genesis 13:2-4), but there was still a growing faith and trust in the God they served that needed to develop further.

Abram and Lot

Upon Abram’s return to the place of the altar he had originally built (Genesis 13:3), he must have worshipped and praised the Holy One for guiding him and his family through the famine ordeal. But another challenge was looming. With the additional wealth and expansion of herds belonging to both Abram and Lot, the herds needed to be separated so that both growing families could find sufficient grazing land. Rather than the elder Abram choosing where to ultimately settle, and sending Lot on his way, Abram elected to let his nephew have the choice on where he desired to raise and graze his herds (Genesis 13:5-12).

Abram had to have absolute trust in the Lord, as he deferred to Lot’s decision on where he wanted to relocate. Lot was naturally attracted to the lush and abundantly watered land in the valley of the Jordan. But, Abram was totally content in Lot’s decision, because after all, God had promised the land of Canaan to his descendants. As Lot moved himself to Sodom, there is a narrative prompt informing readers how “the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13).

As Abram and Lot went on their separate ways, and Abram began to establish himself within this new land—the only major remaining challenge was the thought of descendants and for him and the aging Sarai. As the two of them got older, the likelihood of the two of them bearing children was becoming an issue. So to perhaps ease some of their concerns, the Lord once again confirmed to Abram that he was doing the right thing. The Promised Land would be theirs for perpetuity, and they would have great numbers of descendants:

“The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.’ Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:14-18).

After hearing about the magnitude of his descendants, and surveying the land through its length to breadth, Abram decided to relocate from his perch along the heights between Bethel and Ai, to further south to some land near Hebron (Genesis 13:18). Upon arriving in his new location, faithful Abram acknowledged the blessings of the Lord, and built another altar to worship and praise Him. After having received God’s blessings of favor in the land, surviving through a famine in hostile Egypt, being sent back to Canaan with additional wealth, and resolving the growing disputes with Lot’s herdsmen—Abram was now in the area where he ultimately would reside and be buried. Yet, Abram would be significantly tested, as his nephew Lot encountered trouble in Sodom.

Wars in the Middle East are not just a recent occurrence, but have been present throughout history. A regional conflict erupted between various local kings, with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah caught up in the fighting (Genesis 14:1-9). In the midst of the fighting, the two cities were vacated (Genesis 14:10) and looted by the invaders (Genesis 14:11). Lot was actually one of those who was taken prisoner, as he was living in Sodom. Upon hearing about Lot’s capture, faithful and loyal Abram took rescuing actions to save Lot and his family from certain demise:

“They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom. Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people” (Genesis 14:12-16).

Despite difficult odds, the aged Abram saw that an expedition, or in modern-day terms a “strike team,” was assembled to go rescue his nephew. Obviously, Abram did not need to risk his own life and those of his companions to save Lot—but by faith in the Lord, and displaying some skill, Abram not only defeated the marauders, but returned to Sodom with some booty and prisoners of war (Genesis 14:16). At this point in our Torah portion, we see a definite peek into the faithful heart of Abram:

“Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, “I have made Abram rich.” I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share’”” (Genesis 14:17-24).

Interestingly, the king of Sodom, and the king of Salem, Melchizedek, went out to greet Abram upon his return. The contrasting actions of these two kings is indicated by the disposition of their hearts. The reluctantly grateful king of Sodom wanted some of the spoils of war, but requested only the prisoners, seemingly being generous in not wanting the goods taken. Abram was not impressed, as he simply requested that those who fought be rewarded with a legitimate division of the spoils taken.

On the other hand, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was obviously a follower of the One True God, the same as Abram. It is understood by Abram’s response to the praise bestowed upon the Most High God, that he knew how he and Melchizedek both honored and worshipped the same God. By giving Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils, Abram established a precedent for what developed into the process of the tithe to be given to the Lord. Abram did not want to be yoked to the wicked king of Sodom in any way, but instead, wanted all to know that his allegiance, praise, and worship were to the Lord, the One who had led him on his successful expedition to rescue Lot. As we can see, the faith of Abram was becoming more apparent as revealed. Abram’s special relationship with the Holy One was becoming obvious to all in the region.

Abram Reckoned as Righteous

Following the rescue of Lot, the nagging problem of what to do about children still remained for Abram and Sarai. This couple did not have a physical heir, and the biological clock was surely continuing to tick, as their servant Eliezar of Damascus was the only recognized heir. Had not God promised a physical heir? If so, would this even be possible at such a late stage in their lives?

God was surely pleased with Abram’s handling of the various testing events he had experienced. In His mercy to Abram, He saw that the concern of children for Abram and Sarai was unrelenting. Upon returning from the encounters with the two kings, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision, and specified much more than the surety of Abram having a physical heir. Abram is stated to have been reckoned righteous because of his belief in the Holy One:

“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.’ Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.’ Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.’ And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:1-6).

The word of Genesis 15:6, “And he trusted in HASHEM, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (ATS), is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible for understanding the relationship of people to their Creator. In Genesis 15:6, the verb aman is employed, which in the Hifil stem (casual action, active voice) is defined by CHALOT to regard “rely upon (God)” and “believe in” Him.[1] The Septuagint rendered this with the verb pisteuō, “to trust, trust to or in, put faith in, rely on, believe in a person or thing” (LS).[2] While it is most common to see Genesis 15:6 rendered with some form of “believe” in English Bibles, it is not outside of the realm of possibilities to render it with “have faith.” It is upon this critical verse, Genesis 15:6, that James and Paul would both appeal to emphasize a life of trust in the Heavenly Father (James 2:23; Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3, 20-22).

One of the biggest mistakes that many of today’s Christians can make, when encountering the Tanakh or the Old Testament, is thinking that it presents us with a God who demands that His people work to earn their salvation. While God surely does expect good works and actions of His people, the thrust of Genesis 15:6 is that belief/trust/faith in Him is what reckons a person righteous as one of His own. Abram was confronted with a situation, in being promised by God multitudes of descendants, where he must have had many doubts about it ever taking place. He and his wife were both elderly people! Yet, much of his human uncertainty had to have been overcome—as he placed himself entirely in God’s hands—because we are told how “Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6, NLT). The Apostles would later apply Genesis 15:6 to a life of required faith and trust that people must not only place in the Heavenly Father, but in His Son sent to die to atone for sinful humanity.

The Conception of Ishmael

Within Lekh-Lekha, we see how Abram and Sarai concluded that they would not be able to conceive a child, due to Sarai’s advanced age. Instead, Sarai recommended that Abram take her handmaiden Hagar to conceive a child. Perhaps, they must have thought, the physical heir from Abram’s loins need not come from Abram’s wife herself. So, the two of them resorted to a local, Ancient Near Eastern, pagan practice. And, while Abraham and Hagar were able to conceive a child, it notably resulted in Sarai despising Hagar:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me’” (Genesis 16:1-5).

Was the act of Abram impregnating Hagar an act of faith, or of faithlessness? It is noted later that God would actually bless Ishmael (Genesis 17:20), and that from Ishmael would come forth a great nation. Yet in his letter to the Galatians in the First Century, the Apostle Paul would use the analogy of Hagar conceiving Ishmael, to dissuade the new, non-Jewish Believers from being circumcised as proselytes (Galatians 4:21-31). Abram impregnating Hagar has never had a great reputation in the Holy Scriptures, and it is a negative lesson from which all are to learn. Rather than Abram and Sarai waiting to let a child be naturally conceived via their normal sexual relations—they instead force things by having Abram impregnate Sarai, by which a less-than-legitimate child would be born. While Abram is indeed to be regarded as “the father of faith,” he was human and did not always act according to faith.

Abram and Sarai Renamed

Lekh-Lekha concludes as an eternal covenant was made with Abram (Genesis ch. 17), as the Lord once again appeared to and spoke to him. Abram was not only promised that from himself would come “a multitude of nations,” hamon goyim (Genesis 17:4, 5), but it is here when Avram was renamed Avraham or Abraham. Not only would a plentitude of descendants come forth from Abraham, but a child of promise would come forth from the womb of Sarai, renamed Sarah:

“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’ Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’ God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations’…Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’” (Genesis 17:1-9, 15-19).

A physical reminder, circumcision of the foreskin of the male sexual organ, would be issued upon those who would be the beneficiaries of the covenant cut between God and Abraham (Genesis 17:22-27). While physical circumcision is to be regarded as a badge of honor upon those who practice it, as it connects a man to the Patriarch Abraham—circumcision can also be a badge of dishonor, considering all of the unfaithful acts that can be committed with the male member. Both faithful acts to God, and less-than-faithful acts, are seen demonstrated by Abraham in our Torah portion. Both faithful and unfaithful acts have been demonstrated by those men in history who have been physically circumcised (cf. Romans 2:25-29).

Abraham Remembered

Lekh-Lekha is a rather comprehensive Torah reading, with many events witnessed that will inform those studying the remainder of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Students receive an incredible overview of key trials that ultimately led the chosen Abraham, to be regarded as “the father of faith.” Abraham was uniquely selected by God for this role. While he had his faults, Abraham proved that he was a man who had to place great confidence in his Creator, as the challenges he faced steadily grew. Abraham has left us an example that has stood the test of time. The author of Hebrews lauds the faith of Abraham and Sarah, as they are noted as persons who acted upon the steadfast trust that they placed in the God who called them, not quite knowing what was going to occur or where they were specifically going:

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE [Genesis 15:5-6; 22:17]” (Hebrews 11:8-12).

As you have reviewed the testimonies of Abraham and Sarah, while these two were not perfect people, they did walk by faith and they are examples that we are to follow as Believers in Yeshua. This is because born again Believers, by faith, are to be those who look beyond this temporal realm to the eternal. Hebrews 11:16 says that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

By contemplating the faith and actions of Abraham, we should each be inspired to walk in a manner that exhibits trust in the Lord, and a secure belief in the reliability of His Word and promises. A clear result of this trust are to be actions of obedience generated when we hear the voice of the Lord, and we serve Him in the world. Perhaps, as we edge closer and closer to the return of the Messiah Yeshua—which certainly requires great faith (cf. 2 Peter 3:4)—a few of us may demonstrate a faith of greater proportions than Abraham? If this is at all possible, then this would also mean that the mistakes made by Abraham must be quantitatively avoided. (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988), 20.

[2] LS, 641.

Torah Commentary – Lech Lecha (Get Yourself Out) – One Man Was Listening – SCRIPTURES FOR October 28, 2017

Torah Commentary
Lech Lecha (Get Yourself Out)

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Gen 12:1-17:27
Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Acts 7:1-8
Romans 3:19-5:6
Hebrews 7:1-19; 11:8-12
 
One Man Was Listening
I was talking to a Jewish friend with a number of other people in the room a few of years ago. During the conversation someone said, “God spoke to me” and went on to state what they thought they had heard. After the crowd left my Jewish friend looked at me with a facial expression I have seen many times. A look which normally means I am about to learn something very important. He brought up the “God told me” statement and proceeded to explain why he would not make a statement like that. It was not that he believes HaShem does not speak to people, but rather his explanation brought a greater meaning to the dialogue between the Creator and His creation. My friend’s explanation went like this. God is always speaking, so to say “God told me” is to say He only speaks on occasion. A better way for this person to have explained their encounter would be to say, “In a moment that I was listening…”
Allow me to expound a bit. Is there ever a time in which HaShem is not speaking? I would say “no”. His voice is in world events, creation itself and even conversations we are having with others around us. The question is, “Are we listening for His voice in those things and at those times?”
In Genesis 12 we read of a dialogue between HaShem and a man named Abram. It appears from the text that he hears an audible voice, but was his hearing the audible voice due to his learning to hear an inaudible one? Let me explain. As Abram grew up in Ur and later in Haran, did he witness the sin and depravity of the culture and wonder if there had to be a better way of living? If so, he heard His voice. If ancient writings are true and his father was a seller of idols, did he look at them and consider they were just carvings of wood and stone? If so, he heard His voice. Did he look up to the stars at night and wonder just who it was that created the heavens and the earth? If so, he heard His voice.
My point is that Abram had made a lifestyle out of listening to the ever speaking voice of HaShem. On that now infamous day when the inaudible became the audible it was as natural to follow that voice as it was for Abram to breathe.
There is another person in the story though that does not get much credit until later. Her name is Sara. Scripture does not record her hearing a voice. That is not until Abram came home and told her to pack her bags as they were moving to a new place. From the text it appears that Sara did not question Abram’s decision, but started packing. How could she do this? I believe it was because she had been listening for the voice of HaShem as Abram had.
When Abram came home with the news, Sara did not need to get alone and pray, because the inaudible voice she had been hearing had now become audible through her husband’s voice. On that day, her husband’s voice and the Creator’s voice matched exactly. No questions were needed.
Through the next few weeks we will see the journey of Abram and Sara continuing to follow HaShem’s voice. We will read of the times their hearing was good and the times it was not so good. I am so thankful Father did not just give us the successes of this couple. If he had, the standard would have been too high to reach. I am also grateful He did not only record their failures as it would cause us to not even try. The successes and failures give me hope; for it tells me Abram and Sara were human, flesh and blood like you and me.
In Genesis chapter 17 HaShem tells Abram to “Walk before me and be perfect.” Thankfully the word translated perfect is not the best meaning for the word. In Hebrew it is tamiym and means entire, complete and whole. In the Complete Jewish Bible, David Stern translates it as pure-hearted. Other translations use whole-hearted. The Hebrew spelling is tav, mem, yod, mem. It is a picture of waters coming together and merging into covenant as one. Think about that for a moment. Have you ever seen two rivers come together? They don’t struggle to become one river, they just do. Flowing in covenant with our Creator should be no more difficult than two rivers combining into one. That is, if we have learned to “listen” to the direction we are supposed to flow.
Shalom and Be Strong,
Mike Clayton

Faith vs. Legalism

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As a Messianic Jew I am not liked by anyone. My Jewish brothers and sisters tell me that because I believe “in Jesus” (almost none of them really understand what that means) I am no longer Jewish; on the other side, because I follow Torah (as best as I can) and maintain a “Jewish” worship and lifestyle, my brothers and sisters in Messiah tell me I am legalistic and not really saved because I am “under the law” and not “under the blood.”

Both are just so very, very wrong.

Shaul (AKA Paul, that nice Jewish tent maker from Tarsus) tells us in Romans, Chapter 4 all about legalism and faith. He begins at the beginning, with Abraham, and identifies how the Tanakh confirms that Abraham was considered righteous because he believed what God told him would happen. That faithfulness, demonstrated by Abraham believing in what hadn’t yet happened, was why God credited him with righteousness. There was no task he accomplished, or behavior he performed, other than believing.

But that wasn’t all: Abraham did more than just believe. He did all the things that God told him to do, without hesitation or complaint. He left his father’s house, he left his neighbors, his home…everything he knew and was comfortable with, and took everyone and everything he owned to…he had no idea where.

When God told him to cut up animals and lay them out, he did that and remained out in the heat of the day, shooing away the birds.

When God said to circumcise himself and everyone else, he did it that day.

When God said to take Isaac and sacrifice him, he left early the very next morning.

Whatever God said to do, he did.

So, even though Abraham’s righteousness came from trusting faithfulness in what God said, he also spent his life doing what God told him to do.  We call that obedience.

Going back to Romans 4, Shaul points out that circumcision had nothing to do with Abraham’s righteousness because the righteousness was credited before he was circumcised; because of that, Gentiles who are not circumcised can be saved without undergoing the procedure, but if one chooses to do so, as an act of obedience, it doesn’t mean that person is being legalistic.

The difference between legalism and faith is simply the reason for performing the act: if I do what is in the Torah because I want to obey God, that is not legalism. If I do what is in the Torah to make me righteous, I am being legalistic. Of course, if I can obey Torah perfectly, I will be made righteous by doing so; the problem with that scenario is that no one can obey Torah perfectly. Therefore, there has to be a better way. We call that way “Grace”, God’s forgiveness for our sins, which is possible through believing in Yeshua, whose sacrifice replaced the need to bring a sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem to have our sins forgiven.

This is why Yeshua had to die: because the temple wasn’t going to exist, which means the sacrificial system God created for us in the Torah would no longer be available, Yeshua’s sacrifice replaced needing the temple to receive forgiveness of sin. (Click to Article)

UN Resolution 2334 and a review of Israeli history from Biblical times

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It came as a shock, at least to the public, a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel that the US refused to veto. UN resolutions critical of Israel are as common as Russian and Chinese hackers. Only those promulgated by the Security Council, however, have serious ramifications. The US is one of five permanent members of the Security Council. Any of these five members can veto a Security Council resolution. The US has reliably, but not always, vetoed such resolutions critical of Israel. What happened this time? What are the repercussions?

To begin we turn to the Bible. In fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the patriarchs, God led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan (later Israel) somewhere between 1400-1200 BC. From then until 70 AD sizable Israelite and later Jewish communities resided in the land. The boundaries of the land changed constantly depending upon historical events. Solomon’s empire (950 BC) and possibly another under Alexander Janneus (90 BC) saw the boundaries expand to the largest area – from present day Iraq to the Sinai Peninsula. Regardless of the extent of land acquisition, the Bible clearly promises “the land” to the Jewish people.

Following the Roman-Jewish wars (66-70 AD, 131-135 AD), Jews were forcibly removed from the land of Israel. In the year 130 the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, renamed the land Palestine. Until 1948 various groups and empires ruled the land. While it appears there was always a small Jewish remnant present, the concept of returning to “the land” was relegated to hope and prayer. That changed with the rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century. At first small numbers of Jews seeking to escape Russian persecution made their way to the land (then controlled by the Ottoman Empire), purchased plots from typically absentee Arab landowners, and began farming the land. By the early 20th century more Jews migrated to the land under the Zionist banner of a homeland for the Jews, buttressed by the Biblical promise of Jews returning to their homeland. (Click to Article)

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