Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #3: Lekh L’kha (Get yourself out) B’resheit (Genesis) 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:27-41:16
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:1-8
This week’s parashah provides several examples of the concept behind getting oneself out of familiar and comfortable surroundings. That is, self-nullification at the deepest levels. Abraham’s obedience and longing for a close relationship to the one true G-d overrode his human nature for control. The “leaving” directive was progressive and immediate simultaneously. He was told to leave his country, his kinsmen, and his father’s house all at once and relinquish all human control over life events to G-d. he was told to go to a land that was not immediately identified. Compare this event to most of society today to get a glimpse of the chance Abraham took with G-d with whom he just recently became acquainted! In today’s society, most people would demand a written contract, full description of the destination, and a satisfaction guarantee. Most people would also demand the “why” of G-d’s instructions before considering leaving the comfort of their homes, family, and land. But Abraham left without hesitation. This is the attitude true believers need to incorporate in their lives. An unquestionable trust and faith in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He knows what is best for us and will never leave nor forsake us. By crossing over the Euphrates River and by taking the spiritual direction completely contrary to the polytheistic land which he left, Abraham became the first Hebrew, that is Ivri defined as “one who crosses over” This concept penetrates the entirety of G-d’s Torah from the Old Testament to the B’rit Chadashah (refreshed, renewed covenant) ; integration of G-d’s Laws/instructions with G-d’s grace fused into each other in an inextricable relationship. Abraham’s character attribute of hospitality and unselfishness were used by G-d in more complex life events that provide true believers today inspiration to emulate Abraham’s life. The spiritual and moral divide demonstrated though Abraham’s life is one that eventually separates the righteous from the rest of the world.
With the above praises of Abraham’s response to G-d’s instructions, we must also remember that the process of salvation is progressive. Abraham still made mistakes and we are no different. The benefit we enjoy today is that these narratives and G-d’s instructions were provided to us in writing. They are meant to teach, encourage, rebuke, instill hope and faith in G-d and Yahshua’s faithfulness to the point of sacrificing himself that man would have a way of reconciliation to G-d. This reconciliation still requires obedience to G-d’s instructions out of love just as was demonstrated by Abraham. Nothing has changed.
A comparison between righteous and unrighteous behaviors and responses to G-d is found in the character of Abraha’s nephew, Lot. When we examine the Hebrew scripture, we find that Lot seems to have insisted on going with Abraham initially because of a deep respect for his uncle. But as time went on and the journey progressed, Lot became more selfish and less respectful. According to the Chumash wealth and the lust for “stuff” brings out the worst in people. Abraham resisted these attributes of basic human nature, but Lot succumbed to the natural human lust for “more.” In this parashah we are given a clear demonstration of Lot’s selfishness and disrespect for Abraham. Abraham and Lot’s flocks and possessions were so numerous that they were no longer able to live together on the same property. Instead of Lot insisting that his uncle choose the direction he wished to go, Lot not only did not initiate the conversation and offer to separate himself from Abraham, but he chose the richest land even though it was the most corrupt and cruelest. Perhaps Lot thought as many people do in similar situations that he could live among evil without being spiritually affected. But the outcome verifies some of the consequences of compromising our faith and obedience to G-d’s instructions.
The parting of Lot from Abraham had a significant spiritual affect for Lot’s progeny. Although Ruth would eventually come from the Moabite line of Lot and become the great grandmother of King David again demonstrating that we can overcome our human nature to maintain the status quo and to step out on faith and trust in the G-d of Israel, the male descendants of Ammon and Moab were prohibited from entering the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:4).
When Abraham was 99 years old Adonai appeared to him and changed his name from Avram (exalted father) to Avraham (father of many0to Abraham) Sarai’s (mockery) to Sarah (princess). G-d makes it clear that Avraham and all subsequent generations are to “walk in my presence and be pure hearted (Gen. 17:1). This two-fold statement contains two directives. The first is that we are to walk in G-d’s presence which is symbolic of following G-d’s laws/instructions out of love. The second directive is to be pure hearted. This phrase reflects Yahshua’s emphasis on following G-d’s laws/instructions in the spirit of the law. That is following G-d’s Torah with compassion, justice, truth, and love. Although Yahshua would not manifest himself physically as Messiah until a later time, He was present from the beginning and was manifest as an angel in several Old Testament scriptures including Genesis 16:7; 18:1-5; 32:25). This is one way we can know that G-d does not change from one testament to the other as is often taught in Christian churches. The clear statement that further testifies to this truth was made by G-d himself in Malachai 3:6-9 “I the L-rd do not change, So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”
In this parashah we also learn a truth about the source of the war in the Middle East between the Arabs and Jews. G-d clearly stated that Isaac was the son of promise who G-d would establish a covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him (Gen. 21). Ishmael was described by the angel (Yahshua) as “a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, living his life at odds with all his kinsman.” This destiny for the progeny of Isaac and Ishmael is the reason for conflict that will not end until after Yahshua’s millennial reign at which time the final battle between good and evil at Armageddon will be won by YHVH/Yahshua and the saints and evil in all its forms is cast into everlasting torment (Matt. 25:41;2 Thess. 1:9;Mark 9:48; Rev. 20:10; 21:8).
Haftarah Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 40:27-41:16
The haftarah for this week discusses Abraham’s journey to the land of Canaan at G‑d’s behest, and touches upon Abraham’s miraculous battle against the four kings, both of which are described in this week’s Torah reading.
The prophet Isaiah addresses Israel’s complaint: “My way [of serving G‑d] has been ignored by the Lord, and from my G‑d, my judgment passes [unrewarded].”
Isaiah reminds Israel of G-d’s greatness. The time will come when “He will give the tired strength, and to him who has no strength, He will increase strength. Youths shall become tired and weary, and young men shall stumble, but those who put their hope in the Lord shall renew [their] vigor, they shall raise wings as eagles; they shall run and not weary, they shall walk and not tire.” Nevertheless, “there is no comprehension of His wisdom,” and as such, at times we cannot understand why He chooses to delay the reward of the righteous.
Then the haftarah turns its attention to the idolatrous nations of the world. Isaiah reminds them of Abraham’s greatness, how after arriving in Canaan he pursued and defeated four mighty kings. “The islands saw and feared; the ends of the earth quaked.” Nevertheless, the nations who witness these miracles did not abandon their ways. “The [idol] craftsman strengthened the smith, the one who smooths [the idol] with the hammer strengthened the one who wields the sledgehammer; the one who glues its coating says, “It is good,” and he strengthened it with nails that it should not move…”
G‑d promises the Jewish nation that includes all true believers to reward them for their loyalty to G‑d. “Do not fear for I am with you; be not discouraged for I am your G‑d…” “Behold all those incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded; those who quarreled with you shall be as naught and be lost.”
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:1-8
This is a narrative of Stephen’s last moments; whose face is described as looking like the face of an angel as he testified before the Sanhedrin of G-d and G-d’s relationship with Avraham. Stephen brings out the fact that although G-d promised the very land the Sanhedrin was standing in at the moment to Avraham who never stepped foot in it and was childless at the time of the promise, G-d promised the Land would be given to him as a possession and to his descendants after him. Stephen had been accused of having taught against Moshe, G-d, the Temple, and the Torah; in other words, everything Judaism stands for. Demonstrating that the best defense is a good offense, he indicts the religious leaders after the manner of the Prophets, saying it is they who have abandoned each one of these four sacred trusts. He addresses the Sanhedrin as fathers and brothers, speaking as a fellow Jew, one of the family. His critique is no more anti-Semitic than those of his predecessors, the Prophets. His first words refute the charge that he has “spoken blasphemously… against G-d” (6:11). His regard for the one true G-d is demonstrated consistently throughout his speech. Stephen paints a picture of much of Israel refusing to honor those whom G-d chose to bring them into salvation he had promised them- especially Yosef (vv.9-16), who was recognized by Pharaoh, a Gentile, but not by his own brothers, and Moshe (vv.17-44). Interestingly, we as Messianic Jews who most closely follow the teachings of G-d/Yahshua as did the disciples as the first Messianic Jews are considered “non-Jews” by those in other Jewish sects. We must take our queue on how to respond to such injustice and condemnation from the prophets and Yahshua himself. We must continue to walk in His ways, trust Him to straighten our paths (Prov. 3:6) and open the eyes of Jewish sects that do not yet recognize Yahshua as both Messiah ben Yosef and Messiah ben David.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart