Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #4: Vayera ( He appeared): B’resheit (Genesis) 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 4:1-23 (S)
B’rit Chadashah: James 2:13-24
A narrative describing Abraham’s profound attribute of hospitality and continued tests continues in this parashah. The beginning scene has Avraham sitting at the entrance to his tent after recently being circumcised. This is an important detail as we move forward and learn that he ran to meet the three men, one of whom we now know was Yahshua “incognito” so to speak. However, it mattered not who these men were. To Avraham, they were men to whom he would do his best to feed them, provide water, and a place to rest. He did not hesitate to provide the best of his food, providing a tender calf, curds, and milk, and the best flour for cakes. This is a lesson for us . Avraham was obviously in pain from his recent circumcision, yet he ran to the men, not hesitating to provide for them without them even asking for anything. Obviously, we must be discerning as we live for G-d and try to be hospitable to our fellow man. But the idea is that the thought of helping others should be at the forefront of our minds and not a last thought. The Ruach will guide us as we pray for discernment and wisdom in all things.
Notice in Chapter 18:9 the scripture states “ They said to him [Avraham] where is Sarah your wife?” Then in verse 10 we read “ He said…” What is going on here with the change in pronouns? In subsequent verses we are told that one of the men was Adonai (18:17).The fact that Sarah laughed when one of the men told her she would have a son the following year indicates she did not know this “man” was Adonai possibly in the company of Yahshua and an angel. Regardless, we certainly cannot judge her harshly as the odds of her having a child at her advanced age would normally be impossible. To make things worse, after she laughed, she lied about it. Fear is often the source of lying and there is no doubt Sarah must have experienced fear when the man was able to know Sarah had laughed to herself.
The Chumash identifies the three as Michael, Raphael, and Gavriel, the Archangels. However, there is no evidence to support this opinion. When we examine the Hebrew, first we notice that the name of the place where the meeting took place between the three and Avraham, “Mamre,” means “fellowship.” We know that Yahshua seeks to fellowship with His creation and this meeting was a great place to start fellowship with Avraham as the father of many nations. Next, we are told in the very first sentence (Gen. 18:1) that “Adonai appeared to Avraham by the oaks of Mamre.” The aim of this introduction is to make it clear that the three men are an apparition of the Divine. Indeed, one of the men was Yahshua as Adonai as we shall soon explore. A change of person takes place from verse 9 to 10; “They said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ He said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10He said, ‘I will certainly return to you around this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” In verse 13 “Adonai said to Avraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and ask, ‘Am I really going to bear a child when I am so old?’ At this point we see Adonai on earth as Yahshua communicating with Avraham and Sarah. He even knew Sarah laughed to herself (Gen:18:12) even though she did not laugh out loud. This knowledge is consistent with Yahshua’s omniscience and His teachings that took obedience and violation of His commands to a new level in the “New” Testament.
In the next passage (Gen. 18:16-19) Adonai as Yahshua talks to himself, revealing His oneness with Adonai/YHVH just as he did in Genesis 1:26. Chapter 18:19 reads “For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised to him.” We know this promise culminates in bringing Israel (all true believers) to the Promised Land, yet to be occupied.
The next passage once again reveals the complex unity of YHVH/Yahshua. Gen. 18:20 reads “ Adonai said, ‘ The outcry against S’dom and ‘Amora is so great and their sin so serious that I will now go down to see whether their deeds warrant the outcry that has reached me; if not, I will know. The men turned away from there and went toward S’dom, but Avraham remained standing before Adonai.”
Examining these verses reveals Adonai speaks from above and yet remains on the ground speaking to Avraham. This is a difficult concept to understand but is we look at the dynamics of energy, it is easier to understand.
There are two states of energy: kinetic and potential. Kinetic energy is that which a body possesses by virtue of being in motion. It is defined as the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its stated velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes. Potential energy is that possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors.
How does this relate to our parashah and our relationship with G-d?
G-d is a form of intelligent energy who is able to manifest himself in any role to meet his plan for man. He is unknowable but we can get an idea of how He can be in more than one place at a time if He chooses. One example is described in our parashah. While Adonai and perhaps Yahshua and the Ruach may have been physical manifestations of the complex unity of the G-dhead, heaven was certainly not vacated when these three “ men” came to Avraham. We see many examples of Yahshua manifested as an angel before he came to Earth as G-d incarnate. These changes can me attributed to His ability to manipulate his energy and state of being to meet the objective of his mission at the time. Energy can be thought of as a phenomenon constantly transforming and manifesting itself in different ways just as we read through G-d’s Torah. This is not the same as saying that G-d changes, for he never changes in the context of his commands, laws, and statutes. Neither does He change attributes. In this context He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Yet, G-d being who He is and how He created the universe and all of the energy in and outside our universe, has the ability to manifest himself as any form of matter, whether it be as an angel, a man, or the Messiah as He is and always will be. I submit YHVH used this ability to “place” the embryo that would be manifest as the future Messiah in Miriam’s womb. Kinetic energy transformed to potential energy for Miriam and Yosef to raise Yahshua according to G-d’s instructions.
There is much more information that we can learn by studying energy as it relates to the G-dhead and G-d’s Torah, but I want to provide this information to hopefully stimulate the reader or listener to investigate this relationship further.
Moving on, Avraham begins pleading for the life of sinners and the righteous alike. Unfortunately, he pleads under an incorrect premise that there are any righteous in S’dom. This account makes it clear that Abraham’s religion is more than a set of cultic practices. It embraces human beings, concern for their welfare, and Avraham’s faith in G-d’s righteousness. Avraham does not doubt the existence of G-d’s justice. He only asks the extent and its limitations. The chesed (unmerited kindness) of G-d is demonstrated in this account. The Bible makes it clear that man may, with impunity, question the actions of G-d. Like Avraham, man need not surrender his own sense of justice; he remains free to accept or reject the divine judgment- although he will have to submit to it in the end. Man is not reduced to a moral automation. Free-will is preserved just as it will be during the Tribulation. Only those who want to continue to buy and sell will be compelled to take the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:13-18; 14:9-12). At the end of this account between Avraham and Adonai (Yahshua), it is important to note that “Adonai went on his way as soon as he had finished speaking to Avraham, and Avraham returned to his place” (Gen.18:33). How do we know Adonai returned to heaven? The next verse mentions only two angels coming to S’dom that evening (Gen. 19:1). Enter the character of Lot.
We find Lot sitting at the gate of “sin city” in the next passage. While his uncle (Avraham) hurried to serve the three men at his tent even though he was in pain, Lot at least demonstrates a level of hospitality consistent with the custom of the time in that he offers his virgin daughters to the homosexual deviants attempting to break down his door to get to the two men (angels) staying with him. The angels strike the men outside with blindness and warn Lot to get his family out of S’dom pending its destruction. The angels reveal to Lot that Adonai sent them to destroy the city, therefore we know that Adonai was now located in another place (heaven) and was no longer with the two. It is also apparent that Lot had two married daughters (Gen. 19:14) and two virgin daughters (gen. 19:16). From the narrative we must assume that the married daughters chose to remain with their Sodomite husbands and were lost. Lot’s attachment to S’dom and entrenchment in the world is apparent as he pleads with the men (angels) to flee to a small city near S’dom, still in the plain. In other words, Lot could not ascend to the hills as admonished by the men (angels). He chose to assume a lesser life, remaining on a linear level with sin (Gen. 19:18-20). Like the angel who relented and allowed Lot to assume a lesser existence than the one G-d had planned for him in the hills, G-d allows us to settle for mediocre lives if we insist on remaining in the comfortable and decline opportunity to take risk by climbing the road less travelled that ascends to higher places and a closer relationship with YHVH/Yahshua. Lot’s wife could not let go of the life in S’dom and died as she reflected on her past, looked back with regret, and ignored her future. This is one reason G-d lead the Israelites into the desert on a path that prevented them from looking back and seeing Egypt. Nevertheless, they often regretted and lamented the exodus for the lack of gourmet food!
The sins of S’dom and ‘Amora are worth exploring and understanding so we may avoid similar behaviors and be set apart as G-d’s people. This can only be accomplished through clinging to G-d’s Torah and following it. Sodomites were inhospitable and sexually deviant. But while sexual deviant practices are strongly condemned in the Torah (Lev. 18), G-d emphasizes social aberrations as the reason of the cities’ destruction. Ezekiel, for instance, describes the sins of S’dom in social terms: “pride, fullness of bread, and careless ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty (16:49-50).The tradition of S’dom’s moral insensitivity, based on the way Sodomites treated strangers, highlighted, to biblical man, the community’s essential depravity. During this time in history, hospitality included much more than good manners; it meant the treatment and acceptance of strangers and was a vital aspect of religion (Deut. 10:19). To make things worse, S’dom was a rich and affluent city. Social evil, then, cause the destruction of S’dom. The Torah takes this account and turns it into a moral lesson for all time: Affluence without social concern is self-destructive; it hardens the conscience against repentance; it engenders cruelty and excess. The treatment accorded newcomers and strangers was then and may always be considered a touchstone of a community’s moral condition.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings 4:1-37)
Just as G-d promises a child to Abraham and Sarah, despite childless Sarah’s advanced age, this week’s haftorah describes a similar incident that occurred many years later — the prophet Elisha assuring an elderly childless woman that she will bear a child.
The haftorah discusses two miracles performed by the prophet Elisha. The first miracle involved a widow who was heavily in debt, and her creditors were threatening to take her two sons as slaves to satisfy the debt. When the prophet asked her what she had in her home, the widow responded that she had nothing but a vial of oil. Elisha told her to gather as many empty containers as possible — borrowing from neighbors and friends as well. She should then pour oil from her vial into the empty containers. She did as commanded, and miraculously the oil continued to flow until the last empty jug was filled. The woman sold the oil for a handsome profit and had enough money to repay her debts and live comfortably.
The second miracle: Elisha would often pass by the city of Shunam, where he would dine and rest at the home of a certain hospitable couple. This couple even made a special addition to their home, a guest room designated for Elisha’s use. When the prophet learned that the couple was childless, he blessed the woman that she should give birth to a child in exactly one year’s time. And indeed, one year later a son was born to the aged couple.
A few years later the son complained of a headache and died shortly thereafter. The Shunamite woman laid the lifeless body on the bed in Elisha’s designated room, and quickly summoned the prophet. Elisha hurried to the woman’s home and miraculously brought the boy back to life.
B’rit Chadashah: James 2:14-24
This passage and the connection to the parashah needs only a limited commentary:
“ What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions to prove it? Is such ‘faith’ able to save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food, and someone says to him, ‘shalom! Keep warm and eat hearty!’ without giving him what he needs, what good does it do? Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.
But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions! You believe that ‘G-d is one’? Good for you? The demons believe it too- the thought makes them shudder with fear! But, foolish fellow, do you want to be shown that such ‘faith’ apart from actions is barren?
Wasn’t Avraham avinu declared righteous because of actions when he offered up his son Yitz’chak on the altar? You see that his faith worked with his actions; by the actions the faith was made complete; and the passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled which says, ‘Avraham had faith in G-d, and it was credited to his account as righteousness.’ He was even called G-d’s friend. You see that a person is declared righteous because of actions and not because of faith alone.”
Faith is action based on belief. There is an inextricable relationship between faith and works; grace and law; day and night; good and evil. Our G-d, the G-d of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is a consistent G-d, never changing, seeking fellowship with us just as he did with Avraham. If we are to establish and grow that relationship, we must emulate Yahshua just as Avraham did. You say, “Avraham did not have any knowledge of Yahshua?” Re-read Gen. 18:19; “ For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart