Lech L’cha--Genesis 12-17
Blessings of Posterity
This portion begins with the calling out of a man to be special before YHVH. The story of Abram begins in the closing verses of Noach concerning a man named Terah. Scripture says he bore three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran. The genealogy account says Haran dies in Ur of the Chaldeans.
Scriptural accounts, both in Genesis and Nehemiah, place the beginning of Abram’s journey in Ur of the Chaldeans. It is from there chapter twelve begins. YHVH speaks to Abram and tells him pack his bags and prepare for a journey toward an unknown destination. Hence, the title of this portion, “Lech L’cha”, which means, “go forth”.
“And יהוה said to Abram, ‘Go yourself out of your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house, to a land which I show you. And I shall make you a great nation, and bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing! And I shall bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you. And in you all the clans of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram left, as יהוה had commanded him, and Lot went with him.” Genesis 12: 1-4a
The land to which YHVH would be leading Abram was to be his inheritance. Yet for a time, he would be required to sojourn there. It would be a land in the hands of other people. In essence he would be a stranger in a foreign land. As the Scripture says of him while dwelling in Egypt, to a lesser degree, it would be for a time in the Promised Land.
“And He said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your seed are to be sojourners (strangers) in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years.’” Genesis 15: 13
It likely didn’t take long for Abram to figure out the “stranger” thing. Even while in Ur, he was a stranger with some, maybe even to those within his family. Yet, these people were weird. They had all kinds of gods and engaged in unholy rituals.
Abram was called out to be the father of a Hebrew nation. The meaning of “Hebrew” is “from the other side of the river”. It would not be easy for him to mix with these people, yet remain faithful to YHVH. Even so, he WOULD need to remain fervently faithful to YHVH, as He spoke through the prophet, and cited for us through Paul.
“Turn aside! Turn aside! Come out from there, touch not the unclean. Come out of her midst, be clean, you who bear the vessels of יהוה. For you shall not come out in haste, nor go in flight. For יהוה is going before you, and the Elohim of Yisra’ĕl is your rear guard.” Isaiah 52: 11-12
“Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness? And what fellowship has light with darkness? And what agreement has Messiah with Beliyaʽal? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what union has the Dwelling Place of Elohim with idols? For you are a Dwelling Place of the living Elohim, as Elohim has said, ‘I shall dwell in them and walk among them, and I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. Therefore, Come out from among them and be separate, says יהוה, and do not touch what is unclean, and I shall receive you. And I shall be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says יהוה the Almighty.’”
2 Corinthians 6: 14-18
Abram was called out from his country, his relatives, AND his father’s house. I’ve heard it said, “Blood is thicker than water”. It’s a statement that speaks to the undying loyalty between family members. It suggests a loyalty that overlooks any faults of the members therein. They can indulge in whatever practices desired. Even so, “We’re family” they say. Yeshua states the opposite, in agreement with Paul and the Prophet.
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me.” Matthew 10: 37
It should be no wonder why YHVH told Abram to separate himself from family. It is a teaching of Torah that, “what happens to the fathers will happen to the sons”. Because of that concept, I can assuredly say there was mixture within Abram’s family. Our society today is laced with the same beliefs, even from within the scope of Christian circles.
If a family member decides to explicitly follow the leading of YHVH, that member becomes a stranger within his own household. That’s why Yeshua prefaced the above statement that “our enemies (would be) they of our own household”. What should we do? In accordance with Paul and the Prophet, Yeshua says, “Take up your cross and follow Me (Yeshua)”, even if you have to say goodbye to loved ones.
With the understanding that we are not worthy of Yeshua if we don’t forsake all to follow Him, we set out on our journey and again find we are strangers. As with Abram, to those we meet during our journey we are also strangers. It doesn’t take long for us to figure out that the reasons we’re outcasts in the home are the same for which we are now regarded as aliens in a foreign country. Even so, my encouragement is to “stay the course”.
On The Long Journey
It should be noted in Abram‘s calling there was no argument from Abram. YHVH spoke, he listened, and then obeyed. The benefits of his calling should also be noted. It is written that “a workman is worthy of his hire”. Whether in this life or the life to come or both, a workman/servant should be paid according to the scope of his calling. Abram is handsomely paid here. Before the end of this portion, his wages will see two significant raises.
As with a journey of any length, especially long ones such as with Abram, pitfalls and distractions will occur. It is the same for us, flat tire, illness, etc. You fill in the blanks. Such happened to Abram very early in the journey. His father, Terah, died in Haran on the first leg of the journey.
Many times, these pitfalls can delay or outright derail the journey. In the case of a loved one, the delay can be far more extended. For some, it could even derail the journey altogether. We don’t know how long that delay was for Abram. Scripture does tell us the stay in Haran was likely rather lengthy because v. 5 tells us he “gathered possessions and servants” while there.
We also know he had to have the emotions we all would express in such cases. For Abram, his experience was double. He had recently lost his brother in Ur. It would be unthinkable for this man who would become known as a “friend of Elohim” to bury his father, stop at the local “Wally World“, and hit the road again.
Even so, when the fullness of his time there was done, it was like the Willie Nelson song I love to sing, “On The Road Again”. From Haran, he set out for Kena’an. Upon arrival, he passed through Shekem, to the Terebinth (Oak) tree of Moreh (Mamre). It’s not known how long Abram stayed at Moreh. Yet, we do know he built an altar there for sacrifice to YHVH.
From there, he traveled to the mountain east of Beth El, setting up camp between there and the city of Ai. There, he built another altar for sacrifice and “called upon the name of YHVH”. After an undetermined length of stay at this location, he once again headed south. Yet, look out! There’s another big bump in the road ahead.
Somewhere south of Beth El, there was a scarcity of food in the land. After mulling over the situation, the decision was made to leave the land and continue further south into Egypt where there was a better chance for sustenance. As the Scripture says.
“And Abram set out, continuing toward the south. And a scarcity of food came to be in the land, and Abram went down to Mitsrayim to dwell there, for the scarcity of food was severe in the land.” Genesis 12: 9-10
Scripture doesn’t, nor should I or anyone else, pass judgment on Abram for making the decision to go to Egypt. The account says the scarcity was severe. Leaving the Land may have been the only choice he had. The fact that he relocated to Egypt indicates all options for remaining in the Land had been considered. There is also no indication YHVH told him to remain in the Land.
While in Egypt, Scripture shows Abram manifesting a bit of fear. I find it likely this trepidation actually began during the decision making process to actually leave for Egypt. Could it be as the fear expressed by Job? As the Scripture says.
“For that which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I dreaded has overtaken me. I have not been at ease, nor have I been undisturbed, nor been at rest, yet trouble comes!” Job 3: 25-26
Preservation of life is a very powerful force of human nature, and supported by Torah teaching. On the other hand, fear is a very powerful enemy of that inclination for preservation. It would be equally easy to pass judgment on Abram. Sadly, those that do so deny him his humanity. Just remember. Someday the shoe may be on the other foot. “Judge not lest in the same manner you be judged”, Yeshua said.
In the end, YHVH used the circumstances to greatly bless Abram. Upon being expelled from Egypt, Abram left with his family, and everything given to him by Pharaoh. The clear observation here is YHVH Himself didn’t even judge Abram. He turned what some might claim to be a lack of faith into an immense blessing.
With this blessing in hand, Abram returns to Beth El, to where he originally built an altar. There, he once again called on the name of YHVH. In the return, Abram wasn’t the only one to become wealthy. Lot had accumulated “flocks, herds, and tents” as well. With the holdings of these two men, it soon became evident “the town wasn’t big enough for the both of them”.
With the hospitality and consideration for which Abram will come to be noted, he tells his nephew to choose in regards to the land before them. Lot chose the well-watered plains near the Jordan and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Again, no judgment can be passed for Lot’s choosing. Of course, his path will be much more laden with pitfalls and trials. In the end, he comes away with little more than the clothes on his back. In our day, the pitfalls of living in cities, as Lot chose, would be just as disastrous. In regards to end-time scenarios, we are encouraged to leave the cities and “flee to the mountaintops”.
During Lot’s time in Sodom, the city is besieged by invaders and Lot is taken captive. When word comes to Abram of the fate of his nephew, he armed 318 of his trained men and set out to rescue him. Just the language of this account suggests these men weren’t just the average man. These could be considered the “Delta Force” of his time, commandos.
These invaders were obviously no match for Abram’s commandos. Everything originally lost was recovered and returned to the sovereign of Sodom. Upon his return to Sodom, the king set out to meet Abram. Before the king could speak, Melchizedek, King of Salem, spoke these blessings to Abram.
“And Malkitsedeq sovereign of Shalĕm brought out bread and wine. Now he was the priest of the Most High Ěl. And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High Ěl, Possessor of the heavens and earth. And blessed be the Most High Ěl who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tenth of all.”
Genesis 14: 18-20
No one knows for sure who Melchizedek is. However, there are those that hold to the thinking, as do I, that Shem, son of Noah, was this mysterious King. He is the “priest of the Most High El” to whom Abram paid tithes, and alive during the time of Abraham. He is also of the order from which Messiah Yeshua reigns, our High Priest/King.
Immediately following the praise of Melchizedek, the king of Sodom offers Abram a very generous bounty. He asks only that the people are returned but offers all the possessions to Abram. Keep in mind. All men that follow YHVH/Yeshua as did Abram, are recipients of the blessing of Melchizedek. Abram’s response is as any man who possesses such. As the Scripture says.
“But Abram said to the sovereign of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to יהוה, the Most High Ěl, the Possessor of the heavens and earth, not to take a thread or a sandal strap or whatever is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich,’ except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Anĕr, Eshkol, and Mamrĕ. Let them take their portion.’”
Genesis 14: 22-24
Among those offered possessions were items of idols and other emblems of wickedness. He refused these in accordance with maintaining the purity of his home for the glory of Elohim. A true man of Elohim will meticulously guard what he allows into his home. The Spirit of Elohim will not abide in the presence of any impurities, especially idolatry, an object lesson Abram teaches us.
Since leaving Egypt, the long, physical journey of Abram was complete. With he and Lot going separate ways after their return, Abram takes up permanent residence in the Land. Now, it’s time to move on to a journey of a Spiritual kind, a covenant of blessing.
Streams Of Blessing For The Ages
From the beginning of this Torah portion, YHVH bestows a blessing on Abram in three different parts. All three are part of the same blessing. From the very beginning with YHVH telling him to leave the country of his fathers, Elohim gives Abram a very good reason to go, well beyond the concept of wages. As the Scripture says.
“And I shall make you a great nation, and bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing! And I shall bless those who bless you, and curse him who curses you. And in you all the clans of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12: 2-3
Consider the four specific items within this part of the blessing. Abram is first promised to become a great nation. He will become a nation of people. This is prophetic and speaks to the end of days within which we live. Out of him will come the nation of Israel. Even more so, his nation will be known as the “Commonwealth of Israel”, made up of Jews and gentiles alike.
Then, he’s promised that his name will be great. It is no secret Moshe spoke of a time when the Hebrew children, including all aliens there with them, even to “those not standing (there that) day”--speaking to the generations that come after him--would be inheriting this new nation built upon the name of Abraham. Consider the words of Paul.
“For you are all sons of Elohim through belief in Messiah יהושע. For as many of you as were immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah. There is not Yehuḏite nor Greek, there is not slave nor free, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Messiah יהושע. And if you are of Messiah, then you are seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29
This is a great blessing for a man just turning 75. Here’s a man that, even in his day, is approaching the time of infertility. He doesn’t have any children to this point in his life, and the prospects of children are growing more slim by the day. He doesn’t know how YHVH is going to pull this one off, but it’s believable for him. In so trusting, Abram’s response is counted to him as righteousness.
After returning from Egypt, and separating from Lot, YHVH appeared to Abram a second time and gave him another installment of His eternal covenant with him. As the Scripture says.
“And after Lot had separated from him, יהוה said to Abram, ‘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 shall give to you and your seed forever. And I shall make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that, if a man could count the dust of the earth, then your seed also could be counted. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’” Genesis 13: 14-17
With this addition, YHVH seriously “ups the ante”. Again, it’s believable concerning the Land. Even if he’s standing in a valley at the time, it’s a piece of real estate big enough to make most of us jealous, in a good way, of course. If he were standing atop even the lowest of mountains which are in the area, the expanse would be mind boggling.
Then, YHVH informs him of a second matter. Oh my! Here’s that “children” thing again. Abram has to be thinking, according to his finite human reasoning, “I was 75 in Haran last year. I’m not getting any younger. What’s this obsession with this ‘descendant’ thing?” Even so, Scripture gives absolutely no indication of unbelief in Abram.
YHVH says Abram’s descendants will be as the “dust of the earth”. If the dust could be counted, so could his descendants. Of course, we know that’s not possible. Of course, this phrase is only a metaphor. This planet couldn’t hold all those people. Yet, YHVH is saying his descendants are of an absolute mind boggling number that Abram couldn’t even imagine their magnitude.
Leaving him to ponder that “children” thing, which he obviously did, to the point of later taking matters into his own hands, YHVH now lets him go on his own to “scope out” this immense piece of real estate of which he’s been endowed. In this adventure, the first thing he does is go back to Hebron and the Oaks of Mamre. Upon arriving, he built an altar to YHVH. In a different sense, here’s the concept of tithing, giving of the best you have, right off the top. In this case, the giving is heart-felt gratitude and praise.
Covenants are not something just relegated to the patriarchs. They have been binding agreements throughout the history of man, even to our day. Even though some agreements in our time are called “covenants”, the terms many are more familiar with are “contracts”.
There is a matter that could go unnoticed in chapter fourteen concerning Lot’s rescue by Abram. Abram was not unfamiliar with the concept of a covenant because he clearly used them with his family, friends, and servants. Consider the account of the man that managed to escape the enemies of Sodom.
“And one who had escaped came and informed Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamrĕ the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and brother of Anĕr, and they had a covenant with Abram.” Genesis 14: 13
Even though a point that might otherwise be overlooked, I thought it worthy of mention. There used to be a time when a man’s word was good enough to seal a deal. However today, reneging on a deal is pervasive in our society. There is no honor among even our best. It might still work for minor deals among friends, but anything more requires a signed contract drawn up by a lawyer. Scripture doesn’t specify the nature of this “covenant“, but this man was an Amorite. He risked his life in escaping so he could take the news to the Hebrew, Abram.
Chapter fifteen opens with the third installment of this three part blessing to Abram. To this point, he has been struggling with the concept of just having “one” child. How could he think of anything else? YHVH now comes to him in a vision and speaks to the root of Abram’s problem, fear and doubt. Yes, our famous patriarch is no different than us. It’s in the following dialogue.
“After these events the word of יהוה came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your reward is exceedingly great.’ And Abram said, ‘Master יהוה, what would You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliʽezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘See, You have given me no seed, and see, one born in my house is my heir!’ And see, the word of יהוה came to him, saying, ‘This one is not your heir, but he who comes from your own body is your heir.’” Genesis 15: 1-4
Abram speaks only to that which he fears. In his spirit he wants to believe YHVH. Yet, his flesh won’t let that easily happen. Even though he is told not to be afraid, he can’t help but express his doubts because of the lack a “seed”.
Beyond the obvious comforting message to a finite heart, there is one somewhat hidden concept. Did you notice that YHVH didn’t chastise Abram because of his expressed doubt? There’s a huge difference in expression of doubt before Elohim and outright or implied complaint. Notice what YHVH says next.
“And He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward the heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So are your seed.’ And he believed in יהוה, and He reckoned it to him for righteousness. And He said to him, ‘I am יהוה, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.’” Genesis 15: 5-7
YHVH takes him outside and shows him the stars of the heavens and says, “Count ‘em if you can. That’s how your seed will be.” His immediate action was a belief that was counted as righteousness for him. Even so, his doubt was not totally gone. For, he asks YHVH, “Master יהוה, whereby do I know that I possess it?” He seeks a sign.
Asking for a sign is not a problem unless it‘s one like sought by certain religious leaders in Yeshua‘s day. He called these “sign seekers” and “evil and adulterous generation”. They were severely chastised because they sought a sign that would validate something Moshe taught in Torah. Of course, they didn’t know Torah. If they did, they would have believed Yeshua.
On the other hand, a good sign request would be in the form of a man by the name of Gideon. Twice, he “threw out a fleece” before YHVH in order to determine a path to take. We do the same thing today. Abram is simply asking YHVH for a sign that would help him understand all has heard.
Of a certainty, Abram’s question isn’t necessarily one of doubt. Even if so, YHVH shows not a hint of displeasure in the question. He immediately tells Abram to bring a three year old heifer, female goat and ram, a turtledove and young pigeon. Each of the first three he cuts in half, but not the birds. As instructed, he lays each piece opposite of the other.
As the day grows longer and evening draws near, Abram falls into a deep sleep, as “a frightening great darkness”. During this time, YHVH prophesied to Abram.
“And He said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your seed are to be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. But the nation whom they serve I am going to judge, and afterward let them come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you are to go to your fathers in peace, you are to be buried at a good old age. Then, in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the crookedness of the Amorites is not yet complete.’”
Genesis 15: 13-16
Any reason for doubt has been eradicated. YHVH says, “know for certain”. Then, He looks 400 years into the future, well after Abram’s death, and tells him of the impending enslavement of his descendants in Egypt. Even so, just as he left Egypt with great wealth, his posterity would do likewise.
After the sun went down and it was dark, the account speaks of a “smoking oven and a burning torch” passing between the pieces. In these two manifestations, we see a stark comparison of the “pillar of cloud and fire” for Moshe’s children in the wilderness.
It’s a beautiful description of the God-Head, YHVH Aleph/Tav. Both were present, with YHVH being the Furnace and Yeshua the Torch (Fire). In this type of oath of covenant, both parties would walk through the pieces, signifying the statement, “If I break this covenant, may I become as these pieces”.
However in this case, only the God-Head walked through the pieces. He knew Abram would not be able to keep his part of the bargain, no matter how hard he tried, and his descendants would miserably fail. What the God-Head was saying, was “That’s ok Abe. You just sit and watch. I’ll take it from here.”
The chapter closes with another mind-boggling expansion upon the Land grant bestowed to Abram. Now, he’s the benefactor of a grant that includes the eastern portion of Africa from the Nile to the Red Sea. It includes the entire country of Saudi Arabia along with the countries on the southern and eastern coasts of the peninsula. It includes all of Iraq west of the Euphrates, part of Southern Turkey, and all of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Now, THAT’S a Land grant.
“On the same day יהוה made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘I have given this land to your seed, from the river of Mitsrayim to the great river, the River Euphrates.’” Genesis 15: 18
Let Me Give You A Hand, Lord
I’m certain Abram discussed with Sarai everything YHVH had told him. It was very likely the center of conversation around the dinner table. Sometimes belief is really not that hard to get, but very hard to keep. It’s quite obvious both believed YHVH’s promise. Yet, they both still struggled mightily with the facts on the ground. They were both unable to physically have children.
I’ve heard it said, “God helps those that help themselves”. In some cases, that might work, yet, it’s not Scriptural. The more prolonged one’s inclination to “help God out”, the greater the opportunity for disaster to occur. Ishmael was blessed of YHVH, and there’s no evidence he was less than an honorable man. As the Scripture says of Abram and Sarai‘s “assist“.
“And Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no child. And she had a Mitsrite female servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘See, יהוה has kept me from bearing children. Please, go in to my female servant. It might be that I am built up by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis 16: 1-2
According to the customs of the time, such a relationship could be acceptable. Scripture also doesn’t preclude such arrangements. In this case however, this instance is a clear lack of faith attempt to help out Adonai with the process. YHVH specifically promised a son through Sarai. Isaac would be the “son of promise”.
It should be noted here Sarai mattered to YHVH as much as Abram. The Promise would come through her as well. Hagar also mattered. She was the mother in Ishmael’s great blessing. Further, it wasn’t a status of Hagar as Egyptian. It would be later that Ruth, the Moabite, would be a mother in the lineage of King David, and ultimately, Messiah Yeshua.
That’s the way faith goes for the human creation. We hear a calling or claim a promise from Adonai and feel the accompanying elation. We start moving in the direction to which we are called and then suffer a lapse. It’s somewhat like a roller-coaster ride, up and down.
As the number of years increase, the greater the chance for a down-swing in faith. We actually don’t think YHVH can pull it off without our help. Consider the negative witness of Martha concerning Lazarus, and Mary to the affirmative. The former couldn’t believe any better than Abram and Sarai, while the latter believed the angel.
“יהושע said to her, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ יהושע said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he dies, he shall live. And everyone that is living and believing in Me shall never die at all. Do you believe this?’” John 11: 23-26
“And Miryam said to the messenger, ‘How shall this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the messenger answering, said to her, ‘The Set-apart Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And for that reason the Set-apart One born of you shall be called: Son of Elohim. And see, Elisheba your relative, she has also conceived a son in her old age. And this is now the sixth month to her who was called barren, because with Elohim no matter shall be impossible.’ And Miryam said, ‘See the female servant of יהוה! Let it be to me according to your word.’” Luke 1: 34-38
We have here three instances very much alike. Lazarus is dead. Man has no power over death, yet Yeshua does. There appears to be no life left concerning the birth process for Abram and Sarai. There’s nothing they can do about it, yet YHVH can. Women can’t have a child without a man. There’s nothing she can do about it. Yet, Ruach YHVH can. We are all hopelessly lost and dead in our sins. There’s nothing we can do about it. Yet, Yeshua can. Regarding eternal life, Yeshua said:
“And looking intently יהושע said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with Elohim all is possible.’” Matthew 19: 26
The concept of this section is “don’t help God out.” He’s proved to be quite capable of fulfilling what He promises to do. Our help will only mess things up.
Sign Of The Covenant
Chapter seventeen opens up with YHVH speaking again of His covenant with Abram, identifies Himself as El Shaddai, and tells him he will be greatly increased. In this, he is basically told he has graduated and is receiving his degree, the covenant, signed, sealed, and delivered.
“And it came to be when Abram was ninety-nine years old, that יהוה appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Ěl Shaddai – walk before Me and be perfect. And I give My covenant between Me and you, and shall greatly increase you.’” Genesis 17: 1-2
Abram is told to “walk before El Shaddai and be perfect”. Men from Adam through Noah were led by YHVH. They were like children that needed to be led. They walked behind Elohim. Even YHVH says He led the children of Moshe “by the hand”. The case of Abram shows more of a sense of maturity.
He now walks out in front with YHVH. He’s learned the ways of El Shaddai, so much that he can continue on with only the soft voice of Elohim whispering over his shoulder to turn him this way or that. This is also the charge of Yeshua in Matthew 5: 48. “Be therefore perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”.
As with the bestowing of any degree, along with it comes a handle or extension, such as BA, MD, PHD, etc. In Abram’s case, his name is changed from Abram (father) to Abraham (father of nations) and given a reiteration of his endowed covenant with El Shaddai (Almighty El). As Abraham fell on his face in gratitude, YHVH spoke these words.
“As for Me, look, My covenant is with you, and you shall become a father of many nations. And no longer is your name called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, because I shall make you a father of many nations. And I shall make you bear fruit exceedingly, and make nations of you, and sovereigns shall come from you. And I shall establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be Elohim to you and your seed after you. And I shall give to you and your seed after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Kenaʽan, as an everlasting possession. And I shall be their Elohim.’” Genesis 17: 4-8
Within this account, there is another matter of importance that leads to the conclusion of this portion. Abraham is now 99 years old and still without a child from Sarai, now called Sarah. What YHVH now commands Abraham to do is extremely difficult for any man, especially one of his age.
In the final chapter of this portion, a requirement is placed upon Abram as his part of the bargain. He is commanded to “guard My covenant”. As a sign of obedience, he is to be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Not only does he need to subject himself to this procedure, but also all the men of his family and that of his male servants as well.
This is what is called the “sign of the covenant”. Anyone that does not comply with this requirement will be cut off from his people. It should be understood, this requirement only applies to those that live and/or minister within the Land of Israel. For example, the Apostle, Timothy, was a fervent minister for Yeshua. Yet, he wasn’t circumcised until Paul commissioned him to minister within the Land. That live/minister concept is applicable for us today.
It is also a known fact that a day was coming when our circumcision would be of the heart rather than in flesh. It is not for me or anyone to issue a teaching or instruction in compliance in this matter. Unless one is going to reside or minister in the Land, it isn’t necessary. In this matter, keep this one thing in mind. When Yeshua returns and grants us our new bodies, we may well have to do it all over again. True circumcision is as Paul says.
“For he is not a Yehudite who is so outwardly, neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But a Yehudite is he who is so inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in Spirit, not literally, whose praise is not from men but from Elohim.” Romans 2: 28-29
In speaking of the entire Torah (Law), it is the same as the nature of circumcision given by YHVH through Jeremiah.
“See, the days are coming,’ declares יהוה, ‘when I shall make a new covenant with the house of Yisra’ĕl and with the house of Yehudah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Mitsrayim, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,’ declares יהוה. ‘For this is the covenant I shall make with the house of Yisra’ĕl after those days,’ declares יהוה: ‘I shall put My Torah in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts. And I shall be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. And no longer shall they teach, each one his neighbour, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know יהוה,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’” declares יהוה. ‘For I shall forgive their crookedness, and remember their sin no more.’”
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Of a certainty, keeping of Torah does nothing to garner one iota of redemption. That was done by Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. On the other hand, fervently pursuing the purity of Torah heaps blessings upon us. Consider Yeshua message of the heart through John.
“If you love Me, you shall guard My commands. And I shall ask the Father, and He shall give you another Helper, to stay with you forever – the Spirit of the Truth, whom the world is unable to receive, because it does not see Him or know Him. But you know Him, for He stays with you and shall be in you.”
John 14: 15-17
There is one final thought from within the account written by Jeremiah. Those that think this “Old Covenant” was abolished by the coming of Yeshua our Messiah, need to heed these next words of YHVH through the prophet.
“Thus said יהוה, Who gives the sun for a light by day, and the laws of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who stirs up the sea, and its waves roar – יהוה of hosts is His Name: ‘If these laws vanish from before Me,’ declares יהוה, ‘then the seed of Yisra’ĕl shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’”
Jeremiah 31: 35-36
Haftorah-Under Watchful Eyes
There were an immense number of peoples YHVH could have chosen as his people. Yet, He chose Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans. His descendants were to be innumerable. It was through them He would convey a blessing to the nations. Consider the verse in this Haftorah that connects to our Torah portion.
“But you, Yisra’ĕl, are My servant, Yaʽaqoḇ, whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend, whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest parts, and said to You, You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” Isaiah 41: 8-9
I once heard a pastor say, “Religion bores me but belief in Messiah is a relationship”. For those that approach and attempt adherence to Scriptures in a religious manner are very boring people. It is clear through this passage YHVH didn’t call Abraham to a life of keeping a set of boring tenets. Abraham was called to be a friend, and is known as such to this day.
The above verses are speaking directly to his grandson, Jacob. By right of succession, Jacob as a descendant of Abraham is also a friend of YHVH. Friends usually share a quality that mere acquaintances do not. There is faith and trust involved in a friendship. Friends cooperate with each other and generally look out for the well-being of the other.
I’ve heard it said that this Haftorah could be considered as “a love letter” to Jacob, also named Israel. It’s a letter that speaks to a deep and loving friendship. It speaks to an endearing relationship and intently watchful eyes. Though we may not realize it, those eyes are constantly upon us, as with the eyes of a father upon his young son.
As with Jacob/Israel, that succession continues throughout the generations until our day. There is a common question I’ve heard in various forms. Who are the descendants/sons of Jacob/Israel? There are many that put an emphasis upon their genetic relation to the sons of Israel, the physical descendants of Jacob. Like the “alien and sojourner” of Moshe, consider the observation of Paul.
“…that at that time you were without Messiah, excluded from the citizenship (commonwealth) of Yisra’ĕl and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no expectation and without Elohim in the world. But now in Messiah יהושע you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.”
Ephesians 2: 12-13
According to the covenant given to Abraham, he would be a blessing to the nations. Israel is just one of those many nations YHVH spoke of. Yeshua is the Seed of that covenant. It is through Messiah the sons of the nations join with the sons of Israel to become “sons of Elohim”, part of the “commonwealth”. Consider Paul’s parallel comments to the Galatians.
“For you are all sons of Elohim through belief in Messiah יהושע. For as many of you as were immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah. There is not Yehudite nor Greek, there is not slave nor free, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Messiah יהושע. And if you are of Messiah, then you are seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29
Father is speaking through Jacob to us today. He speaks these endearing words because of the “friend of Elohim” status of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That friendship is extended forward through the generations to you and me. Just as they, we are called out to be the special forces of Elohim, as Isaiah says in one of the most endearing passages in Scripture.
“Did you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting Elohim, יהוה, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who wait on יהוה renew their strength, they raise up the wing like eagles, they run and are not weary, they walk and do not faint.” Isaiah 40: 28-31
There is a process here that isn’t taught in many Bible circles. The above passage is another example of the short-comings of English translations. Even with the KJV saying, “mount up with wings…”, this passage speaks to the end result. There is a far more inclusive meaning. We all want that glorious strength and stamina of the eagle. Of a certainty, it will come, but not without a price.
We admire athletes of our favorite sport. The achievements they manifest reflect honor and glory. With moments of inner reflection, we tend to imagine ourselves achieving the same feats. The fact is, if we put in the same work they did, we might achieve the same results as they did, maybe even greater.
The fact is, there is a lot of “grunt work” they had to go through to get to where they now are. In fact, if they don’t keep up that regimen, they will actually regress in their talents, endangering their status on the team. That is the point all too often omitted in teaching this verse.
When an eaglet is taught to fly, the eagle “mounts” the eaglet on his wing and soars to the sky. Once airborne, the eagle tilts to one side to dump the eaglet from his wing. Then, the eagle flies under the eaglet and catches it on his wing. This process is repeated until the eaglet learns to fly. It is through this manner of many trials we will be able to fly like the eagle.
In harmony with this “flying lesson“, our loving Father allows us to go through trial and tribulation until we learn to face them without complaining or grumbling. These “lessons of life” are repeated until we respond with the trust and faith of a true friendship with our Messiah/King. Consider the initial “free-fall” in this Haftorah.
“Lift up your eyes on high and see. Who has created these? He who is bringing out their host by number, He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power – not one is missing. Why do you say, O Yaʽaqoḇ, and speak, O Yisra’ĕl, My way is hidden from יהוה, and my rights are overlooked by my Elohim”? Isaiah 40: 26-27
Of a certainty, it is a frightening feeling for the eaglet to be free falling from a once safe perch. Likewise, the feeling is equally daunting when we find ourselves in uncharted waters due to circumstances for which we weren’t prepared.
Our Adonai allows these things to happen to strengthen us. Thinking in these times that Elohim is unaware of our plight or turned His back on us will only make for a repeat of the exercise in faith. When the complaining ceases, the Spiritual exercise is over, only to move on the next level.
We are encouraged to be silent before Him as He searches our soul and spirit. Be still before Him as in loving judgment/mercy He pares away all that makes us weak. In that, we can renew our power and come together near Him and relish in His right ruling.
He raised up Abraham and made him a mighty nation. He was lifted up so as to make other sovereigns to submit to him. They were as dust to his sword and driven stubble to his bow. He pursued his enemies with such swiftness it was as if his feet never touched the ground. Who is the source of this strength? As the Scripture says.
“Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, יהוה, am the First, and with the Last I am He.’” Isaiah 41: 4
With the faith of Abraham within us, the mountains of obstacles we encounter will be made low before us or move out of our way. With a characteristic of fellowship many seek today but rarely find--unity--we will each one of us lift up and encourage our neighbor and our brother saying, “Be strong”. Those of our enemies will see our unity, and fear us.
We are the descendants of Abraham through Messiah Yeshua. Through faith in Him, we have been chosen to be a branch in the natural olive tree of Jacob/Israel. Being so designated, we are also “friends of Elohim”. We are as the “worms” spoken of in 41: 14. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. Yet, through Yeshua, our Kinsman Redeemer, we are made to stand strong. In that we are new creatures. As the Scripture encourages.
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not look around, for I am your Elohim. I shall strengthen you, I shall also help you, I shall also uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. See, all those who raged against you are ashamed and blush, they are as non-existent. And the men who strive with you perish. You seek them but do not find them, those who struggle with you. Those who fight you are as non-existent, as naught. For I, יהוה your Elohim, am holding your right hand, saying to you, ‘Do not fear, I shall help you. Do not fear, you worm Yaʽaqoḇ, you men of Yisra’ĕl! I shall help you,” declares יהוה and your Redeemer, the Set-apart One of Yisra’ĕl. See, I shall make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth, let you thresh mountains and beat them small, and make hills like chaff. You winnow them, the wind lifts them up, and the whirlwind scatters them; but you, you rejoice in יהוה, and boast in the Set-apart One of Yisra’ĕl.” Isaiah 41: 10-16