Thursday, December 8, 2011

Parashat Vayishlach | Your Weekly Challah

Vayishlach וַיִּשְׁלַח
“And he sent”
“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”
(Genesis 32:3).

Torah Portion: Genesis 32:3-36:43
Haftarah: Obadiah 1:1-21
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: Matthew 26:36-45, Hebrews 11:11-20

December 10, 2011 |  14 Kislev 5772
Jacob, the Supplanter, Becomes Israel, Prince of God

It is twenty years since Jacob fled his home in Canaan. At the Voice of the LORD, he finds his exile has come to an end—he can break free from his servitude and trial under the hand of his opportunistic father-in-law, Laban. He leaves Mesopotamia a wealthy man with two wives, eleven sons, and great herds of livestock. Yet, as he nears his home, Jacob is overtaken with fear. He must face his brother Esau—he must face himself—and face up to the sinful act of deception that set Esau’s wrath against him. In tremendous distress, likened to a prey corned by a predator, Jacob empties himself of all he has to face a night alone with a mysterious Heavenly Being, a night that transforms the essence of his being. Jacob will bear the physical wound of his encounter with the Almighty, but he will no longer be known as Jacob, “Supplanter,” but will have a new name, Israel, meaning “Prevails with God,” or “Prince of God.”

Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.
The traditional blessing pronounced before reading the Torah is as follows:
Bar’khoo et Adonai ham’vo’rakh

(Congregation responds)
Ba’rookh Adonai ham’vo’rakh lay’o’lahm vah-ed

Bless Adonai, who is to be blessed.
(Congregation responds)  Blessed is Adonai, who is to be blessed, forever and ever.)
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai,
El’o’hay’noo me’lekh ha'olam,
a’sher ba’khar ba’noo mee’kol hah’ah’meem v'nah’tahn lah’noo et torah’tow.
Ba’rookh ah’ta Adonai, no’tayn ha’torah.

Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the Universe who chose us from all the peoples and gave to us His Torah. Blessed are You, Lord, giver of the Torah.

Genesis 32  Jacob Wrestles with God, Becomes Israel
“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them, saying, ‘Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘Thus your servant Jacob says: ‘I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’ Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that [were] with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies. And he said, "If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape. Then Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him ... For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 32:1-12).

It’s interesting to note that last week’s parashah ended with Jacob being met on his way by the angels of God. (Genesis 32:1) He is also returning home both in obedience to the voice of the LORD and with a promise of His protection, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3).

Yet as he nears his home, Jacob is overwhelmed with the same fear that sent him on his flight twenty years previous—the fear of his brother Esau’s vengeance. Twenty years has not dulled the guilt. In facing Esau, Jacob is facing himself and the failings of his past—where he failed to trust God and took matters into his own hands.

After twenty years of servitude and being taken advantage of by his father-in-law, Laban, Jacob has been humbled. Although he is wealthy and carries the blessing of their father Isaac, he shows great humility, attempting to appease his brother with subservient language and material offerings: “Speak thus to my lord Esau, ‘Thus your servant Jacob says: ‘I have dwelt with Laban and stayed there until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight’” (vs. 4,5).

The text tells us that when Jacob’s messengers returned with the report that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men, Jacob “was greatly afraid and distressed.”

In Hebrew, the word distressed is yatsar  יצר; which is to be bound (in fear), in a narrow placepressed on all sides, commonly known as “in the straits.”

Used only a few times in the Bible, when speaking of extreme circumstances, yatsar is to be compared with the high level of anxiety the prey feels when cornered by a predator, conveying fearful apprehension, even a sense of impending doom. When King David found that the people were speaking of stoning him, he was greatly distressed—yatsar (1 Samuel 30:6). And when Israel was delivered into the hands of her enemies because the Hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, “they were greatly distressed—yatsar (Judges 2:14-15).

So great was his guilt over his deceptive act to obtain Esau’s blessing, that Jacob could only imagine one reason for his coming with four hundred men—to finally realize his vengeance. Resigned to this dire reality, Jacob takes steps to save at least part of his family and estate, dividing the people and livestock into two companies, and then throws himself on the mercy of God.
“‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant ... Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me [and] the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude’” (vs. 9-12).
Jacob acknowledged his utter dependence on the mercy of God and unworthiness of such grace. Yet he follows this humble contrition by reminding Adonai of His promises, which may seem somewhat cheeky. However, Moses also reminded the LORD of this promise to protect the sanctity of His Name, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit [it] forever” (Exodus 32:13). And Moses was “very humble, more than all men on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

Now that Jacob had petitioned the LORD, he set about to do what he could to restore the relationship with his brother. What could compensate him for the loss of blessing and birthright? Unless Adonai softens his heart, probably nothing. Yet, it was Adonai’s choice that Jacob, the second born, inherit the right of the firstborn. Perhaps He will move on Jacob’s behalf.... Jacob prepares a magnanimous gift, hoping to appease his brother’s wrath: more than four hundred goats and sheep, camels, bulls, donkeys, and their foals.

Jacob then took his wives, Rachel and Leah, their two female servants, his eleven sons, and crossed over the brook that leads into the Jordan, midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, called Jabbok.

Jacob crossed over the Jabbok (which in Hebrew means “emptying”), then emptied himself, sending his family and all that he had on ahead, and remained the night alone with God.

Jacob Wrestles with God

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me! So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked, saying, ‘Tell me Your name, I pray.’ And He said, ‘Why is it that you ask about My name?’ And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’” (vs. 24-30).

This is such an enigmatic portion of Scripture, so captivating, while seemingly fraught with contradictions. An epic struggle by our Patriarch, yet a universal parable for all men facing that midnight of crisis, alone and empty, with nowhere to turn but to God, in the light of whose mercy he is forever changed.

In the beginning our text says Jacob is wrestling with a man, in Hebrew iysh איש. Yet, by the end of the passage, Jacob memorializes this place by naming it Peniel, in Hebrew, Penuwel, פנואל, which means literally the face of God, saying: “I have seen God face to face” (v. 30).

Did Jacob actually see the face of Adonai or was this an angel of the LORD? Immediately Exodus 33:20 comes to mind: “But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live’”
The fact that he will not give Jacob his name may be a hint. Judges 13 contains a similar “man” who appears to Manoah and his wife several times, as a man and an angel of the LORD and refuses to reveal his identity. By the time his mission had been accomplished and they had seen him perform wonders, they thought he was Adonai: “...Manoah said to his wife, ‘We will surely die, for we have seen God’” (Judges 13:22).

Yet, Hosea tells us it was God that Jacob wrestled with... “He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God (Hosea 12:3).
So here we have a bit of a theological predicament, sorting out the Theophanies and Christophanies, and various attending doctrinal positions. Needless to say, the Hebraic view would not see Yeshua appearing throughout the Torah or the Tenakh. My husband would say without hesitation, “This is a classic example of a Christophany in the Old Testament!” As I do not have a similar seminary background, nor a concise revelation regarding the issue, I will simply delight in the mysterious and magnificent event and allow the reader to draw his own conclusion!

I will not let You go unless You bless me!” Jacob’s appreciation of and driving desire for the blessing of Adonai is what set him apart from his brother Esau, who sought only the temporal and earthly.

Your name...” There’s a reason that Jacob asked the “man” for his name. In Hebrew, as we see repeatedly in the Scriptures, names are not capricious or fanciful. Names reveal the bearer’s nature and/or purpose.
“A good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecclesiastes 7:1).
“A good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Proverbs 22:1).
It was a monumental thing when Jacob heard,Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel” (v. 28). To Hebrew speaking people, Jacob’s name labeled him very negatively. Wouldn’t it be awful to introduce yourself, “Hi, I am Supplanter.” Yet, all who met Jacob knew this name was given him for a purpose! Now, however, from Heaven, his name has been changed to Israel, (Yisra’El ישראל). People will now know him as Prince of God, or Prevails with God. Much better! Most significantly, Jacob’s new name indicates his new nature.
“Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip (v. 31).
The struggle left its mark—Jacob’s limp would testify to his life-changing encounter. But Jacob emerged victorious, not because he prevailed over God, but because he prevailed with God. This is a pivotal lesson for Jacob, now Israel, and indeed for all Israel (the People) to follow. Israel, the Chosen People, will struggle throughout her history, right up to this very day, learning this very lesson.

Genesis 33  The Grace of God Turns Esau’s Wrath

“Now Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and there, Esau was coming, and with him were four hundred men. ...Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (vs. 1,3,4)

The ancient manuscripts notate the wordkissedin such a way to indicate an insincerity on Esau’s part. The commentaries pose the question, “If Esau’s intentions were friendly, why did he come accompanied with such a large army?” The happy consensus is that Adonai changed Esau’s heart in answer to Jacob’s supplication. Esau’s hatred and wrath was turned to forgiveness and love—against his nature!

Esau even refuses the magnanimous gifts of livestock that Jacob had sent to him, and offers some of his own armed men to Jacob. Esau then offers to journey together, but Jacob, knowing the unstable character of his brother is anxious to go their separate ways. (vs. 9-17)

“Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan ... and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel (vs. 18-20)

El Elohe Israel אל אלהי ישראל “The Mighty God of Israel!” This is Jacob’s/Israel’s profession of faith as he comes into the Land and places his altar before God and man. It includes his new name. This is HIS God! He has returned from his exile. He has faced his fear, faced his guilt, and found grace, redemption and deliverance! He has come home a new man with a new name, with the favor of Adonai. This is his testimony!
The parcel of land Jacob paid for named Shechem is 30 miles north of Jerusalem in biblical Samaria (now called the West Bank), in the Arab city of Nablus. A city rich in biblical history, it is now Arab and its ancient sites restricted from the Jewish People or destroyed. The Od Yosef Chai (“Joseph Still Lives”) Yeshiva was based there. In October 2000 Arab rioters burnt it down and vandalized Joseph’s Tomb which had been built over the site in 1868. According to the Oslo Agreement the right of all faiths to have access to holy places was to be guaranteed. The site has been off limits to Jewish worshipers since the Intifada of October 2000. Since November 2007, the Israel Defense Forces have provided security for Jews to visit the site once a month.

Shechem is also the location of Jacob’s Well, which dates back to the time our text. Jacob dug the well for his herds on the parcel of land he bought. It is also mentioned in John 4:5-6, where Yeshua met the Samaritan woman. This well is still there today!

Mount Gerezim and Mount Ebal—the biblical mountains of blessing and cursing—tower on either side of Shechem.
In July 2011, the Palestinian Authority proposed a claim against any Jewish historical rights to Shechem, claiming it to be an ancient Palestinian city, its name, Nablus, falsified along with Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Hebron, and many others to erase the historical Palestinian facts: “Even the Torah falsified, changed and forged; this is the way of the Jews—they always try to change the real names to other, false names, in order to erase the [historical] facts.” Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 1, 2011

Genesis 34  Tragedy Strikes the Family of Israel
“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young woman as a wife." And Jacob heard that defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, a thing which ought not to be done” (vs. 1-7)

This is a painful chapter in the Patriarch’s narrative. Dinah, Jacob’s young daughter is raped by Hamor’s son, Shechem. He truly loved her, but being a heathen, he took her in the way of his people, grievous crime to the followers of the God of Israel—compounded by the fact that the heathen are uncircumcised. Dinah has been irreparably defiled. The language used throughout this text couldn’t be stronger to describe the emotions and what had been done.

The word defiled, in Hebrew tame' טמא, is the same word used throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy to describe things unclean and defiledthings that must not be touchedthings abhorrent to God.

Anger and emotions were running high among Dinah’s brothers. Shechem just wanted Dinah as his wife at any cost. Hamor saw an opportunity to merge their tribes, herds and riches...

Shechem offered anything Dinah’s family would ask as a dowry and a gift. Dinah’s brothers saw an opportunity for revenge and answered deceitfully, asking that all the men be circumcised. Hamor and Shechem “were pleased” and went to the men of their city entreating them to be circumcised:
“These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us” (vs. 21-23).

They all went for it! Every male was circumcised. But on the third day, while they were weak and in pain, “two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males” (v. 25).

They took Dinah from Shechem’s house and plundered the city to avenge their sister’s honor. They took the women and children and livestock.

Israel was mortified, saying his sons had made him odious among the inhabitants of the land, and they will likely come and kill all of them for what they have done.

Simeon and Levi seem nonplussed. “But they said, "Should he treat our sister like a harlot?" (v. 31)

Genesis 35  Back Up to the House of God

For a fifth time, Adonai will visit Jacob at Bethel. In the face of the great disaster at Shechem, Jacob knows where his help comes from. He must go up to Bethel—up to the House of God.

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.’ And Jacob said to his household and to all who [were] with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that [are] among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. ‘Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.’ So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which [were] in their hands, and the earrings which [were] in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which [was] by Shechem. And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that [were] all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (vs. 1-5).

All of Jacob’s household had to prepare themselves for an encounter with the Holy God of Israel. His household now included heathen Hivite women and children. Rachel had stolen idols from her father’s home in Padan-Aram. His sons had brought shame on the family slaughtering innocent men and plundering the city in their unrestrained furor. He found himself at another point of crisis. One worry he didn’t have was the danger he expected from the other inhabitants of the land—again, Adonai gave him favor and safe passage!

“And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother” (v. 7).

El Bethel, אל בית–אל, “The God Who Manifested Himself at the House of God.”

Jacob enlarged the name Bethel, to El Bethel, and Adonai met him there, renewing His everlasting covenant (the eighth time the Abrahamic Covenant is repeated), and reaffirmed Jacob’s name change to Israel. (vs. 9-12)

Adonai reveals Himself for the third time as El Shaddai, God Almighty. אֵל שַׁדַּי (v. 11)

The twelfth of Jacob’s sons is born, but Rachel dies while giving birth. Rachel names him Ben-Oni  בן–אוני, which means “Son of My Sorrow,” but Jacob calls him Benjamin, in Hebrew Binyamin בנימין, meaning “Son of the Right Hand,” or “Son of My Old Age,” as translated by the Targum. (v. 18)

Rachel died and was buried on the way to Bethlehem.

Isaac Dies and is Buried by His Sons
Jacob returned home to his father Isaac in Hebron, and at the age of one hundred and eighty years old, “Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (vs. 27-29).

Genesis 36  The Family of Esau

"Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite..." (vs. 1,2)

Chapter 36 is dedicated to the generations of Esau, who becomes Edom. Edom will be judged and suffer destruction under the Hand of God. Edom was cruel and arrogant, and had a unnatural hostility toward Israel, their kinfolk. The bitter enmity displayed by the king of Edom toward the Israelites when they pleaded for passage along the edge of his border is a stunning example:
“Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. ‘Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, ‘how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. ‘When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. ‘Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’

Then Edom said to him, ‘You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.”

So the children of Israel said to him, ‘We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.’

“Then he said, ‘You shall not pass through.’ So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand.

Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him”
(vs. 20:14-21).
Edom's cruelty to Israel, his brother has not gone unnoticed by Adonai, as we will read in our Haftarah portion.
"For violence against your brother Jacob,
      Shame shall cover you [Edom],
      And you shall be cut off forever. "

Obadiah 1:10

Haftarah Vayishlach
Obadiah 1:1-21

This week’s Haftarah selection is Obadiah 1. The entire book is only one chapter, comprising a total of twenty-one verses. The connection between this Haftarah section and the Torah section of Genesis 32:3-36:43 rests on the two brothers, Esau and Jacob. You will recall there existed a great schism between these two.

God chose before they were even born to favor the younger brother, Jacob, over his older brother, Esau; this in a sovereign act of selection. (Romans 9:12-13) A problem arose between the two brothers when Jacob chose to step out ahead of God’s plan for this to be carried out. Instead of waiting on Adonai, Jacob used deception and lying to accomplish what he knew God’s ultimate plan was to be. (Genesis 27)

The upshot of all of this was that Jacob had to flee the homicidal intensions of his older brother, spend twenty years away from home, and then return in all humility, and deathly fear of his older brother. Well, that part of the story did not end so badly. The two brothers met. Esau showed great love for his brother. (It seemed time had healed his wounds, and God had blessed him in other ways.) Gifts were given. The two then went on with their lives with no further sign of hate or revenge between them ever being mentioned again. And so you’d think that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.
Scripture tells us that from Esau came the nation of Edom. And Edom was always to be a thorn in the side of the nation of Israel. Their lineage is given in Genesis 36. From there we know that they rejected Moses’ request to pass through their land. (Numbers 20:14-20) They were in opposition to King Saul. (l Samuel 14:47) They warred against David. (l Kings 11:14-17) Their rebellious attitude  reared it ugliness against Solomon (l Kings 11:14-25), Jehoshaphat (ll Chronicles 20:22), and Jehoram (ll Chron. 21:8). For these children of Esau there just seemed to be no end to their antagonism toward the descendants of his brother, Jacob.

And now in his book, Obadiah pronounces certain doom over Esau’s descendants, the nation of Edom. This finally comes as a result of her rejoicing over all the misfortunes that befell Jerusalem. 

Did you know that today Edom is a nation that no longer exists. Its language, its territory, its people, are all gone. Why?

Obviously it is because of their continual opposition to anything good that might have been done for Jacob’s people, Israel. This principle was established in Genesis 12:3 when God said to Abraham, the grandfather of both these brothers, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”  But why do you suppose Edom had this proclivity?

Might it be because of the actions of their uncle, Jacob? He had stolen their Dad’s birth right. It had belonged to Esau by historical precedent. And the nation of Edom was not all it could have been had this not of happened, even though because of God’s sovereignty Edom would always be the weaker of the two nations. This obviously was done by trickery and outside the way God would have otherwise had it done. Grudges are easy to come by and unfortunately have long lives.
This grudge—here because of actions taken outside the will of God, because a man could not wait for God’s plan and perfect timing—caused misery to Israel and ultimately brought God’s curse on Edom.

Ever wonder what not waiting on the Lord for His plan in accomplishing His will for your life could bring? What stepping out ahead of Him because you can’t wait, might mean? In this story it was a grudge that brought misery for many generations. Just what might it mean for then tomorrow...and how about for generations to come?
The consequences for doing things other than God’s way will come, and will unfortunately sometimes last for an awfully long time.
B’rit Chadashah Vayishlach
Hebrews 11:11-20 | Matthew 26:36-45

The B’rit Chadashah, or New Testament, portion of this week’s Torah reading is made up of two passages. The one we’ll look at is Hebrews 11:11-20. 

In this section of the great “faith” chapter of the Bible we see the story of Sarah conceiving Isaac, the father of Jacob and Esau. There is mention of the descendants of Jacob recognizing that they were but strangers and foreigners on this earth, looking for a better country, a heavenly one. And there is the highlight on Abraham, who by faith offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, believing that God would raise him up from the dead.

Any of these would be worthy of our addressing, but in keeping with the spirit of our Torah portion, let's give special recognition to verse 20. “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come.” Isaac had been told by God that He would make a great people of him and that through his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 28:13-14) And so Isaac did believe that all the families of the earth would be blessed through his lineage. Hebrews 11 says he had faith in that promise. But do you suppose he knew the full implication of what that meant?

Early on in man’s history God begins to unfold the story of ultimate redemption. Our first record of it is in Genesis 3:15. The Seed that would ultimately come through Isaac and then Jacob is introduced. We then see that God introduced sacrifices for sin not long after that. In the very next chapter, in the story of Cain and Abel it is the blood sacrifice that is the acceptable one. (Genesis 4:3-4) This practice was carried on up to and through God’s promise to Isaac, that through his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed.

But do you suppose that Isaac really knew what that fully meant?
He believed what God had said, but did he fully understand it? Why even the apostles did not understand the once and for all sacrifice of Yeshua for the forgiveness of sin. Peter even attempted to rebuke Yeshua when He said He had to die and be raised from the dead. (Matthew 16:21-23) This group still didn’t get it when He did die. He had to appear to them and show them His wounds before they understood! (Luke 24:36-48)

So again I ask you, Did Isaac fully understand what it meant that through his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed? The answer is NO, he did not, but he DID believe God. And that earned Isaac his spot in the greatest faith chapter in the Bible. This begs the questionCan one believe in a promise he does not fully understand? For Isaac the answer was yes. And it should be yes for us as well.

God has made many promises to us, promises He will keep. But I must confess, there are few that I have a full understanding of. You know, as God’s saved children we can only believe by faith that each and every thing He has promised will come to pass, even though we don’t know the full implications of what that promise means.
What struggle is at your door today?
What promise of God’s is it that says victory over it can be yours if you will only believe Him for it?
Friend, you don’t have to fully understand it.
Just in faith believe it.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

(Hebrews 11:1)

In Messiah's love,
Michael & Sarah