Friday, November 11, 2016

Foundations | Parashat Lech-Lecha | By His EVERY Word

Parashat Lech-Lecha 
פרשת לך־לך

“Go forth”
“Go forth from your country ... And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing...”

Torah Portion:
Genesis 12:1-17:27

Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: Romans 4:1-25
Shabbat | 12 October 2016  |  11 Cheshvan 5777



Establishing Foundations

Abraham, the Father of Faithfulness
Israel, the Land of Promise 
Isaac, the Son of the Covenant 
Ishmael, the Son of the Flesh

Embodied in this week’s parashat are major foundational events that give clarity to the Middle East crisis threatening the world today. The mandate of the Land of Israel to the Jewish People, the eternal covenant through Isaac, and the core of Judaism and Christianity through the faithfulness of Abraham are defined in these profound chapters, as Adonai continues to lay the bedrock of HIS-story, the grand redemption epic of the ages.
Today’s Middle East is a powder keg, as tribal rivalries fomented throughout history are reaching their tipping point. At the same time, the spiritual battle of the god of Ishmael against the God of Israel—the ultimate Clash of Kingdomsis preparing for a final showdown. 
This cataclysmic conflict was in part conceived in the tents of Abram, Sarai, and an Egyptian maid.
 ...
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 12  Abram, Called Out to Bless the World

SETTING THE STAGE: Abram, later to be called Abraham, is called out of Haran, where his father Terah settled on his way to Canaan. Haran was a highly developed metropolis in Babylonia on the Euphrates River. Babylonia was the most powerful empire in the world, and at the height of its splendor and prosperity. Known for decadence, idolatry, and the worship of numerous gods: the moon god, Sin, was supreme among the deities. 
This is notable as the worship of the moon god, Sin, survived Babylon’s destruction to be worshipped among the desert Arab tribes until Mohammed, in 610 A.D., encountered a supernatural being (obviously demonic) in a cave who inspired him to found Islam—the crescent moon being the symbol of its god, Allah. Christians who have come out of Islam claim Sin and Allah to be one and the same.
In the midst of Babylon—the epicenter of idol worship and paganism, lived a man destined to receive the Messianic promise for all the families of the earth.

v. 1 “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you.’”
God called Abram out of his evil surroundings, away from all contrary influences—even those, or perhaps especially those, of his family—as one’s family will often have greatest influence in moulding an individual’s character. 
This was a sobering intervention indicative of the seriousness of the task he was being called to. Yet, this was not one of the pantheon of Babylon’s gods that spoke to Abram. The text is clear—this was Adonai, the LORD, יהוה YHVHYud-Hey-Vav-Hey, Creator of the Universe!
“Come Follow Me!” This Divine declaration remains a tremendous test of faith, and a clarion call to the faithful throughout the ages. 

The destination of Abram’s journey is not revealed to him. The breaking up of the family clan to leave one’s homeland is not natural—indeed, it is not safe in the ancient world—however, this walk of faith will become increasingly more evident in Abram’s life, serving as a pattern for all who would come after and choose to serve the LORD, reminiscent of the call given the Jewish fishermen by Abraham’s seed thousands of years later on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 4:18-23)

 שְׁמֶךָל שְׁמֶךָ  A Great Name
vs. 2-3 “And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Adonai doesn’t tell Abram where He is leading Him, but bestows some great promises upon him. He promises to bless Abram and make Abram’s name great, in Hebrew, ga-dole—to be magnified
Abram, in Hebrew means “Exalted Father,” however, later when God renames him, Abraham, his name has been magnified, meaning Father of Many Nations. Yet more than that, Abraham’s name has been magnified for his faith throughout the generations to this day
God is forever known as the God of Abraham, and it is Abraham’s faith that is given us as an example throughout the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant) text. (Romans 4:3, 4:9, 4:12, 4:16, Galatians 3:6,7,8,9, Hebrews 11:8,17, James 2:23)
...and so you shall be a blessing;” Abraham’s offspring have proven to be an unparalleled blessing to all humanity:
  • Illuminating mankind with the knowledge of the One True God, and the civilizing influence of the Bible to a barbaric world
  • An inordinate volume of beneficial scientific and medical discoveries have come out of such a tiny people group
  • Yet the pinnacle of blessing for mankind is bringing forth the Savior—at an immeasurable cost to Israel
I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”  Both the Bible and history teach a uniform lesson. Nations and individuals that have dealt honestly and fairly with Abraham’s seed have prospered; whereas those who have dealt treacherously have suffered the curse spelled out in this verse. 
America has been a safe haven for Jewish People and a friend of Israel, now re-birthed. America has also been uniquely blessed among nations. 

A biblical example of the curse at work is found in the book of Esther where we find the evil Haman hanged on his own gallows. 

In world history one need only look at the British Empire. Yes, it was once an empire of which it was said, “...the sun never sets on the British Empire!” However, Great Britain dealt traitorously with the Jewish People, not honoring the Balfour Declaration of 1917, to establish the Jewish homeland, and the world has seen the tragic consequences—the sun has certainly set on that once-great empire.

“And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
Even the Hebrew commentaries see this magnificent promise as looking toward its fulfillment in the Messiah.

vs. 4-7 The Promise of the Land of Israel

In obedience to the Divine Voice, Abram, at 75 years of age, left his home and set off on his journey to follow Adonai. 

Into Canaan he was led, where he traveled throughout the land and the, “...LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’” Adonai appeared to Abram and spoke this astonishing promise of the Land of Israel to Abram’s descendants! The land was not vacant—the text tells us that there were Canaanites in the land (v. 6) but God had created this land for His purposes. 

Israel HAD been set apart FOREVER by Adonai—therefore it IS HOLY forever, regardless of whether Israel is serving Him in holiness or not.

:: Incidentally, this took place in Shechem, one of the oldest cities in Israel, approximately 30 miles north of Jerusalem. It is called Nablus today and it is an Arab city. The “Palestinian” Arabs will sometimes claim they are the original inhabitants of Israel, descended from the Canaanites or the Philistines. However, they are Arabs, descended from Ishmael, who had not yet been born. The Bible is clear: the Canaanites and Philistines have disappeared from history. ::

Then we are told Abram built an altar to worship the LORD who had appeared to him.

v. 8  Abram the Preacher קָרָא
“Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.”

Abram did more than “call upon” the name of the LORD. Much like Noah, he was a preacher of righteousness. The Hebrew word in our text is translated calledקָרָא qara, which also means proclaimed, even loudly

The Hebrew commentaries explain that Abram proclaimed the knowledge of the true God—that he had the moral courage to preach and the duty to preach in the midst of the idolatrous and pagan Canaanites that inhabited the land.

vs. 10-20  From Faith to Failure
...through these candid pictures, we find our own story...

Abram, superhero of FAITH,  must leave the Promised Land due to a severe famine and sojourn for a season in Egypt. He is afraid of Pharaoh. He fears Pharaoh will kill him in order to take his beautiful wife, Sarai. He devises a scheme to save his life ... Sarai will tell a half-truth (she IS his half-sister after all!) and tell Pharaoh she is his sister and allow him to take her rather than kill Abram to have her. What happened to his great faith?

We are often tempted to scratch our heads incredulously when our Bible heroes fail to behave consistently with grand moral fortitude. 
However, the very point of these vast epic accounts is that they involve ordinary human beings in all their frailty, that God has placed into extraordinary circumstances.
Their faith is tested and tried. Some endure. And some have darkened hearts, revealed by the fire. Sometimes God alone chooses to redeem by the strength of His own arm. 

Yet through these candid pictures we find our own story, and strength, and encouragement for our own circumstances ... And exhortation to look to the only One who can redeem the impossible, the One whose lovingkindness and mercy is without end.

Genesis 13 Back to Canaan, Confirming the Promise

vs. 1-13  The Lust of the Eyes...

Abram with his family, including his nephew Lot and his family, return to Canaan,  much enriched from their sojourn in Egypt. Abram began once again to worship and proclaim Adonai in the place of his first altar. Presently he realizes the land cannot sustain the great flocks that he and Lot now own. They need to part.

Abram was gracious, and perhaps exhibiting trust in the providence of Adonai, offering Lot his choice of where to settle. “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere.” (v. 10a) 

Lot was greedy and chose the well-watered and lush Jordan Valley, moving his tents to Sodom. The text is explicit about the inhabitants of this seeming paradise: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. Genesis 13:13
Hebrew commentaries note that Lot was willing to dwell among this most depraved race who had developed unrestrained sensual vices in measure with the fertility of the soil and luxurious lifestyle. 
The material attractions of the locality overbore Lot’s fear of moral contamination...and perhaps dulled his discernment, disarming him.

vs. 14-18  The Everlasting Covenant to Abram and His Descendants for a People and a Land

“‘for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 

"Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.’ Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD. Genesis 13:15-18
Lest we miss it, the LORD will continue to repeat, confirm, and reconfirm His promise ... to Abram’s descendants (in subsequent chapters, it will be specified that it is through Isaac, (not Ishmael) God has given the Land of Israel. 
It may be just a minuscule dot on the earth, with no valuable natural resources,* but because it bears His Promise, it remains the most hotly contested real estate on the globe! Satan sees to that. 
Forever, Olam עוֹלָם

This is a “forever” promise—in Hebrew, עוֹלָם oh-lahm, meaning: everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity, always, perpetual, continuous existence. Even when the Jewish People are not in physical possession of the Land, it is still theirs.
God has given another profound promise here: the perpetuation of the Jewish PeopleHis Name and the veracity of the Bible will rest upon the survival of His People. This is the secret behind why they are hunted, hounded, and marked for extinction repeatedly throughout history—Antisemitism at its core is a futile attempt to eradicate the visible testimony of Israel's God and Bible from the earth! 
Yet, it is the populous and wealthy idolator nations that will disappear from the face of the earth—the Babylonians, the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Moabites, the multitudes of “ites” listed in the Bible, but not the Israelites, for God Himself will preserve by the strength of His outstretched arm, for His own Name’s sake.


Hebron, Holy City of the Patriarchs

Note: Hebron is the second most sacred site in the world after the Temple Mount, as it still contains the burial place of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham purchased the field of Ephron in Machpelah for four hundred shekels of silver to bury Sarah, and later he was buried there by Isaac, who is also buried in the Cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 23:16, 25:9) Joseph also buried Jacob (Israel) in the Cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 50:1-14) Rebecca and Leah are also entombed in this precious place
"Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron..." Genesis13:18

Herod the Great built a grand structure which was further enhanced during the Byzantine Empire. Jewish access to this sacred ancient site in Hebron has been severely restricted due to Arab uprisings. 

In 1929, there was a small Jewish community that lived peacefully among Arabs in Hebron. However, responding to a call from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Arabs rose up and slaughtered their Jewish friends and neighbors in Hebron. 

After that, the British restricted Jewish access to the Patriarch’s Tomb as it angered the Arabs who claimed Abraham as their Patriarch

When the entirety of the Land of Israel miraculously came back into Jewish hands following the Six Day War in 1967, the Jewish People enjoyed unrestricted access for the first time in more than 2,000 years to this important biblical and historic site. 

:: This was short-lived as violent attacks, bombings of the site and destruction by Palestinians forced the Jews to surrender to a severely restricted schedule of visits. ::

Genesis 14  Abram Rescues Lot, Meets Two Kings

Melchi-Tzedekh = "My King is Righteous" מַלְכִּי- צֶדֶק


Abram’s nephew, Lot, becomes part of the spoils of war and is taken captive along with Sodom, after a massive battle between several regional kings. One who escaped made this known to Abram, “the Hebrew” (v. 13—the first time this title is used in the Bible). When Abram heard of this disaster that befell his relative, who had chosen to live with evil-doersthus bringing such ill-fortune upon himself (Rashi)Abram assembled an army of the 300 men born in his home, pursued the victors and “smote them.” He brought back Lot, his family, their belongings and the people of Sodom.

And in the Kings Valley, Abram was met by two kings, the King of Sodom, and Melchizedek, King of Salem, who brought a friendship offering of bread and wine, and blessed him as a priest saying, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand. He gave him a tenth of all.” Genesis 14:19-20
In Melchizedek’s blessing, he declared the true victory—the source of Abram’s strength—it was God Most High who delivered Abram and gave him victory over all the heathen kings!
The King of Sodom acknowledged Abram’s superiority and asked only to have his people returned to him, offering Abram all the spoils. In the pagan world, Abram could have kept all—even the people as slaves. But this was not the character of Abram. He raised his hand in grand gesture to Adonai, emphasizing the victory was not his, but the Lord’s, and declared his utter trust in his God, his Deliverer, his Provider, refusing anything that had belonged to Sodom for himself.

Abram acknowledged that his men had eaten of the spoils and didn’t bind Aner, Eschol, and Mamre, who had accompanied him, but allowed them to receive their share.

Melchizedek is a fascinating subject, spiritual and mysterious. His name, Malkhi Tzedek, means “my king (is) righteous(ness).” The text tells us he is the King of Salem, Hebrew—Shalem, a derivative of Shalom—the Hebrew commentaries agree this was Jerusalem. Also, he was a priest, cohen, of El Elyon—God Most High (Abram’s God).

Melchizedek is mentioned in the Tenakh in one other place: “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Psalm 110:4) This verse is repeated in Hebrews 5:6.

There is always speculation over who this mystical figure is. Some Hebrew commentators believe he was a convert won by Abram’s preaching during his first visit to Canaan who picked up the mantle of spreading the knowledge of El Elyon, the God Most High throughout the heathen land. Other, equally intriguing speculation is that he is Noah’s son, Shem, who would still be alive. He would be a rightful priest in Noah’s line and have firsthand knowledge of Adonai. Of course, the text is silent, so we can’t establish either of these accounts.
Melchizedek in the Dead Sea Scrolls
11Q13 is a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls (dating to the end of the 2nd or start of the 1st century B.C.) of a text about Melchizedek found in Cave 11 at Qumran near the Dead Sea in Israel’s Judaean Desert. In this eschatological text (commentary), Melchizedek is seen as a divine being with Hebrew titles such as Elohim. 
According to this text Melchizedek will “proclaim the Day of Atonement,” and he will himself make atonement. It is Melchizedek of whom Daniel spoke, calling him “the anointed” who would be “cut off,” and “the messenger who brings good news, who announces Salvation” and “proclaims the year of the LORD’s favor, the day of the vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” found in Isaiah 61. 

The Dead Sea Scroll Collection at The Gnostic Society Library
Although this scroll predates Yeshua, it indicates the Messianic community at Qumran saw in Melchizedek a prefiguration of the Messiah as Savior and Lord. In just the same way, the author of Hebrews revealed this mystical connection: This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19,20
Genesis 15  God Seals His Covenant with Abram

vs. 1-5 Although God has greatly blessed Abram, his father’s heart agonizes over his fatherless state. His name means Exalted Father! Abram cries out to his God, and Adonai comes to him in a vision, promising him an heir from his own body, and multitudes after him as numerous as the stars.

v. 6  What was the BELIEF of Abram?

“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  Genesis 15:6

Abram, or Abraham as he is later called, is our standard of “faith” throughout the Scriptures.
This very verse is reiterated in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23.

Yet, many have a misunderstanding about what this “belief” was that earned Abram’s commendation.

Without looking at the Hebrew word used in our verse, and only going by the common English sense of the word, “believe,” we cannot possibly grasp the depth of this vital text.

The Hebrew word in Genesis 15:6 for believed is aman. Strong’s Concordance reveals that this is not a passive, cerebral belief or assent, such as “I believe in the Tooth Fairy.” Rather, aman connotes an investment of self in this belief:
  1. to support, confirm, BE faithFUL (Exactly what was said of Abram, emphasis mine.)
    (Qal form)
    1)to support, confirm, be faithful, uphold, nourish
    a)foster (as in foster-father/mother/nurse
    b)pillars, supports of the door
    (Niphal form)
    2. to be established, to be faithful, be carried, make firm...
Enough said. I think it is obvious that aman is more than passive “belief,” it's an action word.

Hebrew is often difficult to translate into English as it often has compound concepts, such as the word, hearshema, as in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel...” The word hear means “hear, listen and obey.”
In the same way, the concept of aman means that Abram’s belief or faith was evident by his faithfulness. He didn’t just stay in Ur believing in God Almighty. His belief was evidenced by His obedience. James 2:14-26 tries to sort this out, explaining that the Genesis 15:6 verse indicates Abraham’s works, and that man is not justified by faith alone, but works must accompany faith or it’s not a true faith.
Yet believers often wind up mired in a faith vs. works maelstrom based on not understanding God’s definition of our original verse that is used as our model...
In fact, the New Testament is replete with examples of obedience/work being consistent with and an evidence of our redemption. "Faith" being "faithFULNESS" rather than a "useless" faith:
  • "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going." Hebrews 11:8
  • "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;" Hebrews 11:17   
And hear James: 
  •  "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" James 2:21 
  • "You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;" James 2:22
          And Peter:
  • "just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear." 1 Peter 3:6
If Abraham had just sat in his father's tent, never responding to Adonai, going about his same life, but in his mind he also believed in God, he would certainly not be our example
Again, we look to the New Testament, to James: 
  • "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" James 2:14,18,19,20
And here he gives the examples of Abraham our father being justified by his works in verses 2:21-22.

Therefore, it seems evident that although we do not obtain salvation through works, there must be some evidence of true faith or response to Adonai because of our faith—or can we be certain our belief is more than that of demons, who "belief and shudder," but clearly do not have salvation?
Cutting the Covenant
vs. 7-21 Once more, Adonai promises Abram the land of Canaan, and God somehow is not angered when he responds, “O LORD GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?” (v. 8) 

Are you kidding me? How would we respond to our children? “Because I said so! Because I’m your parent! My word isn’t good enough? Ask me again, and forget I even said it!” 

Yet our gracious Creator who knows our frame, that we are but dust, (Psalm 103:4) is so merciful upon Abram. He has Abram bring him animals for a ceremony known in the ancient world as a very solemn agreement, a “cutting” of a covenant. Animals would be cut in half and the parties to the agreement would pass between the halves together in a visual agreement, “If I don’t uphold my part of the bargain, may this come upon me.” It was witnessed by others so that the agreement would be known, whether it involved transfer of land or simply to hold the parties to the bargain. In this light, it is possible to discern that Abram was asking for a visible display for others that land was deeded to him and his descendants, rather than that he suddenly had a crisis of trust in his God!
In this astonishing event, God alone passed between the halves of the carcasses as smoke and a flaming torch, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates...” (v.18) making firm the covenant to Abraham solely dependent on Himself—God who is ever faithful, not Abraham. 
The boundaries Adonai covenanted to Abram’s descendants are much larger than Israel has ever taken possession of to this date. When we view the Middle East situation through the lens of God’s Word, we see a clear mandate for Israel’s deed to the whole of present day Israel—and then some
We can also easily discern the source for those who would seek to destroy this biblical testimony in the earth.

Genesis 16  Sarai’s Big Idea—A Plan to Help God
“And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis 16:2c

vs. 1-3 In the beginning of chapter 15, Abram was grieved that he and Sarai had not borne children and Adonai reassured him powerfully an heir from his own body and a multitude of descendants to follow. 

It was now Sarai who was fretting over their childless state, which was a serious concern in the ancient world. 

A woman could be legally divorced for not giving her husband a child—it was always the woman’s womb that was in question.

Abram and Sarai had been waiting ten years since they had received the promise (Genesis 12:3-7) from Adonai. Abram was now 85 years old, and Sarai 75. 

Enough already ... Sarai has a plan! She will help the Lord along. An acceptable practice was using a surrogate—the wife’s trusted handmaid. In this case, Hagar, her Egyptian maid.

Sarai lays out the plan to her husband, Abram, saying, “Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” v. 2b

Garden Redux: A Son of Adam Repeats the Error
Perhaps Abram should have hesitated and sought the Lord to see if this was the means He meant to use, but our text simply says, he stepped right into it, much like Adam when the woman offered him her grand idea in that garden so long ago ... “ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” v.2c

בנה
Banah, Builded, Obtain
The word, obtain, literally is to be builded [through her]. The family was pictured by the Hebrews under the image of a house; the wife is spoken of as the husband’s house. Her house is built as her children are born, and as her family grows through relatives. The adoption of children through surrogacy was not uncommon in that time

“Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife(v.3). Although Hagar was to function as ishshah (ee-shah, אִשָּׁה woman, wife) for the purpose of producing an heir, she is not the rightful wife of Abram. In this custom, she would remain the maid. (Hebrews, however, were constrained to treat their servants with kindness and respect, not as the barbaric tribes among the pagans.)

Trouble in the Tent

vs. 5-6 Almost immediately, Sarai realizes this was a BIG mistake, 

“And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight.’” v. 5

When Hagar finds she has conceived, the Hebrew text reveals Hagar begins to treat Sarai her mistress with contempt, as insignificant, even as despicable to her.
Sarai may seem to be over-reacting to her servant’s hatred and arrogance. She may be reacting to Abram’s lack of reproof, which is indicated by the sting of her statement: “May the LORD judge between you and me” (v. 5b), a very serious reproach.
Sarai herself may not understand why she is so overwrought by the situation. A raging battle has been ignited by this seemingly practical act (wrought by the arm of the flesh—destined to reap destruction, Galatians 6:8) that continues to rage to this very day. 
This was no domestic squabble between two women. Within Hagar’s womb, a usurper was growing, a child of the flesh to oppose the child of Promise.
Through this child the serpent would wage war against God’s Covenant, and His Covenant People.
The Bible tells us that,“...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 

We can’t possibly discern the many facets that compose the whole picture behind the spiritual battles in our world and beyond.

חָמָס
Hamas / Khamas
A chilling insight to note in this text is the word, wrong—Sarai, in her upset state, describes what Hagar has done to her as the wrong done to her. In Hebrew, that word is hamas,” or “kha-mas”— which means: violence, wrong, cruelty, injustice, malicious, oppression.
When one considers the fact that Hamas actually is of Ishmael’s seed, and to this day is raining rockets down from Gaza, on Abram and Sarai’s seed, thousands of years of Bible history just melt away, and the larger battle, the battle that is warring in the spiritual realm unseen by Abram, Sarai, and Hagar, suddenly comes into focus. 
What a powerful lesson we can take away from this ancient drama! What Adonai has said He will do, we must trust Him for. How many Ishmaels have we created by taking our fate into our own hands? 
Oh, that we would share the Psalmist’s heart:“...a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, Blessed is the man who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:10-12
vs. 6-9  Abram Doesn’t Man Up

In Sarai’s overwrought state, she expected her husband to defend her honor and rightful place—and to use his authority to bring order to the home. Abram fails to perceive the seriousness of the situation, deflecting his responsibility, telling Sarai: "Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight." v. 6a

In essence, he told Sarai to do whatever she feels is right as she has the upper hand, the meaning of “in your power.” This leaves these two woman trapped in a maelstrom of conflict, born of spiritual contention they can neither comprehend nor cope with.

The text says that Sarai treated Hagar harshly, and Hagar fled from her, apparently heading back to Egypt where she is apprehended at a spring in the wilderness by the “angel of the LORD.” (Interestingly, the meaning of Hagar’s name is “flight.”

Hagar is told, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority” (v. 9), meaning to humble herself, bow down to Sarai.

vs. 10-16  Prophecy over Ishmael! 

He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone's hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Genesis 16:12

Hagar receives a prophecy regarding her unborn child—good news and bad news.

The good: like Abram’s promise, her descendants will be greatly multiplied, too numerous to count. She shall name him Ishmael as a reminder that Adonai noticed her affliction.

The bad: “He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone's hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Genesis 16:12

The phrase: “And he will live to the east of all his brothers” actually means: “...he will live in defiance of all his brothers.”

So Hagar returned and her son was born when Abram was 86 years old, and Abram named his son Ishmael as the angel of the LORD commanded, which means “God will hear.”

יִשְׁמָעֵאל Yishma'el
The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab tribes, lived up to the prophecies given to Hagar; conquering by treachery, violence, subjugation, and the sword.
Today’s Middle East is a powder keg, as tribal rivalries fomented throughout history are reaching their tipping point. At the same time, the spiritual battle of the god of Ishmael against the God of Israel—the ultimate Clash of Kingdomsis preparing for a final showdown. This cataclysmic conflict was in part conceived in the tents of Abram, Sarai, and an Egyptian maid.
Genesis 17  The Abrahamic Covenant


vs. 1-5 “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.’ Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations’”

Thirteen years had passed and Abram is 99 years old. Adonai appears to Abram, revealing Himself majestically as El ShaddaiGod Almighty. Adonai calls Abram to walk before Him and be blameless—to live uprightly, righteously, and wholeheartedly. He then tells Abram that He is about to bestow upon him the covenant that was already promised, and Abram falls on his face in great reverence and worship.

God Magnifies Abram’s Name
The Divine ה
אַבְרָם אַבְרָהָם
Adonai changes Abram to Abraham—from Exalted Father to Father of a Multitude. In Genesis 12:2, God promised to make Abram’s name great—to magnify his name—Adonai has kept His promise!
Perhaps more significant, the LORD has inserted substance of His own Divine Name (the Hebrew letter “H” from YHVH) into that of Abram and Sarai’s names to redefine them for His purposes as they begin to live before Him within this new covenant.
vs. 6-9“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. ...throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. ...the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
Adonai confirms and reconfirms His promises to Abraham and his descendants throughout all generations, and the Land as an everlasting covenant—eternal, with God as Lord forever!
One thousand years after Abraham, at the time of King David, it is reemphasized:


“He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, Saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion of your inheritance...’” ~Psalm 105:8-11

vs. 10-14  Circumcision, the Sign of the Covenant

“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised ... it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. ...every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner ... an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
Chief Rabbi J. H. Hertz, notes: The meaning is not that the Covenant is to consist in the rite of circumcision, but that circumcision is to be the external sign of the Covenant. As the following verse declares, ‘it shall be a token of a covenant,’ just as the rainbow was the token of the covenant with Noah. The rite is the abiding symbol of the consecration of the Children of Abraham to the God of Abraham.
PENTATEUCH AND HAFTORAHS, SONCINO PRESS, 1936
vs. 15-18  Sarai Gets Her ה, Abraham has a Good Laugh

  שׂרַי  שָׂרָה
"As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” vs. 15-16

Sarai is renamed Sarah—from Princess to Noblewoman/Princess—for Sarah is to serve the Lord as the mother of nations and of kings—a royal lineage will “come into existence” through her.

“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’”

At Abraham’s advanced age, the Hebrew text tells us, he laughs incredulously, joyously and in an exclamation of surprise all at once. 

The biblical text rarely hides typical human responses and frailties from us. Ishmael is a young man now, and Abraham exhibits typical fatherly concern for him.

vs. 19-21 Adonai Establishes Isaac as the Child of the Everlasting Covenant


The Child of the Covenant, Yitzchaq / Isaac יִצְחָק

"But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael ... I will bless him ... He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”

This is vital, for it is at the heart of the “family” feud in the Middle East, threatening a global crisis today. The minuscule piece of real estate known as Israel, devoid of oil or other valuable resources,* in the heart of the vast Arab land mass, is contested only because it was covenanted to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac. 

Israel’s intrinsic value is spiritual—as a testimony to the existence of Adonai, the veracity of the Bible, and Adonai’s faithfulness to keep His Word forever to those who trust Him.

In the early 600s AD, when the Qur'an was written, the Arabs changed the story, placing Ishmael in the role as child of Promise. This is the god of Islam opposing the God of Abraham, the God of the Bible

Adonai said He has placed His Name in Jerusalem forever. (1 Kings 11:36, 2 Kings 21:7, 2 Chronicles 33:4,7)

It is not an Arab city called al Quds. It was Salem, a precursor of Jerusalem when Melchizedek came to pay homage to Abram. 

Israel and Jerusalem are not once mentioned in the Qur’an but hundreds and hundreds of times in the Bible. 

It is through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (changed to Israel) that Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus, Son of David was born, laid His life down and was raised according to the Scriptures on the third day—in Jewish Jerusalem, Israel. 

And it is to restored Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives (not Palestine) that Yeshua will return—to the City of the Great King, blessed be His Name!
*Since 2010, Israel has discovered oil and natural gas fields. Not yet fully developed, They promise to be very significant. However, this recent discovery would not factor into the historic contest over this tiny dot of land on the earth—especially not among the oil-rich Arab lands.


Haftarah
Yesha'yahu (Isaiah) 40:27-41:16

The book of Isaiah is divided into two parts. In the first half we have the gloom of judgement. But in the second, is seen the light of a bright future for Israel, this nation from Abraham’s loins.

Consider what had happened. The Lord was angry with Solomon. This son of Abraham had been given everything a man could want, the best of Abraham’s nation. It was at its pinnacle, and yet Solomon turned his heart away from the Lord. As a consequence the kingdom was to be taken from him (I Kings 11:9-11). After Solomon’s death God split the Kingdom into two separate and autonomous nations. Jeroboam took the ten Northern tribes calling them Israel. Rehoboam maintained the two remaining tribes, Judah and the Levites in the South, there named Judah.

The course of these two nations was one of disobedience to God’s Law. The kingships in either nation were marked only infrequently by rulers following the Law or listening to the direction of God through His prophets. Flagrant disobedience was the norm. God had promised chastisement if this were ever to occur, and so He brought Abraham’s people through two major events in their history. 

The first was the conquering of Israel, the Northern kingdom, and her deportation by Assyria in 722 BC. This was during Isaiah’s ministry. The second was to take place in 597 BC when Judah, the Southern kingdom, was conquered and deported by Babylon.

We pick up this weeks Haftarah at Isaiah 40:27, the beginning chapter of the second half of the book of Isaiah. This second half of the book is restorative nationally for both Israel, presently in exile, and for Judah, yet to be taken into exile. It is also Millennial in its future look down the corridors of time. It brings hope as it lays out how the ideal Servant of the Lord will accomplish God’s plan in the future.

Here at the beginning of the second half of the book Isaiah addresses Israel, the Northern kingdom still in exile. He begins, “Why do you say, O Jacob (synonymous with Israel) and assert, O Israel...” These are people that needed encouragement. So he goes on and gives that encouragement. He first chides them for believing that God has forgotten them (vs. 27). Then he says that God does not weary, has an understanding of their situation that is beyond their comprehension, gives strength to the weary, and to those lacking might He gives power (vs. 28-30). Now that’s impressive.

These words of encouragement continue on. Verse 31 says, 

“Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” 

These are words of encouragement for a discouraged Northern kingdom presently in exile, and I’m sure for the remaining Southern kingdom yet to go there.  But there is more to be said of these encouraging words.

Several years ago I had opportunity to minister each Sunday night at Camp Pendleton, a large Marine Corp base in San Diego County. I was privileged to attend a gospel meeting attended by several hundred young Marines in training for future combat. They came each Sunday evening giving up free time they might of otherwise had to listen to some great preaching by one of our Navy Chaplains. Being in a counseling role on this occasion I had one eighteen-year-old Marine come to me and lay out how discouraged he was. His particular issue was  the level of verbal assault he was getting (something designed to toughen them inwardly). But other young men would come as well to these weekly meetings to share their particular discouragements. For some it was just the total physical and mental output required. For others it was plain old homesickness or a girlfriend, or wife, or parents that needed them. For still others it was the fear of not making the grade—passing the next academic test, completing the next march, or not passing the physical fitness test next required of them. And for some ... it was the thought of not coming home whole, or coming home at all.

There were a number of places in Scripture that I felt the Lord would have me share with them. Isaiah 40:31 was however one of those more often used. On one such occasion I shared it with a young warrior who would soon be putting his life on the line for us. He wasn't weak physically or mentally. He proved that every day in training. His was another issue. But as we talked about this verse tears came to his eyes. How often I would see Scripture do this to these young men. The Holy Spirit had touched this young warrior, a true believer in our Messiah.

He rejoined his brethren in arms, waiting on the Lord, with new strength; Figuratively speaking he was now fitted with eagles wings that he might rise above his discouragements, ready to run and bettering any tiredness, His “walk” would be one that would not succumb to weariness. Isn’t it amazing what the Holy Spirit does through the Word?

This uplifting passage was written to both those of Abraham’s seed who were in exile, and to those who were some day going into exile ... and surly to those of us today who are Abraham’s seed, both Jew and Gentile in the Messiah. Discouragement, lack of enough trust to get you through certain situations, physical maladies, all of it existed both then and now. Are you experiencing any of the problems those already in exile were, or that those yet to be exiled would?  Their answer then is our answer now. Ready to grab those eagles’ wings and get above it all?

Take hope my brethren. The Lord is our sure strength and the Word His sure tool.

_____________________________________

B’rit Chadashah
Romans 4:1-25

What richness fill the pages of Holy Writ! In our first week of this year’s cycle we looked at creation and how it fell, only to be given provision by the Creator for redemption down the road. (Gen. 3:15)

Last week we saw the Creator’s grief (Gen. 6:6) over having made man at all. But for the fact that Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) all flesh would have been destroyed, the end of the human race. And in this our third week we  see mankind now embroiled in paganism. But the Creator, Almighty God, calls one man out to father a nation that would ultimately bear a Son whose sacrifice would pay for the sins of all mankind for all time, that those exercising belief in this would be declared righteous.

We have snapshot views of that one man in several places in the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant or New Testament). Our focus will be upon just one of them, Romans 4:1-25. There we see that one man—Abraham, and the story of his salvation experience. In it lies the answer to the question, “What part do works play in making sinful man right before God?”

Romans 4:1-8 shows us that the declaration of righteousness in Abraham’s case had nothing to do with his works. Verse 1 opens the discussion by asking what Abraham found as it regarded God declaring him righteous.

Romans 4:2-3 compares the results of two distinctly different approaches to gaining God’s declaration of righteousness. Verse 2 says, “For what if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.” So many boast that their self righteous lives will be sufficient to gain heavens entrance. But the door on that approach is slammed shut in their face. (Titus 3:5) The life of good works they would boast about before God can never be sufficient.

Verse 3 gives a second approach to being declared righteous. “...And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” How different. How simple. How straightforward. Yet how very hard to accept by most of mankind. With the exception of true Christianity every other religion on earth has man’s works in one way or another playing into its scheme of how to get to Heaven. Abraham on the other hand simply believed what God told him and he was declared righteous.

Verses 4 and 5 restate these two distinctly different approaches in a slightly different way. Whereas verse 2 says that if one could work his way into Heaven he could boast,  verse 4 says that based on man’s works or labors God would also owe him heaven’s entrance as something due him, a debt to be paid. The reality however is that God owes man nothing while man owes God everything.

Verse 5 echoes verse 3. Both say that belief in God’s message warrants God declaring the one believing as righteous. Verse 5 however now says that it is the ungodly who are justified. And this is the ungodly who do not offer their works as payment for that declaration of righteousness, but rather offer their belief in God’s message.

What a process. What a path to salvation. While Yeshua sweat drops of blood on His way to procure this declaration of righteousness based on our believing God, we, the ungodly, do not even have to sweat one drop from the pours of our skin to gain His declaration of righteous. That declaration of righteousness based on simple belief is free. No labor required. How gracious is our God.

The declaration that Abraham was justified totally apart from works is further bolstered in the remaining verses of this chapter. In verses 9-12 we see that circumcision played no role in God declaring him righteous. Speaking to the issue of righteousness verse 10 says, “How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” Indeed, it was fourteen years after being declared righteous that Abraham was circumcised. (Compare Gen.15:6 with 17:9-14.) 

This however does not minimize the importance of circumcision for Abraham or the Jewish nation. Circumcision was always a sign of God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish nation. It is as well according to verse 11, “...a seal of the righteousness of faith...that he might be father of all who believe without being circumcised (Gentiles), that righteousness might be reckoned to them.” And so it is that Abraham is the spiritual father of all who are to be declared righteous, both Jew (the circumcised) and Gentile (the uncircumcised). 

Now that makes this Gentile boy feel pretty Jewish. After all, my spiritual father is a Jew, the first one ever, and it was Jewish blood, Yeshua’s, that was shed to pay the price for my sins that I might one day be declared, righteous.

Our text proceeds on by saying that keeping the Law was as well not the path to Abraham being declared righteous (v.13). After all it would still be 430 years before the Law was given to Abraham’s descendant, Moses. No works there either.

The balance of Romans 4:16-25 speaks to the faith of righteous Abraham being in his God. “...yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.” (v. 20)

If this chapter tells us anything it is this. The principle of faith alone—totally apart from works—to be declared righteous goes back a long way. Holy Writ tells us this principle is still the one God uses to declare men righteous. Probably one of the first verses we memorized as new believers was Ephesians 2:8-9, “For grace you are saved by faith and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God and not of works lest any man should boast.” How simple a truth. Yet how many will not see it.

Examine yourself, my friends. and see on what basis you believe God has declared you righteous. Your eternity depends on it. 


Blessings and Love in our Wonderful Redeemer Yeshua!

By His EVERY Word Ministries