Thought for the week

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‘Parsha Lech Lecha’ - A lesson in obedience


Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.””

The ‘parsha’ (‘Torah’ portion) this week is ‘Parsha Lech lecha’ (‘go’ or ‘leave’) – found in Genesis 12:1 – 17:27; the corresponding ‘haftorah’ (reading of the prophets) is found in Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16.
‘Parsha Lech lecha’ is the third weekly ‘Torah’ portion in the annual Jewish cycle of ‘Torah’ reading, and the third in the book of Genesis.

‘Lech lecha’ is a very special ‘parsha’ for me, as this is the ‘parsha’ that I read on my ‘Bar Mitzvah’.

‘Parsha Lech lecha’ recounts the origins of the people of Israel in which it gives an account of a Divine call received by the first Jew in the 75th year of his life, Abram (later renamed Abraham).

Abram was instructed by G-d to leave his birthplace and his father's house to go to the land which G-d would show him. G-d declared that He would make of Abram a great nation; He would bless him and make his name great and all families of the earth would be blessed in him.
Abram obeyed G-d and took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possession which they had acquired, as well as all his servants and set out for the Land of Canaan.
In Canaan, G-d appeared to Abram and said to him that to He would give this land to his offspring (the Jewish people).

No sooner did Abram and Sarai arrive in the Land of Canaan, when they were forced by a famine to go down to Egypt. Going to Egypt brought on a new trouble. As they approached Egypt, Abram told Sarai that, because she was a beautiful woman, when the Egyptians saw her they would kill him but let her live. He then asked Sarai to say that she was his sister.
Abram's fears were confirmed when Sarai's beauty was noticed and she was taken to Pharaoh's palace. Abram, as her supposed brother, was given livestock, slaves and maids.
Because of this, G-d sent a sudden plague upon the royal palace convincing Pharaoh to return Sarai to Abram. Pharaoh further compensated Abram, and Abram returned to Canaan a wealthy man.

Lot was also enriched in the process, and soon after they returned to Canaan, a conflict developed between Abram's shepherds and Lot's shepherds. Abram told Lot that there should not be strife between himself and Lot; he then suggested that they should separate, giving Lot the first choice of the land.
Enticed by the fertility of its surroundings, Lot chose to settle in Sodom - despite the fact that its residents were extremely evil and sinful towards G-d.

Following Lot's departure, G-d again appeared to Abram and reiterated His promise of the land of Canaan to Abram's descendants.

‘Parsha Lech lecha’ goes on to describe a regional conflict which engulfed the city-states of the Land of Canaan. In this conflict, the inhabitants of Sodom, including Lot, were taken captive.
When Abram heard that Lot had been taken captive, he rallied his servants and chased after the four kings and their armies until they came to Dan where Abram and his servants smote them and rescued Lot, all those who were taken captive, as well as all their property. The grateful king of Sodom offered Abram all the recovered property as his reward, asking only that he restore to him the freed captives; however Abram refused the reward.

Upon his return from the battlefield, Abram was greeted by Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was “a priest of the most high G-d”.  Melchizedek brought an offering of bread and wine and blessed Abram. Abram gave him a tenth of his all wealth, in fulfilment of the ‘mitzvah’ (commandment) of tithing.

Despite Abram's amazing victory, in which he and a handful of servants and friends defeated the armies which had terrorized the entire region, Abram remained humble. He realised that G-d had performed a miracle. In fact, Abram felt unworthy of all the blessings which G-d had bestowed upon him.

However, Abram and Sarai were childless and there was no one to carry on their name.
G-d then appeared to Abram in a vision and cut a covenant with him in which the destiny of the Jewish people was foretold.
The Holy Land was bequeathed to them as their eternal heritage. However, they would first experience ‘galut’ (exile and persecution) – Genesis 15:12-14: “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.””

‘Parsha Lech lecha’ tells us that ten years had elapsed since Abram's arrival in the Land of Canaan, and still Sarai was childless; so she proposed to Abram that he take her handmaid, Hagar, as a wife.
Hagar conceived, and began behaving haughtily towards Sarai. Sarai responded by treating her harshly, causing Hagar to flee Abram's home. An angel of G-d found Hagar by a fountain of water in the wilderness, and instructed her to return to her mistress.
The angel of G-d told her that G-d would multiply her seed greatly; he also told her that she was pregnant and that she would bear a son who she was to name Ishmael (G-d has heard), for G-d had heard her affliction. The angel also told her that Ishmael would “be a wild man; his hand would be against every man, and every man's hand would be against him.”
Ishmael was born in Abram's 86th year.

Another thirteen years went by, and Abram and Sarai had been in Canaan for twenty four years.

At age ninety nine, Abram's life entered a new phase when G-d appeared to him and made an everlasting covenant with him – Genesis 17:2-8: “And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly. -- As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

G-d changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah and promised that Sarah would bear a son from who would spring forth a great nation.
G-d then told Abraham to name his son Isaac and that His covenant would be established through Isaac and his seed. G-d also promised to bless Ishmael.
The new phase in Abraham's relationship with G-d was to be marked through circumcision – Genesis 17:10-11: “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

‘Parsha Lech lecha’ concludes by telling us that Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

In ‘Haftorah Lech lecha’, found in Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16, the prophet Isaiah reminded Israel of the Creator's greatness. The time would come when G-d would give strength to the tired and strength to him who had no strength. Isaiah also told the people: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).

The haftorah then turns its attention to the idolatrous nations of the world. Isaiah reminded them of Abraham's greatness, and how after arriving in Canaan he pursued and defeated four mighty kings; and that even though the nations witnessed these miracles, they did not abandon their ways.
G-d then says to the Jewish nation in Isaiah 41:10-12: “‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ “Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; they shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish. You shall seek them and not find them-- Those who contended with you. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing.””

‘Parsha Lech lecha’ is a lesson in obedience and a testimony of G-d’s heart for the Jewish people and Israel.

Abraham is a true example of being obedient to G-d.
When G-d instructed Abraham to leave his family and his birthplace - in essence, leaving the life behind that he knew for seventy five years - Abraham obeyed G-d without hesitation.
He did not know where G-d was going to send him, neither could he speak to a rabbi or a church leader to confirm that he was indeed hearing from G-d; he just trusted and obeyed.

What a lesson for us today!
We have the bible, the accounts of the many miracles that G-d has performed; we have rabbis, pastors, counsellors who can advise us. Abraham had no frame of reference – what obedience; what an example for us to follow.
Born again believers have the ‘Ruach Hakodesh’ (Holy Spirit) inside of them. Yet often when they receive an instruction from G-d, they fast for three days, pray for a week, speak to numerous people and, sometimes, still don’t obey G-d.

What if Moses and Paul had not obeyed G-d’s calling on their life? What if Abraham had not obeyed G-d? Remember, the Messiah, Jesus, came through Abraham’s seed.

When G-d gives you an instruction, obey it immediately and without question.
Phone that person you had a fallout with; make it right with that person who disappointed you; take the gospel to that unsaved family member; give the gospel to your Jewish friend.
Don’t hesitate; do it immediately.

Three times in ‘Parsha Lech lecha’ G-d reiterates His covenant with Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people - Genesis 13, 15 and 17.
In ‘Lech lecha’, we clearly see that G-d established a covenant with the Jewish people promising redemption to mankind through Abraham and his seed, Isaac. We also clearly see that G-d also promised Israel to the Jewish people – not to Ishmael or anyone else.
This is confirmed in Psalm 105:8-11: “He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac, and 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 allotment of your inheritance””

As I bring this ‘Thought for the Week’ to a close, I want to encourage you: Be obedient to G-d’s instruction; walk in obedience to your calling without hesitation and see what G-d will do through you.

Perhaps you know that Yeshua is your Saviour, your Messiah; yet peer pressure, family pressure or some other pressure keeps you from being obedient in accepting Him as your L-rd and Saviour.
Allow me to encourage you: No one had a more difficult challenge than Abraham; yet he unwaveringly obeyed G-d. Follow his example and obey G-d’s calling.
If you are not born again, confess your sins, repent of them, receive the forgiveness of a merciful G-d and accept Yeshua as your L-rd and Saviour.
How? By simply praying the prayer of salvation found at the end of this article.

Scripture records that Yeshua became the perfect sacrifice when He died on the cross, shedding every last drop of His blood thus taking our sins upon Himself; guaranteeing all who believe in His death and resurrection and who invite Him to become L-rd of their lives, eternal life in heaven.

Don’t wait. If you need salvation, pray the prayer of salvation TODAY; if you need to make it right with someone, do it TODAY; if you have to give someone the gospel, do it TODAY.
Look at the example of the father of the Jewish people, Abraham; then emulate him.

We love you.

Shalom.

Scripture of the week: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27


SALVATION PRAYER

Thank you Yeshua for Your love for me.
Thank you for giving up Your life on the cross for me and for taking my sins upon Yourself.
I confess that I have sinned.
I repent of my sins and I turn from everything I know to be wrong.
I invite You to come into my life as my Messiah, my Saviour.
By Your grace I will serve You all the remaining years of my life.