Lech Lecha [Go Out For Yourself] 2015

Torah Portion: Genesis 12:1 through 17:27
Haftarah Portion: Isaiah 40:27 through 41:16
New Testament Portion: Mat. 8:21-22, Acts 7:2-6, Romans 11:24-26, 1 Peter 3:5-6, Rev. 7:9-10

In the span of two weeks, we have traversed the first 2000 years of human history in which the world was created in seven days, Adam and Eve succumbed to the guile of Satan and were exiled from the Garden of Eden. Subsequently, the world became so wicked that the Creator repented that He had made humans and sent a worldwide flood from which only Noah and his family were saved. 

Due to lack of time and space, we did not comment on Nimrod and the Tower of Babel found at the end of last week’s Torah portion.  As we approach the story of Abraham this week, we must first address the one who is called the “mighty one on the earth.” No one can appreciate the faith of Abraham until one understands the wickedness of Nimrod and the tentacles of his influence still felt today.

Nimrod – the Rebel

nimrod black manNimrod is described as “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (Gen10:9). This phrase actually means “in His face,” and is a euphemism for rebellion against Yahweh.

Nimrod established his own kingdom and made his own laws.

“The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” (Gen 10:10)

Shinar is another name for Babylon. It was located in the region of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. That Babylon was the originator of every pagan idol and religious practice on the earth today can be verified through any modern encyclopedia.

Ur, where Abraham originally lived, was located in Nimrod’s kingdom. noah_line_nimrodAccording to first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, the grandson of Ham was mighty in words as well as in battle.  Quite the charismatic,  Josephus reports Nimrod stirred people to oppose God.   He excited them to hold the Creator in contempt.   He persuaded his subjects to believe that success came from man’s own hand, rather than the providence of God.   He convinced them that he had the answers to their problems and he inspired them to put their confidence in him and to establish him as king over them.

Ultimately, the government established by Noah and Shem after the flood morphed into tyranny, as men began to live in a state of dependence on Nimrod’s bureaucracy, rather than by faith in God.

It was Nimrod’s idea, says Josephus, to construct the Tower of Babel, believing he and his followers could “ascend into Heaven.”  This is a telling phrase.  Isaiah was shown the destiny of another rebel who spoke those very words.  Some bible versions and commentators insist Isaiah refers to Lucifer himself.  In the end, it most certainly speaks of the serpent and all those who choose to bow down to him, including Nimrod:

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’” (Isaiah 14:12-14)

Tower_of_babel wiki According to the Book of Jasher, when the Tower stretched high into the sky, Nimrod’s followers shot arrows into Heaven which fell back down covered in blood.  Nimrod and his comrades rejoiced, thinking that all of Heaven was dead. Yahweh’s response to this nonsense was to scatter the people by confusing the languages. (Gen 11:5-6).

The history of Noah’s own family, as we saw last week, demonstrates that simply destroying the earth was not enough to erase evil.  Infected by the fall, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen 8:21)   But, this time, God would not destroy the earth. He would allow evil to take its natural course.   However, in the face of evil, God would raise up a man who would teach his household, and eventually the nations, to overcome evil with good.   We come now to the story of  Abram and Sarai.

Abram-The Exalted Father

According to several sources, Abram was born in the year 1948 after creation – extremely interesting in view of the fact that the modern state of Israel was born in 1948. According to this article posted on chabad.org,  Abraham was 48 years old at the time of the dispersion of the nations. To view Abraham through the  Oral Tradition, you might consider reading the entire article.

It is quite obvious that God delighted in Abraham.  What was it about this man that caused the Creator to passionately pursue him?

Three times our English Bibles praise Abraham by recognizing him as Yahweh’s “friend” ; but, the Hebrew word ahav is translated as the intense affection for an only son in the passage where God tells Abraham to take “your only son whom you love” to the altar on Mount Moriah [Gen. 22:2] . It is the same word that is used to describe Isaac’s love for Rebecca and Jacob’s love for Rachel.  And, it is the word used to describe “one whom my soul loves” in Song of Solomon 3:1, 3. Abraham was not God’s “buddy” or “side kick.” Theirs was a relationship of great intimacy as will become quite apparent in the next few weeks.

We discussed at length last week the strong probability that Abraham was mentored by Noah and Shem.  According to this amazing chart, Abram was 58 years old when Noah, who lived 350 years after the flood, died. Shem was 100 years old at the time of the flood and lived another 500 years, surviving Abraham and living until Jacob and Esau were about 50 years old. Thus, Jacob and Esau had access to first-hand testimony concerning the flood and the events that followed.

The Jewish sages believed Abraham to be the greatest astronomer of his day, having been the repository of Noah’s and Shem’s knowledge and wisdom. Abraham was the tenth generation from Noah. We have to ask how many other sons, brothers, uncles, and cousins squandered the same opportunity to sit in the tents of Shem?

(As an aside, Isaac, no doubt taught by Shem as well, still lived at the time that his grandson Joseph was sold into slavery. Is it possible that the reason for the brothers’ jealously, as well as Jacob’s delight in Joseph, might have been at least partially due to Joseph’s being passionate about the knowledge and wisdom of Shem?)

Abram is the first in Scripture to be designated a Hebrew (Gen. 14:13).  The word Hebrew literally means “to cross over.”  Abraham indeed crossed the Euphrates to go to Canaan; but, figuratively, to be a Hebrew means to come out [lech lecha] of the ways of Babylon.  That was exactly what Abraham did and why his belief was accounted as righteousness.

The fruit of Abraham’s belief, according to the Creator’s own testimony, is that “Abraham good_works_are_the_fruitobeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Gen. 26:5).  This verse and its companion in the New Testament opened my eyes and changed my life in the year 2003.  Yeshua rebuked the religious leaders of His day, saying, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham(John 8:39).  The “works of Abraham” are none other than the “good works prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10) that Paul discusses in the book of Ephesians.  Abraham kept the Torah! Any “work” that God calls “good” must be in alignment with His instructions and principles found in Torah.  “Good works” magnify God, in contrast to “doctrines and traditions of men” which “make the word of God of no effect” (Mat 15:6)

We introduced the concept of being blameless [tawmeem] last week and we will briefly review by saying that while righteousness can only be obtained by faith, it must be maintained by following God’s instructions. By believing God, Abraham was accounted righteousness. Without cost or work, by grace through faith, Abraham became God’s child and was afforded the opportunity to learn what God expected of him. Therefore, God would later say to Abraham, “walk before Me and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1). This is another way of saying, “Keep My commandments.” Paul tells us Abraham is the “father of all who believe.” (Rom. 4:11)

According to Jewish tradition, as seen in the above article posted on chabad.org, Abram was Nimrod’s nemesis.  As the story goes, Nimrod was warned by signs in the Heavens on the night of Abram’s birth that a son would be born whose seed would possess the entire earth.  Nimrod demanded the newborn’s life; but Terah, Abram’s father and one of the king’s nobles, deceived Nimrod by handing over a servant’s child in his place and hid Abram in a cave until he was a youth.

2206712-the-bedouins-tent-in-the-sahara-moroccoAccording to the legend, Abram went to live with Noah and Shem before returning to his father’s house as a grown man.   Shem, “the ancestor of all those who lived on the other side” (Gen 10:21), as one Jewish translation puts it, found in Abraham a teachable spirit.

Terah, Abraham’s father, was a maker of idols (Joshua 24:2).  The idolatry that his father practiced seemed so ridiculous to Abram that he set about, with great success, according to the Tradition, to humiliate the gods of wood and stone.  After destroying his father’s idols and upon being demanded an explanation, he told he told his father that the idols had destroyed themselves in a battle over food.Supposedly, Abram’s father exclaimed, “Why, that is impossible. They have no power! They can’t move! They can’t fight!” To which Abram replied, “Hear your own words!”

When Nimrod learned of Abram’s actions, he demanded that Abram be cast into a great furnace, where, according to legend, Abram walked around for three days before being released.

Departing Babylon

Lech LechaChapter 12 of Genesis begins by saying,

“Now the LORD had said, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. (Gen 12:1 NKJV)

Apparently, God had been nudging Abraham for some time to “go for yourself!”   Lech means “go out” and lecha means “go in.”  Jewish sage Rashi translates lech lecha as “go for yourself”; but others have translated it “go to yourself” or “go for your essence.”

This is a paradox, according to Rabbi Trugman in his commentary on Lech Lecha.  To find one’s true self, one must depart from one’s family, culture, and comfort zone. These levels of society are comprised of paradigms that can restrict us from becoming what God created us to be.  We have to “go out” before we can “enter in.”   Yeshua said it another way,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35).

Abram left Ur “as God had spoken to him,” (Gen. 12:4 NKJV) along with Sarai, Terah, his father, and with Lot, his brother’s son. The company left the bustling port of Babylon, home to the Sumerian moon god, Nanna. However, they apparently traveled as far as Haran, which boasted its own temple to the moon deity, and then stopped for some reason. How many times has God told us to do something and we got distracted along the way?

be ye separateA cursory reading of the Torah portion leads us to believe that Abram tarried in Haran until the death of his father.   However, Adelle, in an online commentary, makes the following observation:

Terah was 205 years old when he died (Gen. 11:32). Terah was 70 years old when Abram was born (Gen. 11:26).   Abram was 75 years old when he departed from Haran (Gen. 12:4).   Therefore, Terah was actually 145 years old when Abram departed from Haran.

Adelle points to Jewish sage Rashi’s observation that the wicked are considered dead even before they die.  Therefore, we must conclude with her that Terah’s “death” was actually of a spiritual nature.   Apparently, he could not bring himself to leave Haran. Therefore, Abraham, had to make the painful decision to leave him behind. This reminds me of the disciple who asked Yeshua if he could bury his father before becoming a disciple.   Yeshua answered, “Follow me, and let the dead to bury the dead.”  (Mat. 8:21-22) Today, true disciples are finding that to separate themselves from non-biblical practices often results in a painful separation from family members.

Speaking of disciples, apparently Abraham wasted no time in Haran. Even though he could not convince his father to join him, it seems he influenced a number of people to not only to believe God; but to accompany him to Canaan:

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan…(Gen 12:5)

It was undoubtedly these same “souls” who would later  accompany Abraham in the rescue of Lot’s family and possessions.

Hebrews118 by faith AbrahamNote that when Abram and Sarai left, they did not know WHERE they were to go.  Perhaps they believed God would take them to a safe and quiet place where they would not be constantly harassed. In any event, they had to pack their belongings and head out toward the UNKNOWN.

Saying goodbye to city life, they made the 500 mile arduous trek only to come to a land inhabited by the wicked descendants of Canaan, Ham’s grandson, who practiced their own version of idolatry, as we discussed last week. The land of Canaan was no more righteous than Ur or Haran. But, through Abraham and his seed, God would first redeem the land that He calls “Mine” (Lev 25:23) and then He would start the process of redeeming the whole world.

I Will Make of You a Great Nation

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.” (Gen 12:2)

According to several sources, fourth century rabbi Eleazar interpreted the words, “And in you shall the families of the earth be blessed (וְנִבְרְכוּ, venivrechu)” to teach that two good shoots would be grafted onto Abram’s family tree. If we fast-forward to the Book of Revelation, we see the ultimate fulfillment of this promise.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)

grafted in Paul addresses this in Romans chapter 11:

For if you [former Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these [Jews], the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved… (Rom 11:24-26)

Rabbi Eleazar believed the “good shoots” were Ruth the Moabitess, great-grandmother of King David, and Naamah the Ammonitess, mother of Rehoboam, whose offspring included the righteous kings Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah.  While this is certainly true, there is, of course, a much bigger picture.  Yeshua instructed His followers to

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mat 28:19-20).

“Arise, and Walk the Land…for I will give it to You.”
Givet Hamoreh
“Givet Hamoreh” (Moreh hill) south of Mount Tabor

After a long journey the family reached the “oak of Moreh” in Shechem.   “Moreh” means “teacher” and lies between the twin mountains of Ebal and Gerazim where the children of Israel, just prior to crossing the Jordan would pronounce “the blessing” for obedience and “the curse” for disobedience (Deut 11:26-32 and 27:15-26).

Shechem is a place of lush vegetation almost too beautiful to describe, according to Smith’s Bible Dictionary.  Located in the region that Joshua would grant to the tribe of Ephraim, Shechem was assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:20-21) as a place of refuge.  Shechem, an important place in history, is also where:

♦ Jacob would purchase a piece of land from Hamor;

♦ Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, would be raped (Gen. 34)

♦ Simeon and Levi would pour out their wrath in revenge for their sister and kill all of Shechem’s family (Gen. 34)

♦  Joseph would be sent to search for his brothers (Gen 37:13) before he was kidnapped;

♦ Joseph’s bones would be buried after the Israelites returned from Egypt (Joshua 24:32);

♦ Joshua would deliver his last words (Joshua 24:1-25);

♦  Jesus/Yeshua would meet the Samaritan woman (John 4:5), who left her water pot and ran back to the village to exclaim, “Come and see a man who told me everything that I ever did! Can this be Messiah? (John 4:29)

Abraham worshiping GodBut, Abraham was not shown the future of Shechem.  Of this fragrant valley Yahweh whispered, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen 12:7).  Thus Abram was informed that he had, at last, reached “the land that I will show you.”  There at Shechem, Abram built an altar to the God who was going to establish a teacher of righteousness in the land inhabited by the offspring of Noah’s cursed grandson. “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound!” (Romans 5:20)

Abram’s next stop was Bethel, which means “House of God,” where Jacob, his grandson, would dream of a ladder stretching from Heaven to earth and declare, “This is none other than Bethel [the House of God]” and vowed, saying,

“If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Gen 28:20-22)

After twenty years of being harassed in Laban’s house, God would speak again to Jacob.

“I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.” (Gen 31:13)

After the incident at Shechem with Dinah, God would say to Jacob,

“Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (Gen 35:1)

Jacob would first instruct his family,

“Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” and then he built an altar and called that place “El-Bethel” [the God of the House of God].  (Gen 35:2)

Bethel is the place where the Ark of the Covenant would rest during the days of the Judges (Judges 20:26-28). It is also the place where Jeroboam set up one of his two golden calves (1 Kings 12:29), which ultimately led to the division of Israel into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. But, of all this, to Abram, God was silent.

With Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, Abram pitched his tent in the beautiful and peaceful valley.   Ai is the place where, soon after crossing the Jordan, and after watching the walls of Jericho crumble, a contingent of Israelites soldiers would lose their lives because of the sin of Achan, who “coveted” a “beautiful cloak from Shinar” [Babylon], along with silver and gold that God had declared off limits, and hid it in his tent. (Joshua 7:1)  Joshua would order that Achan, along with all of his sons and daughters and all of their possessions, be stoned and burned in the Valley of Achor [weeping], with a large mound of stones piled up for a memorial.   Of these things, Abram was blissfully unaware; but, it wasn’t long before famine changed the lush landscape of Shechem into a parched wilderness.

Famine Interrupts

Tissot_Sarai_Is_Taken_to_Pharaoh's_Palace“So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake” (Gen 12:10-13).

I must stop now to introduce an important principle concerning the life of Abraham.   What happened to him also happened to his offspring.   The rabbis put it this way, “The deeds of the fathers are portents for the children.”   We will talk more about that this week and in upcoming lessons.The famine that Abram experienced portends or foreshadowed the famine that Isaac will endure, as well as the famine that will later confront Jacob and his family, making it necessary for his sons to travel to Egypt to seek food, and thereby intersect with the brother they had told their father was dead.  That Abram’s life was threatened by Pharaoh foreshadows Israel’s baby boys being thrown in the Nile.

In Pharaoh’s house, the womb set apart for the promised seed would not be contaminated.  Pharaoh’s household was afflicted with a disease that made sexual intercourse impossible.  Pharaoh somehow discerned that the plague meant that Sarai was Abram’s wife.  He summoned Abram, confronted him, and sent the couple out laden with livestock, silver, and gold (Gen 13:1-2),  foreshadowing another Pharaoh who would send the children of Israel out of Egypt, laden with the riches, at the Exodus.

Of Sarai’s harrowing experience with Pharaoh in Egypt, Peter comments in regard to the safety of “holy women”:

“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:5-6)

Discord Arises

When the family returned to Canaan from Egypt, there was a noticeable shift in the atmosphere as quarrels arose between Lot’s and Abram’s shepherds.  Unwilling for the Canaanites to witness the discord, Abram proposed,

“Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you?  Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Gen 13:8-9)

Perhaps Lot had been very comfortable in Egypt.  Maybe it had made him homesick for Babylon.  Maybe shepherding was not his cup of tea. In any event, relying upon human reasoning, Lot chose to live among the wicked of Sodom.

sin dead end“And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt… This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself… (Gen 13:10-11)

Next week, we will examine the result of Lot’s refusal to separate himself from wickedness. After Lot departed, God spoke again to Abram:

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.  Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (Gen 13:14-17).

Note that it was only after Abram separated himself from Lot that God pledged the land to Abraham’s seed.

“So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.”  (Gen 13:18)

It would be in Hebron where Abraham would lay to rest his beloved Sarah after the binding of Isaac.  The Cave of Machpelah [“double tombs”] would also become the final resting place for Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, and Leah. But, as Abraham walked through the land to claim it, God remained silent of these future events.

The Snare of Human Reasoning

After ten years–and still no child—Sarai became impatient and offered her Egyptian handmaid to Abram for a wife. This was a cultural norm, the equivalent of a surrogate mom today; but, definitely not God’s best in this situation. Abram “hearkened” to Sarai, as Adam had to Eve–and the results would prove to be just as bitter and longstanding. At the age of 86, Abram was finally a father. But, his rejoicing would be short-lived.

“And Hagar looked at Sarai with contempt.” (Gen 16:4)

When Sarai complained, Abram told her to do as she pleased.  Sarai treated Hagar harshly and Hagar ran away to the wilderness.  As Hagar sat by a well, the Angel of the LORD came to her and comforted her,

angel-of-the-lord-and-hagar_31“Return to your mistress and submit to her.  You have conceived and I will give you offspring without number.  You shall have a son, you shall name him Ishmael, he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Gen 16:9-13)

Note the mercy of God to Hagar.  The “Angel” not only appeared to her; but made it plain that He cared for her and her son.

When Abram was 99 years old, God spoke to him again and said,

“I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” (Gen 17:1-2)

Abraham’s response was to fall on his face.  He had heard nothing from God since Ishmael’s birth thirteen years before.

“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. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. (Gen 17:4-6)

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Gen 17:15-16)

Original pictographic letter
ancient pictographic letter “hey””

God gave new names to the couple He had handpicked to evangelize the world. By adding the Hebrew letter “hey“, which means “behold!”, as if to see something wonderful and astounding, the “exalted father” [Abram] would become the “father of a multitude” [Abraham] and the “princess” [Sarai] was transformed to a “noblewoman” [Sarah]. The writer of the Book of Hebrews points out that Sarah conceived because of her faith.

     “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”  (Heb. 11:11)

The sound of the letter hey is a soft “hah”, like the sound of breath being expelled.   Hence, we can say that God breathed on them and they were “born again.”   Remember, He had told Abraham to “walk before me and be tawmeem [blameless].”   One can only do that in the power of the Holy Spirit.

And God said to Abraham,

“As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.  You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.  He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.  Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised.  So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen 17:9-14)

When God finished speaking, Abraham took Ishmael and all of the men of his company, and along with himself, circumcised them every one.

“That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised.  And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.“ (Gen 17:26-27)

“That very day,” without hesitation, Abraham carried out God’s instruction.  The men of his camp must have highly respected Abram to allow him to do such a thing; for there is not one hint of rebellion among them.

Torah often uses physical commands to teach spiritual truths. Ultimately, God is after the circumcision of the hearts of the children of Abraham, according to Moses:

love the lord with all your heartCircumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stiff necked. (Deut 10:16)

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! (Deut. 5:29)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deut 6:5-6)

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut 30:6)

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart.”  (Jer 4:4)

It is only by the circumcision of our hearts that we will be willing to endure the discomfort, isolation, inconvenience, possible rejection and even persecution that we will encounter when we come out of Babylon and take Yeshua’s yoke upon us.  But those who dare to do so will soon find the blessed rest that He promises, even in the midst of turmoil.

Come Rest Mat 11 28Take My yoke [Torah] upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke [Torah] is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Thank God that He has breathed upon us, goaded us, corralled us, chastised us, listened to our complaining, wiped our tears, and cleaned up our messes, just like He did for Abraham and Sarah!

Thank YOU Father that you have caused us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and we cannot go back to Babylon.  Thank YOU for choosing us and keeping us, for holding us close when we did not understand.   For giving us a cycle of readings each year that takes us higher up the mountain, thank YOU!  For patient teachers and faithful shepherds, for multiple translations of the Scriptures, for the time and desire to read your Word for ourselves, thank YOU!  Thank YOU for provoking us and shaping us and striving with us.  Thank YOU for being faithful to the covenant with Abraham! And thank YOU for circumcising our hearts!

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Col 2:11-14)

Hallelujah!  We are truly the most blessed people on the planet. Until next week, shalom!

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