"and He appeared"
Our par’sha this week is entitled V’yera, which means and he appeared. The par’sha opens with these words in B’reshith 18.1 as Y’H’V’H appeared to Avraham. It continues through the next five chapters, concluding with the story of the Akeidah, the binding of Yitz’chaq in B’reshith chapter twenty-two. As we have discussed in the past, the chapters and verses found in most bibles were not originally in the Hebrew text and they sometimes interrupt the flow of the Hebrew text.
In chapter seventeen Avram was given the command to walk before El Shaddai and be blameless. He agreed, his name was changed and he, his descendants and his seed were given the commandment that all the males of Yisrael are to be circumcised. Avraham immediately complied and at the age of ninety-nine, was circumcised - along with all the males of his household. The next thing we are told is that when he had fulfilled the commandment regarding circumcision, Y’H’V’H appeared to him while he was sitting in his tent door during the heat of the day.18.1 Avraham was truly rewarded for his obedience.
Avraham’s actions in chapters seventeen and eighteen are the result of something that was an integral part of his life: his faith in Y’H’V’H. We learned in B’reshith 15.6 that Avraham believed in Y’H’V’H, and He (Y’H’V’H) reckoned it to him (Avram) as righteousness.
Righteousness is translated from ts’daqah צְדָקָה, from the shoresh צדק. In Hebrew this refers to one who is in right-standing with Y’H’V’H. In Sh’mot 23.7 it refers to someone who is dutiful to fulfill Y’H’V’H’s will. In Mishle 11.6 we are told, The righteousness of the straight ones delivers them. Straight ones is from יְשָׁרִים, which means upright. It is the basis for the word Yeshurun in D’varim 32.15.
Righteousness is one of the direct results of belief, which is sometimes translated as faith. In B’reshith 15.6 the word believed is translated from he’emin הֶאֱמִן. The shoresh of this word is אמן, to depend or rely upon. This is not only the core message of this week’s par’sha and haftarah readings, it is at the heart of our walk before Elohim through our Messiah. We must learn to depend upon Elohim.
Before we look at what faith/belief should produce in our own lives, we need to understand what faith really means to the person striving to follow in the Messiah’s footsteps.
To get a better understanding of faith - emunah - we need to consider some of the verses that use this word. For instance:
In B’midbar 12.7 it is translated to mean being trustworthy: In referring to Mosheh Y’H’V’H said, Not so with My servant Mosheh, he is trustworthy in all My house.
In D’varim 28.59 it means lasting: then יהוה shall bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary plagues, great and lasting plagues, and grievous and lasting sicknesses. Lasting is from the shoresh אמן.
B’midbar 5.22: it is translated to mean a confirmation of the terms of a declaration, or amen. …and this water that causes the curse shall go into your inward parts, and make your belly swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amĕn, amĕn.”
Sh’mot 34.6, T’hillim 119.30 and 146.6: it is translated as truth. Maker of the heavens and earth, The sea and all that is in them, Who is guarding truth forever,146.6
As you can see, faith is more than just believing. Faith produces works and develops for us a way of life. Ya’akov wrote, So also belief (faith), if it does not have works, is in itself dead.2.17 Faith makes us trustworthy before Y’H’V’H and it is a trustworthiness that lasts; it stands the test of time. If order for trust to be useful, it must be lasting and consistent. Faith is an affirmation of our belief and our devotion to fulfill our vows before Y’H’V’H. And faith is truth - undeniable and unchangeable truth. Faith is not wishful thinking.
The Navi Habaqquq wrote, the righteous shall live by his faith and the author of Ivrim declared that without faith it is impossible to please Elohim.11.6
Faith has to be more than just believing in Y’H’V’H and the Messiah. Faith/belief is a way of life built on learning to trust Y’H’V’H and His Word and this was the faith that was evident throughout Avraham’s life.
Avraham’s faith led to obedience and his obedience led to Y’H’V’H appearing to Avraham at the Oaks of Mamre, which is Hebron. It was his faith that led him to live a life that caused Y’H’V’H to declare, For I have known him, so that he commands his children and his household after him, to guard the way of Y’H’V’H, to do righteousness and right-ruling, so that Y’H’V’H brings to Avraham what He has spoken to him.18.19 Seeing Y’H’V’H, standing in His presence, takes faith - a lifetime of it.
Being a man of faith and obedience, as well as a man who knew Y’H’V’H, gave Avraham the confidence he needed to draw near to Y’H’V’H and ask Him, Would You also destroy the righteous with the wrong?18.23
The faith that led Avraham to obey Y’H’V’H also gave him the understanding he needed to intercede for others - even those he knew were not living in covenant with Elohim. It gave him the confidence he needed to stand before Y’H’V’H and say, Far be it from You to act this way, to slay the righteous with the wrong, so that the righteous should be as the wrong. Far be it from You! Does the Judge of all the earth not do right?18.25 Avraham didn’t sin by speaking this way with Y’H’V’H. Y’H’V’H Himself has said, Come now, let us reason together…Yesh.1.18
It was also his faith that allowed him to accept Y’H’V’H’s final decision regarding the people in he cities in the plain of the Yarden.
In perhaps one of his greatest displays of his faith, Avraham obeyed Y’H’V’H and took his son to the mountains of Moriah to offer him as an ascending offering on one of the mountains Y’H’V’H would command him.22.2 Because of his unwavering faith, Y’H’V’H gave on oath to Avraham. He told our patriarch, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son,…I shall certainly bless you, and I shall certainly increase your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore, and let your seed possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.22.16-18 Today every one of us has benefited because of Avraham’s faith and obedience and through us, others can be blessed as well.
The results of our faith should never be underestimated; not because of us, but because of the Elohim we serve.
There are more lessons about faith that really stand out in both the Torah portion and the Haftarah reading. One is that our faith doesn’t have to perfect to be effective. Our Father understands our fears, our concerns and our weaknesses and rather that punish us for them, He uses them to glorify His Name. According to Shaul, it is when we are weak that we are really strong.2Cor. 12.10 Faith enables us to overcome doubt and fear and go on to accomplish that which our Father has created us to do. Avraham knew times of worry, even doubt.
When a famine caused him to leave Kena’an for Mitsrayim, he was afraid he would be killed because of Sarah was so beautiful. In his fear, he asked her to tell everyone she was his sister.
When El Shaddai told Avraham that he and Sarah would have a son together, Avraham fell on his face and laughed. Could a one-hundred year old man and a ninety-year old woman really have a child together?
Even Avraham had moments.
Our Haftarah portion from M’lakim Bet tells the story a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the nevi’im.4.1 Her husband had died and he was left to raise her two sons alone. Now the creditors were coming to take her sons to be his slaves. When she approached Elisha he told her to gather all the empty pots she could borrow, go into her house, shut the door and she and her sons were to pour the one pot of oil she had into the empty pots. This woman, who is not named, acted in faith and did as Elisha had told her to do. The oil continued to flow until every pot was filled. She sold all the oil to pay her debts and and had enough left to live off of. Faith works.
We find the story of the Shunammite woman in this same chapter. Her story doesn’t start out as a story of faith, but one of service. She realized Elisha was a set-apart man of Elohim4.9 and noticed that he continually passed by their home. She asked her husband if they could convert a small upper room into a guest room for Elisha to use whenever he passed by - and they did.
Because of her compassion, Elisha told her that about this time next year she would embrace a son. This woman, who is also not named, didn’t believe Elisha - at least at first. She asked Elisha not to lie to her, but later she did conceive and give birth to a son - despite her initial doubt.
Some time later her son died - but not her faith. She asked her husband to have a servant saddle a donkey so that she could hurry to the man of Elohim and return. Her husband was curious as to why she was going to Elisha since it was neither the new moon nor the Sabbath, but her only reply was, It is well. Faith in action.
When Elisha sent Gechazi to meet her and he asked if everything was well, she again replied, It is well. This wasn’t a desperate woman crying out, hoping Elisha could help her; this was a woman acting on her faith and through her faith she was able to take her son home with her: alive and well.
We also see the faith of Elisha at work in this story. When he arrived at the woman’s house, he saw the child was dead. But he went in, shut the door and prayed to Y’H’V’H. As Elisha laid down on the child, the child’s flesh became warm. Elisha walked around the house, returned to the child’s room and laid down upon him once again. This time the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.4.35 The faith of righteous men and women produces results.
And faith can also see us through the trials of this life. Avraham faced a number of trials, or tests, in his life.
Y’H’V’H commanded him to leave his father’s house and his land for a land he didn’t know. We can only imagine the uncertainties Avraham faced in making such a journey.
Soon after arriving in the land Y’H’V’H had brought him to Avraham was forced to leave the land because of a severe scarcity of food.
In Mitsrayim Sarah was taken from him and forced to live in the Pharaoh’s house.
Upon returning to the land, he and Lot were forced to part ways and soon after Avraham found himself and all 318 of his trained servants fighting the armies of the kings of the north in order to rescue Lot and the rest of the people who had been captured from the cities of the Yarden.
As much as he loved Yishma’el, Y’H’V’H commanded him to send him and his mother away.
While living in Gerar, Sarah was again taken from him. This time by Avi’melek.
Then came what may have been the hardest of all his trials. Y’H’V’H commanded Avraham to offer Yitzchaq to Him as an ascending offering. We can only imagine the questions that came to Avraham over the next three days as they traveled to Moriah. Y’H’V’H had promised him a son with Sarah and that their seed would become as numerous as the stars in the heavens. His seed would become a great nation, but now he was to offer his son as a slaughter offering to Y’H’V’H. How could this be? Avraham knew he had to trust and obey Y’H’V’H even if he didn’t understand how Y’H’V’H would accomplish all He had promised him. He simply believed that He would.
Faith doesn’t help us avoid the trials and tribulations of this life - it brings us through them and into Y’H’V’H’s promises.
Another lesson is simply that faith in Elohim works.
By faith, Chanok was translated so as not to see death. Is this possible for others? The Messiah stated, Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone guards My word he shall never see death at all.Yochanan 8.51 How is this possible? Can someone who has the testimony of Messiah and guards Yah’s commandments die without ever seeing death? I don’t know, but I trust - I have faith - in the Messiah’s promise even if I don’t understand how He will fulfill it.
By faith, Noach escaped the great flood of his day - and saved his family as well - not to mention all the animals aboard the Ark.
By faith Sarah conceived and bore the son Y’H’V’H promised she and Avraham would have.
By faith, Yoseph told the children of Yisra’el that when Y’H’V’H delivered them from Mitsrayim, they were to take his bones with them back into the land of their inheritance.
By faith, Mosheh returned to Mitsrayim and led the children of Yisra’el and the mixed multitude out of slavery and bondage.
By faith, the walls of Yericho fell
And what of the faith of Gideon, Baraq, Shimson, Yiphtach, Da’vid, Sh’lo’mo, Kepha, Steven and all the nevi’im? Think of all they were able to accomplish through trusting and obeying Y’H’V’H.
And above all, consider the faith of our Messiah.
The author of Sefer Ivrim wrote, But without belief - faith - it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to Elohim has to believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him.11.6
There is a difference between hope and faith, or belief. Hope is from מִקְוֶה (the shoresh is קוה) which means to wait for or to look eagerly for. We hope for the Messiah’s return and our resurrection, but this hope is not based on wishful thinking. Our hope is based on His Word and His Promises. Because we trust in His promises, we spend our time eagerly awaiting His return, not hoping that it will happen.
Faith, belief, is for today, not tomorrow or the day after. Faith is trusting Y’H’V’H, the Messiah and their promises. Faith enables us to overcome adversity and fulfill that which Y’H’V’H and the Messiah have called us to do - today.
Faith doesn’t have to be perfect before it can be effective. In fact, the more we walk in faith, the more we exercise our faith, the stronger it becomes. And the stronger our faith becomes the more we can accomplish, the more we can do the works of our Messiah and even more of them.
The Messiah once told His talmidim that it is inevitable that stumbling-blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone is put around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumbles. Take heed to yourselves. If you brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day he comes back to saying, ‘I repent’, you shall forgive him. And the emissaries said to the Master, ‘Give us more belief/faith’. And the Master said, ‘If you have belief as a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea’, and it would obey you.Luqas 17.1-6
Rebuking others takes faith, so does forgiving them.
Let me encourage all of us today to rethink our faith - our belief in Elohim, our Messiah and the Torah. What is your faith accomplishing today? We need to start exercising our faith. We need to stop confusing faith with wishful thinking. Faith is for today. Faith produces the works our Father desires. Join me in praying that the Master will, Give us more belief - and then trust Him to do so. When He returns let Him find us doing what He called us to do.
18 Cheshvan 5776
31 October 2015