"and He appeared"
(15 Cheshvan 5775 - 8 November 2014)
Our par’sha this week is V’yera, spanning B’reshith 18.1 through 22.24. After fulfilling Y-H-V-H’s command to circumcise himself and all of the men in his household, we find Avraham sitting in his tent during the heat of the day. Tradition teaches this was the third day after his circumcision, which is usually the most painful day following this procedure.
Avraham was living by the terebinth trees of Mamre near Hevron23.19. He had first settled at Mamre when he and Lot had separated after returning from Mitsrayim.Bre.13.18 Lot had chosen the fertile land in the plain of the Yarden and Avraham had settled in Mamre. He was living there when the news came that Lot, his family, the people of Sedom and Amorah and all their livestock had been taken captive after war had broken out between some of the kings of the north and the kings of the area where Lot had settled. There is no mention of Avram moving from Mamre before Y-H-V-H appeared to him, commanding him to walk before Him and be perfect.17.1 Now, as he was recuperating from his circumcision, Y-H-V-H once again appeared to Avraham in Mamre.
The word appeared in chapter eighteen, verse one is translated from v’yera וַיֵרָא, which means to look, see and understand, and is the same word translated as appeared in the first verse of chapter seventeen. When Avraham lifted his eyes and looked, and saw three men standing opposite him, he understood the significance of these three men and ran to meet them. He first addressed them as Adonay18.3 and Scripture identifies one of these three as Y-H-V-H.vs.13,17,20,22,26. Later in this same chapter Avraham also addressed one of these three men as Y-H-V-H.vs.30,31,32
Avraham asks the three men not to pass him by. He offered them water to wash their feet, a place to rest and some bread before they continued their journey, whatever their journey might be, adding, for this is why you have come to your servant. At this time it doesn’t appear that Avraham had any idea as to the nature of their visit. He was simply honored for the opportunity to serve them. It is only as this story unfolds that we learn of the magnitude of their visit.
They quickly reveal to Avraham one of the reasons they had come. They asked about Sarah, referring to her by her new name, and told Avraham Sarah was going to give him a son. This was not the first time Avraham had been informed of this. When Y-H-V-H had first told Avraham that he and Sarah were going to have a childAvraham had fallen on his face and laughed at the idea.17.17 Now it was Sarah’s time to laugh, though she denied she had laughed.18.15
Let me ask you: has anyone ever told you that Y-H-V-H had a purpose for you and your life and your response was to laugh in disbelief? If so, perhaps you should consider what Y-H-V-H said to Sarah when she laughed: Is any matter too hard for Y-H-V-H?18.14 After all, it’s not about what you can do, it’s what He can do through you and in that - nothing is impossible.
As the men prepared to leave, Y-H-V-H asked the others, Shall I hide from Avraham what I am doing. He explained to them that Avraham was:
certainly to become a great and mighty nation.
and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him BECAUSE:
Avraham commands his children and his household to guard the way of Y-H-V-H
to do righteousness and right-ruling AND
because the outcry against Sedom and Amorah is great and their sin is very heavy.
This is a very revealing passage and in it we learn at least two things regarding the nations of this world.
Avraham’s seed (zera) shall become a great, mighty nation לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וְעָצוּם. This nation, Isra’el, became - and remains - the people of Elohim. We are His treasured possession above all the nations of the earth - and that is the point: there are other nations on the face of the earth.
Avraham is also the father of many nations, not just of Isra’el, and these nations reflect at least some of Avraham’s ways and beliefs, but choose not to fully graft into the great and mighty nation that is above all the other nations. (Ashshur, Mitsrayim, Tarshish, Pul, Yawan, etc?Yesh. 66.19)
And, of course, there are and have been other nations in the world that do not share or reflect any of Avraham’s beliefs and practices. It may be that the cities of Sedom, Amorah, Tseboyim and Admah were examples of and foreshadowings of these nations. If so, Lot’s redemption from these cities may also be a foreshadowing of Y-H-V-H’s gathering His people from the nations of the world at the end of this age.
We should also consider why Avraham merited a personal visit from Y-H-V-H and received such a high calling on his life. Y-H-V-H Himself explains why: because He knew Avraham and knew he commanded his children and his household to obey the commands and way of Y-H-V-H. How many of you would like a personal visit from Y-H-V-H and the opportunity to do more for Him? How many would like to be the witness Avraham was? Our Father and our Messiah both teach us how this can happen. We must:
command, not just teach, our children and our households to obey Y-H-V-H’s word and guard His commands.
and we must do them ourselves. Remember what the Messiah said He would one day say to those who gave lip-service to believing in and serving Him: I never knew you, depart from Me, you who work lawlessness!Matt. 7.23 Melek Da’vid once said almost the same thing: Depart fromMe, all you workers of wickedness.T’hllim 6.8
The truth is, not only can we be the same witness to the world around us as Avraham was and produce the same works - the Messiah commands us to do so and even more. We are to do the works of the Messiah and Scripture tells us how and where we must come to in order to accomplish these works.
But back to the story…Judgment was coming to the plains of the Yarden - that lush, rich land that resembled Gan Eden during Avraham’s time. Judgment was coming because the outcry against Sedom and Amorah was great and their sin was heavy.18.20 We infer from the story that their transgressions included sins of sexual immorality, but we are also told of specific sins. In Yechezqel 16.49-50 Y-H-V-H declared, the crookedness of your sister Sedom: she and her daughter had pride, sufficiency of bread and unconcerned ease, and yet she did not help the poor and needy. And they were haughty and did abomination before Me.
It was this sort of sin, much like we see in the world today, that sent the two messengers on their way to Sedom, but Y-H-V-H still stood before Avraham.18.22 Depending on their beliefs and associations, people will argue exactly who it was that stood before Avraham that day. Some will say this was simply another messenger. Some, based on the fact that Y-H-V-H Elohim is invisible - at least to human eyes - will offer no explanation and others believe this was the Messiah. If so, it gives a much better understanding of Y’hoshua’s claim to the Yehudim that He was before Avraham.Yn.8.58
And now we find another reason for Y-H-V-H’s appearing to Avraham: the outcry against Sedom and Amorah had become so great and their sin so heavy, that He had decided to intervene. But who brought this outcry before the heavenly courts? In Shoftim 4.10 this same shoresh זעק is translated as called and used when Barak called ten thousand men from Zebulun and Naphtali to march against the army of Yabin. This suggests that this outcry was also a call for action.
In Sefer Iyov we read that the day came to be that the sons of Elohim came to present themsevles before Y-H-V-H, and ha’satan also came among them. And Y-H-V-H said to ha’satan, ‘From where do you come?’ And ha’satan answered Y-H-V-H, ‘From diligently searching the earth, and from walking up and down in it.1.6-7 There is a traditional belief that this particular day is an annual event - a day when the heavenly courts are convened and Y-H-V-H sits in judgment over this Creation. If this tradition has any merit, it may well be that Y-H-V-H’s appearance with two of His messengers was in response to what had been decreed in the courts concerning Sedom and the other cities. But why appear to Avraham? Could it be that Y-H-V-H is constantly searching for men and women who will eagerly intercede on behalf of those who have rejected or been blinded to the Truth? Could their intercession make a difference and, if so, in who?
Upon learning of Y-H-V-H’s intentions regarding Sedom and Amorah, Avraham asked a question that is still relevant for today: Would Y-H-V-H destroy the righteous with the wrongvs.23? The answer is revealed as Avraham argues on behalf of these cities if only a few righteous men could be found in them and what happens with Lot. The answer is a resounding No, He won’t, but the righteous can only save themselves. As Y-H-V-H later explained to Yechezqel, when a land sins against Me to trespass and I stretch out My hand against it…even though these three men, Noach, Dani’el and Iyov, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness…”14.13-14 And so, in what is certainly a foreshadowing of end-time events, the messengers were sent to bring the righteous out of Sedom before the cities were destroyed.
Unfortunately, not everyone who was called to come out of Sedom answered the call. Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t believe Lot and remained in the city. Then, as Lot and his family left the city, his wife ignored the messengers command, looked back at the city and was turned into a post of salt.vs.26 Even Lot didn’t have the strength to escape all the way to the mountains, but there was a city of refuge nearby, Tso’ar, that he found shelter in until the destruction was complete.
Lot and his daughters did eventually make it to the mountains. They had witnessed the destruction of the four cities from the safety of Tso’ar, so they knew that the entire world had not been destroyed. This makes his daughters decision to have children with their father even more difficult to understand. Even so, two nations were born from them: the Moabites and the Ammonites. Were these two of the nations that should be considered among the nations Avraham would be the father of, but still not a part of the great and mighty nation his seed would become?
After witnessing the destruction of Sedom and Amorah, Avraham’s trials continued. In chapter twenty we learn that after the smoke from the destroyed cities, Avraham took his household and moved from Mamre to Gerar. Although no reason is given for the move, this may be another indication of Avraham’s desire to make Y-H-V-H’s name known to the people around him. With only Tso’ar left in the area of the Yarden, Avraham moved to another city. This is also the second time we find Avraham explaining that Sarah was his sister (well, half-sister) while neglecting to tell the rest of the story - she was also his wife.
In chapter twenty-one Y-H-V-H visited Sarah and did for Sarah as He had spoken.21.1 Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son at the appointed time. Avraham circumcised Yits’chaq on the eighth day and soon after Avraham was faced with another of his many trials in life: he was commanded to send Hagar and Yishma’el away. In verses eleven and twelve (ch. 21)we are told that Sarah’s request to send Hagar and Yishma’el away was evil in the eyes of Avraham, but Elohim told Avraham not to let it be evil in his eyes. Evil in these passages is translated from the shoresh ra’ah which refers to breaking. Avraham loved Yishma’el and it was heart-breaking to have to send him and his mother away - heart-breaking, but necessary.
Y-H-V-H comforted Avraham by reassuring him that although he was sending Yishma’el away, He would also make Yishma’el’s descendants into a great nation, because Yishma’el was also his seed.vs.13 In this passage we learn that Avraham produced two kinds of seed. One would become a great, mighty nation while the other would be a wild man. His hand would be against everyone and everyone’s hand would be against him. He would also dwell over against his brothers.B’reshith 16.12 Today we are able to see the fulfillment of Y-H-V-H’s promises to Avraham.
B’reshith chapter twenty-two is perhaps one of the most prophetic books of the entire sefer. It tells the story of the Akeidah - the binding of Yitz’chaq in the mountains of Moriyah. We studied this event several times in the past, but there is one aspect in particular I would like to consider in this midrash. As Avraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son, the Messenger of Y-H-V-H called out to him from the heavens. He told him not to harm Yitz’chaq and then, in verses fifteen through eighteen, the Messenger of Y-H-V-H calls to Avraham a second time, saying:
By Myself (the Messenger of Y-H-V-H) I have sworn, declares Y-H-V-H, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, that 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 gates of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.
Once again the message is clear: Avraham is the father of many nations, but only one nation - those who are of his seed and producing the same fruits - becomes the great and mighty nation, the treasured possession of Y-H-V-H above all the nations of the earth. Today, the invitation to graft into and become a part of this great and mighty nation remains open to all who will answer His call and come out of the Sedom’s and Amorah’s of this world, but you can’t come just part of the way. How long will this invitation last? According to Sha’ul, until the fulness of the gentiles have come inRomans 11.25, but only Y-H-V-H knows when that will be. When Ya’akov blessed and adopted Yosef’s two sons as his own he declared that Ephrayim’s seed was (is) to become the completeness of the gentiles (nations).B’re. 48.19
In this afternoon’s study we are going to take a deeper look at what it means to become a part of this great and mighty nation Y-H-V-H promised Avraham would come from his seed, but for now, the question is - which of the nations have you chosen to become a part of? While it is true that grafting into Isra’el demands much more of one’s time and obedience, the rewards so greatly outweigh the demands as to not even be a consideration. It would stand to reason - and I think this afternoon’s study will reveal - that while the demands of being counted among the nations are not as great as those of Isra’el - the rewards are not as great either.
Let me encourage you today if you are struggling with your place in the world to stop struggling. Don’t concern yourself with our place in the world: be far more concerned with your place in His kingdom. Will be join yourself to Avraham’s seed, Isra’el, or be content to be among one of the nations he is the father of? The time for you to decide is growing shorter day-by-day, so don’t wait too long to decide.
15 Cheshvan 5775
8 November 2014