Monday, November 13, 2006

Parashat Vayera

I was supposed to give a Torah homily this past Saturday. Unfortunately, I woke up early in the morning violently ill. So here is what I would have delivered, had I been there.

Parashat Vayera (and He appeared)

November 11, 2006/20 Cheshvan 5767

Torah: Gen. 18:1-22:24

Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37

Brit Chadashah: Luke 1:26-38, 24:36-53(F)

In Parashat Vayera, we see a series of significant events happen, all of which, when looked at holistically, point to different aspects of the Nature of G-d. As well, there is also the recurring theme of children of promise. Three major events take place in the Torah reading. First, Sarah receives the message from G-d that she will conceive and give birth to a child. With her and her husband, Abraham, being advanced in age, she thinks this is so hilarious, that when she does give birth to their son later on in the Torah portion, he is named Isaac, which means “laughter.”

Genesis 18:13 Then the L-RD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, `Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the L-RD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son." (NIV)

Then, comes the situation with Sodom and Gommorah. The city was full of people who were immoral and inhospitable – they wanted to rape their guests. So, Abraham tries to negotiate with G-d, and G-d agrees to spare the city if even only ten righteous men can be found – alas, there are none, and the city is destroyed. Lot and his family flee, but his wife turns around to look back and is changed into a pillar of salt. Lot’s daughters become concerned about not having any men around to help perpetuate the race, so they get their father drunk and both end up having children by them. The oldest daughter has a son named Moab, of which later on Ruth is a part of this line on the way to the Davidic dynasty leading to Yeshua.

Finally, there is the binding of Isaac. After Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away, with G-d promising that Ishmael will be made into a great nation. This is the spiritual root to the contemporary problem between Israel and Palestine. Later on, when Isaac was much older, G-d tests Abraham and asks him to sacrifice his son, of course sparing Isaac in the end. It was a test to ensure that Abraham feared G-d and would spare nothing from him, not even his only son.

Gen. 22:11 But the angel of the L-RD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear G-d, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (NIV)

How does Parasha Vayera demonstrate the range and power of different attributes of G-d? Here are several ways:

1) G-d is all-powerful, and nothing is impossible with Him.

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with G-d (NIV)

The birth of Isaac is one of the earliest examples in the Bible of the miraculous birth of a child of promise. The Messianic significance of this, is the miraculous birth of Yeshua. This is especially significant because onbe of themost common Jewish objections to Yeshua is the virgin birth. Can’t happen. Not possible. Well, an 80-something woman and a 100 year old man having a child is also not something within the realm of worldly possibility.

As well, when I first delivered a Drash (a Torah teaching sermon) on Parashat Vayera a couple of years ago, someone came up to me after the service and thought it was the one of the most revolutionary things she had ever heard, relating the birth of Isaac to the birth of Yeshua. But it really isn’t. G-d establishes precedents throughout the Bible, which build upon each other. For example, most of the teachings of Yeshua are based upon the Torah – He is just expounding upon them. And likewise with Yeshua being a child of promise, there are other examples in the Bible of children of promise, Isaac being one of them. The Haftarah also discusses a child of promise, that of the Shunammite woman’s son, who later dies and is brought back to life by G-d.

2 Kings 4:33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the L-rd. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. (NIV)

2) G-d is compassionate and just. When Abraham pleaded with G-d not to destroy Sodom, if there had been even one righteous man there, He would not have.

3) G-d, although he is in control, has given us the gift of free will. We are not moved about like pawns on a chessboard. It’s a lot easier to blame G-d than to accept out own responsibility in a situation where things go wrong. When really, all that happened was instead of relying on G-d and trusting Him, we took matters into our own hands. Look what happened to a righteous man like Abraham. Ishmael was the result of his impatience and lack of faith. G-d will always lead us in the right direction – if we give up trying to be in control, and give that control to Him.

4) G-d demands our obedience, even to the point of sometimes testing our faith. G-d tested Abraham, by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. We are often tested in our faith walk, especially when things are rough. It’s easy to have faith when things are going well, but the true test of faith is when we cling to Him when things are not going so well.

5) G-d wants us to turn our backs to sin – not turn back to sin. G-d sent angels to advise Lot and his family to leave and not look back, but Lot’s wife, for whatever reason, turned back around. In Yeshua, our sins are forgiven. There is no point in looking back on them – G-d has forgotten them, and so should we.

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