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Parashat Lekh Lekha - Quick Summary

Weekly Torah Reading

Parashat Lekh-Lekha ("Go forth, yourself!")

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Parashat

Torah

Haftarah

Brit Chadashah

Lekh-Lekha
 

Genesis 12:1-17:27

Isaiah 40:27-41:16

Rom. 4:1-25; Gal. 4:21-5:1; Heb. 7

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Torah Reading Snapshot:

Last week's parashah (Noach) showed how the LORD miraculously preserved Noah and his family from cataclysmic judgment. Just as there were ten generations from Adam to Noah, so there were also ten generations from Noah to Abram. And just as Noah became the father of 70 nations, so Abram would become the father of the Jewish people, through whom the Promised Seed - the Mashiach and Savior of the world - would eventually come.

The parashah begins:

Avraham Avinu
Genesis 12:1 (BHS)

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." (Gen. 12:1)

Abram was 75 years old, married to (his half-sister) Sarai, and guardian of his nephew Lot (his deceased brother Haran's son) when he received the promise of divine inheritance. In obedience to God's call, he left Haran, journeyed to the land of Canaan, and there built an altar to the LORD (between Bethel and Ai).

He then journeyed south, toward the Negev, when his faith was immediately tested.  A famine in the Promised Land forced him to leave for Egypt, where he conspired with Sarai to pretend to be brother and sister (rather than husband and wife) so that he would not be killed for her sake. Sure enough, Sarai was taken to Pharaoh's palace to be part of the royal harem, and the Pharaoh gave Abram livestock, camels and servants for her sake. However, the LORD sent "great plagues" to Pharaoh's household until it was known that the reason for the trouble was that Sarai was Abram's wife.  Pharaoh then released Sarai and dismissed Abram with his all his possessions.

After Abram returned to the land of Canaan, Lot separated from him and chose to settle in the evil city of Sodom, where he became a captive during the war of Chedorlaomer (and his three allies) against the five cities of the Sodom Valley. Upon learning that his nephew was a prisoner, Abram set out with a small band and rescued him, defeating the four kings on account of divine intervention on his behalf.

After his victory over the kings of the earth, Abram was met by the mysterious Melchizedek (i.e., Malki-Tzedek: מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק), the King of Salem and priest of the Most High God (El Elyon), who brought him bread and wine, and who blessed him as follows:

Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand
- Malki-Tzedek (Gen 14:19-20)

Malki-Tzedek is further mentioned by King David (Psalm 110:4) and is clearly a picture of the Greater Son of David Himself, who is described as our great Kohen Gadol (High Priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek (Hebrews 5:10, 6:20; 7:1-28).  It was to Malki-Tzedek that Abram (and by extension, the Levitical system instituted by his descendant Moses) gave ma'aser (tithes) and homage -- and rightly so, since Yeshua is the great High Priest of the better covenant based on better promises from the LORD (Hebrews 8:6). Indeed, Yeshua is Himself the Promised Seed of Abraham who saves the world from the kelalah (curse) caused by Adam's transgression. It is profoundly prophetic how Abram was met by the Coming One as the Priest of the Most High God, and how He gave him the very tokens of bread and wine - the very commemorative emblems Yeshua gave to His disciples as a witness of His death for their sins (1 Cor 11:23-26).

Abram was then given a vision from the Word of the LORD (devar-Adonai) wherein he was reassured that, despite his great age, he would father a child and indeed be the forefather of a great multitude of people. "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:5-6).

The LORD then sealed His promise to Abram with the (unilateral) "Covenant Between the Parts" (בְּרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים) and then foretold of the 400 year long exile of Israel (in Egypt). Nevertheless, the LORD swore to give to his descendants the Promised Land, which extended "from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates."

Ten years passed, and Abram and Sarai were still childless.  In a lapse of faith, Sarai urged Abram to sleep with her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, in order to produce the family heir. Abram agreed, but soon afterward Hagar became disrespectful toward her mistress and finally fled the family when Sarai began treating her harshly. However, the Angel of the LORD (malakh Adonai) intervened and told her to return to Sarai. Indeed, the Angel told her that she was pregnant with a son, called Ishmael ("God will hear"), who would be the forefather of a great nation. Hagar believed the promise, returned home, and called the LORD El Roi (the God who sees me). Abram was 86 years old when his son was born.

Another thirteen years passed, Abram was now 99 years old, and the LORD appeared to him again to reaffirm His covenant promise to make him the father of a multitude of nations. The LORD symbolized His commitment by renaming Abram ("exalted father") to Abraham ("father of multitudes") - adding the letter Hey to his name. The LORD also changed Sarai's name ("princess") to Sarah ("noblewoman"), and again promised that a son would be born to them. Upon hearing this, Abraham laughed, and wondered how a man who was 100 years old might father a child with a woman who was 90, but the LORD told him that the promised child - whose name would be called Yitzchak ("he laughs") - would be Abraham's rightful heir with whom the LORD would establish His covenant.


 

The parashah concludes with the LORD commanding Abraham to circumcise himself and his offspring throughout the generations as a sign of the covenant made between them.

Haftarah Reading Snapshot:

The Haftarah for Lekh Lekha comes from the prophet Isaiah. In the Parashah, it is clear that the youth of Abraham and Sarah is supernaturally restored to them, as they become the conduits of the Promised Seed despite the ravages of old age.  Likewise in the Haftarah, those who wait upon the LORD are said to "renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Rashi writes concerning the "wormlike" quality ascribed to Jacob: "Why was Israel compared to a worm?  To say to you - just as a worm devastates a tree with its mouth, even though it is soft and the tree is hard, so too, Israel, with the power of prayer, will overcome their enemies who are strong like trees." Other of the Chaz'l (sages) have said that the "worm" here is not a metaphor for the Jews but rather a symbol of the ultimate source of despair - death. God will save His people from even this.

Indeed.  Yeshua is the Mashiach who saves His people Israel from their sins - and from the ultimate verdict of sin, namely, death. He is the "First and the Last" and there is no other Savior beside Him. All Israel needs to embrace Him as their long lost Savior and LORD.  It is by means of His high priestly work as the Kohen Gadol of the Brit Chadashah that all Israel, indeed, the entire world, is saved.

Brit Chadashah Snapshot:

Avraham Avinu, our father Abraham, was justified by faith in the promises of the LORD - not by works - and indeed the ritual of circumcision (brit milah) was instituted after he was declared righteous by means of his unswerving trust in the LORD to fulfill His promises.

In the Book of Galatians, the Apostle Paul appeals to those who wish to remain under the Torah of Moses to consider what the Torah has to say regarding Abraham's two sons, Ishmael, the child of a slave woman, and Isaac, the child of a free woman. For Ishmael was born "according to the flesh," that is, by means of human design and effort, whereas Isaac was born through the promise and power of God. Here Paul further states that Hagar represents the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, which bears children for slavery, since her children are those who respond with the aspiration: "all the words which the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex. 24:3; Deut. 5:27), whereas Sarah represents the covenant God made with Israel through the Child of Promise, Yeshua, who bears children who are free and inheritors of the grace of God.

The reading from the book of Hebrews explains how Yeshua is the great High Priest of the LORD's New Covenant. As Kohen Gadol after the order of Malki-Tzedek, Yeshua's right to office springs from the oath of God, and not through physical descent or carnal ministrations performed in an earthly Temple.  Indeed, if salvation had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (as the ceremonial expression of the Torah of Moses), then there would have been no need for Him to become our Intercessor before God.  But through His sacrifice on our behalf, a better hope is introduced, and that is how we draw near to God.

When Yeshua died, it was reported that the parochet (veil) that separated Hakodesh (the holy place) from the Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies) - the most sacred part of the entire Temple - was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). Only the Kohen Gadol was permitted to pass beyond the parochet once each year (during Yom Kippur) to make atonement for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). Yeshua's sacrifice for us opened the way into the true Presence of God for those who come to trust in Him.


Note about Justification by Faith

Some Christians might be surprised to learn that the idea of "justification by faith" is not unfamiliar to Jewish theology (and certainly was not first proclaimed through Martin Luther or any of the other "Reformers").  For example, the Talmud (Makkot 23b-24a) says, "Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to eleven (Psalm 15), Isaiah to six (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah to three (Micah 6:8), Isaiah reduced them again to two (Isaiah 56:1); but it was Habakkuk who gave the one essential commandment: v'tzaddik be'emunato yich'yeh, literally, "the righteous, by his faithfulness - shall live" (Hab. 2:4). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul had likewise distilled the various commandments of the Torah to this same principle of faith (see Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, and Heb. 10:38).

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