Lech L’cha- “Go Forth”

The Parasha for this week is Lech Lecha – which means “Go Forth Yourself”, and covers Genesis 12:1-17:27 – the call of Abraham. At this time his name was still called Abram. God instructs Abram to go forth from his country. Adonai tells him to leave behind his relatives and his father’s house and go to a land that will be shown to him. The Lord says to Abram “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you and those who curse you, I will curse also.” So Abram, who has great faith in God, obeys by leaving his homeland and all that he has ever known. Abram takes his wife, his personal belongings, his servants, and Lot, the son of his brother Haran.

At that time, the city of Haran worshiped idols. God removed Abram from that area and its pagan, polytheistic influence, and Abram faithfully followed. He set out for the land of Canaan. The Lord appeared to Abram and said “to your descendants I will give this land.” So what did Abram do? He built an altar there for the Lord (something we will see Abram do frequently).

Sometime later, there is a famine in the land. Abram travels to Egypt. He is a faithful man who loves and worships only God, but he is still a sinner. He makes mistakes. Abram’s wife, Sarai, is very beautiful, and Abram fears that Pharaoh will desire Sarai and kill Abram to get her. So Abram instructs Sarai to say that she is his sister. Now Sarai is Abram’s half-sister, however, Abram is not exactly being truthful. It was unnecessary to lie, since the One who had guided him safely from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan could also be trusted to protect them in Egypt. Pharaoh takes Sarai into his house, and God is not pleased. God sends a plague on Egypt. Pharaoh realizes that this is due to Sarai. Pharaoh releases Sarai to Abram and instructs them to get out of town. Abram and Sarai are escorted out.

As Abram and his nephew Lot travel from Egypt back to the Negev, they move as far as Bethel – back to his original destination prior to the famine. Abram and Lot have each been blessed by God. They have a multitude of wealth and livestock. The herdsmen of Abram and Lot begin to quarrel. They are running out of pasture land. Abram approaches Lot and suggests an agreeable separation. He offers Lot first choice of land.

There is a life lesson here. We have choices, but we do not often choose wisely. When Lot looks over the land near Sodom, he sees that it is lush and beautiful and has potential for increased wealth. Lot chooses that land in spite of its well-known reputation for wickedness. Abram moves to another location. God had previously told Abram that all the land in Canaan would be his and his descendants as far as his eyes could see throughout all the generations. Yet, Abram allows Lot the choice land and he moves on. How often do we choose selfishly? When someone gives us a choice – do we take the best or do we decide to bless the other person? This scenario shows us the character of Abram and Lot. Was Lot an unrighteous man for taking the choice land? Twice in the years ahead Lot would have to be rescued from that place: once by Abraham when he was taken captive during the war of the kings and the second time by direct intervention of angels. Yet, we read that God rescued Lot because he was the only righteous man in that city. Lot had faith in God. Was he worthy? No, but he did have faith. In examining our lives and character, are we more like Abram or Lot? Neither were perfect, but their choices did reflect their character.

Years later, war arises between the kings of that region; Lot is taken prisoner with the rest of the group. One man escapes and tells “Abram the Hebrew” that his nephew Lot has been taken captive. The Lord shows his strength. Abram takes 318 of his trained men to rescue Lot from the 4 kings and their armies – which totaled at least 40,000 strong – a 500-1 ratio? With God’s blessing, Abram pursues these Kings as far as Dan, defeats them and rescues Lot and Lot’s possessions along with the women and people.

When Abram returned, he was met by two kings with two very different offers. The king of Sodom offers him wealth, while the king of Sales offers bread and wine and a blessing? Abram rebukes the king of Sodom, but Melchizedek, the King of Salem, is welcomed and they worship together and Abram gives him a tithe – a foreshadowing of Israel’s tithing to the Kohaneem. Melchizedek is also a foreshadowing of Messiah Yeshua since he was uniquely a king and priest?

In Genesis 15, Abram has a vision from Adonai. By rejecting the offer of the king of Sodom, Abram knew he now had a powerful adversary. In this vision, the Great I Am says: “do not fear Abram, I am a shield to you, your reward shall be very great”. Abram says: “Oh Lord, what will you give me since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eleazar of Damascus. You have given me no offspring, so that one born in my house is my heir”.

The Lord informs Abram that Eleazar will not be the heir, but that one will come forth from his body as an heir. The Lord takes Abram outside and tells him to count the stars if he is able. The n the Lord tells Abram “so shall your descendants be”. Abram believes in the Lord and it is credited to him as righteousness. This is extremely significant: a man is declared righteous on account of his faith – centuries before the Torah existed!

El Gibbor (The Mighty God) makes a covenant with Abram. God tells him that there will be dark days ahead. His descendants will be sojourners in a foreign land (Egypt) and be afflicted there for 400 years. God also tells Abram that afterward they will come out with great possessions – as seen in the Exodus.

Time passes, and Abram has not yet had a child. Sarai suggests that he take her handmaiden Hagar and conceive a child. He follows Sarai’s suggestion, and conceives a child with Hagar, named Ishmael. We know through future generations that Islam looks to Ishmael as their great ancestor. God did say that he would make Ishmael into a great nation. In years to come, there would be friction between Sarai and Hagar and the sons born to them. This happens when we try to force things in our time and not wait for God’s timing.

In Chapter 17, God appears to Abram, who is now 99 years old and says “You shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you a father of a multitude of nations. In this covenant, God instructs Abraham to circumcise himself, his son Ishmael, and all his servants. Circumcision would set apart those who followed God from that point forward. God gives Sarai the new name of Sarah. He says, “I will bless her moreover. I will give you a son by her and I will bless her. Abraham falls on his face and laughs. “Shall a child be born to a man of 100 years, shall Sarah who is 90 years old bear a child?” But God reaffirms His promise to give them a child, and his name will be Yitzchak (Isaac), meaning “laughter”. God’s promises may seem outlandish, but if we believe, we will laugh together with Him when it comes to pass.

In this Parasha we see Abraham’s faithfulness and his errors. Abraham does not earn righteousness, but it is given to him because he believes the promises of the three-in-one God. Brothers and Sisterspthe greatest of His promises was the blessing that would come to all the nations through a singular descendant of Abraham – our Messiah, Yeshua Hamashiach. And He Himself has become our righteousness.