Lech L’cha – “Go Forth”

This week our parasha is Lech Lecha which means “Go Forth” and covers Genesis 12:1-17:27. Parasha Lech Lecha introduces us to the father of the Jewish people, Abram, and his extraordinary faith in Adonai.

Genesis 12 begins at what will be the turning point in Abram’s life, the Call of the Lord. The Lord spoke to Abram and told him to leave everything that was familiar, to go to a Land Adonai would show him. If Abram obeys, he will become the father of a great nation and that through him all the Earth would be blessed. We are also told that those who bless Abram would be blessed and those who cursed him would themselves be cursed.

At the age of 75 Abram leaves his job, his extended family, and the community he has known, with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, along with their servants and belongings. He leaves everything he has known behind, not knowing where the Lord will lead him. The Lord guides him to the land of Canaan and confirms it is this land Abram and his descendants would inherit.

Our parasha continues that due to a famine, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt. Afraid of being killed for his beautiful wife, Abram convinces Sarai to pretend to be just his sister (she is his half-sister). But when Pharaoh attempts to take Sarai as his own, the Lord strikes him with a plague, and he realizes Sarai is Abram’s wife. Pharaoh sends them both away and the plague is lifted.

Chapters 13 and 14 record Lot separating from Abram, because of their large herds of animals, and choosing to go to Sodom, a city that was infamous for its sin. Several years later Lot was captured by a group of rival kings and Abram went out to rescue him along with the kings of Sodom and Gomorra. They were victorious and Lot was saved.

After the battle Abram encounters the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem in later years) who is a priest of the Lord. Abram refuses to accept anything from the king of Sodom, which makes them enemies. However, to Melchizedek he gives a 10% tribute and receives a blessing from him.

Through this Abram demonstrated that he had chosen the Lord as his protector over the King of Sodom. Adonai promises to reward him for his faith in Genesis 15. The Lord promised to be Abram’s shield, his defender, and that He would indeed give Abram a son to be his heir. Abram believed the Lord and was declared righteous for his faith. The Lord reassured Abram of the unconditional nature of His promises by entering a formal covenant with him but not allowing Abram to fulfill his normal role in the proceedings. By doing this the Lord established the everlasting nature of His covenant with Abram and that it would depend on the Lord’s faithfulness alone. The Lord also told Abram in a dream about our people’s enslavement recorded in Exodus but that we would return to the Land we had been promised, which occurred during the time of Moses.

After this amazing encounter with Adonai, Abram sinned again in Genesis 16 by agreeing with Sarai’s plan to have relations with her servant Hagar because Sarai wanted a child to be attributed to her. So instead of waiting on the Lord they decided to have a son through Hagar which they named Ishmael. We will read of the consequences of this decision later in Genesis.

In the final chapter of our parasha we read of the new names Abram and Sarai were given by the Lord. They were renamed Abraham (father of many nations) and Sarah. The Lord promised to give Abraham a son at the age of 100 years old and Sarah at 90 years old. Abraham laughed at being a father at such an old age and so the Lord told him to name the child Isaac, which means laughter. The parasha ends with Abraham, Ishmael, and all the males in his household circumcising themselves as the sign of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham.

When I think of our father Abraham, the model of faith throughout Scripture, in this week’s parasha a few thoughts come to mind.

We can be sure that everything we read about Abraham in God’s Word is accurate because we see his triumphs with his tragedies. Throughout his life Abraham demonstrated an extraordinary, faith in the Lord. It was by faith he trusted in Adonai to lead him to a land he did not know. It was also by faith he rejected the opportunity for a powerful and beneficial alliance with the king of Sodom. Abraham is an example of real faith in God, but he is not an example of perfect faith. Abraham had his moments of doubt with the Pharaoh and with his deciding to “help” Adonai give him an heir. But time and time again Abraham lived his life by faith and for it was rewarded as being the father of the Jewish people, the Arabic peoples, and spiritually Messiah’s Community as well.

Abraham had extraordinary promises made to him by the Lord, but many of them would not occur during his lifetime. Though he was promised the land of Canaan, he spent his life as a nomad in the Land. He was promised to be the father of many nations, but Abraham would not receive his heir until roughly 26 years later at a very old age. Despite his faith not being perfect and not being able to physically see how the Lord would accomplish His promises, Abraham still had an unyielding faith in Adonai.

In Abraham we see a foundational example of faith that endures the hardships and realities of life in a fallen world. Like Abraham we have been called by the Lord, led by faith to His Son Messiah Yeshua, without knowing where life will take us. Life can be very uncertain, and we are also strangers in the land we live in. But we can have confidence that the Lord’s promises will come to pass. By placing our faith in the Lord and not anything or anyone else, we are joined to our father Abraham and all the men and women of God throughout time. It is this faith that connects us to Abraham more than any genealogy. Because of Abraham’s faith, the Lord was not ashamed to be called His God. Because of our faith in the Lord through the Son of God, He is not ashamed to be our God either.

May the Lord grant each of us a genuine faith like Abraham. May we always trust in Him over anyone or anything else. May each of us look forward to the promises of God and especially to the promise of the return of Messiah Yeshua.