Vayera – “And He Appeared”

This week’s Torah portion, entitled Vayera means “And He Appeared.” It covers Genesis 18:1-22:24. The first words of this Torah portion are profound and astounding. God appeared to Abraham, confirming His covenant promise.

In chapter 18 Adonai appeared to Abraham, in the form of a man, at the oaks of Mamre, along with two of His angels. Abraham welcomed them and offered impeccable hospitality. He hastened Sarah to bake bread, ran to get a tender calf and made sure that his servant dressed the meat. Try to picture Abraham, 99 years old, running around in the heat of the day serving his guests. As they sat together, it became clear to Abraham that he wasn’t entertaining ordinary men. Sarah, listening from inside the tent, heard the Lord say she would give birth in a year. She laughed, because she was well beyond childbearing years. However, Adonai said to her, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”  The promise was confirmed, Sarah would have a son the next year. God would keep His promise, though Abraham and Sarah were skeptical.

Now the Lord turned His attention to Sodom. As the angels departed, He remained with Abraham, revealing His intention to destroy Sodom for its brazen and extreme wickedness. Abraham humbly pleaded for Sodom, based on God’s mercy and justice. If even fifty righteous lived in the city, would God spare it? Ultimately Adonai promised to spare Sodom if there were even ten righteous. Then He departed.

Chapter 19 demonstrates God’s judgment and wrath against open rebellion, gross sin, and moral depravity. The depth of Sodom’s sin is evident by their sexual deviancy. However, out of this great destruction God graciously saved a family. The angels arrived at Lot’s home in the evening and were offered hospitality. How could he know they were angels sent to destroy Sodom and rescue his family?

Lot had grown comfortable living in a depraved city; not that he participated, but he had apparently remained silent about their lifestyle. Suddenly, the men of the city mobbed his home, demanding his male visitors, so that they could molest them. He offered instead his daughters. It was disgusting, but in the ancient world, hospitality was a sacred obligation; guests in your home received first priority, and were to be protected at all costs. Lot’s choice to settle there proved so unwise.

The mob rejected the offer, and began to attack Lot. The angels pulled him to safety. The angels had to drag him and his family out of the city, instructing them not to look back. God rained down fire and sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, utterly annihilating the cities. Lot’s wife, longing for all she had left behind, and in defiance of the angels’ warning, looked back and was herself destroyed.

Living amid such immorality had also influenced his daughters, who felt there was no hope for a future generation, and took matters into their hands by committing incest with their father to produce children. The two sons born were Moab and Ben-Ammi. These sons became fathers of the enemies of Israel.

In chapter 20, while living in Gerar as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife Sarah to King Abimelech as being his sister. Misled by Abraham’s lie, the king took her as his wife. God exposed his lie to Abimelech in a terrifying dream, threatening to kill him for having taken Abraham’s wife. The King restored Sarah to Abraham, but chastised Abraham for the deception. God intervened and had Abraham pray for the king.. As a result, Adonai healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants, so that they could have children. The Lord blessed Abraham with wealth and restored Sarah his wife.

Chapter 21 reminds us that “everything has a time; a time to rejoice, a time to mourn, and a time to heal”. The Lord fulfilled His word to Abraham and Sarah. The thought of Sarah conceiving had been laughable to them. However, as He promised, Sarah conceived, bore a son to Abraham in their old age, and they named him Isaac, meaning “laughter.” Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” According to the covenant, Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day.

He grew and was weaned, and a great celebration was held. During the celebration, Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar the Egyptian, mocked Isaac. Sarah angrily demanded that Abraham send them away. Her words distressed him, but God encouraged him, reminding him that the covenant would continue through Isaac.

In chapter 22 Abraham was put to the ultimate test. Adonai commanded him to bring his beloved son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and offer him as a sacrifice. True to form, Abraham obeyed God, taking Isaac and two servants to Moriah, though only he knew the reason for their journey. Along the way, Isaac asked an all-important question: “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” His father answered with an equally profound word of prophecy: “God will provide for Himself the lamb…”

Upon arriving, Abraham tied up Isaac and laid him on the altar, on the wood Isaac himself had carried. Just as Abraham picked up the knife to slay Isaac, the angel of the Lord stopped him. Abraham was praised for his supreme trust and obedience, and promised God’s choicest blessings. And there, caught in the bushes was a ram, which Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac.

This event foreshadowed Yeshua’s sacrifice for sinful humanity, even to the extent that both Isaac and Yeshua carried the wood on which they would be offered up. But where Isaac was spared, God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all (Romans 8:32)…

Parasha Vayera highlights God’s faithfulness. There will be times that life will challenge us and seem unreasonable, but we must believe His word and hold fast His promises. God isn’t limted by our age, weaknesses, imperfections, or circumstances. And He doesn’t need our help to accomplish His plans. Yes, we will be tested, but never forget that “we are more than conquerors through Messiah Yeshua who loves us.”