Lech Lecha (Gen 12:1-17:27) – Go forth, yourself!
In synagogues all around the world, the Torah portions that are read on a weekly basis are identical. Their weekly systematic reading schedule helps keep the Jewish people of every nation in greater unity with one another.
The purpose of our brief weekly Torah study (of the same Torah portions that the synagogues are reading) is to both encourage you in the Word as well as to help you more effectively identify with Israel, so that we can pray for them in a more focused and targeted way.
This week’s Torah reading contains one of the most amazing covenantal promises that you will ever find in Scripture – God’s covenant with Abraham and the Jewish people. And, it holds some wonderful promises for both the people of Israel and for us as well. The portion this week is called Lech Lecha (which means “Go Forth, Yourself!”) and is from Gen 12:1-17:27.
I encourage you to take a few minutes this week to read these scriptures, asking the Lord to open up your heart to all that He would have you receive through His word.
As I’ve gone through the portion this week, I wanted to offer you five important takeaway points that are not only important for Israel, but also for you!
1. When God says, “I will,” He means, “I will”!
The Torah portion begins with Abram as a seventy-five year old man with no children. In this chapter, God says, “I will” five times to Abram, promising things to him that seem naturally impossible in the eyes of man. The Torah portion concludes in Genesis 17, where Abraham (whose name was changed by God in the same chapter) is ninety-nine years old with God reiterating the promise that He made by saying, “I will” twelve times to Abraham.
It is quite an awesome thing to realize that all of God’s promises are yes and amen. In other words, when He makes a promise, He will keep His promise. He is not like man, whose words are fickle and many times never come to pass. “God is not a man, that He should lie…[if He has] said it, will He not do it?”
In our Torah reading, we see an example of God coming through with a promise that He made. God makes a promise to a seventy-five year old man who is married to a barren woman that he would be a father of a great nation. And, when Abraham is ninety-nine years old, God reiterates that promise to him and fulfills it a year later.
There are times when the Lord makes promises to us that seem naturally impossible and like they will never come to pass. It’s at that time that we either lean on our own understanding or we trust in the God who is faithful to His word. In the midst of unfulfilled promises, we must look to Abraham our father who “did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith giving glory to God, being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.”
According to Rom. 4:19, Abraham’s body was as good as dead and not only was Sarah’s womb barren, but she was beyond the age of bearing children. Imagine that, even though the situation was beyond any human possibility of turning out well, God still reiterated His promise to Abraham with a chapter full of “I will’s”.
2. God’s Covenant with Abraham is Unilateral, Unconditional, and Everlasting
In this week’s Torah portion, the Lord makes these promises to Abraham:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (Gen 17:1-5)
Unilateral means one-sided. It’s a unilateral covenant because God said, “I will” without making any requirements on Abraham’s part.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, unconditional means that the covenant is absolute, unreserved, and not limited by any conditions. In Gen. 15:9-10, God gave specific instructions to Abraham to bring five different animals, cut them in two, laying each half opposite each other.
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other…
The custom of the day was that the two people who were making the covenant would walk between the pieces, saying that if they were to break the covenant that they would be willing to be cut in two, just like the animals. But, something very significant happened: God put a deep sleep on Abraham and then proceeded to walk between the pieces Himself!Amazingly, this single act signified that the burden of fulfilling the covenant rested solely on the Lord’s shoulders, releasing Abraham (and his descendants) of any responsibility to make it happen.
Everlasting simply means eternal, lasting forever. Gen. 17:7-8 clearly articulates that God is establishing His covenant between Abraham and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.
I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Despite the fact that there are well-intentioned (and some not-so-well intentioned) people who are preaching otherwise, God’s covenant with Abraham is as valid today as it was when the Lord made it!
3. God’s Heart Is for Ishmael and the Arab People
It is a remarkable thing to realize that two out of only six or seven men in the entire Bible who were pre-named by God were Isaac and Ishmael! Despite the fact that there is such enmity between these two peoples today, God’s love for both of these brothers was evident as He spoke prophetic promises over the both of them
But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation (Gen. 17:19-20).
We must carry God’s heart for the Arab nations surrounding Israel. Approximately twenty-six hundred years after Ishmael’s death, a direct descendant of his, named Muhammad, rose to become the “prophet” of a new religion called Islam. To the degree that Ishmael experienced a fatherless existence after his expulsion from Abraham’s home, I believe that Muslims today need to be shown the unrelenting love of the Father. In the same way that God heard Ishmael crying over four thousand years ago, He still hears him crying today. There is yet an unfulfilled destiny on the descendants of Ishmael and God is still looking for a people who will take Ishmael by the hand and speak life to him.
4. Abraham Was A Man Whose Name Contradicted Reality
*In Gen. 17:5, the Lord changes Abram’s name to Abraham.
Before God changed Abraham’s name, he was called Abram, which literally means ‘exalted father.’ Ironically, Abram had no children at the time God changed His name to Abraham, which literally means ‘father of multitudes.’
The reality is that for the first ninety-nine years of Abraham’s life, he lived with a name that was directly opposite to reality. Not only did he not have children, but, when the Lord changed his name, his ninety year old wife was barren, her womb was dead, and it was utterly impossible in the natural for God’s promise to ever come to pass.
Although Abraham had no children, God said, “I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” In other words, God made him a father of a multitude of nations long before he ever had any children! Left to our own understanding, we would say that the Lord was mistaken and that the name-change contradicted reality. However, human reality and heavenly reality are often times in direct opposition to one another.
We must be a people who stand on what God has said and not on what human reality says!
5. Blessing Israel Will Result in God Blessing You and Cursing Israel Will Result in God Cursing You
In Gen. 12:3, the Lord declares the following proclamation to Israel:
I will bless those bho bless you, and the one who curse you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
We must realize that as surely as God fulfilled His humanly impossible promise by making Abraham a father, that’s how surely He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.
When Messiah returns and judges the nations, He will judge them based on how they treated Israel! He called the ‘sheep nations’ (those nations that blessed Israel), blessed of my Father because they treated Israel with compassion and love; He called the ‘goat nations’ (those nations that cursed Israel) you cursed ones because they ignored the needs of Israel, saying to those nations, “to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me”.
God hasn’t changed! The same God that has kept His promise to Abraham and his descendants is the God who will keep His promise to you. Sometimes, we have to live in the tension between the time the promise is given and the time the promise is fulfilled. But we can be rest assured in the fact that the God who makes the covenant is the God who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations.
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