Parashat Lech Lecha (Go Forth)
Beresheet (Genesis) 12:1–17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
This week’s Parasha opens with a well-known, yet often misunderstood, set of verses from Genesis 12:
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; 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.” So Abram went away as the LORD had spoken to him…
God called Abram to leave everything that he knew, and probably loved, and trust Him to lead Abram to an unknown land of God's choosing. As we see from verse 4, Abram did as the LORD instructed him. The instructions that Abram received came with an incredible promise of future blessings to not only make Abram into a great, blessed nation, but also that Abram would be a blessing to all peoples of the earth. Yet, there's something in what God promises Abram that is so important, yet often overlooked today, even by some of God's most devout followers: those who bless Abram will be blessed, and those who curse him will be cursed.
What a profound promise that Abram received! But it is also an important foundational promise for the nations as well. Although many people today think this promise is no longer valid, I am here to tell you that it is very real and relevant to us today!
In this Parasha, We also read of God’s choice of how He would fulfill His promises to Abram. God is very specific in how He will establish and continue His covenant:
Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you shall not call her by the name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man a hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, give birth to a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.
As we see from these verses, God's choice to continue His unconditional covenant would be through Isaac and his descendants. The point here is not that God favored Isaac over Ishmael, but that the specific blessing for the peoples of the earth would come through Isaac's descendants. I believe that this is a very important matter for each of us to reflect on. If we believe God's word, and we follow Him, then we also will understand the importance of blessing those He blesses. Failing to do so is nothing short of disobedience, which will lead to judgment.
In the Haftarah, we see yet another reminder of God’s endless grace and unconditional covenant with Abraham, which continued with Isaac, and also with Jacob (who became Israel). Indeed, this covenant holds true until today:
“But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham who love me, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you, I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored; those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish. You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them, those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you people of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
Isn't it incredible that we can know the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel)? Isn't it amazing that we serve the same God, who is full of endless love and grace, and who promised to protect Israel, which we see until today? Throughout the millennia, despite the many people who have tried to wipe out the Jewish people, God has preserved us because He made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is indeed the same God that we follow today, the one who called each person by name, the first and the last, as Isaiah says in a beautiful way in chapter 41:4:
"Who has performed and accomplished it, summoning the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.”
He is the first and the last. This was echoed by Yeshua Himself when He says that He is the alpha and omega (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The wholeness of God and His plan is undeniable. The question we must ask ourselves is "Do we accept His plan?" His endless grace to fulfill His promises is not just for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; if you follow Him and love Him, those promises are for you, too.
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