Thursday, November 16, 2017

Journey of Abraham's Sons


Most recently while reading the latter chapters of Isaiah, I found chapters 51 through 57 to be a distinctive unit albeit its length and great variety of topics such as: fulfillment of promises, redemptive forecasts, Divine judgment, restoration from devastation, encouragement, the manifestation of the glory of YHVH and descriptions of His loving care of His people, and then some... Of course right in the middle, surrounded by all this incredible text, is the pivot, the core, without which none of the above could come into being, and that’s the description of Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53 of the Suffering Servant who was to become the Instrument and Means by which Redemption and Restoration would be achieved.

For the past couple of weeks, and for the next, the Torah Parashot feature mostly Abraham. Interestingly, the Isaiah 51-57 narrative also commences with this patriarch, saying: "Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek YHVH: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him." (v. 1&2).

With this admonition in mind, let’s go to the Parasha which is called Chayey Sarah, “the Life of Sarah” (although at its very beginning Sarah dies and is buried) taking note of chapter 24, verses 3-7, which is Abraham’s commission to his faithful servant to go and get a wife for his son Isaac:
 “’… you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell;  but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.’  And the servant said to him, ‘Perhaps the woman will not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I take your son back to the land from which you came?’   But Abraham said to him, ‘Beware that you do not take my son back there.  YHVH, the Elohim of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘'To your descendants I give this land,' He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.” (V. 3-7).

A close examination of Abraham’s words gives a glimpse into the depth of this man’s heart and emotions. Abraham was not a man free of inner conflict or struggle. His specific vocabulary reveals it: “My country,” “my family”, “Elohim took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my family.”
Abraham went on his journey, faithfully obeying his call, but he does not deny that the land that he left was his country. Nor has he forgotten his family, and his heart wasn’t cold or indifferent toward his relatives and place of upbringing. Abraham, with all of his focused vision doesn’t forget, nor does he detach himself from his past and from his relatives.

So often we too find ourselves separated from our past, from our known attachments, even from our physical environment by the call of Elohim upon us. We are misunderstood, our loved ones take offense, and we find ourselves in a conflict.      How to reconcile the call that beckons to us,
with the familiar comfort zone and loved ones who do not understand us, while not compromising what we know we have to do? Do we make a clean cut? Leave everything behind and move on, erasing the memories and denying the pain of departure and separation? Or, do we boldly face the truth that, the “land” that we have left is still dear to us, and even more so are our relatives and friends. And is there a way to tie the past to the present and even to the future?

In this episode of Abraham’s life we see one example. There are two very important points that Abraham makes:
His son is not to marry a woman of the local populous.
And secondly, under no circumstances should his son go back to the land that he, Abraham, left behind.
The future is to be pursued within the promise that Elohim has given to the patriarch.

We are all familiar with the story of the servant whose master’s faith in Elohim sustained him too, and how he made connections with the relatives so that a branch of that family could also be brought into the covenant, promises, and land that was part of the word given to Abraham.

And for us… is there also a link that may be found among our family members, friends or colleagues so that they may be included in the future that awaits us, with the blessings being extended to them too? After all, Abraham was told that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed!

As we continue on our journey, following our call, let’s refer again to the Isaiah 51-57 text and read verse 14 in Chapter 51: “The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, that he should not die in the pit, and that his bread should not fail”.   
The Hebrew for “captive exile” (tzo’eh) is more accurately translated “vagabond”. A word of the same root is found in Isaiah 31:20, regarding Jerusalem, to which the promise was given that it (she) will be “a tent that will not be moved”. In this case “moved” is “yitz’an”. The root for both words is “Tzo’an” (or Zoan in English), an ancient city in Egypt which in Scripture is often synonymous for Egypt itself. (No doubt a central city.) And so, whereas in English the word for Gypsies is a derivative of “Egypt”, in Hebrew Gypsies are “Tzo’anim”, which is a derivative of Tzo’an. The usage of these words that are derivatives of Tzo’an (and by implication Egypt) point to lack of stability and temporariness of that location. Further, the “tzo’en” (the “exile” of Is. 51:14) is also described as being captive and bound, although here he is promised that his bonds will be loosened (or “opened”, in Hebrew) quickly.

Thus, if you are wondering and wandering in your “Egypt” and are bound by concern, perhaps even by fear of the unknown as, like Abraham you are on your way to Elohim’s promised destiny but you aren’t quite there, there is a promise of a quick release from the bonds of the state of temporariness or transience, and of an assured path, as we shall see in a moment.

But before we get to that promise, let’s take a short detour and continue to read in Isaiah 51:14-16 what it says about that “captive exile [he who lives bound to temporary and transient circumstances) who hastens, that he may be loosed: “… he should not die in the pit, and that his bread should not fail.  But I am YHVH your Elohim, Who divided the sea whose waves roared -- YHVH of Hosts is His name.  And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, 'You are My people.' "

Who was in the pit without bread, ready to go to his death? Wasn’t it Joseph, whose brothers, at the same time, were sitting and eating bread? Those who identify with Joseph, as his progeny, are given a promise here: “that will not happen to you”. What’s more, the next verse takes us to the imagery of the Exodus, reminding us that Elohim is the One who has in the past and will in the future part the sea for His people and beyond that, will put His words in their mouth, and will also cover them with the shadow of His hand, like He did with the cloud by day during the Exodus, but now for an even greater end: “that He may plant the heaven and lay the foundations of the earth (is it the new heaven and new earth?). Those to whom He has imparted His words will declare to Zion, on His behalf: “You are My people”!

Let us return now to the path that we were on, and shift to Isaiah 52:11-12. Addressing those who are already on the journey and the path set by the Heavenly Father, who have left their proverbial land and father’s house (while keeping “the bond of peace” with their relatives), having been released quickly from the chains of wandering, YHVH gives more instructions: “Leave! Leave! Get out of there! Don't touch anything unclean! Get out from inside it, and be clean.” (v. 11a).  This may mean different things to different people, as each knows what it is that has to be removed, or what has to be repented of, or what has to be cleansed in order to continue along the charted path.  Let’s read on and find out the reason for this forceful admonition: For “… you [are those] who bear the vessels of YHVH” (see also 2nd Corinthians 6:16).
Yes, you are His priests; you are the bearers of His Presence, the Living Stones of His Temple! Hence it is necessary to be purified, sanctified and ready, leaving whatever it is that constitutes the “unclean”.

This is followed by an interesting promise, especially while end time scenarios are looming large these days with foreboding forecasts, and various suggestions of ways to get out, find shelter, hide and protect one’s self. And thus the Isaiah 52 text continues and says in verse 12: “For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; For YHVH will go before you, and the Elohim of Israel will be your rear guard.”

Unlike our forefathers who had to leave Egypt in haste and by flight, according to this word, this time it will not be in haste, or by flight, for YHVH will protect in a different and special way.


Interestingly, the next portion of the text is Isaiah 52:13, a passage that continues all the way through Isaiah 53. As already mentioned, the above promises are made possible ONLY through He who is portrayed in the next 15 verses, which are operative and effective for those who have embraced that Word and live by it, or by Him, that is Yeshua the Messiah. 

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