parashah vayyera (He Appeared) Genesis 18:1-22:24

This portion starts with the telling of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and ends with one of the most well-known passages, the Akedah, also called the Binding of Isaac. This is seen by most everyone, Jewish and Gentile alike, as a precursor to the sacrificial death of the Messiah.

Those of us who are Messianic or Christian accept that the Messiah is Yeshua, Jesus. I say Messianic or Christian because being Messianic is NOT being a Christian.

This has been a problem I have faced during my walk with the Lord- that people (especially Jews) who hear that I believe Jesus is the Messiah figure I have to be Christian because, as most any Jew will confirm, any Jew who believes in Jesus can’t be a Jew anymore.

What a load of…well, let’s just say you could grow roses in that statement.

Today I want to show how “Jewish” the teachings of Yeshua are (notice I said “are”, not “were”- that’s because His teachings are still valid, and because He is still alive what He said is still current.) And to do that I am going to use the commentary from the Chumash I still have from my Bar Mitzvah (that was so long ago I got a “Mazel Tov !” from Moshe, himself!) For those that are familiar with the Chumash, this is the Soncino edition with commentary from the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Dr. Hertz.

The first commentary note is in reference to chapter 18, verse 7 when the Angels visited Abraham. He ran to get them food and wash their feet, and Dr. Hertz references Leviticus 18:7 where we are told to love the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt.  Later,  when Abraham made the covenant with Abimelech and told the king about his servants taking away the well Abraham had dug, there is another reference to Leviticus, this time it’s 19:17 about not hating your brother in your heart.

Both of these teachings about being kind to strangers and not hating people are constantly mentioned by Yeshua. In fact, He said the two most important commandments are to love the Lord and love each other. These are not foreign ideas that formed a new religion- these are direct from the Word of God given to Moshe at the Mountain. Yeshua never taught anything but Torah, and he taught it correctly.That is why He said, in Matthew 5:17 that He came to “fulfill the law.” In First Century Rabbi-speak that didn’t mean to complete it or finish it, but to interpret it correctly. To interpret correctly was to complete and to interpret wrongly was to trespass.

Another lesson to show how Yeshua was not teaching anything different than what is in the Torah is when Yeshua tells us that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. We can see this lesson clearly in this parashah when Lot’s wife looked back to Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. She was going forward, protected and led by the Lord (or, in this case, His angel- close enough!) to a promised salvation. But she looked back. And what did she miss out on? Despite the Sodom-like actions of Lot’s daughters, they were the genesis of two of the greatest kingdoms of the times: the Ammonites and the Moabites. True, these peoples were godless and enemies of the Israelites, but they were great nations. Because Lot’s wife looked back she was not the progenitor of these kingdoms.

I see these two events, Yeshua teaching that you can’t look back and be worthy of God’s kingdom and what happened to Lot’s wife, as the same teaching. We can’t walk a straight path forward when we are looking behind us. And what are we looking at that is behind us? It’s our comfort zone. It’s what we are used to, it’s what makes us feel secure. It’s the place where we trust ourselves and others and not God. Yeshua taught to trust in God and walk in His way, leaving behind the faithlessness we had when we looked to our own devices and others for guidance. Yeshua was teaching what is in the Chumash. That’s real Jewish stuff!

Lastly, when Abraham told Abimelech about the well that Abimelech’s servants stole from Abraham, Rabbi Hertz refers again to Leviticus 19:17, where we are told to love they neighbor and also to rebuke them. This seems to be an oxymoron, to rebuke someone you are told to love, but it is meant (I believe) to demonstrate that it is for the good of the person doing wrong that we rebuke them. Not in a mean and spiteful way, but to lovingly bring to their attention their wrongdoing so that they can be aware of it, and as such, do T’Shuvah and turn from that sin. What we are being told in the Torah is not to enable wrongdoing, even by those we love, but to show “tough love” and not condone or allow wrongful actions. We are, actually, required by Torah to advise people when they are killing themselves (sin is death.) The prophets are often told by God that if they fail to warn the people, no matter what the people say or think of them, then the blood of those sinners will be on the head of the prophet. However, if the prophet does warn them and adjoin them, constantly, to do what is right, then if the people fail to pay attention their blood is on their own heads.

This is what Yeshua meant when He taught that if we are bringing a gift to the Lord but have some level of strife between us and another person, we are to leave the gift at the altar and make right our relationship. Then we can offer our gift. This is just what Abraham did- he was making a covenant of peace with Abimelech but first he settled this issue about the stolen well. After that was done, then there was the covenant of peace and the covenant of the well, with the exchange of gifts.

Yeshua did not start a new religion, and in this parashah we can see that the commentaries made by one of the most “Jewish” of Jews, the late, Great Rabbi of the British Empire, is exactly the same lessons that Yeshua taught. There is nothing new in the New Covenant writings- it is all Jewish. Yeshua taught from and about the Torah, Shaul (Paul) taught that Torah is correct, all scripture is useful (BTW…the only scripture then was the Tanakh) and the writer of Hebrews also told the Jewish Believers in the Diaspora that Torah was still valid. The New Covenant is not “new”- it is the continuation of and brings to completion God’s plan of salvation that He told Abraham about way, way back in Genesis.

If you are reading the New Covenant and ignoring the Old Covenant, it is like trying to build a house starting with the second floor. God’s plan is simple: since humans can’t save themselves He will provide the Escape Clause, the ultimate Get Out of Jail card- The Messiah. All though the Tanakh we read about His coming, what He will do so we can know Him, and what will happen when He takes charge. It never happens in the Tanakh. Messiah’s coming isn’t written for Season One of this show, it happens in Season Two. That’s also the Final Season, when the show called “God’s Plan of Salvation” is taken off the air, forever. Season Three is Eternity. If you missed Season One, you can’t possibly understand or appreciate the subtleties of the plot and characters in Season Two. Oh yeah, you can get the main point, but you miss a lot of why things are so important and the history of how things got that way.

If you are Jewish and reading this, please think about getting familiar with the New Covenant, but find a Messianic version. Read Dr. Stern’s “The Jewish New Covenant” to see the ‘Jewishness” of those writings. Allow yourself the right to make up your own mind. And if you are a Gentile Believer and reading this, talk about Yeshua’s teachings and don’t use the name “Jesus”- that will not go over well with a Jew. Use His real name, Yeshua. And relate the teachings to the Torah- stay out of the New Covenant.

Everything Yeshua taught us about the Kingdom of God, how we should live, how we should treat each other and how we should treat God was from the Tanakh: if that was good enough for Yeshua, why isn’t it good enough for you?

To reach Jewish people with the Good News, you need to show it to them in the Tanakh, and then let them know that Yeshua said the same thing. Before they can accept Yeshua as their Messiah, they need to see Him as He really was and is: a Jewish Messiah teaching Jewish lessons from the Jewish book of law, the Torah. Once Yeshua stops being a Jew-hating Gentile and is revealed as He truly is- the Jewish Messiah- then and only then can a Jewish person begin to accept Him as their Messiah.

And until the Jewish people say, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai” (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord), Yeshua said he would not return.

You want Messiah to return? So do I, so get started teaching your Jewish friends the truth about their Jewish Messiah!

Comments welcomed (just be nice)