Lech Lecha (Go Forth)
Genesis 12:1–17:27; Isaiah 40:27–41:16; Matthew 1:1–17
“The LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth [lech lecha] from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you… and I will bless you.’” (Genesis 12:1–2)
Last week in Parasha Noach (Noah / Rest), God instructed Noah to build an ark to shelter Noah and his family from the flood, which came upon the world to cleanse it of evil and violence.
The portion of Scripture (Parasha) for this week opens with the Divine calling of Abram (Abraham) to leave his country, his people, and his family in order to embark upon a journey to a new land.
God promises Abram that he will make him into a great nation, a nation in which all the families of the earth will be blessed.
So Abram leaves Charan and travels about 400 miles to Canaan. At Shechem, the Lord appears to Abram and promises him: “’To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord.'” (Genesis 12:7)
After Shechem, Abram journeyed on toward the Negev, first pitching his tent east of Bethel and later building another altar at Ai.
Pharaoh Desires Sarai
“When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.” (Genesis 12:14)
In this Parasha, Abram goes to Egypt because of a severe famine in the land.
Sarai (Sarah) is so beautiful, however, that Abram decides to take precautions. He presents her as his sister in an effort to save his life from Egyptians who might kill him just to have her.
Indeed, Sarai’s beauty is so captivating and so highly prized by the Egyptians that she is brought to Pharaoh’s attention.
“And Pharaoh, who attempts to add her to his harem, treats Abram very generously because of her.” (Genesis 12:15)
But God is, of course, displeased with this arrangement and a plague descends on Pharaoh’s household. It is only stopped when he returns Sarai to Abram and sends them away with great wealth.
Abram and Lot Part Ways
“So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.” (Genesis 13:1–2)
When Abram returns to Israel, he and his nephew, Lot, have vast herds.
Those herds are so large, in fact, that the Bible says the land could not support them while they stayed together. Lot and Abram’s herders begin quarreling.
Therefore, they decide to part ways, choosing to settle in opposite directions.
“So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” (Genesis 13:8–9)
Lot sets his sights on the lush Jordan Valley, and Abram goes to live in Hebron in the land of Canaan, which upon first appearance is perhaps less desirable than the green valley.
Notice that Abram is not compelled to choose first and pick the best for himself.
He is confident that God is with him in all his journeys.
He understands that God is so powerful, He can make even the desert bring forth all that Abram and his flocks require.
After Lot parts from him, God promises Abram that his offspring, which will be so great in number as to be uncountable, will inherit the land.
“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14–17)
A Faithful Companion in the Way
“You descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.” (Isaiah 41:8–9)
In the Haftarah (prophetic portion) of Lech Lecha, God calls Abraham His friend.
The noun that is translated friend is derived from the verb ahav, which means to love. In the Hebrew text, the noun is ohavi, which actually means My beloved.
That love was mutual; Abraham showed his love for God by his obedience.
“This is love for God; to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
“We who are followers of Yeshua are also called His beloved friends; and our faith in the Messiah qualifies us, Jew and non-Jew, to be called Abraham’s seed.” (Galatians 3:29)
Just as God called Abraham to go to an unknown land to be blessed and to be a blessing, so must we be willing and obedient to go wherever He sends us to be a light and witness for His glory.
In the beginning of this Haftarah portion, we see Abraham’s offspring in the land.
But Israel fears her way is hidden from God: “Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?’” (Isaiah 40:27)
This is the universal cry of invisibility, of feeling cast aside and being unvalued.
At times like these, it is easy to think that even God doesn’t see us. This is not the truth.
God sees everything we do and our reward is from Him. He is always with us; He has promised to never leave us or forsake us along the way. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
This is good news to every weary person who feels lost, alone, or abandoned.
Sometimes we feel that we are doing so much, trying to be faithful, sacrificing and giving, and nobody even seems to care. No one notices, let alone gives a word of thanks.
His Unfailing Presence
God assures Israel repeatedly of His presence. He is a faithful companion through all of her paths and journeys.
She need not fear the journey into the unknown. He holds Israel by her hand and will never let her go.
“Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you; I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
Israel may be surrounded by enemies determined to destroy this tiny nation, but God promises to contend with those who oppose her:
“All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.” (Isaiah 41:11–12)
What a wonderful promise for Israel!
Even when things look bleak, or that an insurmountable problem or enemy is about to gain the victory, God assures us of His supernatural help.
Though we may feel weak and small at times, our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, stands at the side of His children.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Strength for the Journey
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)
There are times when we feel so weak, so lacking in power and strength that we just can’t take another step.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:30–31)
When we place our hope in the Lord, we find that He strengthens us and gives us courage on the journey. This is no mere passive hoping; we must actively place our hope and positive expectation in Him.
This verse promises that if we will stay in an attitude of faith, then we shall mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint. Notice that the verse first emphasizes flying, then running and then walking.
This is not anticlimactic; it reveals that God will give us strength and power to soar like an eagle, to run the race with vigor, and to walk out our daily lives with peace, joy and righteousness in the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit).
It may be relatively easy to soar when we are filled with enthusiasm for something new and exciting, but a marathon race can become a tiring test of endurance.
Perhaps, it is even more difficult to follow the monotonous round of everyday duties with faith and steadfastness.
God promises in this Haftarah that as we keep hoping in Him, He will give us the strength and grace to do the simple, mundane tasks of life with peace and joy.
Today, however, many people feel tired and weary.
Going forth in faith and rising above our circumstances with the skill of an eagle seems unlikely.
Even young people are overwhelmed by the stresses of our fast paced, modern society.
People are simply bombarded with information through the Internet and inundated with a barrage of non-stop technological gadgets, keeping us on call 24/7.
In fulfillment of end-time prophecy, knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate.
It is more and more common for people to feel behind, as though they are never going to get caught up.
Yeshua (Jesus) has the antidote for this modern ailment.
He said, “Come to Me you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
True rest for our soul can only be found in the arms of Yeshua when we place our full hope and trust in His saving power. Only then do we find His supernatural strength to go forth and take hold of God’s promise.
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Yeshua is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)