Vayera (And He Appeared)
Genesis 18:1–22:24; 2 Kings 4:1–37; Luke 1:26–38, 24:36–53
“The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” (Genesis 18:1)
Last week, in Parasha Lech Lecha (Go!), God commanded Abraham to leave his native land and go to the Land He promised.
Parasha Vayera opens with the Lord appearing to Abraham as he sat in his tent door in the heat of the day.
The rabbis believe that this visit from the Lord occurred while Abraham convalesced after his circumcision at 99 years old.
It is obvious by his reaction to seeing three unfamiliar men approaching him that Abraham delighted in offering hospitality to these strangers. Even though Abraham did not know who these strangers were, he gave them his best!
The Word of God promises that as we give, so shall it be given unto us in good measure.
When we bless others, we plant seeds of blessing that will return into our own lives.
“The soul who blesses will grow fat [be made rich], and he who waters [satisfies, refreshes] will also be watered [satisfied, refreshed] himself.” (Proverbs 11:25)
Hospitality seems to becoming a lost art in some cultures, especially in the West, where the pace of life doesn’t easily lend itself to making time for all that is involved in caring for people in our homes.
The culture here in Israel is one in which people may drop over at any time, and you need to be prepared to offer them hospitality. It is a given in this society.
Even the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) encourages us to show hospitality to strangers: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9)
We might even entertain angels unawares!
The book of Hebrews exhorts us to “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1–2)
And in fact, the three men that Abraham entertained were angels. Although the word used in Hebrew is anashim (men), it is clear from the context that two are angels and one is the Lord.
Extra-Biblical Rabbinic Dietary Laws
“He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.’” (Genesis 18:8)
It’s interesting to note in Parasha Vayera that the food which Abraham and Sarah prepared—bread, curd, milk, and a calf—seemed to eaten together at the same meal (Genesis 18:8).
Anyone who is familiar with today’s Orthodox Rabbinical traditions knows that a separation of dairy and meat products is prescribed. This, of course, is based on the command in Deuteronomy 14:21: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
This separation is an extra-Biblical tradition that observant Jews follow as a way of preventing the actual commandment from being broken.
For that reason, at Kosher restaurants in Israel and around the world, meat and milk products are strictly separated, to the point where some Jewish restaurants do not serve any dairy products whatsoever, and some do not serve meat.
But here we read that even Abraham and the Lord Himself, as well as angels ate milk and meat together!
The separation of milk and meat is only one of hundreds of extra-Biblical traditions or manmade rules (called Halakhah) that many Jews believe they must obey.
Of course, the rabbis will state (depending on which one you speak with) that Abraham waited either four hours, two hours, or 30 minutes between serving the milk and meat. Still, Scripture is silent on this point.
Yeshua (Jesus) taught against following traditions that contradict the word of God or would cause us to disobey it.
Nevertheless, He in all likelihood kept this particular tradition, since it does not contradict the Word of God, and failure to follow this tradition would have set Him apart in an entirely unfavorable way, making it difficult for people to receive Him.
Mo’adim – God’s Appointed Times and Promises Fulfilled
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time (mo’ed) next year and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:14)
After sharing a meal together with Abraham, the angel made an outrageous promise to Abraham and Sarah: next year, at the appointed time (mo’ed), they would have a son.
The word mo’ed (or mo’adim in the plural form) is used to describe the appointed festival and remembrance times in Leviticus 23. In English these times are loosely translated as ‘feasts of the Lord,’ but this is a poor translation since one is actually a fast.
The mo’adim are special times that God has chosen or appointed for a specific purpose. In this case, that purpose is the fulfillment of God’s promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son.
Sarah’s initial reaction to this promise was to laugh to herself because she was well beyond childbearing age.
To this God responded, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14)
There may be promises that we have received from the Lord that perhaps seem impossible; however, we should be encouraged by the words of Yeshua who reminded us, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), we see another important mo’ed or set time.
An angel came to a young, Jewish woman named Miryam (Mary) to tell her that she would conceive without having known a man intimately, by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Furthermore, her son would be called Yeshua (Salvation), and He would reign eternally over the house of Jacob from the throne of His father David.
While this may seem outside the realm of possibility, the angel told Miryam that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
The same God who parted the Red Sea can truly make a way where there is no way—if we will only believe. But it has to happen in His way and His time, not our way on our schedule. Our job is to wait in hope, faith, and expectation until the set time (mo’ed) arrives.
And we can also look forward to yet another set time (mo’ed) when God—who allowed a temporary blindness to come upon His Jewish People so that the fullness of the Gentiles may come in—will remove that blindness. Then all Israel will be saved. How we long for that day!
The Minyan: For the Sake of Ten
“May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there? He answered, For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” (Genesis 18:32)
The name Abraham means exalted father or father of nations.
Indeed, we see his compassion extend beyond his own family when he pleaded for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah very much in the way a father would plead for his children.
Abraham entreated God, asking Him not destroy them if 50 righteous men were found there. But when 50 could not be found, he petitioned on behalf of 40, then 30, then 20, and finally 10.
God promised Abraham that for the sake of 10 righteous, He would not destroy Sodom.
This is why a minimum of 10 Jewish men, called a minyan, must be gathered to hold religious (prayer) services in the synagogue.
Ten is an important number corresponding to the tenth Hebrew letter yud, which was originally the word yad, meaning hand.
We see this word yad used quite often in Scripture metaphorically to refer to the hand of God—His hand of power and authority and covenant (1 Chronicles 29:12; Isaiah 59:1; Exodus 13:3–16; Numbers 33:3; Psalm 37:24, etc.).
The number 10 is also significant in the tithe. A tenth of what our fields produce is to be set aside for the Lord (Deuteronomy 14:22). Furthermore, every tenth animal of the herd belongs to the Lord (Leviticus 27:32).
For the sake of ten, a tenth of our income, God promises to rebuke the devourer on our behalf. He will not allow destruction of our material goods for the sake of a tenth (Malachi 3:6–17).
The Depravity of Sodom
“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities.” (Genesis 19:24–25)
Since even 10 righteous men could not be found in Sodom, God proceeded with his plans to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Two of the men, angels in disguise, who visited Abraham went down to Sodom to bring out Lot and his family.
In Lot, we also see the trait of hospitality, for he insisted that these strangers spend the night with him rather than in the open square (Genesis 19:1–3).
This portion of Scripture directly confronts the sin of homosexuality.
Although practically accepted as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ in our day, the Bible is clear that it’s an abomination to God.
The men of Sodom practiced this depravity and called for Lot to send the ‘men’ outside that they could have perverted relations with them (Genesis 19:4).
We are horrified to read that Lot instead offered to send out his daughters to these men rather than endanger his guests who were strangers.
Obviously Sodom had infected Lot rather than Lot affecting Sodom.
We need to be so careful about the environment where we choose to dwell. Lot had a house while Abraham had only a tent; however, it was Abraham’s flimsy but righteous tent that endured and Lot’s solid house in Sodom that was destroyed.
This is such a clear picture of the truth that “Unless the Lord builds a house they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)
We see later that Lots’ daughters commit incest with their father to become impregnated by him; they were true daughters of Sodom. Not surprising, given that they had been brought up in such a wicked place.
Where are we raising our children? May the Holy Spirit give us wisdom and lead and guide us to a good place to train up our children in the ways of righteousness.
Lot hesitated to leave Sodom, even though he knew it was going to be destroyed. The angels took hold of him, his wife and daughters, and pulled them out of the city. Incredibly, the angels said they could not do anything until they were at a safe distance.
“‘But hurry! Escape to it, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ (This explains why that village was known as Zoar, which means ‘little place.’)” (Genesis 19:22)
May we be obedient to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and not resist or delay, since all of heaven may be waiting on us to carry out God’s will in a certain circumstance.
Once Lot came to Zoar, the Lord destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with brimstone and fire He sent out of heaven.
We cannot see all the ‘natural disasters’ that come upon cities and regions as simply that—natural disasters. For God is Lord over the heavens and the earth; He controls even the weather patterns, and He will judge the wicked if they do not repent. We must warn people to repent even if they laugh and mock at us, just like Lot’s sons-in-law.
Forget the Former Things
“But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26)
“Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32)
Lot’s wife, in defiance of the angel’s words, looked back at Sodom and Gomorrah and consequently, became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).
When driving to the Dead Sea, there is still a pillar there that is called ‘Lot’s wife’. It stands as a sober reminder to all of us that when God leads us out of a place, we must look forward to the new thing He is doing in our lives and not look back at the place we have left, lest we be paralyzed.
It’s hard to drive forward if we keep looking in the rear view mirror.
The Word of God says to forget the former things and focus on the new thing God is doing. (Isaiah 43:18)
Further on in this Torah portion, we read that Sarah actually does conceive and bear Abraham a son at the ‘set time’ (mo’ed) of which God had spoken (Genesis 21:1–3).
Although they had to wait some time for the promise to come to pass, it was fulfilled at God’s set time. He makes all things beautiful in its time. Will we patiently wait with faith for God to bring fulfillment His promises in our lives?
Let us not waver in faith or nullify the promises through unbelief but be fully convinced, as was Abraham, that God will bring forth His promises, even those that seem not only unlikely but absurd, in His appointed time.
“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:20–21)