Thursday, October 25, 2012

Torah Portion Lech-Lecha: Blessed and Grafted In

Genesis 12-17; Isaiah 40:27-41:16; Matthew 5-6

Genesis 12:3 NIV 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

The sages say that Abraham was a blessing to the nations through the souls he brought to worship God. As additional support for this position, the sages say that the phrase “will be blessed,” v’nivracu, is related to the term meaning to graft or to intermingle. So the text could be read, “All people will be grafted into you.”

The sages use this interpretation to explain how Ruth and Naamah could be the mothers of kings of Israel. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David and a Moabitess. Naamah was the mother of Solomon’s son Rehoboam and an Ammonite. Moabites and Ammonites were excluded from entering the congregation of the LORD to the tenth generation because they didn’t meet Israel with hospitality when Israel came out of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 23:3-4 MKJV 3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. Even to their tenth generation they shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water in the way when you came forth out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor, of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

This would mean neither David nor Rehoboam would be considered an Israelite. Neither one would qualify for the throne! But if Ruth and Naamah could be considered as grafted into Abraham, then Ruth would no longer be a Moabite and Naamah would no longer be an Ammonite. We can see how Ruth can be considered grafted into Abraham. Her words as she leaves Moab with her mother-in-law Naomi reveal her heart.

Ruth 1:16-17 MKJV 16 And Ruth said, Do not beg me to leave you, to return from following after you. For where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.

Paul uses the same metaphor of grafting in Romans chapter 11.

Romans 11:17-21 MKJV 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and became a sharer of the root and the fatness of the olive tree with them, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you boast, it is not you that bears the root, but the root bears you. 19 You will say then, The branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. 20 Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be high-minded, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, fear lest He also may not spare you either!

We are grafted into the olive tree that represents believing Israel. We are in that position because of faith. Paul equates the justification of the Gentiles by faith with the statement that all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Galatians 3:8 MKJV 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all nations be blessed."

This is the gospel, the good news according to Paul. When Paul writes to the Ephesians from his prison in Rome, he says that he is in bonds for the “mystery of the gospel.”

Ephesians 6:19-20 MKJV 19 And pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in bonds; so that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

When we go back to Paul’s arrest as recorded in Acts, we see that he was arrested for proclaiming that God sent him to share the good news of salvation with the Gentiles.

Acts 22:21-22 MKJV 21 And He said to me, Go, for I will send you far away to the nations. 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they lifted up their voice, saying, Take such a one from the earth! For it is not fitting that he should live.

Paul made it all the way through his story including his vision of Yeshua, his blinding and the restoration of his sight, his baptism and remission of his sins through the name of Yeshua. They were willing to believe that Paul had a vision of Yeshua but they were not willing to believe that God would send him with the message of salvation to the Gentiles. They did not believe that God would bless the Gentiles through the seed of Abraham as it says in the scriptures.  God will and has done just that.

יבורך שלום
Shalom and be blessed
Dan & Brenda Cathcart

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