Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lech Lecha: On Faith

Lech Lecha (Bereishit ); Isaiah 40:26-41:16; Romans 4:1-25

The Haftorah for this week, in Isaiah 40-41, features God's voice castigating and reassuring Israel for being "of little faith":

Look up at the sky!

Hashem yells, 

Who created the celestial lights? 
.....why do you say, Israel, "God does not know what is happening to me
and is not concerned with my vindication?

YHVH is the eternal Lord, the creator......Isaiah says, He does not grow tired or faint....He gives strength to the exhausted, renewed energy to the weak.

Those who wait on YHVH's help find renewed strength
they rise up on eagles wings
they run without getting weary
walk unfatigued.

The Haftorah goes on to picture the enemies of Israel building solid, well made weapons and cheering each other on as they prepare to decimate Jacob. Don't be fooled, says God. If you rely on me then though they be mountains that rise against you I will shred them to dust.

How wonderful all of this sounds to the heart that longs for YHVH. That faints to be embraced in His arms and drawn close to His heart. 

What Hashem is asking for is not for Israel to have faith in itself. Hashem does not say, "Cheer up Izzy, you can do it." No, Hashem speaks a provocative word of faith into Israel's weakness.

When Abraham is called out of his father's house he is likewise not called to faith in himself. He is an old man called to set out like a young pioneer; an octogenarian husband called to believe in the fertility of his barren marriage; head of a small clan called to believe he will father nations and be a blessing to the ends of the world. 

In Sha'ul's letter to Rome he dwells on a particular aspect of Abraham's faith: that Hashem "reckoned it to him as righteousness." What is righteousness? Maybe the best definition of righteousness is being in a right relationship to God. The fact that Abraham believes God's promises shows that he has a true faith- a faith that apprehends the nature of God and trusts Him (for more on this key aspect of Abraham's faith see this post). Our Parshah, and Sha'ul, argue that a person with faith of this kind is righteous in God's eyes- not because he or she has attained complete righteousness of character but because God, in His grace, views a broken and imperfect human being with such faith as righteous, or in right relationship to Him. 

Abraham's faith is, if you think about it, a tremendous accomplishment. That same faith has been accomplished for us by Yeshua. 

What do I mean by "accomplished for us"? I am not going Calvinist on you (although in some instances I think going Calvinist is a good thing!). What I mean is that Yeshua has decisively revealed God's nature to us, and He has humbled Himself, come as a servant, and laid down His life for our sake in a way which decisively shows His goodness. He has come as Immanuel, God-with-us, and shown us just what that means. Anyone who looks into the face of Christ will be moved to faith in Hashem, and will be on the way to knowing the God that he is placing his faith in. What Abraham accomplished through a miraculous leap of perception and trust waits now for anyone whose eyes are opened to see Yeshua. Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech HaOlam Asher Hechiyanu Vekimanu Vehigiyanu Lzman Hazeh. 

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