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Further thoughts on Lekh-Lekha...

The Father of all who believe

Further thoughts on Parashat Lekha

by John J. Parsons

Abraham is traditionally regarded as the first Jew, but the truth is that he was a "Gentile," the son of an idolater (Josh. 24:2), who heard God's voice and then began his pilgrimage of faith to the land of promise (Heb. 11:8-11). Moreover, God personally chose Abraham, promising to make him into a blessing, while he was not yet circumcised, and it was only later, after he sacrificed his beloved son Isaac (i.e., the Akedah) that he was promised that in his Seed (זֶרַע) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen. 22:18). It was the faith of Abraham - especially as demonstrated by the Akedah - that prefigured the justification of the nations through faith. This is the "Gospel of Moses" which Yeshua alluded (John 5:46). Therefore we read: "And the Scripture, foreseeing (προοράω) that God would justify the nations by faith, proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed" (Gal. 3:9). In other words, God's great plan of salvation was from the beginning for all the nations of the earth to be redeemed.

If you understand Jewish thinking on the subject (as opposed to Gentile thinking), Abraham was regarded as the first Jew because he received the rite of brit millah (circumcision). That was the Apostle Paul's understanding as well, as well as the point he made that Abraham was the father of faith for both Jew and non-Jew: "He [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised" (Rom. 4:11-12). As Paul further said regarding this topic, "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision manifest in the flesh (φανερῷ ἐν σαρκὶ). But a Jew is one inwardly (κρυπτός), and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God" (Rom. 2:28-29). "For neither the rite of circumcision counts for anything, nor does uncircumcision - but בְּרִיאָה חֲדָשָׁה - a new creation" (Gal. 6:15).

In this connection it is helpful to remember that the word "Jew" (יְהוּדִי) comes from a root (יָדָה) which means to "thank" or to "praise" (Gen. 29:35). The Apostle Paul alluded to this by saying that a Jew whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirit is "one who is praised by God," not by men (Rom. 2:29). Being a Jew therefore means that you are "chosen" to receive blessings and grace to live in holiness for the glory of God and for the welfare of the world. The performance of various commandments are for the greater purpose of tikkun olam, the "repair of the world," in order to reveal God's goodness and love. Doing so makes someone a Jew, not some external rite of brit milah (circumcision). God is the source and the power of what makes a true tzaddik. After all, Israel was meant to be a "light to the nations" (Isa. 42:6; 60:3), and God had always planned for all the families of the earth to come to know Him and give Him glory through Abraham (Gen. 12:3). "Jewishness" is therefore not an end in itself but rather a means to bring healing to the nations...  Indeed, the entire redemptive story of the Scriptures centers on the cosmic conflict to deliver humanity from the "curse" by means of the "Seed of the woman" who would come. The gospel is Jewish because it concerns God's great redemptive plan for the whole world...

The first shall be last, and vice-verse (Mark 10:31; Matt. 8:11). "And Yeshua called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:42-45). May it please the LORD to give us all Jewish hearts, full of His praise and the desire to help others in His Name.

Note:  If you are a non-Jewish follower of Messiah, it is better not to regard yourself as a "Gentile" any longer, but as a new creation, one who has "crossed over" from death to life in Yeshua... You are circumcised inwardly by the Spirit and are grafted into the covenant promises given to ethnic Israel. You are no longer a stranger but a fellow heir and member of God's household (Eph. 2:11-13). In the end of days, "all Israel will be saved," which implies that the Jewish people will be restored to God. The great vision of Zion comes...

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