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Further thoughts on Lekh-Lekha...

Justification by Faith...

Further thoughts on Parashat Lekha

by John J. Parsons

"And he believed in the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). We are made right with God by trusting in his promises. The Talmud (Makkot 23b-24a) says, "Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to eleven (Psalm 15), Isaiah to six (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah to three (Micah 6:8), Isaiah reduced them again to two (Isaiah 56:1); but it was Habakkuk who gave the one essential commandment: ve'tzaddik be'emunato yich'yeh (וְצַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה), literally, "the righteous one, by his trust, shall find life" (Hab. 2:4). The New Testament likewise distills the various commandments to the principle that we find life by trusting in God (see Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, and Heb. 10:38). Spiritual life is the blessing of faith, since apart from faith we are spiritually dead and "powerless (ἀδύνατος) to please God" (Heb. 11:6). As King David said, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him - to all who call upon Him in the truth" (Psalm 145:18). God is near to the honest soul who confesses the truth about his need, just as God distances himself from the proud and puffed up soul:

הִנֵּה עֻפְּלָה לא־יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בּוֹ
 וְצַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה

hin·nei  u·pe·lah  lo  ya·she·rah  naf·sho   bo
ve·tzad·dik  be·e·mu·na·to   yich·yeh

"Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
 but the righteous shall find life by means of his trust."
(Hab. 2:4)

Hebrew Study Card

Recall that the people of Israel were redeemed because they trusted in the promise of their deliverance, as it is written, "and the people believed (וַיַּאֲמֵן הָעָם) and bowed their heads" (Exod. 4:31). Faith is the essence of all true Torah from heaven, since apart from it no one can possibly find spiritual life (Heb. 11:6). This is why the first commandment is simply, "I AM the LORD thy God..." (Exod. 20:2). We start here, by trusting that the LORD is our God, since without that, nothing else follows. 

The very purpose of creation is to know the love of the blessed Creator, and consequently whoever disregards or suppresses this truth fails to apprehend the essential reason for his or her existence.  The meaning or message of reality itself is revealed and grounded in God's great love (1 John 4:8). Like the precious promises of a bridegroom to his beloved, the words of Scripture are to be kept in the "midst of the heart" where they serve as a source of life (Prov. 4:21-22).

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