June 15, 2013 Shabbat Bible Study
©2013 Mark Pitrone and Fulfilling Torah Ministries
June 15, 2013 – Year 1 Sabbath 14
Genesis 17:1-27 – Jeremiah 33:25 – Psalm 13 – Romans 4:9-25
Gen.17 – Three major developments occur in this chapter, 1) Avram receives the covenant of Circumcision, 2) Avram and Sarai are renamed by Y’hovah, and 3) there is a new promise added to all the rest.
Vv.1-2 – Avram, at 99 years of age, is told by El Shaddai to ‘walk before me and be perfect’. El Shaddai means ‘the El who is Sufficient’, KJV has God Almighty. Yeshua calls himself this in Rev.1.8 (cf.v.18) and 22.13-18. Y’hovah is sufficient to grant mercy and to deliver his promises. To walk before him is to serve him, and in that service to be tamim or complete. If Avram will walk before El Shaddai completely, give himself completely to El Shaddai, holding NOTHING back, Y’hovah will increase Avram bim’od m’od. M’od means ‘very’, so the Hebrew phrase means at least ‘in very verity’ or ‘in absolute truth’.
Vv.3-4 – Avram doesn’t say a word, but falls immediately on his face, silently signaling his submission to the Almighty Elohim, and El accepts his worship by saying, “As for my part, here’s what I’m going to do for you: 1) you will be father to a multitude of nations;” This is not the same Hebrew phrase the KJV translates this way in 48.19. That one is M’loh hagoyim, which is how Paul describes Yisrael in Rom.11.25-26, ‘fullness of the gentiles’. This phrase is hamon goyim and means ‘species (plural) of nations’ or ‘all kinds of nations’. In 12.3, Y’hovah had promised that in Avram ‘all the nations of the earth will be blessed.’ Here he reiterates that promise, but says that those nations will also have the blessing of being his offspring.
Vv.5-8 – 2) With the promise came a change of name from Avram, exalted father or father of Aram (where he’d come from), to Avraham, father of a multitude of nations. The addition of the hey, the 5th letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet, signifies Y’hovah’s grace, as Bullinger’s Number in Scripture says that the number 5 signifies the grace of Y’hovah. The letter represents the very breath of Y’hovah (Jn.20.22), or his Ruach on Avraham and his seed. The paleo-Hebrew letter represents a window, through which one can see and stand watch (shamar). Rambam says that even converts can be called ‘sons of Avraham’ because he is the ‘father of a multitude of nations’. So Paul’s recognition of the gentiles in Messiah as sons of Avraham in Galatians and Romans is no accident. It has its basis in the remez/sod of Torah (no surprise to me).
The promise continues, with Elohim promising that not only will there be nations descended from Avraham, so would there be kings, and all the promises that El had made to Avraham would be his children’s as well, throughout their generations. Every descendant of Avraham, spiritual and physical, is given these promises as a birthright. But to claim the birthright there is a condition – obedience like Avraham showed in v.3 (cf.vv.9-14). And then another promise comes to Avraham and his seed – all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, from the Indian Ocean to mid-Asia minor, is theirs forever (15.19, 20). So when the Philistines and Edomites lay claim to this land, any or all of it, they are lying out the nether ends of their alimentary canals. OH! and one more promise comes to us that is greater than all that have gone before – he will be an Elohim to us.
Our part is to keep – shamar, guard – his covenant. That covenant is for Avraham to circumcise himself and all the males in his house immediately and then we are to circumcise our male children on the 8th day. This covenant is between each of us and Elohim. When Y’hovah sees the circumcision, he keeps his end of the deal with that person. He sees a son of Avraham and one who is the recipient of all the promises made to Avraham. And the CC is an ever present witness to us that we are sons of the covenant, b’nei b’rith.
Is physical CC necessary to salvation in Moshiach? No. But when one becomes aware of the covenant that he’s a party to, he may want to look into being CCd anyway. Will his CC make him more of a son of Avraham or son of Elohim? No. But it will be a personal witness to him to be mindful of his place in the covenant. I hope you can tell that I am pro-gentile CC, but as a matter of choice, not compulsion.
Then Elohim changed Sarai’s name (my princess) to Sarah (princess of all nations). Sarah has been a part of the covenant with Y’hovah through Avraham. Now, she is made a partaker in the same covenant with Y’hovah in her own right. The same letter is added to her name, signifying the grace of Y’hovah and the gift of the Ruach to her life. She is promised a blessing, which will be a son from her own womb and by her husband Avraham at that same set time (v.21 – l’mo’ed) in the next year. Avi responds within himself in much the same way Sarah will in next week’s Torah portion (though in a quiter manner), and Y’hovah uses the response as the name he commands Avi to use. You shall call his name Yitzhak – laughter. The covenant will go through Yitzhak.
Avraham is concerned that Ishmael does not live in Y’hovah’s eyes. He wants Ishmael to be a part of the covenant, as well. Yah doesn’t go that far, but does promise blessings on Ishmael’s children, as well.
The very next thing Avraham did was to take all his males, including Ishmael, and CC them, leaving his entire fortune in Y’hovah’s hand, as they were now virtually defenseless. If you don’t believe me, look at Gen.34. Up to this point, Avraham had been on a spiritual roller-coaster ride, from peaks to valleys, trust to non-trust. But from here on, he enters only one valley – and that at the WORST possible time. We’ll see it next week. Avraham trusts Y’hovah implicitly from that point on – he literally guards the covenant in total subjection to Y’hovah. Q&C
YirmeYahu 33.25-26 – Not only does Y’hovah have a covenant with US, he has one with day and night. Not only has he issued ordinances to us, but he’s issued them to heaven and earth. And he tells us here, as well as in Mat.5.17-19, that only when these ordinances and covenant are no longer valid will his covenant with his people be invalid. The context here is that many of his people had decided that since he had allowed calamity to touch Judah and David, he must have given up the covenant. But in this chapter, Y’hovah confirms at least 3 covenants, the one with Judah and Israel (2 houses), the one with David and the one with creation. Y’hovah tells chol Yisrael that he will always keep covenant with them. It is THEY who abrogated the covenant, not he. Look briefly at the Avrahamic covenant again. Gen.17.
9 “And Elohim said unto Avraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.”
And then in Jer.33.
23 “Moreover the word of Y’hovah came to YiremYahu, saying, 24 Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which Y’hovah hath chosen, he hath even cast them off?’ thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them.”
Y’hovah will NEVER cast off his people. He will cut them off, as in excommunicate them (or exile them or put them out of the camp) with the purpose of showing them their sin and its consequences so they will return to him, but he will never cast them off. Look at Rom.11.
17 “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. 20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if Elohim spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of Elohim: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for Elohim is able to graff them in again. 24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” (Rom.11.17-24)
Cut off, but not cast off. 1Jn.1.9 is how we go from cut off to graffed in. Q&C
Psalm 13.1-2 – David has been so deep in sin for so long that he thinks Y’hovah has forgotten him. But as our haftarah passage for today says, Y’hovah will not forget his end of any covenant. He does expect us to keep our end of it and will withhold his blessing if we don’t, and it is that to which David refers here. He has come to realize that as long as he is not keeping his end of the covenant it will look as though Y’hovah has turned his face away. In all actuality, it is David (or you or me) who has turned away from Y’hovah. But, like the prodigal and his abba, Avinu is watching us, his face still turned our way, and when we turn back to him he literally RUNS to us to welcome us home.
Vv.3-4 David asks Yah to look at his teshuvah and to bless him in his return to Yah’s ways. He asks for Yah to consider his teshuvah so that he not die in his distress, so that his enemies will not be able to rejoice in it.
Vv.5-6 Since David has trusted in Y’hovah, he knows he SHALL rejoice in his deliverance, that his fate is secure. He is so secure he is able to sing Y’hovah’s praises even when his enemies are surrounding him, because Y’hovah ‘HAS DEALT bountifully’ with him. That is security – when the enemy surrounds us and we SING the praises of Y’hovah because, even in the trouble we experience, we are sure of his bountiful mercies to us. Q&C
RomiYah 4.9-25 – Vv.9-12 – Starting in v.9 Paul goes back to the discussion of the CC, or those who have been CCd vice those who have not. He is going to show that the CC has nothing to do with blessedness, the blessedness spoken of by David. Blessedness is the result of the righteousness of Yeshua, which is offered to the CCd and unCCd alike. This blessedness is the same as that in Ps.1, and particularly in Ps.32, which Sha’ul has just quoted. Blessed is ‘happy’ from the Hebrew ‘esher’ meaning ‘How happy!’ Esher is from the root ‘ashar’ – to make straight, level and right. This blessedness that is a result of our being made straight, level and right is attributed, which means ascribed to, pronounced to be or considered as belonging to. It is not an attribute that is intrinsic, but one that is given to us. When something is ‘considered’ to belong to someone, it means that it is not intrinsically his, but that he has the benefit of it just the same. Our ‘makarismos’ or ‘esher’ is not our own, but is given to us by our Saviour. We have the full benefit of this blessedness as a gift from Yeshua haMoshiach.
Avraham received his blessedness before he was CCd, while he was yet a gentile, because he believed Y’hovah – he took Y’hovah at his Word. Is that not how we received our blessedness as well? What has always been the condition under which one was saved? Sha’ul is discussing it right here. Salvation is by the grace of Y’hovah to them who believe and trust him to keep his Word. I can think of noone who has ever been saved in any other way, can you? Thought not.
So, what is CC for? Look at v.11. It is a SIGN (and a personal one, at that – I will not be showing mine off to anyone anytime soon) of the righteousness that Y’hovah ascribes to us due to the faith we’ve demonstrated. Remember that faith is not just mental assent, but also the actions that arise from that mental assent (Jas.1.22). CC is the sign that Avraham is the father of all who trust Y’hovah to perform that which he’s promised, both the CCd and the unCC’d. Avraham was a point of conjunction for those who had been CCd and those who had not, for he was justified as unCC’d, and later became CCd.
If we understand this fact, Eph.3.3-9 becomes abundantly clear.
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery [sod interpretation]; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Moshiach) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Moshiach by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of Elohim given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Moshiach; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in Elohim, who created all things by Yeshua haMoshiach: Q&C
Vv.13-15 – Just as Torah is not nullified through faith (3.31), so faith is not nullified through Torah. Y’hovah promised Avraham that he and his seed would inherit the earth before he gave him the ‘sign’ of CC – 10 years before, to be exact. It was that promise that Avi trusted. Y’hovah had not revealed the mechanism by which he’d deliver the blessing, but the mechanism didn’t mean anything to Avi. Y’hovah said it and that was enough for him, regardless what Bill and Gloria Gaither believe. The promise didn’t come from oral law; it came by faith in the Word of Y’hovah (which I suppose could be called ‘oral law’, but not in the same vein as the meanderings of the rabbis) long before it was written down.
V.14 has an interesting translation variant. The TR greek says, “ei gar hoi ek nomou klayronomoi, kekenotai hey pistis, kai katergayntai hey epangelia’ – literally, “For if they out of law share laws by lot (like the land was divvied under Joshua), make empty the faith, and make useless the promise”. I think this is actually speaking of cherry-picking bits of the Torah (share laws by lot = throwing the dice) and thereby making both faith and promise useless and vain. This is exactly what the rabbis did with their man-made rules that took precedence in their religion over the revealed Torah of Y’hovah. V.15 shows why they did this. If they didn’t remind themselves of all their sins, but decided to only pay attention to SOME of the Torah, they would not think of all their sin or the wrath of Elohim to which they would thus be subject. Remember that the rabbis were superior to Elohim in their traditional religion. Even Elohim had to defer to the rabbinic decrees. Here is what Pesikta Rabbati §3 says:
“A person must not say, ‘I will not keep the commandment of the elders because they are not from the Torah.’ The Almighty says to such a person, ‘NO, My son! Rather all that they decree upon you, observe! (Kinda like Matt.23.3?) As it is written, ‘According to the instruction which they teach you’ (Dt.17.11, wrenched from its context). Even I (= Y’hovah) must obey their decree, as it is written, ‘You will decree and he will fulfill it.’ (Job 22.28, a reference to ‘name it – claim it’ in Tanakh)’”[i]
So they picked and chose which Toroth (laws) they would obey and which they would not. Then they added hundreds of other laws to keep the people so far from Torah that they couldn’t get close enough to it to break it. This is what Paul is dealing with, and why it can be utterly confusing for us. 2 Toroth – one oral and one written: one to be obeyed fully and the other to be partially discarded.
Is Paul saying in v.15 that one who has never known Torah is off the hook? If he is, he completely negates the entire letter up to now. He has already made it plain that justification is not by ‘easy believe-ism’, nor by rote works, nor by physical birthright. He is speaking in reference to the previous verses. Without Torah there is no knowledge of sin and there can therefore BE no righteousness, for there can be no knowledge of righteousness, either. Therefore, without Torah, there is no standard for righteousness and no basis for ANY justification. Lack of a standard does NOT produce freedom or liberty: it produces anarchy. Q&C
Vv.16- end – Does this verse remind you of another passage in say … Ephesians 2? It does me. Except Sha’ul doesn’t elaborate so much here. He even uses the same words, ‘by grace’ and ‘of (or through) faith’ to convey the same concept – that all are justified in the same way, whether by legal descent or spiritual descent, by the faith of Avraham. This verse points, as do others, to the Shema; all are echad in Moshiach, as Y’hovah Elohenu is echad. Paul is showing us that righteousness by the faith of Yeshua is accessible to both Jew and gentile, and that this concept predates Moshe and even the patriarchs. The Brit HaDashah and the Jewish midrashic writings agree on this:
27 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Moshiach Yeshua. 29 And if ye be Moshiach’s, then are ye Avraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Tana DeBei Eliahu Rabba 9, “I bring heaven and earth to bear witness, that any human, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, freeman or slave, according to his deeds he can be worthy of Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit)”[ii]
Sha’ul is relying on his knowledge of the Shema and its implications to our faith to make the point that ALL ARE ONE in Messiah Yeshua.
Avraham was promised to be the father of MANY nations, not just Israel. And Paul says in v.17 that Avraham is the father of both the Jews and the gentiles in the Roman kahal. We are all the children of Avi ‘before Him whom he believed, Elohim, who quickeneth the dead (both physically and spiritually) and calleth those things that be not as though they were.’ He calls us who are NOT the physical seed of Avraham heirs with them according to the promise of Y’hovah TO the physical seed. Q&C
“Who against hope believed in hope?” Whazzat? What is ‘hope’ in scripture? Hope is a firm trust in the promises of Y’hovah. In Heb.11.1 it says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for”.To hope (v.i.) is
“to place confidence in; to trust with confident expectation of good.”[iii]
Hope (n) is an intangible on which we can hang our future. The key to this phrase, though, is in the word ‘against’, which is from the Greek word para, which means alongside. So Avraham leans up against hope, places his trust in the substance of that which is promised to him. Even though he could not see the promise with his eyes, he could see it in his spirit, and that was his confidence.
If we keep that in mind, the rest of the chapter is pretty easy to see. His hope made it possible for him to believe Y’hovah when he said that a 100 year-old man and his barren, 90 year-old, babe of a wife (Abimelech wanted her for his harem) would bring forth a son (Gen.18.10). He didn’t ‘stagger’ at Y’hovah’s promise, but was strong in the faith of Y’hovah, that he would perform his promise. And his faith and hope never faltered, for some 30 years later, he was able to bind Yitzchak on the altar and take up the knife to offer him, knowing that the same Y’hovah who could quicken the womb and loins of 2 people as good as dead could also quicken their promised seed, even though he was dead. Avi’s faith was not judged ‘not weak’ because he did ‘good works’ or because he believed in some doctrines ‘just right’, but because he looked passed the circumstances of his life and knew that Y’hovah could work around them, or in spite of them, and trusted Y’hovah and obeyed him without hesitation.
For this reason we have James saying that works of Torah as a result of faith is an essential proof of salvation:
James 1. 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect Torah of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James 2. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the Torah of liberty.
Paul says the same thing in Eph.2.10:
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua unto good works (of Torah), which Elohim hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Vv.22-25 – All of this brings us back around to v.3, that righteousness is imputed due to faith, and that faith is proven by our works. As Avraham was justified because he believed that he could be ‘raised from the dead’ metaphorically by his trust in Y’hovah’s promise, so we can be raised from the dead both spiritually and physically by our trust in Y’hovah’s promise. Both Avraham’s ‘time of life’ was restored, Yitzhak was restored to him and Yeshua was literally raised from the dead by the same power. Our hope in that power of Y’hovah to deliver us through the shed blood of Yeshua and by his resurrection from death is the faith by which Y’hovah imputes righteousness to us, justifying us. Q&C
[i] Ben Mordechai, Galatians, 2005 Millennium 7000, pg.67
[ii] As cited in, The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, by Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser Inc., York Beach, Maine, 1979, p. 156
[iii] W1828, 2nd definition