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  • Sharon Tootill 5:21 pm on November 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , circumcision, Covenant, , Lech Lecha, , ,   

    Lech Lecha 

    lech-lecha

    Readings

    Torah: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27
    Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
    New Testament: Romans 4:1-24, Galatians 4:21-5:1, Hebrews 7

    Note: the New Testament references are suggested by the Hebrews for Christians website. the Complete Jewish Bible and individual Messianic congregations use various different selections – there is no agreed-upon set readings.

    Apologies for the lateness of this post. I have been really struggling to find enough time to sit down and look at this properly. I think I probably need to be a little bit more self-disciplined and carve out a specific time and place to study and write.

    Parsha Lech Lecha (or Lekh Lekha) covers the stories of:

    • The Calling of Abram
    • Abram and Sarah in Egypt
    • Abram and Lot separate
    • Battle of the Kings
    • Covenant of the Land
    • Sarai and Hagar
    • Covenant of Circumcision

    The Calling of Abram

    The LORD calls Abram to leave his home in Ur to settle in Canaan, and Abram takes his whole household and all their possessions. the LORD appears to Abram again and says “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” This is the first mention and the first promise regarding the land of Israel.  From an evangelical perspective, these Bible promises alone justify the continued existence of Israel as a nation.

    I have to wonder, if this were an actual historical event, how God manifests himself? In the stories below, it is often as a ‘man’ (which we usually understand to be an angel, or a messenger of God). Again, are these actual angels, or human beings speaking prophetically, and if the latter, how are we to know we can trust what they say? And if we only understand these stories as metaphor, what do they mean?

    Abram and Sarah in Egypt

    Abram and Sarah have to go into Egypt when there is famine in Canaan, and we get the first of three ‘wife/sister’ narratives, where the Patriarch attempts to pass his wife off as his sister in order to preserve his own life. It seems to suggest that these men (Abram and later Isaac) are deeply flawed, weak men. I don’t know what the significance of such an act might have been culturally in the time and place the stories are set in, but it is suggested that (whether or not they are true stories), it is designed to draw attention to the virtues of the women concerned. I’m not convinced about that.

    Abram and Lot Separate

    On returning to Canaan, Abram and Lot decide to part because they are such a big company that they would be too much for the land altogether in one place. So Abram goes up into the Plain of Jordan, while Lot goes down into Sodom. It actually says that Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” rather than actually living in the city. After they separate, the LORD promises Abram again that the land as far as he can see in every direction is for him and his descendants, who will be so many that they can’t be numbered.

    Battle of the Kings

    There is a battle between a group of 4 kings (Chedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, Aioch) and 5 kings (the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorah, king of Admah, king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela/ Zoar), and Lot is carried off. So Abram is told and takes armed servants to join the fight and brings back both ‘the goods and the women and the people’.

    On the journey, they meet Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem?) who blesses Abram who gives Melchizeden tithes of all they have got.

    Melchizedek is an interesting character. His name means ‘Righteous King’, and he is considered (whether or not he was a real human character, and whether or not the incident really happened) to in some way represent God – the ultimate Righteous King – and to be a foreshadow or even a pre-incarnation of Christ.

    Covenant of the Land

    After this, the LORD appears again to Abram and makes a covenant with him, shoring up the promises he had already made regarding the land. Significantly, Abram is put to sleep while the covenant is being confirmed, and God walks through the cut pieces of the sacrificed animals alone, suggesting that this covenant is not dependent on Abram’s behaviour, but rests on God’s faithfulness alone.

    Sarai and Hagar

    Abram and Sarai are pretty aged in the story, and neither of them really belive that Sarai can have children to fulfil the promise of descendants for Abram, and so she gives him her maidservant Hagar. From a modern perspective this seems a thoroughly appalling abuse of power, but it seems to have been a common practice in the ancient world. Torah does not speak to the legality of such an arrangement, it does not seem to directly contravene any law, but again from our modern perspective and understanding of the NT admonition to only have one wife, it seems obvious that this arrangement can only lead to trouble, and of course it does. Hagar conceives, and when she does she mocks Sarai and Sarai casts her out. But God speaks to Hagar and tells her to return, promising that he will give her a multitude of descendants. Hagar names the place where God speaks to her ‘Beerlahairoi’, meaning the Covenant (or Well) of the God who Sees Me.

    Covenant of Circumcision

    The LORD appears to Abram again and makes a new covenant with him, changing his name at this time to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah, promising that Sarah will indeed have a child of her own. Sarah laughs at the idea, and so the child will be name ‘Isaac’ (Yitzak), meaning laughter. The covenant is the Covenant of Circumcision, which demanded that every male in Abraham’s household should be circumcised.

    I have to say that, even when I was attending a Messianic cogregation, I had a problem understanding circumcision. I understand it as a metaphor and the idea of having a ‘circumcised heart’, but as an actual physical practice? Why on earth would God require that a piece of the body, and just such a piece of the body as the penis, be mutilated and removed? This is obviously something that is really just too far removed from modern culture. Perhaps it made sense in ancient Canaan. I am aware that circumcision is still practiced, but if female circumcision is abusive and unacceptable (which it most definitely is), how is male circumcision acceptable?

    Links to Commentaries and Resources

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lech-Lecha

    http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/parashiyot/lechlcha-14.php

    https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/genesis-121-1727-parashah-lech-lecha/  Christine shows some chiastic structures in Lech Lecha, but there is also a much bigger chiastic structure spanning chapters 12 to 22 which puts the Covenant of Circumcision at the centre.

     

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  • Sharon Tootill 1:18 pm on January 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , collect, Common Worship, Covenant, ferment, , , , lectionary, , , priesthood, , , Tree of Life, , Wedding at Cana, wine, yeast   

    Second Sunday of Epiphany 

    The following are my scattered thoughts on the CW lectionary passages for the second Sunday of Epiphany, Year C, 17th January 2016. It is a Bible study rather than a sermon, but if anybody finds my notes of use in drawing up their own sermon, I would be very happy for you to make use of them. (Do let me know if you do!)


    Psalms/ Canticles: Psalms 36:5-10
    Old Testament: Isaiah 62:1-5
    New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
    Gospel Reading: John 2:1-11


    The Wedding at Cana is significant as Jesus’ first miracle and the inauguration of his ministry. But it can also be understood as representing two Covenants by the water and the wine, the wine signifying the New Covenant which is made between God, Judah and the whole house of Israel (that is, the Jewish people and all those whom God will call to himself).

    Jesus’ mother (John never refers to her name as Mary) may be understood as representing the Jewish people in general, and the Levitical priesthood in particular (she is a Levi by family bloodline) , whereas we are told in Hebrews 7 that Jesus’ priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. She draws Jesus’ attention to the lack of wine and directs to servants to do whatever Jesus asks them to, and he tells them to fill the jars with water which he transforms into wine.

    Water is often significant in scripture and generally represents life, especially spiritual life, and may also be understood as representing the Torah, which in Judaism is referred to as ‘The Tree of Life’. In Messianic Jewish thought, Jesus is called the Tree of Life, or the Living Torah.

    So what is wine that it would be more desirable and preferable to life itself? Well, the Hebrew word for wine is yayin (Strong’s Hebrew word no. 3196) from an unused root yayanto ferment or to effervesce, and so the wine may be understood as containing good yeast, that is, the Holy Spirit.

    If we look back to the first explicit mention of the New Covenant, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, it is a Covenant in which God will write the law (the Torah) on people’s hearts. This can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit.

    It is interesting that Jesus tells his mother in response, “My hour is not yet come.” Does he mean that it is too early for his ministry to start? Or is it perhaps referring to the fact that the New Covenant cannot be fully inaugurated yet, not until the coming of the Holy Spirit, after his death?


    The passage in Isaiah is a very beautiful passage, of obvious Messianic significance (and by Messianic I mean both pertaining to Jewish believers and relating to the Messiah) but I’m not entirely sure why that particular passage was selected as I’m not immediately seeing the connection. If anybody has any ideas on this, I would be interested!

    The New Testament passage in 1 Corinthians relates to spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts to the church.

    The passage from Psalm 36 is on the topic of God’s love, but it refers to drinking from the ‘river of delights’,  the ‘fountain of life’, which can be seen to reflect the same topic of water as life, but here it is linked to the love of God.


    Collect: Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new; transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory:
    Through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord,
    Who is alive and reigns with you,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

    Amen.

     

     
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