For the week of October 31, 2009 / 13 Heshvan 5770
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 12:1 - 17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 - 41:16
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-3; ESV)
In the New Covenant book of Galatians, Paul refers to this week's Torah portion, when he says,
According to Paul, God's promise of blessing to the nations through Abraham (who was called Abram at the time) is the gospel. The word "gospel" comes from the Greek word, "euangelion," meaning "good news" and is most likely in reference to the "good news" passages in Isaiah (40:9, 41:27, 52:7, 60:6, and 61:1). Let me quote one:
According to Isaiah here, the good news has to do with the proclamation of the reign of God. For Israel, the reign of God means release from foreign oppression and spiritual restoration for the nation. Paul may have also had in mind how the Greek word was used in the Roman Empire of his day. A proclamation by Caesar that would bring benefit to the empire was called "euangelion," - "good news." Therefore, for Paul, while "good news" was rooted in Jewish expectation, he also had in mind its world-wide implications as he announced the reign of the true king.
This good news was the objective of God's promises to Abraham. God called him away from his homeland in Mesopotamia to journey to a foreign land, which would one day be called Israel, in order to accomplish his desire to resolve human alienation from God, which began with our first parents in the Garden of Eden.
Paul's reference to this good news finding its origins in Abraham confirms the Bible's teaching that the coming of Yeshua as Messiah is part of God's overall plan and purpose from the beginning. God's choosing of the people of Israel through the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was the necessary outworking of his plan to make himself known to all nations. God's choosing of Israel was not simply a warm-up to the coming of the Messiah, as if God was biding his time until then. Nor was Israel some sort of "Plan A" that failed when the majority of Israel failed to recognize Yeshua as Messiah. Rather, beginning with Abraham, God worked out his master plan through to its fulfillment in Yeshua.
God chose Israel to reveal himself to the world. His revelation through the Hebrew Scriptures is the basis of what we know of the true God. The nature and personhood of God is provided to us through the prophetic history of Israel. While general things about God as Creator can be known through creation, it is through Israel that we learn about him and his ways. Also, it is the Hebrew Scriptures that provide us with the Messiah's credentials in order to recognize him when he came.
The good news is not just a message of individual salvation. That's included, but more fully it is the grand announcement that the long-awaited Messiah, through whom God would establish his reign, as foretold by the Jewish prophets, has come. In Yeshua the expectation of Abraham is fulfilled, Israel's oppression under foreign control is over, and God's reign as King over all the earth is established.
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