For the week of January 5, 2013 / 23 Tevet 5773
Torah: Shemot/ Exodus 1:1 - 6:1
Haftarah: Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13; 29:22-23


God of Promise

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. (Shemot / Exodus 2:24; ESV)

When God makes a promise, he keeps it. In fact we might say that the story of the entire Bible is one of God making a promise and keeping it. It's a promise he made to a family long ago, beginning with Abraham, his miracle son Isaac, and specially chosen grandson Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel.

This week's Torah portion includes the story of the sending of Moses to secure the release of Israel's descendants from oppressive bondage in Egypt. The basis of God's acting on behalf of the nation of Israel is as I quoted at the beginning. It was that God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All that follows from the ten plagues to the parting of the Red Sea to the provision of manna to the protection and guidance through the pillar of cloud and fire to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai to the conquest of the Land were all rooted in God's covenantal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Throughout history much of Christianity has wrongfully judged Israel on the basis of its relationship to the Sinai covenant (commonly called "The Torah", the term also used as a title for the books of Moses, the first five books of the Bible). Not only was their deliverance from Egypt based on God's earlier unconditional promises, but so would be their eventual restoration. The Torah itself teaches that if and when God would judge Israel for its wrongs, if and when they return to him, he would restore them, not on the basis of the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, but upon the earlier unconditional convent made with the forefathers.

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies - if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land (Vayikra / Leviticus 26:40-42; ESV).

The writer of Psalm 105 understood the eternal nature of this covenant when he wrote,

He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance" (Tehillim / Psalm 105:8-11; ESV).

Throughout the writings of the Hebrew prophets, we read of God's determination to resolve Israel's tendency towards unfaithfulness by promising to provide an eventual permanent restoration (see Jeremiah 31:31-37; Ezekiel 36:22-32). This determination is consistent with his commitment to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The New Covenant (New Testament) writings concur with this by regarding the coming of the Messiah as a fulfillment of God's promises to the forefathers. As Zechariah, the father of Yohanan HaMatbil (John the Baptist), proclaimed,

That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear... (Luke 1:71-74; ESV)

Similarly Yeshua's mother, Miryam (English: Mary) said: "He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever" (Luke 1:54-55; ESV).

Paul also understood the continual nature of God's commitment to the forefathers and their descendants: "But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28-29; ESV).

God has demonstrated his dependability through the coming of the Messiah and the preservation of the nation of Israel. Let's begin 2013 with a fresh resolve to trust in the One who remains true to his promises, faithful to his relationships, and determined to fulfill his purposes in the world.

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