Vayera “And appeared”
2 Kings 4:1-37
A Special Visit
We begin this Torah portion with Abraham sitting at the entrance to his tent. On this day he is not looking toward the horizon as the Book of Hebrews would later tell us was his normal gaze. No, today he is looking down. I do not see him as having lost hope over the promises he had been given, but maybe that day was just not one of his best. He is pondering the incident with Hagar and Ishmael. Life was just not making sense lately. He had tried by his own means numerous ways to bring these promises to pass and nothing had worked out very well. He is staring his one-hundredth birthday in the face, and Sarah is no spring chicken herself! When he looks up from his own thoughts, life changes. Maybe there is a lesson to us here in these first verses; changes come when we look up, not look down.
Abraham’s hospitality immediately kicks into high gear and dinner is soon to be served. Now we are not told if Abraham knew exactly who he was feeding at first, but it seems he eventually does get the picture. Who else could make promises like the ones given that day to this couple? As for Sarah’s response? Who can blame her? What would you have done?
Abraham truly shines when he is confronted with the soon coming fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. He had just come from dealings with these people, so surely he knew the wickedness of the place. To consider his prayer in light of my own attitude toward the wickedness of our modern day world is more than a bit convicting!
What about Lot? Scripture states he shares a title with Noah, the title of “Righteous.” How can this be? Truth is, both men had righteous standing. The difference was how they walked out their righteousness. On one hand, Noah’s righteousness caused him to separate himself and his family from the wickedness that surrounded him. On the other hand, Lot chose to stay in the center of the wicked. The difference? Their families. Noah was able to save his family, whereas Lot lost his. So the question arises to each of us: Where are we choosing to live? How close to Sodom are we comfortable in living. To quote a new phrase a friend just coined, “Just how much chicken manure do you desire in your brownies?” Seriously, make a mental list of the places you go, the things you do, the books you read and the entertainment you watch. Is your life closer to Noah or to Lot? Now take a look at your children and grandchildren. They are the ones who may one day be asked to pay the price for your choices.
Finally the big day arrives for Abraham and Sarah. A baby is born and because of Sarah’s response a year earlier, his name is Isaac, “Laughter.” The laughter in the camp does not last as, “That sounds like a good idea,” becomes a major problem and Abraham is forced to send Hagar and Ishmael out of the camp. If only it were that easy to pack up our mistakes in life and just send them packing, never to be seen again. Ishmael may leave for a while, but as one who is sitting in Israel while writing this commentary, Ishmael has returned and is multiplying fast! Sin has it’s way of never leaving for good, but showing up many times in generations yet to be born. Take another look at those children and grandchildren and once again ask, “Is it worth it?”
The last part of this week’s portion is the infamous account of Abraham taking Isaac to Mt. Mariah. First of all, this is probably not Abraham’s nor Isaac’s first trip to offer a sacrifice on that mountain. I personally believe and teach it was a day established as far back as the Garden, a day we would later come to know as Passover.
Maybe the greatest moment of faith in the life of Abraham is found in Gen 22:3, where scripture states Abraham “Got up early.” Now if there was ever a day to sleep in a bit or ponder if he had heard God right over a second or third cup of coffee, this was the morning! Not Abraham! He had learned maybe the greatest lesson of obedience; immediate action brings the greatest blessing. Abraham gets up early, gets things in order and off he goes with Isaac and his servants.
Some of the most astounding words in all of scripture, to me, are found in Gen 22:5: “I and the boy will go there, worship and return.” Not only had ‘Our Father Abraham’ learned what true faith was, but he had also learned what true worship was; obedience! That’s right, without a guitar or a playlist of mp3, Abraham, and we should also say Isaac, demonstrated on that mountain so many years ago what true worship is all about. Because of his wholehearted worship, Abraham received a special gift that day; a glimpse into the future to see the culmination of all covenants as he gazed upon what Scripture records as “On this mountain YH VH is seen.”
Let us take much from this weeks readings. Let us examine once again our own lives in light of two men, Noah and Lot. Then may we consider, if Abraham is the ‘Father of our Faith,’ then is not the greatest compliment to a father the day his children decide to walk in His footsteps?