The Grace of Hospitality

וַיֹּאמַר:  אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ–אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ

“And he, Abraham, said, “My Lord, if I have found grace in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant” (Gen. 18:3).

The rabbis tell us a trait shared by the descendants of Abraham is hospitality; a manner or disposition that is hospitable to both guest and stranger alike.

This derives from the opening verses of Genesis 18; as Abraham lay at the door of his tent on the third day after his circumcision. The Lord appears to him, and as Abraham lifts his eyes, there before him are three men. From the unfolding narrative it is easy to determine that this is a theophany.

As Abraham says, speaking in the singular to a plural party, “My Lord, if I have found grace in your eyes … “ he welcomes them to settle in the shade of a tree, showing the kindness of hospitality.

Our English word hospitality is derived from the Latin hospes, which means guest, stranger, even host. It appears to be a word of relationship between otherwise disconnected parties. Hospes shares its root with another English word, hostile; in biblical faith one should meditate on the conditions that bring us to hospitality or hostility.

In ancient times, travelers meandering on their journey had two choices: 1) rely on their own skills to make suitable accommodations, or 2) rely on the kindness of a local host; as the Holiday Inn Express was not yet a thing.

In our text above, Abraham does not wait for the Lord to seek his kindness; no, Abraham opens his doors as evidence of the grace he has received – by His presence.

Time and again the Torah instructs us to welcome, and care for the stranger; because we have been the stranger, the newcomer, the unknown other. It is a disposition rooted in grace itself, as Abraham notes.

The Torah commands us to “love our neighbor as ourself” (Lev. 19:18) only once; but it commands us to love the stranger thirty-six times. Strange, but not. We are inclined to love those known, familiar or similar to us. This familiarity would naturally stir hospitality; where unfamiliarity might stir up hostility. The two, as noted above, are very close.

Yet, by faith in Messiah we are new creations; and unfamiliar, as it were, to everyone, except those of like Spirit. Still more, that new Spirit of God, now in us, causes us to seek the lost, the unfamiliar, or the stranger to heavens door: Messiah.

All too often we give in to our fearful, unregenerate disposition, informed not by the Word of God, but media manipulation.

Paul directs us, “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Ro. 15:7).

“Receive one another,” means: take to yourself the other. This we find in Messiah, who took us to Himself by grace. We share in this grace when we take the other to ourself following His example. Abraham, in Genesis 18, took the Lord to himself. He welcomed the Lord in, ministered to Him by shelter, comfort, and food; and the Lord shared the long awaited good news: the promised child is coming.

What good do we receive as we welcome, or open our hearts to the stranger before us? The promised Son meets us once again in the eyes of a stranger.

And if you are in Messiah, as Paul writes, you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:29). In Messiah, not only do we live as strangers and sojourners to this world, but we welcome others along the way as well.

Hospitality does not improve our standing in heaven, it glorifies God on earth in a time when it is a dangerous thing to be a stranger. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Be well. Shalom.

In the Bottomlands

The prophet Zechariah spoke, “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you” (Zach. 1:3).

I don’t know if you have ever been in the bottomlands, the marshland between the mountains. It can be difficult to get around, and then when you believe you have found a way out, you sink in the mire once again.

You get wet, dirty, and caught up in the smell. There are dead things down in the deep; and sometimes, critters hiding: but you must go on.

You can see the sunlight dancing on top of the surrounding mountains: if only you were up there. Put that aside; up there, on top of the mountain has its own troubles. You are in the bottomlands, in the shady place sinking, struggling, and that is trouble enough.

What to do?

We are in an age of pressuring: tribulation. No, not the “great tribulation,” but tribulation nonetheless. Look closely at what Zechariah said in the name of the Lord: “Return to Me,” … “and I will return to you.”

שׁוּבוּ אֵלַי, translated another way, “Turn to me.” The Lord is saying, “Turn away from the way that brought you into this bottomland, to Me.” This is, by definition, repentance: turning away from, to.

Bottomland experiences, whether hiking, in life, or in the spiritual life, are unavoidable. There is life down in that place, and it’s the life that builds endurance to climb.

When we find ourselves down in the bottomlands, it is easy to become entirely too focused on that circumstance. But remember: turn…

Turing to the Lord doesn’t get you out of the bottomlands, turning to God will bring Him down into the bottomlands with you.

Messiah said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and that includes the bottomlands as well. You are never alone, or forsaken, even in the most dire circumstance.

Be well. Shabbat shalom.

Why Abraham?

In Genesis 12:1 God chooses Abraham; but unlike the story of Noah, who was righteous in his generation and walked with God (Gen. 6:9), no reason for Abraham’s choosiness is given. We are not told that he walked with God, or that he was righteous in his generation. God simply choose him.

In the record of Abrahams life, we certainly see that he walked with God (Gen. 17:1), and that he was righteous before God (Gen. 15:6); but there is no record of his merit to deserve God choosing him.

The Torah tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of God (Gen. 6:8), a grace that resulted in him faithfully walking with God, resulting in him being chosen to build the Ark (Gen. 6:9). But not so with Abraham.

Abraham, in Genesis 12:1-3, is commanded to go, he is promised blessing, and he is promised family. He was chosen, and he responded.

Abraham would also build an Ark; not of wood and pitch, but of faith and family. Abraham was chosen without explanation in order that future generations would realize that they did not have to reach the stature of an Abraham in order to be accepted by God. No, our acceptance is based entire on the choice of His heart.

Messiah Yeshua/Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (Jn. 15:16).

As with Abraham, Yeshua chose us. Notice as well his directive, “go … and bear fruit.” This is a key element of the Abrahamic calling, “go out.” As Paul wrote, along with my amplification, “And if you are Christ’s (because He chose you), then you are Abraham’s seed (part of Abraham’s multitude blessing), and heirs according to the promise (given to Abraham’s descendants)” (Gal. 3:29).

God chose Abraham because he wanted him, no explanation needed. Abraham did not need to reach a level of perfection in his own right to be accepted. God chose him, that’s it.

This is called grace. Abraham did not deserve to be chosen. Abraham did not merit it, and he could not argue with God based on the perfection of his character. Abraham was the choice of God’s heart, and in Messiah, you are as well.

As Paul articulates, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

There is no reason for God in Christ to chose you, and that places you in good company. It is His grace, His love, and His desire to bless you as part of His eternal Ark, Messiah Jesus, that makes you deserving. If you feel you do not deserve it, good, you do not; but your feeling does not change His mind. Hallelujah!

God chose Abraham to be the father of a multitude of faithful family, a promise given to a childless man. Look in the mirror, God had you in mind when He promised this to Abraham.

You are part of the seed of Abraham that is bring forth lasting fruit in Yeshua.

Be well. Shalom.

Hitchin’ a Ride

For full transparency I am writing this while on a train. I face a day of connections, schedules I do not control, and the potential that things will not line up for transferring this person, me, to and from my destination. Here I am.

For the record, I’ve never hitchhiked. It never appealed to me. I have, however, traveled to many remote locations, remote to me, around the world. In order to do so I had to go out. Leave my home, my safety and security to do so. I could not go out unless I left. Sounds simple enough, but there’s more.

Upon leaving the above noted security, and therefore familiarity, I need to be comfortable where I am. “Where” might not be the “there” I had in mind, but that is the risk of going out.

In this weeks Torah portion of לֶךְ-לְךָ/Lech Lecha, the Lord tells Abraham in Genesis 12:1 to “go out”; but it is more than that: “Go out to yourself.” Yet, He also says:

אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ

Go, “to a land that I will show you.”

Abraham was told to go out, even “go out to yourself,” but the destination was not in his control. Control belonged to God; but the journey was Abraham.

Common sense would tell us that it would be unwise to leave arrival at an important meeting to chance. We wouldn’t just say, “Oh well. I’ll get there when I get there.”

Here is the lesson: While we live in the present, it is not for the present that we live.

By calling Abraham to go out to himself, the Lord was telling him to be alive while on the journey to the promise, as the author of Hebrews writes, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

What does this tell us? Abraham connected, by faith, the journey “to yourself” with eternity. The beauty of the story of Abraham is that he wrestled on the journey. He had moments of great faith, and moments where he took matters into his own hands. We can certainly learn from his triumphs; but also his mistakes.

Going out, no matter how long the journey takes faith; yet it also causes us to learn to be content where we are, especially when things are not going as planned; not because we are unfazed by the circumstance; rather, we are connecting the circumstance with eternity.

Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:11-12).

How can we do this? Yeshua, Jesus is the destination in whom we are now, but not yet (Eph. 2:6). As the world is filled with His glory and presence, where we are is in Him, even while we are faithing to Him.

No matter where you are on the journey, God is making the moment, and He remakes our past moments, even the mistakes.

Abraham trusted Him, and he rejoiced to see the day of his rest in Yeshua (Jn. 8:56).

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

When we know that God, in Christ, loves us, we know, ultimately, nothing on the journey is left to chance.

Be well. Shalom.

Noah’s Comfort

Noach/נֹחַ/Noah in Hebrew means “comfort.” His father Lamech beheld his son and said, “This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29).

How?

Noah found grace in the eyes of God (Gen. 6:8). This grace wasn’t deserved, otherwise it wouldn’t be grace. Noah believed God, in a generation bereft of faith; God showed grace to Noah, and as the Torah says, “Noah was in his generations a man righteous and whole-hearted; Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

Righteousness, according to the Torah, is the result of faith (Gen. 15:6). How did Noah show that wholehearted, righteous faith? He responded by building the Ark.

How did Noah know how to build it? Did he have the skills necessary to take on such a project? Well, God called him, and he did it.

Noah brought forth the internal witness of his faith, by the external building of the Ark, work prepared beforehand for him to do (Eph. 2:8-10).

Faith did not remain alone. It was coupled with action, and that action became a comfort to those who listened to his work; yet it also became a judgment.

Noah lived his name by comforting those around him by an action of faith. He trusted the Lord, and that trust brought humanity to a new beginning.

The message of his labor was simple: come into the Ark. Another way, come into the תֵּבָה/box/word. We find in this a picture of entering Messiah, the Word made flesh, for safety for the judgment, deliverance, comfort: because He, Yeshua/Jesus, gives us rest.

Noah continues to comfort us by his faithfulness to fulfill what the Father called him to, and equipped him for. May we do the same, to the glory of the Messiah. When we think, or believe we can’t, the calling of God says yes (II Cor. 1:20).

Shabbat shalom.