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Parasha Vayera 5782

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Me

Back in maybe 2005 or 2006 Danielle and I were living in New York and driving a 1986 Buick Century Wagon. We loved this car, especially because we lived on campus and we had several people in our college who would ride with us to and from Synagogue in Long Island on Saturdays and the car would seat eight people with no problem. For those who remember the old GM station wagons, this wasn’t one of the monster land barge versions, this was the new generation that was slightly more sleek. It was definitely not your typically college student car, but it was our car, we got if for cheap, it got us from point A to point B with no issues, and a close friend actually helped us afford it after we moved to NY with no vehicle at all.
We use to drive this car back and forth to Long Island for synagogue every single week. Let me setup the picture of this drive for you for a moment… Our drive to synagogue every week was maybe 45 minutes to an hour, but we also had to drive through quite a few major thoroughfare interchanges. It was a drive that if you weren’t paying attention it was extremely easier to miss a turn or an exit. But, that wasn’t all, we had to drive across I believe three toll bridges each and every week costing us about $35 round trip, plus our fuel.
Where it got even worse was the drive home… That same 45 minute to an hour drive to synagogue on Saturday morning took us on average around 3-4 hours to get back home every single week, never failing. And an overwhelming portion of it was either stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic, or a lot of sudden stops as traffic backed up then flowed again at exits and interchanges. It was a constant back and forth from gas to brake and back again over and over and over again for a solid 3-4 hours every week.
But this one particular Shabbat it was just Danielle and I in the car, we didn’t have anyone else riding with us that week. We drove to synagogue and had absolutely no issues at all. The drive was smooth, traffic was flowing favorably, the weather was perfect… There was legitimately nothing to complain about (besides the tolls). But on the way home, that was a whole different story. On the way home we hit all the traffic… We hit all the stop and go… All the bumper to bumper. We were putting the brakes to work the whole 3-4 hour drive home.
We finally got on the New York State Thruway, I-287 and we’re home free. We roll across what was then the Tapanzee Bridge (which has since been torn down and replaced) and the exit we were taking was about three exits off the bridge. Traffic is pretty heavy across the bridge and through our area of the Thruway but we were moving smoothly. I put on my blinker indicating our intention to exit right at the next exit, get on the off ramp, and push the brakes to slow down… However, the brake pedal just slammed straight to the floor and we didn’t slow down at all. Pushed the brakes again and again no slowing down… I began lightly pumping the bakes a little at a time until I finally was able to get the car to a stop at the end of the ramp and we rolled across the intersection into the mall parking lot to try and figure out what was going on.
I had Danielle move to the driver seat, I got down where I could see under the car and asked her to push the brake pedal. As she did I was able to watch brake fluid just spraying out a busted brake line… No lie, it was 100% by the grace of God we made it that whole drive back to Nyack from Long Island in bumper to bumper traffic without our brakes acting up and us smashing full force into the back of another car or going off the road, or whatever else. By far, this was one of the scariest experiences of my life… But, God saw us through and protected us.

We

Have you experienced something like this? A crazy scenario that could have easily gone terribly wrong and yet somehow things panned out alright...
Maybe you were walking down the street and out of nowhere you a car comes raging around the corner and you had to take a nose dive to the curb to not become a hood ornament...
Maybe you were at the gym doing heavy bench press and realized the weight was way too heavy for you and was crushing down on your chest and making it hard to breath, then all of a sudden you accidentally tipped a little to the left and the weight on that side fell off and the bar flung off your chest the other way just in the nick of time…
Or any kind of crazy situation where you still can’t really explain how you’re standing today besides God’s hand on your life…

God

This week we read Parasha Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24, which opens with the Adonai appearing to Abraham with two angels. The narrative tells us that Abraham, in his vast hospitality heart, made sure a tremendous meal was prepared for his visitors and washed their feet. Then the Lord tells Abraham that Sarah will have a son in a years time, and given Abraham’s and Sarah’s age and progression in life, she laughs and says to herself, “After I’ve grown decrepit, can I have desire—and my lord so old?” And while she thought she was laughing and talked to herself, the Lord knows our hearts and thoughts and called her on her laughter, to which she rapidly lied and said she never did.
Then Adonai informs Abraham that He is about to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah out for their terrible sins. Abraham then, as only a righteous man would, intercedes on their behalf and asks the Lord would He really allow the righteous to parish because of the wicked. Adonai said he would spare the city if there were any righteous found and Abraham went from 50 all the way to 10, and ultimately none were found… I’d venture to say, not even Lot would have qualified, but he was saved on account of his relationship to Abraham.
Then in chapter 19 we read of the angels going to Sodom in the evening and Lot seeing them and welcoming them to his home for the evening because the plaza would be unsafe. We soon realize why as the entire city of all ages come to Lot’s door and began trying to beet the door down and force him to hand the men out to them to have their way with them. In a very awkward turn of events, Lot then offers his own daughters to the townsfolk if they’d spare the messengers. This was not a deal they were willing to make and the townsfolk are ready to kill Lot and his family to get to the visitors. The angels drag Lot into the house and then they struck the townsfolk with blindness and everything went chaotic.
The angels tell Lot to grab everyone in his family and to flee the city and never look back because they are going to destroy it because of their wickedness. Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom while they are running away and is turned into a pillar of salt. The next thing we see is Abraham wakes up early in the morning to see if the cities he interceded on had been spared for the sake of any righteous found there and all he saw was the cities’ wreckage in smoke...
Next we see the unexpectedly awkward relationship between Lot’s daughters and their drunk father and the offspring that would ultimately become thorns in Israel’s side for generations to come.
In chapter 20 we see Abraham again tell Sarah to say she was his sister in stead of his wife, and another king (this time Avimelech) tries to take her as his wife. But God appears to Avimelech in a dream and saves him from making a grave mistake. But, feelings are already hurt and the relationship between Abraham and Avimelech is now ruined.
In chapter 21 Sarah does in fact become pregnant and gives birth to a son, just like HaShem had promised, and they name him Isaac (laughter). This is followed by Sarah getting her own hurt feelings over Ishmael and Hagar and them being banished.
Then in chapter 22 we read the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac and the substitutionary sacrifice in place of Isaac.
Now, there is a very specific aspect of Parasha Vayera I want to focus on today and one of which I feel teaches us a lesson that we must get our heads wrapped around in order to experience the fullness of what God’s got in store for our lives. And from this we learn the following principle:
Unless we are willing to fully run from the ways of the world we will never live fully in the Kingdom of Messiah.
(Repeat)
So let’s dive into the text together.
Genesis 19:17–25 TLV
When they brought them outside, one said, “Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stop anywhere in the surrounding area! Escape to the hills, or else you’ll be swept away!” But Lot said to them, “No, my Lord, please! Look, please, your servant has found favor in Your eyes and You have magnified Your merciful loyalty, which You have shown me by letting me live. But I can’t escape to the hill country—for the disaster will overtake me and I’ll die! Look, please, this city is close enough to flee there, and it’s little. Please let me escape there. Isn’t it small? And let me live!” So He said to him, “Behold, I will grant your request concerning this matter too—not to demolish the city of which you have spoken. Hurry! Flee to safety there, because I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” (This is why the town is named Zoar.) The moment the sun rose upon the land, Lot entered Zoar, and Adonai rained sulfur and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah from Adonai out of the sky. So He demolished these cities and the whole surrounding area, all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation of the ground.
Lot was not necessarily a righteous man, but he was saved from the wickedness he was more than comfortable living in because of the righteousness of one man… His Uncle Abe.
The messengers from HaShem come to Lot and tell him what’s about to happen. They witness first hand the horrid wickedness of the city of Sodom as the people of the city attempt to take advantage of them. But, they also witness how Lot was perfectly ok with the status quo of the worldliness of Sodom. So much so that he was willing to sacrifice his own daughters… And even though Lot was well aware of how bad the lusts of Sodom were he had no shame about making the town his own home.
But, because of the righteousness of Abraham, Lot and his family were allowed to be saved. The angels tell give lot a few very select and very key rules of which they absolutely should follow…
Rule no. 1: Flee for your life!
Rule no. 2: Do not look back...
Rule no. 3: Do not stop anywhere nearby
But Lot was really struggling with rule number three… How easy things could have been… What a second chance Lot and his family could have had… But no, that would have been too easy…
Genesis 19:18–20 TLV
But Lot said to them, “No, my Lord, please! Look, please, your servant has found favor in Your eyes and You have magnified Your merciful loyalty, which You have shown me by letting me live. But I can’t escape to the hill country—for the disaster will overtake me and I’ll die! Look, please, this city is close enough to flee there, and it’s little. Please let me escape there. Isn’t it small? And let me live!”
The small village Lot asks to be allowed to run to, rather than actually running for the hills like he was told, according to tradition was originally called Bela and was renamed Tso’ar because of its size. Rashi says the town was saved because its smaller size also accounted for its lesser iniquity. This doesn’t mean it was free of iniquity… Just that it was less than Sodom and Gomorrah.
But, ultimately, what we see is that Lot, while receiving a chance at salvation because of the righteousness of one man, he chooses to remain in the worldliness of which he is most comfortable.
Unless we are willing to fully run from the ways of the world we will never live fully in the Kingdom of Messiah.
See, here’s the thing… Often as believers we find ourselves walking more in the shoes of Lot than in the shoes of Abraham. Abraham heard that God was wanting to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness and Abraham’s first reaction was to intercede on behalf of the sinner. Whereas Lot’s reaction was to comfortably live within the sin. He wasn’t ashamed of it, he wasn’t afraid of it, he wasn’t horrified by it… Lot was comfortable with it.
And for too many in the Body of Messiah we are way to comfortable just living in our sins and rubbing elbows with the world around us that we are perfectly comfortable staying right where we are rather than to actually walk away from the world.
As followers of Messiah we are saved because of the acts of one righteous man, Yeshua HaMashiach. Just like when the angels take Lot outside the city and tells them to run, to flee from the city, to never look back, and to not stop anywhere in the nearby vicinity, we have been commanded to flee for our lives from the ways of the world, to never look back at our past, and to not stop where we are comfortable already.
See, we have a tendency to hang on to the things we are comfortable with. Even when walking with the Lord. If we look around the Body of Messiah today we’ll see so many people who say they are believers but are still clinging to the ways of the world, who are still living in the comfort of their sinful ways.
1 John 2:15–17 TLV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desire, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
John urges us as believers a very similar message to what the angles said to Lot… Leave it all behind… The Blood of Messiah has not only atoned for our sins, for our wickedness, but it has also given us freedom to walk away from the ways of the world.
When Lot asked to go to the small city down the hill, Rashi says that he was asking to go there not so much because he couldn’t make the distance to the hills, but rather because the city was too small to possibly be as bad as Sodom… Odds are the wickedness of Tsoar weren’t much better than that of Sodom, in fact it would appear that Tsoar had the same destruction decreed against it as Sodom. Yet because of Lot it was spared. But Lot was being given a second chance, a new opportunity to be something better, someone better… Yet he couldn’t quite go all the way… He had a chance for a renewed life, an opportunity to live the righteous example he saw in Abraham, but he just couldn’t quite walk away from what he was most comfortable with.
John urges us to heed the lesson Lot should have learned. But Paul hones in on this a little further in Galatians 5 by revealing to us the key to being able to walk away from our past, the key to being able to leave what is most comfortable behind and walk in righteousness of Messiah.
Galatians 5:16–24 TLV
But I say, walk by the Ruach, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Ruach, but the Ruach sets its desire against the flesh—for these are in opposition to one another, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Ruach, you are not under law. Now the deeds of the flesh are clear: sexual immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, witchcraft, hostility, strife, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, just as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. But the fruit of the Ruach is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The key to being able to overcome the world, the key to our being able to overcome our evil inclination, the key to our being able to walk in the truth of the righteousness of Messiah is the Presence of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In the same way that Lot was given an opportunity for salvation because of the righteousness of another man, we have been given the opportunity for Salvation because of our Righteous Messiah, Yeshua. And because of the Blood of Messiah we have been anointed with the Ruach HaKodesh to be able to live a righteous life, to be able to leave the ways of the world behind us, to be able to walk away from our wickedness.
Remember the three rules the angels gave Lot—
Rule no. 1: Flee for your life!
Rule no. 2: Do not look back...
Rule no. 3: Do not stop anywhere nearby
For a disciple of Yeshua these three rules are still define the game. We must flee from our sins, we must not look back or turn back, we must not stop and become comfortable in the ways of the world around us. If we become comfortable in the ways of the world around us then how is the world around us ever going to see the work of Messiah in us and desire what we have?
We are called to, as Paul words it, we are to avoid the deeds of the flesh…
Galatians 5:19–21 TLV
Now the deeds of the flesh are clear: sexual immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, witchcraft, hostility, strife, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, just as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.
And instead we are to submit to the fruit of the Ruach…
Galatians 5:22–24 TLV
But the fruit of the Ruach is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
I shared earlier about our brake lines blowing out in our Buick Century Wagon just as we were getting off the busy New York State Thruway. The reality is that the same God who protected us in that moment is who protected Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. And while we may not have been exactly in the same boat as Lot, I recognize that that our lives were saved that day for a purpose, the same exact way our lives have been saved by the Blood of Messiah for a purpose.

You

What about you? Maybe you’ve had a very real life or death experience… Maybe you haven’t… Either way, our righteous Messiah laid down His life so that you could experience the freedom of life in Messiah. He offered His life so that you could turn from the deeds of the flesh and walk in the fruit of the Ruach. So, what’s your choice?
God is calling you today to flee from the ways of the world around you, to not look back to your past as your identity, and to not stop and make yourself comfortable with one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the world.

We

If our worship team will make their way back up to the stage. (Unmute worship team)
Unless we are willing to fully run from the ways of the world we will never live fully in the Kingdom of Messiah.
Are we truly ready to leave the ways of the world behind? Are we truly ready to fully submit our hearts and lives to salvation in Messiah and to the fruit of the Ruach? Are we ready to let the power of the Ruach make us a powerful resource for the Kingdom of Messiah? Are we ready to fully leave the ways of the world behind so that we can live fully in and for the Kingdom of Messiah?
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