During times of challenge and difficulty, many ask - “God, where are You? - “Do you hear me when I pray” - or are my circumstances every going to change?” In our frailness, and lack of focus on the Lord, we often forget that Adonai is always watching, always protecting and will never forget the promises he made to you, reminding that He has always given us Hope and a Future in Him.
In this week’s Torah reading of Parashah Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-32:3) Ya’akov (Jacob) leaves his hometown of Beersheva and journeys to the land of Haran. In route he encounters a location which the Scriptures simply refers to as makom (or, “the place”). At this place our Patriarch and sleeps there and while dreaming, Adonai gives him a vision of a ladder connection both heaven and earth and angels of God descending and ascending upon it. Of this strange dream and “dream vision,”, the Spirit of God gives the prophetic interpretation where God appears to the man He has chosen and promises (as He did to Avraham (Abraham) and Yitzchak (Isaac), proclaiming that the land upon which he slept will be given to his descendants forever! Of this, the Torah powerfully reminds,
“I am Adonai, the God of Avraham your grandfather and the God of Yitz’chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth. You will expand to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. By you and your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-15, CJB)
From this, we see two central points - First, that Adonai is a God who both makes promises and keeps them, and Secondly, nothing happens in our lives apart from holy visitation. This echoes Parashah Terumah (in Exodus 25:8), where Isra’el was to make Adonai a sanctuary, so that He might “live (or dwell) among them!”
Here we find both Promise and Revelation, Assurance and Impartation and that of Hope and Visitation - and miraculously this is all verified and confirmed in our weekly Parashah!
Thus, in Vayetze, we find that God had to first bring our Patriarch to the (makom) “place” for him (Ya’akov) to receive His Appearing and Prophetic Direction! It was from this “makom” (place) that God continued in reminding him that ALL He had promised from generations past would in fact be fulfilled!
This is a powerful word for us today as well, in that as we seek Adonai, He will not only lead us to the place we need to be, but he will always reveal to us all that He has promised and desires to fulfill in our lives. From this we are assured that we are never alone and that we have a God who is lovingly active in every aspect of our existence!
Be blessed and know you are chosen by Him and for Him!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Erev Shabbat | November 27, 2020, 12th of Kislev - 5781
“And Yeshua went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am’?” - Mark 8:27
As the months have passed, 2020 has brought to all of us challenges as well as twists and turns which no one anticipated or even, ahead of time conceived were ever possible. Of these events, none stand out with greater impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on culture, our economy and our perceptions of reality. In some cases, this deadly virus has shaped how government, travel, the job market and even in some cases how some approach faith and that of human responsibility.
During the early months of the year, prognosticators warned that soon many if not all of us would know someone who have contracted the disease, and at the time we all doubted - with only to become true! Yet with truthful reporting, there has also been lies and deception mingled in by the Adversary to produce fear, anxiety and doubt in even the most mature believer. Even with the spread of the disease, other factors have arisen to exploit and play upon these fears and anxieties, causing many believers and non-believers alike to question God’s faithfulness and strip away from us a sense of security and in wondering what the future might hold? During the late-spring and summer months we saw forced shut downs and when we thought things could not get any worse, riots and unlawful acts of violence spread the nation and world - and in some cases, even went completely unchecked!
When reading our nations and the worlds headlines, we are nevertheless reminded that there is nothing new under the sun and we have all seen this before. In this, our age of COVID and unrest is easily reminiscent of the first-century, as Rome ruled unlawfully in Jerusalem and that of ancient-Israel. For many, this was a time of great fear, uncertainly and injustice and where life was cheap and very little value. Yet, in the perfect moment of God’s impeccable and divine timing he sent Yeshua our Messiah to live and die and rise again. He came to us declaring the Good News and asking us as he did his talmidim, “Who do you say that I am?”
In the “Tale of Two Cities” we are initially told that “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times,” and with COVID-19, it is as if Dickens is speaking again where I believe that Adonai has been speaking clearly and loudly about our calling as the Body of Messiah during this terrible pandemic in reminding that despite the anxieties, fears and uncertainties of the world - that this could in fact be our finest hour!
Friends, it is always in times of deepest destress and greatest worries that the Lord speaks with that still small voice and reveals both words of comfort, revelation and assures that we are never alone. This reminds us of Hebrews 1:3 in stating,
“The Son is the radiance of the Sh’khinah, the very expression of God’s essence, upholding all that exists by his powerful word …,”
In this, Yeshua our Messiah is the very presence of Almighty God - and his glory dwells in us as we go in his name declaring Restoration in Yeshua’s name to our hurting and broken city and unto the entire world!
Yes, this year has brought changes and uncertainties like no other in recent years - but the calling of God upon us is now ever greater than ever before and with every step we are called to go in God’s love, proclaiming freedom and deliverance and with our lives - in going we are asking the world, “Who do you say that Yeshua is?”
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Shabbat ~ November 21. 2020, 5th of Kislev - 5781
"Of Sarah, she was as beautiful at 100 as she was at 20 … and she was as pure at 20 as she was at 7 - these were the years of Sarah’s life.” ~ Midrash on Genesis 23:1
In Judaism, very few women are honored as that of Sarah, the wife of Abraham!
According to Jewish tradition, the words of Eshet Chayil ("Woman of Valor" in Proverbs 31) is believed to speak of Sarah while holding a direct link to our Parashah 5 in Genesis 23:1-25:18. In this section of Scripture we find a unique paradox where Sarah is honored in Judaism as our greatest and first matriarch. What is even more noteworthy is the name of our Parashah, “Chayei Sarah” (the Life of Sarah) but is acclaimed not as she is living or following a great accomplishment - but instead at the time of her death. Here at the offset, Judaism from its early beginnings is set apart from the practices of all other faiths in areas of mourning and remembrance.
Yet, in speaking of this Parashah reading, it is most outstanding when read from the Art Scroll translation in its keynote verse in Genesis 23:1in declaring,
“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years, the years of the life of Sarah.”
Of modern translations, a proper memorial or yahrzeit of Sarah’s life seems to be lost in only stating that Sarah lived to be 127 years of age with no further description. Yet through rabbinical eyes, our true meaning comes forth where each and every one of us are challenged to be as Sarah in making the best and most of our lives before the Lord! It is for this reason our Midrash above notes that our matriarch was as beautiful at 100 years old as she was when she was but a girl of 20, and she was, in turn just as holy before Adonai at the age of 20 when she was but a small child at age 7 when she was untainted by a sinful world! Such an honoring holds within its sentiment a very real tension between mourning, loss and pain and a somber remembrance of the one we love and have lost. Abraham knew this as we mourned his wife in Genesis 23 and sought to bury her and as he “zachor” - Remembered her for who she was before Adonai!
Christian funerals and memorial services often miss this reality where instead of holding this God given tension, the time of “mourning” is turned to a party or a celebration of life - and in the proves a time to mourn (Ecclesiastes 3:4) is lost altogether. In this many forget that the point of Chayei Sarah is to remember and to be reminded, where we see in Sarah’s life an example of righteousness from Hashem in everything!
As you read this, today, the Lord would remind us all that the work of holiness is that of the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Although Sarah was a righteous women who committed everything to the ways of Adonai, it was nevertheless the power and presence of God in her life that enabled her to be an example for us to live in holiness, fear and faithful obedience to Torah. Yet, even in this we must daily choose as with (Chayei Sarah) “The Life of Sarah” to lead lives of faithfulness and obedience as she did. We like Sarah have all been set-apart by God’s grace and like her, we must never forget that we are called to be holy, for He is holy! (Leviticus 19:2)
Rabbi Mark Rantz
November 14, 2020, 27th of Cheshvan, 5781
With last week’s Parashah Vayera וַיֵּרָא, (Genesis 18:1-22:24), central to God’s message for us is the reminder of Adonai’s enduring faithfulness despite what we may deem as evidence, timing or actual fulfillment. In retrospect, the heart of doubt and spirit of unbelief always questions the faithfulness of God for His people as noted in the Psalm of Asaf reminds, "Why should the nations ask, 'where is their God'." (Psalm 79:10, CJB)
In the turbulence of our 2020 Presidential election, many believers have become disillusioned and questioned where God is in light of the Promises we know He has spoken and he direction His Spirit has told us that He is leading. This was also Sarah’s concern in vs. 13, where she “laughed’ in unbelief, doubt and fear when she heard she would deliver a son in her old age.
Yet in the end, the word of לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech Lecha (Gen. 12:1-3) was fulfilled and from Avraham and Sarah, God made a great nation and from that, the nation and people of Israel was born! In the dark night of the soul, if looking at the natural alone - one can easily become sidetracked, and lose sight of what the Lord has promised, but like Avraham and Sarah - today dear friends we must place our Hope and Trust in Yeshua alone, as we pray - despite the outcome of political elections, that God will reposition us for His Kingdom Purposes and His Heart in this season. In this, it vital that we keep our eyes (spiritually and physically) looking to Adonai and His high calling on us in Last-Days for the things of the Kingdom and the salvation of those who are perishing.
In the end dear friend, Adonai has not forgotten you and every promise He has uttered to you will be fulfilled! His faithfulness is not limited to the will of man or the schemes of the Adversary and his agents, Instead, the Purposes of God will be fulfilled in you and you seek Messiah in everything and choose to be used by Him in this definitive hour. the heart of the word, of all peoples and every nation is what hangs in the balance, will you walk in confidence, faith and hope and declare justice to the nations and salvation to the lost?
Hold fast to His perfect and unfailing and perfect promises!
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