The name of this Shabbat’s parasha is Vayera, meaning “and he appeared”, and covers Genesis 18:1-22:24. Abraham saw God and two angels (in human form) near his tent and invited them in, offering them food and water. Adonai promised to return the same time the following year, and Sarah will give birth to a son!
Upon hearing this, Sarah silently laughed because of their ages (Sarah was 90, and Abraham 100). God heard her, asked Abraham why she laughed and assured him that nothing is too difficult for Him. Sarah was afraid and said she didn’t laugh, but God said she did.
As Adonai and the two angels began walking toward Sodom, Abraham walked with them and God repeated His earlier promise to bless Abraham and his descendants by making them into a mighty nation, through whom all nations will be blessed. As the angels continued onward, God told Abraham He would investigate the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, meaning He knew the depth of their sins. Abraham pleaded with God to spare these cities if there was a righteous remnant, and God agreed to do so, even when Abraham kept reducing the number for what qualified as a remnant.
The two angels came to Sodom, and lodged with Lot. But suddenly Lot’s house was surrounded by the men of Sodom, looking to commit sexual perversion with the angels. Lot offered a “compromise” – his daughters, rather than his guests. They refused and turned on Lot. But before the men could break into Lot’s house, the angels blinded them, warning Lot and his family to leave immediately due to the city’s impending destruction.
Lot told his family this news, but his sons-in-law thought he was joking. The angels took Lot, his wife and two daughters out of Sodom, telling them to flee to the mountains and warning them not look back. However, Lot asked to go to a nearby town named Zoar and the angels agreed. When Lot got to Zoar, Adonai destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and burning sulfur. However, Lot’s wife disobeyed the command and looked back, and was transformed into a salt pillar.
Afterward, Lot and his daughters left Zoar and lived in mountain caves. His daughters conspired to sleep with their father and have children by him, reasoning foolishly that no other men survived. They got Lot drunk on consecutive nights, the older one sleeping with him the first night and the younger one the second. Lot was completely oblivious! Both became pregnant by their father.
Lot’s daughters each bore him a son. Moab was the name of the older daughter’s son, Ben-Ammi the name of the younger daughter’s son. Their descendants (the Moabites and Ammonites) later became enemies of Israel. We see that sinful actions have long-term consequences, so let’s resolve to live pure, holy lives!
Meanwhile, Abraham moved into Philistine territory near the city of Gerar, and lied to the locals, saying Sarah was his sister. Abimelech, king of Gerar, took Sarah for himself, but was warned by God in a dream that she was married. Abimelech pleaded his innocence because he was misled about Sarah, and God replied that’s why He didn’t let Abimelech touch her. Sarah must be returned to Abraham, who is a prophet and who will pray for him, lest Abimelech and everyone in his household die.
Upon being confronted by Abimelech, Abraham admitted his deception, and Abimelech gave them gifts as part of making atonement. God answered Abraham’s prayers by allowing Abimelech (and his household) to live and have children.
God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah, and they had a son just when God said! Abraham named him Isaac, meaning ‘laughter’, and he obeyed God’s commandment by circumcising him on the 8th day. Sarah’s laughter turned from disbelief to joy.
Abraham gave a feast for Isaac when he was weaned, but when Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac she asked Abraham to send Ishmael and his mother Hagar away, since he would have no part of Isaac’s inheritance. This upset Abraham, but Adonai told him that his promised descendants would come through Isaac, and Ishmael’s descendants would also be a nation, so Abraham sent them away.
In chapter 22, in what is called The Akedah, God instructed Abraham to journey to Mount Moriah and offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham left the next day with Isaac, his servants, bringing wood for the offering. Upon arriving, Isaac asked where the sacrificial lamb was, and Abraham answered that God Himself would provide the lamb.
Abraham built an altar, bound Isaac and placed him on it, and was about to slay him with a knife when the Angel of the Lord called to him and stopped him. Abraham’s faith in Adonai was proven. Abraham suddenly saw a ram trapped by its horns in a bush and offered it up. Because God provided a substitute for Isaac, Abraham called the mountain, “The Lord will provide”. The Angel of the Lord repeated the promise given to Abraham in chapter 15, and Abraham returned to Beersheva.
Parasha Vayera teaches us that God faithfully keeps His promises in His own time and own way. Although Abraham and Sarah were skeptical of God’s promise of a son, Sarah bore Isaac, the heir of the Covenant, whose lineage would include the promised Redeemer, Messiah Yeshua!
A similar situation occurred in 2 Kings 4, which is this week’s haftarah reading. Due to a Shunamite woman’s kindness, the prophet Elisha declared she would have a son one year from that time, and despite her initial skepticism and her husband’s old age, the prophecy came true!
On Mount Moriah, the place where God saw and provided, Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of Isaac. Centuries later, on that same mountain, Adonai allowed His Son to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. So let’s follow Abraham’s example of faith and loyalty to the God who sees and provides for our greatest needs!