This is the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of a new Torah cycle. Each year, Jews and Messianic believers in Yeshua go through the Torah (the Books of Moses) and the Haftorah (selected passages from the other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament)) in weekly portions. The portion for this week is Beresheet, “In the Beginning”.
The world’s first truly global conflict, known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War and in America as the French and Indian War, was a disaster for France. By the war’s end in 1763, France had ceded the vast territories of Canada and Louisiana to England and Spain. And yet it was not a complete disaster; the Treaty of Paris which ended the war left France with its most prized possession: the Caribbean sugar island of Guadeloupe. Great Britain had won control over both Guadeloupe and Canada during the war, and in the peace negotiations the British deemed Canada more strategically valuable to their empire. But Guadeloupe had proven more valuable economically, producing more income for France than all the fur collected by trappers and traders in Canada, and all the sugar produced by Britain’s own island colonies. King Louis XV, therefore, was quite willing to trade a vast empire for this small island.
A similar transaction appears in Scripture, when the Lord explains what He is ready to do to redeem a people He deems more valuable than all the nations of the earth:
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:1-7 NKJV, emphasis added)
Who is this nation God values above all? It is Israel, a people He has designated as the means for salvation of the entire earth from the very beginning. Israel is far more than just the Jewish people; it is a nation comprised of many nations. It is a people who were not a people, made into one flock by their identity as the People of God. Some are native born, but most are naturalized, or grafted in, to this Holy Nation by virtue of belief in the Messiah, the Savior Whom God has promised to bring redemption and salvation to a world in rebellion.
The story of how all this began is in the first chapters of the Bible. God made the world in six days, creating human beings as the greatest expression of Himself in the earth. Yet the human beings He made preferred their own way of doing things to God’s ways, and they took action to grasp equality with God. This is the old story of Adam and Eve eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the tree of which God told them not to eat. Because of their disobedience, they were barred from access to the Tree of Life, the source of holy food that guaranteed their eternal existence in the Presence of their Creator. The Scripture says this about their exile from the Garden:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24 NKJV, emphasis added)
Consider how God guarded the way to the Tree of Life. We would expect Him to use as guardians powerful angels such as the cherubim. Indeed, cherubim attend the very throne of God. But what is this sword? Is it something the cherubim carry, or is it something different?
It is something very different. It is the very Sword of the Lord. The Hebrew word used in Genesis 3:24 is cherev (Strong’s H2719, חֶרֶב), meaning sword, knife, or tools for cutting stone. What is more interesting is the Greek word used by the ancient Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek Septuagint (LXX). The word they chose was rhom-fī’-än (ῥομφαíαν), a word derived from rhom-fī’-ä (Strong’s G4501, ῥομφαíα), and which refers to a very large, often two-edged, sword. The word for “sword” used in most places in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) is mä’-khī-rä (Strong’s G3162, μáχαιρα), meaning a large knife or a small sword. When rhomfī’än and rhomfī’ä appear, they refer to something very special, such as:
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13-15 NKJV, emphasis added)
Then God’s anger was aroused because he [Balaam] went [to Moab at the invitation of King Balak], and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. (Numbers 22:22-23 NKJV, emphasis added)
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ (Revelation 2:12-17 NKJV, emphasis added)
What the Lord has placed on the east of Eden to guard the path to the Tree of Life is His very own sword. And what is this Sword of the Lord? It is the Word of God, the commandments and statutes and instructions He has given through Moses, the Prophets, the Apostles, and His very own Son. These are the words of life by which God is ransoming a people for Himself out of this rebellious world. He foretold this from the beginning, at the time our ancestors made themselves His enemies. He could have made an end of them, but in His mercy He chose to redeem them at great cost. He taught His words and His ways to those who would listen, men like Enoch and Noah. In time He called Abraham to be father of a great nation, the nation He would ransom all other nations to purchase. You see, God knew all along that the nations would never come to Him, but He knew that He could win every nation if He could carve out a little space for Himself in a few human hearts, and through them reach the world. That is why the Kingdom of God on earth is the Kingdom of Israel. That is why God entrusted His oracles and revelations to that part of Israel known as the Jews, and why He scattered both the Jews and the other tribes of Israel into the nations to carry His word so that the nations (gentiles) might be grafted into Israel by faith in Messiah. In that one nation God has all the wealth of the earth, just as in the small island of Guadeloupe the King of France gained more wealth than in all of North America. And with that understanding, we now know something more of what Messiah Yeshua meant when He said:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46 NKJV)
Israel is the Hidden Treasure in the field; Israel is the Pearl of Great Price. We human beings do not buy the Kingdom of Heaven, but by faith we become part of Israel and enter into it. By keeping the Commandments of God we grow deep roots in the Kingdom so our King can redeem us to Himself and carry us back to the Tree of Life.