In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayera (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-17:27) we read about the day of retribution, the day of God’s wrath, illustrated in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible teaches us that on the Day of the Lord, one will either experience God’s mercy or His divine wrath. The whole concept of sin and redemption leads to the expectation of a Messianic figure who will deliver God’s people. The Torah describes such a person at a future time whom God would raise up, one who would resemble Moshe and live according to the Torah and bring help to a people who are in need, giving light to their eyes to see, and delivering to them the Word of God. In the opening verses from Parashat Vayera we read about three men meeting Abraham and give him a promise of having a son. Sarah heard this promise and laughed, and so we are told this is the reason why their son is named Yitzchak (Isaac). The three men ate a meal that Abraham had Sarah prepare for them, and then they turned to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord God Almighty speaks with Abraham about what He is about to do, to destroy these cities due to their sins. Abraham argues on behalf of the people, asking if there are 50, 40, 30, 20, and 10 righteous persons whether the Lord would destroy the cities. We read that only one person was found, Lot, and yet he was vexed with the corruption of that place. Peter wrote about Lot being vexed by living among the wicked people of Sodom in 2 Peter 2:4-22.
2 Peter 2:4-22
2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 2:6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 2:7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 2:8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 2:10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 2:11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 2:12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 2:13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 2:14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 2:16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 2:17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 2:18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 2:19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2:21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 2:22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’ (NASB)
Peter here is speaking of sexual conduct, those who were in Sodom and Gomorrah were oppressed by sensual conduct and Peter states that Lot was tormented day after day by the people’s lawless deeds. (2:8) The people looked around with eyes that were filled with lust continually(2:14) and never cease from sin. These are those who follow after the way of Balaam, son of Beor who loved the wages of unrighteousness. (2:15) These men from Sodom are said to be arrogant and entice the fleshly desires through sensuality. Note the danger of these things, Peter writes, 2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 2:21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. (NASB) This is quite the warning against sexual sin. Note how Peter describes those who might escape the defilements of the world by the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, but yet are again entangled in the sensuality of sexual sins and are overcome to be worse off than they started, because one has turned from the holy command of God according to the Torah. This was the state of Sodom and Gomorrah, their sins were to the extent of no return, Teshuvah was not possible, in fact, their sin was so great, even when stricken blind (by the angels) they continued to attempt to find the door to the house so they could continue in their sexual sin. Through these things we can see the pervasiveness of sin and the absolute necessity for having the presence of God in our lives through His Holy Spirit. As we study the Torah coupled to the Apostolic Writings, we learn the flesh continues to attempt to draw us away to sin in the midst of God dwelling in our hearts and the Spirit of God empowering us to overcome sin in our lives. We struggle with the flesh every day, no matter how old we are the Lord God Almighty gives us His Spirit through faith in His Messiah. Yeshua showed us God’s will for our lives, he showed us God’s righteousness, and Parashat Vayera speaks to the significance of these things. The righteousness and mercy of God requires justice, and ultimately, apart from being in a covenant relationship with God, His wrath. The Scriptures speak to the Lord God Almighty calling us out from among the people, culture, and lifestyles of wickedness. This is why God’s call to His people was to come out of the nations, to turn from idolatry, and to not imitate their ways of wickedness, unrighteousness, and their forms of worship. This is why the Torah is vital for us today, the Torah provides us with the foundation upon which all of Scripture is built upon. We are told to come out of the pagan nations, to a new understanding of the One True God of Israel through His redeemer Yeshua the Messiah! Our faith in the Messiah provides us with a new powerful component that doesn’t just save us and get us into heaven but brings the presence of God right into our lives, transforming our lives for the glory of God. The Apostolic Writings describe how both the Jew and Gentile come together in faith in the One True God, who apply God’s word to their lives, and are able to live together in faith with a meaningful relationship due to departing from idolatry and sin. This reveals to us how there is a common faith in God and in the message of the Messiah Yeshua, that are derived from the teachings contained within the Hebrew Bible. The Torah speaks to us of being committed to God’s Word, and the NT perspective is by faith in His Messiah, we are given the ability to remain committed and to be successful in doing so (Being faithful). This is the fulfilment of the prophetic word given by Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (NIV) The giving of a new heart and spirit is related to sanctifying the name of God by the way that we live our lives, remaining faithful to our God! The historical perspective of the gentiles is of a group of people who love sin, deny the existence of God, and who love idolatry. The power of God ends these things and transforms one who has faith in the Messiah Yeshua for the glory of God. The new heart and a new spirit, also called “one heart” and “a heart of flesh” (see Ezekiel 11:19, Jeremiah 32:39), and “a heart to know God” (see Jeremiah 24:7). It is the indwelling of God’s Spirit, who writes the Torah upon the new heart, and inclines it to a life of obedience (Jeremiah 31:33). The practical application is described as walking in God’s statutes and keeping God s judgments (Ezekiel 11:20). What we read being described here is of both a moral and spiritual change, an ancient description of the Gospel Message, of the individual soul being transformed by faith in the Messiah. (John 3:3-8, Romans 8:2-9, Galatians 5:22, Titus 3:5-6, 1 Peter 1:22) Yeshua showed us the way to everlasting life according to God’s Word. By faith in the Messiah, we are given a new heart, a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) and a new covenant (Jeremiah 31) that will transform us. In Parashat Vayera we learn how sin leads to destruction which ultimately occurs at the hand of God. We also read of mercy and salvation by the story of Lot who was mercifully taken out of destructions way. Entering into this salvation and redemption of God occurs by entering into a covenant relationship with God. Entering into a covenant relationship with God occurs by having faith in His Messiah (Yeshua). A covenant life then follows being imitators of the Messiah, and walking in His ways of righteousness, justice, holiness, and truth, according to the Torah! This is how the Torah and the Gospel Message go hand in hand!