Rabbi Stuart Dauermann in Shulhan Shelanu, Vol 3, Issue 45, November 6, 2021, made a couple of observations as he considered this week’s parashah, Toldot, Genesis 25.19 – 28.91.
First, he noted that Isaac repeated a sin his father Abraham committed at least twice. In Genesis 12:10-13 and 20:1-2, Abraham presented Sarah as his sister, not his wife. Then in Genesis 26:6-7, Isaac presented Rebekah as his sister, not his wife. All three times, the motivation was fear of man, specifically the Gentile rulers who did not know the God of Abraham and Isaac.
Second, in all three of these accounts, these Gentile rulers did the right thing, while the servants of HaShem did the wrong thing. One then needs to ask, why was it that those who made no claim to following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did what was morally and ethically correct when Abraham and Isaac did not?”
In light of the second observation, consider these words from Sha’ul to the Yeshua followers in Rome
But there will be glory, honor, and shalom to everyone who does good—to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned outside of Torah will also perish outside of Torah, and all who have sinned according to Torah will be judged by Torah. For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the Torah, do by nature the things of the Torah, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the Torah. They show that the work of the Torah is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts switching between accusing or defending them on the day when God judges the secrets of men according to my Good News through Messiah Yeshua. (Romans 2:10-16)
What really struck me when reading these words of Sha’ul was the statement, “For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified.” This took me immediately to Matthew 25:31-46 and the judgment between the sheep and the goats. In his song, The Sheep and The Goats, Keith Green summed up Yeshua’s teaching by stating, “the only difference between these two groups of people is what they did and did not do!”2
I am not inferring that these scriptures suggest a sort of salvation by works. What I am very sure of is that our relationship with HaShem, founded upon the finished work of Yeshua’s sacrifice, should produce good works, ones that please HaShem. Remember these words of James,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in shalom, keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is that? So also, faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. (James 2:12-18)
Now let’s return to the earlier question, “why was it that those who made no claim to following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did what was morally and ethically correct when Abraham and Isaac did not?” Sha’ul answered that question as he stated, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the Torah, do by nature the things of the Torah, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the Torah. They show that the work of the Torah is written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness…” All humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike, have one thing in common. In Genesis 2:7, while summarizing HaShem’s act of creation it is written,
Then ADONAI Elohim formed the man out of the dust from the ground and He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life—so the man became a living being.
All humankind has been created in the image of HaShem and in the process has received HaShem’s breath of life. And while those who do not recognize HaShem as their Lord and Creator, when they perform righteous works, they prove Sha’ul’s claims that “the work of the Torah is written in their hearts.” (Romans 2:15).
Years ago, when I was in the Marine Corps. I was assigned to attend Recruiting School, an opportunity I did not want to do. I tried to have the orders changed to no avail and eventually told my Sargent Major, if sent to the school, I will flunk out of it and hopefully be returned to my unit. For some reason, my Sargent Major conveyed these words to the commanding officer of the recruiting school in San Diego. During my interview, the CO asked me if I was a Christian (a follower of Yeshua). I said, “yes sir.” Then referencing Colossians 3:23 he asked, “Doesn’t your Bible say that you have to do everything as unto your Lord?” Again, I responded, “yes sir.” This led to his final question, “then tell me, why are you planning of flunking out of my school!!?” His words cut me to the heart, and I knew I could not do as I planned. Though not a Christian himself, he knew how one was supposed to act. In the end, I finished near the top of my class.
So remember these two truths, just because someone is not a follower of Yeshua, does not mean that they cannot act righteously. And just because one is a follower of Yeshua, does not necessarily mean that they are always going to act in a righteous manner. This is one of the reasons that Sha’u encouraged the Yeshua followers in Philippi, as well as each of us today to “work out your (our) salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), knowing it is not that one’s salvation is earned by his or her works, rather it is learning “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
1 Scripture readings are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.