V’eira – I appeared – “Appearance Promises Executed” – 7 January, 2018

V’eira

I appeared

jesus-in-the-synagogue

Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21

“Appearance Promises Executed”


by Mark Huey

This week’s parashah begins with a reminder that the Creator God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He made—among many declarations—certain promises regarding their descendants’ eventual deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Hence, the narrative of the Book of Exodus now summarizes the first seven plagues, which resulted from a hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, after he would not adhere to Moses’ plea to release the Israelites. While these plagues and judgments are well known by those who annually commemorate the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread, there are some profound spiritual principles revealed to those now indwelt by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 14:16-17). Recognizing and acknowledging this understanding, is essential to maturing in one’s walk with the Messiah of Israel. After all, by faith, every child of God needs to believe that the Almighty Creator God not only appeared to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in ancient days—but that He alone is committed to fulfill His promises, as recorded from Genesis to Revelation. Hopefully with this fuller appreciation in mind, the testimonial witness of what occurred millennia ago—coupled with an additional judgment on Egypt prophesied in the Ezekiel 28:25-29:21 Haftarah reading—Believers’ faith should soar, knowing that the Father will ultimately execute and accomplish all that He has declared.

As is God’s widescale pattern for the history of the world, He utilizes various nations, key figures, or normal individuals to rebuke, chastise, or ultimately judge His own. After all, the vocational calling upon Israel to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6), has had serious repercussions down through the ages—especially when there has been a deviation into following the ways of the world, the flesh, and the Devil (1 John 2:5-18; Ephesians 2:3; 6:11-12; 1 Peter 2:11). Throughout Holy Scripture, Egypt will be remembered as the one power which subjugated the emerging nation of Israel, to the humble state of human bondage—and which was humiliated via the judgments and plagues of the Lord. So as our Torah reading commences, we see how God spoke to Moses and affirmed His promises, noting that He has heard the groans of His people, guaranteeing that He will set His people free:

“God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.”’ So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:2-9).

Notice that despite this profound declaration by Moses, the Israelites were still not convinced, because of their despondency resulting from cruel bondage. Even though the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were well known and now reiterated by Moses’ statements—the reality of constant physical oppression was impeding belief in the words spoken. This is a reminder today—to even those indwelt with the Spirit of God—that even when belief in the Word of God is strong, the trials of life can be overwhelming, and bring doubt and despair into the mind. At such times, the plea for a “sign” to confirm that God is present in the trial or tribulation, can usher forth from the heart of still the most ardent Believer.

With further encouragement from the Lord, the text records some biographical information (Exodus 6:10-30) about the Israelites. Following this, we encounter that the task to speak to Pharaoh, and make demands for Pharaoh to release Israel from its slave status, is too much for the inarticulate Moses (Exodus 6:30). The Lord replied with a description of the roles that Moses and Aaron would have before Pharaoh, whose heart will harden intermittently throughout the judgments about to begin:

“They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the sons of Israel from Egypt; it was the same Moses and Aaron. Now it came about on the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.’ But Moses said before the LORD, ‘Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.’ So Moses and Aaron did it; as the LORD commanded them, thus they did. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh” (Exodus 6:26-7:7).

Here is another reminder that the Holy One does not necessarily require those possessing mellifluous speaking ability, to communicate what is on His heart. Spiritually speaking, God has foreordained each individual to take on roles and responsibilities in His Kingdom’s work. The key to fulfilling these vocations is to be exactly what He has called a person to be, and not strive to focus attention on one’s mortal self to the people of the world, but to perform the assignments with His leading. Let God be God, and simply be thankful that He has, at the very least, called many into His chosen family for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Our Torah reading continues, with some final instructions from the Lord on what Aaron was to do with his staff, when Pharaoh would ask for a sign. It is notable that what might appear to be a “miracle” by some, was indeed a counterfeit conjured up by the Egyptian sorcerers and magicians’ arts. In this instance, the magicians were able to turn their staffs into serpents, and with their secret arts were also able to turn water into blood:

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, “Work a miracle,” then you shall say to Aaron, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.”’ So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, and station yourself to meet him on the bank of the Nile; and you shall take in your hand the staff that was turned into a serpent. You shall say to him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness. But behold, you have not listened until now.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in my hand, and it will be turned to blood. The fish that are in the Nile will die, and the Nile will become foul, and the Egyptians will find difficulty in drinking water from the Nile.’”’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their reservoirs of water, that they may become blood; and there will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”’ So Moses and Aaron did even as the LORD had commanded. And he lifted up the staff and struck the water that was in the Nile, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, and all the water that was in the Nile was turned to blood. The fish that were in the Nile died, and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. And the blood was through all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts; and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile” (Exodus 7:8-25).

For the children of God living today, a profound spiritual principle is revealed that needs to be taken seriously—because of the widely commonplace, carnal inclination, for people to demand a “sign” for verification of God’s hand upon a matter (cf. John 2:18; 6:30). There is one significant warning given by Yeshua the Messiah about what has and will be occurring, as the End of the Age approaches:

For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

An even more explicit admonition is offered by the Apostle Paul, as he had to offer some words of clarity to the Thessalonicans, who were confused about the return of the Messiah:

“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

This sobering assessment definitely applies today, to those who are seeking truth and knowledge of the Holy One—because in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a certain warning that a great apostasy or falling away from the faith, is just a matter of time! All Messiah followers should be forewarned, and not let things that appear to be “miracles” or supernatural “signs” lead them astray to follow after the ones who appear to be orchestrating the signs. After all, a part of the Lord’s plan to test people with false prophets, is found in Deuteronomy ch. 13:

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

The people of God have been warned, as they will be tested, and they are to purge the evil from their midst. If we take the warning of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 seriously, perhaps much of the confusion, strife, division, and even despair that tends to disrupt today’s Messianic community, could be minimized. But lamentably, not enough people take this command seriously, and continue to seek signs, want their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3-4), or simply will not discontinue listening to false teachers and false prophets. This needs to change!

Returning to our Torah portion, we see that the Egyptian magicians were able to imitate the plague of frogs—and as is noted, despite the wretched stench—Pharaoh hardened his heart to the demands of Moses and Aaron:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite your whole territory with frogs. The Nile will swarm with frogs, which will come up and go into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and on your people, and into your ovens and into your kneading bowls. So the frogs will come up on you and your people and all your servants.’”’ Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the streams and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. The magicians did the same with their secret arts, making frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.’ Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?’ Then he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ So he said, ‘May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. The frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.’ Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh. The LORD did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields. So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul. But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said” (Exodus 8:1-15).

Finally, however, the fourth plague consisting of a creative act, befuddled the Egyptian magicians. They proclaimed, in frustration, that even with their secret arts, they were unable to duplicate the plague of insects:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, that it may become gnats through all the land of Egypt.”’ They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff, and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats through all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you do not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians will be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwellBut on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur.’”’ Then the LORD did so. And there came great swarms of insects into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of insects in all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’ But Moses said, ‘It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commands us.’ Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.’ Then Moses said, ‘Behold, I am going out from you, and I shall make supplication to the LORD that the swarms of insects may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow; only do not let Pharaoh deal deceitfully again in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.’ So Moses went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the LORD. The LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of insects from Pharaoh, from his servants and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go” (Exodus 8:16-32).

The plague of insects notably did not afflict the Israelites residing in Goshen. The great division between how the Lord separated His judgments between those who were directly opposed to Him, versus those who were His own, was witnessed. While this can be comforting to many who know that judgment is inevitable, it should prompt each of us to the place where we know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that we are His children and His alone. Without the faithful realization and belief that the Lord can and will protect His people during times of trial and tribulation, a spirit of fear will predominate and have people return to various carnal patterns of relying upon their own machinations for survival—or worse, resort to following the advice of false teachers, false prophets, and other misguided souls.

V’eira concludes with Exodus 9 describing the plagues of pestilence killing the livestock, a pestilence that induced boils and sores on the Egyptians, and finally a raining of hail that utterly ruined the crops of the Egyptians. But through it all, note that God continued to prevent the judgments to directly affect the Israelites:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel.’”’ The LORD set a definite time, saying, ‘Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.’ So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the sons of Israel, not one died.Pharaoh sent, and behold, there was not even one of the livestock of Israel dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.’ So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians. And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go. Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down on them, will die.’”’ The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field. Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that hail may fall on all the land of Egypt, on man and on beast and on every plant of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.’ Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail. Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. Make supplication to the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.’ Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.’ (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they ripen late.) So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the LORD; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he did not let the sons of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses” (Exodus 9:1-35).

As this parashah concludes with the description of each of these plagues which harmed the Egyptians, but averted direct harm to Israel—there is the reminder that whenever the immediate damage was mitigated, the tendency for Pharaoh to harden his heart returned in full force. This is a reminder that those opposed to the Holy One of Israel will continually refuse to acquiesce and admit that there is a Creator God, who is ultimately in control of the affairs of humanity. Such is the hardness of heart by people, toward even the most vivid demonstrations of God’s involvement in the creative order. History will repeat itself. At some future time, when the Great Tribulation begins, there will be an horrific war raging against the saints, as more fully described in Revelation ch. 13:

“And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Revelation 13:1-18).

There is a solution for God’s people to overcome the inevitable “beast system”—whose arrival has been prophesied, and whose emergence is only a matter of time. The solution can be found in the emerging Messianic community of faith, among people who are ardently attempting to become and will persevere as the end-time saints, who will have a testimony of Yeshua and obey His commandments:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.’ And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Yeshua” (Revelation 12:10-17; cf. 14:12).

While many are concerned about the future war against God’s people enacted by the antimessiah/antichrist—war against the saints is present and raging even now. The beginning stages of the grand apostasy against the Holy Scriptures, the gospel of salvation, and even the Creator Himself have already begun! We each need to make sure to employ the full armor of God, as Paul originally detailed to the Believers in Asia Minor:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17).

Whether we look back to the example of the Ancient Israelites who were delivered from the oppression of slavery by the Lord’s hand using judgments upon their Egyptian overlords—or we look forward to the Great Tribulation and how to overcome the actions of the antimessiah and the beast system—it is personally most beneficial to remain in the here and now, and utilize the knowledge received from studying the Scriptures, to attain victory over the daily, evil influences. After all, each day has enough trouble of its own, and the command from Yeshua is very precise without equivocation:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).

Inevitably, according to the Holy Scriptures, the Second Coming will take place, and Yeshua the Messiah will be present among us to fulfill all of the promises which have been spoken and written about down through the ages. We do not know if those living today, or their children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren, will be the end-time saints who must content with another set of plagues and judgments that are to befall the wicked. Only time will tell. So in the meanwhile, brothers and sisters, be about the Father’s business! (Click to Source)

Torah Reading – V’yechi – He lived – “Blessing Israel” – 25 December, 2017

V’yechi

He lived

jesus-in-the-synagogue

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Blessing Israel”


by Mark Huey

This week, the final parashah for the Book of Genesis is studied, as the period of the Patriarchs and details about the unique family chosen by God to receive His faithful blessings, finally comes to a dramatic close. Here in Genesis’ last three chapters, the similar dying requests of both Jacob/Israel and Joseph, to be buried in the Promised Land, may be said to simply “bookend” the specific blessings that Jacob bestowed upon his immediate progeny. Apparently, belief in the promises of God for the descendants of Abraham and Isaac, for them to multiply and reside in Canaan, was genuine for Jacob and Joseph—or the preferences to be buried among their relatives would not have been a priority. Additionally, the desire to pass on to future generations, some of the blessings received, was of paramount importance to Jacob/Israel. So as we study V’yechi, it is important to consider how we can individually follow the practices and examples of our forebearers in faith—by not only believing in God’s promises, but also in passing God’s blessings down to our own future generations.

V’yechi begins after Jacob and his entourage had relocated to Egypt, to avoid the ravages of the regional famine. His family was well received by the ruling Pharaoh, and they were living in the choice land of Goshen, tending to their herds. The name of our Torah reading comes from its opening verse, where it is recorded that Jacob lived in the land of Egypt. In V’yechi, Jacob/Israel’s time to die was drawing near. He called upon his favored son Joseph, to faithfully return him to the land of his fathers, knowing that Joseph had the authority to make this happen:

“Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:28-31).

Blessing Manasseh and Ephraim

While being returned to the burial grounds of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah was important to Jacob, the desire of Joseph to have his own sons receive the blessing of their grandfather was most crucial to him. Joseph knew the power of blessings from his ancestors. After all, there is an indication that he attempted to retain some connectivity to his forebearers when he significantly named his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, despite their mother being an Egyptian:

“Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ He named the second Ephraim, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Consequently, upon learning that his father Jacob/Israel was sick and about to die, Joseph took his two sons to his father, to seek his blessing upon his sons. But more than receive just a blessing, Jacob/Israel literally adopted them into his family, giving them equal status with their uncles and Joseph. However, another interesting thing occurred when the nearly blind Jacob/Israel went to place his hands upon the heads of Manasseh and Ephraim. He actually crossed his arms, and placed his right hand of blessing upon the head of the younger Ephraim, and his left hand upon the elder Manasseh. This did not go unnoticed by Joseph, who pointed it out to his father. Yet, the Lord ordained these blessings, as Jacob/Israel was simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit:

“Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Behold, your father is sick.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. When it was told to Jacob, ‘Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,’ Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.” Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).’ When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, ‘Who are these?’ Joseph said to his father, ‘They are my sons, whom God has given me here.’ So he said, ‘Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.’ Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. Israel said to Joseph, ‘I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.’ Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’ When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.’ He blessed them that day, saying, ‘By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!”’ Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:1-22).

There is something extremely powerful about acknowledging the blessings of any of our predecessors, which was something certainly true for Jacob/Israel and Joseph in ancient times. However, the irony that the younger would be greater than the older must have taken Jacob back to the time when he was in a similar predicament with his older twin brother Esau. He probably recalled the blessings of Isaac, and the fact that once the blessing was uttered and bestowed upon him, it could not be rescinded (Genesis 27:33). Ephraim received the more powerful blessing of his grandfather. Despite a momentary startlement with the disposition of the blessings, Joseph did not protest but simply accepted and embraced the blessings as they were uttered.

Israel Blesses His Sons

In Genesis 49, we see a selection of text that is devoted to relating all of Jacob/Israel’s blessings, to his natural born sons. The prophetic picture of this aged patriarch, proclaiming the blessings and/or prophecies over his sons, is a majestic scene for each of us to contemplate. Imagine your own father or mother, speaking insightful words such as these. Or, perhaps imagine yourself—at sometime in the distant future—declaring words like these to your own children. After decades of watching his sons mature, Israel’s ability to speak prophetically into their lives was set. Without going into the specific statements about each of the sons, note the greater amount of explicit details regarding the future of Judah and Joseph, the two sons who rose to prominence in their generation:

“Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, ‘Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch. Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; he washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are dull from wine, and his teeth white from milk. Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon. Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor. Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. For Your salvation I wait, O LORD. As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words. Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers. Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.’ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him” (Genesis 49:1-28).

Much speculation has been compiled, which has been devoted to analyzing these final words of Jacob/Israel directed toward his sons. In fact, when one couples the blessings of Israel found in Genesis 49, with the blessings of Moses to the tribes of Israel found in Deuteronomy 33, one can discern that these great servants of God were given a glimpse of the future—regarding some destiny of the descendants of Israel. Particular attention to the blessings or prophecies uttered toward Judah and Joseph, indicate that these tribes which bear their names would surely have prominence, as can certainly be seen in the Historical Books of the Tanakh.

In the case of Judah, a definite ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah, there appears a statement that the tribe Judah and/or his descendants was going to be in a position of leadership or prominence, at least somehow until His arrival (Genesis 49:10). Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, after all, is the quintessential Jew (Revelation 5:5). For Believers in Him, that there is Messianic expectation interwoven into Jacob/Israel’s blessings in Genesis 49, means that we have to exhibit much confidence that all of his pronouncements have been coming to pass over the centuries.

Joseph’s Insight

After the death of Jacob/Israel, the sons of Israel had a genuine fear that Joseph might then take revenge on them, for their heinous acts toward Joseph years earlier. It is here, where we witness a definite contrast between the faith of Joseph and his brothers. Despite seventeen years of living in Goshen, the brothers were still concerned that Joseph might be harboring a grudge toward them. But, Joseph was not only sincere in his actions toward his family, but most critically, he truly understood the circumstances of his extraordinary life from God’s perspective:

“Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:18-26).

Joseph was not only used by the Almighty to save his family during the regional famine, but he was also able to see the hand of God upon the incidents that led him to be in the position to save his family. This is a great lesson for each of us to consider when we are disappointed with some of life’s inevitable challenges. When things do not necessarily go as we hoped or expected—but they inadvertently take a turn for what might have seemed the worse at the time—are we able to recognize that God is still sovereign? Can we have enough trust in the Lord to understand that what happens in our lives is a part of His will for each of us? Joseph certainly did, and perhaps, his own brothers might have learned the same life lesson.

Faith and Blessing

So what can we glean from the concluding Torah portion from the Book of Genesis, regarding faith and the power of blessings? We need to each recognize that the Holy One is truly faithful to His chosen vessels. Despite the circumstances of life that might seem difficult, God is faithfully accomplishing His will. If we, as limited mortal humans, could better understand things from His perspective—then we would have the wisdom and discernment to see His fingerprints on all that occurs in life, whether good or bad.

For a reflection back on much of Genesis, we can look and compare the lives of Jacob/Israel and Joseph, and note how each one learned to be faithful to God in very different ways. We can recall how at relatively young ages, they each had encounters with the Almighty through dreams or visions. Yet, we can also see from their personalities that the level of faith was not the same throughout their lives. Still, when the end of their lives came, their faith was quite strong, and they each wanted the blessing of burial in the Promise Land along with their relatives. They each wanted God’s blessings to be passed on to their progeny.

Jacob/Israel and Joseph knew the power of blessings. They not only desired the blessings of their elders, but they also gladly participated in extending blessings to their descendants. For modern-day followers of the Messiah, these examples are something to emulate. However, in order to even want to extend blessings, we each must have faith in the ultimate Provider of blessings. The two go together hand in hand. After all, the Almighty chooses human vessels to extend His blessings to others, but He requires faith as one of the critical ingredients to not only give blessings but also receive them. So, let each of us seek more faith—so that in being blessed with it, we will in turn be able to pass on the blessings we have received from the Lord! (Click to Source)

Torah Reading – V’yigash – He approached – “Positioning for Restoration” – 19 December, 2017

V’yigash – He approached

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Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-28

“Positioning for Restoration”


by Mark Huey

This week in V’yigash, the sons of Jacob/Israel finally experience a restoration of their familial relationship, after years of being estranged from their brother Joseph. For the past two Torah readings (V’yeishev: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Mikkeitz: Genesis 41:1-44:17) the emphasis has been principally on the trials of Joseph and his brothers, as the melodrama of their interactions is recorded. However, perceptible behind the scenes of these trying circumstances is the sovereign hand of the Almighty—who executed His faithful plans for His people, despite some of the decisions of the principal actors at this stage in history. After all, the Holy One had issued eternal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their progeny, and He was simply using these events to accomplish His purposes in His perfect timing.

Up until our own time in the Twenty-First Century, as we have witnessed a tumultuous Twentieth Century with two world wars, the advent of the atomic bomb, the Holocaust, and the rebirth of the State of Israel—this Torah reading asks us questions about the restoration of Israel, which ultimately requires us to place ourselves in the complete control of an Eternal God. The associated Haftarah for V’yigash, Ezekiel 37:15-28, speaks of a greater restoration of Israel, which we have yet to see completed. Yet, the events covered in the readings assigned with V’yigash, and its prophetic foreshadowings or prophetic pronouncements, surely have to be realized before the Second Coming of the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:21).

In recent readings, we have witnessed the selling of Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, and his cruel and unsure journey from a mere slave to a forgotten prisoner to the pinnacle of power as ruler over Egypt during a regional famine. We have seen the ten brothers sojourn to Egypt in search of food, and return to their father Israel with Simeon still held in captivity by the Egyptians. When the famine persisted, the need to return to Egypt to secure some grain presented itself with a major complication. The need to take Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob/Israel, was a requirement for gaining a return audience with the demanding Egyptian overseer. This was something that the doting Jacob initially refused to let happen, because of his fear of losing the second and only remaining son of his beloved Rachel. However over the course of time, the contrast between Joseph’s faith in the Holy One, and the brothers’ apparent lack of faith, was changing—as Judah, in particular, was highlighted with a softening conscience and tender heart toward his father Jacob/Israel. In the previous Mikkeitz portion from last week, Judah self-sacrificially secured the permission of Jacob/Israel to take the beloved Benjamin to Egypt to secure the release of Simeon, and get some grain, by offering himself as a surety for the safe return of Benjamin (Genesis 43:9).

From this willingness to essentially sacrifice himself and take blame, Judah had come a considerable way in his personal journey from a conniving brother, who originally suggested to his brothers that they sell Joseph to some traders rather than kill him (Genesis 37:27). Remember how Judah was the one brother who left the family fold to marry a Canaanite woman, with all of the attendant problems with his first three sons. Then, Judah unknowingly impregnated his daughter-in-law with twins, realizing that she was more righteous than he (Genesis 38). Of course, the Lord was using all of these circumstances to work on the heart of Judah, who was destined to not only be one of the leaders of his generation, but also be a significant ancestor of Yeshua the Messiah. God does work in mysterious ways, and reading about the interactions with the sons of Jacob/Israel confirms this concept. As would be described by Isaiah centuries later:

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it’” (Isaiah 55:8-11).

Note that in these profound words from Isaiah, where he proclaimed the ways and thoughts of God as being so much higher and greater than human thought—there is the affirmation that God’s word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish all that He desires it to accomplish. We may safely conclude that the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even to Joseph through his dreams, are going to eventually come to pass according to God’s will.

As we more closely into this week’s Torah reading, keep in mind that the Holy One was accomplishing His purposes for this generation of Israelites, who just happened to be the immediate descendants of Jacob/Israel. Keep in mind that there are many Messianic attributes being portrayed by both Joseph and Judah. These two sons, destined to be the leaders of their generation, were establishing a foundation for varied manifestations of conflict between their descendants down through the ages. Also be quite aware of how the restoration of Israel prophecies, seen in the Haftarah (Ezekiel 37:15-28), will be fulfilled in the Lord’s timing. God’s Word does not return void without accomplishing His desires. His people just have to patiently wait, and go about advancing His Kingdom’s objectives as participants in the restoration process!

Judah Offers His Life

If you will recall, in the closing verses of Mikkeitz from last week, Benjamin had been implicated as the purported thief of Joseph’s choice goblet. This generated serious problems for the brothers, as the return of Benjamin to their father was one of their main objectives, given Jacob’s warning about leaving him behind. So as V’yigash begins, the aforementioned Judah entered into a lengthy detailed verbal defense of Benjamin, with the still-concealed Joseph. At the end of his soliloquy, Judah offered his own life for the life of Benjamin, perhaps foreshadowing the Messiah’s giving of His life to save sinful humanity:

“Then Judah approached him, and said, ‘Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, “Have you a father or a brother?” We said to my lord, “We have an old father and a little child of his old age. Now his brother is dead, so he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.” Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me that I may set my eyes on him.” But we said to my lord, “The lad cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.” You said to your servants, however, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” Thus it came about when we went up to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. Our father said, “Go back, buy us a little food.” But we said, “We cannot go down. If our youngest brother is with us, then we will go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.” Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons; and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces, and I have not seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.” Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying, “If I do not bring him back to you, then let me bear the blame before my father forever.” Now, therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me—for fear that I see the evil that would overtake my father?’” (Genesis 44:18-34).

In this eloquent and heartfelt recital of the various conversations Judah had with Jacob/Israel, regarding Benjamin and Judah’s pledge to lay down his life for Benjamin, Joseph was obviously moved to great emotion.

Joseph Reveals Himself

Now, in what has to be one of the most incredibly moving testimonies found in the Bible. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. After listening to Judah’s words, and having discerned that Judah was seriously concerned about the welfare of not only Benjamin, but most especially their father Jacob—Joseph was so overwhelmed with emotion that he ordered all of the Egyptians out of the room, and he wept loudly before his brothers. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking, as they witnessed the person with absolute power over their lives, begin to break down emotionally? Without giving the brothers much time to process what they were watching, Joseph turned to them and proclaimed to them that he was Joseph, whom the brothers believed was probably dead by this time:

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father, and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall live in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. There I will also provide for you, for there are still five years of famine to come, and you and your household and all that you have would be impoverished.”’ Behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth which is speaking to you. Now you must tell my father of all my splendor in Egypt, and all that you have seen; and you must hurry and bring my father down here.’ Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. He kissed all his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him” (Genesis 45:1-15).

God is not only the One who forms hearts, but He is also the most accomplished heart surgeon when it comes to turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Apparently, all of the machinations from the multi-colored tunic, to the placement of Joseph’s wine goblet in Benjamin’s satchel, have all been used by the Almighty to get the attention of the brothers—who must have been awestruck with the realization that the Egyptian viceroy was their brother Joseph. However, the evidence of God’s providential hand upon all of these circumstances did not get overlooked by Joseph. Somehow, through the haze of confusion over how he had been treated by his brothers years earlier, any possible thoughts of revenge, and the time spent thinking about how he was going to approach his brothers, Joseph discerned that the Almighty had put all of these circumstances in motion to preserve the family of Jacob/Israel.

After revealing his true identity, Joseph responded to Judah and his brothers, by interjecting that God was ultimately responsible for all of the circumstances that had transpired since he was sold into slavery. This is an incredible testimony of forgiveness, and the ability to view the trials and tribulations of life from God’s perspective! Naturally, one can see how Joseph is often considered to possess various Messianic qualities, because he was used to physically save Israel. Being rejected by His people, He is the very agency by which they are to be delivered.

The Blessing of Pharaoh

As the narrative continues, the blessings upon the sons of Jacob/Israel do not end. Once the Egyptian Pharaoh heard that Joseph had long lost family living in Canaan, he offered to relocate them to the choicest land in Egypt. Obviously the favor of the Pharaoh toward Joseph was so great, that the common Egyptian aversion toward sheepherders did not keep Pharaoh from his generosity (Genesis 46:34). Take notice in this passage of the amount of wealth and goods sent to Jacob, to convince him that Joseph was alive and prospering in Egypt:

“Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.” Now you are ordered, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’ Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey. To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments. To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey. So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel on the journey.’ Then they went up from Egypt, and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. They told him, saying, ‘Joseph is still alive, and indeed he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ But he was stunned, for he did not believe them. When they told him all the words of Joseph that he had spoken to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Then Israel said, ‘It is enough; my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die’” (Genesis 45:16-28).

There is no recorded description of how the brothers told Jacob about selling their brother Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders. But, one has to assume that the truth did come out in their conversations with Jacob/Israel. Yet, the good news that Joseph was still alive, allowed Jacob to absolve his other sons of their transgressions. For surely, the aged Jacob having heard that Joseph understood that he had been sent to Egypt to save the whole family, must have made sense. After all, Jacob had been through some tough times himself, and he had seen the Lord’s hand on many of the circumstances of his life. Plus, Jacob had experienced multiple encounters with the Holy One over the years.

Perhaps having the opportunity to be reunited with Joseph was the only way that the Lord could get Jacob to even consider leaving Canaan—because Jacob/Israel knew that it was the land of Canaan that was promised to Abraham and Isaac.

Jacob Hears from God

Leaving the Promised Land might jeopardize God’s plan to give it to the descendants of the Patriarchs. What was Jacob to do?

This was a tough predicament for Jacob/Israel to contend with, at this late stage in his life (Genesis 47:9). On his way to Egypt, Jacob arrived in Beersheba, at a place he was very familiar with (Genesis 28:10). It was here that his father Isaac had dug wells and made a covenant with Abimelech (Genesis 26:23-33). So Jacob, knowing that departing Canaan was a difficult move to consider, arrived in Beersheba and offered up sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac—perhaps even on the same altars built years earlier by his ancestors. In God’s mercy to Jacob that night, the Lord spoke to him in visions, giving him the reassurance that going to Egypt was the right thing to be doing with his family. God assured him that He would bring Jacob back to the Land of Promise, but only after Joseph had witnessed his death:

“So Israel set out with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes.’ Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob and their little ones and their wives in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They took their livestock and their property, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and came to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him: his sons and his grandsons with him, his daughters and his granddaughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt” (Genesis 46:1-7).

For the balance of V’yigash, some of the details about the individuals, who migrated and how they were treated by their Egyptian hosts, are recorded (Genesis 46:8-34). However, the introduction of Israel to the Pharaoh is interesting, because at the ripe old age of 130 years, this Hebrew actually blessed the Egyptian ruler twice during their encounter. The favor of the Lord was certainly upon Jacob/Israel and his family, as they were treated with mutual respect, despite the Egyptian disdain for sheepherders:

“Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, ‘My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.’ He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, ‘What is your occupation?’ So they said to Pharaoh, ‘Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.’ They said to Pharaoh, ‘We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.’Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many years have you lived?’ So Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones” (Genesis 47:1-12).

God’s Faithfulness to Restore Israel

As we prepare to come to the end of the Book of Genesis, and the testimonies about the Patriarchs of Israel, one overwhelming thought comes to my mind. This is the undeniable fact that from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to the sons of Jacob/Israel—the Holy One will accomplish His intentions. Despite any limited human frailties, or any attempts of the enemy of our souls, to thwart God’s plans—His will for civilization will be achieved. Over and over, we can read about how the Almighty intervened at just the right time with a speaking appearance, or a word or a dream or a vision, so that the family chosen by Him would stay on course to achieve their mission. For surely, there is an understanding that despite whatever challenges, as Yeshua the Messiah would explain to His Disciples, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The Psalmist and the Apostle Paul also affirm,

“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31).

In the case of the sons of Jacob/Israel, the God of Creation had a plan that He was executing, according to His perfect timing. On a much grander scale for the distant future, God is ultimately going to be restored to all people who take refuge in Him at the End of the Age. In the interim, whether it is individual reunions between one person and a loving Creator as salvation is understood and received, or whether it is restoration among families and friends through the power of forgiveness and love, or whether it is the ultimate restoration that Ezekiel foresaw between the House of Judah and the House of Israel/Ephraim—be rest assured that God is very much blessed when restoration occurs. We see emotional glimpses of it when Joseph hugged and wept with his brothers. We see it again when the aged Jacob greeted Joseph after years of separation. Hopefully, you have experienced some restoration in your own life, which will allow you to identify with what you have been studying.

Let us all be about the Father’s business of making restoration, in love, to all who call upon the name of Yeshua (Jesus). It is a part of the plan for the Creation. May we make it a part of our lifestyle as His representatives, sent to love others into the Kingdom! (Click to Source)

This Weeks Torah Reading – Mikkeitz – At the end – “God Honors Faith” – 10 December, 2017

Mikkeitz

At the end

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Genesis 41:1-44:17
1 Kings 3:15-4:1

“God Honors Faith”


by Mark Huey

Mikkeitz, which is being considered as the Torah portion for this week, continues the narrative about the life of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph finally realized the manifestation of his dreams about his brothers bowing before him. Since being cast into a pit by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph had to endure false accusations from Potiphar’s wife, which eventually landed him in an Egyptian jail. Yet, from our previous reading, V’yeishev(Genesis 37:1-40:23), Joseph’s faith, in the “word” he discerned from the dreams he had received as a youth, had “tested” him and continued to keep him looking to the Holy One for guidance and comfort (Psalm 105:19).

As this parashah unfolds, it is Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams that ultimately placed him second to Pharaoh, prior to the Almighty using a regional famine to force the sons of Jacob to travel to Egypt from Canaan in search of food. The underlying irony weaved throughout these circumstances is the apparent lack of faith exhibited by the sons of Jacob, as they encountered their inquisitions before the concealed Joseph. The Psalmist summarized an outline of these events centuries later, as all of these circumstances were designed by the Almighty to eventually teach the brothers wisdom, which culminated in a great trust and faith in Him. They would finally be able to understand that the Lord was ultimately in control of the circumstances of their lives:

“And He called for a famine upon the land; He broke the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples, and set him free. He made him lord of his house and ruler over all his possessions, to imprison his princes at will, that he might teach his elders wisdom” (Psalm 105:16-22).

In turning to our Torah reading, we are once again reminded of the plight of Joseph, as he languished in the jail reserved for the prisoners of Pharaoh and other high ranking officials. From last week’s parashah, Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams had been recognized by the cupbearer, as Joseph accurately interpreted the fatal dream of the baker and the restorative dream of Pharaoh’s wine steward (Genesis 40). However, for two full years, the cupbearer did not honor Joseph’s request to plead for his release from the jail (Genesis 40:14). So, we see how Mikkeitz opens with Pharaoh’s description of a puzzling dream:

“He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile” (Genesis 40:21-41:1).

Dreams received and the God-given ability to interpret dreams were a significant part of Joseph’s life, and his specific walk with the Lord. As we later discover (Genesis 41:46), Joseph had spent some thirteen or so years either enslaved or incarcerated in Egypt, and he had not yet realized the dream he had of ruling over his family. Still, when given an opportunity while in jail to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, he confidently acknowledged his God as the source of dream interpretations (Genesis 40:8).

After a two year stint continuing to ably serve the chief jailer, another opportunity to seek God for an interpretation of dreams presented itself. This time, the dreams were experienced by the demanding Pharaoh, who reflexively sought an interpretation from his magicians and wise courtiers without any success. Finally as we read, the forgetful cupbearer, possibly seeking favor with Pharaoh after the failure of the wise companions, remembered the Hebrew youth who had properly interpreted his own dream:

“Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh. Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, ‘I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer’” (Genesis 41:8-16).

Once again, without apparent hesitation when asked, Joseph did not take credit for his ability to interpret dreams—but from the onset told Pharaoh that perhaps God would give him the interpretation. Joseph continued to display a consistent reliance upon the God of his fathers, for whatever ability he had been given to interpret dreams. Joseph illustrated the universal principle that God honors those who honor Him, as specifically delineated several centuries later to the Prophet Samuel, and eventually affirmed by Yeshua the Messiah to His Disciples:

“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed’” (1 Samuel 2:30).

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26).

For the Lord’s Divine purposes, faithful Joseph found himself in a unique position to interpret some dreams that had confounded the wise officials of Egypt. Upon hearing Pharaoh’s description of the disturbing dreams, Joseph confidently told Pharaoh that his two dreams were from God, and promptly stated a God-revealed interpretation, while offering a practical solution to the impending famine:

“Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about. Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.’ Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.’ Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, ‘Bow the knee!’ And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt’” (Genesis 41:25-44).

In a providential twist, Pharaoh—who was considered to be a god by his subjects—intently listened to the interpretation and advice of Joseph. Contrary to the many societal prejudices toward the Hebrews (Genesis 43:32), Pharaoh concluded that the wise and discerning youth, in whom the “divine spirit” resided, was just the right person to handle the imminent threat to the future of Egypt. Joseph’s faith in the Almighty, and his bold declaration that gave honor to God before the imperial Pharaoh, resulted in God honoring Joseph with positional authority within Egypt second only to the Pharaoh! This is a most-significant example of what happens when one places faith in God—for all of us to consider—especially in contrast to the seemingly faith-starved brothers who sojourned to Egypt, primarily to seek physical sustenance. Yet, the Almighty also had a plan for the other sons of Jacob. In due time, they would eventually recognize the providential hand of the Lord in their encounters, with an “anonymous” Egyptian purveyor of grain—their brother Joseph—who remained a faithful servant of the ultimate Provider.

From this point, Mikkeitz records how Joseph went about his life, administrating Egypt’s food crisis (Genesis 41:47-49), marrying a daughter of an Egyptian priest (Genesis 41:45), and fathering two sons (Genesis 41:50-52).

Dreams Come True

The realization of Joseph’s dreams now come center stage, when his brothers have to make their way down into Egypt, in order to buy food to survive. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize that they were bowing to the brother they once wanted to kill, but instead, sold into slavery. On the other hand, Joseph recognized his brothers, but rather than revealing himself, he decided that he was in an opportune position to take revenge on his brothers if so inclined.

One can only imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind and heart as he confronted his needy brothers. If Joseph had been harboring some hatred for his brothers’ actions toward him, this would have been the perfect time for him to execute judgment. However, because Joseph was wise, discerning, and in tune with the will of God—he inherently knew because of his faith in the Lord that vengeance was His. The Almighty had already honored Joseph with incredible favor and power before the Egyptians. What was he to do with these circumstances? Joseph did, initially, speak to his brothers harshly. However, in the back of his mind he had to remember the dreams about his brothers bowing to him, and so he must have wondered how was he to respond to the event finally taking place. So, rather than take immediate forceful action, Joseph decided to use the occasion to have his brothers experience the fear of death—something he had endured years earlier when these very brothers had threatened to kill him. By accusing his brothers of being spies in Egypt—a capital offense justifying certain execution—Joseph was wisely using these circumstances to teach his brothers some life changing lessons:

“Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, ‘Why are you staring at one another?’ He said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.’ Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, ‘I am afraid that harm may befall him.’ So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also. Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, ‘Where have you come from?’ And they said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’ But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, ‘You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.’ Then they said to him, ‘No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.’ Yet he said to them, ‘No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!’ But they said, ‘Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.’ Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I said to you, you are spies; by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.’ So he put them all together in prison for three days” (Genesis 42:1-17).

In this extraordinary interchange, Joseph had to be struggling with his emotions as he recognized his brothers—while noticing that Benjamin was not among them. But rather than reveal his identity, he put his brothers on the defensive, by claiming that they must be spies searching out the undefended lands of Egypt. The brother’s subject-changing retort indicated that their youngest brother Benjamin was alive, remaining in Canaan with his father. In addition, because they did not know the fate of the brother they had sold into slavery, they assumed that he was dead. Once again, imagine what Joseph must have been thinking when he heard these revelations from his brothers who were passionately attempting to defend themselves. On the other hand, the emotional tables were being turned on the brothers, as the false allegation that they were spies could result in their execution:

“Now Joseph said to them on the third day, ‘Do this and live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.’ And they did so. Then they said to one another, ‘Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ Reuben answered them, saying, ‘Did I not tell you, “Do not sin against the boy”; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them.  He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes” (Genesis 42:18-24).

Initially, Joseph was going to send one brother to retrieve the youngest brother. But after three days of letting the ten brothers stew and ruminate over their predicament in the prison, the Egyptian prince ironically referenced God when he altered his edict. Joseph’s comment, that he had a “fear of God,” should have been a thought-provoking remark to the brothers—especially since there was a blatant void of references to God on their behalf. Then, in a searching attempt to comprehend their dilemma, the eldest son Reuben spoke to his brothers and directly tied the maltreatment of their brother Joseph to their dire circumstances. Apparently, while in confinement fretting over their personal destiny, the brothers were reminded of their nefarious actions toward Joseph years earlier—and were connecting the two. It appears that the brothers were finally beginning to recognize the consequences of their actions. The measured wheels of eternal justice were beginning to turn—as the brothers’ consciences were being stirred—as the deeply buried thoughts of past actions were being considered, given their current life-threatening situation:

For the remainder of our parashah, the Lord continued to use the judicious decisions of Joseph regarding his brothers, to painstakingly bring his brothers closer to recognizing His providence. Despite the emotional pain of watching and listening to his brothers discuss private matters among themselves—since unbeknownst to his brothers he understood their language—Joseph ventured forth with his objective to teach his brothers a lesson. If revenge was ever in his mind, the thought of restoring his family eventually overwhelmed him, as he had to turn away in order to weep before ordering the incarceration of Simeon, the secondborn son. Nevertheless, the trials of the brothers were just beginning, as God was using Joseph’s actions to get his brother’s attention. This would ultimately reveal to them that the Holy One was in careful control of the affairs of limited, mortal people.

Motivating Fears

Fear of loss is a prime motivator, especially when one senses life-threatening loss. In the case of Joseph’s brothers on their journey back to Canaan, they had to initially consider the loss of Simeon—but upon discovering their money in their satchels, the fear for their own lives became even more paramount. In their trepidation, they wondered what had been happening to them, an indication that they were beginning to view things with God somehow being involved in their affairs. In fact, given their new predicament that would have turned them from not only being spies but also thieves—they were starting to understand that there were consequences for their sinful actions, whether actual or perceived. The Lord was definitely using these events to get their collective attention. But to complicate matters, the brothers were going to have to convey all that had happened during their trip to Egypt to their father Jacob, who continued to grieve over the loss of Joseph years earlier:

“Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them. So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. Then he said to his brothers, ‘My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.’ And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’ When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, ‘The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country.  But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.” The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.’ Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, ‘You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.’ But Jacob said, ‘My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow’” (Genesis 42:25-38).

Now to heap additional worries on Jacob after the loss of Joseph, the news that Simeon was in custody—coupled with the potential loss of Benjamin if the brothers were ever going to extricate Simeon from jail—was too much to bear. In a sign that the brothers were beginning to mature and take responsibility for their actions, Reuben spoke up and offered a rather bizarre hyperbolic prescription to his father Jacob for taking Benjamin to Egypt, in order to secure the release of Simeon. Obviously, the trade of killing two grandsons for a son was beyond the pale, figuratively speaking. Jacob categorically rejected the offer, but reminded his sons that his grief continued for his favored son Joseph. Certainly by this point in the account, all of the brothers were dealing with their consciences over the actions that had been taken years ago—but the recognition that God was involved in these matters, was beginning to seep into their thoughts.

Judah Emerges

There is one thing about God that is consistent: when He has a use for someone in His Kingdom’s work, He never lets up on the crucible of affliction, until His chosen vessel is properly formed for His usage. In the case of the brothers who would father the nation of Israel, the trials with the regional famine in Canaan did not cease, and consequently, they were once again forced by the lack of sustenance to venture back to Egypt in need of food. However, since they knew that the demanding Egyptian viceroy meant what he said about their younger brother, they were forced to compel their father Jacob to allow Benjamin to travel with them against Jacob’s will. To complicate matters, the sons were also concerned that they would be considered thieves, because the money they had originally taken to Egypt the first time was surreptitiously placed back in their sacks.

The fear of retribution by the Egyptians for what appeared to be outright theft was a given. As a result of these challenges, it is interesting to note that the emergence of Judah, as a spokesperson and leader for his generation, commenced in full earnest. Genesis ch. 43 details the second journey to Egypt, and specifically records the dialogue between Judah and Jacob (now referenced as Israel), as the critical need for food for his entire family must have overcome Israel’s fear of losing Benjamin to the Egyptians:

“Now the famine was severe in the land. So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, ‘Go back, buy us a little food.’ Judah spoke to him, however, saying, ‘The man solemnly warned us, “You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.” If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, “You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.”’ Then Israel said, ‘Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?’ But they said, ‘The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, “Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?” So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, “Bring your brother down”?’ Judah said to his father Israel, ‘Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.’ Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:1-14).

The earlier proposal to offer Reuben’s two sons had fallen upon deaf ears (Genesis 42:37), so Judah had to reiterate the need to bring Benjamin to Egypt, in order to at least secure an audience with the Egyptian viceroy. Finally, after reviewing what must have been discussed multiple times with Israel, Judah offered to take full responsibility for the safe travels and return of Benjamin to Canaan. In the event that did not occur, then Judah would take the blame permanently. Apparently, whatever was said given the circumstances, Israel conceded to Judah’s request, and Israel advised that the brothers take double the money and a number of local delicacies to perhaps assuage the demands of the Egyptian prince holding Simeon. Finally, the elderly Israel implored God Almighty to have the Egyptian overlord grant compassion on the brothers and release not only Simeon, but allow the safe return of Benjamin.

After all these years detailing the lives of Jacob and his sons, we as readers are finally finding a mention of the Lord by him. This indicates that Jacob/Israel surely called upon the God of his fathers, for help in trying circumstances. But, this was something that was sorely missing from his sons’ actions recorded. The sons of Jacob/Israel returned to Egypt, and they followed their father’s advice:

“So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, ‘Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.’ So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, ‘It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.’ So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, and said, ‘Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.’ He said, ‘Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them. Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there. When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, ‘Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?’ They said, ‘Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.’ They bowed down in homage. As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, ‘Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?’ And he said, ‘May God be gracious to you, my son.’ Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, ‘Serve the meal.’ So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him” (Genesis 43:15-34).

Here, we see that Joseph was continuing to conceal his identity, as God was continuing to administer life-altering lessons to his brothers through Joseph’s decisions. After receiving his brothers as welcomed traders, then releasing Simeon and finding out that his father remained in good health, it is noted that the brothers continued to bow in the presence of Joseph. Their fear of potential conflict remained in their minds.

The most dramatic moment is recorded shortly after Joseph saw his younger brother Benjamin, after years of separation. The long-sought reunion, not yet completed with Joseph revealing his identity, describes the deep emotional aspects of Joseph’s character. Within a few minutes of seeing his brother, Joseph had to remove himself from the group and consoled himself after a period of weeping. Joseph has had a significant period of time to dwell on what he was going to do with his brothers if and when they returned to Egypt. Now that Benjamin was with them, there were some hints extended that reveal some distinct preference for the youngest brother. After serving his brothers and giving Benjamin five times the portion of others, the brothers are at apparent ease with the man who had the power to determine their fate.

The Benjamin Test

The final turn of events, which brought the brothers to the point of emotional exhaustion, is captured in the concluding section of Mikkeitz. Here, we find that Joseph had one more ruse to play on his brothers—in order to determine if they were truly repentant for the actions they had taken over the years, to lie to their father Jacob/Israel about his being sold into slavery. Joseph knew that his brothers, were very concerned about the welfare of their youngest brother Benjamin. Joseph was aware that his father continued to grieve for not only him, but also feared the loss of Benjamin. Somehow, Joseph knew that testing his brothers with the loss of Benjamin, was just the right move to bring them to their knees before the Lord. So, an opportunity presented itself, with the blame placed on Benjamin for the theft of his cup—as Joseph had his house steward arrange the circumstances:

“Then he commanded his house steward, saying, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack. Put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, and his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph had told him. As soon as it was light, the men were sent away, they with their donkeys. They had just gone out of the city, and were not far off, when Joseph said to his house steward, ‘Up, follow the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you repaid evil for good? Is not this the one from which my lord drinks and which he indeed uses for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.”’ So he overtook them and spoke these words to them. They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing. Behold, the money which we found in the mouth of our sacks we have brought back to you from the land of Canaan. How then could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house? With whomever of your servants it is found, let him die, and we also will be my lord’s slaves.’ So he said, ‘Now let it also be according to your words; he with whom it is found shall be my slave, and the rest of you shall be innocent.’ Then they hurried, each man lowered his sack to the ground, and each man opened his sack. He searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Then they tore their clothes, and when each man loaded his donkey, they returned to the city. When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there, and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, ‘What is this deed that you have done? Do you not know that such a man as I can indeed practice divination?’ So Judah said, ‘What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? And how can we justify ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; behold, we are my lord’s slaves, both we and the one in whose possession the cup has been found.’ But he said, ‘Far be it from me to do this. The man in whose possession the cup has been found, he shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father’” (Genesis 44:1-17).

When the discovery was made that Benjamin had Joseph’s goblet in his sack, the brothers were mortified—and to display their concern, they tore their garments. Not only were they going to lose the company of Benjamin, but the added worry of reporting this to Jacob/Israel totally overwhelmed them with grief. Judah, who had now become the recognized speaker for the group, confessed before the angry Joseph that they were collectively speechless without any excuses whatsoever. But interestingly in the maturation of Judah, he concluded that God had found out the iniquity of the brothers.

Since the iniquity of the brothers was not thievery—because the purported thefts were not valid—was Judah referring to the act years earlier of selling their brother Joseph into slavery? The guilt and shame of those actions could surely bring forth the punishment that they justifiably deserved. Judah was beside himself, but he had to conclude that God was finally bringing justice to fruition. The added knowledge, that Judah had promised a safe return of Benjamin to his father, had to drive him into despair.

Joseph actually gave Judah and his brothers a little cynical relief, by stating that the only person, who needed to be retained as a slave, was the one who had his goblet. Obviously, because this directed the punishment upon Benjamin, the brothers were overwhelmed with emotions, which led to a resolution that only a Sovereign God could have arranged. Our Torah portion abruptly ends with no stated solution.

God Honors Faith

Mikkeitz offers Torah students and readers a contrast to consider, between Joseph and his brothers, as the Holy One used the forced enslavement of Joseph and the excursions of the sons of Jacob into Egypt—to depict how different individuals react to life circumstances. Behind the scenes, He accomplished His will. Later, Joseph would be able to tell his brothers, that “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). However, when presented life challenges are witnessed in Mikkeitz, we have to let the story build, and steadily crescendo as Joseph will eventually reveal himself to his brothers who sold him away.

As we read and contemplate what has been recorded for our instruction, we can either seek to follow the example of faithful Joseph, who had a genuine fear of the Lord honoring Him throughout his life—or follow the complicated examples of his brothers, who through other situations had to painstakingly learn that God was ultimately in control. In the case of Joseph, he was not only honored by his contemporaries, but most importantly is permanently honored by the Holy One as the unique person chosen to save Israel from the regional famine. On the other hand, the brothers were fulfilling their supporting roles as sons of Jacob/Israel, but they are not necessarily all remembered for great feats of trust in God.

In your meditations this week, consider the different choices made by each brother and the results of their choices. Hopefully, we will all choose to follow the example of Joseph, who saved Israel. Ultimately, whether millennia ago or the decisions we make every day—choices have not only temporal consequences, but eternal ones as well. The ultimate choice we must all make is to acknowledge the Savior of Israel, Yeshua the Messiah, who grants us eternal salvation and cleansing from all sins and faithless acts! (Click to Source)

V’yeishev – He continued living – “A Dream-Based Faith” – 3 December, 2017

V’yeishev

He continued living

jesus-jw

Genesis 37:1-40:23
Amos 2:6-3:8

“A Dream-Based Faith”


by Mark Huey

The testimonies of the lives of Abraham’s descendants continue this week in our Torah reading, as V’yeishev turns from a considerable focus on the Patriarch Jacob, to a more explicit look at the generation of sons whom he raised. Particular attention is directed toward Jacob’s favored son Joseph with Rachel, who began to take prominence among his brothers. We also see some time spent detailing the various trials and exploits of Judah, Jacob’s fourthborn son with Leah. The contrasts between these two sons, who eventually become the leaders of their generation, are recorded to reveal how their respective walks with the Holy One were influenced and molded by the actions they took, in the circumstances of life that they individually encountered.

From a modern-day Messianic perspective, we recognize the foreshadowing of the Messiah Yeshua in the life of righteous Joseph, who was destined to save Israel, and we witness some of the character flaws that must be changed in the life of Judah, who was the direct ancestor of the Lion of Judah. Interestingly, two underlying themes, of murder and adultery, permeate a great deal of V’yeishev, and should be noted. These two vile sins, which originate in the heart and mind, were addressed in the First Century by Yeshua, as He elevated righteousness to more than mere actions (cf. Matthew 5-7). But before considering Yeshua’s teaching, let us review how a dream-based faith can instill a fear of the Lord, resulting in righteous living!

For Torah students seeking to understand how the Lord God is intimately involved in all of the situations of life, our Torah portion for this week is especially instructive. After all, this unique family chosen by God to pass on the blessings bestowed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has serious challenges—just like every family that has ever existed. But because God is sovereign in the affairs of humanity, He is always able to work through the actions of individuals to accomplish His will.

If you will recall from last week’s reading, V’yishlach (Genesis 32:3-36:43), Jacob, who had been renamed Israel, had finally made his way south from Shechem through Bethel to the region around Hebron, where he pastured his large flocks of livestock over a considerable area. Israel had been blessed mightily with twelve sons and a daughter, despite the saddening loss of his beloved Rachel while she was delivering their youngest son Benjamin on the journey.

When we arrive at this week’s reading, V’yeishev, a number of years have passed. The narrative continues with a description of Joseph, now seventeen, interacting with his jealous siblings. The loss of Rachel had bereaved Jacob/Israel to the point of blatantly favoring Joseph, the firstborn son of his beloved wife, over his other brothers. Jacob gave Joseph a special garment, and had served as his scout, able to report on the activities of his brothers. This had some serious consequences, as we encounter a description of the animosity that had built up between the brothers—especially when the naive Joseph began to relay the dreams God had given him. These were not taken too well by his fellow brothers, being interpreted as a sign of his superiority:

“Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic. His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, ‘Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.’ Then his brothers said to him, ‘Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?’ So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, ‘Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?’ His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind (Genesis 37:1-11).

Sibling rivalry has existed from antiquity, and is not new to us as modern people. Scripturally recorded evidence of sibling rivalry goes back to Cain and Abel, and in the past few Torah portions we have witnessed the examples of Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob. The twelve sons of Israel, from four different mothers, certainly presented a complicated family situation.

The natural jealousies over birth order, as we read, were exacerbated by the children witnessing an obvious preference by Jacob for one wife’s children over the others. In this case, Jacob definitely favored the firstborn son of Rachel above his other sons. Not only had Jacob given Joseph a multi-colored tunic that set him apart from his brothers, but he was also having Joseph report on their activities as they pastured the herds. The resentment was evident as Joseph’s brothers began to harbor murderous hatred for Joseph. One can only imagine the derisive comments and conversations that must have taken place between the sons, who were either consciously or unconsciously seeking the adoration and approval of their father. However, by the time Jacob’s family was settled in the Hebron area, the sought approval of Jacob of his other sons was already eroding because of previous actions taken by the first three sons of Leah. Remember that Jacob/Israel was aware that his firstborn son Reuben had a sexual encounter with Bilpah (Genesis 35:22). Additionally, the murderous actions led by Simeon and Levi against the Shechemites had disturbed Jacob greatly, and put his entire family at risk, initiating the move south (Genesis 34:30). With these contemptuous actions having stigmatized the family, V’yeishev concentrates on the life of Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel, and to a lesser extent Judah, the fourth son of Leah.

Joseph’s Dreams

Inspired dreams and visions are some of the ways that the Lord has communicated to the forbearers of our faith, as we have noted earlier in the life of Jacob, when he had a dream-vision on his sojourn to Paddan-aram at Bethel (Genesis 28:12-17). To a wide extent, the accounts of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s interactions with the Almighty, just have been known to Jacob’s sons. Joseph obviously believed that his two dreams were inspired by the God of his fathers, because for the balance of his life, these dreams and a steadfast fear of the Lord absolutely influenced his actions. A statement made in the Book of Psalms indicates that the very “word” which Joseph received in his dreams, “tested him,” until he recognized the fulfillment of his dreams as viceroy of Egypt when his brothers bowed before him (Genesis 42:6):

“He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, he himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him” (Psalm 105:6-19).

At some point in time as his brothers went about their business tending to flocks, Joseph had several inspiring dreams, which he immodestly recounted to them and his father. Joseph was only seventeen years old, when in a degree of tactlessness, he simply relayed what he must have thought to be Divinely inspired dreams. It is obvious by the reactions to his descriptions, that Joseph was inadvertently conveying that one day he was going to rule over his brothers. These revelations incensed Joseph’s jealous brothers to the point of wanting to murder him, and rid themselves of the “favored” son. But as we read, the conspiracy among the brothers was avoided as Reuben, and then Judah, intervene with alternative ways to keep their brothers from spilling Joseph’s blood:

“Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem. Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.’ And he said to him, ‘I will go.’ Then he said to him, ‘Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.’ So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ He said, ‘I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.’ Then the man said, ‘They have moved from here; for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, ‘Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, “A wild beast devoured him.” Then let us see what will become of his dreams!’ But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, ‘Let us not take his life.’ Reuben further said to them, ‘Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him’—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, ‘What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.’ And his brothers listened to him. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. He returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?’ So they took Joseph’s tunic, and slaughtered a male goat and dipped the tunic in the blood; and they sent the varicolored tunic and brought it to their father and said, ‘We found this; please examine it to see whether it is your son’s tunic or not.’ Then he examined it and said, ‘It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!’ So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard” (Genesis 37:12-36).

In this tragic set of circumstances, the epitome of a dysfunctional family is recorded. Here for all to study is the unapologetic description of how a group of siblings can scheme to first consider killing their brother, or given a change of plans, sell him into slavery. Providentially, the eldest son Reuben, perhaps understanding his responsibility as the firstborn son of Jacob, intervened with his brothers and talked them out of slaying Joseph. The text indicates that Reuben was actually trying to save Joseph from his brothers, who derisively removed the multi-colored tunic that must have enraged them.

It is difficult to not think back to the murder in the heart of Cain, who slew his brother Abel because of his jealousy. But this was a corporate act, rather than an individual one. These brothers were so consumed with jealousy, that they were willing to live with the knowledge of murdering their brother, knowing that each other was culpable. One wonders where their faith in, or fear of, the Holy One was, as they contemplated these options. Perhaps their actions years earlier when slaying the Shechemites had hardened them to a murderous spirit. But this was not about justifying their actions to protect the honor of their sister. This was to be blatant fratricide. Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt when he witnessed the murderous rage in the eyes of his brothers? Even when Judah, beginning to reveal a guilty conscience, came up with an alternative plan to throw Joseph into the empty pit—what must Joseph have been thinking as he laid helpless at the bottom of the pit, listening to the wrath of his brothers? Did this prompt Joseph to rethink through the dreams he had dreamed earlier, and wonder if they were indeed from God?

While simple physical survival must have overwhelmed his thoughts, there was something very special about Joseph and God’s plan for his life—and somehow Joseph innately knew it. Eventually God was going to use these deplorable events to send Joseph off to Egypt, for His Divine purposes to save Israel. But if you can put yourself in Joseph’s place, the emotions of fear and confusion about his brother’s animosity toward him, had to be excruciating. Yet, Joseph had to rely upon the Lord, and the dream that he must have believed was from Him. He held onto what he had been communicated by the Lord, hanging onto it through the trials he would experience.

The Brother Judah

As noted earlier, the different life experiences of the two sons of Jacob, who would eventually take prominence in their generation, are detailed for some curious comparisons. After the description of Joseph’s traumatic events with his brothers and being sold into slavery to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer and captain of the bodyguard (Genesis 37:36), our Torah reading shifts to an entire chapter (Genesis 38) dedicated to describing the problems that Judah encountered, as he departed from his brothers and married a Canaanite woman. Unlike the precedent established by his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who married women who were from close relatives with a similar background, Judah fell into the trap of marrying a woman who came from the indigenous culture. Consider how Judah’s sons did displeasing things before the Lord, which apparently cost them their lives. Judah does not seem to be a father who was passing on a reverence for God to his progeny:

“And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan. She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib that she bore him. Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD took his life. Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, ‘Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up’; for he thought, ‘I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.’ So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house. Now after a considerable time Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died; and when the time of mourning was ended, Judah went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. It was told to Tamar, ‘Behold, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.’ So she removed her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in the gateway of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah had grown up, and she had not been given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, for she had covered her face. So he turned aside to her by the road, and said, ‘Here now, let me come in to you’; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. And she said, ‘What will you give me, that you may come in to me?’ He said, therefore, ‘I will send you a young goat from the flock.’ She said, moreover, ‘Will you give a pledge until you send it?’ He said, ‘What pledge shall I give you?’ And she said, ‘Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand.’ So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. Then she arose and departed, and removed her veil and put on her widow’s garments. When Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite, to receive the pledge from the woman’s hand, he did not find her.  He asked the men of her place, saying, ‘Where is the temple prostitute who was by the road at Enaim?’ But they said, ‘There has been no temple prostitute here.’ So he returned to Judah, and said, ‘I did not find her; and furthermore, the men of the place said, “There has been no temple prostitute here.”’ Then Judah said, ‘Let her keep them, otherwise we will become a laughingstock. After all, I sent this young goat, but you did not find her.’ Now it was about three months later that Judah was informed, ‘Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot, and behold, she is also with child by harlotry.’ Then Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned!’ It was while she was being brought out that she sent to her father-in-law, saying, ‘I am with child by the man to whom these things belong.’ And she said, ‘Please examine and see, whose signet ring and cords and staff are these?’ Judah recognized them, and said, ‘She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.’ And he did not have relations with her again. It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, ‘What a breach you have made for yourself!’ So he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah” (Genesis 38:1-30).

There is one thing which is most sure about the Hebrew Tanakh: it does not try to hide the errant actions of its chosen people, allowing specific details to be recorded, hopefully for the instruction of generations to come. In this case, the failings of Judah as both a father and as a man were on full display. But in it all, one finds that these circumstances were perhaps used by God to make Judah the man that he needed to be.

Judah was the one who had suggested that his brothers sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders, rather than kill him. This hints of an emerging conscience that will mature as he aged. Perhaps he was feeling some remorse, keeping the lies about Joseph’s death continuing in the presence of Jacob, who still mourned for Joseph (Genesis 37:35). Continuing to lie and cover up a conspiracy can be trying, so to perhaps relieve his guilt, Judah left his brothers and began living in the regional culture, albeit with some recollection of how he was to conduct his life according to some family mores. What we find is that Judah did have a conscience which really bothered him, when he found out that it was he who impregnated Tamar. She was more “righteous” than Judah!

An arduous road, to being molded into a God-fearing leader among his siblings, began to show. Clearly, the Lord had a distinct plan for Judah, or these intimate details about his life would not have been included in Holy Scripture.

Joseph’s Challenges

The contrast between Joseph and Judah is certainly noticeable, as Genesis ch. 39 dramatically shifts back to Joseph’s predicament as a slave. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, and we witness how the Lord was definitely blessing Joseph in multiple noticeable ways. Joseph experienced some significant tests, as he continued to not only contend with the memories of the ill-treatment of his brothers, being sold into slavery—but was later falsely accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife. Notice how the references to the Lord or God emerge, as Joseph was obviously having to cling to the assurance that he had in Him:

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.  It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’ As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called to the men of her household and said to them, ‘See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.’ So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with these words, ‘The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.’ Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, ‘This is what your slave did to me,’ his anger burned. So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Genesis 39:1-23).

Perhaps one of the most memorable instances recorded about Joseph, during his service to Potiphar, is his desire to remain righteous and pure before the Holy One. When confronted by Potiphar’s wife to engage in adulterous promiscuity, Joseph responded with a question that clearly indicated that he had a genuine fear of the Lord:

“But he refused. He said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, with me here, my master gives no thought to anything in this house, and all that he owns he has placed in my hands. He wields no more authority in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except yourself, since you are his wife. How then could I do this most wicked thing, and sin before God?’” (Genesis 39:8-9, NJPS).

Despite the ill treatment by his brothers and being sold into slavery, it appears that Joseph was still clinging to his relationship with the Holy One with a righteous reverence. Clearly, whatever humanly justified bitterness toward others, that could have readily been transferred to God, was not evident. Instead, a fear of sinning against God compelled Joseph to flee the tempting circumstances, rather than indulging his flesh. Could this well known display of self control have been an example considered by the Apostle Paul, when he directed his disciple Timothy to flee from youthful lusts?

“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

As a result of inadvertently leaving his garment behind, Joseph then endured the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, which caused him to be cast into prison. Can you imagine what he must have been thinking, knowing that he had avoided sinning because of his faith in God—and yet, he received more ill treatment? There had to be something in Joseph’s mind and heart concerning his relationship with the Holy One, that prompted him to avoid willfully sinning.

Clearly Joseph’s eventual testimony, as a deliverer for the rest of His family, foreshadowed the ultimate salvation of Yeshua, the Righteous One to come. Obviously at a young age, Joseph had been touched by the Holy One through some dreams, for the trials that he was going to eventually endure. It would take some difficult challenges and circumstances for Joseph to be molded and positioned, so that he could eventually be in the right position at the right time, to save his brothers (cf. Romans 8:28). The Sovereign God of Creation is ultimately in charge of how things work out through His chosen vessels.

A Dream-Based Faith

What might we consider this week, from studying this Torah portion, which vividly recounts and contrasts some of the nefarious deeds of the sons of Jacob with some of the righteous actions of Joseph? How about reflecting upon personal accountability, and how we each should individually respond in our relationship with the Holy One? Our individual actions before the Lord, are being watched by Him as the Omnipresent and Omniscient One.

While we might not personally endure the ignominy that Joseph’s brothers have to bear for eternity, will each of us be held accountable for our actions, words, and even thoughts? Are our actions, words, and thoughts focused on the ways of the Lord—or something else? In V’yeishev we each have to confront the reality of murder in the hearts of Jacob’s sons, the sexual encounter of Judah with Tamar, and the rejection of sexual adventures on the part of Joseph when the temptation presented itself.

Murder and adultery are the two most evident sins depicted in our Torah portion. In the First Century, the standard to follow was raised considerably by Yeshua, in the teaching of His Sermon on the Mount. The Lord directed His hearers to consider some of the causes of murder and adultery, as being tantamount to people having committed the actual sins:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ [Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17] and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell…You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’ [Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18]; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30).

Yeshua did not mince His words with hard to interpret explanations, but directed people on how murder and adultery are much more than just the physical acts. This is why it is absolutely vital that each one of us sincerely has a genuine fear of the Lord in order to arrest our thoughts, hold back our tongues, and certainly avoid sinful actions.

The great example of Joseph having had some dreams or words, that solidified his faith in the Holy One, is something that every Believer should seek to obtain and retain during the course of his or her life. Knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is observing each and every thought, word, and deed is something that assuredly engenders a sincere fear of Him. Whether one receives that assurance from a dream, a vision, a word, or most critically a salvation experience—it is absolutely necessary to walk in a way that truly pleases our Heavenly Father. We have the testimony of Joseph to consider, but what is most crucial is our individual testimony that the fear of the Lord is presently directing our life. For without a genuine fear of the Lord, our ability to understand and apprehend what the Scriptures discuss is severely limited:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

During the course of our lives, may we continually be able to fear the Lord in an even greater manner, as we seek to serve Him and see His Kingdom established! (Click to Source)

V’yishlach – He sent – 25 November, 2017

V’yishlach

He sent

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Genesis 32:3-36:43
Hosea 11:7-12:12 (A)
Obadiah 1:1-21 (S)

“A Wrestling Faith”


by Mark Huey

This week, our Torah portion Vayishlach continues the saga of Jacob’s life, as he learned to depend upon and have faith in the God of Abraham and Isaac. If you will recall from last week, the final separation from his father-in-law Laban concluded with a dramatic covenant that essentially placed a demarcation point at Mahanaim, which inclined Jacob to maintain his family’s march west toward the Land of Canaan, promised to him and his fathers (Genesis 31:51-32:2).

With the problems behind him resolved, there were problems in front of Jacob still looming. Jacob was still confronted with a tenuous reunion with his brother Esau, who twenty years earlier had threatened to kill him. Despite all of the blessings of a family, servants, and a bounty of livestock—Jacob had to be utterly petrified about what might take place. Assuming that his brother Esau was still holding a grudge against him, this week’s parashahopens with Jacob concocting a plan to thwart any evil intentions that Esau might have brought upon his family. Even though during the time he spent in Paddan-aram, Jacob’s faith had been surely maturing—as he witnessed the Lord honor His word and promises—we can see that Jacob was still depending upon his own strength and cleverness to avoid what he must have contemplated would be a difficult reception from Esau. In order to prevent a potentially life-threatening encounter, Jacob first sent messengers to Esau to determine the level of Esau’s animosity toward him. Upon the report that Esau was approaching with four hundred, Jacob devised a plan to avoid any anticipated confrontation with Esau by dividing his entourage into two camps, with his immediate family in one and the servants in the other. But then in an indication that Jacob was beginning to trust more fully in the God of his fathers, he turned to God in supplication, having sought the Lord’s protection from his brother:

“Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, ‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: “Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’”’ The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, ‘We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.’ Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and the herds and the camels, into two companies; for he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the company which is left will escape.’ Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.”’ So he spent the night there. Then he selected from what he had with him a present for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, ‘Pass on before me, and put a space between droves.’ He commanded the one in front, saying, ‘When my brother Esau meets you and asks you, saying, “To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and to whom do these animals in front of you belong?” then you shall say, “These belong to your servant Jacob; it is a present sent to my lord Esau. And behold, he also is behind us”’” (Genesis 32:3-18).

In Jacob’s somewhat confessional prayer to God, he not only recognized God’s promises to him, but also his unworthiness to receive the blessings that have already been bestowed. Jacob’s genuine fear of Esau was so great that he had already made the decision to separate into two camps, but he was still reminding God of His promises to prosper him and make his descendants as many as the sand of the sea. The struggle to live by faith in the Holy One, or depend upon one’s own mortal strength, was waging mightily in Jacob. This is a great lesson for any Torah student to study and contemplate. After all, how many times during the course of life do people who profess faith in the Almighty find themselves in similar predicaments? While these times of depending upon the Lord do not necessarily have to be life threatening, most can identify with tests and trials that truly challenge our faith and trust in God. In the development of Jacob’s faith, one can definitely see it growing—but lifelong patterns to resort to cleverness or inherent strengths as humans are difficult to overcome. As Jacob would soon discover, it is at times like these, when the Lord showed up to help him get through the trial.

Jacob Renamed Israel

In V’yishlach, we see that Jacob was in quite a dilemma. He knew that his brother Esau was approaching with four hundred men, not knowing exactly what their intentions were. He had sent ahead servants and livestock to appease Esau, but there was no indication that Esau was satisfied with the overtures. The entourage had been strategically separated into two camps, so Jacob arose in the night and took his family across the river Jabbok, in order to await the arrival of Esau and his company. It was here in the dark of the night, that Jacob encountered a unique supernatural being. Not only did this figure have the ability to simply touch Jacob on his hip and dislocate it, but he also took the opportunity to rename Jacob:

“Then he commanded also the second and the third, and all those who followed the droves, saying, ‘After this manner you shall speak to Esau when you find him; and you shall say, “Behold, your servant Jacob also is behind us.”’ For he said, ‘I will appease him with the present that goes before me. Then afterward I will see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ So the present passed on before him, while he himself spent that night in the camp. Now he arose that same night and took his two wives and his two maids and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream. And he sent across whatever he had. Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.’ But he said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him and said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.’ Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip” (Genesis 32:19-32).

During this struggle that ensued, Jacob likely was having to mentally wrestle with the thoughts of his future, and what would soon happen regarding his imminent encounter with Esau. What transpired in the night as Jacob struggled with the supernatural being, was that he showed himself to be a fighter—and for this reason he was renamed Israel or Yisrael, meaning “he contends with God” (TWOT).[1] Jacob was given the name Israel because you have struggled with God and with human beings and have overcome(Genesis 32:28, TNIV). This must have had some great significance to Jacob.

Jacob’s wrestling match during the night—when he was renamed Israel—was most definitely a defining moment in his life, as some serious future events were preparing to occur. Twenty years earlier on his departure from Canaan on the way to Paddan-aram, Jacob had a dream-vision of angels ascending and descending upon a ladder (Genesis 28:10-22). Now on the precipice of returning to the Promised Land, Jacob had an even more dramatic supernatural experience. Perhaps finally, after years of striving with God and with human beings, Jacob was ready to rely fully on God—with the assurance that God was in control of all of the circumstances he was facing?

Reunion with Esau

From the wrestling match at Jabbok with the supernatural being, Jacob was resigned to be at peace with his God. So, he simply went forth confidently with his plan to show proper respect to Esau, and he instructed his family to do the same:

“Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids.  He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So he said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant.’ Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. And he said, ‘What do you mean by all this company which I have met?’ And he said, ‘To find favor in the sight of my lord.’ But Esau said, ‘I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own.’ Jacob said, ‘No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.’ Thus he urged him and he took itThen Esau said, ‘Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.’ But he said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.’ Esau said, ‘Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.’ But he said, ‘What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.’ So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth. Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel” (Genesis 33:1-20).

By the time our Torah reading describes the meeting of Jacob with Esau, it is not explicitly clear what had changed the disposition of Esau toward his brother Jacob. Was it possibly the statements of the messengers bearing the gifts of livestock that softened Esau’s heart toward his brother? Was it finally greeting his brother, as they convened and took note of all of the wives and children that were an immediate part of Jacob’s entourage? Or, could it possibly have been the twenty-year interval where Esau had been blessed by a bevy of children himself (cf. Genesis 36)? Perhaps God had answered Jacob’s prayers for peace with his brother Esau?

Needless to say, Jacob was greeted a bit generously, and with what appeared to be a willingness for the two to learn how to live together in the same region. Esau seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the news about his brother Jacob, and stated that he was already blessed and not in need of the bevy of livestock offered to Esau by Jacob. But after Jacob insisted, Esau accepted the gifts, and even offered to have the two families live together in the region around Seir.

Seir was south of where they were meeting, and east of the Jordan River. This was not the principal land promised to Abraham and Isaac, and so the newly renamed Israel insisted that his brother go on ahead, and he would follow in due time. But rather than heading south to follow Esau, Jacob instead headed west across the Jordan and toward Shechem, to retrace some of the same path he had taken twenty years earlier. In fact, as the text indicates, when Jacob and his family arrived back in the Shechem area, he actually purchased a piece of land from the Shechemites in order to settle down. He erected an altar there, naming the place El Elohe Israel.

The transformation of Jacob, into a man of faith, seems to have been completed. Not only has Jacob navigated a potentially disastrous confrontation with Esau, but now he was free to move back into the Land of Promise without fear of retribution. In an action that clearly indicated a sincere desire to fulfill his promise to the God of his fathers, Jacob actually erected an altar to worship God and names the place, “God, God of Israel.” Jacob was not only confident that God was with him as he overcame the fear of encountering Esau, but he was so moved by his return, that in a move to publically declare who he was serving—he built and dedicated an altar to his God. Jacob seemed to have transformed considerably in his trust and faith in the Almighty. But as is true with all who seek to serve God, the trials of life remain…

Israel’s Troubles in Shechem

While parents are not directly responsible for the actions of their children, they can be indirectly held accountable, whether they want to be or not. In the case of Jacob/Israel, he faced a significant trial as his children got involved with the Hivite population in the area where Jacob had initially decided to settle. Jacob’s daughter Dinah got sexually entrapped with Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, with some unintended consequences. The possibility of Israel’s family being absorbed into the local population was a problem that this incident and the subsequent actions brought to light:

“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this young girl for a wife.’ Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.’ Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.’ But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go” (Genesis 34:1-17).

A number of thoughts come to mind as one reads the account of the tragedies that would take place in and around the Shechem area. Jacob did not want his company intermingling with Esau’s company down south in the Seir area. Yet, with ten sons, a daughter, and attendant servants—how was Jacob/Israel going to avoid being absorbed by the more abundant indigenous population, even if he was wealthy based on the size of his livestock herds? So to make some distinctions, Jacob purchased some land and erected an altar to declare his allegiance to the God of Abraham and Isaac.

But the Hivites worshipped other gods, which was going to be a significant problem, especially if any intermarrying did take place. When Dinah got involved with Shechem, the relationship caused a challenge not only for Jacob—who remained silent without taking any immediate action—but also his sons, Simeon and Levi, who became very involved when they heard about the violation of their sister Dinah. In fact, the lack of response from Jacob is concerning, despite the fact that his presence when confronted by Hamor and Shechem is noted. But instead of responding to their pleas for Dinah’s hand in marriage, Jacob said nothing as Simeon and Levi interjected their concern over a marriage to an uncircumcised person. After all, a part of Israel’s walk of faith included circumcision of infant boys (Genesis 17:11-25). Apparently, after Abraham and Isaac were circumcised, the practice was continued with Esau and Jacob. Then the practice must have continued with the sons of Jacob, as they used this rite as the stated reason to stop the marriage of Dinah with Shechem. But there was a hidden motivation of vengeance to convince the Hivites to circumcise their men:

“Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, ‘These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.’ All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city. Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.’ But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister as a harlot?’” (Genesis 34:18-31).

Simeon and Levi had decided that they were going to avenge the humiliating treatment of their sister, and prevent the potential merger of the families. After three days, when the pain of the circumcision was great, the young men struck not only Hamor and his son Shechem, but massacred all of the men of Shechem! When their brothers discovered the action, they did not hesitate to plunder the city and ravage the inhabitants. What an horrific display of revenge by these young sons of Jacob.

Jacob’s silence is almost deafening. There is no recorded statement in the Biblical record that Jacob tried to stop the actions of his sons. It was only after the massacre had taken place that Jacob finally spoke to Simeon and Levi, with some serious concern about the ramifications of their vengeful acts. Jacob was mindful that the neighboring Canaanites and Perizzites would take great offense over the murder of their regional neighbors, and take up arms against the greatly outnumbered group of servants that were a part of Jacob’s entourage. Naturally, Jacob was extremely concerned about the survival of his family, and reprimanded Simeon and Levi accordingly. It was not until years later when Jacob/Israel bestowed blessings on his children, that we discover that there were definite negative consequences for this act of vengeance:

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:5-7).

As you think through this tragedy and the consequences of settling near Shechem, is it possible that Jacob stopped in his return to Canaan a little prematurely, without going further south to relocate near the area around Hebron?

The Relocation Continues

Following the tragic events that took place in Shechem, God spoke to Jacob with instructions about his relocation. If you can picture the next move further south of Shechem that they were about to take, you find that Jacob and his entourage were once again on the ridgeline highway, leading south of Shechem through Bethel, where Jacob had his earlier encounter with God during his sojourn east some twenty years prior. God was bringing Jacob “full circle,” to the place where he had anointed a rock with oil (Genesis 28:16-19). It was here that some additional work was needed, in order to eliminate all association with other gods and idol worship:

“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem. As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.  He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth. Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; you shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ Thus He called him Israel. God also said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you. The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.’Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel” (Genesis 35:1-15).

God’s work with Jacob was not yet finished, because some of the people moving with him were still worshipping foreign gods, as indicated by all the items used for false worship. God spoke to Jacob, reminding him of his earlier commitment at Bethel, and told him to rid his entourage of any idolatrous items. After burying the amulets, Jacob returned to the place where he anointed the stone, and this time erected an altar to worship the Holy One, once again recognizing it as Bethel. Then to reaffirm the earlier encounter at Jabbok, when he was renamed Israel—the Lord not only restated the name, but also reminded Jacob about the blessings of Abraham and Isaac that Jacob/Israel had received. By this time in the life of Jacob/Israel, one would think that he was getting the message from God very loud and clear. But the vagaries of life continued, as the sojourn continued south toward the Hebron area. God is never finished with testing His chosen vessels until they die.

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel was pregnant during the journey south, and she went into Jacob around Ephrath (Genesis 35:16-17). During the birth of her second son, she died and was buried (Genesis 35:18-20). The loss of Rachel must have saddened Jacob greatly, but rather than allowing Rachel’s dying name of Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) to remain, Jacob instead named his youngest son Benjamin (son of my right hand). The patriarch erected a memorial pillar at her burial site, and then settled in the area near the tower of Eder (Genesis 35:21). But Jacob/Israel’s troubles with rebellious children continued. In an act of disrespect toward his father, Jacob’s eldest son Reuben has sexual relations with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). This ultimately resulted in Reuben forfeiting his birthright privileges, as noted in Jacob’s blessings uttered at his deathbed years later:

“Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch’” (Genesis 49:3-4).

A Wrestling Faith

While our parashah actually concludes with an extensive listing of the descendants of Esau (Genesis 36), the extended journey of Jacob comes to a close with him finally arriving in the Hebron area to bury his aged father Isaac:

“Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (Genesis 35:27-29).

It is difficult to specifically determine any additional moves that Jacob/Israel made during the remaining days of his sojourn in Canaan, but it is interesting to note that when his father Isaac died, there must have been at least a semblance of peaceful interactions with his brother Esau—or they probably would not have been able to come together for the burial of their father.

It is reasonable to conclude that Jacob struggled with the God of his fathers for most of his life. Even though there were considerable moments of revelation and experience—both direct and indirect with the Holy One—Jacob had to constantly contend with the challenges of life that are an example to all who study his life. God had obviously chosen him from the womb to receive the blessings of Abraham and Isaac, but just like every person born, his life journey was unique. Despite growing up in a family dedicated to the Holy One, Jacob had to personally learn how to trust in the Lord himself. Is this not the case for everyone who seeks the Lord?

As you think back and contemplate the sojournings of Jacob, perhaps you can identify with some of his trials. Maybe you grew up in a home where a relationship with God was modeled to you by your parents or relatives. As a result, you may struggle with your own personal relationship, because your interactions with God may not be as profound as those relayed to you by others. On the other hand, you might be the first one in your family to truly seek God, and have an assurance that He is truly the One who brings you salvation from your sin. Whatever your personal history includes, having some kind of struggles with God along the road of life, are just a part of everyone’s personal journey.

Whether your faith is tested with sibling rivalries, with rebellious children, when others treat you unfairly, when loved ones die, or by any number of life circumstances that come your way—know that God is always there to confide in and lean upon. In fact, the image of wrestling with God or clinging to Him is appropriate, given the desire of God-seekers to hold onto Him through the trials of life. Even the revered Moses used this imagery when he exhorted the Israelites in the desert to not only fear the Lord, but serve Him and cling to Him:

“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).

Surely, if you have sought the Lord and received assurance of your salvation because of belief in the atoning work of the blood of Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus), then you have seen or experienced the work of God in your life. Perhaps you have even spent some time wrestling with God as He has tested your faith!

Despite the struggles of life that test our faith, may we all learn to cling to the Holy One as ultimately exemplified by Jacob who wrestled with his faith throughout his life. For our God is indeed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and by their individual examples—we can learn to cling to the Holy One who promises eternal life through belief in His Son Yeshua, our Redeemer and the Rock of our salvation!  (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] J. Barton Payne, “Yisrael, sarah,” in TWOT, 2:883.

 

Lekh-Lekha – Get yourself out – “The Father of Faith” – 23 October, 2017

Lekh-Lekha

Get yourself out

1977-jesus-of-naz-synagogue1

Genesis 12:1-17:27
Isaiah 40:27-41:16

“The Father of Faith”

by Mark Huey

By the time one turns to the third Torah reading, Lekh-Lekha, the recorded story of humanity indicates how the Almighty God has had direct contact with certain noted individuals. Despite the fact that considerable history is covered in a relatively short space (Genesis chs. 1-11), we see that after the scrambling of the languages to encourage migration (Genesis 11:7-8), there remained a growing population in Mesopotamia. As Genesis 11 closes, the genealogical trails recorded narrow down to one chosen family, and eventually one individual in Abram/Abraham, who will dominate a great deal of the Scriptural message for future generations (Genesis 11:27-32). Noting the significant amount of faith demonstrated by Abraham, the Apostle Paul would call him in the First Century, “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

The Lord Calls Abram

Abraham and his family were natives of the Mesopotamian city of Ur (Genesis 11:28), located in what is today Southern Iraq. Located adjacent to the Euphrates River, Ur was undoubtedly an important commercial center, which received a wide amount of trade extending down into the Persian Gulf. While Lekh-Lekha informs us of how Abraham’s family, presumably including his father Terah and others, had some kind of connection with the Creator God—it is also true that idolatry was rampant in their native land. As Genesis 11 concludes, we find that Terah, his son Abram with wife Sarai, and grandson Lot, departed Ur and moved northward, ultimately settling in Haran on the way to Canaan (Genesis 11:31). Why they settled in Haran is unknown, but it was here where Terah died and left his oldest son Abram with his estate, and perhaps the inclination to continue the journey to Canaan with his wife and nephew.

It is at this juncture that the account turns dramatically to the voice of the Lord commanding Abram to leave not only his country, but his relatives and his father’s house, in order to journey to a special land that He was going to show him:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

At the time of this command from the Lord, Abram was seventy-five years old and childless (Genesis 12:4-5). He had been an obedient son in leaving Ur. The Lord obviously had His eye upon Abram, and when this dramatic communication came, he must have been overwhelmed with fear. Not only was Abram commanded to leave all of the comforts of his country, but he was given a significant blessing that has been repeated numerous times down throughout the ages (i.e., Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8).

Can you imagine hearing this list of blessings from the Creator God? Here was a seventy-five year old man, who was living in what seems to be a remote part of upper Mesopotamia, who heard that the Almighty was going to make him—a childless husband—into a great nation (l’goy gadol, Genesis 12:2). On top of promising Abram many descendants, God said that He would bless Abram, and make his name great, in order to be a blessing to others. Also stated is how those who blessed Abram would be blessed, and that those who cursed him would be cursed. Perhaps the most important remark made is v’nivreku b’kha kol mishpechot ha’adamah, “and all the clans of the earth through you shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, Alter). In spite of the complications of his being reared in Ur, with its many temptations and having seen many other gods worshipped, Abram knew who this One God was, and heeded His word when it was delivered.

Upon hearing the audible voice of God, and the incredible blessings communicated, Abram was required to exercise some faith or trust in this promise. Abram not only embarked on his journey forward from Haran with his wife Sarai, nephew Lot, and their accumulated possessions—but upon arriving in the Land of Canaan, we see that the Lord appeared to him with another promise, which is that his descendants would be given this land. Abram’s response was to build an altar and worship the Lord, confirming how he was dedicated to the Creator God and wanted his fellow travelers to recognize his faithfulness:

“Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:5-8).

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

Upon arriving in the land of Canaan, the faith that Abram had demonstrated in God began to be tested. Almost immediately, Abram had to survive a regional famine (Genesis 12:10), which required him to actually relocate to Egypt in order to find food for his entourage. While in Egypt, Abram had to contend with the possibility that the Egyptian Pharaoh would admire the beauty of his wife Sarai, and want to include her in his harem. This dilemma caused Abram to take some measures that seem somewhat contradictory to him being a man of faith, indicating that Abram did have a few faults:

“Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev. Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife”; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.’ It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house” (Genesis 12:9-15).

Departing Canaan, after all of the promises delivered from the Almighty, had to be difficult. After all, God had dynamically affirmed to Abram significant promises to give his descendants such territory. They arrived in Canaan, there was a famine, and to complicate matters, the only known source of food was in Egypt. The customs of the Egyptians were known to Abram, who feared that knowledge of his marriage to Sarai was going to jeopardize his personal survival. Rather than introduce Sarai as his wife, Abram chose to refer to her as his sister, being less than honest. One might justifiably ask why a man of God would subject his wife to such an ordeal.

It is detectable that there was a lack of trust on the part of Abram, in telling Sarai to say that she was his sister. While the ruling Pharaoh thought that Sarai was only Abram’s sister, he was treated well and was given livestock and servants from him (Genesis 12:16). We further see how a plague hit the Pharaoh because of him keeping Sarai, who then found out that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Consequently, Abram and his company were escorted out of Egypt (Genesis 12:17-20).

To many modern-day followers of the Holy One, the actions of Abram in Egypt are quite perplexing. The person commonly regarded to be “the father of the faith,” was not sternly admonished for his decisions in the Scriptural text. Did God condone Abram’s actions in telling Sarai to call herself his sister, considering the real possibility of Abram’s execution by Pharaoh? While speculation has surely been offered over the centuries by both Jewish and Christian readers, the key promise delivered by God (Genesis 12:1-3) would undoubtedly have to override whatever human or mortal actions might intervene. It would be fulfilled no matter who would try to stop it. Abram would have multitudes of descendants. If he were killed by the Pharaoh, then it would prove that the Creator God was untrustworthy.

Still, one can only imagine the conversations that took place as Abram and Sarai, after the uncomfortable situation in Egypt, journeyed back east toward the Negev and Canaan (Genesis 13:1). They might have had additional wealth and an expanding entourage of servants (Genesis 13:2-4), but there was still a growing faith and trust in the God they served that needed to develop further.

Abram and Lot

Upon Abram’s return to the place of the altar he had originally built (Genesis 13:3), he must have worshipped and praised the Holy One for guiding him and his family through the famine ordeal. But another challenge was looming. With the additional wealth and expansion of herds belonging to both Abram and Lot, the herds needed to be separated so that both growing families could find sufficient grazing land. Rather than the elder Abram choosing where to ultimately settle, and sending Lot on his way, Abram elected to let his nephew have the choice on where he desired to raise and graze his herds (Genesis 13:5-12).

Abram had to have absolute trust in the Lord, as he deferred to Lot’s decision on where he wanted to relocate. Lot was naturally attracted to the lush and abundantly watered land in the valley of the Jordan. But, Abram was totally content in Lot’s decision, because after all, God had promised the land of Canaan to his descendants. As Lot moved himself to Sodom, there is a narrative prompt informing readers how “the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD” (Genesis 13:13).

As Abram and Lot went on their separate ways, and Abram began to establish himself within this new land—the only major remaining challenge was the thought of descendants and for him and the aging Sarai. As the two of them got older, the likelihood of the two of them bearing children was becoming an issue. So to perhaps ease some of their concerns, the Lord once again confirmed to Abram that he was doing the right thing. The Promised Land would be theirs for perpetuity, and they would have great numbers of descendants:

“The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.’ Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:14-18).

After hearing about the magnitude of his descendants, and surveying the land through its length to breadth, Abram decided to relocate from his perch along the heights between Bethel and Ai, to further south to some land near Hebron (Genesis 13:18). Upon arriving in his new location, faithful Abram acknowledged the blessings of the Lord, and built another altar to worship and praise Him. After having received God’s blessings of favor in the land, surviving through a famine in hostile Egypt, being sent back to Canaan with additional wealth, and resolving the growing disputes with Lot’s herdsmen—Abram was now in the area where he ultimately would reside and be buried. Yet, Abram would be significantly tested, as his nephew Lot encountered trouble in Sodom.

Wars in the Middle East are not just a recent occurrence, but have been present throughout history. A regional conflict erupted between various local kings, with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah caught up in the fighting (Genesis 14:1-9). In the midst of the fighting, the two cities were vacated (Genesis 14:10) and looted by the invaders (Genesis 14:11). Lot was actually one of those who was taken prisoner, as he was living in Sodom. Upon hearing about Lot’s capture, faithful and loyal Abram took rescuing actions to save Lot and his family from certain demise:

“They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom. Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people” (Genesis 14:12-16).

Despite difficult odds, the aged Abram saw that an expedition, or in modern-day terms a “strike team,” was assembled to go rescue his nephew. Obviously, Abram did not need to risk his own life and those of his companions to save Lot—but by faith in the Lord, and displaying some skill, Abram not only defeated the marauders, but returned to Sodom with some booty and prisoners of war (Genesis 14:16). At this point in our Torah portion, we see a definite peek into the faithful heart of Abram:

“Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, “I have made Abram rich.” I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share’”” (Genesis 14:17-24).

Interestingly, the king of Sodom, and the king of Salem, Melchizedek, went out to greet Abram upon his return. The contrasting actions of these two kings is indicated by the disposition of their hearts. The reluctantly grateful king of Sodom wanted some of the spoils of war, but requested only the prisoners, seemingly being generous in not wanting the goods taken. Abram was not impressed, as he simply requested that those who fought be rewarded with a legitimate division of the spoils taken.

On the other hand, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was obviously a follower of the One True God, the same as Abram. It is understood by Abram’s response to the praise bestowed upon the Most High God, that he knew how he and Melchizedek both honored and worshipped the same God. By giving Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils, Abram established a precedent for what developed into the process of the tithe to be given to the Lord. Abram did not want to be yoked to the wicked king of Sodom in any way, but instead, wanted all to know that his allegiance, praise, and worship were to the Lord, the One who had led him on his successful expedition to rescue Lot. As we can see, the faith of Abram was becoming more apparent as revealed. Abram’s special relationship with the Holy One was becoming obvious to all in the region.

Abram Reckoned as Righteous

Following the rescue of Lot, the nagging problem of what to do about children still remained for Abram and Sarai. This couple did not have a physical heir, and the biological clock was surely continuing to tick, as their servant Eliezar of Damascus was the only recognized heir. Had not God promised a physical heir? If so, would this even be possible at such a late stage in their lives?

God was surely pleased with Abram’s handling of the various testing events he had experienced. In His mercy to Abram, He saw that the concern of children for Abram and Sarai was unrelenting. Upon returning from the encounters with the two kings, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision, and specified much more than the surety of Abram having a physical heir. Abram is stated to have been reckoned righteous because of his belief in the Holy One:

“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.’ Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.’ Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.’ And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:1-6).

The word of Genesis 15:6, “And he trusted in HASHEM, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (ATS), is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible for understanding the relationship of people to their Creator. In Genesis 15:6, the verb aman is employed, which in the Hifil stem (casual action, active voice) is defined by CHALOT to regard “rely upon (God)” and “believe in” Him.[1] The Septuagint rendered this with the verb pisteuō, “to trust, trust to or in, put faith in, rely on, believe in a person or thing” (LS).[2] While it is most common to see Genesis 15:6 rendered with some form of “believe” in English Bibles, it is not outside of the realm of possibilities to render it with “have faith.” It is upon this critical verse, Genesis 15:6, that James and Paul would both appeal to emphasize a life of trust in the Heavenly Father (James 2:23; Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3, 20-22).

One of the biggest mistakes that many of today’s Christians can make, when encountering the Tanakh or the Old Testament, is thinking that it presents us with a God who demands that His people work to earn their salvation. While God surely does expect good works and actions of His people, the thrust of Genesis 15:6 is that belief/trust/faith in Him is what reckons a person righteous as one of His own. Abram was confronted with a situation, in being promised by God multitudes of descendants, where he must have had many doubts about it ever taking place. He and his wife were both elderly people! Yet, much of his human uncertainty had to have been overcome—as he placed himself entirely in God’s hands—because we are told how “Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6, NLT). The Apostles would later apply Genesis 15:6 to a life of required faith and trust that people must not only place in the Heavenly Father, but in His Son sent to die to atone for sinful humanity.

The Conception of Ishmael

Within Lekh-Lekha, we see how Abram and Sarai concluded that they would not be able to conceive a child, due to Sarai’s advanced age. Instead, Sarai recommended that Abram take her handmaiden Hagar to conceive a child. Perhaps, they must have thought, the physical heir from Abram’s loins need not come from Abram’s wife herself. So, the two of them resorted to a local, Ancient Near Eastern, pagan practice. And, while Abraham and Hagar were able to conceive a child, it notably resulted in Sarai despising Hagar:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me’” (Genesis 16:1-5).

Was the act of Abram impregnating Hagar an act of faith, or of faithlessness? It is noted later that God would actually bless Ishmael (Genesis 17:20), and that from Ishmael would come forth a great nation. Yet in his letter to the Galatians in the First Century, the Apostle Paul would use the analogy of Hagar conceiving Ishmael, to dissuade the new, non-Jewish Believers from being circumcised as proselytes (Galatians 4:21-31). Abram impregnating Hagar has never had a great reputation in the Holy Scriptures, and it is a negative lesson from which all are to learn. Rather than Abram and Sarai waiting to let a child be naturally conceived via their normal sexual relations—they instead force things by having Abram impregnate Sarai, by which a less-than-legitimate child would be born. While Abram is indeed to be regarded as “the father of faith,” he was human and did not always act according to faith.

Abram and Sarai Renamed

Lekh-Lekha concludes as an eternal covenant was made with Abram (Genesis ch. 17), as the Lord once again appeared to and spoke to him. Abram was not only promised that from himself would come “a multitude of nations,” hamon goyim (Genesis 17:4, 5), but it is here when Avram was renamed Avraham or Abraham. Not only would a plentitude of descendants come forth from Abraham, but a child of promise would come forth from the womb of Sarai, renamed Sarah:

“Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’ Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’ God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations’…Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’” (Genesis 17:1-9, 15-19).

A physical reminder, circumcision of the foreskin of the male sexual organ, would be issued upon those who would be the beneficiaries of the covenant cut between God and Abraham (Genesis 17:22-27). While physical circumcision is to be regarded as a badge of honor upon those who practice it, as it connects a man to the Patriarch Abraham—circumcision can also be a badge of dishonor, considering all of the unfaithful acts that can be committed with the male member. Both faithful acts to God, and less-than-faithful acts, are seen demonstrated by Abraham in our Torah portion. Both faithful and unfaithful acts have been demonstrated by those men in history who have been physically circumcised (cf. Romans 2:25-29).

Abraham Remembered

Lekh-Lekha is a rather comprehensive Torah reading, with many events witnessed that will inform those studying the remainder of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Students receive an incredible overview of key trials that ultimately led the chosen Abraham, to be regarded as “the father of faith.” Abraham was uniquely selected by God for this role. While he had his faults, Abraham proved that he was a man who had to place great confidence in his Creator, as the challenges he faced steadily grew. Abraham has left us an example that has stood the test of time. The author of Hebrews lauds the faith of Abraham and Sarah, as they are noted as persons who acted upon the steadfast trust that they placed in the God who called them, not quite knowing what was going to occur or where they were specifically going:

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE [Genesis 15:5-6; 22:17]” (Hebrews 11:8-12).

As you have reviewed the testimonies of Abraham and Sarah, while these two were not perfect people, they did walk by faith and they are examples that we are to follow as Believers in Yeshua. This is because born again Believers, by faith, are to be those who look beyond this temporal realm to the eternal. Hebrews 11:16 says that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

By contemplating the faith and actions of Abraham, we should each be inspired to walk in a manner that exhibits trust in the Lord, and a secure belief in the reliability of His Word and promises. A clear result of this trust are to be actions of obedience generated when we hear the voice of the Lord, and we serve Him in the world. Perhaps, as we edge closer and closer to the return of the Messiah Yeshua—which certainly requires great faith (cf. 2 Peter 3:4)—a few of us may demonstrate a faith of greater proportions than Abraham? If this is at all possible, then this would also mean that the mistakes made by Abraham must be quantitatively avoided. (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988), 20.

[2] LS, 641.

Noach – Noah – “A Resting Faith” – 16 October, 2017

Noach

Noah

Genesis 6:9-11:32
Isaiah 54:1-55:5 (A); 54:1-10 (S)

jesus-jew-2

“A Resting Faith”


by Mark Huey

Perhaps one of the most compelling testimonies of faith and belief in God, witnessed from the opening chapters of Genesis, is the life of Noah. The example of Noah, in association with the disastrous judgment of the Flood brought upon the world, is something from which we all need to take significant instruction. While the tests and challenges faced by Noah have been praised and heeded by followers of the Creator God down through the ages since, our second Torah portion also records some significant unfaithful acts, of those many human beings who have rebelled against the Holy One and suffered the consequences of sin. These contrasting examples continually remind Torah students that there are two distinct paths people can choose to follow.

As we each contemplate the multiple centuries of early human history condensed into the chapters of Noach, it is critical to note that distinctions, between the faithful and the faithless, have never really changed to our present day. People will either have faith in the Almighty God, and follow His instructions and directions for living as communicated—or they will demonstrate a breach of faith, and disregard His instructions and directions for living. The consequences of what one chooses really do matter, because the final destiny of every person is determined by either his faith in the Almighty or his denial of Him. So, with these points already recognized as a premise, let us examine our parashah for this week with these sobering thoughts in mind.

Evil Always

The closing words of our previous Torah portion, Bereisheet (Genesis 1:1-6:8), describe the nearly complete dissatisfaction that the Creator God had with humanity, given how civilization had gotten progressively worse. The Lord decreed that He actually needed to blot out—exterminate—the human race because of its wickedness:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8).

It is difficult to imagine that the Creator God had this amount of grief over His creation of humankind, and that He was sorry that He had ever done it. What He had previously decreed as tov meod, or “very good” (Genesis 1:31), had now become something significantly riddled with wickedness and sin. Seeing that kol-yetzer machshevot l’bo raq ra, “all purpose (of) thoughts his heart only evil” (Genesis 6:5, editor’s wooden rendering), “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:5, NIV). God was absolutely distressed about what had befallen human civilization, and drastic action had to be taken. Obviously, falling from the status of being “very good,” to God wanting to exterminate the human race, must have been very distressing.

As our Torah portion for this week opens, we see that there was one individual who found favor in God’s sight: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). What needs to be immediately recognized here is how the Hebrew chein or “favor,” was translated by the Greek Septuagint as charis or “grace.” There is certainly grace in the Old Testament! The favor or grace of God has always been a characteristic of Him.

Why was Noah (and his family of course) the only person who found grace in the sight of the Creator? In the narrative from Bereisheet last week, some information is given to readers about the birth of Noah, which appears to give us some clues as to the tasks the Lord intended him to fulfill. Upon Noah’s birth, it is communicated that his father Lamech named him Noach, because he was one who would be able to provide some sort of rest:

“Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.’ Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died. Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 5:28-32).

Why would Noah provide rest from how, “Out of the ground which the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29, RSV)? Does this have to do with the promised seed that was anticipated to come (Genesis 3:15)? Does this have to do with the destiny that Noah was supposed to fulfill? If so, why did Lamech regard the ground as “cursed”? Did this come as a result of the Fall, or could it have been the result of human sin and how difficult life had become for those still seeking to follow the Creator God?

There are many questions that can be asked about why Noah was named Noah, as what Noah did is considered and probed by each of us from this week’s Torah portion. We need to stay away from far-fetched speculation or guessing, and stick to what is communicated to us about Noah’s character and belief. Noah was one of a select line of people, who in spite of the growth of sin throughout the world of humanity, remained in communion with the One True Creator. As Noah found favor or grace in His sight, he was regarded as righteous (tzadiq) and blameless (tamim), walking with Him. Because of Noah’s faithfulness to God and His ways, he was given what must have seemed to be an impossible task to fulfill. Noah would have the job of building an ark that would rescue the animals associated with humanity from the deluge, and he followed the instructions that God gave him:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:8-22).

Reading what Noah was told, its implications for how human civilization had truly fallen into great evil, and how Noah obeyed—is truly daunting. There are definitely debates over what much of this meant for the participants, how the ark was built, and how the Flood actually took place as an ecological disaster, in contemporary Jewish and Christian theology. The main point, of course, is that sin had to be judged, Noah had to rescue what would survive, and above all how Noah—who among all the people of the world, still had faith in God—kept faith in God.

The Flood Arrives

The test of faith for Noah, in what God had commanded him, would have had to be extraordinary. Yet, Noah labored on the ark project with his sons, and presumably also his wife and their wives—possibly without any other help (Genesis 7:5-6). Noah faithfully obeyed the instruction of the Lord, and also had to endure the ridicule of his contemporaries, who no doubt chided him for what must have seemed to them an utter folly. In 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is regarded as “a preacher of righteousness.” Even if this is rendered as “a herald of righteousness” (ESV),[1] with no verbal declarations really made—we can know that Noah’s actions in obeying God’s command that he build an ark, surely spoke for themselves. The author of Hebrews would attest in the First Century, how Noah was a great example of faith, as he had obeyed God and prepared the ark, and in the process he condemned the sinful world around him:

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).

Apparently, God in His infinite wisdom, chose to condemn the unbelieving world that had broken faith with Him, by Noah’s lengthy construction project. God wanted to show how keeping faith with Him is absolutely necessary, in order to be spared from His righteous and holy judgment. We see how after the Flood takes place, the waters recede, and Noah and his family were given the job of repopulating the Earth, that a special covenant was made between Noah and the Lord. Most notably, God promised to never judge the Earth again with such an ecological catastrophe as the Flood:

As a reward for Noah’s faithfulness, the Lord established a permanent covenant with Noah and his descendants. This, in essence, reiterated the covenant that was first established with Adam, but now had some additional statements regarding the preciousness of blood, prohibitions against murder, and promises to never flood the Earth again with a visible covenantal sign notable by the rainbow:

“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.’ Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, ‘Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ And God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth’” (Genesis 9:1, 6-17).

Following the great disaster of the Flood, and given the job for humanity to literally “start over,” Noah, his sons, and their future descendants would never have to fear another flood of water destined to wipe out civilization. But in spite of the knowledge of the Flood, which would not only make its way into the record of Holy Scripture, but also many Ancient Near Eastern mythologies[2]—human civilization at large has had extreme difficulty remaining faithful to the Creator God, and staying away from the torrent of evil that caused the Flood in the first place!

The Tower of Babel

The narrative of Noach, while dominated by the account of the Flood, does continue on. Noah’s descendants had children, and they began to repopulate Planet Earth (Genesis 10). From God’s perspective, He desired humanity to expand around the globe, but there was still a problem present within the hearts of people. Would people keep faith in Him as the Creator, obeying His direction—or would people break faith in Him, following their own devices for living? The great contrast between the faithful and the unfaithful is evident in the testimony we see of Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter, and who founded his own kingdom (Genesis 10:8-10).

In the account of what transpired at Babel, the epitome of the unfaithfulness of fallen humanity is witnessed. Nimrod and his followers disobeyed God’s specific commands to populate the Earth, by not only building a great city, but making the effort to build a tower that would reach up into Heaven itself. God’s response to this action was to confuse human language, so that people would not be able to easily communicate with one another, and they would have no choice but to spread abroad into different linguistic and ethnic communities:

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:1-9).

God was certainly not pleased with the actions of Nimrod and his cohorts. If they kept on building their great tower, the observation of the Lord was actually, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (NJPS). The building of a tower to reach up into Heaven, into the realm of the Creator, would mean what? Going into Heaven to demand a supernatural place of authority alongside of God? Going into Heaven to actually overthrow God? Obviously, either one of these was impossible to do, but human ingenuity and unity for rebellious activities against the Creator was epitomized by the Tower of Babel. So, God confused the languages of people, and forced those at Babel to disband and separate, spreading out across the Earth.

In the scene of the Tower of Babel, a definite example of faithlessness—demanding one’s own will in defiance of God’s will—is crystal clear. People can either keep faith in God, and obey His directions, or they can break faith with God and suffer the consequences. Our Twenty-First Century generation needs to surely heed the example of the Tower of Babel and what it represents for global unity, because we largely have no significant language barriers to overcome. The barriers and divisions we have are political, ideological, and economic. Yet, if human civilization were ever to put some of these aside, what might this communicate in terms of our relationship with the Creator? Obviously for people who are faithful to our Heavenly Father and the Messiah Yeshua, it is said, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). When it comes to those who are unfaithful to the Holy One, we see something more like, “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed” (Psalm 2:2). Such will be what takes place when the antimessiah/antichrist finally arrives onto the scene of history.

The Days of Noah to Come

Naturally, many skeptics, in today’s faithless world, will disparage and ridicule the account of the Flood and the Tower of Babel, just like they will mock the account of Creation and the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. But, we need to take comfort in knowing that mocking God and His Word are to be expected, as the End of the Age approaches, and as Believers await the return of the Messiah. The Apostle Peter communicated,

“[T]hat you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:2-7).

Without wanting to read too much into Peter’s statements above, other than Peter describing how the account of the Flood has significant importance for those who will face the end-times, we can safely deduce that there will be a generation of supposed Bible Believers who will mock the message of Holy Scripture. These will be people who will assume that since life has gone on as it always has gone on, that there will be no Second Coming of the Messiah, and with it the complete arrival of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Just as the Flood came suddenly and swiftly, judging a generation of sinful people—so will the end-times suddenly and swiftly judge the final generation when it finally arrives. The Messiah Himself spoke of the days leading up to His return, as being like the days of Noah:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

While sudden judgment will come upon the sinful world in the time leading up to Yeshua’s return, we should all be very mindful of how much of what occurred in the time leading up to the Flood will be repeated on some level. There is nothing more horrifying than considering the great evil that was perpetuated in human hearts and minds (Genesis 6:5-7). While in the pre-deluge society, people could probably have only killed other people with primitive weapons of war—today the stakes are immensely higher. The means to kill people are significantly more advanced and more lethal, as humanity does possess the legitimate ability to suffer self-extinction. Just this past Summer (2011), when my daughter Maggie was at her CORTRAMID training for the Navy, she spent three days aboard a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, with enough firepower to wipe out the population of half the United States. While an Ohio class submarine with Trident II missiles is intended to be a weapon of deterrence, under the careful control of a responsible government that will only launch nuclear missiles as a last resort—think about all of the rogue states and leaders and groups out there, who would love to have weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately, given the prophetic reality that we read about in Scripture, such weapons will be used at one point or another by someone.

While each of us must have a steadfast faith in the God of Creation, to believe in His Word, that there was a real Flood that wiped out humanity in Noah’s day, and that we are to learn lessons for the end-times—how much faith do we have to display in recognizing that the Sovereign Lord Himself presently withholds the full force of evil from being unleashed on Planet Earth? Why has there not been a nuclear bomb detonated in a city, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? Why has there not been another 9/11 terrorist attack since 2001? Should we not be grateful for the level of “peace” that was present throughout the Cold War?

As we peruse the Torah this year, with the theme of faith in mind, there is no better admonition for us to consider, than how the Apostle Paul once said, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Yeshua the Messiah is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6). At some point in the future, and we are already seeing it grow today, the evil and sin of the world will reach a point like that manifested in the time of Noah. The people of the world will fall into the two distinct categories (1) of being faithful to God, and (2) being unfaithful to God. While there will surely be more than just the eight righteous who were spared from the Flood (1 Peter 3:20), the need for us to make sure that there are hundreds of millions of righteous people who possess faith in Yeshua is great!

Examine yourself and make sure that you are among the faithful! Make sure that you have a resting faith, in not only the written Word of God—but most importantly in the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)! Be sure that you are faithful to the Lord, and that you can pass whatever tests are to come! (Click to Source)


NOTES

[1] Grk. dikaiosunēs kēruka.

[2] Consult the article “Encountering Mythology: A Case Study From the Flood Narratives” by J.K. McKee.

Bereisheet – In the Beginning – “Torah and Faith” – 9 October, 2017

Bereisheet

4f282-bible2bstudy

In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1-6:8
Isaiah 42:5-43:10 (A); 42:5-21 (S)

“Torah and Faith”


by Mark Huey

One of the many blessings bestowed upon people, within the Messianic community of faith, is the annual opportunity to return to a study of, and reflection upon, the many profound truths embodied in the weekly Torah readings. It is here within the Chumash or Pentateuch, that Messiah followers can consider the foundation of our faith, as we each seek to be faithful to the God of Creation, pondering His ways and acts for humankind. It is in these first five books of the Holy Writ, that God communicates, without reservation, not only His faithfulness to a chosen people—but most assuredly, the absolute need for His people to faithfully seek Him with all of their hearts and souls (Deuteronomy 4:29).

With a new Torah cycle now upon us, it is my intention to focus the attention of each of us on the critical element of faith (Heb. emunah; Grk. pistis), as first thematically witnessed within the weekly portions—and then obviously present in various important places throughout the remainder of Scripture. According to the author of Hebrews, who in Hebrews ch. 11 focuses on many of the faithful predecessors of our common belief, without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). This year’s Torah teachings will attempt to help the modern-day, Messianic follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who believes in the Messiah Yeshua and has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to increase his or her “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3) in the Lord in order to please Him. Hopefully, this enhancement in faith will result in promoting a greater usefulness for advancing His Kingdom, so that you will find yourself rewarded by Him via your trust and obedience.

For all people who trust in the God of Israel, the study of His Torah is something foundational to understanding the totality of the Holy Scriptures. Most assuredly, the basis for the remainder of the Scriptures comes from the certainty in the human heart, that In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).[1] This opening word to the Bible, speaks to not only a certain starting point in past history for the origin of the universe, but the undeniable fact that there is an Omniscient, Omnipotent God, who has made all things according to His intelligent design. Without affirming this conviction, based on faith in the supernatural act of Creation—much of which is beyond human intellect and comprehension—the balance of Holy Scripture would be nothing more than a collection of interesting stories and philosophical speculations, written and compiled from a variety of merely human authors.

Genuine belief in the Creator God and His revealed Word is essential to being a man or woman of faith! Without a steadfast confidence in the God of the Bible, belief in Him, and His plan for each of us and the world at large, is highly unlikely. Possessing faith in the LORD God, and in the Messiah He has sent, is imperative if we want to understand our destiny as human beings.

The Concept of Faith

It is critical for us to take a brief look at the concept of faith, and what it entails for us as the people of God. In order to do this, there might not be a better place in the Bible than the previously referenced Hebrews ch. 11, to see where a succinct definition of faith is articulated:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Here, it is stated how “faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see” (Phillips New Testament). Followers of God from antiquity past gained His approval by possessing faith in Him—but such “faith” is not a visible, tangible entity. Faith, rather, is intended to be an intense trust or belief implanted into the heart and mind, rooted within a hope that looks beyond the seen world, directed toward an unseen God who created the world. This is something that goes beyond the natural revelation of God in the Creation (cf. Romans 1:19-20), as it is something that each person is to possess as the trials and tribulations of life force us to mature in our relationship with Him, and in our reckoning of His ways and instruction. Faith in God includes an intrinsic desire to know Him as the loving Creator, who has wondrously fashioned everything that exists. In the view of the Apostle Paul, God has allotted to each of us a measure of faith:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

Hopefully, by considering the great examples of faith—or faithlessness—through our course of Torah study this year, God will mercifully increase the measure of faith that each of us has. In so doing, may true seekers of God learn more about Him, and be strengthened in order to more fully walk in His ways! May we also have some answers to the questions we have been asking of our Heavenly Father, in terms of how we are to serve Him and what we are to do, during our time here on Earth.

Adam, Eve, Belief, and the Fall

Without a doubt, it requires a certain amount of faith in God, to believe in the Creation account of Genesis chs. 1-2. God took six distinct periods or yamim,[2] in order to form our universe, including: the cosmos, our solar system, Planet Earth, its vegetation, sea and land creatures, and ultimately humanity. People today, who declare faith in the God of the Bible, give Him absolute credit for bringing into existence all that is seen on this planet, and in what lies beyond—and also what they cannot see in terms of microscopic objects and other dimensions. The pinnacle of God’s Creation is undoubtedly the man and woman (Psalm 8), who were made by God in His image (tzelem) to rule over the Earth:

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’…God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

One would think that living in the Garden of Eden, where God walked with the first man and woman (Genesis 3:8), and with the creatures and vegetation subject to their dominion—would have been sufficient reason for them to exhibit significant confidence in the goodness and provision of Him as Creator. The instruction given by God, to not eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, seems pretty straightforward and simple enough to follow (cf. Genesis 2:15-25). Yet as is known to each of us, the fact that there was a rule to follow, which forbade its fruit from being eaten, allowed the serpent to enter in and tempt Eve, who had been formed after Adam, and had fewer encounters with God than he did (1 Timothy 2:13).[3] When encountering the serpent, Eve reported how God has forbidden the tree’s fruit from being eaten, but she was taken in by the serpent’s crafty words—not having been informed enough by her husband as to the consequences of what eating the fruit will bring:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”? The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Genesis 3:1-7).

When Adam and Eve both ate the forbidden fruit, they did not “drop dead.” Once they knew the intimate presence of God coming to them in the cool of the evening (cf. Genesis 3:8), but after eating the forbidden fruit, they found themselves “naked,” and they knew something had been spiritually altered. It was at this point that the first human couple’s belief, trust, faith, or confidence in God’s order was challenged. With the intimacy of knowing God in an incredibly personal way—what was going to happen now that God has been disobeyed?

As a result of disobedience, Adam and Eve had their eyes opened to the knowledge of good and evil. They were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and by being expelled from Paradise they were going to have to contend with new challenges that were not a part of their previous, privileged time. Curses were issued upon them. There would be pain in childbirth, and a battle of the sexes would erupt with a woman possessing an “urge” (NJPS)[4] for her husband, who would in turn dominate her. There would be difficulty in having to see vegetation grow, as outside of the Garden of Eden would be thorns and thistles. Most importantly, physical death would come, and the body would return to the physical elements from which it was hewn:

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:16-19).

Rather than experiencing physical death immediately, Adam and Eve were instead expelled from God’s most intimate presence, in which they could receive eternal life and never-ending communion with Him. Cherubim and a flaming sword were stationed outside of the entrance to the Garden of Eden, preventing Adam and Eve from reentering (Genesis 3:21-24).

In reading through Genesis chs. 1-3, and with what happened with Adam and Eve after they both ate the forbidden fruit, one can certainly think that all hope was lost. Did not the first two human beings flagrantly oppose God, by disobeying God’s clear instruction? If people have a free will, could this not be taken as an indication that when God’s instruction is known, people will most always break it (cf. Romans 5:13)? To think that all hope was lost would be a bad conclusion to draw, because as God punished the serpent, there is a promise of a seed (Heb. zera) to come who would crush the serpent’s head:

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).

Elsewhere in Scripture, we see that this Seed is none other than Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), in whom final redemption is found (cf. Galatians 3:16, 19). In fact, given the likely association of the figure of Eve with the false teaching that plagued many women in First Century Ephesus, is it any wonder why Paul would direct Timothy’s attention, saying how women “shall be saved through the child-bearing” (1 Timothy 2:16, YLT)? When the definite article in dia tēs teknogonias is translated, then a definite reference to the Incarnation of Yeshua—the One who is the Child-Bearing—can be detected, referring back to the Genesis 3:15 promise.[5]

Eventually in future history, the curses brought down upon humanity would be nailed to the cross of Yeshua (cf. Colossians 2:14), and the subsequent guilt of sin would be remitted for those who acknowledge and have faith in Him as Savior. Romans 5:12 still reminds each of us, though, how “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin…in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (TNIV). Those who do not receive Yeshua the Messiah into their lives, placing faith in His atoning action for us, still have to reckon with the problems introduced to humanity by the actions committed by Adam and Eve. For, Adam and Eve quantitatively demonstrated a lack of faith in what the Creator had explicitly told them to not do. Lamentably, for all of us as the subsequent offspring of Adam and Eve—an inclination to not place our faith or trust in what the Lord has told us, has been inherited. All people have sinned in Adam.

Cain, Abel, Disbelief, and Fratricide

While life was certainly more difficult outside the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, they had plenty of time to consider their transgression and how their communion with God was disrupted, but not necessarily destroyed. In reading through the first Torah portion, we find that in spite of the disruption that had been introduced, the Lord continued to commune with them. Adam and Eve had to begin to populate Planet Earth, because even though life would be difficult, God had not rescinded His decree that humanity should subdue the world. So, Adam and Eve went about the tasks before them, and among their children, they had two sons named Cain and Abel:

“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.’ Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (Genesis 4:1-2).

As these two sons grew up, Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel tended to flocks. Both of these sons presented offerings from their hard work to the Lord. We see that Abel’s offering of the first of his flock was accepted by God, but Cain’s offering was disregarded:

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).

Many Christian readers think that the reason Abel’s offering from the flocks was accepted before the Lord, but Cain’s offering from the fruit of the ground was not accepted, has to do with how a blood sacrifice is necessary to cover sin, and it is obvious that plants cannot do this. Yet as we encounter later in the Torah, various grain and cereal offerings, as well as those of oil and wine, become an important part of the Levitical institution and in the Ancient Israelites demonstrating their thanks to God for His provision. The Lord would not have rejected an offering of plants simply because they were plants.

What might be more notable is how Abel presented “the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4), and Cain only “brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3). This would mean that Abel gave God the finest of his flocks, and Cain may have given God some rather standard or even sub-standard produce.[6] Resultant from the Lord’s rejection of Cain’s offering before Him, Cain got rather angry, and He was warned against the urge of sin that he must see mastered and put down:

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire [teshuqah; urge, NJPS] is for you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Cain was not able to heed God’s warning to him, and because of this, we see the first recorded murder—a fratricide—in Holy Scripture:

“…And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:7).

While Cain had gone through some of the motions of offering up some of the fruits of his gardening efforts, he had clearly lacked some faith and confidence in the Lord to whom it was offered. On the other hand, when Abel brought a sacrifice from the firstlings of his flock, the Lord looked upon it with favor. Cain’s offering was not the best he could have offered. In the First Century C.E., the author of Hebrews observed how the faith exhibited by Abel to make a sacrifice to God, was considered an act of righteousness—and it was something that had a resonating effect down through the ages:

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

While there is likely to be discussion and debate over the difference of sacrifice offered by both Cain and Abel, the faithlessness of Cain and the faith of Abel were definitely contrasted in the reaction of Cain in murdering his brother. In a new world where their parents Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, and where there were many unknowns with this family existing as the only human beings—the reasons of Cain for murdering his brother Abel are difficult to fathom. With relatively few people on the planet, it is hard to imagine a brother killing another brother. But such was the wickedness and lack of faith in the heart of Cain, which he succumbed to, as he let sin take control of his actions. While the judgment issued upon Cain was tough to bear (Genesis 4:8-16), the murderous precedent he set, for people murdering other people, has unfortunately not changed.

For those studying the Torah, reflecting on these two brothers—with one possessing faith in God, and another demonstrating extreme faithlessness—is critical for assessing exactly where our hearts are today, when it comes to us demonstrating our trust in the Almighty. What kind of offerings do we present before Him? When we serve the Lord, do we offer Him our very best, or do we cut corners in some way?

The Creator God is intently observing the hearts of people and their actions, as He may accept one offering but disregard another. In contemplating the reality of God evaluating every human heart, perhaps some introspection should arise within us, as we analyze the motivations behind our own offerings to the Lord and how we serve Him? Do our sacrifices come from the heart, or are they simply a rote expression of various traditions that have been passed down for millennia?

This brings to my mind some thoughts expressed by Yeshua the Messiah, when He was admonishing some scribes, while comparing the offerings of wealthy people to the heartfelt gift of a poor widow:

“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on’” (Mark 12:41-44).

Clearly as this example evidences, the Lord God is most concerned with the heart of those who claim to have faith in Him. He sees through the facades of those like Cain, or various wealthy people, who might be simply following ritualistic practices—be they sacrificial offerings or making a contribution out of their excessive resources. Nevertheless, despite the frailties of the human heart as it struggles with faith in the Creator God, we need to recognize that He forgives those who are deceived by the wiles of the Devil, and who turn to Him in repentance!

Enoch and Faith

Continuing through the Torah portion Bereisheet, there is a curious recognition of a later descendant of Adam and Eve, who apparently exhibited such a great amount of faith, that he was literally taken up (Heb. verb laqach) to God without having to endure physical death. This, of course, is the remarkable testimony of Enoch:

“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:21-24).

Apparently, God was so blessed with the faith of Enoch, that he did not see death. That Enoch was a man pleasing to God, is affirmed by the author of Hebrews:

“By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP [Genesis 5:24]; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5).

Can you imagine the amount of faith that Enoch must have had? Here was a descendant of Adam, through the line of Seth (Genesis 5:1-24), who multiple generations later exhibited such a profound faith in the Almighty, that He was simply taken to Heaven. Without speculating too much on what this means or what Enoch did, Enoch is to serve as a great inspiration to those of us who look to the Creator God! For assuredly, if God regarded the faith of Enoch so highly, this being taken up would also occur to various other people in later Biblical history. We see something similar take place, in how the Prophet Elijah was ushered into Heaven via a chariot of fire:

“Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ He said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’ As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:8-11).

The Prophet Elijah’s faith was lauded by James the Just, as he said,

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months” (James 5:17; cf. 1 Kings 17:1; 18:41-46; b.Sanhedrin 113a).

Elijah’s righteous faith was the same faith that all Believers in Yeshua are encouraged to maintain. Recall that along with Moses, Elijah appeared at the scene of the Transfiguration, when Yeshua was manifested to Peter, James, and John in all of His glory (Mark 9:4; Matthew 17:3; Luke 9:30).

“Torah and Faith”

What does this overview of faith, from the first Torah portion of Bereisheet, mean for us, as we will be examining the Torah cycle again for another year?

  • We must believe in the Word of God, as it has been recorded and preserved down through the ages.
  • We must believe that God in His infinite wisdom created the universe, and that all things operate according to His grand design.
  • We must believe that God created man and woman in His image, but that people do have a free will to respond in faith toward Him, or to respond without faith toward Him.
  • We must believe that through the actions of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and the testimony of Enoch—people can choose to either trust in God, or disregard His instruction and endure the consequences.

Thankfully, through the preservation of God’s continuing revelation as witnessed in the balance of the Holy Scriptures, there is confirmation that He has not deviated one iota from His original design for Planet Earth and human civilization. God continues to allow people to be born, with a nature inherited in Adam, permitting each and every one to freely choose whether to walk by faith in Him, or to demonstrate a hollow trust in their own efforts.

The great news for those of us today, who recognize the significance of the redeeming work of Messiah Yeshua—the promised Seed of Adam and Eve destined to bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15)—is that faith in Him and His ultimate sacrifice is sufficient to overcome the curse of the sin nature. Messianic Believers study the Torah, because we know that by better understanding how we will frequently disregard God’s Law, we are all transgressors in need of a Savior (cf. Galatians 3:24). As Paul communicated to the Romans,

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Messiah died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Yeshua the Messiah, abound to the many” (Romans 5:6-15).

Genuine faith in Yeshua’s atoning work restores the intended relationship that the Father desires with each man and woman. Without reservation, let me say that if your faith in the Lord is weak, or if you find yourself relying upon your own good works or mortal abilities to gain favor with God—then you are being deceived by the same crafty serpent that originally deceived Adam and Eve. God requires faith in what He has done via His Son. When we receive the redemption offered in Yeshua, then we can manifest good works as a result of the faith in Him that we possess. As the Apostle Paul communicated to the Believers in Asia Minor,

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Messiah (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Each of us as modern-day Believers in Yeshua must be able to learn from the examples of faith or faithlessness, as we read the Holy Scriptures—beginning with the trials and tribulations of our spiritual forbearers whom we encounter in the Torah. These illustrations have been preserved for us, so that we might incorporate the lessons that they provide us—and we can heed the appropriate warnings where necessary. Paul admonished the Corinthians with the following:

Now these things happened to them as an example [warning, RSV], and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:11-13).

Remember that our Eternal God is always faithful to His people: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). While various temptations of this world might be keeping you away from a fervent desire to increase your measure of faith, recognize that by exercising your free will, you can choose to walk by faith—just as multiple examples of faith-filled saints have done down through the centuries. You do not have to fall prey to the lure of the enemy, and can do the right thing when you are tempted. In so doing, the Father will be greatly pleased!

However, it is always up to each one of us to individually exercise and expand our faith, by conscious study and reflection. Each of us must be reminded how, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah” (Romans 10:17). It is my prayer that by hearing, your faith will be expanded in this next Torah cycle. Through such an expanded faith, may our obedience to God’s Word be manifested—in order to fulfill all of the good works that each of us was created to complete! (Click to Site)


NOTES

[1] Heb. b’reisheet bara Elohim et ha’shamayim v’et ha’eretz.

[2] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp 398-401; Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:399-401.

[3] Editor’s note: Be aware of how the verb appearing in 1 Timothy 2:13, plassō, can mean “to mould and form by education, training” (H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], 643), and that various Bibles do properly translate 1 Timothy 2:13 with “formed” (KJV, RSV, NIV, NRSV, ESV, CJB, TLV). If “created” (NASU) were intended in 1 Timothy 2:13, then the verb ktizō could have been used instead.

[4] Heb. teshuqah; cf. Genesis 4:7.

For a review, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee, under the sub-section “Development and Advances of Gender Relations.”

[5] Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, eds., The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha, RSV (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp 1441-1442 note for us how,

“This much debated verse has also been translated (1) ‘she will be saved through the birth of the Child’ [referring to Jesus Christ], or (b) ‘she will be brought safely through childbirth.’”

[6] Cf. Nahum M. Sarna, “Genesis,” in David L. Lieber, ed., Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary(New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2001), 25.

Nitzavim – Standing – V’yeilekh – And he went – “Choose Life” – 10 September, 2017

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by Mark Huey

The annual Torah cycle has begun to wind down. On typical years, this Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Repentance (or Return), and it usually falls between Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. During what is intended to be a season of repentance, the Ten Days of Awe from 01-10 Tishri, provide followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob an annual opportunity to reflect upon their relationship with Him and their required return to Him and to His ways.

The Holy One of Israel desires to have a meaningful relationship with His people. As followers of the Lord, we have each been called out of the world to be a treasured possession unto Him. This is what Moses declared in Deuteronomy 26:18-19:

“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession [l’am segullah], as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people [am-qadosh] to the LORD your God, as He has spoken” (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).

Please note that being a “treasured possession” of the Almighty has some incumbent responsibilities—notably that His people obey Him. The results of obedience to God are praise, fame, honor, and ultimately composing a holy nation which can be used to proclaim His goodness to a sinful world:

“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

If you consider yourself to be a follower of the Most High, and recognize that you are His “treasured possession,” then I would urge you to consider the great responsibility He has truly given to you. As we all compose “a kingdom of priests” (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 9), we have the job of interceding for the lost of Planet Earth. I believe that this season is an excellent time to review your relationship with the Almighty. As you turn to Him in confession and prayer, recognize that He willingly accepts a broken spirit and contrite heart. Turn to Him for forgiveness of sin and iniquity, so that you can be fully restored to Him and be able to serve Him more effectively:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

The Apostle John tells us as Believers in Yeshua, that we have the additional assurance that through heartfelt confession, our transgressions are forgiven:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

For Shabbat Shuvah, I pray that all who read this commentary will take some time to go before our Heavenly Father and confess sins of commission or omission. I also pray that we will all be reconciled one to another, as we allow the Holy Spirit to enact a special work on our hearts and minds.

As we turn to this week’s Torah reading, we find that Moses is now 120 years old, and ready to pass on the mantle of leadership to Joshua, before his death:

“And he said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, “You shall not cross this Jordan.” It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken’” (Deuteronomy 31:2-3).

Joshua has been the faithful servant of Moses for nearly forty years. His service goes back to his youth:

“Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, ‘Moses, my lord, restrain them’” (Numbers 11:28).

He led the Israelites in the battle against Amalek after departing Egypt:

“So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (Exodus 17:13).

Joshua accompanied Moses to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God:

“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.’ So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God” (Exodus 24:12-13).

Joshua, along with Caleb, came back from Canaan with a good report:

“But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land” (Numbers 14:38).

God instructed Moses to lay his hands on Joshua in front of the Israelites, to indicate that he will follow in Moses’ position and lead the people into the Promised Land:

“Moses did just as the LORD commanded him; and he took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses….Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter there; encourage him, for he will cause Israel to inherit it” (Numbers 27:22-23; Deuteronomy 1:38).

Now as our Torah reading begins, Moses realized that Joshua was ready to inherit the leadership responsibilities for Israel. It is at this point that Moses exhorted the people to “be strong and courageous,” prior to entering the Promised Land:

“‘Be strong and courageous [chizqu v’imtzu][1], do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.’Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous [chazaq v’ematz], for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6-8).

In a comforting word, Moses said that God will not fail Israel or forsake Israel. In order to reaffirm Joshua’s position, Moses turned to Joshua and repeated the words of encouragement to “be strong and courageous.” Joshua had been a firsthand witness of God’s guidance and deliverance of Israel for nearly forty years. Observing and serving Moses had prepared him for leadership for some time. But still, Moses was led to encourage him directly. In fact, at the end of this statement Moses added the words, “Do not fear or be dismayed.” Moses had told the same thing to the Israelites earlier, when recounting the mission of the twelve spies to venture into Canaan:

“See, the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed”(Deuteronomy 1:21).

We need to remember that God’s people, in spite of the written record of Scripture and testimony of Biblical witnesses, do have the tendency to become fearful and dismayed. Moses, more than anyone else, knew this from his personal observations over the previous forty years. Moses was very concerned about the destiny of Israel. At the end of this parashah, Moses reiterated these same words to Joshua. This time Moses also added the request to put the scroll of the Torah next to the Ark of the Covenant so that it will remain a witness against Israel:

“Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’ It came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, ‘Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you. For I know your rebellion and your stubbornness; behold, while I am still alive with you today, you have been rebellious against the LORD; how much more, then, after my death? Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:23-29).

Remember that Moses has already prophesied what would happen to Israel if and when they acted corruptly. Here, he once again called upon Heaven and Earth to be witnesses against the people. If you will recall, these are the same two witnesses that Moses called upon when he gave Israel the choice of life and death:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Heaven and Earth still testify against God’s people, and the choices of life or death—blessing or curse, favor or penalty—still remain to those of us who live in this generation. God’s Word can stand against us as a third witness of what will happen when we choose to obey, or disobey, Him. Much like Ancient Israel would face neighbors who tried to lead them astray from God, so do we face obstacles and temptations that can likewise take us away from Him.

Before Deuteronomy 31 concludes, Moses added a prophetic statement based on his observations of Ancient Israel for the previous forty years:

“For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 31:29).

As the shepherd of Israel since the Exodus from Egypt, Moses knows how the people will react after his death, even with the anointed leadership of Joshua. Moses was able to look to the future and make a reference to the evil that will come upon them in the Last Days. Certainly today, we are seeing much of what Moses foresaw coming to pass, when many are doing evil in the sight of the Lord. But let us not forget that God’s people have always been given a choice.

Today, we can choose to follow and obey the Lord, or choose disobedience and suffer the consequences. This is one of the huge reasons that a season of returning to the Lord is so vitally important to us. This is a time for individual and corporate confession and repentance. We can be spiritually strengthened and resolve ourselves to another year of service and devotion unto Him.

In spite of the propensity to wander, the promises of God to restore His people are replete throughout the Bible. Interestingly enough, when you consider the Haftarah selection for this week, you find that the Hebrew term shuvah, used for the designation Shabbat Shuvah, comes from the first word in Hosea 14:

“Return, O Israel [shuvah Yisrael], to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.’ Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in You the orphan finds mercy. I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like the lily, and he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. His shoots will sprout, and his beauty will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon. Those who live in his shadow will again raise grain, and they will blossom like the vine. His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit. Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hosea 14:1-9).

In this oracle concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the prophecy of Moses about evil is echoed. The Northern Kingdom departed from the Torah, pursued evil, and suffered the consequences of disobedience toward God. This included the punishment brought upon them by the Assyrians, as they were largely exiled, scattered, and assimilated. Hosea pleaded with these people to return to the Lord! Hosea exhorted them to ask God for forgiveness while confessing their sins. Hosea reminded them not to rely on the work of their hands or their own strength. Hosea invoked the reality that as orphans, they would find their pity only in the Holy One.

God will respond to these pleas by declaring that He will heal the affliction of the people and take them back in love. As His anger will turn away from their disobedience, He will cover them like dew and the boughs of a cypress tree. Returning to God will result in blessings of new grain, new wine, and abundant fruit. Hosea confirms that confession and repentance have great rewards to all who return to Him. Hosea’s final admonition is that the wise will consider his words and the discerning and righteous will walk in His ways, while sinners will stumble.

These are encouraging admonitions to consider in association with Shabbat Shuvah. However, just reading or hearing these words will not benefit anyone unless he or she acts upon them. But in order to act, one must have faith in the testimony of Moses. And, one must be strong and courageous to overcome any of the thoughts or doubts that prevent a person from exercising his or her will to confess, repent, and return to God.

It is my prayer that God would give each of us the strength and courage to be honest with Him in this season of repentance. I pray that the confession of our lips will touch His heart, and that He will restore us into His loving arms. The author of Hebrews specifically tells us that Yeshua is the same yesterday, today, and forever—not only speaking of His timelessness—but also in His ever-present compassion and mercy:

“For He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU [Deuteronomy 31:6],’ so that we confidently say, ‘THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME? [Psalm 118:6]’ Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Messiah Yeshua is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:5b-8).

May we entreat and receive the Lord’s mercy always!


NOTES

[1] Or, “Be strong and resolute” (NJPS).

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