Thursday, January 5, 2017

Joseph's Family Reunion ~ A Messianic Metaphor | Parashat Vayigash | By His EVERY Word

Vayigash  ויגש

“And came near”

“Then Judah came near to him and said: "O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord's hearing...” (Genesis 44:18)

Torah Portion: Genesis 44:18-47:27

Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28

B’rit Chadash/New Covenant: 
Ephesians 2:1-10

Shabbat | 7 January 2017 |  9 Tevet 5777

Joseph's Family Reunion
A Messianic Metaphor

The themes of salvation, forgiveness, grace, favor, and inheritance are woven like golden threads throughout the story of Joseph. Teasing, punctuating, and challenging us to find and follow the great redemption discourse, unfolding across the ancients’ lives and lands. 

Lofty or wanting, we are ever beckoned... Onward, upward, beyond exposition... Beyond revelation... Straining for that glimpse of recognition of the Father’s Heart.

To realize that Adonai sent the promised Messiah of Israel is a revelation of love almost too large for the Jewish heart to contain! Thousands of years of prophecy begin flowing rapidly through once dormant veins of time—reviving, enlivening, connecting sinew to bone, breathing life into the dead! There are very few “nominal Christians” among Jewish Believers!

Join us now at the Father’s table as we keep the rhythm of Israel for more than two millennia, anticipating fresh manna from our God and King. As followers of Messiah we have added a corresponding New Covenant portion reflecting the fulfillment and crown of the Torah.

Genesis 44  Messianic Implications: One

We find Joseph’s brothers in a critical test. They were intercepted after leaving Joseph’s lavish feast, and accused of stealing his silver goblet in one of their bundles. The one whose sack in which it was found was to be kept behind in Egypt as Joseph’s slave. 

Exquisitely arranged by Joseph himself to test his brother’s hearts, the goblet was planted in young Benjamin’s sack—the youngest and new favored son of the family. And now that it is found, what would the outcome be?

Would the brothers be relieved to be conveniently rid of him, considering how in their jealousy they had disposed of their youngest brother, Joseph, so many years previous? Or have they changed?

They are however, much changed. We find them broken and contrite. Their hearts have been pierced through. They believe God is punishing them for their sin against their brother Joseph of so many years ago. They feel they cannot abandon young Benjamin to unjust slavery (the fate they chose for Joseph!), return to Canaan without him, and break their father’s heart once again over the loss of another cherished son.

Judah intercedes with Joseph on behalf of Benjamin
“Then Judah came near to him and said: ‘O my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord's hearing, and do not let your anger burn against your servant; for you [are] even like Pharaoh.’” v. 18

Judah recounts the story of how difficult it was to obtain permission from their father to bring Benjamin with them back to Egypt as he was the only surviving son from their father’s beloved wife, and his father’s entire life and affection is bound up with this youngest son. He explains in deeply dramatic terminology how the shock and grief of losing Benjamin will send their aged father to his grave.

Judah then offers to pay the penalty for Benjamin himself

“‘Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as 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, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?’” vv. 33-34
In a fascinating twist from many years before, when the brothers had agreed to sell young Joseph as a slave to traveling Ishmaelites, Judah pleads with Joseph, who has become the second most powerful ruler in all Egypt to free young Benjamin, and offers to pay for his “perceived sin” of theft by offering himself as a slave in his place.
This is most irregular. Remember, this is the ancient world. It is barbaric. One does not offer to pay another's penalty, much less with his life.
Stepping back from the intricate picture for a moment, we see the Divine design. 
It is through the Tribe of Judah that Yeshua, Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world will be born, so perhaps it is not surprising that it is Judah who stepped forward and offered himself as a substitute on Benjamin’s behalf. 
Is this not a foreshadow of Messiah offering Himself as payment for our sins that we may be free from its consequences?
Genesis 45  Joseph is Revealed
Messianic Implications: Two

Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone go out from me!’ So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard [it]. Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I [am] Joseph; does my father still live?’ But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. vv. 1-3
v. 31 You have to wonder sometimes at the word choices translators use. Dismayed? One is dismayed when the grocery store is out of their sale item, or perhaps by a flat tire. 
The Hebrew word, bahal בָּהַל bä·hal' may mean dismayed or disturbed, but it is more aptly translated alarmed, terrified, amazed, vexed, and affrighted. 
Considering the astonishing revelation, and being faced with the now powerful brother that they had seemingly attempted to murder years ago, this was certainly an emotionally charged moment!
Through Judah’s offer, Joseph sees a radical change in his brothers since the days they plotted his demise and threw him in a pit from which he was sold into slavery in Egypt. He is moved by their contrition and overwhelmed with emotion for his kinsmen. He emphatically sends all the Egyptians away before breaking down and weeping. So deep was this well of long-carried familial sentiment, that he was heard in the corridors, and the knowledge of this event spread to Pharaoh. (cf. v. 16)
One of the most stunning parallels between Joseph and Jesus is that they are both unrecognizable to their own brethren, to whom they were sent to save.
Although Joseph readily recognized his Hebrew brothers, they were unable to discern that the high-ranking leader, second only to Pharaoh, could be Joseph, their brother. Joseph appeared to be every part an Egyptian. He was shaved—likely from head to foot, as was Egyptian custom. He would have been adorned in every Egyptian trapping, and would have spoken Egyptian. (In fact, he had used an interpreter to speak to his brothers until this very point to further veil his identity.)

Due to his appearance as an Egyptian, his brothers would have naturally assumed him to be fully Gentile and fully pagan.
Yeshua’s identity is also veiled to His brethren. Although nearly all of His first followers were Jewish and took the Good News to the Nations, the Bible tells us that the Jewish Nation en masse did not recognize Him as Messiah as God had covered some with a supernatural blindness: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.” Romans 11:8

This is for a season so that salvation may go beyond Israel to the Nations: “...have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Romans 11:11,12 
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. 

Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

“For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.” Romans 11:25-31
When Yeshua walked this earth, He was recognized as a fellow Israelite, a member of the community, a Hebrew brother. 

Sharp dispute arose over His Messianic claim. Among those who could not recognize Him as King Messiah, were those who were frightened that He would bring destruction on the people of Israel from Rome as they followed this religious messiah and political dissident. Others thought they were standing for God against the highest form of blasphemy. And yet others were jealous of His charisma, and resented his radical, irreligious teachings. 

But all recognized Him as Joseph’s son, a fellow Israelite.

By His contemporaries, Yeshua was called rabbi, teacher. He was FALSELY accused of transgressing Torah—challenged over a minor point. 

In truth He was scrupulously Torah observant. His treatise in Matthew 5 concisely states that Torah would remain the revered tenets of His movement as the everlasting Word of God.

Through the centuries, however, Yeshua’s visage has changed. He is nearly always portrayed as fair-skinned, blond-haired and blue-eyed. Not the ruddy, tanned, Semitic Son of David who walked in the baking sun of the Galilee.
He has been been “cloaked” by the early Church Fathers as Jesus Christ who “eternally hates the Jews,” and directs true Christians to do so likewise, for the crime of deicide—killing God. 

His Hebraic identity was further obscured as early councils voted to sever all association with “the odious Jews,”* and outlawed all biblical observances in the Torah. Soon this would be under penalty of imprisonment or death.

He has been attired in the pompous robes of popes, surrounded with gold-encrusted iconsall of which is forbidden by the God of Abraham in the Torah—the first five books of the Bible. 
He would be hidden behind the false veneer of a hateful church who renounced the Jewish People, stole their fortunes, and proclaimed them to be without propitiation—without any hope of salvation—labeling them “Christ-killers.”
He has been clothed as barbaric Crusaders, cutting a swath of unspeakable atrocities across Europe and into the Holy Land “for the glory of God.”

Through the ages, Yeshua has had the misfortune of being cast as leader of countless, monstrous antisemitic campaigns against the Jewish People. From the Inquisition of Spain and the Americas, to the Holocaust of Eastern Europe, to the White Supremacist movement in the U.S., Jesus Christ is proclaimed as King, Captain, Sovereign.

To his own Jewish brethren, Yeshua has become disguised as "Jesus Christ—the god of the Gentiles,” who inspired generation after generation from the early church fathers to preach hatred for the Torah and the Jews.  
Jesus Christ is presented as seemingly triumphing over the God of Abraham (Marcionism), changing the holy days of the Bible, and outlawing every biblical observance. 
He is seen as leading His followers to eat pig and other detestable animals that Almighty God says in the Bible are abomination, and even forcing Jews to defile themselves before God or be killed—exactly like Antiochus Epiphanes, and other enemies of God. 
These are the signs of a false prophet according to the Bible!
Like Joseph, could Jesus be any more unrecognizable to His own brethren?
And yet, like Joseph, Jesus represents salvation to His own. Yeshua's (Jesus') first followers were Jewish. The first expression of faith was biblically Hebraic, what today's Christians would consider "Jewish." Since then, however, we have made Him abhorrent in the eyes of His own.
When Adonai lifts the blindness of a Jewish person to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, they generally embrace Him with great joy, and with all their heart, mind, and soul, as their long, lost brother! Organizations involved with Jewish ministry testify to the miraculously large numbers of Jewish people who have come to faith since 1967. 
Why 1967?  The re-unification of Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Six Day War was an important prophetic event. See June 30 blog for more information! [LINK] 
To realize that Adonai sent the promised Messiah of Israel is a revelation of love almost too large for the Jewish heart to contain! Thousands of years of prophecy begin flowing rapidly through once dormant veins of time—reviving, enlivening, connecting sinew to bone, breathing life into the dead! There are very few “nominal Christians” among Jewish Believers!

Joseph’s brothers were not so delighted, but rather alarmed, amazed, and vexed when they found this Egyptian ruler was the long lost brother they had despised.
A time is going to come when Israel will be gathered into the Land from the four corners of the earth where they have been scattered. We have already seen a miraculous beginning in this generation—the remnant of Judah and Israel returning to a re-birthed Israel from Africa, China, India, Russia, the Americas.... 
Zechariah speaks of the final ingathering by God’s own arm, when they are in the Land of Israel, yet still many do not know or recognize Yeshua. At this time, the blindness will be removed en masse, and they will finally be restored to their brother, Messiah and King of Israel, and be saved, just as Paul explained in Romans 11. 
The scene described is dramatic and reminiscent of Joseph being united with his family:
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10
Joseph’s reassurance to his anxious brothers is so exemplary, so Messiah-like in character:

"But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. v. 5

How unlike us!
  • He could gloat that all he told his brothers had come true
  • He could admonish them for not believing him, and not being as spiritually insightful as he
  • He could glory in his high position and accomplishments, boasting in the favor of God and man
  • Yet Joseph’s character is unchanged by his clothing or position.
  • He is not Zaphenath-paneah, as Pharaoh named him; he declares himself as Joseph to his brothers
  • He recognizes that he is merely a vessel in the Hand of Adonai used to preserve the lives of his family (for God’s own purposes)
Joseph went on to be the savior of all Egypt during the seven years of harsh famine.

In doing so he secured an area close to him, the best of the land of Egypt—at Pharaoh’s command—for his entire family, who would be brought from Canaan to survive the famine.

“So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen; and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.” Genesis 47:27

All within the sovereign plan of YHVH... 

To be continued...

Haftarah Vayigash 
Ezekiel: 37:15-28

What an exciting and challenging portion of Scripture that has been chosen for our Haftarah reading. Why do you suppose the sages chose Ezekiel 37:15-28 in conjunction with the Torah portion of Genesis 44:18-47:27? I think the answer is wrapped up in the word, “reconciliation.”

What was our Genesis passage all about? The ten brothers of Joseph had come to Egypt to buy food. They had been sent by their father, Jacob, because they were suffering the ravages of famine along with the rest of the known world. They had nothing more on their minds but to secure food from Egypt and to return home.  

But Adonai had so much more in store for them.
You’ll recall what happened. Joseph was unrecognized by his brothers, but he recognized them. On their second trip back to Egypt for more food Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and they reunited as one family. Central in this interplay between Joseph and the ten brothers was Judah, the fourth son born to Jacob and a key player in seizing young Joseph and selling him into slavery. Genesis 37:26-28

Historical Context
Moving ahead now, the Davidic kingdom is established in 1010 BC. After David’s reign, his son Solomon is enthroned in 970 BC, and blessed beyond belief. He, however, falls prey to loving foreign women; Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite. And he allowed their idolatrous practices of worship to pollute the land of Judah. God’s punishment for this is the division of the tribes of Israel in 928 BC. Jeroboam is told he will establish a second kingdom in the North and take ten of the tribes with him. (cf. I Kings 11:31) And Rehoboam is to rule in the Southern kingdom. This all happens immediately after Solomon dies.

Moving a bit further on in Israel’s history, more calamity is to befall this people because of their continued refusal to repent, cleanse the land, and return to covenantal worship of Adonai. Both the Northern kingdom, Israel, and the Southern kingdom, Judah, are punished by God and taken into captivity.

First Israel in the North—after two centuries of repeated warnings—is invaded, captured, and taken away by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Then approximately a century later, the Southern kingdom of Judah was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. After three years of Babylonian rule, the now puppet king of Judah, Jehoiakim, led what was to be a failed rebellion against his captors. Then in 597 BC, after the short rule of two other interim kings, and eleven years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the massive deportation of Jews to Babylon.
Now, Ezekiel comes on the seen. He had spent his early years in Jerusalem, but was taken to Babylon in 597 BC with other Jewish captives. There he prophesied for at least 22 years. During that time he warned of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, chapters 1-24, this because of Judah’s continuing sin. Later in chapters 33-48 he speaks of the millennial restoration of Israel. And here is where we step into chapter 37.
Ever since the division of the kingdom of David in 928 BC, the Jewish people have never been rejoined as a whole. While portions of them have returned to the land and lived there, never have all twelve tribes returned and united as one people. Dispersion and division have always been their lot. But, in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet foretells of a time when all of Israel will be revived politically and spiritually. vv. 1-14

This vision of the valley of dry bones predicts events yet to come. Here we have, political (vs. 12) and spiritual (vs.14) revival that will not come to its fullness until Messiah reigns in the Millennium. But, while all will be in one land, will all be one people, and one nation rather than two?

Ezekiel addresses that question in verses 15-28. Specifically verses 16-19 are our focus.
"And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, 'For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.' Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. When the sons of your people speak to you saying, 'Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?' say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."'
You’ll recall our mention earlier of Josephand Judaha key player in the plot against Joseph. Judah is the Southern kingdom. Its name gets written on one stick. And Joseph represents here the Northern kingdom, the ten tribes including Ephraim and Manasseh which were not only the sons of Joseph but as tribes were the most powerful and largest in number. So Joseph’s name gets written on the second stick. These two men now representing the two kingdoms of Israel are joined by Ezekiel just as they rejoined in Egypt when face to face.
So in Ezekiel 37, God has given us a wonderful picture of the future of His people. They will not only be returned to the land and spiritually revived, but they will as well be reunited as one Nation. Amazing that our great God can and will do all this!

Is this not, real reconciliation?

B'rit Chadashah Vayigash

Ephesians 2:1-10

We have seen in both the Torah and Haftarah portions the theme of reunification. First it was Joseph with his brothers in Egypt, and then that of the Northern kingdom represented by Joseph and the Southern by Judah to be reunified in the future Millennium. 

In Ephesians 2:1-10, we have another story of reunification. It is that of man with God. The passage starts off with the horrible chasm between God and man—that of death.

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (vs. 1) There was no relationship with God. Dead men simply cannot respond. They have no capacity to reach out to God.

It is God that had to reach out to man. And He did. “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 Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” vv. 4-6

There was a reunification. Or better put, a reconciliation between God and man. This reconciliation has (1) made us alive with Christ, (2) raised us up with Christ, and (3) seated us in the heavens with Christ.  And this is all His doing. We can take credit for absolutely none of this.

Verses 8 and 9 tell us why we cannot take any credit for our reconciliation to God: “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.” 

The fact that man has a path to reunification with God has nothing  to do with any good work that man may do. It is His grace, His unmerited favor, that saves us. And the text tells us that “it”that is to say, His graceis a gift. It simply cannot be obtained by any work man may do.

Perhaps right now is a good time for a spiritual check-up to see if that reunification with Adonai has indeed taken place in your life. His grace is a gift. 
Have you accepted it?  

Blessings and Love in Messiah,
His EVERY Word Ministries
. . . . . 
*Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, John Chrysostom, known as the "golden mouthed" orator due to his eloquence in speech, unleashed a series of "Homilies Against the Jews,” Chrysostom argued that Jews will be crucified throughout history because they crucified Christ: "It is because you shed the precious blood, that there is now no restoration, no mercy anymore, and no defense, Persecution and violence toward the Jews became common due to heavy restrictive measures imposed by the Church against the Jewish people. In the three centuries from 300 to 600 CE, a host of rules were passed containing discriminatory provisions against the Jews in the Christian Roman Empire. These were summed up in four major rules contained in the Laws of Constantine the Great (315 CE); the Laws of Constaninus (399 CE); the Laws of Theodosius II (439 CE) and the Laws of Justinian (531 CE).
FURTHER: Quotes from the Church Fathers [LINK]