Parashat Vayeishev (And He Dwelt)
Beresheet (Genesis) 37:1-40:23
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:10-4:7 (14-4:7 in the Hebrew Bible)
This week we have a special reading from the Haftarah because Shabbat falls during the Feast of Hanukkah (also known as the Feast of Dedication). The story of Hanukkah is yet another reminder of the heavy price that the Jewish people have paid throughout history. It is also a powerful reminder that despite being oppressed and outnumbered, God always brought a mighty victory to the people of Israel! The Feast of Hanukkah is also a timely reminder for Israel today, that amid one of the darkest hours my beloved country has ever known, the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob stands in the gap for us and will once again bring Himself a great victory over His enemies.
While there has been an outpouring of love and concern from many believers around the world, it has been shocking and disheartening to see many believers either ignoring our reality or refusing to take a stand. Let me remind everyone that Israeli citizens were brutally attacked by demonic powers on October 7, 2023. In the early hours of the last day of Succot (Feast of Tabernacles) while people were still in their beds, Palestinian terrorists invaded Israeli communities and brutally mutilated, raped, burned, and murdered men, women, and children (even babies!). Our beloved grandparents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, and babies were taken hostage by the brutal terrorists. Many of them are still in captivity and their exact whereabouts is unknown. You may be tired hearing of this brutality, but the reality for us in Israel is that we cannot and will not forget. If you remain quiet and do not call out these atrocities, you are complicit in allowing them to happen.
Betrayal and ignorance from brothers is not something new and in this week’s reading, we learn about the beginning of the story of Joseph and his brothers. Right from the start, we learn about the price one may have to pay for sharing God’s truth:
Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had lived as a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the records of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, when he was 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 other sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a multicolored tunic. And 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 behold, my sheaf stood up and also remained standing; 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.
Then he had yet another dream, and informed his brothers of it, and said, “Behold, I have had yet another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” He also told it to his father as well as to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Am I and your mother and your brothers actually going to come to bow down to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
While it may have been Joseph’s attitude as the youngest brother, or Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph that caused his brothers to be jealous of him and, ultimately, to conspire against him, I believe that the truth of his prophetic dream is what the brothers most rejected. I call it a prophetic dream, since as we know, these dreams became reality. His brothers did end up bowing to him when Pharaoh, king of Egypt, entrusted everything under Joseph’s rule.
The truth of the matter is that God chose Israel, the Jewish people, to be His people through whom He would display is everlasting grace and love to the nations. It is through Israel that our Messiah was given! I just read something that is going around on social media that says: “Billions of people around the globe are about to celebrate the birthday of a Jewish man, born in Beth Lechem (House of Bread, also know as Bethlehem) 2000+ years ago, but don’t think Jews lived there before 1948…” Not only that, but many followers of Messiah do not even consider the Jewish people as God’s people anymore.
In many ways, our “brothers and sisters” in the Lord, are betraying us (Israel) just like Joseph’s brothers did to him. They claim God is done with the Jewish people and has adopted a new son (the gentile Church) in place of Israel. This kind of betrayal is motivated by jealousy and hatred and is the very thing Sha’ul (the Apostle Paul) warned against in Romans 11:16-24. God chose Israel for His purpose; God gave a specific piece of land to Israel through a covenant; the same God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob is coming back to this land to restore it and rule from it. As the prophet Zechariah writes:
“Shout for joy and rejoice, daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD. “And many nations will join themselves to the LORD on that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of armies has sent Me to you. And the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. “Be silent, all mankind, before the LORD; for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling.”
God will bring restoration to His people, Israel! God will bring His light amid this chaotic darkness once again. You and I have a choice to make – will we choose God’s light or the world’s darkness?
Shabbat shalom and may you have a blessed Hanukkah,
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