20181218 Parsha Vayigash – Recognizing the Redeemer
This week’s Parsha is Vayigash. That means “He approached”. In the last Parsha we saw Joseph coming to power in Egypt. Egypt was just about the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Joseph was the number two man there after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He was elevated to the position in order to implement a plan that would mitigate the effects of a coming famine that would devastate the Middle East in 7 years. During the first seven years of this plan, Joseph built enormous storehouses and taxed the produce of the Egyptian farmers. The tax was in the form of grain which was collected and stored in the huge granaries.
After seven years of great harvests, the drought and famine set in. Joseph’s father Jacob and his eleven brothers were living in Canaan making a living as shepherds. When the drought began there was no food accumulated for them since they were shepherds and not farmers. Also, God’ plan for 7 fat years followed by 7 years of famine had not been revealed to them. Therefore, after a year of famine, Jacob and family were out of food. Their flocks were in bad shape. There was simply not enough grass to support all the flock. As is the case when drought strikes, the flock is diminished through natural attrition and reduced birthrates.
Eventually, Jacob realized that they had to do something or die of starvation. They heard that there was food in Egypt so, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph immediately recognized his brothers but kept it to himself. Joseph would have been dressed like the Egyptian Prime Minister that he was. He had been in Egypt for 17 years and spoke to his brothers through an interpreter.
Joseph tested his brothers through a series of events in order to see if they were still the same as they had been 17 years earlier. They would talk among themselves not knowing that the Egyptian ruler in their midst was their own brother. Joseph would just sit back and listen. After several tests Joseph couldn’t go on. He had to tell them who he was.
There were several things that happened to the brothers when they were reintroduced to their long-lost brother.
Their association changed.
What I mean by association is the way they associated with Joseph. Their relationship changed. Before they were afraid of Joseph. Because of Joseph’s position in Egypt and their need for food, the brothers were extremely dependent upon the good graces of the Egyptian Ruler. The tests devised by Joseph were more reason for fear among the brothers, because they thought they would be imprisoned or executed as a result of the various accusations against them.
Remember Joseph’s dream? The brothers would bow before him. Well they did exactly that. They had to bow before their younger brother.
So what happened when Joseph revealed who he was? Fear, panic, terror? I would imagine all of that when through their minds as they replayed that awful day 17 years earlier when they would have killed Joseph but sold him into slavery. They now realized that this could be a terrible day of judgment for them.
But it didn’t happen that way. Joseph wept before them. He called Benjamin to him and embraced him and cried. Joseph had a lot of emotion bottled up inside him. He then called his brothers to him. They all had a big group hug. I’m sure there were a lot of “I’m sorrys” blurted out.
The brothers went from being fearful supplicants to brothers of the ruler. Their relationship with this ruler of Egypt changed.
Their Attitude changed.
Before there was fear and dread. That fear was well placed in their minds because of the evil they perpetrated on Joseph. There was guilt from deeds long ago. All that was wiped away in a few moments of heartfelt repentance and forgiveness. The jealousy and envy was gone and replaced with brotherly love.
Their Actions changed.
No longer were the brothers plotting and scheming because of perceived slights. No more attempts to do harm to their brother. The brothers whose actions almost sent an innocent man to an early death and indeed sentenced their own brother to years of agony in an Egyptian prison, these men were changed.
Fast forward about 1800 years to 1st Century Israel.
A man named Yeshua who was thought by many to be the long-promised Messiah had been cruelly executed on a Roman cross. His disciples had scattered when he was arrested. His most vocal adherent, Shimon Kefa, had denied even knowing him.
Many had big hopes and dreams for Yeshua. He would certainly be the one who could rid Israel of the harsh rule of Imperial Rome. Why else would there be a Messiah? After all, wasn’t that what the Messiah was supposed to do?
It was just 200 years earlier that a ragged band of priests put down The Book and picked up the sword waging a three year campaign for freedom. Judah Maccabee was not a warrior but a priest, so why couldn’t Yeshua, the craftsman become another “Hammer”? Why couldn’t he lead a rebellion against the hated Romans?
Our Brit Chadashah reading this morning picks up the story of Yeshua on the day of his resurrection. Luke records that two of Yeshua’s disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a distance of about 7 miles. As could be expected, these two followers of Yeshua, were discussing all the events surrounding the arrest, trial, and Crucifixion of who they thought would be their Redeemer.
They were puzzled over the storm of the last week. They didn’t understand how the Redeemer of all mankind could be tried by the Sanhedrin, condemned and executed. It didn’t make sense.
While they were walking along, they were joined by Yeshua. Luke said their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Yeshua asked them what it was that they were discussing. They stopped in their tracks and just looked at Yeshua. One of the disciples named Cleopas asked him if he was the only person in Jerusalem that didn’t know what had gone on in the last three days.
Yeshua asked them what kind of things? Well the things about Yeshua from Natzeret. He was a prophet, very powerful in his actions and his speaking. They explained how the Sanhedrin had tried him and turned him over to the Romans for execution.
They then revealed how their minds were working. They hoped Yeshua was going to be the Hope of Israel, the Messiah. But then he died. I have heard that same argument from Jewish people with whom I am discussing Yeshua. They ask how could he possibly have been the Messiah? He died and was buried. In the minds of the Jewish people, 2000 years ago as well as today, the Messiah would not have died.
Then came the curious part. Just that morning, some women went to his tomb to anoint his body, but Yeshua was not there! The women reported that angels had told them he was alive! Yeshua had risen from the dead!
Starting in verse 25, Yeshua said, “Oh foolish ones, so slow of heart to put your trust in all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary for Messiah to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
Yeshua started explaining, beginning with Moses, all the prophesies that pointed to his sacrificial death.
By the time Yeshua had completed his explanation, they were at Emmaus so the disciples urged him to spend the night with them because it was almost dark. Yeshua agreed and as they were reclining at the supper table, Yeshua took matza (it was still during the feast of unleavened bread) and said, “Baruch ata, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech haolam. Hamotzi lechem min ha aretz.” He broke the matza and gave it to the two men. A that time, their eyes were opened and they recognized their Redeemer. Immediately Yeshua disappeared.
So what happened to these men?
Their association with the Redeemer changed.
On the road to Emmaus these disciples were cut off and confused. Just a few days before, they had been with the Master or had seen him up close. Perhaps they had thrown down their cloaks before Yeshua as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. And now they were estranged. Once they were close but now Yeshua was just a painful memory.
But then they recognized their Redeemer and everything changed. They were no longer estranged, cutoff, separated from their hopes for Israel. Yeshua was alive.
Their Attitude changed.
Luke said they were gloomy. That was an example of understatement. These guys had been following a man who they strongly believed would be the Messiah of Israel. He would free them from Roman oppression, and now he was dead and gone. But when they recognized their Redeemer, they were changed. Their hearts burned within them even before they knew who he was. They were beginning to understand in their mind and training, who the Messiah was. It didn’t fit their model, but Yeshua was alive!
Their Actions changed.
They had obviously been up since early that morning and walked seven miles to Emmaus. It was a long day. It was time for bed. But they had just met the Master. He was alive. They immediately packed up and headed back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen Yeshua and He was alive. They went from retreat and defeat to advancement and victory. They could not wait until morning to tell the good news.
What about today? I think there is a real lesson for us in these to Biblical accounts. Joseph is often called the foreshadowing of the Messiah. So it is appropriate that we look at the account of Joseph in Egypt and compare it favorably to Yeshua.
The lesson for us here today is that when we find the Messiah. When we recognize who He truly is. Then We have a change in our relationship with him.
Our Association with Yeshua changes.
We were once lost in our sins but after meeting Yeshua, our sins are washed away and we are grafted in to the true vine of Israel. We are no longer outsiders, but mishpochah, family. Yeshua said that we can say Abba, a very intimate Aramaic term for Father. I can address the Creator of the Universe as “Daddy”. That’s a change of association.
We have a change in Attitude.
Before we met Yeshua, many of us had a real attitude. And I imagine it wasn’t a good attitude. When we are not followers of Yeshua, many of us are angry, frustrated, depressed, the list goes one. Paul called “those who have no hope”. But with Yeshua we can have hope. We know in part what the future holds. I tell people all the time that I don’t worry too much about world circumstances that involves politics, wars, the foolishness of man-made global warming, or the mark of the beast. I’ve read the back of the book and I see who wins. It is Yeshua and His followers. That’s an attitude changer.
We have a change in Action.
When we encounter Yeshua, our actions shift from me, me, me to Hineni. Here I am Lord. What do you need for me to do? The direction of our lives change. Our faith should be seen in our mitzvot, our works. Our works won’t save us but are indicative of the fact that we are saved. The things we say, the things we do are different when we know Yeshua.
Where are you this morning? Do you know and recognize Yeshua? Do you need a change in your relationship with Him and with others? Do you need a change in attitude? And finally, do you need a change in action and direction? Are you headed the wrong way? Yeshua is the answer.