PRAYER UPDATE FROM ISRAEL (December 26, 2017)
PARASHAH – VaYechi
Cloud over the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
“Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up!”
We are writing on the afternoon of December 25th …Christmas Day in Jerusalem. In the Jewish sectors of Jerusalem, and indeed all of Israel, December 25th is a workday, passing like any other day of the week. (Israeli Arab Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth on this day, in many cases leaving the lights strung for weeks after it has passed!) And yet, many secular Jews here are fascinated by the season. In the Old City, several denominational churches regularly find their candle light Christmas Eve services packed with curious Israelis. The writer, was once asked, while being seated in a dentist’s chair, what music I should like to hear? Upon responding that it really didn’t matter to me, my dentist, a religious kippa-wearing gentleman, with a chuckle said, “This will really shock you, but I really like Christmas music—after all, many Christmas carols were written by Jews!” --so over the drill, I found myself treated for the next 30 minutes to the strains of “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”—but also “Silent Night” and “What Child is This?” All day yesterday and today, the classical station out of Jerusalem was been programming Christmas music. Last night, in the program notes preceding a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, the announcer remarkably made use of Jesus’ true Hebrew name Yeshua rather than the “Yeshu” which most Israelis have been taught since childhood was his name. (Yeshua, a name found often in the Book of Nehemiah, means “Yehovah is Salvation”—while “Yeshu” is an akronym constructed by anti-Messiah rabbis, meaning, “May His Name be Blotted Out.” Most Israelis are unaware of this meaning, but assume, nevertheless, Yeshu to be the correct name.
During this season when so many of our readers around the world are celebrating the birth of the Savior…but so much of Israel has still to recognize and come to know Him,
PLEASE PRAY: That Israel would recognize Who loves her with an everlasting love, and is drawing her with loving kindness (Jer. 31:3). Who was “in the beginning with God—who is the true Light which came into this world in the “House of Bread” –Bet-Lehem (“Bethlehem”)—who lived and died and was raised to bring life to the house of Israel—and the whole world!
We pray for all of our readers in the nations a blessed Christmas Season and a Happy New Year!
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage. An illustration of this practice appears to have been recorded in Luke 4:16 where Yeshua (Jesus) arrived in the synagogue in Nazareth and was asked to read the portion (Isaiah 61) from the Prophets. We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will illumine specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel. All texts are those of English translations of the Scriptures.
The readings for this week 24-30 December 2017 are called VaYechi—“And He [i.e. Jacob] Lived”:
TORAH: Genesis 47:28—50:26
This week’s readings bring us to the end of the Book of Genesis.
*Genesis 47:29. “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please…deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers; you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” We have noticed in how many ways Joseph presents a picture of the coming Savior, Yeshua. Here Jacob requests of him to “deal kindly and truly with me” and to “carry me out of Egypt to lie with my fathers”. As we have mentioned often, the words “kindly” and “truly” are chesedand emet—two words we have seen and shall see together often in the Torah. John 1:16-17 tells us, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the Torah was given through Moses, but lovingkindness and truth (Modern Hebrew translation: chesed v’emet) came through Yeshua the Messiah.” As Joseph would in kindness and truth be faithful to take his father out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land where his fathers had been buried, so Yeshua carries those who entrust themselves to his chesed and emet out of the bondage of death and into the presence of His Father and the resting place of those who have gone before!
*Genesis 47:31b(NASB). “Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.” The Hebrew word for “bed” (mita) bears the same letters as the word for “staff” (mateh). The translators of the Greek Septuagint used in New Testament times (translated several hundred years earlier), chose the meaning “staff” here. This evidently is what is referred to in the New Covenant Scripture Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” What is clear is that Jacob had become strong in worship and in faith (notice his attributions to God in 48:3; 48:9,11, 15-16; 48:20-21), and it was this which enabled him to deliver in holy authority the prophetic utterances of Chapter 49.
*Genesis 48:5. “And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” In fact, because of Reuben’s sin against his father (see I Chronicles 5:1-2), his birthright was transferred to Joseph, the first-born of Rachel, and thence to his two sons. Of these two sons, already here, even before Jacob delivers his blessing, Ephraim is named first. In the future his name would at times be used as a synonym for Israel, “For I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my First Born” (Jeremiah 31:9).
*Genesis 48:7(ESV). “As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way [from Bethel] to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). In this brief mention of Rachel’s death, one senses the tenderness which Jacob still felt for her over forty years after her death (49:31 seems to show an affection which had grown also for the previously hated Leah). As has been pointed out, this passage, along with 35:19 and I Samuel 10:2, also point towards the location of Rachel’s tomb as being in the area of Benjamin (just northwest of Jerusalem) rather than southward, adjacent to Bethlehem as is held by Rabbinic tradition.
*Genesis 48:20. “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” This blessing is in many Jewish households still spoken today on Friday evenings by a father over his sons before the Erev-Shabbat meal.
*Genesis 48:21(ESV). “Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.” “God will be with you!” Jacob had come to know and trust in Imannu-El.—the “With-Us God”. God had promised this to Jacob at Bethel (“Behold, I am with you and will guard you wherever you go…for I will not leave you…” 28:15), where Jacob promised that if He would be “with him” and guard him, and bring him back safely, he YHVH would be his God. There were many other times within his long life when he would be reminded of God’s presence with him (Genesis 31:3; 31:42; 32:24,28; 35:13). At Beersheba, where Jacob offered sacrifices before going down to Egypt, God had again spoken to him, “I will go down with you to Egypt…” (Genesis 46:4).
*Genesis 48:22. Moreover, I have given to you rather than to your brothers one mountain slope that I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.” If the last part of these verses refers to an actual battle in which Jacob took part, it is not recorded in Scripture (Might Jacob have yielded up his weapons as a sign of peace, when purchasing the land in 33:19—a peace later violated by Simeon and Levi?). The Hebrew for this passage contains obscurities which continue to puzzle Biblical scholars into our own day. The main difficulties center around the words translated here “mountain slope”. The Hebrew words are shekhem ehad. Ehad means “one” and shekhem may refer to a “shoulder”, or a “shoulder or ridge of a mountain”—or to the town of Shechem (Modern-day Nablus) itself. Evidently Joseph understood it to mean a portion of land in the vicinity of Shechem, since he would over 400 years later be buried “at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph (Joshua 24:32). Shekhem Echad also forms an idiom meaning “shoulder to shoulder” or “as one man”—and the future territories of inheritance for both Ephraim and Manasseh would come together at this point. This is obviously the meaning when these two words appear again in Zephaniah 3:9 (which some here see as prophesying the rebirth of the Hebrew language precedent to God’s restoring Israel to her land), “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord.”
Genesis 49: 1-27
*Genesis 49:5. “Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruel violence (Hebrew: hamas) their trade. Let my soul not enter into their secret council, their assembly my presence shun. For in their fury they slaughtered men, at their pleasure they tore down ramparts. Cursed be their fury so fierce, and their wrath so remorseless! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20); in the case of these two brothers, it produced senseless slaughter of many innocent men. It would also result in loss or dispersion of much of their future inheritance; Simeon’s territory would be enclosed within that of Judah, and Levi would have no separate territory at all.
*Genesis 49:10-11. “Judah is a lion’s whelp…The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes.”
There has historically been great mystery surrounding this passage, part of it related to what exactly is meant by the Hebrew word transliterated “Shiloh”. It appears clear, nevertheless, that it is referring to One who is to come, to whom the “scepter” truly belongs, and who will be worthy of “the obedience of the people.” There seem to be further hints in the New Testament: Matthew 21:2-7 refers to a donkey tied with its colt upon which Yeshua would enter Jerusalem; Revelation 7:14 speaks of those whose garments will have been “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb”; and Revelation 19:13 foretells One called “Faithful and True” clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and His name is also called “The Word of God.”
PLEASE PRAY: for revelation in Israel that the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David” has come—and is coming again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Revelation 5:5; 19:16).
*Genesis 49:29-31. “Then [Jacob] charged them and said to them: I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite…There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah…” Something in the way she is mentioned in this passage suggests that by the end of Leah’s life (and the many years following), she who had been hated (Genesis 29:31) had grown in Jacob’s affections, and indeed his love.
*Genesis 50:19-20. JOSEPH (To his brothers after the death of their father Jacob): “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
“For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
[The readings for next week (31 December 2017—6 January 2018) are called Sh’mot—“Names”. TORAH: Exodus 1:1—6:1; HAFTARAH: Isaiah 27:6—28:13; 29:22-23.]
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