God prepared two self-centered “brats” — Yosef (Joseph) and Yehudah (Judah) — and their descendants to become the saviors of their families. Yosef was a tattle-tale and a bit of a braggart, but Yehudah was willing to throw weaker, younger people to the wolves, either figuratively or literally to obtain a higher status in his society. God really cares about how you treat other people, especially those who are weaker and less fortunate. In the Torah reading וישב Vayeshev (Genesis 37–40), we learn from Yosef and Yehudah their life lessons the hard way.
The accounts of Yosef‘s “coat of many colors” or “Technicolor Dreamcoat” and his standing strong amid adversity and oppression in Mitzraim are popular among children and adults. But a scandalous aside in this week’s Torah portion, וישב Vayeshev (“he settled,” Gen. 37:1–40:23), involving his brother Yehudah may not reach many children’s ears. Yet both Yosef and Yehudah provide important “calling cards” for Mashiakh Yeshua.
The LORD sends us into the world to be His ambassadors and part of the kingdom of priests. Will we go? How will we face challenges of our own making or ones that are out of our control? There will be times when we reap the consequences of our behavior and times we are victims of injustice inflicted on us. In scenarios, we need to look to the only one who can give us wisdom to react to those situations. That’s one lesson threaded through the Torah reading וישלח Vayishlach (“[and] he sent,” Genesis 32:3–36:43).
Another lesson is how division is toxic to the Kingdom of God. How are we living out apostle Paul’s counsel for unity and peace?:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18 NASB)
In Vayishlach we see what happened when Ya’akov (Jacob) and and Eysau/Eysav (Esau) met again after 20 years. Edom/Eysau was born “red” and “hairy,” symbols associated with humanness, and his life is an example of living “by the flesh” versus “by the Spirit.”
Have you ever wrestled with your desire to do something that deep down you know you shouldn’t? “Conversion” sometimes get so spiritualized that what’s actually happening to you gets lost. The important transformation to the “new creation” is the theme of the Torah section וישלח Vayishlach (“he sent,” Gen. 32:3–36:43).
The Torah reading ויצא Vayetze (“and he went out,” Genesis 28:10–32:2) is another example of how all the Scriptures testify of the Mashiakh (Messiah). The account of Ya’akob’s (Jacob) using striped sticks to encourage breeding among livestock and separating livestock sounds like archaic superstition, but it actually is a Messianic prophecy about how Yeshua (Jesus) would draw to Himself the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:6; 15:24) and make them stronger than what appeared to be the preferred flock.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51 NASB)
That rather cryptic comment from Natan’el wrapped up Who the Mashiakh would be and the Anointed One’s role in a neat package.
“Under the fig tree,” “true son of Israel,” “Son of Man,” ladder between Heaven and Earth: These are symbols a student of “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” like Natan’el would have known.
The Torah reading (parashah) ויצא Vayetze or Vayetzei (“he went out,” Gen. 28:10–32:2) covers the dream of Ya’akob’s ladder, Ya’akov‘s seven-year wait to marry Rakhel, Laban’s double-dealing to marry off his oldest daughter, a sister battle over fertility and the origins of the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. Sprinkled through these accounts are prophetic breadcrumbs leading to Continue reading Parashat Vayetze (ויצא): Genesis 28:10–32:2
One lesson from the life of Esau is who and where we came from doesn’t necessarily define who we are or will become. Another takeaway is to recognize the good around us and become wise to the frequent folly of “following your heart” after what appears to be good. This is why Messiah Yeshua wants us to learn how to be “complete,” not lacking in anything.