These shadows grow even more defined in this week’s Torah portion, ויחי Vayechi (“he lived,” Gen. 47:28–50:26). In this fourth and last section on Yosef‘s life, we see parallels between pharaoh, Yosef and Ya’akov, and the Father, the Son and the people called Yisra’el.
“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11 NASB)
” ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.’ ” (Mark 6:4 NASB)
The ancient saying “familiarity breeds contempt”1 could easily sum up how Yosef‘s brothers treated him in his early years and how many leaders of Yisra’el treated Yeshua. The prophetic parallels between Yosef and Yeshua the Mashiakh sharpen further in this week’s Torah section, ויגש Vayigash (“he approached,” Genesis 44:18–47:27).
In it, the brothers’ contempt turns to fear when they realize their plots against Yosef have put them at his mercy. It’s also a picture of the Day of the LORD, when Yisra’el then the world must confess, “Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the LORD” (Psalm 118:26; Matthew 23:39; Luke 13:35).
Yosef (Joseph) a betrayed brother turned slave turned prime minister in Mitzraim (Egypt). Daniel a war captive turned wise man turned second to an emperor in Babylon. יהודה המכבי Yehudah ha-Makabi (Judas Maccabeus) a priest of Yisrael turned leader of a successful insurrection against the Seleucid empire’s campaign of forced conversion. Yeshua ha-Mashiakh (Jesus the Christ) in the Temple during the Festival of Dedication. These four accounts may seem to quite disjointed, but the conjunction of the Torah reading מקצ Miketz/Miqetz (Genesis 41:1-44:14, “from the end”) and the celebration of Chanukah/Hannukah helps underscore that ongoing lessons from both help us understand what Yeshua meant by “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13 NASB).
Have you ever felt like God has abandoned you? Or at least forgotten about what you’re going through? It would have been easy for Yosef to think so. He’d been languishing in prison for a crime he didn’t commit for at least two years. The second installment of the account of Yosef (see part 1) is in this week’s Torah section, מקץ Miketz (“from the end,” Gen. 41:1–44:17). We see “that dreamer” go from victim of justice to vice president of the mighty empire of Mitzraim, and the prophecy pointing forward to Yeshua the Mashiakh gets fleshed out.
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.”