The portion that this Shabbat will be read in the synagogues is called Miketz, the reading is from Genesis 41:1-44:17. This portion has one of the most dramatic scenes in the whole Bible.
Joseph has met with his brothers in Egypt several times, and in all these times his brothers didn’t know who the dignified and successful man who is standing in front of them. In the most dramatic and emotional moment in the whole book of Genesis, Joseph sends out his Egyptian servants and guards, and with tears in his eyes, discloses his identity (“I am Joseph your brother…”).
From the prophets (the Haftarah) we read from 1 Kings 3:15-4:1. And from the New Testament we read from John 10:22-42.
My personal interest when I read the Bible is always to understand how God works, how God uses people to accomplish His will and plans. In the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, God has marked Joseph from the beginning, or even before his birth.
For Calvinists this is not a mystery at all, for people like me, it is a big, big issue. I just can’t think of God as a schemer and a manipulator who sets up people in trouble and suffering just to accomplish a “story” of success from rags to riches, from rejected to ruler…
Just think of Joseph, a young Israelite man in an Egyptian jail for approximately 20 years. Just imagine the suffering of rejection that Joseph received from his 11 brothers, and also from his father Jacob!
Imagine Joseph in a well in the middle of the Dothan Valley without anyone one to save him. When you read the text of Genesis, I want you to put yourself in the place and head of the characters, and imagine that in this event you personally are the main character.
Imagine that you are Cain, arguing and fighting with his brother Abel. Imagine that you are young Joseph, and your 11 brothers are rejecting you, laughing at you, and all you are trying to do is share what you believe you have seen in your dreams, real dreams, revelation from God, prophetic prediction that one day you are going to be great, and your brothers will depend on your grace for their living.
I imagine that every healthy child that is rejected by his friends, who is not popular in his class, when the other children are not interested in playing with him, would naturally have visions of his greatness and superiority over those who now don’t want to play with him and reject him socially…
Joseph’s reaction to that rejection would motivate him to excel and find the power to do everything possible in his life to accomplish. To show his brothers, or his friends, or his peers, that he is successful, powerful, gracious, and superior to those who rejected him in his youth.
In Joseph’s story everything that happens to him and everything that he does is exaggerated and made gigantic. His brother’s rejection is natural, but for Joseph it is supernatural.
His being sold as a slave in Egypt is not a bad event, it is a chance to escape from his brothers’ hate and desire to kill him. What to the outside reader of the story looks like a tragedy for Joseph is an opportunity.
Joseph doesn’t mind going to look for his brothers in Shechem. For Joseph it is an opportunity to show them that he is one with them and cares for them and is doing the will of Jacob their father in the best way possible.
This is why he walks the extra mile and doesn’t return from Shechem back to Beer-Sheva and say to Jacob his father, “I did what you asked me, but my brothers are not in Shechem. I looked around Shechem, but sorry, return-to-sender, the address was wrong.”
No, not Joseph. Because he has to prove to himself most of all that he is not only as good as his brothers, but better than them. He walks the extra mile to find his brothers in Dothan, and there is a divine nameless messenger in Shechem to help him by telling him where his brothers have taken their flocks to pasture.
Joseph is in the Egyptian jail for false accusation by Potiphar’s wife. Joseph knows three things that give him power to not only overcome the sorrow of being in jail under false accusation, but to flourish and find joy.
In Joseph’s head there are three powers working to give him the strength and keep him from entering into depression:
- Joseph knows and remembers the promises that God made him in the dreams of his youth.
- Joseph knows that he has not sinned against his father and his brothers. His conscience is clear! This is a very important factor in Joseph’s success.
- The knowledge that we are clear from sinful attitudes and that our motivation is honest and without vengeance to those who have harmed us and have acted against us is a great force for success. We know more than anyone else if we are guilty or innocent, and if our actions are motivated by good and friendly motives or by selfish and manipulative strategies to accomplish our selfish goals.
These are powers that give strength and the ability to take the abuse that the “world” is giving us, and know that we are on the right side, the holy side, and the good side of those around us. Those who seek to harm, damage, and reject us for being different and being right.
Even if the whole world is against you, but you know that you are right and that you have not sinned, but are saying and doing what is right by God — you will find strength to take the blows of life and turn them into power. The power that I call in Hebrew “davkah” power.
The power to go against the stream, like salmon swimming up the river o lay eggs. Because the salmon knows that this is its destiny, the very reason for its existence. There the salmon finds the strength to face the hardship of life and keep going to reach the goal, the God-given goal for his life.
Joseph’s story is based on the very first paradigm acquired by the two factors that were out of his control, the dreams from God and the love of his father. Sometimes we don’t have a loving father, other times our father loves us but doesn’t understand us, like in Joseph’s case.
But knowing that we are not wrong, and have not sinned against those who accuse us falsely, is a great motivator. It brings strength to grow and do right, to be under God’s blessings, even in an Egyptian jail.
In the Joseph Story there is another element that most of us Jewish Messianic leaders in Israel, miss and forget. We forget that we have the responsibility to plan and strategize, and help God accomplish His promises to us in the Word of God, in dreams and visions, and become extensions and partners with God’s mega-program revealed to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as an everlasting covenant.
Yeshua Himself is like Joseph, motivated by God’s promises to the nation of Israel, even a long time before Yeshua saw the light of day outside of His mother’s womb. Like Joseph, Yeshua is despised and rejected by man, by His own brothers, except Jacob (“James” in English), who becomes Yeshua’s ambassador after the crucifixion and resurrection and ascension of Yeshua back to the father.
The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and the story of Yeshua, the son of Joseph, interweave with each other in so many ways that they become almost mirror images of each other.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.