I really can’t help myself getting emotional when I read this portion of the Torah. It is not only because it is speaking of Joseph in Egypt becoming second to Pharaoh himself.
From the dungeons of the Egyptian jails to the palaces of Pharaoh. From poverty to riches!
From being a slave, falsely accused of sexual harassment by the mistress of the house of Potiphar the Priest of On, to the one who interprets a dream as indicating the restoration of Pharaoh’s chief baker back to his former glory and out of jail. This phenomenal character of Joseph inspires me to tears of joy.
You see dear brothers and sisters; I was also rejected by my family for believing in Yeshua the Messiah, and being baptized. I was also sent out of my country to the edges of the Okefenokee Swamp in the state of Georgia in the United States.
The story of Joseph is repeated so many times in the Bible, and so many of the heroes of our faith experienced similar rejection and returned and became instruments in God’s hand to save Israel.
King David himself was ignored and rejected by his brothers and left alone with only God on His side, and saved Israel from the Philistine giant Goliath, and became the most important king of Israel.
There is something inspiring about a man who was so mistreated and so abused by his own flesh and blood brothers but he never gave up and never got depressed nor lost his way. Joseph is someone to learn from how about how to survive in this upside-down world.
Our portion of the Torah starts in Genesis 41:1 – 44:17, and the Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) comes this Shabbat from 1 Kings 3:15 – 4:1. From the New Testament we read this Shabbat from Romans 10:1-13.
The message of all these readings is that from being abused, fallen, downtrodden, the men of God and the people of God can rise into the heights of salvation and become tools in His hands for the salvation and redemption of the multitudes.
I would like to look closely at the dream that God gave Pharaoh. The dream is speaking of seven cows that were fat and fertile that were devoured by seven that were skinny and poor.
This paradigm of the weak having victory and destroying the strong is a major theme in the Bible, and especially in the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
We are in the middle of the celebration of the feast of Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication. Hanukkah is a feast of celebration of the few and weak having victory of the many and the strong.
It is what one family of priests from the village of Modein (not far from today’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel-Aviv), did to raise the flag of rebellion against the cruel and powerful empire of the Seleucids (Greeks who inherited a part of Alexander the Great’s empire).
The family of Mattathias acted in defiance of the Greek Seleucids in Modein. Like in the story of Joseph, the impossible became possible by the sheer power of faith in the righteousness of God and through stubborn faith and trust in God’s promises. The weak had victory over the vast army of the Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes.
The same power of faith that told Joseph when he was in the well, God will have the victory in the end, “don’t give up, be strong!” is the power that gave the five sons of Mattathias and the few Judean guerrilla fighters the strength that comes from faith in God the ability to drive the Seleucid army out of Jerusalem.
They took Jerusalem and the Temple back into their Jewish hands, purified the Temple and the altar from the abominations that were offered there to idols and restored the worship of the God of Israel in the temple in Jerusalem. Joseph, like Mattathias and his five sons, knew that no matter how hard and difficult life gets the Lord is ultimately in control and His promises will be fulfilled.
When we, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, speak of having faith in God and in Yeshua the Messiah, what do we mean by the word “faith” – do we mean some doctrine that we espouse or do we mean the power to see what is not visible right now and making that vision delivered to us by the mouth of God through the prophets a flood of power to, with a deep streak of stubborn tenacity, resist the world and the present reality, with our eyes turned with expectation toward the fulfillment of God’s promises?
Just a few weeks ago I visited a very famous ultra-Orthodox rabbi who is 100 years old, and still very much a powerful man of God, who survived the death camps of Nazi Germany, during World War II. The rabbi spoke of the barracks in which he and another 700 Jewish men were housed.
There was room in this barrack for only 500. These Jews in that death camp were also worked hard for many hours per day with very little food, and had to decide to either act like selfish animals or to work together and survive to see the hand of God in their deliverance from that hell.
In the same barracks that this rabbi was in, there was an Orthodox Jew who was also a believer in Yeshua. The name of that Jew was Joseph Vactor, son of Maier.
This rabbi decided that the right thing to do was for all to stand united as one man and to work together, to see that all survived and, in their weakness, to see the victory is because God is faithful to keep his promises.
It is this kind of faith that sustained Joseph in his hardest and most difficult moments of being rejected and being sent to be a slave in Egypt, and from there to jail, and finally as the second to Pharaoh himself. This is the same power of faith that didn’t seek vengeance or retribution from his brothers, the very ones that sinned against him and the same brothers who hated Joseph so much that they wouldn’t even say “Shalom” to him.
Yes, Joseph recognized his brothers who came down to Egypt to seek food, but he controlled his emotions and allowed God to restrain his desires and to help him to retain his self-control, to see what God was going to do with this situation. It is this kind of faith that will always have victory over the evils of this world.
Historians said that the blood of the martyrs was the weapon that brought down the Roman Empire. Tertullian, one of the 3rd century church fathers, said: “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church!”
Here are the three most important points that we must learn from the story of Joseph, and it applies also to Yeshua our Lord:
First, when God gives you a promise, either personally or collectively, stay strong and believe that promise with all your heart, soul, and being. God keeps his promises.
We in the state of Israel with all of our complaints and issues of survival, are a living witness that God is keeping His promises and that the exiles are returning home to the land and that the place is flourishing. Yes, there are problems and there are challenges of every kind imaginable, but the city is being built and the contribution of Israel to the world is both physical and technological and spiritual and scientific and I would say even moral.
Look at Israel, a state built from the ashes of the crematoriums of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Treblinka and the other death camps. Those who died at the hands of Christians who went to church and prayed in Jesus’ name, are now celebrating in the halls of heaven with the angels of the Lord and dancing to the songs of Zion and the Psalms.
While those confessing Christians are on the other side of the great divide begging the Lazarus’s to come and give them a drop of cold water to cool their tongues. Joseph, who was innocent, but in jail because of false accusations, was in Pharaoh’s palace and all of Egypt was at his command and in gratitude for this son of Israel.
Where and what was the wife of Potiphar doing when Joseph was riding high on his horse! What was Potiphar doing when Pharaoh announced that Joseph would be second-in-command and in charge of the economy and the food supplies of all of Egypt!
Second, the wise thing to do is keep your cool and to do your best to be helpful and beneficial and to bless others, even in your misery. Give out of your poverty, share even from what little you have, don’t be selfish and self-centered, especially when you are going through the difficult moments of your life.
The mistake that we make is that when we have a little, we hold to it tighter and ignore those around us that are less fortunate and in greater need. Here is what our Lord Yeshua was teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem:
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’” – Luke 21:1-4 [NKJV]
Finally, we all need to have patience. The ability to suffer and to restrain ourselves like Joseph, and to not become angry at God or at our fellow men, for the hardships that have befallen upon us, is one of Joseph’s great gifts.
The feelings that we have been taken advantage of and that life is not fair, and that this world has no hope, and that justice will never come, is a very destructive and damaging and nothing good can come from these feelings that attack us right from the pits of hell. We ought to be children of hope trusting on the promises of God and trusting in His justice even in His judgment.
I am thinking of the Alfred Dreyfuss affair in France at the end of the 19th Century. A single Jewish officer in the French Army, falsely accused of spying for the Germans by some fellow officers who were anti-Semitic.
None of his friends came to his aid or stood by him. However, help came from the most unexpected corner of France, the writer and publicist, Émile Zola, published an article J’Accuse…!
Zola saved Alfred Dreyfuss from Devil’s Island in French Guiana and liberated the falsely-accused Jew that had no hope to ever come out of the Devil’s Island alive and, thanks to Zola’s article, was exonerated and restored to his rank. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.
Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, stories like that of Joseph do happen in history and the most dramatic and illustrated story like that of Joseph is the story of Yeshua from Nazareth, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, and the returning-to-Zion Messiah.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” – Isaiah 53:3
Now, this same Yeshua is seated in glory at the right hand of the Almighty God of Israel the Creator of our Universe!
When Yeshua returns to Jerusalem in glory, every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that He is the King of Glory. I believe this with all my heart and am hoping and waiting to be alive in Jerusalem when it happens!
I hope that you too believe this promise and are preparing to see it happen by giving your life and your whole being in His hand to use you and yours to make this happen quicker and soon in our days!
If we would really really believe that Yeshua is returning to Jerusalem and the body of the Messiah worldwide believes this promise of truth that appears both in what is called “The Old Testament” and in the “New Testament,” our situation in Jerusalem, Israel, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua, ought to be just secure and wonderful and it will be up to us to make Jerusalem a place ready to receive the Messiah!
About how we ought to prepare ourselves and Jerusalem to receive Yeshua we will have to write and speak about on another occasion. Let us learn from Joseph the son of Israel who was outwardly an Egyptian that the brothers didn’t recognize, but inwardly He was Joseph the son of Rachel and Israel, and grandson of Isaac, the son of God’s promise to Abraham!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.