Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#8 Vayishlach (He sent) B’resheit (Genesis) 32:4-36:43
Haftarah: Ovadayah (Obadiah) 1-21
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
The rabbinic advice for this parashah is expressed in the midrash (B’resheit Rabbah 78:15) and reiterated in Ramban’s commentary on the Torah (B’resheit 32:4), that the section dealing with the dramatic meeting between Yaakov and Esav was not just a “biblical story.” Rather, it contains within it a prophetic program for future diplomatic, political and even geo-political encounters that should be heeded throughout the long years of Jewish exile.
The context is Yaakov’s impending return to Israel after a 22-year absence, the land of his birth, the land promised to him by his father and later by G-d Himself. Yaakov was now nearing the borders of his promised land, but entry was not going to be without conflict and challenge. He had just left the house of his father-in-law Lavan, and was about to contend with the matter of his brother, who might still be vindictive over the blessings that Yaakov received, even though the event was the result of Esav’s lust for the physical; instant gratification with food.
Yaakov takes the initiative as he prepares for the worst and hopes for the best. He sends a delegation to his brother Esav, bearing gifts and words of rapprochement. The response that his messengers bring is concerning: Esav is on his way but he is accompanied by 400 men. While Yaakov tries to avoid war with gifts, Esav seems poised for battle. Yaakov divides his household into two camps; he reasons that if one camp is attacked, the other might escape. Fear sets in as he prepares for this meeting.
Just as Yaakov hoped to minimize the toll of war and to insure his family’s survival in case of attack, so, too, should Israel (the country) and Israel (spiritual). People plan for the worst, and attempt to save even a portion of the dispersed and persecuted Israel. If the Jews (biological and spiritual) in one community are in danger, hopefully another community will survive; when, for example, the community in the “south” (presumably Israel) is under threat, steps must be taken to insure the survival of the Jewish community in the diaspora. G-d has preserved a remnant of His people throughout history because it is beyond man to be successful without Divine intervention. This is a lesson Jacob learns in this parashah. The sages of the midrash had seen the First and Second Temples destroyed, and they developed a pragmatic strategy for Jewish survival, a strategy that dated back to Yaakov: Divide and survive. In fact, the midrash itself tells us that this parashah was more than just the source of general wisdom; it served as required reading, as the text with which representatives of the besieged Jewish community prepared themselves for meetings with the ruling authorities. This illustrates the concept of trusting G-d and not testing Him. We should always prepare for the worst, but not expect it. Those who always expect the worst tend to be pessimists who are seldom at peace with anything. On the other hand, we should always hope for the best. As Messianic believers, we can know that everything in the believer’s life will work out for the ultimate good because this is a promise from YHVH; “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11-13). In Romans 8:28 we read another encouraging passage; “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who] have been called according to his purpose.” Other scriptures that describe this truth are found in 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Thess. 3:3, Deut. 31:6, Is. 41:10, 2 Sam 22:3-4, John 10:28-30, Psalm 91,121, and 23 to name a few. I encourage you to look these up and commit them to memory, or at least the concept. The consolidated truth of all these verses is that our G-d is faithful to His Word; He will never leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). This applies to any battle or situation with which we are faced. G-d teaches this same truth to Jacob as he repeats His promises to a fearful Jacob who was once a very independent personality.
A careful reading of this episode teaches us that Yaakov took a three-pronged approach to his precarious situation: First, he attempted to make peace, sending a conciliatory message and showering his brother with gifts. Yaakov also turned to G-d in a prayer for peace and deliverance from harm, while simultaneously taking practical defensive steps to minimize the damage in the event that the worst-case scenario would unfold. This is not a case of not trusting G-d. It is a common- sense approach to survival. G-d expects us to do what we can to survive in this world and then trust Him to do the ultimate protecting. We should neither sit around and wait on G-d in prayer or in daily life. Rabbinic sources refer to this strategy specifically regarding Rome (Edom), the symbol of Christendom.
In recent history, our return to the Land of Israel in vast numbers has created a double-edged sword. While there are more biological and other sects of Jews in Israel, there are also more secular individuals living there. This segment of the population is growing rapidly. While this may seem a detrimental turn of events, it may open the door for more Messianic Jews to go to Israel and witness through lifestyle to those who are currently ambivalent about Yahshua and His Torah. Currently, Messianic Jews cannot do Aliyah to Israel as we are not considered “true Jews” Yet, conservatives and reform Jews are considered part of the Jewish people. There are some Messianic Jewish communities in Israel but they are not considered Jews and are not a welcome part of the Jewish community. I am confident that this will change soon as the end times progress, simply because G-d said He will “bring you back into this land…” (Gen. 28:15). Just as there were only 12 (11 who remained) as Yahshua’s disciples and became the first Messianic Jews, so too will there be a remnant to do His work in Israel and the world until His return.
Another important teaching in this parashah is found in Genesis 32:29 and 35:10. In the former we read: “Then the man [Yahshua] said, ‘From now on, you will no longer be called Ya’akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both G-d and men and have prevailed.” In the latter, we read; “G-d said to him [Ya’akov], ‘Your name is Ya’akov, but you will be called Ya’akov no longer; your name will be Isra’el.” The question is why did Yahshua [the man] tell Ya’akov this once, then G-d repeat it? Did the first statement indicate Ya’akov was to look forward to the name change at a later time than the time it was announced? Why bother to tell him beforehand? After all, the man said, “from now on” which seems to indicate at that point his name would be changed.
In the first case, Jacob is told by the man with whom he struggled that his name would be changed. Jacob did not recognize him as Yahshua, so he may have wondered with what authority this man could change his name, especially considering the importance of Hebrew names. In the second episode, G-d as G-d tells Jacob about the name change, therefore validating what the first man said in Jacob’s mind. Imagine if you will, what Jacob may have thought when he heard this from G-d. The then “veiled” Yahshua gave Jacob a glimpse of the change that was about to come. No longer would he be considered the supplanter or the heel as indicated by his name. Note the shape of the heel is rounded. Could this also mean that as Jacob he dealt with G-d and men in a round-about way and that in the future, his behaviors and attitude toward men and G-d would straighten? After all, his mother told him what to do in the issue of deceiving Isaac. Now, His destiny would reflect his name Isra’el; a prince of G-d; prevailing. He would deal with G-d and man directly. The angel [Yahshua] at that time had not been revealed as G-d Incarnate when this encounter occurred as His time had not come to be revealed to humans. The angel [Yahshua] merely revealed to Jacob how he would grow into the name of Israel, a name change G-d Himself would affirm later. True to His character, Yahshua does the same for us throughout the B’rit Chadashah and the Old Testament in admonishing us to prepare for the Rapture, the Tribulation, His return, and the various judgments. The wonder and beauty of this written revelation is that we are given this information from which to learn and prepare ourselves for that which Yahshua has foretold just as he did for Jacob. May we have ears to hear!
G-d made His promise to Jacob, but we see an infiltration of fear and doubt in Gen. 28:17-22; he tries to bargain with G-d; IF G-d will be faithful to His promise, Jacob will make Adonai his G-d and will tithe one-tenth to Him. I can almost hear G-d saying “Really?” Fear is a powerful and invasive foe. At this point, Jacob had not fully embraced or comprehended G-d’s sovereignty and reliability. Jacob is in essence, trying to “solidify” G-d’s promise through a “deal.”
So, where do we see the straightening out of the heel curvature, so to speak in Jacob’s life? Jacob makes a straight-forward decision when he chooses to leave Laban’s house. Then, he encountered his brother Esav and he is fearful once again. But Jacob initiated the meeting head-on. We see the process of developing confidence in G-d as Jacob continues to mature, just as all true-believers develop if we persevere. Jacob is afraid, but he does not lose his head. He splits his camp and prepares gifts in an attempt towards a peaceful meeting. He could have taken a roundabout route that would have avoided such a meeting, but he chose a more daring option. He wants to make peace with his brother and reconciliation.
Jacob reminds G-d of His promise and pleads that G-d will rescue him. He is very open about expressing his fears (Gen. 32:8-13). There is no longer any attempt to bargain with G-d. Jacob makes a direct plea for deliverance.
Right before Jacob’s name change, there is a word that repeatedly appears in the Torah, panim, which means “face.” He named the place where he did battle with “some man” (Yahshua) P’ni -El (face of G-d). When he meets Esav he says “Just seeing your face has been like seeing the face of G-d, now that you have received me” (Gen.33:10).. Why is there an emphasis on the word “face?” If we go back to what the “man” said who wrestled with him said, we find the answer: In Gen. 32:29we read “Then the man said,” From now on you will no longer be called Ya’akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both G-d and man and have prevailed.” We struggle face to face when we confront our problems “head on.” The name change represents the spiritual growth Ya’akov experienced. It is a redemptive name. But it doesn’t stop there because we see G-d addressing Ya’akov as “Ya’akov” at certain times and as “Isra’el” at other times. I invite you to research this in the complete Torah and look at the context surrounding G-d’s use of theses names each time they are used. You will find that when the name “Jacob” is used, there is a restrictive element; an earthly context of the name related to relationships with men such as falling into idolatry and when G-d deals with the descendants of Jacob in a restrictive sense. When the name “Isra’el is used, it implies an expanded reference to Israel as a tribe and as a people relating to G-d/G-d relating to His people as descendants of Jacob in a figurative and in some cases a literal sense. In other words, early on, when Jacob or his descendants dealt with men and G-d on an earthly, humanistic plane, the name “Jacob” is used. This includes his descendants at various times in Biblical history. When Jacob or his descendants deal with G-d on a spiritual plane, that overcomes earthly behaviors that may be likened to ascending Jacob’s ladder another rung, the name “Isra’el is used. Notice also that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel when he finally began to trust in G-d and not his own resources. Israel was G-d’s covenant name for the new nation. The name “Jacob” represents independence from G-d and “Israel” represents dependence on G-d. It is not a hard and fast rule, but there are places in the Old Testament where G-d calls the nation, “Jacob,” instead of, “Isra’el,” and it is because they are acting independent of G-d as previously discussed. The following is a partial list of examples for further study:
1 Chronicles 16;17 Isaiah 43:28 Jeremiah 10:16 Psalm 106:10 Isaiah 2:6
1 Kings 18:31 Romans 11:26 Psalm 22:23 Psalm 24:6
Isaiah 46:19 Psalm 14:7 Numbers 23:7 Numbers 24:5
1 Chron. 16:23 Psalm 78:5 Psalm 135:4 Isaiah 9:8
Haftarah: Ovadyah (Obadiah) 1-21
The punishment of Edom, the descendants of Esau is mentioned this week. Obadiah, himself an Edomian convert to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation Edom. Note that Ovadyah is a convert from Edom! This fact illustrates that any person can come to Yahshua from any nation. Ovadyah found a special place in G-d’s plan as his name indicates (servant of G-d). His prophesies occurred at around 900 BCE. The Edomites did not come to Judea’s assistance when she was being destroyed by the Babylonians, and even joined in like a pack of wild dogs. Many years later the Edomites (the Roman Empire) themselves destroyed the Second Temple and killed or enslaved their Jewish cousins without any mercy or remorse.
Though the Roman Empire was one of the mightiest in world history, Obadiah forewarns that G-d will bring down those who attempt to place themselves among the stars and fly high as the eagle. “And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the L-rd has spoken.”
After describing the division of Esau’s lands amongst the returning Judean exiles, this passage concludes with this beautiful familiar passage: “And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the L-rd shall have the kingdom.” Ken yehi ratzon! (May it be so soon)!
B’rit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-12
In the beginning verses of this passage we read of the impending Tribulation. However, there is a blessed hope for those who are true believers and those sealed to serve G-d through this time (NOT the Church!) and prevail as did Jacob in his battle with the angel (Yahshua). In the typical symbolic language of G-d’s Torah according to Matthew Henry, the blowing of the four winds together means a dreadful and general destruction of the Tribulation. But the destruction is delayed. Seals are used to mark those of the 12 Tribes as listed in this passage. Note that Levi is now a tribe. Why? Because true believers from the loins of Avraham belong to a higher priesthood (1 Pet. 2), of Mechzaldek. Those who are saved when they stand before Yahshua will be assisting Him in administering His Millennial Kingdom. The Levites will be supervising the sacrifices in the 3rd Temple. Dan is no longer listed. Although Ruben was the first born, we see that Judah is listed first. The tribe if Joseph and M’nashah are half-tribes from the Son of Joseph. Now they are split into two separate tribes. We do not know if the seals are visible to those marked, if they can be seen by other believers, or if they are only visible to HaSatan and his followers. Whatever the case, G-d will protect them from harm as they carry out their mission of witnessing to Jews who have not accepted Yahshua as the Messiah. Note: this is NOT a conversion to Christianity. Rather, it is the acceptance of the second requirement of the seven-fold witness stipulated by Yahshua for those who want to be considered true believers. The witnesses will tell those who are alive on the earth at this time about the Kingdom of G-d that is about to come and of Yahshua’s return as Messiah ben David. Judah will understand this terminology and their eyes will certainly be opened. The sealed ones will also tell of the wrath of G-d that is about to fall on those who oppose Yahshua’s coming and choose to reject His Word. A mere profession of faith will not be sufficient. There must be obedience out of love for G-d and His Torah. When their mission has been fulfilled by G-d’s standard, the end shall come as prophesied in Matt. 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom [not of faith] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come.” True believers will be teaching in direct opposition to the forces of the harlot World Church that has within it the replacement theology that G-d has rejected the Jews and is therefore no longer any earthly provision for a Jewish kingdom. Many in the harlot will be expecting an all-inclusive Messiah, not a Jewish one. The world can either accept the truth preached by these 144,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel or they will continue to choose deceptive teachings and beliefs consistent with secular humanism and false religion labeled by Yahshua as apostate (Rev. 17-18). Those who reject the message of those sealed by G-d will believe that the false profit is G-d and that the Babylonian Kingdom he rules fulfills the promise of a kingdom of G-d. They will take the mark of the beast and by doing so will receive the same fate as the beast, his false prophet and Satan at the judgment. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Those Jews from Judah (tribes of Benjamin, Judah, and Levites) who repent and accept Yahshua during the Tribulation will be martyred (Rev 13:15). However, they will understand this compares not to eternity with YHVH/Yahshua in the New Jerusalem. As Messianic Jewish believers, we must avoid assuming an elitist attitude. The grafted branches are in the same Olive Tree as the natural branches when all is said and done (Ezekiel 37). A study of Romans chapters 9-11 makes it clear that all people who fulfill the requirements of the seven-fold witness in the book of Revelation as the definition of a true believer according to Yahshua, whether Jew or Gentile make up the bride of Yahshua spoken of throughout the Bible and specifically in Revelation. Israel in this context consists of these true believers, again, NOT the Church! After all, according Hebrews 12:22-24, the promise of a new covenant (not for Christians) that was made with the house of Israel and Judah, not to Gentiles (Jer.31:31-33) is described. The new covenant spoken of in these verses in no way implies a new system that advocates abrogation of G-d’s laws, regulations, and statutes. Yahshua came to interpret his Father’s laws in a way that man could understand; not only in his teachings, but by his life.
There is no difference between G-d/Yahshua in the Old Testament or His definition of a true believer. He is One and remains “asher haya v’hoveh v’yavo (Who was, and Who is, and Who is to come).” We can choose to die in the past, or live for the future.
Rabbi Tamah Davis