Fruitfulness Over Forgetfulness

Jacob lived a life. He had wrestled with his older brother Esau. He wrestled with God. He wrestled with his own sons. Now, as his life is coming to an end, he blesses Joseph, with whom he has been able to live in Egypt for seventeen years. The Torah says:

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֶת-יוֹסֵף

“And he (Jacob) blessed Joseph” (Gen. 48:15).

Yet, as we note in Genesis 48:14-16, Jacob did not bless Joseph, he blessed Joseph’s sons. Moreover, he blessed the younger, Ephraim, with his right hand and the older, Manasseh, with his left hand. Has Jacob not learned from the mistakes of the past?

Yes, he most certainly has learned. His father Isaac promised over his uncle Ishmael. Jacob himself was blessed over Esau; and now Joseph’s younger is blessed over the older!

Jacob blessed both boys, thereby blessing Joseph, and ultimately blesses the covenant mission of God’s people throughout the generations.

“And Jacob said: ‘Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them” (Gen. 48:9). The blessing was not for just one of them, but for both of them. Yet, Jacob has to set the younger before the older. Why? Their names: Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph named his sons during two seasons of his life: healing and prosperity.

Manasseh comes from a root meaning to forget. Forget what? The pain he has suffered by the hands of his brothers. He wants to forget; by this we note that he has not yet come to a place of forgiveness.

Ephraim is from a root meaning fruitful. Joseph had prospered in Egypt. He had a wife, children, and a position of great authority. This he wants to remember.

Jacob does not want to bless the forgetting over the fruitfulness, because it is when we recognize the blessing, the fruitfulness of our lives, that we walk in the healing that causes us to forgive and forget the pain, allowing us to echo Josephs words:

“And as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. Ro. 8:28-29).

Joseph then demonstrates this deep forgiveness:

“Now therefore do not fear; I will sustain you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spoke kindly unto them” (Gen. 50:21).

Joseph demonstrates the strength and forgetfulness of forgiveness by caring for and sustaining the very ones who inflicted harm upon him.

This is how Jacob blessed Joseph. He set the fruit of Joseph’s life under the right hand of strength, and the wounded desire to forget second. Jacob, the patriarch aids in his sons healing by showing Joseph the fruit that came from the pain.

Both Ephraim and Manasseh would become adopted sons of Jacob, and receive an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. Paul sees in Jacob’s prophetic words regarding Ephraim “and his seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Gen. 50:19) the fullness of gospel fruit among the nations, as he writes:

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Ro. 11:25).

“Hardness,” a healing callous, has come over Israel until the prophetic words of Jacob come to pass, when the fullness of the nations come to faith in Messiah. When blessed fruitfulness ripens on the vine of Yeshua/Jesus (Jn. 15:1-4).

Still, there is another clue that Paul is perhaps meditating on the blessing of adopted sons into the economy of God. What I’ve overlooked in years past is the reaction of the boys, Ephraim and Manasseh.

Ishmael, separated and put out by Abraham, is understandably distraught. Esau weeps and wails before Isaac. The sons of Jacob wrestle and jockey for the advantaged position in the house. Yet, Ephraim and Manasseh remain silent. These were not boys, they were men; and in silent humility they receive the prophetic divine blessing of the patriarch. One does not boast or react negatively toward the other.

What does Paul say to the Roman congregation, “do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Ro. 11:18). What is Paul saying? Be humble. Receive the blessing of adoption as sons into God’s house with humility, and be part of His unfolding blessing to Abraham (Rev. 7:9).

How can we do that? Set the blessing of God, even during our tribulations, first, under the right hand of His might (Isa. 41:10); and allow Him to work the forgetfulness of forgiveness into the richness of His blessing, as we see in the life of Joseph (Mic. 7:18-20). Is it easy? Absolutely not. Yet, we set our faith on the Lord, and walk out the grace that we have received through His Son, as the Holy Spirit does the work of pressing and molding us into the image of the Son of God (Ro. 8:28-29).

Sometimes the depth of forgiveness surfaces when we walk it out, when the wounds are still fresh or as they heal beneath a callous. Trust Him. He knows what He is doing.

Be well. Shalom.

God Wrestling. To What End?

We read an intensely powerful family restoration in Genesis 44:18 – 45:14, as Judah approaches and Joseph reveals. It is, from a human perspective, an impossible reconciliation. Yet, from heaven’s perspective, it unfolded according to the Lord’s will.

Judah in Genesis 44:18 unknowing stands before his long lost brother Joseph. Lost, not by accident but plot; and he boldly pleads for the life of Benjamin.

Judah’s pleading reveals the depth of his own journey since that fateful day. Judah has lost sons. He knows what it is to be a grieving father; and through the journey of his own pain, he is able to take his prophesied place as leader of the brethren.

The journey of repentance is witnessed in Judah’s unwillingness to now cause Jacob pain, or as he says, “overwhelmed by anguish.” This is sharp departure from the Judah of seventeen years earlier, who, in anger and jealousy, proposed the sale of Joseph, “What advantage is it to us if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, instead of putting him to death with our own hands. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh” (Gen. 37:26-27).

Judah certainly did not seem to mind overwhelming his father with anguish when Joseph was the thorn in their side, the dreamer of dreams, and the tattletale. He had no difficulty deceiving his father with the blood stained coat.

Time and experience, under the hand of the sovereign Lord, have a way of changing us in the most dramatic of ways.

Yet, we see the hand of the Living God at work, even in the midst of deception, pain, jealousy and arrogance. Joseph was sent, not sold. Unbeknownst to him, a journey of years to save his family from a famine that would have destroyed them, and God’s promise to Abraham. He was sent to secure the vision of seven years of plenty and seven years of scarcity; and once this was secure, the Lord would reunite Joseph with Jacob and give them seventeen years of blessing.

The Lord used the breach, He ordained the restoration and He poured out the blessing.

Nevertheless, it started when Joseph was sent; as he says, “And now, do not be grieved nor displeased with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5).

How many of us have wondered about our lives, “How did I get here?” So often as we stand in our current circumstance the answer eludes us; but not God. In every twist, turn, up, down, right, wrong, He is and was there. When viewed through the lens of faith, He is leading us, even through the valley overshadowed by death, along those winding ways in life to the place He has prepared for us (Ps. 23; Jn. 14).

Beloved, we had to get here; but heaven’s perspective may not have yet reached ground level. As the psalmist writes, “The steps of a man (an upright, valiant man) are established by the Lord, and he delights in his way” (Ps. 37:23), and He does so to bring us exactly where He needed us to be.

Still: to what end? With all of the struggles we face, especially as the end of the age draws near, more and more followers of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus are facing indescribable trial. Let us not forget that He has sent us, just as Joseph was sent. In order to be in His harvest field.

We will have our own seasons of breaches, of restorations, and of blessing.

Being sent by Messiah is not an easy task. In some cases we are clearing the way for those coming behind us, and in others, we are finishing what has been started. Nevertheless, being sent by Messiah gives us the certainty that our current condition is not beyond His reach or repair: that we are not simply bounced around by random actions in life.

If I might encourage you: you have been sent, and you are moving exactly to where He desires you to be. On that journey there will be joy, there will be pain, but as with Joseph, it all serves His purpose. There will be times when we doubt that purpose, when it seems unclear to us; but we keep moving forward in faith (II Cor. 5:7).

Jacob wrestled with God. Joseph wrestled with God. Judah wrestled with God. You are the fruit of their wrestling and restoration, caught up in the prophetic harvest of God’s people in Messiah Yeshua. And it is to this end where we find the answer: Christ Himself (Ro. 10:4).

If you are wrestling, stay in the match, and He will bless you.

Be well. Shalom.

In the Water and the Bread

In the Water and the Bread

Joseph is freed from Egyptian bondage after Pharaoh has two disturbing dreams that are unable to be interpreted by Egyptian magicians (41:1-8). The cupbearer, having forgotten about young Joseph, is reminded of the interpretative aid provided by a young Hebrew (Gen. 41:12).

Joseph is then removed from prison. Washed, shaved, and placed in clothing appropriate to an audience with Pharaoh, Joseph says that “God will answer with peace for Pharaoh” (Gen. 41:16).

Both dreams of Pharaoh open in the same manner, “Behold, there he (Pharaoh) was standing by the Nile” (Gen. 41:1). The Nile was of such importance to Egyptian society that the ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote, ”Egypt was the gift of the Nile.” Meaning, that without the Nile, Egypt would likely not have be founded, or become the seat of power it was in the ancient world.

Still, there is another way of reading Genesis 41:1, revealing how Pharaoh viewed himself, and why the dreams were so disturbing to him. Genesis 41:1 can also be read:

וְהִנֵּה עֹמֵד עַל-הַיְאֹר

“Behold, there he (Pharaoh) was standing on (upon) the Nile.”

Some of the sages point out that the Hebrew preposition עַל/al is commonly used as a word to indicate location. To the Egyptians, the Nile was a gift from the gods; and with its annual deposits of nutrient rich silt, it was equated with life itself as the bringer of bread. The Egyptian god Hapi was believed to control this annual flood, and in some eras was considered the “father of the gods.” Yet, who stood upon (עֹמֵד עַל) the Nile in Pharaoh’s dream but Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh believed that he was the god of gods, the god of the Nile, and the god of life. Nevertheless, Pharaoh, as the god of gods, was unable to understand or control this impending doom.

Standing on (upon) the Nile he was powerless to control it, he could not stop the coming famine, as his sovereign divinity was the thing of dreams. How would people respond to such a lack in their god when the bread and the water ran out?

In the Gospels, we read the testimony of Yeshua/Jesus feeding 4000 and 5000 (+) people, the multiplied miracle of bread. In John 6:16-21, in the evening after Yeshua fed 5000, He withdrew to pray (Jn. 6:15), while the disciples departed by boat to Capernaum. As John writes, a great wind began to blow, creating rough seas (Jn. 6:18). They rowed against the wind and the waves. As they labored on in their journey, the see Yeshua approaching the boat, “walking on the sea” (Jn. 6:19).

Terrified by His appearance, he says, “I am. Do not be afraid” (Jn. 6:20). Here we see the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the I Am, walking upon the water, and as Mark writes, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (4:39). Jesus could not only walk upon the water, but He controlled the wind and the seas themselves.

Unlike Pharaoh, who stood upon the Nile in his dreams, but was powerless to control it, Yeshua walked upon, rescued Peter, and was able to calm the turbulent water. Not in a dream, but in creation itself. When the bread ran out, He increased it. When water was needed, He promised to be its supply (Jn. 7:37-39).

After the interpretation of his dream by Joseph, Pharaoh renames Joseph צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ/Zaphenath-paneah, a name whose meaning has been subject of great speculation. Several scholars, even some sages, have speculated that Joseph’s Egyptian name could be rendered: he who is called Anakh, he who is called life, or the breath of life.

Joseph is just one of the many typological figures of Yeshua/Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures, and when the false god Pharaoh was powerless to save his people, he beholds a young Hebrew boy who: was loved by his father, and clothed by him; sent to his brethren who hated, envied, and mocked him; conspired against him, stripped him, and ultimately handed him over to gentiles. He was placed in a pit, but rises; he is placed in prison, counted among the sinners, but he is raised from the dungeon to the king’s house. He ruled, prepared, fed, delivered, ultimately he was revealed, and restored to his brethren.

And when Pharaoh looked upon Joseph he said: “he who is called life.” Pharaoh inadvertently admitted that he was not the god of gods, the god of the Nile, or the god of life. No, there was another, someone greater.

Dear reader, in Joseph we see a typological figure of Messiah. In Pharaoh, a typological figure of false gods and idols. Pharaoh looked upon the Hebrew youth, and saw a life. We look upon the One Joseph pointed to, and see: The Life.

Upon your turbulence, and into your lack, He is the supply, because He is the life (Jn. 14:6; cf. Phil. 4:19).

Be well. Shalom. Hanukkah Sameach.