VAYIGASH | WEEK 11
By Marty Goetz
Gen 44:18 – 47:27
Sometimes we cannot clearly see what is right before our eyes. My wife, Jennifer, often reminds me of this fact, remarking on my remarkable inability to find something for which I am looking, even when it’s directly in front of me.
In that vein, I’m reminded that, years ago, computer generated 3D pictures were the newest ‘thing.’ They looked, to the naked eye, like random, colorful designs. However, if you could crack the ‘ocular code,’ you could see the image hidden inside. I remember first seeing some of them at an outdoor arts fair in California. People ‘oohed and aahed’ in amazement at these mazes of color, transfigured, as they intently stared, into depictions of all kinds of objects, animate and inanimate. Try as I might—gazing on these things until my head hurt—I could see nothing resembling anything!
Finally, someone advised me to look through—not at—the picture. Somehow I was able to follow that advice, adjust my vision and—VOILA—the 3D image miraculously appeared! I was so excited—and relieved—and, from that moment on, I could see what had previously been invisible to me.
In our Torah reading, ‘Vayigash,’ we find some men, who, like me with those 3D pictures, were having trouble seeing what was right before their eyes.
The men I mention are the brothers of Joseph; the same brothers who, years before, out of jealousy and hatred, had tried to get rid of him.
Anyone familiar with Joseph’s story from the First book of Moses, ‘Bereshit,’—(In the Beginning)—called ‘Genesis’ in English, knows the saga of this young man.
Joseph is ‘the dreamer,’ the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob, his aging father; the boy in ‘the technicolor dreamcoat,’ who tells of ‘sheaves and planets and stars’ (representing his family members), bowing down to him.
For his youthful arrogance and the favoritism he receives from his father, he is despised by his brothers, stripped of his coat of many colors, cast into a pit and, eventually sold into slavery in Egypt. His garment is covered in blood to make it appear that he has been killed by wild animals.
The favor upon Joseph, though, continues, as he serves in the house of Potiphar, a high Egyptian official. However, a false rape charge brought against him, even as he resists the continual advances of Potiphar’s wife, lands him in prison.
The teenager becomes a full-grown adult while imprisoned. The ‘dreamer’ becomes the ‘interpreter of dreams,’ the dreams of his fellow prisoners and then those of Pharaoh himself. The psalmist summarizes beautifully what happens next:
‘Moreover He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass. The word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him. The ruler of the people let him go free. He made him Lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, To bind his princes at his pleasure, And teach his elders wisdom.’ (Psalm 105: 16-22)
The ‘testing’ of Joseph transforms him. His deliverance comes at a time of great famine in the known world. The ‘dreamer’ becomes a ‘redeemer,’ a kind of savior for the suffering people; second in command only to Pharoah; administrator of all of the resources of Egypt.
It is to this man who has gone from ‘the pit to the palace,’ from ‘a slave to a sovereign,’ that the sons of Jacob come for help and, after a series of events orchestrated by Joseph to ‘test’ them, they find themselves before this ‘prince of Egypt.’ The scripture tells us: ‘When Judah and his brothers…entered the house of Joseph…they threw themselves on the ground before him.’ (Genesis 44:14)
As we pick up our story at Genesis 44:18, there is much that merits our attention. For our purposes, however, I’d like to focus on the title of our parsha: ‘Vayigash,’ meaning, ‘and he approached’…or…’and he drew near.’
Specifically, it refers to the entreaties of Judah, one of the sons of Jacob who ‘draws near’ to Joseph, begging to be enslaved in place of the youngest brother, Benjamin. (The background for this event is detailed in the previous Torah reading.) Judah’s pleadings are on behalf of his father, who has grieved for many years, believing Joseph to be dead.
So impassioned are this brother’s appeals that ‘Joseph could not restrain himself…and he wept aloud…’ (Gen.45:1+2)
‘Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph…But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life…So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Gen. 3,4,5…8)
The rest of the parsha is punctuated by some of the highest drama in scripture:
‘Thus says…Joseph: “God has made me Lord of all Egypt; come down to me…I will provide for you…”’
‘Moreover he (Joseph) kissed all his brothers and wept over them…’
‘And they told him (Jacob) saying, “Joseph is still alive…and he is governor over all the land of Egypt.” And Jacob’s heart stood still, because he did not believe them. Then Israel said,…”Joseph my son is still alive. I will go see him…” (Gen.45:9, 15, 26+28)
Our Torah portion concludes with the settling of Joseph’s brothers and their families in the land of Goshen, the touching reunion of a father and his long, lost son and the ‘genesis’ of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt; a family will grow into a people and, eventually, upon the ‘exodus’ from Egypt, become a nation.
‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose’ reads Romans 8:28, one of the Bible’s most cherished verses.
Nowhere is this more true than in the story of Joseph and his family.
His brothers, burdened all their lives with the memory of what they had done to Joseph so many years before, could never have imagined they would see him again, be forgiven and be received as his honored and welcomed guests. (They certainly would not have fathomed that the tribes of a great and eternal nation would be named after them!)
But the events of this story turned on one man who ‘drew near,’ interceding for a heartbroken father.
Are we not called to do the same on behalf of our Father in Heaven, whose heart has always been broken for His ‘lost sons’—(and daughters).
And is not Joseph a fitting picture of our Lord, Yeshua, Jesus?
Like Joseph, the Messiah—whom all of the family of Israel will, one day, bow down and worship—was not, for the most part, received by His brethren. (John 1:11)
He was ‘despised and rejected by men…and we hid,as it were, our faces from Him’; His blood remains as a witness of what He suffered.
As was Joseph, ‘He was taken from prison and from judgment…For He was cut off from the land of the living…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.’ (Is.53:3,8,10)
When Joseph was, in a figure, ‘resurrected’ from his captivity, his identity was hidden from his brothers. (They did, however, as Joseph had dreamed, bow down before him.) Still, they did not recognize the man right in front of them, clothed in the garb of Egyptian royalty. Similarly, though Yeshua is risen from the dead and sits on His exalted throne at the right hand of His Father, the eyes of many of my brethren (the Jewish people), are blinded when they look at Jesus, whom they perceive to be the ‘God of the Christians’; they fail to see ‘through’ the One before them to behold the clear image of their Messiah, the Holy One of Israel!’ (Heb. 1:1-3)
But one day they will: ‘And I will pour on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on (Him) whom they have pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for His only son…’. (Zech. 12:10)
‘…blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…’ (Romans 11:25+26)
Yeshua will, indeed, reveal Himself to Israel, as Joseph revealed himself to his brethren.
(I’m reminded of how Saul of Tarsus, on the road to Damascus to persecute believers, saw a great light and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul,…I am Yeshua whom you are persecuting.”). (Acts 9:5)
Surely, it was the grace of God that allowed Joseph to go into Egypt—though it may not have felt like ‘grace’ to him—ascending to power in order to preserve his own. In the same way, Yeshua has become ‘the head of the church,’ witnessed to by ‘the nations’ until the time of Israel’s full recognition of Him, leading to reconciliation with Him.
The dreams of Joseph will, in Messiah, be fulfilled, as they were in the courts of Egypt; for ‘every knee (shall) bow…and every tongue (will) confess that Yeshua is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Phil.2:10+11)
‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’ is a promise to all, both Jew and non-Jew alike. (James 4:8)
As we ponder the lessons of ‘Vayigash,’ may we have the heart of Judah in intercession on behalf of our Father, for the good of our brothers (and sisters); may the vision of our Jewish brethren ‘be adjusted’ to see Yeshua; may the ‘hidden’ Messiah be revealed as the Lord who loved them and gave His life for them; may all who ‘call upon the Name of the Lord,’ be saved; may we who are sometimes ‘foolish…and slow…to believe’ have our eyes opened to better know Him as we abide with Him. (Rom.10:13)(Luke24.29,31)
The VOILA of my 3D picture moment will pale in the light of the return of the Lord: ‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who have pierced Him.’ (Rev.1:7)
So, my friends—even if you have to keep staring until you see His image clearly—‘LOOK UP, for your redemption draws nigh!’ (Luke 21:28)
Amen. Even so, come, Lord YESHUA! (Rev. 22:20)
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About the Author
Emmy nominated, Marty Goetz has been called a ‘Modern Day Psalmist.’ His songs are scriptures beautifully set to music, leaving listeners spiritually moved, inspired and edified. He has partnered in ministry with many others, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship, Jewish Voice Ministries International, and numerous Christian and Messianic organizations throughout the world.
Marty became a ‘Jew born anew’ when, provoked by the increasing number of ‘born agains’ in his life, he began reading the Bible, “looking for loopholes.” A few short weeks later, sitting alone one night on a friend’s balcony, he realized with certainty that “the Jesus of the New Testament was the Messiah my Jewish people have been longing for.”
Marty has been recording music steadily since 1985, and today lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife Jennifer, who also is a Jewish believer in Jesus. Their daughter, Misha, herself a worship leader and recording artist, resides in Nashville as well along with her husband Joshua and their son Caleb Vincent Hoyt.
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