"and he sent"
Have you ever been afraid of something or someone? Ever run from trouble only to find that sooner or later you had to turn and confront what you were afraid of? Ever spent any sleepless nights worrying about things you were afraid of? If so, you are in some really good company - and this company can teach us a lot about facing our fears.
There are many men in the history of Isra’el that I admire and respect. One in particular is Shim’on Kepha, one of the Messiah’s original twelve talmidim. Being from the Galil of the Nations, Kepha was a fishermen when the Messiah called him and his brother Andri to, Follow Him and He would make them fisher’s of men.Matt.4.19 Kepha’s life changed dramatically after this.
As he and the others traveled with the Messiah, they were amazed as the authority and wisdom the Messiah taught with; the parables He told and the Scriptures He explained for them. He had been there on the day the Messiah had taken five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand men, besides the women and children. He had witnessed how, after everyone had eaten and been filled, they collected twelve baskets filled with leftovers.Matt.14.19-21
As evening approached, the Messiah dismissed the crowds, told the talmidim to sail across the Galil to the other side and He went into the mountains to pray. As the boat they were sailing in reached the middle of the sea and the waves were striking them, they looked up to see Y’hoshua walking on the sea. At first they cried out, thinking they were seeing a phantom, until the Messiah called to them to take courage, it was Him, and not to be afraid. Kepha, still not sure, called out, Master, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. Kepha wasn’t doubting the power and the authority of the Messiah, he just wasn’t sure who he was seeing out on the water in the middle of the storm that night.
When Messiah said, Come, Kepha got out of the boat - but did he know at this time the Man he was seeing was the Messiah? Kepha had simply said, IF it is You, command Me to come to You on the water. The only response he got was Come. Not, Yes, Kepha this is Me. Trust Me - just Come. For Kepha, the proof wasn’t in the command to come, but in what would happen once he stepped out in faith and left the boat. It was when he actually started walking on the water that he knew the One he had seen that night was the Messiah and he started toward Him - until he saw how strong the wind was. Once he saw the strength of the wind, he began to sink and called out to Who he now knew was the Messiah, saying, Master, save me!
Of course, the Messiah responded immediately. He stretched out His hand and took hold of him. Now Kepha was standing on the water, not sinking, in the middle of a storm with the Messiah. I can only imagine the amazement as Kepha looked around, saw that he was actually walking on the water. And then he heard the Messiah’s voice, O you of little belief, why did you doubt?Matt. 14.23-32 What would have happened had Kepha not doubted? Would they have walked on the water all the way to Gennesar together? Would the others have gotten out of the boat and joined them?
Some time later, as they were traveling to Caesarea Philippi, the Messiah asked the talmidim who men said He was and then asked them who they said He was. Kepha responded, You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living Elohim.Matt. 16.16 The Messiah explained that this confession would be the foundation He would build His assembly on and the gates of She’ol would not overcome it.vs.18
After this the Messiah began explaining to them how it would be necessary for Him to go to Yerushalayim, to suffer and be killed and to be raised again on the third day. Kepha took Him aside and rebuked Him. He told the Messiah, Be kind to Yourself - he knew the Messiah had the power and authority to prevent them from killing Him - Master, this shall not be to You. The Messiah’s response must have come as a shock to Kepha when he heard the Messiah saying, Get behind Me, ha’satan! You are a stumbling-block to Me, for your thoughts are not those of Elohim, but those of men!Matt.16.21-23
Then, six days later, the Messiah took him, Ya’akov and Yochanan upon a high mountain by themselves and they saw the Messiah transformed before them. Next they saw Mosheh and Eliyahu talking with the Messiah and Kepha offered to build three booths for them. Then they heard a Voice coming out of the cloud that overshadowed them saying, This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I delight. Hear Him!Matt. 17.1-9
In Mattityahu’s account the Messiah explained what they saw was in a vision, but neither Luqas or Marqos records it as a vision. The point is what they saw and the Voice they heard.
There are many more instances in Kepha’s life we could study, but then came the night after their last Passover meal with Y’hoshua. As they went out to Gan Gethsemane to pray, the Messiah told them, All of you shall stumble in Me this night, for it has been written, ‘I shall strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered’.Zekaryah 13.7 But after I have been raised, I shall go before you into Galil. And Kepha answering, said to Him, ‘Even if all stumble in You, I shall never stumble.’ With what I am sure was a great sadness, the Messiah had to tell Kepha, Truly, I say to you that this night, before the cock crows, you shall deny Me three times. But Kepha would have none of this. He told Y’hoshua, Even if I have to die with You, I shall not deny You!” All the taught ones said the same thing.Matt. 26.30-35
Most of you know the rest of the story; if not, let me encourage you to read it. As they arrived in Gethsemane, Kepha and the others couldn’t even stay awake to pray, even after being told what was about to happen. Later, as the angry mob seized the Messiah to arrest Him, one of the talmidim - whom Yochanan identifies as KephaYn.18.11 - drew his sword and struck the kohen gadol’s servant, cutting off his ear. Y’hoshua refused to allow them to fight for Him and He was taken away to Qayapha.
Kepha followed and, as he watched the proceedings against his Master, did in fact deny he even knew the Messiah three times before the sun rose. Fear. Shame. Kepha came to know both that night, until he met the Messiah again after His resurrection.
As the Messiah was having breakfast with the talmidim in the days following His resurrection, He asked Kepha three times, Shim’on, son of Yonah, do you love Me more than these? Each time Kepha answered, yes, he did, and each time the Messiah told him, to feed His Lambs, shepherd His sheep and feed His sheep.
On the next Shavu’ot, Kepha stood before all the men on the Temple Mount and declared the truth concerning the Messiah and what they were witnessing that morning. Kepha overcame his fear, same and ego and spent the rest of his life doing what the Messiah had asked of him.
In this week’s par’sha we review the life of another man who allowed fear to dictate much of what he did in his life - up until a point. Our par’sha this week in entitled V’yislach - meaning and he sent - and is a reference to the servants sent ahead of his camp to find out what his brother was doing. It spans B’reshith 32.3 through 36.43, although the story actually began much earlier - as Ya’akov deceived his father and received the blessing of the first born.
He had fled the land and traveled to Paddan Aram and his mother’s family. There he was tricked into marrying Leah and then married Rachel. Eleven sons and one daughter were born to him in Paddan Aram as Ya’akov suffered in the heat by day and the frost by night. He had lost sheep, had been forced to replace Laban’s sheep that were stolen or killed by animal with those from his own flocks and in the twenty years he worked for Laban, had allowed his father-in-law to change his wages ten times. All because he had been afraid of Laban - afraid he would take his daughters away from him. He also told Laban that had it not been for the Elohim of Avraham and Laban’s fear of his father Yitz’chaq, Laban would have sent him away empty-handed.
Now, in this week’s par’sha, Ya’akov and his family are camped at Macha’nayim and his messengers have been sent to Esau, but they returned with disturbing news. Esau was coming with four hundred men and in B’reshith 32.7 we are told, And Ya’akov was greatly afraid and distressed. After twenty-two years in exile from the land, he was now about to face one of his greatest fears: his brother’s promise to kill him.
Ya’akov devised an elaborate plan; dividing his family into two groups and sending waves of livestock as gifts in an effort to appease his brother. In his prayer, however, Ya’akov reveals his heart. He prayed to Y-H-V-H, I do not deserve the least of all the loving-commitment and all the truth which You have shown Your servant, for I passed over this Yarden with my staff, and now I have become two groups. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, lest he come and shall strike me and the mother with the children.32.10-11 What we find in the course of the next few verses is that Y-H-V-H delivered him from much more than just the hand of his brother.
Before I go any further I must acknowledge a debt of gratitude to our elder, Dale Harrell. For quite some time now he has been steadfast in his belief that as Ya’akov put his family across the Yabboq and remained alone on the opposite side, Ya’akov was not preparing to flee once again. He has consistently held that there was another reason and now I may also see another side to this story.
Beginning in B’reshith 32.21 we find that the present passed over before him, but he himself spent the night in the camp. He rose up that night and took his two wives, and his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of Yabboq. Then, in verse twenty-three we find that he took them and sent them over the stream, and sent over what he had. And Ya’akov was left alone - but on which side of the stream? He had taken his wives and children across the ford in the Yabboq but in verse twenty-three he took them and sent them over the stream and sent over what he had. Had they crossed two streams, or had they crossed over the stream once and then Ya’akov and sent his family and possessions back across the stream so that he was left alone - not to run, but to face his brother?
If so, what we see happening is that before Y-H-V-H delivered Ya’akov from the hand of his brother, He first delivered him from his fear of his brother. Consider what happened next.
As Ya’akov sat alone, not fleeing or crying out, a Man wrestled with him until the break of day. And when this Man saw He did not overcome him, He touched the socket of his hip And the socket of Ya’akov’s hip was dislocated as He wrestled with him. It is interesting that this verse is translated that when this Man, whom many believe as I do that this was the Messiah, saw He did not overcome him - not that He could not overcome him, he touched the socket of his hip. It would have been no problem for any messenger of Elohim, much less His Son, to have overcome any mortal man, but that isn’t all.
Even with his hip dislocated, Ya’akov refused to let go of this Man until He blessed him. It seems that Ya’akov was through being afraid and through with running from trouble. He was learning to strive with men and with Elohim and he was seeing for perhaps the first time in his life that he could overcome fears and troubles. Not only that, even if he was made weaker in some way, he could still overcome when Elohim was with him.
Twenty-two years earlier Ya’akov had made a promise, a covenant with Elohim. He had said, When (if) I have returned to my father’s house in peace, and Y-H-V-H has been my Elohim, then this stone which I have set as a standing column shall be Elohim’s house, and of all that You give me, I shall certainly give a tenth to You.B’reshith 28.21-22
The Man may not have been there to prevent Ya’akov from running away yet again, He may well have come to help Ya’akov fulfill his covenant with Elohim and to show Ya’akov that Elohim was with him and he had nothing to fear.
This isn’t to say that Ya’akov may not have been tempted to run, but the fact that was left alone and didn’t run indicates a change in him. This change in him that can be seen later that morning. In chapter thirty-three we read, And Ya’akov lifted his eyes and looked and saw Esau coming, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants (not two camps as he had originally planned). And he put the female servants and their children in front, and Leah and her children behind and Rachel and Yoseph last. And he passed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Many believe he was bowing before Esau seven times, but could it be that when he bowed himself to the ground seven times until he can near his brother, he was bowing in thanks before Elohim for delivering him from his fear and knew Elohim had also delivered him from Esau as well? Did he already know what Melek Da’vid would write generations later, Y-H-V-h is on my side; I do not fear what man does to me!T’hillim 118.6 When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For You are with me, Your rod and Your staff, the comfort me.T’hillim 23.4
In this afternoon’s study we will exam another traditional teaching in this par’sha to see if there is more lessons there as well - or at least a different perspective in which to see the events that took place. But for now, what is the message we learn from Ya’akov’s wrestling with this Man, whom he earnestly believes was Y-H-V-H?
Remember that the Messiah taught His followers many years later as He sojourned among us as a Man?
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the being (soul). But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both being (soul) and body in GeHinnon. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground without your Father…So do not fear, you are worth more than many sparrows. Mattityahu 10.28-31
I am with you always, until the end of this age.Matt.28.20
This world is filled with fears, troubles, dangers, anxiety and worries, but our Messiah invites us to come out of this world. He invites us to lay our cares and our burdens on Him and walk without fear, knowing He is with us.
We would be foolish not to learn from the lives and experiences of those who have lived before, whose lives are recorded in the Tanakh and the Second Writings. We serve the same Elohim Who loves us with the same love and compassion as He loved our forefathers. Only our adversary wants us to believe differently.
So be encouraged - and the next time some causes you to fear, remember who you are, who you serve and who you stand before.
14 Kislev 5775
6 December 2014