The Betrayal of Mashiach ben Yosef

The story of Joseph's betrayal to Egypt is the most profoundly prophetic story in the Bible.Even as long ago as the first century, synagogues were well ordered places of worship, learning, and ancient tradition. There were rules about which direction the building should face, how the interiors should be arranged, and even what could be done with the land if a newer synagogue were to be constructed. The conduct of services was flexible, but only within certain bounds. The Scripture readings were on a set schedule and the readers were chosen well in advance.

Wherever Yeshua happened to be in his travels, he went to the local synagogue (or to the Temple if he was in Jerusalem) on the Sabbath. In Luke 4:16-30 he was visiting his home town of Nazareth and, being there on the Sabbath, he attended synagogue with his family and old neighbors. I think he must have been expected, because when he stood to read, the ruler of the synagogue had the scroll of Isaiah brought to him. It’s even possible that Yeshua had come to Nazareth because he was scheduled to read on that day.

Luke summarized what Yeshua read:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19)

I’m sure he read more than this, especially since these words aren’t a single passage from Isaiah, but a paraphrase of at least two–possibly three–different parts of the scroll. Likewise, I’m sure Luke paraphrased Yeshua’s commentary:

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
(Luke 4:20-22)

Essentially, Yeshua preached the Gospel in his home town: the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. His message seemed to be well received, and why shouldn’t it be? It was a message of hope that they had all been waiting for. Here was a man of their own village telling them that the promised redemption of Israel had come, that the oppressed were about to be set free and the blind to gain sight!

But there was more brewing beneath the surface than their flattering words revealed. The people of Nazareth were like the stony ground on which the seed fell and sprouted only to die under the hot sun because it had no roots. Their hearts were hard, and Yeshua knew that his message wouldn’t find lasting purchase there. He knew that their thoughts would soon turn to his ministry abroad in Israel and his long absence from home, and he interrupted them before the thought had congealed in their minds:

And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘”Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'”
(Luke 4:23)

The saying, “Physician, heal yourself,” didn’t mean to them what it usually means when people use it now. We use those words today to point out the hypocrisy of one person who tells another how to fix a problem that the first person also has and is unable to fix himself. In ancient Judea, the phrase meant something like “Why are you out solving the world’s problems when we have more than enough to worry about right here at home?” It isn’t about hypocrisy, but about prioritizing your own friends and family before strangers.

Unfortunately, because of their hard hearts and their disbelief that one of their own could be the Messiah, Yeshua’s friends and extended family were unable to receive him.

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.”
(Luke 4:24)

It’s interesting that the people of Nazareth asked one another, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” Indeed, this was the man who had grown up in the house of Joseph of Nazareth, but he was the son of Joseph in a much more profound sense.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s certainly worth repeating. Ancient Jewish thought expected two messiahs: Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph), who would suffer and die for his people, and Mashiach ben David (Messiah ben David), who would avenge the death of the former and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. (See this article from Hebrew 4 Christians for a a more detailed explanation and a truly astonishing list of parallels between Yeshua (Jesus) and Yosef (Joseph): Mashiach ben Yosef). They had the basic idea right, but they didn’t realize that the two Messiahs were actually a single man who would save them in two ways.

When Joseph was a boy, he told his brothers about a dream he had in which they all bowed to him. Like Yeshua, he was rejected and betrayed by his own, sold to a band of foreigners for a bag of silver, and stripped of his clothing. Unlike Yeshua, however, Joseph didn’t understand the purpose of this at the time it happened. It was only many years later that he finally began to see the great plan that God was working through his life and suffering.

Joseph had been in prison for years, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, when Pharaoh called on him to interpret a dream. As God revealed the meaning of Pharaoh’s dream to Joseph, he also began to understand the meaning of the terrible events in his own life: the betrayal of his brothers, the years in slavery and in prison. He finally understood what Yeshua hinted at in that Synagogue almost 2000 years later: He had to be betrayed by his brothers in order to save them.

What would have happened if Joseph’s brothers had not sold him to the Ishmaelites and he had remained in Canaan? Maybe someone else would have had a dream like Pharaoh’s and maybe Joseph would have interpreted it, but his brothers would not have believed him. They would have laughed and scorned him instead of giving him the authority and power to act on the dream’s message. They wouldn’t have stored up grain during the seven good years, so there would have been no grain in the seven years of famine. If Joseph had not been betrayed, buried in a pit as if dead, and resurrected to glory in Pharaoh’s court, Egypt and Jacob would have perished from the earth together.

No Israel, no David, no Yeshua, no Salvation.

Now imagine what would have happened if Yeshua’s brothers had not betrayed him to Pilate. No prophet is ever accepted by his own people. They would have laughed and scorned him, just like Joseph’s brothers did.

Fortunately, God loves both Israel and the world.

Like Joseph, Yeshua had to be betrayed by his own people in order to save them, and God arranged circumstances so that it would happen. It was God’s will that Yeshua be rejected by the Jewish leaders and sold for a bag of silver to be stripped, humiliated, convicted, and executed for a crime he didn’t commit, buried in a pit, and resurrected again to glory, not in the court of Egypt, but in the court of Heaven. Without that betrayal, the world and Jacob would be eternally damned together.

Through the betrayal of Messiah Yeshua, son of Joseph, salvation and citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven has been made available to the whole world, thus paving the way for Messiah Yeshua, son of David, to one day set up his kingdom on Earth.

But none of this works if those whom Yeshua has saved do nothing to provoke Jacob to jealousy. If our faith doesn’t change us, doesn’t bring us to do good works in the King’s name, then what good is it? Kings have laws or else their kingship has no point. If our faith in the Gospel that Yeshua preached and paid for doesn’t radically inform our daily lives, our conversation, our politics…then to what king have we really pledged allegiance? If there is no bread in Egypt for Jacob to desire, why should he send his sons there at all?

Our responsibility as adopted children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is to sow seed, to raise up a crop of obedience, worship, and love that bears fruit a thousand fold. Only then will the natural sons of Jacob see any point in seeking salvation in the Son of Joseph.

Angels Watching Over You

God opens the gates of heaven and sends his angels to watch over those who trust in Him

When Jacob was first setting out for Haran to find a wife and escape from Esau, he had a vision of heaven opening up and angels ascending and descending by way of a ladder. God said to him,

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
(Genesis 28:15)

“This is the House of God and the Gates of Heaven,” Jacob said, and set up a pillar to mark the place.

God promised to watch over Jacob while in exile and to bring him back to the Promised Land safely. He spent the next fourteen years in Laban’s employ and, during that time, he was tricked, betrayed, and cheated over and over. At some point he must have begun wondering what exactly God meant by his promise.

Yet Jacob prospered despite Laban’s constant attempts to cheat him. So much so that Laban’s sons accused him of cheating Laban instead of the other way around. When he had completed the seven years he had agreed to work in exchange for Rachel, he packed up his family and flocks while Laban was away and they headed for Canaan. Laban caught up with them on the way and tried to relcaim his daughters along with their children. If it were not for the intervention of God, Jacob might have lost everything again.

God fulfilled his promise to bring Jacob back from exile.

Over those many years of hard work, family struggles, and a couple of close calls, the angels that Jacob saw “ascending and descending” as he went into exile continued to come and go. They gates of heaven opened at the very beginning of Jacob’s journey and remained open until the end. During that time, the angels were kept busy arranging circumstances in Jacob’s favor, encouraging him, and turning defeat into victory and trials into gold.

Jacob’s life was pivotal in the history of the world. It was imperative to God’s plan that he marry Leah and Rachel and have twelve sons. This entire chapter of his life was both foundational and prophetic of the future of the people of Israel. Their repeated exiles from and returns to the land were all foreshadowed by Jacob’s, and God’s angels ensured it would all happen exactly as God intended no matter how confusing and frustrating it might have been for Jacob.

Many centuries later, Yeshua would meet a man named Nathanael and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47) An Israelite without guile reminded him of the time that Jacob spent working for Laban in Haran and he added,

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
(John 1:51)

The life of Yeshua was an even greater historic pivot than Jacob’s. And, like Jacob, God had promised to keep Yeshua during his time on earth until all that God had promised him was fulfilled. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Yeshua when he tempted him in the wilderness:

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

And he was right to apply this verse to Yeshua, but, as I’m sure he was aware, it didn’t apply in the plain, literal sense. God did watch over Yeshua to and sent his angels to keep him, but the purpose of God’s Providence wasn’t to give him a pain free life, but to ensure that his plan was carried out.

God’s plan required that Jacob be abused by Laban and that Yeshua be abused by his own people.

You have probably heard it said that if God puts you into hard times, then he will also see you through them, but this is only true if you understand “see you through them” from God’s perspective. He sees you through hard times so that you get to where he needs you to be. The place he needed Yeshua to be was on the cross. God will see you through to the end, but the end might not be where or what you might prefer.

Fortunately for all of us, Jacob’s labor in Laban’s pastures and Yeshua’s labor on the cross were not the end. Jacob returned to the Promised Land at the head of a new nation and Yeshua returned from the grave and ascended to Heaven at the head of a Kingdom unlike anything the world has ever seen.

God’s only requirement of both Jacob and Yeshua was sufficient faith to obey against all reason and comfort, to obey even unto death, but the return was a thousand fold and more.

All of the angelic forces of Heaven might not be focused on you and your life, but neither are they ignorant of you. God is watching you and keeping you. His angels do watch over you. Your life must contain suffering and hard labors because without them you would never grow into anything worthwhile, but for those whose trust in is God, all suffering works toward something much greater.

All that God requires of you is sufficient faith to obey against all reason and comfort, and for a great many people even today, that means even unto death.

Why Was Jacob Always Seeing Angels?

Why di d Jacob encounter so many angels?There are angels all over in Scripture. They guard people and places. They deliver messages. They execute judgment. They guide some travelers and hinder others.

But I think, of all the angelic encounters in the Bible, Jacob’s are perhaps the most mysterious.

When Jacob fled from his brother Esau after taking his blessing from their father, he camped at Beer-sheba Bethel and dreamed of angels coming and going from Heaven (Genesis 28:10-15). As he watched these angels busy on unknown errands, God said to him, “Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth… Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:14-15) Since Jacob was running for his life to a place he had never visited before across potentially dangerous territory, especially for a man alone, this must have been very encouraging. He traveled from that place to Haran where he served Laban for fourteen years, was cheated out of wages but still came out ahead, fathered at least 11 children, and became very wealthy.

Many years later, traveling back to the Promised Land from Haran, Jacob again encountered a large number of angels, this time at a place he called Mahanaim (Genesis 32:1-2). He saw them and exclaimed, “This is God’s army!” Jacob didn’t interact with them or with God, at least not right away, but he was reminded that the last time he saw angels, he had been running from Esau. This time he was headed back to Canaan where Esau was still waiting. Although many years had past, we all know that some grudges remain hot long after the original cause.

Hoping to cool Esau’s anger, Jacob sent his own angels (Hebrew melek in verse 3, the same word used for angels in verse 1) ahead with liberal gifts. When he heard that Esau was coming to meet him, he reminded God of His promise so long ago and pointed out that his offspring weren’t yet like the dust of the earth, so shouldn’t God still be watching over him?

What Jacob might not have realized was that there wasn’t anything particularly special about Mahanaim except that it’s the place where God momentarily opened his eyes. Those angels weren’t permanently camped there. They had surrounded Jacob at Beer-Sheba and stayed with him all through the years. They were always there, even when he couldn’t see them. God had great plans for Jacob and He wasn’t about to let anything interfere with those plans. Even though Jacob couldn’t see them except once every few decades, they never left his side. They couldn’t abandon him to Esau anymore than God can break a promise.

Here’s the best news of all: God has a plan for everyone, and He sends His angels to make sure those plans are carried out. Now, I can’t promise you that you’ll like whatever God has in store for you. Jacob suffered quite a bit over the years. Having a destiny doesn’t mean having a life of ease. It might even mean suffering and dying a terrible, painful death. I know that doesn’t sound encouraging, but it should. If your trust is in God, then whatever you suffer in His service now will be reversed ten fold later, whether in this life or in the life to come.

On the other hand, if your trust is in something else, this ought to be the furthest thing from a comfort. Remember the angel that blocked Balaam’s path. He had set out to curse Israel. God not only turned his curses into blessing, but ensured that Balaam eventually met a violent and shameful end, and there was no counterbalancing reward waiting for him on the other side of death, but rather the lake of fire.

God’s promises are sure, His plans unchangeable. Don’t be on the wrong side of them.

There are angels all around us all the time, carrying messages, executing judgment, standing guard. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Trust in God and believe in His Providence, for there is an angelic army on your side.

Truly, if God is for us, who can possibly be against us?