The Biblical account of Joseph and his brothers is one that echoes in the hearts and minds of all who are awakening to the Hebraic roots of the Messianic faith. While there are many similarities between Joseph and Messiah Yeshua, Joseph’s story is also one that we can relate to on a personal level. The trials of Joseph are our trials, but so are his victories. Today, we find ourselves somewhere between his dream (our awakening) and his ascent to the position of being a blessing to all the nations (our destination). Like Joseph, we must walk in faith and move forward, as God directs our steps, especially when things get difficult.
For too long we have been stuck. Stalled on our path, while often believing we are moving forward. It has been about 20 years since our family began to explore the Hebraic roots of our faith. Over that time, I have had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people, and working with some incredible leaders and teachers. Much of my effort has been focused on helping people begin and build local assemblies, including the one where I have spent most Sabbaths since 1994, LAMB Fellowship. I have watched too many groups implode and others stall. Often this is in reaction to some eminent threat. Time and energy are then poured into the situation, but rarely is any true progress made. The fire may be put out, but the coals are still red hot. It is a bit like we have been playing musical chairs on the Titanic. Just like the folks on that ship, we have incorrectly assessed our surroundings.
Like Joseph, we have been in a pit. In some ways our brothers have placed us there, but the responsibility is really our own. Our arrogance and pride helped to place us in a pit of our own making. Some around us, including Satan, would like to keep us in the pit. This time, we must rely on our Deliverer to pull us out. We need to realize what He has called us to do, for we are to serve Him, not some big shot in Egypt.
What pit? The pit I speak of is our own assembly. Oh it is not a horrible place, like where Joseph was, but it is a pit none the less. It has been dressed up, remodeled, and even reinforced, but yet we find ourselves in basically the same place we were 3, 5, or 10 years ago. In many ways, we dig the pit with our own hands. Our scratching and clawing for knowledge and “truth” has dug a hole that we now find ourselves encased by.
Here is an example. A few months ago, before the fall feasts, a congregational leader called me to get advice about Sukkot. His dilemma was concerning when to keep Sukkot. Within his local assembly there were 3 different factions of people, who all were convinced they had the “truth” regarding when to keep the feast. Despite his best efforts to bring unity, he was unable to do so. The disappointing part, for him, was that he had labored for five years to build a local assembly that now had around 65 people attending regularly. He felt the Father wanted them all to enjoy Sukkot together. Unfortunately, the acrimony over the “truth” had created hard feelings and now there would be 3 different feast sites – each with about twenty people. His concern was not about the number of people, but about the division. He felt they were back where they had started five years ago. He had unknowingly spent 5 years in the same pit and know was considering just “giving up.”
This is one example of many I could report; some with other assemblies, and some involving our local community. In many Messianic assemblies today, there is a dangerous pattern that basically involves redecorating the same pit, over and over again. We are so close to it, we cannot see it. Yes, some remodeling has occurred, but we are stuck in the pit. It is time for us to be delivered from the pit and start running on dry ground. Our way out is to take hold of our calling as the spiritual and physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and allow that vision to pull us up. It is indeed time to look up and get out of the pit.
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes” (Gen 46:2-4).
Today, there are many running around the Messianic movement uttering ridiculous “prophetic” proclamations, and many more believing them – hook, line, and sinker as they sink lower into their pit. They are operating and manipulating from fear rather than faith. Fear paralyzes, faith empowers. Fear keeps you in the pit. Faith is our way out. I believe it was the faith of Abraham, unleashed within the DNA of Joseph, that provided his means of deliverance out of the pit. It is ours as well.
Let’s be a bit more specific.
"I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you. "And the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I will give it to you, And I will give the land to your descendants after you" (Gen 35: 11-12).
The above Biblical prophecy is either true or a lie. I believe it is true. Now add Galatians 3:29 to the above verse, “And if you belong to Messiah Yeshua, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.” I am going to assume that most people attending Messianic assemblies “belong to Messiah Yeshua.” That being the assumption, then we share a calling – to be a “company of nations” with kings and a land – eretz Israel.
Our Adversary is smart. He has used our zeal for the Kingdom against us. Our zeal has allowed us to make knowledgeable, truthful, comfortable, pits. For many years we have been running around our pits, wearing ourselves out, and those around us. We have been shouting, “Christmas is a lie,” “I’m a Jew follow me,” “I am Israel, get out of my way,” “Easter is pagan,” “Sabbath is Saturday,” “His Name is Yahushua,” “One law, two law,” etc. While our proclamations may be true, where have they gotten us? More importantly, what impact have they had on His people, including our own children and grandchildren? It is time to put the Adversary under our feet and move from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil onto the tree of life.
We are known by what we do, not what we believe. Our lives, and our assemblies, should be fruitful, not fearful. When is the last time you heard of a great Messianic soup kitchen that was feeding hundreds of hungry people each week? How many Torah assemblies are taking care of widows and orphans? How about a dynamic Hebraic roots evangelistic ministry that is changing people’s lives? Is the Messianic world known for any of these things? When I ask the next generation what we are known for, I hear, “infighting, mud-slinging, and general mayhem.” That is what they have seen. A young man once told me that his family had been to 17 fellowships, and could not find one they liked. I am sorry, but that is not good enough. We can do better. It is time for a change of priorities. When we have the courage to change what we do, we will have the opportunity to change our legacy.
Too often, we keep doing what we‘ve been doing, fully expecting a different result. Fear keeps us paralyzed, even though we are moving. However, we are only running in place. After all, you can only run so far in a pit. We have grown fearful of Egypt rather than striving to bring the good news of Yeshua and His Torah to the Nations. Joseph was smart. He used the existing infrastructure and resources within Egypt to bring salvation to the nations. We do not have to tear down what exists around us. Let’s be smarter than that and use what is there for His good pleasure. We can do this.
When you spend time with people, even those you love, in tight quarters, there is going to be friction. Sooner or later people will devour one another. Ego, pride, and territorial disputes seem to trump the fruit of the Spirit. When we focus on each other, rather than His calling, we crack under the pressure. Over the last twenty years I have been in spirited debates about deep meaningful issues such as music styles, lighting, the color of paint, dance garments, the length of dress hems, sugar usage, and yes, even the dreaded, “is tuna kosher controversy.” I cannot tell you how many hours I have invested in these deep theological discussions. I can tell you, those days are over for me. I am out of the pit.
Let us muster the courage to change our legacy. A four hour Torah “midrash” filled with people whose marriages are failing is not what we need. Ministries that are trying to build their own personal kingdoms are not beneficial. Worship leaders who enjoy being worshiped will not cut it. Fellowships that are more focused on truth than love, will not last. Assemblies that struggle to attract, and retain young families, will not grow. Our Father expects more. We should expect more too. Let’s take the knowledge and wisdom we have gained, and move forward in significant ways. It will take courage to make the change.
Today, there are thousands of Messianic/Hebraic roots assemblies across the planet. Typically, they are small and under-financed. Their human and capital resources are stretched. They meet each week to study the Word and have some fellowship. Week in and week out, the study goes on and on. But when is it applied? When are they able to walk in the blessing of Israel, by blessing the nations? Their limited size and resources make them feel unable to reach out, so their focus remains internal. This internal focus leads to a list of issues, and ultimately, divisive disputes.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to reach out in every community. Yes, you might have to rub elbows with some “unclean” people. You will have to put forth some meaningful effort and real sacrifice. Wow, this sounds like what Yeshua did, for the pit could not hold Him. There are opportunities all around us, all around the world. Look around in your area to find food banks, right to life centers, help centers, after school programs, hospitals, and other organizations that utilize volunteers. Maybe there are not enough people in your assembly to begin a food bank, but there are existing ones in your community that could use your help. Find where the Father is working and step into that space. Step in to serve, by stepping out in faith. Let your light shine as you bring blessing to the nations. Grab hold of Joseph’s anointing, and seize the opportunity right before you. Partnering with other ministries, even those who do not see eye to eye with you, will allow you to make a larger impact while broadening your horizons. It will also allow you to introduce folks, who are actively applying their faith (a very Hebraic concept), to your fellowship.
Be encouraged, this walk we find ourselves a part of, is only about twenty years old. Over that time, many non-Jewish Believers have embraced the Hebraic roots of their faith, and those numbers continue to grow each year. Messianic Judaism courageously led the way, and today, many of those Messianic Jewish assemblies are comprised of largely non-Jewish members. The Father is removing that middle wall of partition, and truly bringing forth the one new man. Just like any teenager, we have had some growing pains. That is normal and natural. There are family squabbles and territorial disputes. That’s fine. After all, His people have been a dysfunctional family from the outset. Let’s grow up as we embrace our past, learn from our mistakes, and move forward with a fresh anointing. Paul’s exhortation to the Believers in Ephesus ring true:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Messiah; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Messiah. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Messiah Yeshua, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11).
This walk is a journey. We are to mature along the way. It is time to grow up and build His Kingdom. The promise to Israel, and then Joseph, is in our hands today. It is a huge responsibility. It is a holy work. With our Messiah leading we can fulfill our calling. As I look around, I can clearly see that it is time for change. I imagine you can too. Let’s take a hard look at what we have been doing, and see if we can make wise changes that will be beneficial for His Kingdom. We are to be a nation, yet while in Egypt. Are you ready?