PART A Evening.
TWO WORLDS IN ONE WORD.
The opening sentence of parashah Va’Yish’Lach (he sent) is:
VA’YISH’LACH YA’COV MAL’A’CHIM LE’FA’NAIV
Jacob sent angels (or, “human messengers”) before his face
EL’EI’SAV A’CHIV AR’TZAH SEI’IR SE’DEI E’DOM
to Esau his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom
The STONE commentators note that the Hebrew word “mal’a’chim” can mean either angels or human messengers. This is identical to the references to “angels” in the opening three chapters of the book of Revelation in the New Testament in that (according to Dr. Strong) the Greek word “aggelos” (the double gamma is vocalized “angelos”) means “to bring tidings; a messenger; especially an ‘angel’; by implication, a pastor:–angel, messenger.”
In the passages regarding the seven churches of Revelation, the word “angelos” means either the angel or the pastor of the church in question. The Bible makes clear that there is a spiritual hierarchy that rules over the world of men, good and bad. (Ephesians 6:12. Also, see Daniel 10:1-21 and 12:1: in these passages we see angels (both godly angels and evil angels) that rule over empires and nations. We also see “one like a son of man” which is possibly a reference to the Son of God before his incarnation—see the many scriptures by which we deduce the eternal pre-existence of “God the Word” who is “God the Son.” In this regard, see Psalm 2; Proverbs 8:22-36 and 30:4: the mighty anthem in Proverbs of the ascent and descent of the Son of God in his work of creation alongside God the Father, after which immediately follows this word in verses 5-6 of chapter 30:
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
“Do not add to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar.”
This ban on adding to or taking away from the Word of God is reiterated in the Torah and at the end of the book of Revelation. The ban is a mark of the divine inspiration of the Word of God which is revealed to man in the Holy Scriptures.
That Israel is also called God’s son, “even my firstborn,” (Exodus 4:22) does not confuse the reality that there is a Heavenly Son just as there is an earthly son.
From the start of the Bible we see evidence of two worlds in a single word: the Hebrew word “malachim” and the Greek word “angelos” both have terrestrial and heavenly implications. Even earlier in the Bible the Hebrew word “ruach” and the Greek word “pneuma” both have the same double meanings: “breath, wind” (worldly meaning) or “spirit” (heavenly meaning). As a result we can see from beginning to end that the “Message” of the Bible is the Heavenly Word of God breathed into righteous human beings who were faithful witnesses to what God spoke to them. As it says in 2 Peter 1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
Our father Jacob was a man who lived in the two worlds—the natural world of all men and the revelational world into which God brought him by divine manifestation.
As you study this portion of scripture, look for the double-interactions in the life of Jacob. And live in the light of what the Holy Spirit makes known to you. Jacob’s struggles with Laban are typical of the worldly conflict among humans. All of us deal with these common struggles.
But Jacob’s covenantal exaltations are not typical of the world: they are of another world, just as you and I have become members of a heavenly realm where we are even now seated in God with Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Therefore, do not live in the dark of this world. We have risen with Messiah to walk in the light as he is in the light so that we may have fellowship with one another, having been cleansed from the darkening effects of sin so that we may live as beacons of the truth of God in Christ wherever we walk through the Earth. (1 John 1; Matthew 5:13-16)
PART B Morning.
No sooner did our father Jacob overcome the controlling efforts of Laban, concluding their relationship with a no-harm treaty as he crossed into the land of promise with his wives, his servants and his herds, than he had to encounter his angry brother Esau, who had twenty years before vowed to kill him once their father died. When they met, Esau had with him a host of four hundred armed men. (33:1)
Chapters 32 and 33 contain the amazing events of Jacob preparation to meet Esau, in which Jacob wrestled with the angel who was referred to as “God” (Peniel—”Face of God”) during which Jacob experienced a profound identity change: he went from the natural man “Heel-grabber” or “Supplanter” (the meaning of the name “Jacob”) to “Prince with God” (32:29, the meaning of the name “Israel”). He was also struck in his thigh by the “angel” (the “Face of God”) after which the sinew in his thigh shrank, causing him to limp for the rest of his life.
That Esau and Jacob (Israel) reconciled is one of the remarkable events in the whole of scripture. It was a divinely-generated healing. May we all take courage from this that God is able to reconcile us to the most embittered members of our families when there is a rift that tears us from one another. It will often take a miracle. But our God is a miracle-working God! (The reconciliation often involves the humbling of ourselves, admitting our own fault, and extending grace and mercy to the embittered family member in a spirit of meekness.) Esau’s descendants were not similarly reconciled. The family bitterness between the two brothers continued long into the history of the two nations that came from them. Healing does not automatically transfer from one generation to another.
A most profound thing is this: when any of us encounters God like Jacob did at Peniel, in such a transformative way as to have his kind of identity shift, we are forever after weakened in our natural self in order to proceed from that time forth only by means of the enablement of God. In fact, the Christian life is such an event. We die to self when we are born again. (John 3:3) We no longer walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (The whole New Testament is an elaboration of this truth. I do not need to multiply texts for you on this subject. Read the book of Galatians for a concise elucidation of it; that and Romans 6-8.) Therefore, let us not return to what we once were, now that we are purged from our old sins. Rather, let us go forward with Messiah, striding toward the goal of our heavenly calling, for he is faithful to bring us to the goal as we persevere in faith. (Hebrews 11-12)
Chapters 34-35 tell of the rape of Jacob’s only daughter Dinah by Shechem the son of Hamor of the Hivites in Canaan and of the slaughter of the men of the whole village by Simeon and Levi when they were sore from being circumcised so that Shechem could marry Dinah. Jacob then had to leave that land in order to avoid a rising of the nearby peoples to destroy his family. The fear of God fell on the whole region so that Jacob and his family passed safely through them during his return to Bethel where he had met the angels of God ascending and descending the ladder between Earth and Heaven. (Genesis 35:5)
After these events, chapter 35 of the parashah details further developments in Jacob’s life, including the death of his mother Rebecca and her nurse Deborah. That chapter also includes the death of Rachel as she gave birth to Benjamin. Then comes the account of Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son and heir to the birthright, who had sexual relations with Bilhah Jacob’s concubine. For this Reuben was demoted in Israel and the birthright of the firstborn son was given to Joseph.
Chapter 36 details the descendants of Esau and of the nation that came from him, to the south Eretz Israel. Esau became a type of the carnal man who contends with the spiritual man.^ The New Testament is the full explication of this dynamic in which you and I are able to conquer in our struggles with sin “through Christ who strengthens us.” (Galatians 2:20 with Romans 8:37 and Philippians 4:13)
^ “Esau”: The Jewish people in exile after the destruction of the second temple interpreted Esau to be the Romanized Christians of the persecutions that followed the Jews in Europe.
Our life in Messiah is the outworking of the overcoming power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an applied life of diligence and discipline.*
[*”diligence and discipline”: Revelation 2-3, “to him that overcomes”; 2 Peter 1:1-11, “giving all diligence”; Matthew 28:18-20, “teaching them to observe (obey) all things that I have commanded you,” et al]
So then, my beloved sister, my dear brother:
Be strong! Be courageous! For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go!
(Joshua 1:7-9 with Matthew 28:20b and Revelation 22:21.)