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Parashat Vayechi ויחי

Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:37
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Pre-Introduction
A man stopped to watch a Little League baseball game. He asked one of the youngsters what the score was. The little boy said enthusiastically, “We’re losing 18 to nothing!”
The man was a little puzzled and said, “I must say, you don’t look discouraged at all.”
The little boy responded to him, “Why should we be discouraged? Just wait, we haven’t come to bat yet.”
Ha-Foke-Ba
Grab your copy of the Scriptures, Hold it high and say it like you mean it:
Ha-foke-bah
Ha-foke-bah
De-Cola-bah
Ha-foke-bah
Ha-foke-bah
Mashiach-bah
Turn-it and turn-it everything you need is in it. Turn-it and turn-it the Messiah is in it.
Introduction
All throughout this series on Genesis I have been talking to you about how Genesis is about God’s rescue plan to save a rebellious world through Abraham’s family. Today I want to talk to you about this one thing: it’s not to late for you to change the world.
When Lauren and I moved from Houston in the winter of 2002 we had no idea what we were getting into. Both of us were Houston natives, we were used to living in the south, used to southern culture and southern hospitality. Our families and friends back home kept giving us friendly inquiries like, “Are you sure you should go there? Don’t you think you should just live and work and change the world where you are?” I was 26 at the time, had a degree and a career in accounting and many people were telling me, “Michael don’t you think it is a little late to start a four year degree in the Bible, start all over in a ministry career.”
Lauren and I knew, God had called us to go so we were going to go but we had no idea what we were getting into.
Suddenly, we thrust ourselves into one of the largest cities in the United States. We moved right into the heart of the city. We lived in downtown Chicago right off of Belmont and Addison. Our apartment was right off the first-base line of Wrigley field. There were three synagogues in our area two in walking distance. We were in one of the busiest places in the city of Chicago. The streets were always buzzing with people, I mean 24 hours a day there was always people out on the streets.
This was one of the hardest areas in Chicago. The criminals were tuff in our area, crime was horrible and violent. The police were just as tough. We had a local police building behind our apartment that had a holding tank, mostly for out-of-control, Chicago cub fans or whoever. There were times we could hear the criminals screaming, “help, help” from their cells. It was city where everyone was tough.
This was sin city. If people in the south know how to take down their liquor, in Chicago they did it even quicker. The bars in our area never lacked an overflow of customers. Police officers were often times on dual pay-rolls, the city and the mafia, my wife learned that the hard way one time.
Our apartment was right there at Cubs field and just five blocks or so from Lake Michigan and between us and the lake is one of the larges LGBT communities in the United States. Very outspoken, very loud, very proud and very willing to make you feel uncomfortable if you were not LGBT.
We were now living in one of the busiest cities in the world, one of the most violent, one of the most liberal cities in the world. We were all alone in the city and my Jewish family lived a good hour drive in the northern suburbs. And even they were telling us, “Its not too late to leave, go home and go back to what you know.”
Lauren and I knew God wanted us to go to Chicago, to change the world. We wanted to make a difference where it would matter the most. We chose that community, chose that apartment, renewed our lease three times for one reason and one reason only: we believed it was never to late to change the world right there in the Jewish community in downtown Chicago.
People told us we were nuts. Others told us we were “idealistic.” Others told us your zeal will run out and you will give up and come running home. Others told us you will compromise your convictions. Others told us you are not ready for the trials and the temptations. Others said we were too inexperienced, to immature. There was always the voice of the “others” saying it can’t be done, its too late, it won’t be done, just give up, throw in the tow.
We knew our God better than that.
It was not too late, God had us in his will. People told me, “Michael, it is too late for you to do a degree. Your a former drugie with a 9th grade education level, there is not way you can handle the rigors of college. It’s too late for you.” They were right except they missed the part where God confound the wisdom of the wise by causing even donkeys to preach great sermons and took this former drop-out and caused him to finish a four year program in two-and-a-half years, while working part-time, leading a messianic chavurah, serving in a Sunday church, loving my wife, and graduate at the top-of-my-class and win the Louis Goldberg scholarship in Jewish studies. It’s never too late for God’s plan.
There was nothing on the outside that looked promising but on the inside our faith and our drive to change the world was making all the difference.We were told it was impossible to reach Jewish people in the inner-city where we lived. God told us to do it. So we started with 0 people in our living room the first night we launched our “messianic chavurah.” We did not give up. We printed up our own fliers, canvased the area where we lived, Lauren would invite her patients that she was working on in her dental chair as a hygienist – hard to say no when she has the pointy metal thing on your tooth. We invited total strangers to our home. We made meals. Then the next week one person. The week after that another Jewish person, then another, then another. Then I was being invited to go to the homes of Jewish professionals to share Messiah, being invited to lead a Seder for a Jewish widow, a Rebbetzin and survivor of the Shoah. When know one else believed it, when the deck of cards were stacked against us, we refused to back down from this one belief: God wanted to change the world and He had no problem using a young married couple like us, like you to do it.
When know one else believed it, we believed it was possible to change the world. We had an inner drive, an inner-voice saying to us, “do not quit, do not give in. You so your part and God does all the rest!” We knew at a certain point you could not listen to the negative voices saying it is too late because of my past, because of circumstances, because of....
We heard what people said but we chose to believe God anyways.
I have never fully been able to express what this inner-voice, what this inner drive was like until I heard General McRaven, in 2014, addressing the graduating class of UT in 2014. A class of 8,000 students, I want you to just hear part of what he said thought all of what he said is worth hearing:
Play Video Here (6:00): Transcript Below:
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. To pass SEAL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One—is the night swim. Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente. They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently. But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position—stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you—then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away. There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them. So, If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.
Over a few weeks of difficult training my SEAL class which started with 150 men was down to just 35. There were now six boat crews of seven men each. I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys—the munchkin crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five. The munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish America, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the mid-west. They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews. The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim. But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us. SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
The ninth week of training is referred to as “Hell Week.” It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and—one special day at the Mud Flats—the Mud Flats are area between San Diego and Tijuana where the water runs off and creates the Tijuana slues—a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you. It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors. As the sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold. Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone chilling cold. The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song. The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing—but the singing persisted. And somehow—the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away. If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person—Washington, Lincoln, King, Mandela and even a young girl from Pakistan—Malala—one person can change the world by giving people hope. So, if you want to change the world…
Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.
The Truth of Scriptures
This whole series I have been telling you that Genesis is God’s rescue plan for saving a rebellious world through the family of Abraham.
It’s not to late for you to change the world. That is what I believe the heartbeat of God is for this entire portion starting in Genesis 47:28 all the way to the end of the book Genesis 50:26. It is never too late to change the world. If we will do our part, God will do his part.
I believe that if we will do our part, like Abraham’s family did their part, then God will do what only God can do. That is exactly the heart of Rabbi Paul when he says in Philippians 2:12-13, “Therefore, my loved ones, just as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence—work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For the One working in you is God—both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” You are going to see God’s best this next year because you are in a partnership, a relationship, a covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you will do your part, He always does His part and the world will change.
Philippians 2:12–13 TLV
Therefore, my loved ones, just as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence—work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For the One working in you is God—both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
The Message Chapter 2

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

It is not too late for your children.
If you re-double your efforts you are going to find that God’s power is working deep inside of you. I know that some of you in this room have thought to yourself that it is too late for your relationship with our children. Too much pain, too much time, too much hurt, too many words and the wound have not been healed and will not be healed.
A few months ago I met this Jewish man who him and I immediately hit off. We went to lunch and it was like we had known each other our whole lives. In our first conversation, we were talking about faith, family, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He at that time was just starting to learn about messianic Judaism and what it meant to be a Jewish follower of Messiah. He knew that I could answer some of his questions and address his concerns as a Jew because of my Jewish background.
I remember, he told me about his adult daughter who lived several states away. They were not in a great relationship and he was concerned that it might not get any better. He was also concerned about his new found interest in Yeshua and messianic judaism would either help or harm this relationship.
I remember telling him it is not too late for God to get involved. That God always wants children to be reconciled to parents and parents to children. That is an “always” in the heart of God. Well he began talking to his daughter about his faith in Yeshua and you know what it was not too late. It was just the right time because his daughter was also a believer in Messiah and rejoiced that her daddy had begun to make this step. They have so reconciled that they are visiting one another and just last month she bought him his very own Tree of Life Bible with his name inscribed on it that he proudly brings to our discipleship group.
Jacob thought he had lost Joseph forever. He wept bitterly for his son and believed that he was torn apart for wild beasts. Jacob thought it was beyond too late to ever see his son. But God had something different in mind. God did not just bring His son home, he took daddy Jacob to his son.
You know what Joseph saw in that moment? Genesis 47:31
Genesis 47:31 TLV
“Swear to me,” he said. So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed down in worship on the head of his staff.
Remember, Joseph had a vision about his father kneeling down before him. Joseph might have thought the vision meant his father would one day serve him and probably his daddy thought that is what he though the dream meant. Neither of these two men, the father or the son, could have understood then what they know in this moment. God brought Jacob back to his son to show Joseph the heart of a worshiper, not the heart of a slave. Jacob did indeed bow before Joseph but not as a slave but as a worshiper of the living God.
It is not too late for your children or grandchildren. You are going to see your relationship with your children change for the better this year. I believe God is going to take some moms and dads to their children because all this last year He has been working on you, working in you so that your children can see a worshiper in you. I believe this year families are going to be restored and it is going to happen just like with Jacob and Joseph.
What you thought was lost is going to be found and when your children, grandchildren see you bow in worship. They are going to see the heart of God inside of you.
i. You are going to see your children worship with you.
ii. You are going to see your wayward sons come to you.
iii. You are going to see your self-righteous sons come home.
iv. You are going to see your womb blessed.
Not only is not too late for your children their are other relationships that it is not too late for God to reconcile. You are going to see relationships restored this year. There are people that you thought there is no way under heaven this thing could ever change, it is way too late and I believe God is saying it is never too late. Enemies, Frenemies are going to restored because you have developed the heart of worship. You are doing your part, God is going to do his part.
It’s not too late for your promotion.
Most of us in this room know how devastating the last eight years have been in the US but even more so in the city of Houston. Economic recession, massive job losses at major corporations in our area, downsizing, devastating storms - Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Harvey in 2017 - just to name a few.
I know people have lost jobs, have had to move into new jobs they were not trained in. I know college graduates are struggling to find well paying jobs. It seems like all the cards are stacked against them. You know the devil is a liar and he loves to tell you there are good reasons why you will not get ahead in life. He is a liar.
About four weeks ago, I was preaching a message on the power of God’s touch on a person’s life. How God can just touch a mountain and it can explode. He can just touch a life and everything can change. He is El-Shaddai, the all sufficient God who has all the resources of heaven at his disposal.
Well one of hard-working men in the congregation said to himself, “If God can touch a life and change it, I believe I am good candidate.” So he applied for a better job then the one he had. He was not sure he could get it, he felt like the cards were stacked against him and that unless God showed up as El-Shaddai there was no way this was going to happen.
Well you know what, he was a good candidate because any time you put your faith in the all-sufficient power of God Almighty you are a good candidate. That hard working husband and father now has the job because God touched his life. It was not too late for God promotion of him.
See Joseph, the father if Manesseh and Ephraim, thought that there was only room for the firstborn to be promoted, only room for Manesseh to rise up to the top. That is just the way things always worked in the ancient world. The firstborn rises up. God had other plans. Genesis 48:17-20
Genesis 48:17–20 TLV
When Joseph saw that his father placed his right hand upon Ephraim’s head, it was wrong in his eyes. So his took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. Joseph said to his father, “Not like that, my father, because this one’s the firstborn. Put your right hand upon his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also will become a people, and he also will become great. But his younger brother will become greater than he and his seed will be the fullness of the nations.” Then he blessed them that day saying, “In you shall Israel bless by saying: ‘May God make you like Ephraim and like Manasseh.’ ” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
It’s not too late for your promotion.
Some of you need to get this down in your spirit, “God has not passed you by and left you alone.” Don’t you see that just when you think it is too late for you that all the cards are stacked against you, that God can bless you despite what even the best of people, even the Joseph’s in your life think.
When we were in Chicago people banged on this drum over and over again. You can’t expect to do well in College, you can’t expect to earn money in the city, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. If I was a more distinguished person I would tell you that these people were just offering me their best advice to guide and help me but since I am who I am by the grace of God I can tell you the truth: I thought these people were cuckoo pants. Did they not know who my God was? My God promotes the weak things, the dull things, the uneducated things, the donkeys, the left-behinds, the fringe.
As King David said Psalm 75:5-7 ( like the KJV’s translation of the Hebrew)

5  Lift not up your horn on high:

Speak not with a stiff neck.

6  For promotion cometh neither from the east,

Nor from the west, nor from the south.

7  But God is the judge:

He putteth down one, and setteth up another.

The Bible talks about two kinds of ways to experience promotion: the expected promotion and the unexpected promotion. The expected one is when you are diligent then God rewards you. That is 25% of the book of Proverbs. Work hard and you will do well in life. The unexpected promotion is what I am talking about here. Everything is telling you that you cannot go any further, you cannot go any higher.
Everyone is telling David you are nothing more than keeper of the flock and errand boy for your brothers. Everyone is telling you that you may be good with a slingshot but you could never be good with an army. Everyone is telling you that you might do well with lions and bears but you could never handle the hoards of the Philistine armies let alone there prized warrior Goliath. Everyone is telling you that you are Ephraim and that socially, culturally, religiously you need to stay at the back, at the seat furthest away from the master, at the lowly spot.
What you need to tell everyone is that it is not too late for your promotion because your God is El-Shaddai and he loves to promote keepers of the flock, to keepers of the kingdom, he loves to promote slingshot throwers to the place of kingly-warriors, he loves to take Ephraim from the back of the bus to the front of the bus.
Its not too late for you promotion because God has just now got you in the place to promote you.
In our Parashah this week there are two men, two tribes that show us it is not too late when we do our part, God will do his part. In Genesis 49, we see father Jacob’s blessing on the tribes of Israel. Yet, some of the blessings are not really blessings. They are more like curses.
Genesis 49:5–7 TLV
Simeon and Levi are brothers, instruments of violence are their knives. In their secret counsel may my soul not enter. In their contingent may my honor never be united. For in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they maimed oxen. Cursed be their anger for it was strong and their rage for it was cruel— I will disperse them in Jacob, I will scatter them in Israel.
Remember, Simeon and Levi used religion as a mask for violence and bloodshed after the rape of their sister. They took matters into their own hands and slaughtered all the men of Shechem after they agreed to circumcision. It is a violent scene in the book of Genesis.
At this point, one would have to agree with Jacob. These are not good guys and they made their bed so now they need to lie down in it. The choices were then the consequences are now.
However, what Jacob meant to be a curse actually turns into a blessing. Remember, after the giving of the ten words on Mt. Sinai that Israel made a golden calf. All of Israel was dancing and rejoicing before the calf but when Moses came down from the mountain he broke the first tablets and said Exodus 32:26
Exodus 32:26 TLV
Moses stood at the gate of the camp and said, “Whoever is on Adonai’s side, let him come to me.” Then all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
The levites gathered together. The levites repented. The levites were no longer scattered as a curse for their violence but they were now scattered as representatives of God’s presence, his ministry, his word, his Shekinah.
I am sure the sons of the tribe of Levi felt like their future was limited because of their father’s words and their ancestors past actions. Words have a powerful impact on a person’s life. I am sure they felt destined for a future that was limited.
With God, it is never too late for your future now matter what others have ever spoken of you. Even the greatest of people, like Jacob cannot determine God’s future for you. The levites did their part, they repented and God did his part he took the words of Jacob that seemed like they were for evil and then turned them into good.
One of my favorite parts of the blessing is in Genesis 49:8-12
Genesis 49:8–12 TLV
Judah, so you are— your brothers will praise you: Your hand will be on your enemies’ neck. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. A lion’s cub is Judah— from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches, lies down like a lion, or like a lioness— who would rouse him? The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs will come. To him will be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine, his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine, and in the blood of grapes his robe. His eyes are darker than wine, and teeth that are whiter than milk.
It’s not too late for your future, Judah. This is one of the most amazing predictions about the coming of the Messiah. Thought I don’t have time today to explain all the details of the prophecy to you, you will have to trust me that when I tell you this prophecy is so specific about one person and one person only that when it is rightly understood there is only one person in the universe who could have ever fulfilled this prophecy: Yeshua of Nazareth.
For Judah, it seemed like his past mistakes, his past unrighteousness. Selling off his brother to be a slave, lying to his father about his brother’s death, his unrighteousness with Tamar had determined his future. I am sure Judah felt like it was too late for him. His past sins, unrighteousness were cap on his future and his family’s future.
Judah learned what I hope will all learn: Repentance opens the gates of heaven. Judah changed from a selfish, self-serving manipulator into a sacrificial servant for the sake of his father. That is why Judah takes over the dream of Joseph. It is too Judah that the King will arise that Israel will bow down to. It is from Judah that a King will come that the nations will give their allegiance.
I am sure that both Judah and Levi believed that their futures were under a cap. Could only go so far but when we do our part in repentance, the gates of heaven open wide.
It’s not too late for your children.
It’s not too late for your promotion.
It’s not too late for your future.
This is going to be the year that the words other people have spoken over you are going to stop having an impact over your life, over you family, over your future. This is going to be the year where you are going to stop rehearsing the negative words over you that have been handed down to you and you are going to start declaring God’s good plan over your life. Your going to tell the devil “He is a liar.” You are going to tell your momma, your grandmamma, your friends, “That is not true of me, those words do not have power over me any more.” And if you need to you just tell them, “God will reverse the curse, he will turn what others meant for harm into good.
This is going to be the year that you are going to see the fruit of repentance create a harvest in your life. This is going to be the year I believe that God’s blessing is going to overwhelm you because your repentance is going to open up the flood gates of heaven. That your children, their children and after them are going to do great things. That your enemy will no longer have his hand on your neck but you are going to put your hand on the neck of the enemy and bring him down to the ground in the name of Yeshua!
This is the whole point of this series. God takes what was meant for evil and turns it too good. Genesis 50:20
Genesis 50:20 TLV
Yes, you yourselves planned evil against me. God planned it for good, in order to bring about what it is this day—to preserve the lives of many people.
Application/Conclusion
Today, I want you to join with me in believing that it is not too late. That 2018 is going to be the start of great things, God things in your life. That 2018 is going to be the best of years.
Here is how we are going to do this. We are going to take Zikron Mashiach together. That is the Lord’s table. You know many of you in this room have been battling against hopelessness, despair, doubt, worry, living under the curse of other people’s words, others have been hiding sin and need to confess it before God.
Today, we trusting the words of Rabbi Paul who said 2 Cor 5:21
2 Corinthians 5:21 TLV
He made the One who knew no sin to become a sin offering on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
and 2 Cor 5:17
2 Corinthians 5:17 TLV
Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Today, we believe that the new is here and the old is passed away. It is not too late. I want you to come and take Zikron Mashiach with me today and I want you to tell the devil he is a liar, tell your sin it will not determine your future anymore, tell those words they will no longer have control of your life.
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