Va-Yeshev & Hanukkah 1
For the week of December 12, 2009 / 25 Kislev 5770
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 37:1 - 40:23 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:1-17
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7
Originally posted the week of December 16, 2006 / 25 Kislev 5767
Enough Is Enough!
How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God? (Bereshit / Genesis 39:9)
One of the central themes of Hanukkah (this year from December 12 - 19, 2009) is the resisting of society's pressure to turn from God's ways. Hanukkah retells the story of the Jewish revolt against Greco-Syrian control that occurred around 165 years before the coming of Yeshua. The emperor sought to consolidate his rule by forcing his subjects, including his Jewish ones, to adopt Greek customs. Many in Israel submitted themselves to these pagan practices, until a priest by the name of Mattityahu refused. A small Jewish army led by Mattityahu's son Judah eventually defeated the large and heavily armed Greco-Syrian force.
People who have sought to please God have often faced pressure to conform to the dominant culture. Hanukkah is an example of when those who desire to stay true to God and his ways need to say "Enough is enough!" and take a stand against the culture. We are in those times again.
It is interesting that the beginning of Hanukkah this year coincides with the Torah portion containing the story of Joseph. Joseph also stood against the pressure of ungodly influence. In his case it was not a cultural thing, but rather a personal situation, where he was tempted to commit adultery with his master's wife. He knew she created a no-win situation for him. To do what she wanted may have provided temporary relief from his circumstances, but would have most likely cost him his life. But to resist her advances, besides being a difficult thing to do, would eventually cause him great trouble, which is in fact what happened. As it turned out she falsely accused him of the very thing she was tempting him to do. What made the difference for Joseph was that to give in to her would have displeased God - something that he was in no way willing to do.
Joseph's predicament illustrates for us what it means to stand against the pressure of a culture that constantly nags us into submission. But I believe we need to be like Joseph and say "Could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"
I fear that for many it is too late. Just like in the days of Hanukkah, many who claim to be part of the people of God have already given in to the prevailing culture. Having cast off the peculiarities of being people of faith, we have chosen to go after the customs of our day.
Here are a few examples of how we have been taken over by today's ungodly culture:
A growing number of so-called believers are ashamed of the exclusive nature of biblical faith. According to the Bible there is only one God and there is only one way to that God, the Messiah Yeshua. Yet there are those who have invented notions, claiming that there may be exceptions to this rule.
Less and less people regard the Bible's view of family, and children in particular, as God's model for living. Instead we go along with how the culture regards family, thinking that after two thousand years human beings have improved upon the teaching of the Scriptures.
North American affluence has become our preferred standard of living. How very different from the One who had no place to lay his head, who calls us to give up everything to follow him.
What does our obsession with entertainment say about our understanding of the stewardship of our time and money? We prefer to drown ourselves in diversions instead of spending our time in truly productive endeavors. Then, at the same time, we refuse to partake of rest and refreshment God's way.
We have exchanged God's version of love and sexuality for that of the world's. We disregard the sacredness of the marriage covenant, while pursuing relationships with selfish motives.
Perhaps one of the main driving forces behind these and other examples is today's value of being accepted by others. What kept Joseph was his primary commitment to God and his ways. When the temptation came to conduct himself inappropriately, his loyalty to God was the strong foundation from which he could not be moved. What a contrast to our own day where we tend to so easily go along with whatever is perceived as popular, so that we would not be viewed as weird.
Until we can stand up and like Mattityahu say, "Enough is enough!" we will continue to be swept away by the pull of culture's powerful tide.
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