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Parashat Vayechi - No One Knows the Day or Hour

No One Knows the Day or Hour

Further thoughts on Parashat Vayechi

by John J. Parsons
www.hebrew4christians.com

WHEN THE TIME CAME FOR JACOB (Israel) to die, he called all his sons together. According to midrash, Jacob wanted to tell them about the "End of Days" (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) when the Messiah would come, but was prevented by the Holy Spirit.  According to the Jewish sages, God prevented Jacob because He does not want anyone to know the "day or the hour" when the great King of Israel would appear...

Why not? Why wouldn't God want to tell his children the hour of the promised Messiah's appearance?  According to tradition, if people knew how long they would have to wait, they might despair of life altogether, or, if they knew the exact time, they might "repent" just for that reason, and not because it came from the heart...

On the other hand, Jacob's prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah as a future ruler from the tribe of Judah alluded to the timing of the Messiah's appearance. To review, Jacob prophesied that "the scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until 'Shiloh' (שִׁילוֹ) comes..." (Gen. 49:10). If the regency of Judah was established in the Jewish Sanhedrin, the scepter (rod of authority) would have departed from Judah in AD 6-7 after the Romans installed a procurator as the authority in Judea. This prophecy, then, would have failed.   However, since the Messiah had indeed come and was in their midst as Yeshua mi-netzeret (Jesus of Nazareth) during this time, Jacob's prophecy didn't fail.

Nonetheless, like most prophecies in Scripture, this one has a "dual aspect" or "double fulfillment."  The "King of the Jews" (a synonym for the Messiah, called "Christ" by Gentile Christendom) had indeed come "before the scepter departed from Judah," but he went unrecognized since he came to fulfill the role of the Suffering Servant (Mashiach ben Yosef). The second part of the prophecy, "and to him shall be the obedience of the people," is yet to be fulfilled. It will become a visible reality only after his Second Coming, at the end of olam ha-zeh (this present age), when Jesus comes to judge the nations (the "sheep and the goats") and establish the Kingdom of God from David's throne in Jerusalem.

Note: Jacob's prophecy that "the scepter will not depart from Judah... until Shiloh comes" includes all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet except for the letter Zayin, which is the Hebrew word for weapons, suggesting that when the Messiah comes, it will not be by means of arms or weapons, but rather by the ruach ha-kodesh.

There is an old story of the Magid of Brisk who each year would bring proof from the Torah that the Messiah would come that year. Once a certain Torah student asked him, "Rabbi, every year you bring proof from the Torah that the Messiah must come that year, and yet he does not come. Why bother doing this every year, if you see that Heaven ignores you?" The Magid replied, "The law states that if a son sees his father doing something improper, he is not permitted to humiliate him but must say to him, 'Father, the Torah states thus and so.'  Therefore we must tell God, who is our Father, that by keeping us in long exile, he is, in a sense, causing injustice to us, and we must point out, "thus and so it is written in the Torah," in hope that this year he might redeem us." This same principle, of course, applies to those of us who are living in exile and who eagerly await the second coming of the Messiah Yeshua. We should continue asking God to send Him speedily, and in our day, chaverim...

Regarding the Messiah's Second Coming, we therefore find ourselves in the same position of expectation as Israel's sons who heard the original prophecy.  Though Jesus told us about the "signs" of the time (and the "fig tree has brought forth its leaves," see Matt. 24:32-33), we do not know the exact "day or the hour" and therefore must be ready for his return at any time (Matt. 24:36-25:13). The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." Maran ata, Yeshua!


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