WEEKLY SCRIPTURE READING
Torah Portion: Parashat Vayigash (“and he drew near”)
Shabbat: Dec. 31, 2022 / Telvet 7, 5783
Torah: Gen. 44:18 – 47:27
Prophets: Ezek. 37:15-28
New Covenant: Matt. 1:18-25 ; Luke 2:1-21 ; Phil 2:5-11
TODAY’S PRAYER OF AGREEMENT
Jesus’ Prayer For All Believers
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me”. John 17:20-23
The verb vayigash (וַיִּגַּשׁ) means "and he drew near," from the verb nagash (נָגַשׁ), "to approach, draw near, to join." Our Torah portion (Vayigash) relates how Judah, the de facto "first born" son of Israel, "drew near" to his disguised brother Joseph to intercede on behalf of his family....
In the Torah the word nagash is used in various ways. It is used, for example, to describe how Abraham "drew near" to intercede with the Angel of the LORD (Gen. 18:23), how the inhabitants of Sodom "drew near" to break down the door of Lot's house (Gen. 19:2), how Jacob "drew close" to kiss his father Isaac (Gen. 27:27), how Judah "drew near" to his disguised brother Joseph to intercede on behalf of his family (Gen. 44:18), and so on. The Jewish sages who first translated the Torah into Greek consistently used the verb engidzo (i.e., ἐγγίζω) for the verb nagash. Like the Hebrew word, the Greek word has a range of meanings, though it generally means to come close enough to touch something...
Now all this might seem a bit tedious until you realize that the verb engidzo was "carried over" into the Greek New Testament. The verb is used to describe how the Kingdom of Heaven is "at hand" (Matt. 3:2, 4:17), how the disciples "drew near" the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1), how Judas "drew near" to kiss Yeshua (Luke 22:47), how the chief captain of a Roman legion "drew near" and arrested Paul (Acts 21:33), how the "better hope" of Yeshua "draws us near" to God (Heb. 7:19), and so on. James the Righteous used this verb in his admonition: ἐγγίσατε τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἐγγιεῖ ὑμῖν, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). Understood in this light, we are encouraged to come so close to God that we are able to "touch" Him -- and to be touched by Him as well.
Regarding this last example, please note that when we draw near to God, He has promised to draw near to us.... God is not distant from us. We don't need to "shout" or repeat our words for Him to hear us. No, He is close enough "to touch." When Judah "drew near" to Joseph, he came close enough to touch him.... The Scriptures would never command us to "draw near" to God if He were far away, remote, or otherwise inaccessible to us. On the contrary, God's Presence and glory fills the earth (Isa. 6:3). The way we can draw near to God is through prayer, praise and trust in His word.
From the perspective of faith, is there anything more important or significant than God's promise to draw near to us if we draw near to Him? At any given moment of your day, God is present and available to touch your life. As King David said, שִׁוִּיתִי יְהוָה לְנֶגְדִּי תָמִיד כִּי מִימִינִי בַּל־אֶמּוֹט׃ / shiviti Adonai l'negdi tamid, ki mimini bal emot: "I am ever mindful of the LORD's presence; because He is at my right hand; I shall never be shaken" (Psalm 16:8). The LORD's hand was on David because he always drew near to Him...
God invites you to come to Him for relationship... Since God is a Person, He wants to know you as a person. He is not interested in formulaic prayers, religious rituals, or your membership at a particular religious organization. God wants to know your inmost thoughts and heart. Drawing near to God is God's way of drawing near to you... In other words, as you draw near to God, He will draw near and touch you.
We must draw near to God b'kol levavkha - "with all our heart" - not merely with religious ideas or doctrinally correct words: "Because this people draw near (נִגַּשׁ) with their mouth and honor me with their lips while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden" (Isa. 29:13-14, cp. Matt. 15:8-9, 1 Cor. 1:9). We must draw near to God in Spirit and in Truth: "For the Torah made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, and that is how we draw near (ἐγγίζομεν) to God (Heb. 7:19). The Torah - by itself - is ineffectual to bring us into close contact with the LORD, since it reveals God's holiness and righteousness but provides no lasting solution to the problem of sin in the human heart. Indeed, we now have access to the Throne of Grace because the loving sacrifice of Yeshua is able to draw us near to God (John 12:32). The dividing veil (parochet) has been rent asunder.... We no longer go through the "offices of Levi" (i.e., ritual Judaism) to approach the LORD (Heb. 13:10).
Dear friend, do you feel distant from God? Do you find yourself wanting to experience His presence and to be touched by Him? Then you are invited to "draw near" to Him now. If you delay or otherwise refuse to draw near, then how can God draw near to you? The LORD honors you as a person created in His likeness (בְּצֶלֶם אֱלהִים); He does not force you into relationship with Him... No, God respects your choice whether to draw near or not. That's why the Scripture reads, "You draw near to God and [then] He will draw near to you." If God doesn't draw near to you, it is because you have chosen not draw near to Him. God is love and He cannot be untrue to His loving nature....
Drawing near to God is God's way of drawing near to you... In other words, as you draw near to God, He will draw near and touch you. As Yeshua said, "Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). But you must take the first step to receive God's acceptance and love. Open the door of your heart and let Yeshua come in to meet with you now (Rev. 3:20).
A closing note... The verb engidzo is frequently used to describe the imminent return of the LORD: Πάντων δὲ τὸ τέλος ἤγγικεν / "The end of all things draws near" (1 Pet. 4:7). May God help us redeem the time by drawing near to Him with all our hearts, chaverim. May we all draw so close to God that we are able to "touch" Him -- and therefore to be touched by Him as well.