Vayechi — “And he lived”
Portion for the week leading up to January 14, 2017
The last words someone speaks seem to hold a heightened sense of meaning. It is like giving one last gift before you leave, one last chance to give some profound wisdom or token of love. We know this not only from our own experiences, but we also have received parting words through Scripture.
Our portion this week recounts the events leading up to the death of Israel (Jacob). Just as Isaac had purposed to bless his sons before he died (Genesis 27:4), Jacob speaks prophetically over his sons: "Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, 'Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come,'" (Genesis 49:1). While Jacob does not introduce that he is going to bless his sons, that is in fact what he is doing (verse 28). We see that these final blessings are not like wishing someone good luck, but they are prophetic utterances that foretell of days to come (Genesis 27:27-29, 38-40). Some of the things he speaks don't sound like blessings we would want to receive (verses 5-7, 19), but they nonetheless reflect the character of the individual as well as the future they will have as revealed by the Spirit.
We see in Paul's letters another type of parting words. In 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy that his time here on earth is drawing to a close: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come," (chapter 4:6). Here we see not so much a blessing as an exhortation. Since Paul knows he won't be around much longer to give Timothy any further guidance, he wants to leave one final impression: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction... be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (verses 1-2, 5). All of this being said, Paul did not expect that they would not see each other again before Paul passed (verses 9-13), but this was in a sense a way of showing Timothy that he would need to step up and be able to exhort others just as Paul has been doing until now.
While we can learn a lot from applying these words to our own lives, we have a more direct connection to the parting words of Yeshua. Mark records Yeshua's words before He ascends into heaven: "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation...' So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God," (Mark 16:15-19). Matthew also records Yeshua's last words to his disciples: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age," (Matthew 28:19-20). These are Yeshua's final recorded words as he walked in the physical world, and we should not take them lightly.
It is true that Yeshua is not dead or even far away from us today, but the words recorded in Scripture are our instructions from the mouth of the Master Himself. In the book of Revelation, Yeshua revealed Himself to John, giving us more words that we should take to heart as the Scriptures draw to a close: "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying," (Revelation 22:12, 14-15).
Last words tell a lot about a person, and sometimes they are more about us than the one who is speaking. Yeshua's final words as recorded in Scripure tell us a lot about Him and what He expects us to be doing while we anxiously watch for His return. Let's take care to occupy ourselves with doing the will of our Father as expressed through these words, seeking the Kingdom and His righteousness until Yeshua returns.