Preparing for the Lean Years

How's your retirement plan looking? Have you stored up "treasure in heaven" for the lean years ahead?

A concept photo of a successful year — a golden wheat field, blue skies, and plenty of grain. (Image: © Bigstock)

Miketz

Regular Shabbat Readings

* Note: On Jewish holidays, special readings often interrupt the regular cycle.

  • Miketz (מקץ | From the end)
  • Torah: Genesis 41:1-44:17
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Luke 4:16-31

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 41:1 | Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dream
    • Genesis 41:37 | Joseph's Rise to Power
    • Genesis 42:1 | Joseph's Brothers Go to Egypt
    • Genesis 42:26 | Joseph's Brothers Return to Canaan
    • Genesis 43:1 | The Brothers Come Again, Bringing Benjamin
    • Genesis 44:1 | Joseph Detains Benjamin
  • Prophets
    • Zec 2:14 | Interlude: An Appeal to the Exiles
    • Zec 3:1 | Fourth Vision: Joshuahua and Satan
    • Zec 4:1 | Fifth Vision: The Lampstand and Olive Trees

Portion Summary

The tenth reading from the book of Genesis is named Miketz (מקץ), which means "the end." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream" (Genesis 41:1). The portion begins with Pharaoh's portentous dreams, Joseph's interpretations and his subsequent rise to power over Egypt. When a famine strikes the land of Canaan, his brothers come to Egypt seeking grain, but they do not recognize Joseph, who engineers a means by which he can test their character.


Joseph explained to Pharaoh that his dreams were actually warnings from God. Seven years of abundance and plenty were about to begin in Egypt, but they were to be followed by seven years of desperate famine. The solution was to lay up stores during the seven years of plenty so that there would be sufficient food in the coming years of famine.

Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph's wisdom that he made him a minister over Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph oversaw the building of storehouses in which the abundant grain of Egypt's seven years of plenty was stored.

Life is uncertain, and it is only prudent to lay up savings and provisions. The Proverbs say, "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has" (Proverbs 21:20, NIV). Contrary to the advice of Joseph, modern society promotes a lifestyle of squandering all available wealth, overspending and relying on credit. Though we live in the most affluent times that the human race has ever enjoyed, few people have the wisdom to lay up savings for leaner times ahead.

Yeshua told his disciples to lay up treasures in heaven instead of on earth:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our lives on earth can be compared to the seven years of plenty. We have an abundance of opportunities to do good to others, to repent and practice righteousness and to give charity to the needy. However, these golden years of opportunity are limited. Whether in seven days, seven years or seventy years, the opportunity to lay up treasure in heaven will vanish. After we die, our opportunities to do good deeds are gone.

In Judaism, a good deed like giving charity to the needy is called a mitzvah (מצוה). The plural form is mitzvot (מצות) The word mitzvah literally means "commandment." Every time we keep one of God's commandments, it is a "good deed." Therefore the word mitzvah has come to be associated with any act of goodness.

Our opportunities to do mitzvot are limited to our lifetime here on earth. Yeshua teaches that our mitzvot are like money placed into a savings account in heaven. When we pass on into the next life, we will be able to cash in on the mitzvot we have stored up in heaven.

The world says, "You can't take it with you." The Messiah says that you can. Yeshua teaches that "you can take it with you" by giving your money to charity and investing your time and resources into the things of the kingdom of heaven. You are storing it up in heaven. When you arrive in the next life, you will be rewarded for your acts of kindness and piety.

Joseph encouraged all of Egypt to diligently lay up stores and provisions for the lean years to come. So too, we should be storing up our resources in heaven for the years to come.

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