Mishpachah: Family, clan (Strong’s 4940)
Mishpachah in Hebrew script: מִשְׁפָּחָה
Sounds like: mish’pa’kha
What is family? The idea of clan or family is prevalent in the Tanakh. It is a group bound together with some commonality… and it is a group that is designed to give to YHWH honour and glory, offering and respect.
For all the gods of the nations are idols: but YHWH made the heavens.
Honour and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Give unto YHWH, O you families [mish’pa’chot] of the people, give unto YHWH glory and strength.
Give unto YHWH the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts.
O worship YHWH in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.
All the earth is to worship YHWH. It’s what we’re made for. It’s why God gave us life! But we have to make a choice. Joshua made that choice:
Now, therefore, fear YHWH and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve YHWH. But if it is unpleasing in your sight to serve YHWH, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my house, we will serve YHWH!”
Today that same choice is set before each member of the family: follow today’s gods and idols (money, fame, possessions, self-indulgence, success) or follow YHWH. You are a child of God, but you have to choose to be part of His family. It’s the same choice that has been set before all members of all families throughout history.
YHWH’s Chosen Family
Near the beginning YHWH chose one special family to carry forth His covenant, His plan to save us. YHWH called the Hebrew people holy, (or set apart) and He describes them as “My people”. He announced that He was the God of all the clans of Israel:
“At that time,” declares YHWH, “I will be the God of all the families [mish’pa’chot] of Israel, and they will be My people.”
YHWH chose the Hebrew people for a purpose. They would bring a blessing to the rest of the earth:
And there at the top YHWH was standing and saying, “I Am YHWH, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you now lie. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families [mish’pa’chot] of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.
But how would He bless all the earth through the Hebrew people? YHWH promised that through the line of the Jews YHWH would bring a Saviour to save ALL the earth. (2 Samuel 7, Psalm 2). That Saviour is the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus, or in Hebrew, Yeshua (whose name literally means “salvation”). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes:
He [Yeshua] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building is fitted together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God in His Spirit.
A Family of Faith
According to Paul, true family is not your biological blood group. It is a community that worships YHWH, and it is a dwelling place for God’s Spirit to be active and alive.
Yeshua, more than anyone, understood what family meant. Many of his own birth family did not believe him:
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Yeshua was completely aware that his family did not believe he was the Messiah. How hard that must have been, to be rejected by those closest to you. Hard, but not surprising.
Then Jesus went home, and once again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples could not even eat. When His family heard about this, they went out to take custody of Him, saying, “He is out of His mind.”
As his family headed out to get him, some Pharisees accused Yeshua of being possessed by Beelzebul. Yeshua addressed the ridiculousness of their claims, and it was at this point that Yeshua’s family showed up to retrieve him:
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came and stood outside. They sent someone in to summon Him, and a crowd was sitting around Him. “Look,” He was told, “Your mother and brothers are outside, asking for You.”
But Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those seated in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Yeshua completely changed the definition of family. It has nothing to do with blood, and everything to do with faith. Those who do the will of God are part of a greater family; YOU are a sister, or a brother, or a mother to Yeshua.
A Great Honour
What an honour, and how very humbling, it is to accept the concept of being a sibling to Jesus. Can you make that claim? I for one hardly feel worthy… but the whole point of Yeshua’s death was to set us free from the heavy burden of sin, and the feeling of worthlessness that goes along with it. Yeshua’s death annihilated the heavy chains of sin and freed us, making us worthy to enter the Kingdom:
Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Although we know we’re free, it’s not always easy to live that way. We mess up so often. How do we represent Yeshua without feeling like a failure all the time? Paul recognized this heavy honour. How do we live our lives knowing we represent the family of God? Am I doing the will of God well enough to be the sister to Yeshua? Here’s what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians:
Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to the family of faith.
We need to do good to everyone and especially to our sisters and brothers of Messiah. We need to love and support each other, so we can better love the rest of the world around us. There is no place for petty bickering, and superiority complexes, gossip, and bullying within our congregations. In no way is that the will of God. That kind of behaviour takes us outside the comforting arms of Yeshua’s family.
A Great Responsibility
As for our birth or adopted families we have a great responsibility. We must be the light that shines, that highlights the great blessing of being part of YHWH’s family of faith.
YHWH is our everlasting Father, the Holy Spirit comforts like a Mother, and The Son sacrificed himself so we could be part of this great family of YHWH. Those who seek out and love YHWH are His daughters and sons. That is amazing!
If that is not enough, know this… although we may be from families that are not in unity when it comes to the topic of God, in the end, according to the Psalmist, all families will bow before YHWH:
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to YHWH.
All the families [mish’pa’chot] of the nations will bow down before Him.
In your churches, your synagogues, and your prayer halls, be good family members to each other, and in so doing Yeshua, your brother and Saviour, will shine through for the rest of the world to see.
Next Week: Thanksgiving