It was on this day, that tradition says that the son of Jacob, Naphtali, was born. Naphtali’s birth came about as a result of one of the most infamous sibling rivalries in all of Scripture, that between Leah and Rachel. These two sisters had been contending with one another for the affection of the same man, their husband, Jacob. Rachel, who had been unable to conceive, came up with the idea of giving her handmaid, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife that she might give him a son from her, so to speak. Scripture tells us that after she had already given birth to one son, that Bilhah conceived, again.
“And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, ‘With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.’ So she called his name Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:7-9)
Naphtali was the name given to this son to acknowledge the struggle with her sister and her supposed victory over her rival. The problem was Leah, who feared she had stopped being able to conceive, gave her handmaid to Jacob as well, and the process started all over, again. One can only imagine the strife and tension that was in the air.
So from the very beginning of their history, the people of Israel have struggled with familial strife and dysfunction. As the twelve tribes grew and multiplied, the contention, rivalry and jealousy continued. As a matter of fact, this dysfunction eventually caused the nation to break into separate kingdoms. Because the nation was divided into two, prophecies declared that the Messiah would come and restore the kingdom as one people under one leader. That is, in fact, what the disciples expected of Yeshua as He prepared to ascend into heaven (Acts 1:6). John also alluded to this Messianic expectation in John 11:51-52.
Interestingly enough, Messiah began His ministry in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali as recorded in Matthew 4:13-16:
“And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’”
Thus we understand that Yeshua began His ministry and concentrated His efforts in a region of “darkness,” and “shadow of death” also known as the “Galilee of the Gentiles.” This area is also where He assembled all of His disciples. And so the region of darkness and shadow of death was given a light in its midst. As we all know, being the light in the midst of darkness is our mandate as His followers. That is quite obvious to anyone who reads the Scripture. However, we shouldn’t overlook another message here, albeit, more subtle. We don’t have to scheme and struggle with one another in order to get the upper hand in an effort to please our Master.
As followers of Messiah, we aren’t going to please Him if we employ the methods of this world. To be sure, He is greatly displeased when we go behind one another’s back, trying to jockey for a better position. That is not how we obtain the favor of our Father.
Let’s focus on the fact that Messiah is the Light of the world and, as His followers, we need to emulate and reflect that Light. He didn’t plot, scheme and manipulate in order to please the Father. He said what He meant and He meant what He said because He was saying what the Father had given Him to say. Oftentimes, people were greatly offended by His words, but He was faithful to what He was called to do. Because of that, the Father said of Him, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Don’t we all long to hear our Father say of us, “This is My child, in whom I am well pleased”?
Then one thing we need to cease from doing is trying to outwit the other guy in order to draw attention to ourselves. We should be determined to deflect all attention from us that we may give all glory and all honor to the Father. In this way, we can truly be a light in the midst of darkness. And so, today, may our prayer be that we will abandon strife and division with our brothers that we might shine forth as faithful witnesses of the Light of the World.