Yeshua begins His sermon on the mount with the beatitudes--a series of sayings that turn the world upside down. It's not the strong or the go-getters who inherit the earth, but the meek. It's not the zealots and radicals who are called sons of God, but the peacemakers. It's not the rich and successful who receive the Kingdom, but the poor in spirit. The kings of this earth may think they are something, but God takes the lowly to confound the wise and the powerful.
Throughout Scripture this upside down theme seems to repeat itself over and over again. You find it in the stories of David and Gideon who overcame great odds by their simple faith in God. You find it in the stories of Daniel, Esther, and Mordechai, where a humble Hebrew under the rule of a Gentile king found himself elevated to a position of honor simply because he was obedient. In this week's portion, our lowly hero is Joseph.
Sold into slavery, Joseph continued to work as if unto the Lord. Everything he put his hands to found success. It was because of this obedience that Joseph was able to interpret dreams, and it was because of this ability to interpret dreams that Pharaoh lifted him out of the pit. He who was meek eventually inherited the earth.
As we continue on in the sermon on the mount, Yeshua commands us to "shine your light before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." In each of the stories mentioned above, we see this happening. Not some showy display of righteousness (Yeshua warns us against this), but simple, humble obedience to God. As Joseph answered Pharaoh, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer" (Gen. 41:16 ESV). Through one man's obedience God's name was glorified among the nations.
This message of an upside down Kingdom is at the heart of the Gospel, and Yeshua is the ultimate example of it. God Himself humbled Himself by taking on flesh and dwelling among men. He humbled Himself by living among the poor, the broken, the least of these. Our Messiah was humbly obedient even to death. And through all this, the Father's name has been glorified (John 12:27-28).
Why? Why not just give a show of force like God did in Egypt? Why did God choose what was weak to overthrow the powers of darkness? For the sake of hope. Hope for the broken, that they might have healing. Hope for the downtrodden, that they might be lifted up. Hope for the oppressed, that they might be made free. Hope for the poor, that they might know the riches of God's glory. Hope for the least of these, that they might know they are worthy of God's love.
"The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak; They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone."
—Edward Shillito in the poem "Jesus of the Scars"