Friday, March 28, 2014
Both Houses of Israel
According to Scripture, the “Two Houses of Israel” are two separate and distinct entities. Each of them has its own specific prophetic destiny. But even though two, they are still bound to the calling which they have inherited from their forefather Jacob - that is, to be one chosen nation of kings and priests. However, in the course of their history YHVH divided the nation into two nation/kingdoms for His purposes and plans that are directly related to the covenant that He swore to Abraham. Thus, it is very important to understand the first-born concept and its centrality in YHVH’s plan of redemption, and its connection to the Two Houses of Israel. Grasping the firstborn principle is paramount to the understanding of the latter day events recorded in the Tanach.
Isaiah 8:14 presents the ‘Two House truth’: “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to BOTH the houses of Israel”. As long as these two continue to stumble and take offense over the One who is their Rock they will remain two distinct entities.
Many like to define the two groups as ‘Christians’ (Israel/Ephraim), and ‘Jews’ (Judah), as if they are made up of two religious sects. In spite of that we must realize that all tribes are represented in both houses, and that together they constitute multitudes of peoples, which make up many ethnic groups. But for our purpose here, let us relate to them as nations. We have, then, the nation of Judah/Israel today, being made up mostly of Jews from Judah. On the other hand, because YHVH is true to His word, there is also the other house (Joseph/Ephraim), which YHVH has sown or mixed into many peoples in literally all nations: "Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples” (Hos. 2:8), being the “fullness of the nations” (Genesis 48:19), even though most of them are unaware of their identity. The influence of the multitudes of Ephraim, on some of these nations, brought about blessings of multiplicity, military prowess and economic wealth (see Genesis 49:22-26). In the blessing to Joseph, through his son Menasseh, Jacob pronounced that they would become a great people. However, as a great people the descendants of the northern kingdom would not be able to connect their greatness to the fulfillment of the prophecies, as YHVH was going to blind them and cause them to forget their identity (which is indicated by the meaning of the very name “Menasseh”).
Judah never lost its identityOne of the keys to understanding the end time scriptures is to watch for Judah’s lead. The Jews have never lost their identity, but have been preserved by the Almighty: “Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, I will save them by YHVH their Elohim, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen." (Hosea 1:7) And: “He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts [or rejected ones] of Israel [Joseph/Ephraim], and gather together the dispersed [but preserved and recognizable] of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:12)
In Ezekiel 37 we see that Judah’s stick (nation) is gathered first (and indeed it was restored in 1948) and is also being ‘written upon’. (v. 16) Then, during the times of the “latter rain”, Judah is called as a nation to be “a mighty war horse in battle.” (Zechariah 10:1,3) In the course of those days Jerusalem is restored to Judah (which was fulfilled in 1967), who is called to prepare for war against its surrounding nations (see Joel 3:1-2,11). In these self-same days the stick of Joseph/Ephraim is also to be gathered and to be ‘written upon’. (Ezekiel 37:16) Sometime later the two are to join together in the war with the surrounding nations (ref. Isaiah 11:13-15, Zechariah 9:13). These are but a few of the scriptural descriptions and references that have been and are yet to be fulfilled, in what are called the ‘latter days’. [Hebrew word for ‘latter days’ is ‘acherith’, which means latter days or has been translated as ‘hindermost’ by some expositors.]
Our day and age
The nations surrounding Judah and Jerusalem are hostile and belligerent at present. Their hostility extends not only toward Judah/Israel but also toward some of the peoples of Joseph’s progeny who are supportive of the Jews, and who are aligned with them economically and militarily (such as the United States and the British Commonwealth of Nations). With impending war and other potentially catastrophic world events, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the prophetic perspective. When we know that all of this has been predicted beforehand, and that in YHVH’s strategy it is as good as having taken place already, we can rejoice, for our full redemption is drawing closer.
According to the prophets of old, these days are marked by wars and great turmoil. Yeshua’s words about these days also reiterate the same thoughts: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, `I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many, and you will hear of wars and rumors of wars’.” (Matthew 24:4-6) Most of us don’t have any problems relating today’s world situations to what Yeshua or the prophets said on the topic. YHVH has given us the scriptures, His Spirit and this wonderful world of communication as a tool to reveal to us the truths of His Word.
So why are the kingdoms of this world being shaken? Is it because YHVH so hates the world that He is bent on destroying it? That is far from being His motivation. YHVH’s true motive is always based on His nature, which is, of course, unconditional love, righteousness and faithfulness. All that YHVH does revolves around possessing His inheritance, and establishing His kingdom here on earth. “YHVH’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deut. 32:9) YHVH sent His Son (Yeshua) to restore the House of Jacob (both houses) and set up His everlasting kingdom in and through them (Luke 1:31-33).
What then are these ‘heavy-duty’ judgments all about? Could He be acting now in the same manner that He did in the days when His people, our forefathers, dwelt in Egypt? At that time too YHVH wasn’t just being vindictive when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He was not looking for a pretext in order to harm the land and people of Egypt. Neither was He trying to convince them that they had to repent from their ways and turn to Him (at least not directly). He was motivated by faithfulness to His word and compassion toward His people. He wanted to establish them and His kingdom according to His pre-ordained plan, so that Egypt and the rest of the nations would know that He was the Elohim of His people Israel. He never once called Himself the God of Egypt, or the God of Amalek, but He did say repeatedly that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
YHVH says about Himself that He changes not. He is the God of Israel (both houses) and we still belong to Him, just as did our forefathers. We, who have come into the revelation understanding of our true identity, must face up to our history as His covenant people and to our relationship with Him, especially now that He has raised us from the dead spiritually and restored our lost national (natural) identity through the new covenant. One scripture that we have quoted over the years, along with other Two House teachers, is Acts 3:19-21:
"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Yeshua the Messiah, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which Elohim has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.”
The position of the firstborn
Although we had been focusing mainly on the restoration of our natural identity, as well as on what it means to be an Israelite and a firstborn in humanity, and how that bears upon the restoration of YHVH’s kingdom to Israel, there is yet another very important ‘ingredient’ that the redeemed Israelites must consider. This ingredient is perhaps the major theme of the writings of the New Covenant books. It may be defined as, ‘who we are as the first fruit of a new creation order’. James wrote: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18) Paul also says that “if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (Colossians 5:17) Presumably, if that is the case, who needs the ‘old’ and ‘natural’ Israelite, since now we are all ‘new’ and ‘spiritual’ Israelites? Well, let’s not jump to conclusions too soon. The Greek mindset would definitely analyze it from that perspective, but the Hebraic point of view is able to integrate these concepts (otherwise there would be no male or female either).
The Hebrew word for firstborn, in Exodus 13:12, is “peh’ter”, meaning to separate, or first to open. Breaking forth and opening up the way was the responsibility and calling of a firstborn. Thus Yeshua was the first to break forth into the new creation life and existence (spiritually speaking). His birth into this new life was a guarantee that the rest of His brethren would soon follow until “all of Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:26) And thus, once the Father brings forth His first fruit company (Israel) of the ‘Adamic’ family, the rest of their brethren in the family of man will follow.
What manner of people ought we to be?However, the question remains: having our restored identity now, what kind of people aught we to be in these days “in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of YHVH, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat”? (2 Peter 3:10-12) In the midst of this very forceful message, Peter challenges and importunes the believer with the question: “What manner of persons ought we to be?”Those who have come into the revelation knowledge of their true heritage and ancestry, and have had their eyes open to the mysteries which have been hidden throughout the ages, must face this question. Paul, writing to the Laodicean congregation, addressed this mystery: “Messiah in you the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 emphasis added) It is the one “mystery” that, according to his own admittance, he had struggled with greatly in conflicts and sufferings, to bring to the nations. His true motive was to proclaim Messiah Yeshua, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that he might present the believers prefect in Him (ref. Colossians 2:24-28). Since this is the case, then “what manner of persons aught we to be?”
The Apostle answered the question as he labored, striving in accord with the Spirit of Holiness that was mightily at work in him (ref. Colossians 1:29). He wanted the believers to know how great a conflict he had for them over this issue, especially for those in Laodicea (mentioned also in Revelation 3:14 and generally compared to the believers of today, especially in the ‘first world’ nations). His burden was to see love, that is, Messiah manifest in the life and relationships of the believing community. He also wanted them to understand the riches of the fullness of these mysteries that are at work in them: the mystery of Elohim, the mystery of the Father and the mystery of “Messiah in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:1-3).
The Apostle did not want these believers to be “deceived by persuasive words of man’s philosophies,” but to remain steadfast in their faith in Messiah Yeshua, and to allow Him to be master of their lives, walking in Him and “being rooted and built up in Him and abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:4,6-7) Try to imagine having today apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers with this same incredible motivation and burden for the flock of YHVH!!!
The manifestation of His life in and through a chosen and called-out people was YHVH’s plan from the beginning, as recorded in the Tanach (Old Testament). This people had its natural beginning through four mothers, three of whom (Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel) were barren with dead and unproductive wombs, but with YHVH’s intervention they brought forth the life of our forefathers (Isaac and Jacob). Paul writes about this phenomenon in his letter to the believers in Rome. “As it is written, ‘I have made you [Abraham] a father of many nations’, in the presence of Him whom he believed -- God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did [i.e. the nation that would be birthed in a dead womb], who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your seed [Isaac] be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb” (Rom. 4:17-19).
Even though they had this incredible and miraculous beginning, as the called, chosen and elect of the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, the nature of sin was still active in them. The progeny was true to its ‘Adamic’ character and engaged in idolatry, adultery and rebellion, and as a result would need to be redeemed from that condition.
Ephraim the ‘new man’
Having had this miraculous beginning, but a tainted nature, Ephraim (of the two parts that make up the progeny), has had the following endearing words said of him: “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says YHVH. Set up signposts; make landmarks; set your heart toward the highway, the way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:20-21)
Speaking to the Ephraimites, YHVH addresses them as, “My dear son”, and almost in the same breath as a “virgin”. In one case male imagery is used, and in the other feminine gender. Intriguingly, through Hosea (1:2) YHVH calls these same people a “harlot”. How is this possible? A virgin is one who had never had intercourse, whereas for a harlot it is a way of life. So what has happened to Israel that YHVH would look upon her so differently? In that same chapter of Jeremiah a new covenant is made with Israel/Ephraim and Judah. This covenant was activated by Yeshua’s blood, when He gave himself to the will of His Father and poured out His life. It is through this covenant that YHVH removes the life of the sinner and does away with it. However, within this same covenant the provision is also made for man to have a new spirit life, a ‘new creation’ nature. This new life is the life of YHVH’s risen Son, who is the image and likeness of His Father (see Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 1:3). As mentioned above, the twelve tribes of Israel are to be the first fruit, or the first expression of this new life.
Paul knew this when he went out to preach this good news to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” scattered amongst the nations. In this generation we are the remnant who have received mercy and have been born again into this living hope, “Messiah in you the hope of glory.” We hear a lot about the “one new man”, but mainly in the context of an answer to the question of ‘who is a gentile, and who is a Jew’, while the Apostle’s perspective and objective was not who the one new man was made up of (ethnically or in gender). Rather, Paul emphasized and depicted the nature and character of this “one new man”, describing him as a holy temple in which the Spirit of YHVH was (and is) resident (ref. Ephesians 2:21-22).
“Therefore, what manner of new creation persons aught we to be, as the elect of God, holy and beloved?” We are to be an expression of “tender mercies, kindness, humility, and meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Messiah forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection, and let the peace of Elohim rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Messiah dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to YHVH. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Yeshua our master, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:12-17) This is not what we will become. This is who we are already through faith, “for He [Yeshua] is our life.” (Col 3:4)