Strange things happen when disciples of Jesus (Yeshua) awaken to their identity as Hebrews. One phenomenon is that they begin to see the Two Houses of Israel throughout the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Judah (Yehuda) and Joseph (Yosef) have been rivals since the days of their youth, when Judah led his brothers in putting Joseph into a pit and selling him into slavery in Egypt (Genesis 37:18-28). By the time of their reunion over twenty years later, Joseph had become the leader of a foreign nation and Judah had become the leader of Jacob’s family. Their father Jacob formalized that division before he died, passing on the birthright and the family name to Joseph and to his son Ephraim, but giving the rulership to Judah (Genesis 48:8-22; 49:8-12; I Chronicles 5:1-2).
The division of status did not work out well. In time Judah’s descendant Solomon began to oppress all the other tribes of Israel, and Joseph’s descendant Jeroboam led ten of the tribes in rebellion against Solomon’s son Rehoboam (I Kings 12:1-19). For the next 250 years the nation was divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel, led by the tribe of Ephraim, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom eventually fell into such wicked idolatry that YHVH pronounced a sentence of national death on them: He allowed the Assyrian Empire to conquer them, and then dispersed them into every nation on earth. Judah, however, remained a people, although they lost their national sovereignty in the Babylonian Conquest. They regained sovereignty for a time before the Roman era, but the Jews for the most part were a wandering people until the State of Israel came into existence in 1948.
But what happened to Joseph, or Ephraim as that people are also called in Scripture? They are still dispersed in the nations, but it seems that they are awakening to their identity. In fact, it seems that such was the main purpose of Messiah Yeshua’s ministry 2,000 years ago. He Himself said He had come to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel (Matthew 15:24) – something that brings to mind the prophecies of Micaiah the man of God to Ahab the wicked king (I Kings 22:15-18), and of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 50:6).
What has happened over the last two millennia is that the Lost Sheep and many of their companions among the Gentiles (nations) have been found. Through Yeshua they have joined themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The next step in the process is the awakening of these formerly Lost Sheep to the full revelation of their identity as Israelites – as Hebrews. From there is is but a small step to eager anticipation of their reunification with their Jewish brethren of the House of Judah. That is happening right now, in our day.
Jewish sages have long taught about two messiahs revealed in the Tanakh (Old Testament). One is Messiah Son of Joseph (Mashiach ben Yosef), the suffering servant who will take the punishment for Israel’s sin and covenant-breaking departure from YHVH’s standards of righteousness (His Torah). The other is Messiah Son of David (Mashiach ben David), the conquering king who will regather and restore the scattered tribes of Israel, subdue the nations under his rule, and bring the resurrection of the dead. That is the message of such passages as Isaiah 11, Daniel 7:13-14, and Psalm 110, whereas Isaiah 53 is the quintessential passage describing the work of Mashiach ben Yosef, the Messiah whose life and ministry was prefigured in the life and ministry of Joseph.
Since Yeshua of Nazareth suffered greatly, even to the point of death as a criminal through a horrendous miscarriage of justice, it would seem that He fits the description of Mashiach ben Yosef. The question is whether He is also Mashiach ben David. That is the position of Christians and those who come from and align with the Christian position on Yeshua (including this author). Jews do not see it that way. If they even consider Yeshua to have fulfilled any messianic function at all, it would be Mashiach ben Yosef. We can all agree that Yeshua has not completed the work of Mashiach ben David; the entire world is still awaiting the coming King of Israel who will arrive in power and great glory. How fascinating that Christians, Jews (Messianic and non-Messianic), and Hebrew Roots believers are all waiting on the same Mashiach ben David. The only disagreement seems to be on that Messiah’s identity.
Let us consider for a moment what Yeshua’s work as Mashiach ben Yosef might mean for the many hundreds of thousands of people around the world who consider themselves non-Jewish Hebrews. If they are Ephraimites of the House of Joseph, then that introduces a whole new dimension on Yeshua’s redemptive work. Just as the story of Joseph prefigures the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua, so also the story of Yeshua prefigures the national life, death, and resurrection of the House of Joseph. If one day is as a thousand years to the Lord (Psalm 90:4; II Peter 3:8), then we are now nearing the end of the third day since the Northern Kingdom’s national death in 721 BCE. Are we therefore witnessing the Northern Kingdom’s resurrection as the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel return to national life as a people?
Much has been written on this, and much more will be said and done in the days to come. For now, consider these illustrations of New Testament passages in the context of the Two Houses, the Two Sticks, and the Two Brothers coming together as their Father in Heaven has promised.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick. I will make them into a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand. (Ezekiel 37:19 NIV)
From Pete Rambo on natsab:
I have just started reading Angus Wooten’s Restoring Israel’s Kingdom, a book that promises to deepen my understanding of who I am and what my Father’s business is.
In the comments on the cover credit (artwork of the two sticks being made one, Ez. 37:15ff), I saw a neat paradigm shifting idea: the house of Israel was scattered into the nations for disobedience. If they were sown as Israelites, what makes us think they’ll be harvested as anything other than Israelites?
In fact, the Scriptures attest, over and over, that God’s intent is to restore the whole house of Israel. See Acts 1:8; Ez. 37:24ff; Deu. 30; Is. 2:1-5; Eph. 2:12, etc…
If God will harvest Israelites, what might they look like?? Hmmmm…
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2016. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
What to Do When the World Blows Up: A Review of “Know the Time, Change Your World”, by Barry L. Miller
It seems that everyone is expecting the world to change for the worse in September 2015. That, at least, is a prevailing topic of conversation here in the United States. I have been part of such discussions many times over the last few months, and regardless how the discussion begins, it invariably comes down to the question, “What do we do now?”
The people of YHVH should be paying attention to the signs of the times. We are indeed on the brink of major changes to the world system, and these changes likely will involve a combination of economic, military, political, and civil unrest, with a few major natural disasters thrown in for good measure. It is, after all, the end of the Shemitah, the seventh, or sabbatical, year in the seven-year cycle the Lord explained to Moses (Exodus 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:1-6, 31:9-13). It is also the time of the fourth Blood Moon of the tetrad we have seen at Passover and Tabernacles over these last two years. What, if anything, are we to do about all of this?
Happily, there is someone who has undertaken the task of answering that question in a rational, systematic fashion using principles derived straight from the Bible. We can thank people like Rabbi Jonathan Cahn and Pastor Mark Biltz for bringing the Shemitah cycle to the attention of the world. Now we can thank Barry L. Miller for helping us understand how to live within that cycle. That is the message of his book Know the Time, Change Your World: The Reappearance of the Seven- and Fifty-Year Biblical Cycles.
The United States of America is the land of my birth, but it is now a much different place than I knew as a boy. Some of the changes have been good, and some not so good. About a week ago, some immense changes happened not only in the way this nation defines marriage, but in the way it defines how the law of the land is established. Many are the commentaries about the announcement on June 27 of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage. The commentaries I have seen which oppose the decision rightly emphasize the travesty of five jurists disregarding not only the will of the people of over half of the sovereign states of this Union, but the organic law of the Union itself. In that sense, the Court’s decision reveals the true sin of Sodom. Contrary to popular opinion, that sin is not homosexuality. It is something else – something seemingly innocuous, but which, if unchecked, leads to complete abandonment of everything the Creator of this universe has deemed right. The Lord explains this in a word to Judah and Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian Conquest:
“As I live,” declares the Lord God, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. (Ezekiel 16:48-50 NASB)
What this passage tells us is that Sodom’s sin was lawlessness. The people of the city decided that they could determine what was right and wrong in their own eyes without regard to the true standards of righteousness established by their Creator. That arrogance led to a simultaneous increase of wealth and of poverty as the people of Sodom enriched themselves at the expense of the needy. Their world began to revolve around their stomachs and their pleasures, and in time that led to the abominable behaviors which triggered ultimate judgment. This is the chain of moral dissolution the Apostle Paul traces in Romans 1:18-32. If this is indeed so, then what the Supreme Court decided was merely an indicator of the corruption at the heart of our nation.
Who is to blame? Everyone, of course. We can start with the Body of Messiah, which is no less as arrogant and filled with selfishness as the rest of society. With pious faces, we check the box of religious devotion so that we may with gusto engage to excess in our private indulgences. That is a point in an excellent commentary by blogger Ed Cyzewski in his post, “The Supreme Court Just Gave American Evangelicals A Gift”.
Another prescient commentary comes from Pete Rambo in, “…the land thou abhorrest shall be forsaken…”. As usual, Pete examines the issue from a Hebraic perspective. His post, reproduced below, contains much food for prayer and thought. As you read it, consider the question, “Where do we go from here?”
Posted on natsab, June 28, 2015
Yesterday’s Shabbat service and Torah study at Issachar Oasis in Irmo, SC was good. That fellowship is studying through Isaiah as well as the weekly Torah portion and yesterday we covered Isaiah 7:14-16. (Like the last prophet they studied, we’ll be in Isaiah for years…!)
Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
The focus of the leader and the group was the great hope we have in Messiah and the promise that Isaiah makes to Ahaz. Glorious… but my eyes could not/would not leave the phrase “the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken…” and I was pondering the recent happenings in American jurisprudence. For much of the world, and especially the United States, one has to have been under a rock not to know that two days ago the US Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Frankly, I was not surprised. What surprised me was that there were actually four dissenters! Never-the-less, the ruling is done and we have one more nail in the coffin of this once great nation. But, why “the land thou abhorrest…” you ask? Pretty simple, really. Israel and Judah were judged because they defiled the land. They did so in many ways. They
- failed to keep the land Sabbaths (Lev. 26:34; 2 Chr. 36:21)
- defiled the weekly Sabbaths (Eze. 20:13ff)
- worshiped idols and the sun (Eze. 8:16)
- committed abominable acts (Jer. 7:30)
- sacrificed children to idols (2 Chr. 28:3)
אַחֲרֵי מוֹת / קְדֹשִׁים
What is this fascination with the possibility of life beyond this planet? Are we so insecure in our human existence that we cannot bear the thought of dwelling on the only inhabited territory in the entire universe? Or is it, perhaps, a deep-seated sense of being incomplete in ourselves? Whatever the reason, since the dawn of human existence we have sought for something, or Someone, beyond ourselves who shares our experience of sentience and can explain it to us.
For over a century the search for the Interstellar Other has found expression in science fiction. Novelists like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke have made their marks on several generations of impressionable youth, yet the massive explosion of science fiction onto popular consciousness came not with books, but with movies. Clarke’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey took science fiction movies to a new level. It combined world-class writing with world-class filmmaking to proclaim to audiences that we are not alone, but in so doing left more questions than answers. Ten years later, Steven Spielberg sought to answer some of those questions in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, proposing that the Interstellar Others have been visiting earth for a long, long time, and asserting that humanity had reached a point where these advanced beings could take us into their confidence and educate us further. Movies produced over the next generation investigated different aspects of this question. Some, like M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller, Signs, explored the dark possibility that alien visitors are not friendly. Signs clings to the hope that humanity can defend itself from alien intruders, and that the hostile encounter restores a sense of purpose we did not know we had lost. And then there is Knowing, a 2009 drama in which Dr John Koestler, played by Nicholas Cage, embarks on a search for the meaning behind clues predicting one global disaster after another. He learns at last that he can do nothing about the disasters; they themselves are clues all-knowing alien watchers have tracked through time to warn humanity about the imminent destruction of our planet in a massive solar flare. The aliens have no intention of letting the human race pass into extinction. Their clues guide people like Koestler in gathering children so the aliens can take them to a place of safety where humanity can begin again.
A recurring motif in these science fiction films is the search for meaning behind the evidence of alien presence. In 2001 the evidence is a mysterious monolith, and in Close Encounters it is the connection of unexplainable phenomena across the globe. In Signs it is the appearance of crop circles, and in Knowing it is the incomprehensible code of numbers and letters scratched by a child and left in a time capsule. The story tellers would have us believe that the answers to human existence are all there if we can only decipher the patterns.
The science fiction story tellers are correct in that an Interstellar Other has left patterns for us to decipher. What they have missed is that the Interstellar Other is the Holy One of Israel. His clues are in Torah, and His answers are in the rest of Scripture.
Professor J.R.R. Tolkien insisted that there was no hidden meaning behind his works on Middle Earth. Such was his assertion in his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings:
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings
Yet there are allegorical elements throughout his writings, however unintended. Tolkien’s Catholic world view infused his work with well-known Christian concepts such as atonement, salvation, redemption, and fulfillment of prophecy. A consistent story line appears throughout his writing, repeated on several levels. It is the story of paradise defiled, of blessed people tempted by evil into betrayal of their calling, of their exile and dissolution, and their restoration at last after the struggles of their exile produce the required degree of contrition and of resolve to live up to their destiny. In The Silmarillion the tale plays out in the long defeat of the Noldor in their forlorn quest to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth the defiler of Middle Earth. The cycle ends and begins anew in their redemption beyond all hope by the Valar, the powers over the earth who had exiled the Noldor from the blessed realm of Valinor because of their rebellion. In The Hobbit it is the restoration of the House of Durin as the Dwarves under the leadership of Thorin Oakenshield set in motion the events that bring the death of the great dragon Smaug and the coronation of a new Dwarf King Under the Mountain. And in The Lord of the Rings it is the return of Aragorn as King Elessar of Gondor, restoring the long lost (and nearly forgotten) kingdom of the Númenóreans after the defeat of Sauron, Morgoth’s chief lieutenant.
Among the many things we learn from Tolkien is that things happen in cycles. Life is cyclical, not linear. What happens to the fathers happens to the sons, and what has come before will come again. Whether he realized it or not, that is the Hebraic way of looking at the world. And it is quite biblical. As Solomon, the son of David, teaches us:
That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NASB)
More Than Just Sin
At the heart of our misunderstanding of the sacrificial system is the assumption that it is all about sin. Since the blood of the animals foreshadowed the atonement that would come in Messiah’s sacrifice, and since that atonement came to pass through Messiah’s sinless death on the cross, the assumption is that sacrifices are no longer necessary. Sadly, such reasoning betrays incomprehension of the reason God instituted sacrifices. Messiah Yeshua did indeed die as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29-34; see also Isaiah 53 and Revelation 5). His death most certainly provides the only provision for willful, rebellious sin against our Creator (Genesis 22:6-8; Numbers 15:27-31; Hebrews 10:26-31). However, the sacrificial system included many more offerings than those which had connection to sin.
If we are to understand the full nature of the Temple sacrifices, we should start with the meaning of the words used for the items offered on the Altar. “Sacrifice” and “offering” are the usual English translations, and quite often the meanings are not entirely distinct in the minds of English-speaking readers. The English definition of “sacrifice” refers to something valuable offered, often to a deity, in exchange for something or someone else. A sacrifice also means something that is “written off”, or lost for good. In that sense, the olah would be considered a sacrifice because it is a burnt offering intended to be entirely consumed on the Altar. Yet that is not the intent for everything presented to God, which is why the term “offering” is important. The Hebrew word in this case is korban (קָרְבָּן; Strongs H7133), a term usually translated as “offering”, but occasionally rendered as “sacrifice”. Christians should recognize the term from one of Yeshua’s key confrontations with the Pharisees:
He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” (Mark 7:9-13 NASB, emphasis added)
Doing Business With God
Messiah Yeshua said something very peculiar when His disciples asked for the sign of His return at the end of the age. He mentioned one unambiguous event that would signal the beginning of what is generally called the Tribulation:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16 NASB)
What makes Yeshua’s statement peculiar is not that this Abomination of Desolation first occurred nearly two centuries before He spoke these words, nor that something like it happened again a generation later. The peculiarity is that this unambiguous sign of Messiah’s return concerns the Temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial system of worship codified by God through Moses in the Torah. A consistent theme in Christian doctrine is that the death and resurrection of Yeshua made the sacrificial system obsolete. Why, then, does Yeshua ratify Daniel’s description of this interruption of the sacrifices as the “Abomination of Desolation”? Why is it an abomination if the sacrifices no longer matter to God? Why is it a desolation? Who or what is made desolate, and why? These questions direct us to look closer at the sacrificial system of worship so we can understand more clearly how our God does business with humanity.
Walking Through The Open Gate
An Enduring Standard
We see from Scripture that the Creator’s processes are lengthy, thorough, and often completely different from what humans desire or expect. This should not be a surprise. YHVH says quite plainly that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Nevertheless, He does tell us what we need to know, and He reveals things at the appointed times to those who bother to seek Him. What we often learn is that the answer has been there all along, but we have never understood it correctly until the right time and until we approach with the right heart. When it comes to the purpose of the Lord’s processes regarding His people Israel, the answer has been staring at us for about 3,000 years. He spoke it through Moses to prepare the people for their first great meeting with Him at Sinai:
In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)
Managing Expectations: Case Studies in God’s Processes
Ancient Hair Care
One of the most colorful characters in the Bible is Samson, the Judge of Israel from the tribe of Dan. His story is in Judges 13-16. It begins like this:
Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:2-5 NKJV, emphasis added)
No Idle God
Fast, Cheap, or Good?
Let us step back a bit and consider why the Creator of the Universe would allow this people He has chosen to languish in exile for a seemingly indeterminate period of time. Better yet, let us consider why the Creator created the people on this earth in the first place. Judging from the numerous references in Scripture about God taking a bride it would seem that He is seeking a co-regent to help Him run the universe. At the very least, the Bride of our King has a destiny to have dominion over the earth. That, after all, was the first instruction YHVH gave to our ancestors in His Garden. Beyond that, there is very little to tell us what He really wants. We know quite a bit about this seven thousand year experiment called human history, both how it has unfolded in the six millennia that have preceded us, and how it is to take shape in the last millennium under Messiah’s direct rule. But then comes eternity, with a new heavens and a new earth. What would God want us to do in eternity? Sit around and play harps, stuffing our mouths with whatever tastes good and with no fear of consequences? Probably not.