A remarkable thing happened seventeen months ago, when the First B’ney Yosef National Congress convened in Ariel, Israel. At that time a people who had not existed as a people for over 2,700 years came back from the ash heap of history. The people of the House of Joseph (Yosef) – Ephraim, those “Lost Tribes” of Israel’s northern kingdom – assembled in Samaria, the territory of their ancient ancestors, and acknowledged their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to accomplish His Word to bring their people back as a nation and join them with the Jewish part of Israel (the House of Judah) in fulfillment of His covenant.
It was a modest beginning; only a little over 130 people attended, representing 12 countries. We made no bold declarations, but humbly whispered to one another and to the world that we were ready to answer the Father’s call and walk out the return of the Prodigal. Humble indeed, but astounding nevertheless. Certainly no less astounding than the reestablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 after 1,900 years of dissolution.
The momentum of that First Congress has carried into the Second B’ney Yosef Congress, which is now in its third day. The Congress convened on the evening of October 26, 2016, and will continue until Monday, October 31. The venue once again is the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel. The numbers of delegates are about the same, but this time there are some significant differences.
For one thing, the number of nations has grown to 15. Not surprisingly, the United States has the largest number of delegates, comprising about half of the total. What is surprising is that the second largest contingent is from one of the world’s smallest countries: the Netherlands. Over 20 Dutch Ephraimites are here, imparting a beautiful Dutch accent to all the proceedings. Also represented are Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. A central feature of the Congress has been reports from each of these countries, as well as video and proxy reports from Finland, Pakistan, Uganda, and India.
These reports build a mosaic of the Hebrew Awakening happening across the globe. In Pakistan, for example, Pastor Qaiser Ilyas shared by video his work in building Hebrew language and Torah teaching programs in Urdu for children and adults. Valerie Bulkunu, representing the Aboriginal people of Australia, shared the revival that is beginning among the youth of her people, and the awakening among Aboriginals to their Hebrew roots and Israelite identity. A similar phenomenon is happening among the Mizo people of northeast India, as Margot Crossing related in her report about the descendants of exiled Israelites who migrated across the Silk Road into South Asia. These developments are happening simultaneously with the better-known Torah awakenings in Europe and North America, and in time will have an even more significant impact as tens of millions of Ephraimites come into the understanding of their covenant identity.
Among the many things for which I frequently thank YHVH is that I got to grow up in a Southern Baptist church and a Presbyterian school. From an early age I came to appreciate the doctrinal positions of both and their roots in Arminianism and Calvinism. Concerning the key elements of free will and predestination, I concluded long ago that they are not mutually exclusive. I do not understand exactly how they work, but I do know that both are part of God’s operation in human affairs. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility intertwine in very complicated and intricate ways to produce outcomes that YHVH declares from the beginning, but which finite mankind must play out in faith and obedience – or in ignorance and despair, depending on one’s perspective.
But what if predestination means something different from what we suppose? What if it refers to the fate of a nation rather than individuals? Consider this: YHVH has promised from ancient times to establish permanently the seed of Abraham on the Promised Land in the form of a nation called Israel. Moreover, He has promised to open the way for people of all nations to come into that holy nation and be part of His eternal covenant of peace. What if predestination refers to YHVH’s intent to do this thing just as He said? If “nation” is the real object of predestination, then we have no need to speculate about whether God has chosen certain individuals for salvation and others for damnation. The way of salvation is open to all individuals through the nation He has predestined as His vehicle of salvation.
This line of thinking requires far more development than is possible in a short blog post. However, it is unquestionable that God, through Messiah Yeshua, has opened the way for every person on earth to exchange his or her identity of birth for an identity as Abraham’s children, and therefore as Israelites. This is a point Ephraim Frank explores in the following commentary.
Trust you all had a wonderful Succot celebration. I’m sure you have heard about the various happenings here in the land, with the spirit of violence manifesting again through Israeli Arab citizens, Arab residents of Jerusalem, and others, in the Palestinian territories and Gaza (while this spirit is not totally sidestepping Israelis either). Thank you for your prayers during these troublesome times.
As we continue into the unpredictable future (a phrase that some may take exception to), our faith and confidence in a faithful covenant keeping Elohim should reach new heights of revelation-understanding. Yeshua’s purpose in returning to the heavens was to send the Spirit of the Kingdom into the hearts of those elected and predestined for the promise of this Spirit, as is evidenced by the following: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…” (Ephesians 1:11). “For whom He [the Father] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). He also “predestined us to the adoption as sons by Yeshua the Messiah to Himself [the Father], according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:5-6).
The question that arises from the above scriptures is, who are the predestined ones that have been called, foreknown and chosen beforehand, justified, glorified and adopted for His purposes? The apostle states very clearly in Romans 9:4-5a, when he makes reference to those “…who are Israelites, to whom belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the service of Elohim, and the promises; of whom are the fathers…“
Most of the Israelites (those who are not Jewish) have lost their identity, but as prophesied have become multitudes in many nations. Those from among them who are still lacking the knowledge or realization of their true identity will not fully understand the New Covenant, their destiny and the reconstitution of nationhood, nor the above-cited predetermined characteristics, even though what is written in Ephesians 2:11-13, concerning those who were “once far off”, but who are now part of the “commonwealth of Israel” should cause them to at least question their present (“gentile”) identity.
However, through Yeshua the Kinsman Redeemer, and the working of the Holy Spirit many are now embracing Torah, and as a result their hearts are turning back to the forefathers and to the identity (or, conversely, for others, the discovery of the identity is what restores them to the forefathers and the Torah). The light of this revelation points to the importance of reconciliation within the House of Jacob (which is the whole House of Israel). Hence efforts are being made toward the re-gathering of our nation. One such meeting took place last May in Ariel, Israel, in the form of the “B’ney Yosef National Congress”, and now follow-up summits are due to occur in Texas, Germany, and Florida. The next B’ney Yosef National Congress will be held, Yah willing, once more in Ariel Israel October 26-31, 2016.
The restoration means both Houses of Israel – the House of Judah, whom we know today as the Jewish people, and the House of Ephraim, also known as the House of Israel or House of Joseph. Ephraim consists of the Ten Tribes of Israel’s northern kingdom which never returned from exile. Most of the Bible is incomprehensible if not viewed in the context of the Two Houses. Who they were in ancient times, how they separated, and the promise of their restoration form the framework of the Gospel of the Kingdom which is supposed to be preached to the whole world before Messiah comes.
Would it be a surprise to realize that the end of the world as we know it means the beginning of the reign of Messiah over His reestablished Kingdom of Israel? Christians have anticipated the Great Tribulation and the end of this age, but have seldom considered what is on the other side of that Tribulation. Jews have considered what is on the other side, but have seldom considered that much of the nation of Israel would be coming from Christendom. And yet that is just what we are seeing today: the beginning of the reconstitution of Ephraim, largely through the awakening of Christians to their identity as Israelites based on the covenantal promises of YHVH and the redemptive work of Messiah Yeshua. The “Torah Awakening” is a major component of this process as Christians are beginning to realize that the entire Bible, including the Feasts of the Lord and the Sabbath (Shabbat), are still applicable to all of God’s people.
If this is so, then how far along is this restoration? Well, within the past year we have seen the Torah Awakening accelerate around the world, and we have seen people begin to identify themselves as Ephraimites in a very public way. That was the purpose of the First B’ney Yosef National Congress held in Israel in May 2015. The process has continued throughout the summer, and it promises to continue and expand in the coming months. That was the subject of a conversation on The Remnant Road, the Monday edition of the Hebrew Nation Morning Show. In a broadcast that aired on September 7, David Altman from the Alliance of Redeemed Israel (ARI) talked about the awakening of Believers to their identity as returning Israelites according to the promises of Scripture. The conversation started with developments since the Congress, and then covered ideas on how to strengthen the ties among individuals, congregations, and communities now identifying as Ephraimites. David also discussed the upcoming North American Ephraimite Summit, planned for March 4-6, 2016, in Orlando, FL. To listen to the broadcast and learn how you can get involved please click here.
Another perspective on this process comes from Ephraim Frank, a key organizer of the B’ney Yosef Congress. In a recent post on his blog, Etz B’ney Yosef, Ephraim provided some interesting and encouraging observations about what we are seeing even now.
On 12th of May 1948 a decision on the name the newly formed State of Israel had to be voted on by ten council members. The choices were Yehuda, Tsyion, Tsabar, and Erets Yisrael. Most assumed that it would be Yehuda, but a divine harbinger manifested in a last minute suggestion by David Ben Gurion, and that was the name “Yisrael”. Seven of the council members voted for that name, which was a prophetic sign of the future return of all the tribes of Israel. The order of the restoration and return in Ezekiel 37 places Yehuda/Israel first, and thusly Yehuda’s dry stick became at that time a nation once again.
Perhaps you are not aware that also in 1948 a contest was held by the temporary government for a national emblem. One hundred and sixty-four individuals submitted 450 ideas. The one chosen, which the State of Israel adopted, on February 10th 1949, was designed by two brothers, Gabriel and Maxim Shamir. Their suggestion included the seven candle branch Menorah with two olive branches on each side. The final draft, however, did not totally resemble the brothers’ original design, as the committee decided to incorporate a few other features into it and changed the shape of the Menorah to the one depicted in the Arch of Titus (in Rome). The two olive branches which flank the Menorah, were meant as peace symbols, and only later were associated with Zechariah 4:11. I believe that this design was another harbinger of the restoration of the two sticks of Ezekiel 37:16.
In his book The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn makes mention of the significance of trees in the Bible. He specifically notes the two cited in Isaiah 9:10 – the sycamore and the cedar, both in relationship to the 9/11 terror attack in New York, as being symbolic of judgments upon the United States. In an interview about his latest book, The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked, he noted how Shemitah years are associated with judgments and changes, both positive and negative. The rise and fall of nations in connection to Shemitah is one example he brings up in this book. Hence, if the USA is indeed spiraling down, and if that began in a Shemitah year (2001), what about the rise of the nation of Yehuda in 1917 (another Shemitah), or the reconstitution of the second stick/nation of Yosef/Ephraim in the current Shemitah? Is the latter also a harbinger of this eventuality, with the first Yehuda-Yosef “United 2 Restore” group marching in the Jerusalem Succot parade last year and then with the convening of the first B’ney Yosef National Congress on Shavuot? Is this the Shemitah year in which the second stick/nation of Joseph/Ephraim is beginning to bud? By the same token, should many of the harbingers of judgment be also interpreted positively, in that YHVH is going to bring back and restore the whole House of Israel? The branch of Yehuda in the national emblem is fully leafed, but what about the second branch in that national emblem, what should it look like at this time? Here is my rendition: