Once again Peter Vest ofOrthodox Messianic Judaism has provided thoughtful material worthy of consideration. In a blog post published earlier this week he invited discussion on the question of whether Israel includes Gentiles brought into covenant with the Living God by the Blood of Messiah Yeshua. What I appreciate most is how he uses the account of Ruth the Moabite, the most significant example of a foreigner who became part of Israel long before Yeshua’s work of redemption on the cross. This is timely since Ruth is the Scripture traditionally studied at Shavuot (Pentecost), which falls on May 23-24 this year. It is with the understanding that people from the nations are indeed brought into God’s nation of Israel that theFirst Ephraimite/Northern Israel National Congress will convene on the day after Shavuot to discuss how to walk out our identity as YHVH is restores theWhole House of Israel just as He promised.
Recently Peter Vest, author ofOrthodox Messianic Judaism, reviewed my book,Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell. His is the first critical review of which I am aware. Critical, that is, but not scathing. His perspective provides ample opportunity for discussion and refinement of our understanding, and much room for agreement. Peter invited me to comment on his review, and I am glad to accept the invitation in hope of advancing a very useful dialogue. Here is his review. My comments follow.
I just finished reading a book that is attempting to do for the Ephraimite Movement what Theodor Herzl’s book “Der Judenstaat” did for Zionism. Some of what it says is good…other portions are very troubling indeed.
First, here’s the author, Albert McCarn:
As you can see, he is a well-decorated ex-military officer. And we can all be very thankful for his many years of service to our country.
Here’s the book which, you will note, displays a proposed national flag for the Ephraimite Nation:
So let’s get into it.
Every book is about a problem and a proposed solution. This book frames the problem something like this:
You very well could be a descendant of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel which means that you’re living in exile from your homeland (the tribal territories of the Northern Tribes of Israel), deprived of a sense of national community with your people–the Ephraimites, suffering from the onslaught of increasingly hostile, anti-Biblical culture in your host country or even outright oppression.
But there is hope for you to rejoin your lost community and reclaim your birthright to the Northern Tribal Territory of Israel:
You can help restore national consciousness to Ephraim by (1) envisioning the kinship you share with other Ephraimites all over the world and (2) joining many others in a mass exodus from all of their various host countries as they embark on an epic quest to reclaim the “land of the fathers.”
Last week a reader asked a very important question. It is so important that I want to share it:
A friend introduced me to your blog. I am a follower of Yeshua, not one of the twelve “lost” tribes but I am Torah pursuant. I am learning to be part of Abba’s tribe. In your writing I only hear you speak of Judah and Ephraimites (lost tribes) as being Israel. Do you see Torah pursuant followers of Yeshua who have no provable family lineage and are from “the nations” as part of the Israel family? Do they have a place at the table?
This question gets to the very heart of who we are. It addresses the very thing that the Apostles and the wider Jewish community wrestled with in the First Century. Specifically, what is the status of these people coming to faith in Yeshua from among the Gentiles? Are they still Gentiles, or are they Israelites? And if they are Israelites, are they also to become Jews? And if they are not Jews, what kind of Israelites are they?
Many writers and teachers have addressed this question, and it is in fact the central question addressed in my recent book,Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell. There is still much more to be said as we watch and participate in the unfolding of YHVH’s revelation on the subject. As a contribution to that dialogue, here is my response:
One of the biggest things Abba is doing right now is restoring to His people the awareness of their identity. Are you a believer in Yeshua, Son of God and Messiah? Do you obey His commands and follow Him as His disciple? Then you are indeed an Israelite regardless of your ethnicity or nationality. The Apostle Paul made that clear in his letters, particularly inEphesians 2 andRomans 9,10, and 11. When he writes about us of the nations being grafted into the olive tree of Israel, and of being part of the commonwealth of Israel, that’s what he means. The Jewish part of our nation (the House of Judah) have always retained their identity as Israelites and have kept the nation alive. That is the Father’s plan, and that is why we non-Jewish Israelites do not replace the Jews, but join with them in the nation as Abba rebuilds it. That is the meaning behind the prophecies of the Dry Bones and Two Sticks ofEzekiel 37, and of the entire book ofHosea, and ofIsaiah 11, and of many, many other prophecies.
When it comes to your physical heritage, it should be a great comfort to know that lineage is no obstacle to God (Matthew 3:7-10). Israel is His Kingdom and His vehicle of salvation for all the nations, so He has always invited people to join that nation from the time He made His first call to our father Abraham. Today He has revealed the means by which He can accept anyone into the nation, and by which He can accept the nation itself back into fellowship with Him. That, of course, is what Yeshua accomplished with His atoning sacrifice on our behalf, and that is why He is our King. The truth is, neither I nor anyone else can prove with beyond any doubt that we are descendants of any of the Tribes. Even our brethren of Judah are hard pressed to chart their lineage considering the things that have happened to the Jews over the centuries. We have the choice of looking at all of that as tragedy and as cause for division, or of looking on it as another astonishing revelation of our God’s glory. He is reconstructing His nation from broken pieces,gathering up the fragments just as Yeshua’s disciples gathered the fragments discarded by those who ate His bread and fish. In time this polyglot nation of many peoples will become the nation of one people, Israel, just as our King has promised. In fact, the nations of this earth will be absorbed into Yeshua’s Kingdom of Israel just as the prophets Daniel and John declared (Daniel 2:44-45; Revelation 11:15-18).
In time we will all be numbered among the Tribes. As others have said, when we enter the New Jerusalem, we will be going through the gates named for each of the Tribes because there is no gate named for the nations. All we know for now is that Yeshua’s Kingdom of Israel consists of two parts: the houses of Judah and Ephraim. If you are not Jewish, but you are a believer in Yeshua, then you are of Ephraim. Tribal identification is of secondary importance. Based on the precedent set inNumbers 1 with the first census of Israel, and of the provisions for inheritance explained inEzekiel 47:21-23, I am inclined to believe that individual choice has a big role in tribal identity. The first step, though, is identifying with Israel as an Israelite currently living among the nations. If we can in all sincerity call Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our fathers, then we are ready to move forward as God’s people.
What happens when the Holy Spirit enlightens us to some deeper truth of Scripture? In my experience, there is a profound sense of awe at the greatness of our Creator, followed by heartfelt expressions of thanks and praise, and then by petitions for grace on how to apply the newly learned truth. Then comes the urge to share this truth with others. When they get it and grasp the revelation, then of joy enhance our fellowship as this new bit of learning strengthens our connection to each other and to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
But what if they do not get it? What if those with whom we share this newfound truth not only fail to see it, but have no desire to hear anything about it? What if they reject the messenger because the message conflicts with their perception of God and His reality? How is a disciple of Yeshua to act in such cases? Tragically, our answer all too often is to break fellowship with the “unenlightened” and move on our own path. That is how divisions begin, and that is how the heart of Holy God is broken and grieved.
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)